Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title is from a 30 Seconds to Mars song of the same name. Rated very much PG-13 for language (mostly Dean) and a couple of mature scenes
Summary: See Prologue.Part 2: Chapter 18-C
It was quiet. The strange thing about this quiet, though, was that he didn't mind it. He'd been avoiding quiet for months – years, in fact – and suddenly, now, he welcomed it.
The moment he got used to the quiet, another element was added: light. But not the painful, powerful, majestic light that had burned him up. This light was soft. Like starlight and candlelight combined. It seemed to emanate from the end of a long tunnel, and he was compelled to seek it out.
It called to him like a friend, like a promise of safety and peace. Like an empty highway and a night without fear. Like memories happy enough all the terror was chased away.
When he reached the light he realized it framed a door, beaming from around the frame and causing the knob to glow a deep copper. Reaching out a hand, he paused. Something inside him told him that opening this door would change everything and there may not be any way to go back. He looked over his shoulder, back down the tunnel and saw nothing but darkness, emptiness, and pain.
Taking a breath, he opened the door and stepped inside.
He was in Aislinn's room.
He frowned, momentarily confused, and looked around. The roof was missing, as before, and the stuffed animals and books framed one whole wall, a plush rocking chair next to a canopy bed. But when he looked on the other side of the room he saw an old easy chair he remembered from their house in Lawrence – the one chair his father had always fallen asleep in – and a stack of records next to an old player.
He wandered over and saw a shelf of books with familiar spines, all having come from Bobby's house, and tossed over the back of the easy chair was the tan trench coat he'd never seen Castiel without. Frowning he thumbed through the stack of records and saw they were all his favorites; he could sit and listen to these for hours and never be bored. Just above the record player, on the edge of the shelf, he saw a charm bracelet he remembered having seen on the younger version of his mother, and a St. Christopher's medal – one that Brenna had given him years ago to keep him safe.
"What the hell?"
"Dean, you're on the threshold of Heaven. You really think you should be swearing?"
He turned, almost losing his balance as he recognized the voice. "Mom?"
Mary smiled at him, looking exactly as he remembered, and as he blinked in astonishment she stepped forward. "Hi, honey."
"Wait…," he frowned, stepping away, feeling the edge of the shelf at his back. "Is this real? Last time I saw you—"
"You haven't seen me in years, Dean," Mary told him. "You saw some angel's twisted version of me."
Dean looked around. "So…it worked? And I'm…dead?"
"It worked," Mary assured him. "But…you're not dead."
Dean looked at Castiel's trench coat. "Cas did this, didn't he?"
Mary smiled. "He would love that you think so much of him," she said. "But he's not able to influence life and death."
Dean frowned again, her words triggering another memory. "Wait, you're not a reaper in disguise are you?"
Mary shook her head again, slouching on the arm of the easy chair. "You really have been through it, haven't you?"
Moving cautiously away from his mother, Dean crossed over into Aislinn's room, running his fingers along the spines of his daughter's books, and smiling at the stuffed animals.
"I was here before," he said. "She…pulled me in here because I was having a nightmare."
"My granddaughter has a strong spirit," Mary said. "She has her parents to thank for that."
"Did she do this, too?" Dean looked over his shoulder at Mary.
"Maybe," Mary conceded. "You're pretty strong yourself, Dean. Your mind is a crazy maze of memory. This room is both Aislinn's safety zone…and yours." She glanced at the books and records. "Plus…you aren't quite ready to let go."
"Cas said if I used the spell…that was it. Beacon of light."
Mary nodded slowly, a frown marring her pretty face. "He also said he didn't know the impact your brother would have on the spell."
Dean took a step back as realization struck him. "Sam."
Mary nodded. "He connected with you, and the combined power was enough to wipe out Crowley."
"Is he…?" Dean looked around, half-expecting to see his brother walk through the door.
Mary shook her head. "I've not heard them call for Sam," she said cryptically. "Only you." She stood up and crossed the room until she was standing opposite him, the dividing line between Aislinn's room and Dean's memories the only thing separating them. "You have a choice to make, honey."
Dean frowned. "Thought I already made it."
"You sacrificed yourself to save the others – to make the world safer for Aislinn," Mary acknowledged. "The amulet was designed to protect you from sacrifice, but not when you make such a choice."
"So…what are you saying?"
"Sam connected with the power of the amulet and it protected him from the same sacrifice," she said. "You protected him. As you were designed to do. So…now you have a choice. Which reward do you want?"
Dean tilted his head. "Door number one or number two, huh?"
Mary gave him a wry smile. "I would love to have you come with me," she confessed. "I've missed so much of your life. I've missed your smile and your eyes and the way you think and how you express yourself. I look at you now and I can still see that little boy I tucked into bed at night."
