a Wonderful Afterlife
you just quit bitchin’ at me for five goddamn
freakin’ minutes, Sammy?”
do not ‘bitch,’ Dean –”
Queen o’ freakin’ Bitchville –”
do not ‘bitch’ –”
dog you see is gonna hump your leg so hard –”
long, there’ll be a litter of adorable little
Sambradors, all with shaggy long fur –”
That gets in their big, sad, puppy dog eyes, soooo much
like their mommy’s…”
that’s it. Stop the car.”
the damn car, Dean!”
snowing, Sam –”
rather freeze to death than listen to one more stupid,
dumb insult come outta your stupid, dumb mouth –”
that’s what this is about?”
think I’m dumb, that it?”
I couldn’t do the Latin.”
never said that –”
you’re the one who had a demon
explode all over us, Sam –”
was a misinterpretation –”
implode, Dean. Implode. You know the difference
between implode and explode, right Dean?’
Dumb old Dean. Doesn’t have two brain cells to
rub together –”
Not like me ’cause I went to Stanford
here we go with the Stanford thing again –”
think you’re better – smarter –
than me, huh Sam? Just ’cause you went to
some tight-ass college while I barely graduated high
I never said that. You just twist everything I say and
still have demon goo in my hair, Sam!”
Well at least you won’t have to use so much of
that girlie hair gel you’re so fond of for a few
sure, you’re giving me hairstyling
tips, huh Goldilocks?”
you quit bitchin’ for five goddamn minutes, Dean?”
Winchester slammed both feet hard against the Impala’s
brake pedal, glaring out at the snowflakes daring to
land all over his baby’s shiny black hood. The
big Chevy’s back wheels skidded slightly on the
icy Montana road, throwing Sam forward in his seat,
the knees of his ridiculously long legs smashing hard
against the glovebox.
didn’t just glare at his brother; Sam positively
glowered. “What the hell, Dean?”
he snarled, before adding, “And – ow!”
as an afterthought.
You’re mad. I get it,” Dean ground out between
clenched teeth. “But it’s not my fault I
screwed up the Latin –”
it’s not my fault you’ve got demon
goo in your hair!”
just pissed ’cause of the swamp thing,”
Dean said, refusing to look at his younger brother.
Dean, that’s not why I’m pissed.”
Sam closed his eyes and took a deep, calming breath.
Which actually did very little to calm him at all. “Although,
yeah, if you’d paid a little more attention when
Pastor Jim was trying to teach us Latin –”
rolled his eyes. “Here we go again –”
And a little less attention to his collection of throwing
hear you complainin’ that time I nailed that black
dog that was trying to chow down on your skinny ass.”
Then maybe that gargoyle wouldn’t have gotten
the chance to grab hold of me, fly off with me dangling
from its claws for half a mile, and dump me thirty feet
into a swamp where I nearly drowned!”
maybe if you knew the difference between ‘implode’
and ‘explode’ I wouldn’t have demon
goo in my hair, genius!”
cheeks reddened, and he folded his arms sullenly across
his chest, glaring out of the windshield with enough
intensity to melt the steadily falling snowflakes before
they even had the opportunity to dissipate on the Impala’s
Christmas Eve this is turning out to be,” Dean
huffed, mirroring Sam’s position exactly.
hate Christmas,” Sam pointed out tightly.
well,” Dean said. “At least I make the effort.”
that supposed to mean?”
will you just…” Dean stopped suddenly, before
adding, “Jump off a bridge.”
frowned, finally returning his gaze to his brother.
“Is that a suggestion, or…?”
guy.” Dean’s eyes had narrowed, focusing
into the distance, to the looming silhouette of a decidedly
rickety-looking bridge not fifty yards in front of them.
A dark figure was clearly visible against the wintry-white
night sky, teetering precariously on the metal railing
running the span of the structure. “That guy’s
about to jump off the bridge.”
followed the direction of his brother’s gaze,
eyes widening in alarm. “Well, we gotta stop him
think?” Dean’s foot was already hitting
the gas pedal before Sam had even finished his sentence,
wheel-spinning the Impala quite impressively on the
icy road, before taking off for the bridge like the
proverbial bat out of hell.
was out of the car before Dean had brought it to a complete
stop, two long strides over to the railing where the
guy was still standing, swaying slightly as he stared
down at the water roiling beneath the bridge.
