It happens in his sleep, gently, a soft easing away. He doesn’t even realize it, at first—in his dream, he’s riding a giant black stallion and they’re loping toward the sunset, wind in his hair and on his face, stealing away his laughter. It’s perfect, the best he’s felt in a long time, completely in-tuned with the horse.
There’s a beach in the distance, a little boat waiting for him, Layla standing beside it. He urges the stallion faster.
Dean slides down, leaning into the horse for a moment. He nuzzles at Dean’s side, whuffling his hair. “Good boy,” Dean murmurs, patting the stallion’s shoulder before backing up. “Head on, now. Your part’s done.”
(wake up, wake up, something’s wrong, can’t you see?)
“Dean,” Layla says, stepping out of the water, her face gentle in a welcoming smile. “It’s so good to see you.”
She’s beautiful, ethereal, whole and healthy, and he lightly touches her cheek, traces his finger along her jaw. “I thought you couldn’t be healed?” he asks.
Layla smiles again, knowingly. “I wasn’t.”
(wake up, this isn’t right—wake up, damn you!)
He tilts his head, studies her. “Well, you look good,” he says and she laughs.
“Thank you,” she answers, reaching up to cup his face. “Come with me, Dean.”
He stares down at her, into her eyes, and there’s something he should be remembering. “Where?”
She takes his hand, raises it to her lips, kisses his knuckles. “Away. Does it matter?”
He thinks for a moment, then shakes his head. “No, guess not.”
(wake up, damnit, can’t you feel how wrong this is?)
He grips her hand and follows her to the boat, pushes it down through the water, away from the sand, towards the sun. Layla laughs when water sprays up at her. Far down the beach, the stallion rears; Dean swears the horse is laughing with joy.
It’s easy, so easy, to let go, to float out into the ocean with Layla, to leave the land behind. They chuckle and talk, share stories.
—there’s something he should be remembering—
The sun sets and rises. He’s not hungry or thirsty, and beneath the warm sky, he and Layla make love. She fits with him, perfectly, and he holds her, far more contented than he can recall from ever before.
They sail on; dolphins dance around their boat, and whales sing, and Dean points out shapes in the cloud. Layla scoffs and shows him different ones.
He’s happy, really he is, but
Layla kisses him as they sail off the edge of the world.
(wake up, damn you, please)
They beat the crossroad’s demon at her own game and Sam goes to sleep ecstatic. He wakes late the next morning; Dean’s still in bed. Sam thinks nothing of it—he’d want to sleep in on the morning after he should have died, too.
It’s only when he comes out of the bathroom that he realizes there’s the sound of one person breathing.