Dean felt his eyes burning with tears.
"But I don't want you to miss those same things," Mary said, reaching out and stroking the side of his face. Dean closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. "I want you to see that little girl experience what the world can offer her. I want you to see her light up with love and knowledge and learn from falling down. I want you to tell her bedtime stories and warn off boyfriends. I want you to live, Dean. As you've not been able to for so many years."
Mary pulled her hand from his face and Dean opened his eyes.
"It's going to hurt, isn't it?" he asked.
Mary pressed her lips close. "All sacrifice does."
"I know that light burned me up, Mom," Dean said. "I felt it."
"You have people helping you right now, Dean."
Dean sniffed, looking around the room once more, a tear tumbling from his lashes and tucking into the corner of his mouth. "What if I want to go with you?"
"You can," Mary told him. "It's your choice. And before you ask me, your brother is going to be okay. I mean, physically. He will heal and have a life. He will never be whole without you, but he will get his second chance."
Dean looked down, another tear joining the first. He dragged his hand down his face, attempting to banish the emotion.
"You don't have to do that, you know."
"What?" Dean looked at Mary.
"You always wanted me to be brave," Dean countered.
Mary shook her head, her own eyes glistening with unshed tears. "You only thought that's what I wanted," she said. "I was gone before you were old enough for me to really tell you. I always just wanted you to be you." She smiled softly, a tear falling. "You have such a big heart, Dean. You always felt things so keenly and I could tell even when you were a little boy you didn't know where to put it all. You learned to shrink those feeling and put them in boxes inside of you where no one else would be bothered by them and where you didn't have to figure out how to feel them."
Dean could barely swallow around the lump in his throat.
"You have someone in your life now who can see into those boxes; you can trust her to help you feel them."
"But not if I don't go back," Dean realized.
Dean felt the emotion building, tightening his chest, choking off his voice. "I don't know what to do," he whispered, his voice trembling, feeling the tears press forward again.
Mary let her own tears fall, and smiled at him, her whole face lighting up with the expression. "Yes, you do."
"I'm…I'm tired of hurting, Mom."
"I know, baby," she whispered. "But pain is part of living. And there is so much more for you in life than just pain."
Dean felt his chin tremble as he held his emotions tight, staring at his mother. Mary sniffed, her tears ones of joy as she reached for him, enfolding him in a hug. He held himself stiff for a moment, but then relaxed against her, wrapping his arms around her back and burying his face in her shoulder as he cried.
"You did good, kiddo," she said against his temple, stroking the back of his head soothingly. "You fought harder than any soldier in this war. And we are so proud of you."
Dean couldn't speak, the tears hot on his face, soaking through the thin material covering her shoulder.
"You will survive this pain, Dean," Mary promised. "And you're going to have a good life. I'll see you again."
"Promise?" Dean choked out.
Mary pulled away from him, putting both hands on either side of his face and smiled at him. "I promise."
Dean closed his eyes as she kissed his forehead, knowing as she did that when he opened them again, he would no longer be in this room safe from pain.
"I need you to hold him," Brenna was saying.
Sam was jolted awake by his brother's cry of pain, a wrenching, wretched sound that cut through all who stood hovering around them. He opened his eyes to see that he was lying on the living room floor near their couch, where Dean had been placed. A pillow was beneath his head and Stella was at his side, her hands on him in a protective posture. Something had been put on his wounded hand, soothing the searing pain and clean bandages had been wrapped around them.
His shirt had been cut away and Rufus was finishing adding something from a jar to the visible burns scattered over his torso. From the instant ease of pain and the smell, Sam recognized it as the purple goo Brenna had used to save their lives more than once. He turned to look and saw that Virgil and Brenna were crouched over Dean – Virgil, being taller, reaching from over the back of the couch. Mason was at Dean's head.
"I am holding him!" Virgil shot back.
"Keep him still, Virge, dammit!" Brenna was practically growling at him.
"I grip him any tighter I'm gonna break something," Virgil yelled at her.
Dean was writhing, his body visibly shaking. His charred hand trembled so much Sam couldn't see the wound and his teeth chattered when he wasn't crying out in pain.
"Help them," Sam croaked at Rufus.
Without a word, Rufus turned from his completed task of spreading the salve over Sam's burns and reached over to grip Dean's legs.
"Goddamn his skin is on fire," Mason cursed, his hands on Dean's now-bare shoulders.
At some point, the leather jacket had been stripped away, the T-shirt removed, and Dean's arms and torso were exposed. Sam hissed at the sight of the raw, bloody wounds that looked like they'd come from inside of Dean. Brenna was poised at Dean's head, a flask of something in her hands and Sam knew it was the same foul-smelling potion she'd made him drink after they'd defeated the draiocht…and that had saved Dean's life after the banshee.