Hey mister!” Sam yelled, slowing his pace as the
figure bundled in a thick grey overcoat turned slowly
in his direction.
was maybe in his early sixties if Sam had to guess,
thick silvery-white hair and eyebrows like cotton balls
perched over dark little eyes that narrowed as Sam approached,
one thick eyebrow quirking slightly as he took in his
man, you don’t want to do this,” Sam said
gently, holding his hands up in a placating manner.
little man on the railing just looked at him. “How
do you know that?” he asked, accent somehow foreign,
although Sam couldn’t place it. “Are you
psychic or something?”
opened his mouth and closed it again with a click, glancing
sideways at Dean, who had rounded the Impala and was
standing slightly behind and to Sam’s left, blinking
snowflakes off his preternaturally long eyelashes as
he gazed up at the old geezer with the attitude.
we all know the holidays suck, dude,” Dean said
with a shrug. “But even schmaltzy black ’n
white Christmas movies on a busted-up motel room TV
set are better than lungs full of ice water and a one-way
trip to oblivion.”
frowned, surprised, wondering whether that was how Dean
had spent Christmas while he was away at Stanford. Dad,
after all, had never been particularly big on the Festive
A Wonderful Life was always my favorite,”
the old guy was saying with a nostalgic chuckle that
belied his precarious position. “Although that
Jimmy Stewart – well…”
Sam interrupted suddenly, jamming his hands in his pockets
as he longingly thought about the thick winter coat
he’d stuck in the trunk earlier that day. “What’s
so bad that you wanna jump off a bridge on Christmas
guy shrugged. “My job,” he sighed. “I
really don’t think I’m ever going to be
cut out for it.”
job ain’t worth dying over,” Dean commented,
words out of his mouth before he was able to baulk slightly
at their familiarity.
shot him a wary glance, which he ignored with some degree
of uncomfortable difficulty.
there I have to disagree with you, young man,”
the guy on the railing said, wobbling slightly as he
turned towards the older brother, causing both boys
to instinctively lurch forward a step in response. “Some
jobs are so important that they often demand the ultimate
sacrifice. Don’t you think?”
could feel Sam’s eyes on him, but continued to
keep his own fixed on the crazy little guy in front
of him. “What’s your name?” he asked
suddenly, before adding, “And if you say ‘Clarence’
I swear I’ll push you off this bridge myself.”
man rolled his eyes upwards, vaguely distracted. “No,
silly boy, Clarence was my uncle,” he said with
a tiny chuckle. “I’m Edward.”
Edward,” Dean returned. “How’s about
you come down off of there and we can compare favorite
sighed. “Oh, I don’t think so,” he
said, turning back towards the water.
Sam held out a hand, taking another step toward the
older man. “Tell us – tell us about this
job of yours. It can’t be that bad.”
rolled his eyes at his brother. What, we gotta hear
the old coot’s life story now?
grinned sadly. “I’m a trainee,” he
told them, not turning back, eyes still fixed on the
water below him.
arched an eyebrow. “What, like at McDonalds or
chuckled again. “Oh no,” he said. “Although
I sometimes think that would be more fun.”
and Dean exchanged a bewildered glance.
no,” Edward said. “It’s a little more
complicated than that. And I fear I’ll never earn
my wings. Not at this rate.” He sighed again.