"I need to get this inside of him now or we're going to lose him," Brenna told the men around her sternly. "Hold him still."
They obeyed, her tone offering no quarter. Easing Dean's mouth open, Brenna started to pour the liquid down his throat. At first Dean gasped and choked, the potion spilling from his lips and down his chin, but Brenna didn't relent. Sam could hear her chanting, words he wasn't meant to understand, words that were either intended to heal or soothe, he didn't know and didn't care.
After a moment, Dean began to swallow, drinking the sour-tasting potion as if it were water, swallowing until the flask was empty and Brenna pulled it away. Using the sleeve of her loose-fitting shirt, Brenna dried Dean's chin and dropped the flask to the floor, grabbing up a bowl at her feet and scooping out a thick handful of the salve that Rufus had spread over Sam.
Struggling upright, Stella at his back helping him, Sam sat slumped, his eyes on Dean as his brother's breath rattled in this throat, thick and painful. Brenna continued to mutter words in Gaelic, her voice undulating until it sounded almost as if she were singing, though not any tune Sam recognized. She began to spread the balm over Dean's wounds, ending with his hand.
The moment she touched it, Dean's eyes flew open and he stared at her with fear and wonder as if he weren't really seeing Brenna but some other-worldly figure. Brenna ignored him, her gaze turned inward, focused on her task. She used the salve to stave the bleeding, mindless of the gore that smeared her own arms and clothes in the process, filling the hole in Dean's hand and reaching for bandages that Virgil instinctively had ready.
Sam scooted closer to the couch so that his head was level with his brother's.
His voice sounded like a rock star on a bender, but Dean heard him. His brother's bloodshot green eyes tracked upwards, away from Brenna, and landed on Sam.
"You can't be here," Dean whispered.
"I'm here," Sam told him, his voice low, his words meant only for his brother, not caring who else heard.
He'd lost track of where the others in the room even were, Stella included. Brenna had gone silent, and all that mattered to Sam was the man lying before him. The only one he saw or heard was Dean.
"I'm here," he repeated. "Right here with you. I told you I'm not going to leave you."
"We…burned up," Dean rasped, swallowing hard as if his throat were on fire.
"No, Dean. We didn't burn up. We're still here."
"Feels like…fire inside me," Dean closed his eyes, his brow folding in pain, then opened them again as if afraid to look away from Sam.
Instinctively, Sam reached up with his unwounded hand, and gripped Dean's shoulder for reassurance. It took him a moment to realize the significance of the fact that he was feeling Dean's warm skin and seeing his brother's face with that touch: their connection was gone.
It hit Sam like a punch in the gut and he gasped, emotion pressing up through his throat, feeling as though he'd lost something precious.
"Sammy," Dean whispered.
"I'm here," Sam choked out, his voice a sob.
"I see fire. Around you."
"I'm not burning, Dean," Sam reassured him. "Neither are you."
"We did it…didn't we."
"Yeah, man. We did it."
Dean closed his eyes.
"Dean?" Sam couldn't let his brother go yet. He needed to see his eyes once more.
"Don't go anywhere, okay?" Sam sniffed, feeling tears running down his face and not caring.
"I know, but you can't go."
Dean frowned, his eyes still closed. "Supposed to."
"No, man," Sam shook his head and reached across Dean to grab his other hand. "No you weren't. You were ready to, but I wasn't going to let you."
Dean opened his eyes a crack at that, and Sam was willing to swear he saw a glint of amusement in their bloodshot depths. "Always were a rebel."
"When it comes to my big brother? You bet your ass."
"They okay?" Dean asked, his eyes opening a little wider.
"Everyone's okay," Sam nodded, using the back of his bandaged hand to wipe tears from his face. "Brenna's using her potions on you again."
"She's here?" Dean asked, confused.
"I'm here," Brenna said, appearing, as if by magic, at Sam's side.
Dean peered at her, his eyes cloudy. "How are you here?" He blinked slowly. "You're supposed to be safe."
"We're safe," Brenna told him, and Sam heard tears in her voice. "You kept everyone safe, Dean."
He saw her reach across his shoulders to join her hand with his and Dean's, the three of them once more connected.
"Close your eyes a minute," she instructed, and Sam somehow knew she meant both of them.
Almost effortlessly, an image of an open field, the one where Dean had set off fireworks for him, appeared before his eyes. Dean stood next to him, looking whole and healthy, his face free of scars, his eyes bright and alive. He grinned that cocky, devil-may-care grin of his and clapped Sam on the shoulder.
"How'd we get here?"
"She's your girl, man," Sam shrugged, feel stronger and healthier than he had in years. "You tell me."
Brenna stepped forward, wearing the faded Led Zeppelin Icarus T-shirt he'd remembered first seeing her in so many years ago, her hair twisted up behind her and holes in her jeans. Her feet were bare and her smile was happy.
"This is where you're safe," she told him. She nodded over his shoulder and Sam turned to see the Impala behind him, a six pack of beer waiting on her hood. "This is where you retreat when you need to feel safe."
"Both of us?" Sam asked, glancing over at Dean.
Dean shrugged, his lips folding down in a casual frown. "Looks like," he said. He smiled again and Sam felt as though his heart was going to burst seeing such natural light in his brother's expression. "Wouldn't be right if you weren't here, Sammy."
Sam grinned back. "Yeah, you're right about that."
With a gasp, Sam opened his eyes, realizing that Brenna had pulled her hand away. He looked down and saw that Dean's eyes were still closed, but the lines pain had drawn down his face were easing. He glanced over at Brenna to see why she'd pulled away and saw that she was now holding Aislinn, who had been woken by the noise and come out of the bedroom, her hair in a messy pony tail, eyes puffy from sleep. The little girl was dressed in sweat pants and what appeared to be her mother's T-shirt, the collar of it slipping from her shoulder.
Brenna was curled around her daughter, whispering in Aislinn's ear, but the child's green eyes were pinned to Dean's battered form. Sam looked up and around, coming back to the realization that there were others in the room with them. Mason and Virgil stood side by side behind the couch, both looking down with solemn, worried eyes. Rufus sat next to Stella, his arm around her shoulders in a surprising gesture of comfort.
Sam shifted when Aislinn stood up, maneuvering her little body around Sam until she stood next to him, peering at Dean's face. She looked questioningly at Sam.
"It's okay," Sam whispered.
Aislinn reached out and touched Dean's cheek, seemingly unaffected by the blood that had dried there from the gash on his head. Dean flinched slightly at the contact, blinking his eyes open slowly, and turning his head so that he could see her.
"Hi," she whispered.
"Hi," Dean replied.
"I'm sorry you got hurted."
"Me too," Dean whispered.
"Mama's medicine works good."
"I can stay with you," Aislinn said, and somehow Sam felt she meant more than just in this room or on the couch.
"Okay," Dean agreed, and closed his eyes.
As Sam watched, his brother's face seemed to smooth, his breathing evening out. Sam looked over at Aislinn and saw the little girl smile, then rest her head on the couch next to Dean's. He looked over at Brenna and saw tears running once more down her face. Her eyes were on her daughter, her hand covering her mouth.
"What is she doing?" Sam asked.
"I think she's…taking him to her room," Brenna whispered, her nose wrinkling as she tried to reign in her emotion.
Sam looked back at his niece and his brother, remembering what the little girl had said just that morning.
"Stay safe, Dean," Sam whispered.
"Brenna," Virgil spoke up. "We gotta get these guys to the hospital. I don't have enough here to—"
"I know," Brenna replied. "Just give the potion a bit longer to work on him. He's…it almost burned him up, Virge."
Sam felt Stella behind him, her arms wrapping around him carefully.
"What about you?" she asked.
Sam glanced up at Mason. "I-I…I think I just got in the way."
"No, kid," Rufus rumbled from behind Sam.
The older hunter pushed to his feet and moved around behind the couch so that he was standing next to Mason and looking down on Dean and Sam.
"I remember what that angel said," he reminded Sam. "There was no way of knowing what impact you would have. You finished it, man."
Sam frowned at him, his eyes darting from Rufus to Mason and back.
"That demon was right," Mason chimed in. "Dean was weakening. If you hadn't grabbed ahold of him…," Mason shook his head. "I don't think we'd be standing here."
"It would have burned him up," Virgil nodded. "He would have taken out all those demons and burned up doing it and it wouldn't have mattered because that bastard would have still been alive."
"You completed the circuit," Rufus told him. "You gave him the power he needed to get the job done. And kept that light from taking you both out."
Sam looked back down at Dean. "He was ready to die."
"Yeah," Rufus nodded once. "But he also knew you were going to be there."
Sam glanced back up at their friend.
"And if there's one thing I've learned," Rufus continued, a rueful smile softening his gruff voice, "it's that there ain't nothing that can't be done when the Winchester brothers are together."
Hours later, both Sam and Dean had been admitted to Lawrence Memorial once more, Jackson's cover story of their being hurt when they were trying to rescue ravers from a flash fire at the strip mall holding up when the fire fighters were called in to combat the blaze. Brenna's potions had helped heal wounds that would have been hard to explain.
Dean slept for several days, finally waking when his body was strong enough. Sam was waiting next to him when he opened his eyes, relieved to be at last seeing them clear and fever free, though pain still lingered as his brother became aware of the various wounds still littering his body. Sam doubted there would ever be a time when there wasn't some kind of lingering pain in his brother's eyes.