“I just don’t think I’ve got what
long have you been training, Edward?” Sam asked.
glanced at his wristwatch thoughtfully. “Oh, about
twenty-three years,” he said blithely. “Since
the last guy got fired.”
years?” Dean echoed incredulously.
or take,” Edward confirmed. “My Supervisor
assured me it would be a challenging position. Give
me an opportunity to really prove my mettle. But I just
wasn’t prepared for –” He turned back
towards them, shrugging as he included them both in
a wide sweep of his arm. “Well… You boys
are just so darned hard to look out for!”
eyes widened, and he cast another sidelong glance at
Sam, who was just staring up at Edward, mouth hanging
open just enough that Dean could see snowflakes landing
on his tongue.
not my fault you boys nearly get yourselves killed every
other day…” Edward continued, something
akin to a pout creasing his narrow lips.
that by me again?” Sam managed finally, shaking
his head as if he must have misheard somehow.
shrugged matter-of-factly. “It’s not easy
being Guardian Angel to a Winchester,” he told
them. “Let alone two of you.”
–” It was Dean’s turn to shake his
head as his held up a hand. “You’re telling
us you’re our –”
Angel, yes,” Edward confirmed with a little smile,
before shaking his head ruefully. “Toughest assignment
on the board,” he added. “But I had to be
a show off, didn’t I?”
blinked. “So – So…You know who we
Dean. I know who you are.”
you’ve been watching over us?”
night It took your mother.”
straightened, a skeptical frown furrowing his forehead.
“Bull,” he said shortly. “You’re
full of it.”
tilted his head slightly. “You think you boys
would have survived your childhoods without me? Made
it to puberty? Made it to adulthood…?”
tried desperately hard not to glance over at Sam, but
didn’t quite manage it.
Rawhead in Albany?” Edward was saying. “The
Shtriga in Fort Douglas?”
eyes widened still further. “The Shtriga…?”
do you think made your dad turn around and head back
to the motel?” Edward asked. “Just in time
to save you both from that thing…”
swallowed. “You did that?” he asked in a
nodded. “One of my better days. No one does ‘foreboding’
and ‘a sense of dread’ like I do, believe
me. You should know, Dean.”
squinted at him. “Huh?”
night Jessica died,” Edward clarified, causing
Sam to start slightly. “What made you turn around
and drive back to Sam’s apartment that night?”
just stared at him, slightly open-mouthed, eyes darting
in Sam’s direction. “I don’t –”
he began. “I guess…a sense of dread?”
grinned triumphantly. “Like I said.”
shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “Sounds
like you’re doing a pretty good job to me,”
he said quietly, eyes downcast.
shook his head with a sigh. “Oh, I’m not
so sure,” he said earnestly. “I used to
think so. But just lately…” he trailed off,
wrapping his arms about himself. “Just lately
I can’t seem to get things right.”
succeeded in not looking at Sam this time. “‘Just
nodded, inclining his head to one side. “I don’t
like it when you boys fight,” he said sadly.
stole a wary look in Dean’s direction, his older
brother busy spinning the silver ring on his right hand
awkwardly. “We – we only fight when things
– when things…”
wrong?” Edward supplied.
nodded. “We don’t fight about important
stuff. Well. Not very often.”
leaving for Stanford,” Edward said. “You
didn’t fight about that, did you?”
continued to stare at his fingers, while Sam tried to
drag some words from his suddenly very dry throat.
was important,” Sam confirmed.
you didn’t fight. You didn’t even talk.
For years. Sam, do you know how much danger you were
in out there on your own?”
looked up at that.
bit his lip. “I wasn’t… I wasn’t
in any danger…”
you know how many things were hovering around you then?
How many evil things? You all alone and unprotected?”
You don’t. Because you didn’t have any idea
they were there. But your dad did. Why d’you think
he got so mad when you left?”
couldn’t answer, merely hung his head slightly.
you,” Edward continued, turning his attention
to Dean, who straightened in surprise. “How many
times did you get hurt while he was away?”
shrugged stiffly. “No more than usual…”
don’t think so,” Edward said. “Maybe
you were just more reckless without another life depending
on you. Maybe you just didn’t think your own life
was as important. But you definitely let yourself get
injured on a lot more hunts in those years than you
did before, when you had Sam to look out for.”
didn’t ‘let’ myself do anything –”
Edward challenged. “Well, a lot more went wrong
for you when Sam wasn’t there, didn’t it?”
like it has these past few weeks. The gargoyle? The
exploding pus demon?”
frowned. “You – you had something to do
shrugged. “It was me who altered your little exorcism,
Sam,” he said. “Just enough to make the
demon explode rather than implode.”
unconsciously ran a hand through his sticky hair. “Why
would you do that?”
Edward explained. “If I hadn’t, if the demon
had imploded as it was supposed to according to the
rite Sam was using, what do you think would have happened
to you two?”
Winchesters stared at him blankly.
would have got sucked into whatever Hell Dimension that
thing belonged to, right along with it!”
– we would?” Sam looked decidedly perturbed.
“I almost got us both killed?” His eyes
flicked uncertainly towards Dean, who was staring at
nodded. “Oh most definitely,” he said. “As
with the gargoyle.”
attention shot back to the erstwhile Angel. “Huh?
You messed up my Latin?”
shook his head. “No,” he said. “There
was nothing wrong with your Latin, Dean. I just turned
the page in your Dad’s journal while you were
chasing the thing after it snatched Sam. Made you lose
your place, that’s all.”
frowned, cheeks coloring as he remembered his earlier
diatribe on the inadequacies of Dean’s command
enough, Dean didn’t look in the slightest bit
angry…Not with Sam, at least. “Dude,”
he ground out. “Again. Why the hell would you
Edward said slowly, pulling his collar further up around
his ears. “If you’d finished the transformation
incantation first time out, that gargoyle would have
turned back into stone right as it was flying over the
freeway – dropping Sam thirty feet onto concrete
and asphalt and right into the path of an oncoming eighteen
Dean muttered, as Sam’s breath hitched in his
causing you to have to repeat the whole recitation from
the beginning,” Edward continued, “by the
time you were finished, the gargoyle was flying over
a nice wet swamp. A much softer landing, I think you’ll
took a deep breath, shooting a glance at Dean that was
almost an apology – almost – before
managing, “From what I can see, Edward, you’re
a pretty fine Guardian Angel.”
straight,” Dean agreed. “You saved both
our asses, dude.”
Edward said firmly. “I didn’t save your
lives. You saved each others’ lives.
I just helped you get there.”
brothers exchanged another uncomprehending glance.
shrugged again, modestly. “Sam, you remember what
you did right before the pus demon exploded?”
brows drew together thoughtfully as he cast his mind
back to the unhappy event. “I –” he
began slowly. “I finished the exorcism. And Dean
blasted the thing with the sanctified buckshot. When
the thing started to implode, that should have opened
a portal back to its own Hell Dimension, while the buckshot
should have pushed it back through –”
it didn’t implode,” Edward observed.
Sam agreed. “So –”
grabbed my collar and yanked me back outta the way just
as the thing exploded,” Dean finished for him.
“Landed on my ass with you doing that whole human
shield thing on top of me.”
boys held each other’s gaze levelly for a second,
before Dean broke the awkward silence. “Not only
are you freakishly tall,” he said. “But
you’re also freakishly heavy, dude.”
corner of Sam’s mouth quirked into a begrudging
grin. “You’re welcome,” he said.
the gargoyle,” Edward put in, causing the brothers
to snap their attention back in his direction. The alleged
Angel proceeded to look Sam pointedly in the eye before
the younger man reluctantly turned his gaze onto his
pulled me outta the swamp,” Sam said quietly.
“And…if I’m not mistaken, I think
I remember you giving me mouth to mouth…”
shuddered. “Some things are best forgotten, Sammy,”
he said. “But you’re welcome, too.”
that was after he’d run flat out for half a mile
screaming Latin at a gargoyle,” Edward put in.
cheeks colored, and he became very interested in his
boots all of a sudden.
see,” Edward said. “I’m happy to help
out with the life or death dangers you boys face every
day in this job of yours. But, to be honest, you really
don’t need a Guardian Angel to watch over you
that often in those situations: Not when you’ve
got each other.”
continued to stare at his boots, shuffling his feet
awkwardly, while Sam stuffed his hands even deeper into
his pockets and drew his shoulders up to his ears, as
if the cold was the only thing bothering him.
things go wrong, when you fight,” Edward continued.
“It makes you both that little bit weaker. When
you don’t – what’s that phrase you
young people use? When you don’t have each others’
backs – that’s when you’re at your
most vulnerable. Both of you. To the things out there
that are the most dangerous to you. So when I let that
happen – when I let things get so bad you two
don’t talk, can’t stand to be in the same
room – the same state – as each other? Well,
that’s when I let you down the most. Because that’s
when you’re at your weakest. That’s when
you’re in the most danger. The most important
protection you boys have is each other. You just need
to realize that.”
coughed, and Dean shuffled his feet some more, before
the two of them slowly looked up at each other thoughtfully,
as always, broke the silence first. “Don’t
think this means I’m hugging you.”
shrugged. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
so’s we’re clear,” Dean nodded, before
returning his attention to Edward. “And I’m
not hugging you either, Clarence,” he added.
Edward,” the Angel corrected him.
Dean agreed. “But maybe you could come down from
there and we could talk about the relative merits of
colorization in classic Christmas movies?”
–” Sam added. “Maybe we could just
say thank you?”
frowned. “You don’t need to thank me for
anything, Sam,” he said.
think maybe we do,” Sam insisted, his eyes sliding
again to Dean’s. “For a lot of stuff.”
nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “Maybe you’re
not doing such a bad job after all.”
sighed. “From your mouth to my Supervisor’s
ears,” he said, before stepping carefully off
the railing, descending in a slow, anti-gravitational
hover and landing gently in front of the brothers, who
both stared at him wide-eyed. “So you’re
going to be good boys now?” he asked casually.
frowned. “I’m not sure about that…”
he began, before Sam elbowed him in the ribs.
the younger man promised. “Now we know what’s
more fighting then?”
promise that either…” Dean said, garnering
another poke to the ribs. “Ow – quit it,
There was a definite warning in Sam’s eyes, which
Dean quickly picked up on, turning an incandescent smile
wanna get on Santa’s Naughty List,” he said.
grinned. “Good,” he said. “In that
case. I have a present for you.”
eyebrows disappeared into his shaggy hair. “A
Edward confirmed. “It is the season of giving,
Dean said. “We’ll play along.”
returned a smile even brighter than Dean’s. And
a hell of a lot more sincere. “For one day,”
he said earnestly. “Evil will not walk this earth.”
blinked at him. “You can do that?”
Edward admitted. “But my Supervisor can. Just
for one day.”
frowned uncertainly. “You’re giving us a
one day,” Edward confirmed. “Happy Christmas,
and Dean just continued to stare at him.
Edward said, staring back at them fondly. “My
work here is done. Time for me to go.” The color
suddenly started to drain from his features, his face
and body becoming translucent, almost as if he were
no longer solid, no longer standing there. “You
boys take care of each other,” he reminded them,
both of them nodding dumbly at him before he added,
“Oh and Dean? Do you know you have demon goo in
drive to the little diner on the outskirts of the next
frozen Montana town Sam and Dean encountered was silent,
save for the soft pitter patter of snowflakes on the
into the lot, Dean put the car into park, switched off
the engine, and just stared straight forward, making
no attempt to move.
know,” he said at length, shifting awkwardly on
the leather seat. “You make a pretty good human
snorted softly. “And your Latin’s not so
shook his head. “God, I need some food. C’mon.
think Mr. Cozy Powell’s buying, according to your
the vehicle, Sam followed close as Dean crossed the
damp lot, pulling his jacket tighter around him as the
snow began to fall a little thicker.
open the diner door, a bell tinkled above Dean’s
head, and he winced visibly. “You gotta be kidding
grinned brightly. “You know what that means, right?”
say it, Sam, and you’re gonna be sitting on top
of the next Christmas tree I see, I swear…”
time a bell rings…”
I’m not kidding…”
angel gets his wings.”
shook his head. “Eeurgh. Now you’ve put
me off my food.”
like Edward got his promotion.”
just looked at him. “You just keep thinking those
happy thoughts, sunshine.”
we get a day off.”
still not hugging you.”
you still have demon goo in your hair.”
the story here!