"Hey," Dean croaked, his voice rough from days of disuse.
Sam handed him some water. "Hey, yourself."
Dean looked at Sam's bandaged hand. "See we're matching again," he commented, raising his right hand.
"Yep," Sam nodded.
"What's the verdict?"
"Hard to say," Sam replied. "Broke some bones when Crowley shoved the angel sword through mine." Dean's eyebrows went up at that. Sam had forgotten that his brother hadn't really been in a state to register what had happened. "They cleaned out the scar tissue on both of them and I think Brenna's goop probably helped, but…it's hard to say."
"We'll figure it out," Dean said.
"Yeah," Sam nodded. "We always do, don't we?"
"Where is everybody?"
Sam shifted in his chair, his body still sore from the beating he'd taken. "You've been out of it for about a week, man."
Dean blinked once more in surprise. "Seriously?"
Sam nodded. "Virgil quit his job in Colorado," he said. "I guess all that stuff in Argo was harder for him to get over than he thought. Sorenson knew some guys out East, though, and set him up with an interview at a station near Boston. Which is where he wanted to be anyway. He's heading out there to see what he sees. He promised to not be a stranger, though."
Dean looked down at his lap. "He's a good guy. I hope he finds what he's looking for."
"That's exactly what Brenna said when he told her," Sam said. "Tell you the truth, I think the only thing he was bummed about was that you weren't awake to hear his heartfelt goodbye."
"He said goodbye to me?" Dean asked surprised.
Sam just shook his head at his clueless brother. "You got no idea what you mean to people, man," he said in wonder. He continued as Dean stared at him, baffled. "Tommy had to spend a couple days in here – concussion. Everyone else got fixed up and went home. Though they're all dealing with it in random ways."
"Well…," Sam cleared his throat. "Mason has kinda turned the back room of his garage into a weapons cache for hunters. Like a giant version of the Impala's trunk."
Dean frowned, lifting his chin. "What's his wife think about that?"
"After he told her about the strip mall…she's pretty much for it."
"He told her?"
"Told his sister, too," Sam said, grimacing a bit at the incredulity on Dean's face. "Saved Jackson from having to say anything, I guess."
"It gets better," Sam told him.
"You and I have very different definitions of 'better'," Dean grumbled.
"Rufus got wind of a rugaru in Omaha," Sam told him. "Soon as Tommy got out of here, he tagged along."
"What the hell, man?"
"And Sorenson's helping me with my database," Sam finished, saying the words very fast in case Dean came off the bed in protest. "It's hard for me to type," he held up his bandaged left hand, "so he's inputting the information for me."
Dean rubbed at the stiches on his forehead that would add one more scar to his collection. "Where did we lose control?"
Sam took a breath. "I think…," he shifted again, unable to sit still, and stood up, staring to pace. "I think it was the moment we decided to stay here," he said. "When we thought we could have a normal life."
"Dammit, Sam," Dean shook his head. "And now we've gotten all these guys all tangled up in this life."
"See…no," Sam shook his head. "We didn't get them tangled up in it, man. They just…did it."
Dean frowned. "I don't…."
"We did exactly what we always do…the only thing that's different is…," he stopped pacing a moment and glanced over at Dean. "We didn't walk away after."
Dean tilted his head at his brother, clearly trying to keep up with Sam's logic.
"We let them see us," Sam continued. "We let them decide what they thought about the truth. We didn't force it on them—"
"Well, unless you count making them dig up a grave and burn bones to save our lives," Dean interjected.
Sam opened his good hand in supplication. "The point is…we didn't create this truth, Dean. It simply…is. And we've been fighting to protect others from it all our lives. What if…what if it should be their choice if they want to be part of that fight?"
"I don't know, Sam…."
"Take those people in Argo," Sam pointed out. "They all knew – on some level they all knew something was wonky in their town. Enough so that when we got rid of it for them…they paid us."
"Aren't we responsible in some way, though?" Dean asked. "If they get hurt?"
Sam simply looked at him. "You can't take it all on, man."
Dean looked away.
"You can't save everyone, Dean. No matter how hard you try."
They were quiet for a moment.
"They chose to do this on their own, huh?"
"I wasn't even around for half of it," Sam replied. "And you were unconscious, so…."
Dean nodded. "It's just…," he shrugged and looked up at Sam. "It been just us for so long, y'know?"
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "Gonna be weird having…like, actual friends. Who know. About…us."
"And know how to fight what we fight."
"Maybe we just…roll with it?" Sam suggested, trying not to infuse too much hope in his words.
Dean reached up and rubbed once more at the scars on his face, thinking quietly. "I think we might have to."
They were quiet another moment and Sam approached the side of the bed once more, making sure he wasn't standing in Dean's blind spot. "Doc said your burns were healing really well."
"I was burned?" Dean asked, surprised.
"Dude, you were cooked," Sam told him, shaking his head. "Turning yourself into that light did a number on you."
Dean frowned, his eyes darting in memory. "But it didn't kill me…."
Dean looked up at him. "Because of you."
Sam smiled. "Well…you're my brother, man." He shrugged and looked down. "You didn't leave me, even when the thing inside of me was beating you to death. You didn't leave me. So," he looked back up at Dean, letting his brother see his gratitude, "no way was I gonna leave you."
Dean echoed his smile and Sam knew that was the closest they would ever come to actually saying how much they really meant to each other. Winchesters simply didn't say I love you.
"What about Stella?" Dean asked. "She okay…rolling with it, too?"
Sam winced. That was a tougher subject. "She's still here, still with me, but…I think it's going to be harder for her to accept what our lives are really like."
Dean frowned. "I'm sorry, man."
"Don't be," Sam assured him. "I don't want any more secrets. Especially not with her. I'd rather her be honest about what she can and can't handle than hide from her. Plus…," he looked away slightly. "Brenna's helping."
Dean's eyebrows went up. "Is that right?"
"I guess knowing how Brenna mixes her…potions and stuff helped Stella deal with everything…y'know. After. And they're…talking."
"Women like to do that," Dean agreed.
"She just gets Stella on a level I don't understand," Sam shrugged. "It's like they have this…secret language or something. It's bizarre."
Dean nodded. "That's why I never approach a group of them. Too dangerous."
Sam chuckled, "Says the mighty hunter."
"Dude, I'd rather face a pair of wendigos than a group of women," Dean told him, shaking his head and shuddering.
"Yesterday," Sam informed him, "Stella was talking about using her money from the sale of her bar to open a store downtown for Brenna to sell her…herbs and stuff."
Dean brought his head up. "What did Brenna say to that?"
"She looked excited. I don't think she wants to leave."
Dean's brow furrowed, but he said nothing.
"Do you want her to leave?"
Dean shook his head immediately, but then looked askance at Sam. "I can't tell her that, though."
"Why the hell not?" Sam drew his head back, genuinely confused.
"Because it has to be her decision," Dean said. "I can't…make her stay."
"What if she needs to know that you want her here?"
Dean lifted a shoulder. "She can find out whatever she wants to from me," he pointed out.
Sam sighed. "Dude, you're such an idiot."
"Women don't want to have to find out. They don't want to have to tell you. They want you to figure it out. They want you to ask them."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "When did you get so savvy about women?"
"I've always been smart when it comes to women," Sam replied smugly. "You just never asked."
Dean dropped his head back with a tired smile.
"I'll head out and let you get some rest," Sam said, noticing. "You'll probably be able to go home soon."
"Hey Sam?" Dean called, stopping his exit.
"We did it, right? Crowley's gone?"
"He's gone," Sam nodded.
Dean shook his head, looking out toward the window. "It's a whole different world."
The day Dean came home from the hospital, Tommy dropped by with some news. The developer who'd encroached on his grandmother's property had bought them out, bulldozing the old house, and was forced to relocate the remaining graves. The sale had given Tommy enough to move his grandmother to Brandon Woods, an upscale retirement village, and left him money to live off of for quite a while.
"I'm going to head off with Rufus," he said. "Dude knows some crazy cats. Thinks I'll fit right in. Already talked to some friend of his named Garth – he's a hunter, too."
Dean was sitting on the steps of the front stoop, his bandaged hand in his lap, his bruised face lifted up to the warmth of the sun as he peered at Tommy.
"You sure about this, man?" he asked, cautiously.
"Yeah, I'm sure," Tommy replied. "And don't try any of that big brother shit with me," he grinned. "I think I finally know what I'm supposed to do, y'know?"
Sam saw Dean smile a sad sort of knowing smile, and nod. "Yeah, I think I do."
Rufus joined them a bit later, bringing them a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue that made Dean grin, despite the fact that Sam snaked it quickly with a muttered, maybe more than one day away from the hospital, huh? He shook the brothers' hands, told them to take care, and informed Sam he'd be calling him up for information from that database soon.
"I'll have it ready," Sam promised.
"You'd better," Rufus glanced over Sam's shoulder as Stella stepped outside and rested a casual hand on Sam's shoulder. "Or I'll know the reason why."
When Rufus and Tommy had left, Dean sighed, his shoulder sagging tiredly.
"You ready to go inside?" Sam asked his brother.
"Yeah," Dean groaned, pulling himself up. "I'm getting too old for this shit, Sammy."
"Well, you are in your thirties," Sam reminded him with a grin.
Dean pulled the side of his mouth up in a grudging smile. "Didn't think I'd make it this far, did you?"
Sam's face pulled tight behind Dean's back and he whispered, "Not really."
Stella left later that day to head back to her place; Brenna and Aislinn had decided to stay in a hotel and let Dean have some space to heal up. The boys where back to their semi-solitary environment and Sam could tell Dean thought it felt as lonely as he did.
"Damn quiet around here," Dean commenting, rubbing the top of Murphy's head.
The dog had situated himself on the couch, resting his head in Dean's lap. He'd been staying close since Dean came home from the hospital, and for that Sam was glad. He'd been patient with the various people who had cared for him while Dean was in the hospital, but Sam could see that even after such a short time together, the dog was bonded to his brother. He really only calmed down when Dean was close by.
"Yeah," Sam nodded. "Want some TV?"
"Sure, I guess," Dean replied.
They watched an old episode of CSI, then let it roll into an afternoon movie. Dean fell asleep quickly and Sam watched in wonder as Murphy recognized the moment the nightmare hit his brother, waking him with a gentle nudge of his head. Dean smiled groggily at the dog, readjusted and fell back to sleep, this time without dreams chasing him.
Sam knew he'd have to bring up the idea Jackson and Sorenson had floated his way about what Dean should do, but he figured it could wait. Dean had a lot of healing to do; he had no doubt his brother would be an excellent counselor for cops who had gone through a traumatic shooting, but he also knew Dean had to find a way to deal with his own PTSD before he felt safe enough out in the world.
He'd still catch Dean rubbing his hand along his jeans – even with the bandage – to rid himself of the blood on his hands only Dean ever saw. Or he'd come into a room and see Dean standing still, his eyes on the middle distance, his breathing uneven and ragged until Murphy would press against his legs, whining until Dean was able to come back to himself, grounding himself in the present and offering Sam an almost apologetic smile.
Sam learned to simply move carefully around Dean when that happened; as long as Murphy was close by, the flashbacks didn't seem to get as bad as they had before, and Dean never seemed to be 'gone' as long. Sam wondered, though, what it would take for his brother to truly heal from the trauma their lives had visited upon his psyche.
Stella's daily visits added to their routine; she brought treats for Murphy and showed Dean some exercises that helped him work out the increasing stiffness in his back and hip – a souvenir, it seemed, from his impact with the wall via Crowley. She spoke frequently of what she was learning from Brenna and Sam knew it was only a matter of time before the women opened their herbal remedy shop on Massachusetts Street. In an eclectic town like Lawrence, he figured, such a shop would be a huge success.
He felt Stella working to find her footing in their world, listening as he talked with Sorenson about the database and recounted hunts they'd survived, bracing herself for the nights when even Murphy couldn't rescue Dean and his brother would wake with a terrified shout. Sam had already fallen for her; he was simply waiting her out, leaving her enough room to breathe, but taking his own advice and telling her he wanted her to stay. It was something, he knew, that would just take time.
Roughly a week after Tommy and Rufus left, Sam took himself and Dean to an appointment to have their bandages checked and re-wrapped and both were scheduled for physical therapy on their hands. The appointment had been exhausting and not a little painful, but the brothers knew the damage to their hands were worth the changed they'd brought the world.
After the appointment, Sam drove them to a house three roads down from their rental. It was a small, two story with a front porch, white-washed wood siding, and a large, unattached garage. He parked in the gravel lot in front of the garage and turned off the engine.
"We got a job or something?" Dean asked, peering up at the house in confusion.
Dean looked at him, frowning. "What's going on, Sam?"
"This is Brenna's place."
Dean paled. "She's…got a place?"
Sam nodded. "She bought it last week. Wanted to wait until she'd got everything final before telling you."
Dean looked up at the house once more. "So…she's staying."
Dean sat quietly for a moment, then, "You gave her Aislinn's letter didn't you."
"You made me promise."
"I kinda meant, y'know…in case I didn't make it out of that fight."
Sam shrugged, his mouth folding down in a mock frown. "You never really said."
Dean's scowl held no heat. "She read it?"
"Well…it was a letter," Sam pointed out. "Kinda what you're supposed to do with it."
"She tell Aislinn?"
Sam's smile softened. "I don't know, Dean. But…this is Brenna. She's not your typical Mom, y'know?"
"And Aislinn's not your typical kid," Dean allowed.
"Hey, she probably already knew…even without your letter," Sam offered.
Dean took a breath. "I didn't want to make her stay."
"You really think you could make Brenna do anything she didn't want to do?" Sam asked.
Dean looked down at his lap.
"Listen," Sam said, turning slightly in his seat so that he faced his brother. "It's no secret that I didn't really like her at first."
Dean blinked up at him in surprise.
"Okay, well…maybe it was no secret to everyone but you," Sam amended. "But when she saved you after that banshee…she was in. Even though I, uh, may have threatened her a time or two."
"You threatened her?" Dean asked incredulously.
"I saw how hard you fell for her, Dean," Sam told him. "And I saw how much that confused you. I didn't want her offering something you didn't think you could keep."
"We did," Sam said. "We…decided to try normal."
Dean huffed. "And it about killed us."
"Well, if at first you don't succeed…," Sam hedged. "Point is…I trust her, Dean. I trust her with you and that's saying something."
"You trust her not to take me away, that it?"
Sam half-smiled. "Basically, yeah."
"I'd never go anywhere you couldn't follow, Sam."
Sam looked at him, all humor draining from his eyes. "You almost did. A couple of times."
Dean looked away. "You'd have gotten there eventually."
Dean took a breath. "I'm just saying…you're my brother, man. You're like…the other half of me."
Sam smiled. "We're not, y'know, connected anymore," he pointed out. He reached out and smacked Dean lightly on the arm to prove his point. "I kinda miss it."
"Hell, I don't," Dean grumbled. "It was damn creepy knowing you saw what was in my head."
"Yeah," Sam tilted his head in concession. "That is one scary place."
"So, this is us…adjusting, huh?" Dean asked. "Living a normal life? With…girls?"
Sam chuckled. "Dude, we're gonna be sitting on rocking chairs on that porch when we're eighty, telling our grandkids about the good old days when cars ran on gasoline instead of…cold fusion."
"Grandkids," Dean mused. "You ever think either of us would live long enough to have grandkids?"
"Well," Sam shrugged. "You got a daughter. You'll be first."
Dean scowled at him. "Don't even joke about that. First guy who even thinks about sniffing around her's getting a gut full of rock salt."
"Sounds fair enough," Sam nodded. "Won't kill 'im, but—"
"It'll hurt like hell," Dean finished, grinning off in the distance.
They were quiet a moment.
"We'll never not be hunters," Dean said quietly.
"I know," Sam nodded. "And I don't want that to change."
"Me neither," Dean confessed. "I guess I just…want to figure out how to do it…without so much…."
Dean nodded. "I'm tired of hurting."
"I'm tired of watching you bleed."
Dean rolled his lips against his teeth. "So, we do this, then. We get out of this car, walk into that house, and find out what's waiting for us."
Sam nodded. "We do this."
Dean took a breath, putting his hand on the door latch. "Jesus, Sammy," he breathed, looking suddenly nervous.
Sam rested a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Hey."
Dean looked over at him.
"Who's your brother, Dean?" he asked, knowing he'd ground his brother with that familiar question.
"You are, Sammy."
They stepped out of the Impala and walked up to the house. Sam rang the doorbell and they heard the quick step of little feet before the door opened. Aislinn looked up at them through the screen door, her green eyes sparkling, her hair loose and wild. Brenna was right behind her, a hand on the door as she grinned out at the boys.
"Hi, Dad," Aislinn greeted.
Dean took a step back; Sam heard his breath stutter slightly in shock at hearing that word.
"Wanna see my new room?" she went on with a bright grin. "It's a real one."
"Uh…yeah," Dean replied, finding his voice. He chuckled as he pulled open the screen door and stepped inside. "Yeah, I'd like that."
He glanced over at Brenna and Sam saw her eyes soften as she smiled at him. She caught his arm and pulled him in for a quick, hard kiss.
"Next time," she whispered against his mouth, "let's try it without the letter."
"'Kay," Dean replied, then kissed her back quickly.
As Dean followed his daughter up the stairs to her room, Brenna looked at Sam and smiled.
"What do you think?" she asked, gesturing to the house.
But Sam's eyes were on his brother. "I think he's finally home," he replied.
Concluded in the Epilogue, here!
a/n: One chapter remains – an epilogue that explains the excerpts from "Roadtrip with My Brother: A Memoir" by Samuel Winchester that you saw at the start of each Part. I hope you return for the true ending to this story. I'll see you in a bit, then.
Brenna is singing Aislinn's favorite song, The Parting Glass.
Of all the comrades that e'er I had; they are sorry for my going away. And all the sweethearts that e'er I had, they would wish me one more day to stay. But since it falls unto my lot that I should rise and you should not, I'll gently rise and I'll softly call, "Good night and joy be with you all."
…Achós rud égo dtagannsérismo leor, go mba cheartdoma ardú agusníba chóir duit…feicfidhméardúgo réidhagusbeidh mé glaochgo bog, oíche mhaithagus áthasa bheith in éineachtleatgo léir….
Songs by order of appearance/lyrics:
Achilles Last Stand by Led Zeppelin
In the End by Linkin Park
Sabotage by Beastie Boys
Thunderstruck by AC/DC
Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas