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Dean and Sam stayed together after that. The next day, Dean got Sam back into the Impala and they drove off. Sam never asked where they were going, even though he had to realise they were moving with purpose instead of aimlessly driving around in search of the next hunt.

Dean wasn’t interested in hunting, not at the moment. He’d done a few if they happened to basically drop on him, but by and large he’d been out of the business for a couple of years. Looking for Sam had left him little time for anything else.

Also, it seemed that any potential hunt in his path Sam had already taken care of.

That wasn’t the reason, though. He and Sam had only just reunited. No matter how unwilling Dean was to face some things, they had a lot of issues to work through before they could get back to a job where one’s life depended on the other. Learn each other again.

Then there was the issue of Sam’s health. The way he looked, Dean didn’t know how he’d survived hunting on his own for so long, knowing what to expect in any hunt or not. Big Brother would have to get him back in form first – fatten him up, make sure he got some sleep. They were headed to the perfect place for that. And once Sam was better… well, then they’d see.

They didn’t talk about any of that. Dean had a lot of questions about the future, but at the same time he didn’t want to know about the life Sam had lived without him. Just like he never really wanted to know about the life Sam had had in Stanford, though it was probably not quite the same.

Sam didn’t ask about Dean’s time alone either. He was quiet all the way, if he wasn’t bitching about Dean’s music. It was almost the only time they talked. The rest of the time, Sam busied himself staring out of the window, sometimes relaxed, sometimes nervous and distracted. Once he even started to hyperventilate and the moment Dean noticed and stopped the car, he practically fell out at the side of the road to retch for the next five minutes straight.

Good thing they were about the take an extended break.

Altogether, Sam went through a lot of moods in a ride that only took a little more than two hours because of street repairs and a traffic accident that had half the road blocked off. After the first hour, Sam popped in one of the unmarked pills he kept in his duffle, and when he noticed Dean staring at him, he only shrugged and asked, “Does Bobby even know we’re coming?”

Dean blinked. “How do you know we’re going to Bobby’s?”

“We’re always going to Bobby’s when we’re taking a break.”

“No, we don’t.” With the exception of one brief visit when Dean happened to be in the area, he hadn’t been to his place in years. And in the days they were travelling together, between Jess and Dad, they had visited Bobby exactly once. Just before.

Sam shrugged. “Well, we should. Better than a motel room any day. And it’s not like Bobby has any family left. I bet he missed you.”

“That why he keeps calling me an ‘idjit’ just about every time I call?” Den asked drily.

“Yes. And because you are an idjit.”

“Please. You’re hurting my feelings.”

“Only an idiot would waste years of his life running after someone who betrayed him,” Sam said matter-of-factly, causing Dean to take a deep breath. But if Sam expected him to take the bait and get angry, he found himself disappointed.

“Sam,” Dean said, very calmly. “If anyone’s an idiot here, it’s the one who wasted years running from someone who’d never let him go. You get that? I only have you.”

“Exactly.” Sam seemed to already have given up on his plan to start a fight that might lead to Dean kicking him out at the side of the road. “I wanted you to have someone else. As long as I’m around, you won’t start looking.”

“That’s because I don’t want anyone else,” Dean snapped. After a second he added, “Well. A hot chick, perhaps, because let me tell you, there are some itches you just can’t scratch. And a drinking buddy who doesn’t get emo and pass out after three beers. But none of that would be any fun if you’re not there, too. I couldn’t enjoy anyone else as long as I don’t know where you are, how you’re doing, and that you’re going to pick up the phone when I call you. So, yeah, basically the last three years were pretty miserable for me, thank you very much.”

Sam was silent after that. Dean would have preferred if he’d defended himself, but he just looked down and let the world go by outside the window.

After a while, Dean said conversationally, “So, you think Bobby finally cleaned up his yard by now?”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sam shake his head. “He didn’t.”

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

 

Sam was right – Bobby’s yard looked as messy as always, and not just because of the old and broken cars standing around. And if he was honest, Dean wouldn’t have it any other way. He didn’t exactly grow up in that yard – they hadn’t been at the place that often, after all – but whenever they came, playing between the cars had been a favourite pastime for him and Sam. Right until the time Sam learned about hunting, figured it out on his own, really – and Dad had decided that their days of playing hide-and-seek between rusty cars were over.

Sam grew out of playing in the yard when he was eight.

With his brother so quiet beside him, Dean wondered if he was thinking the same. If he was remembering the moments they shared in this place, or if he was lost in memories that belonged only to himself, shared with a Dean who’d never exist.

Damn timelines. Dean hated them. Castiel might have been right when he claimed that Sam would have ended up as exactly the person he was if the past had never been changed, but Dean had missed all of him getting there and he felt like a stranger.

He’d lost his brother and he couldn’t even grieve because Sam was right beside him, as he should be. And all he could do about it was hope he wasn’t going to lose this one as well.

Bobby was home and came out when he noticed the Impala stopping in front of his house. To say that he was surprised to see Sam would have been an understatement, but he kept good check on his emotions, showering them with gruff remarks and insults. Sam, for his part, held back his enthusiasm, though he was obviously happy to see their old friend again.

Dean answered Bobby’s questions with minimal explanations about Sam being a well-meaning idiot and promised in not-so-many words to tell him more later. Sam offered no explanation himself, but he had to pick up on the non-verbal communication. The fact that he didn’t react to it at all Dean counted as a general permission to tell Bobby everything Castiel had told him.

But not at once. First, they had dinner. Bobby wasn’t prepared for their visit – and he made quite clear that he would have appreciated a call ahead – but he found some cans in the kitchen cabinets, some bags in the freezer. In the end they had too much, because Sam barely touched his food.

Dean’s brother was the first to head upstairs, claiming he remembered where all the spare sheets were and would prepare their room himself. Dean and Bobby were left behind in the living room, each nursing a bottle of beer, neither their first one.

“You sure he’s okay?” Bobby asked in a rare display of gruff concern. “Kid looks like hell.”

“He’s gonna be fine, Bobby,” Dean insisted. “That’s why we’re here. So he can get back into shape before we go back to hunting.”

“What I made of your reports, he’s been hunting non-stop for the past coupla years. No surprise he wants to hit the sack early.”

“I don’t think he’s going to sleep just yet,” Dean admitted. “Actually, he isn’t so big on sleep lately.”

 “Maybe that’s the problem,” Bobby concluded. “So, how about you get another beer and tell me what the heck is going on.”

Dean sighed. “I think we’re going to need something stronger for that. You still keep the whisky in the same place? ”

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

 

As expected, Sam didn’t sleep that first night at Bobby’s or the one after, or the one after that. He just paced around all night or flirted with his laptop. It shot Dean’s own sleeping patterns to all hell, because a part of Dean was constantly afraid that the moment he fell asleep, Sam would quietly fuck off again and maybe the next time he read his brother’s name it would be on a headstone.

Which, of course, was bullshit. Sam didn’t have anyone to bury him, apart from some elusive angle who might not even be around to notice.

When Dean eventually fell into proper sleep the third night and woke up in the morning after still too little rest, the bed beside him was empty and for a moment he was convinced Sam had left him again. He nearly tripped over his own feet when he ran down the stairs but found his brother in the living room, in front of the old, grainy TV that Bobby kept insisting would do for another twenty years. It was turned off, and Sam was sitting hunched over the coffee table, a blanket draped over his shoulders. When Dean got closer, he saw that his brother was writing something in that journal of his. The one with the list. Probably editing that the Milligans had been saved.

He didn’t notice Dean until Dean touched his shoulder, and then he jumped and almost drove his pen through his brother’s hand. Only his quick reflexes spared Dean a potential case of blood poisoning, while Sam looked like he was a second away from a nervous breakdown. After calming down, he went back to whatever he’d been doing but remained nervous and jumpy.

He collapsed before Bobby got up.

While Sam slept, a deep sleep that was only inches away from a coma, Dean had a look at the list. It was for him anyway, he gathered when he looked it over. It seemed a logical conclusion, because Sam had added more information on every case and made an effort to actually write readable for once.

Beside the names, dates and places that had made Sam’s list, Sam had added pages with further details on whatever he had dealt with the first time round, what to take into consideration, how to kill it. Hiding places were listed, people to look out for.

Glenwood Springs Psychiatric Hospital, Ketchum, Oklahoma, September 2009 Dean read. Nurse is a wraith, kills patients, makes it look like suicides. Will know you’re a hunter. Do not go alone. Avoid extended contact. Kill quickly.

It was followed by details on when the killings started and who the victims would be. That was Sam, remembering the names of people he had never met from years ago.

It wasn’t like he could look it up somewhere.

Another entry told Dean that a girl would summon the goddess Veritas over relationship troubles in 2011. Sam advised to stop her but also gave information on what to do if for some reason that failed. Once again, he wrote not to go alone. It was advice Dean found in most entries.

Sam had solved all the crossed out cases on his own. But then, he always knew what he was dealing with.

It didn’t really make Dean feel any better.

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

 

Around noon, the nightmares started. Five minutes after Sam’s first scream, Dean began to understand why his brother had told him the night Castiel had knocked him out had been one of the better ones. Both him and Bobby had to hold his thrashing brother down to keep him from throwing himself off the bed. They were utterly unable to wake him.

When Sam finally woke up, after hours of terror, it got worse. He didn’t recognize either of them, kept trying to get away and fought them with a strength he shouldn’t have possessed after hours of violent struggling.

When they managed to pin him down without any hope of getting away, all fight left Sam one moment to the next and he stared screaming; a hoarse wail that broke Dean’s heart.

Eventually, Sam passed out again, and Dean was exhausted enough to fall over himself. His own dark thoughts kept him awake. This was Sam now. This was Sam and he wasn’t okay at all.

It was clear now why Sam had updated his list so Dean and Bobby would be able to take over the future cases. But Dean wasn’t thinking about that. He was thinking about Castiel, and that he’d better get his feathery ass down here to help his brother. He was an angel, after all, wasn’t he? Angels were the guys responsible for miracles.

Unfortunately, Dean didn’t have his number. All he had was the worry that Sam would never wake up at all, that he would die just as the angel had predicted, because he was thin and weak and had pushed his body far beyond its limit. He’d developed a fever that burned constantly, without spikes or lows, and kept twitching and whimpering weakly, never finding true rest.

It was obvious that Sam was fighting, but certainly not for his life.

Eventually Dean did fall asleep as well, though it was more of a passing out. He woke up after what felt like seconds to find his brother gone.

Bobby hadn’t noticed him leave. He looked in the yard while Dean looked all over the house, increasingly frantic, until he finally found his brother in the basement.

Sam was sitting in a corner of the large, high room with the air vent in the ceiling, legs drawn to his chest and looking ridiculously small and young.

“Hey Sammy,” Dean said softly, sitting beside his brother but not touching him in case that would prove too much.

“It’s just a basement,” Sam whispered.

“Uhm, yeah.” Dean didn’t know what to make of that. If he was honest, he didn’t really care. Sam was talking again, and when he looked at Dean, there was no fear in his eyes.

“So, your buddy Cas,” Dean said after a moment of silence, aiming for a light tone. “How would I get in contact with him? I mean, if I actually wanted to talk to him.”

“He’s an angel,” Sam said. “You pray.”

“Huh. That actually works?”

“If he has the time.”

“Oh, right. Guess he’s busy a lot. Because this world doesn’t look like a lot of prayers get answered.”

“That’s not how it works,” Sam said, sounding only tired. “But they hear you.”

Dean wasn’t convinced. He also didn’t try to call Cas because praying in front of his brother would have made him feel silly. Instead, he gently pulled Sam to his feet and led him upstairs, where he settled him on the couch and went to tell Bobby he’d found him.

Bobby would have appreciated being told sooner.

Dean left the job of watching over Sam to him and went back to the basement, where he stood in the middle of the room and said, “Um.”

So, this was a little harder than he thought, since Dean had no idea what to say. His mom had been much better at this.

Fat lot of good it did her.

Lacking another idea, Dean went for the words she taught him when he was little. “As I lay me down to sleep, I pray to Castiel, the angel, because it would be fantastic if he managed to drop down here right now and help my brother.”

“I can’t help your brother,” a voice sounded behind Dean and made him turn around so quickly he nearly gave himself whiplash. “Not in a way you are going to like, anyway.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“After he is lost completely, I will take his soul to Heaven.”

Dean got immediately what that meant. “You’re going to kill him?”

“If I have to,” Castiel said calmly. “The stress might kill him without my influence, or he might end his own life.”

“You asshole,” Dean pressed out between clenched teeth. The angel merely blinked at him.

“You do not understand what it means. Sam’s soul might not make it to Heaven on its own. I will take care of it there, and after your time is over, you will be reunited. Was there anything else you wanted?”

Dean needed a moment to register the question, and when he did, he chose to ignore it. “I don’t even believe in Heaven. And neither does Sam.”

“He does. He always did, and he has seen it with his own eyes.”

“Well, I haven’t.”

“You believe in Hell.”

“I know demons.”

“You believe in Hell and demons, but not in Heaven and angels,” Castiel mused. “You’re still quite contradictory.”

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t call you here to have a theological debate. Isn’t there anything you can do for Sam? And nothing that requires any deeper religious beliefs, if you don’t mind.”

“Sam is religious,” Castiel told him patiently. “He always was.”

“No, he isn’t.”

“We heard his prayers ever since he was a child. He prayed every day, asking us to protect you and your father, praying for his mother’s soul and for forgiveness for his sins. He merely never told you.”

“He knew well not to. What a stupid thing to do.”

Castiel only looked at Dean. Dean became aware that he was having this conversation with an angel and decided to move on.

“You put him to sleep the other day. Do that again.”

Cas seemed to contemplate the request. “I will,” he promised eventually. “But not yet. Call me when Sam is ready to sleep next time and I will come if I can.”

“He’s ready to sleep now!”

“No. Right now, Bobby is trying to feed him, which at this time is more important. Also, Sam just slept. He won’t require more rest for a while.”

“Have you looked at him?” Dean exploded. “No, of course not. Too busy being elsewhere. Well, let me tell you, the kid needs sleep, real sleep, like, yesterday!”

Castiel still refused to let go of his patience. “You need to understand, Dean,” he said mildly. “Even with my help, Sam’s sleep is anything but peaceful. After it got bad, we agreed to let him avoid it unless absolutely necessary. Call me when that time comes.” With that, he was gone, and Dean was left standing alone under the giant fan in the ceiling.

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

Castiel had been right: Bobby was trying to get Sam to eat, and Sam was doing his best. When Dean got back to the living room, his brother was bravely picking up a half-eaten sandwich and trying to swallow another bite. His cheeks were flushed and he was still pale. He also looked a little sick. Dean wondered if there was something wrong with his stomach. Maybe they should take him to a doctor, have them check him over.

Bobby wouldn’t like it if Sam threw up on his couch. But Dean was confident he’d get over it.

“So,” he said as he flopped down beside his brother. “Angels, huh? Must have been a big thing for you, getting your belief confirmed like that.”

He might have actually been feeling a little miffed that Sam had religious feelings and never told Dean about them. But if his brother recognized the concealed provocation in Dean’s voice, he never showed it. He only sighed softly and put the sandwich back on the plate.

“I used to believe in angels,” he admitted, his voice quiet and rough from screaming. “Now I know they exist. It’s not the same.”

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

 

One day after their last meeting, Dean called Cas again to come and help his brother sleep. The angel came, and Sam was okay with being knocked out, even though he looked nervous and close to tears.

Dean crashed after Sam had been settled on the bed, his own lack of sleep and the stress of the past days catching up with him. All he could do before falling asleep was push off his shoes and crawl into bed beside Sam, holding him close.

He wasn’t woken by Sam’s nightmares that day. It was probably because he’d slept far too deeply to be woken by anything, Dean thought, but Sam looked a little better, a little more rested when he woke up, and he was more willing to let Cas put him under the next time, three days, several gallons of black coffee and plenty of caffeine pills later.

This time Dean didn’t sleep until much later, but he crawled into bed with Sam anyway, pulling him up until he was resting comfortably on Dean’s chest and in his arms.

Sam still had nightmares that night, but they were brief and harmless in comparison. Apparently, Dean was exactly what Sam needed to get through the night, and it was ironic (but painfully so) that he had spent three years running from the only thing that could help him.

Well, not the only thing. It was the combination of Dean’s proximity and Castiel’s angel mojo that did it. They found that out when one day Cas didn’t come and Sam eventually fell asleep on his own. Even Dean couldn’t prevent that night from being a thoroughly miserable experience for everyone involved.

But altogether it was an improvement. A big improvement. As long as both Dean and Cas managed to do their part, Sam got more rest than in a long time, even though it still wasn’t enough. While he still didn’t eat much, at least he ate something every day and even managed to gain a few pounds. He got sick less often and was more stable mentally.

He’d never be okay, and Cas warned Dean and Bobby more than once not to forget that. But Sam was better, had some more time than he would have had otherwise, and Dean was determined to make use of that time and find a way to fix him. He wouldn’t let his brother go like that. He’d figure something out.

Cas warned him of that, too.

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

 

They had been reunited for two weeks and at Bobby’s place for almost as long when Sam mentioned Adam Milligan again.

That morning, when Dean came out of the shower, Sam sat in front of Bobby’s ancient computer and told him he’s gotten a message from the boy’s mother in which she confirmed that she and her son were now living in an entirely ghoul-free environment. Then he continued to tell Dean that the ghouls targeted them because John Winchester killed their father in 1990 and he and Adam’s mother had been…

“Dude,” Dean interrupted him there. “I really don’t want to know about that.”

“But Adam’s…”

“I’m glad the boy and his mom are okay,” Dean explained as he pulled on his shirt. “And that’s exactly as far as my interest goes.”

He expected Sam to ignore his words because he was bitchy and insistent like that, but Sam didn’t say anything for so long Dean started to worry. Sam spaced out sometimes, and that was never a good sign. When he looked over to his brother, the kid was staring at him, and he was kind of pale, but it wasn’t the stare the usually preceded a major freak-out. Sam eyes seemed to be fixed on Dean’s chest, and when Dean moved, Sam’s eyes followed.

It was slightly unnerving and eventually caused Dean to look down and check if he’d grown a pair of boobs without noting. There was only his flat, manly chest, though, and his old Metallica t-shirt wasn’t particularly insulting either.

“Sam, what’s wrong?”

“Your amulet,” Sam breathed.

“My amulet?” Dean looked down again to where it was dangling on his chest as it always was. “What about it?”

“You’re wearing it.”

“Why wouldn’t I? I always wear it.” But then Dean realised why Sam thought he wouldn’t. So far it had been hidden under shirts and jackets most of the time, and after Sam killed Dad and avoided his brother for three years, he probably thought Dean had melted the thing, or something like that.

“Well,” Dean said. “I know things have been rocky between us” – Sam actually laughed a little at the understatement – “but I never even thought about not wearing it anymore. It’s just become such a part of me, you know.” He took a deep breath, hesitated, and then decided to just glue shut Sam’s laptop if he dared to call him girly for what he was about to say next. “I guess this proves that despite everything, I never really gave up on you. I wanted you back, Sammy. If I’d thrown this away, I would just as well have stopped looking for you.”

Sam didn’t call him girly. Instead, he folded up on his chair, hid his face in his arms and began to cry.

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

 

There was a case in Canton, Ohio which Dean and Sam took together. A pagan god had taken refuge in a museum and intended to kill visitors in the appearance of various famous people. It was odd what pagan gods came up with nowadays to get their kicks.

Sam knew the case, so Dean took him along. It went well. And it felt a little like before.

Three days later Sam was down sick. He was feverish and couldn’t keep anything down. Dean didn’t think it had anything to do with the case since Sam was sick often, but it worried him none the less, because there was another case coming up, one he couldn’t do on his own, and neither he nor Bobby wanted to leave Sam alone.

“Call Rufus to help you out,” Sam eventually suggested.

“Who’s Rufus?” Dean asked, confused, while Bobby looked vaguely uncomfortable and insisted that Rufus would kill them all before getting back into the business.

“Ellen, then,” Sam said, adding to Dean’s confusion.

“What Ellen?” Bobby asked, apparently not much less confused.

“Harvelle.”

“Ellen Harvelle? Bill’s girl? She’s not a hunter. Not an active one, anyway.”

“Jo, then?”

“What, little Jo? She never was a hunter in the first place.”

“She is.”

“She’s not. Ellen would kill her.”

“She is,” Sam insisted. “Ellen doesn’t like it.” Then gave Bobby the number of Ellen’s roadhouse and made him call.

Half an hour later Bobby walked back into the living room where Sam was fighting sleep with the help of Dean and the TV, muttering something about parallel universes being freaking creepy.

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

 

Dean met Joanna Beth Harvelle two days later: a very pretty girl, a little younger than Sam, who’d grown up among hunters and started following in her father’s footsteps a couple of years ago. Apparently her late father had been a friend of Dean’s late father and her mother ran a bar that served as a meeting place and centre of information for hunters all over the country.

Dean had never heard of it, and his dad had never mentioned Bill Harvelle. Dean wondered if there was a story to it, but Jo didn’t know anything about John Winchester except that he existed. Apparently her mother had lost contact with Dean’s father around the time Jo’s father died – according to Bobby, she hadn’t even known John was dead before he called her, though she had feared as much when no one heard of him in ages.

Dean had told Bobby back then, but no one else. All other friends of John’s he knew about had been killed by the demon Meg or died years before. In the end, after killing countless monsters and saving countless people, the world didn’t even notice when John Winchester was gone.

It was a fate Dean was determined to spare his brother.

Seeing Jo, who wasn’t much younger than Sam but looked to be around half his age brought to Dean’s attention just how much older than his years Sam looked. It was only logical, he guessed; Sam was older than his years, after all. It was still disturbing, though, and kept Dean from hitting on the girl too hard throughout the hunt.

The hunt, a haunting in New Jersey, wasn’t complicated, but not easy either. They needed three days to take care of everything because the bodies belonging to the three pissed off ghosts had been cremated and they needed to find the object they all were attached too while at the same time protecting the remaining descendants of their murderers. Dean called Bobby twice a day to check on Sam, until Bobby finally cut off his last call with an irritated “Do your job and stop getting on my nerves!”

Working with Jo went smoothly. She gave Dean her contact information when they parted and they agreed to help each other out if the need came up.

On the way back to Sioux Falls, Dean broke speed limits left and right.

 

 

*-*-*-*

 

 

It was dark when Dean arrived at the salvage yard. The door was unlocked, but there was no trace of Bobby when Dean entered and no one answered his calls. It had him worried for a moment – until he entered the living room and found Castiel sitting on the couch with Sam resting in his arms. The angel looked sternly at Dean.

“Please be quiet. Bobby is asleep and I wish not to deal with him should you wake him up.”

Right then, Dean didn’t care much about Bobby’s sleep. “What about Sam?” he asked.

Sam was nestled safely against the angel’s chest, and seeing that picture made Dean… something. Maybe angry. Maybe protective. Or jealous. Castiel knew Sam, this Sam, in a way Dean never would, and Sam trusted him like this. Dean didn’t like it.

“Sam’s asleep as well.”

Dean could see that. He could also see that his brother’s sleep wasn’t peaceful. Sam was twitching and whimpering softly, despite Cas’ obvious efforts to keep him under.

“I’m doing my best to keep the nightmares away,” Cas explained as Dean settled on the free spot on the couch. Without a word, the hunter reached out and pulled his little brother out of the angel’s arms and into his own.

Sam didn’t calm down immediately, but after a while, with Dean stroking his hair, he fell quiet.

“Is it always going to be like this?” Dean asked. He didn’t want to imagine what would happen to Sam if anything happened to Dean and he couldn’t even fucking sleep anymore.

“No,” Cas said quietly. “Not always.” But he didn’t mean it in any way Dean liked to think about.

Damn angel and his stubborn refusal to be optimistic.

“What are you doing here? I thought you were busy elsewhere.”

“Sam is sick and in need of rest. I came to help him.”

“Well, since when do you have the time to stay?”

Cas seemed to sink a little further into the couch. “I changed the timeline, Dean. Such a thing does not go unnoticed by Heaven.”

“So what? You’ve been on trial or something?”

“Or something. A lot of high ranking angels are not happy with what I have done. I managed to convince some of them that things are better this way – for the world as well as for them. Their original plan would have failed anyway. They know that now.”

“So everything’s cool?”

“Things have been rough for awhile. They will continue to be somewhat difficult, but the worst is over. The archangel Gabriel has taken my side, which is incredibly helpful. So yes, for the moment everything is ‘cool’.”

“Well, good for you.” Suddenly, Dean remembered where he heard that name before. “Wait a minute – the archangel Gabriel wouldn’t happen to be the Janitor of Evil I met the night you killed that Zachariah guy?”

“The same.” Castiel looked somewhat embarrassed for a moment. “He gets… creative, sometimes, in his attempts to entertain himself.”

“Huh,” Dean said.

In his arms, Sammy shifted a little and let out a soft sigh. His fever was down, Dean noticed. Once he had gotten enough rest and some food, he’d be up to another easy hunt.

Or maybe they should forget about the hunt and do something nonviolent for once. Like go to an amusement park or visit the Grand Canyon. Dean had always wanted to see it, and he was sure Sam would love it as well. He was into stuff like that.

Unless he’d already been there. He had spent years with another Dean who must have wanted to go there as well, after all.

“Did Sam ever see the Grand Canyon?”

Castiel thought for a moment. “I don’t think he has.”

“That’s kinda sad.”

“I suppose it is. You often spoke of going.”

“Why didn’t we?”

“The opportunity never presented itself. There was always something more important to do.”

That was sad, too. Maybe it was time for Dean to finally give his brother a bit of a life outside the family business.

And himself as well.

Of course there was still Sammy’s list to take care of. But Castiel could help with that now he had some time and apparently nothing else to do. He knew the cases as well, at least partially, and as Dean understood it, there wasn’t much that could hurt an angel. Cas taking over that work made a lot of sense.

Besides, a lot of the cases still on Sam’s list had been crossed out by now because things changed and the case never came to exist in the first place. The further from the break in the timeline, the greater the changes. People died, or never met, or simply weren’t at the right place in the right time to be accidentally killed during a cruel prank of their idiot co-workers.

Sometimes the things Sam tried to prevent still happened, but little details changed and the werewolf went to hunt a little sooner or the killer chose a different hide-out and different victims. That he’d been here before didn’t mean Sam could save everyone.

One more reason to have the all powerful angel help them a little.

If he was actually willing to do it. It occurred to Dean that maybe he should take Castiel’s plans into consideration as well.

“So, I get you wanted to keep an eye on Sam, but I’m back now,” he pointed out to the angel who was still sitting on the couch beside him and Sam, his hands now lying in his lap as if he was missing Sam’s warmth. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

Castiel shook his head, his expression soft. “Sam is my friend. And one day, I hope, you will be again, too. I want to help you both.”

Well, that answered that. Before Dean brought up the subject of ensuring his eternal gratitude by taking care of monsters so Dean and Sam could go on a joyride through the United States, another question had to be asked. Even though Dean kind of didn’t want to.

Sam, in his sleep, moved his hand over Dean’s chest until it found the amulet and held on.

And Dean just had to ask.

“When… if Sam dies… Or if I get killed on a hunt, or run over by a car, or kick the bucket in any other way before him, are you gonna take me to Heaven, too? I mean, are you gonna deliver him to me - or me to him? Whoever goes first? I just need to know that I won’t lose him forever.”

“I think you have proven already that that’s not possible.” For the first time ever, Dean saw Castiel smile. “And it doesn’t work the way you imagine. Normally, no angel is needed to escort a soul to Heaven if it deserves a place there. Only Sam’s case is different. His soul is so damaged the normal rules of Heaven don’t apply to it anymore. Therefore, I will take it there myself, and take care of it until it heals. You, Dean, will need no help to find your way back to your brother when your time comes.”

Dean didn’t doubt that for a second.

 

 

July 6, 2011



Comments

( 68 comments — Leave a comment )
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minviendha
Sep. 7th, 2011 08:48 pm (UTC)
God, how much do I love this.

I love the premise and I love the story and I love the sadness but at the same time that semi-optimistic ending. I love everything about this here.

Thank you so much for writing this. It's just gorgeous, and everything I always (love to) expect from you.
vail_kagami
Sep. 7th, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! Since you're one of my favourite authors, it always means a lot to me when you like my fics!
insertcode11
Sep. 7th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
So much hurt, love, suspense, sadness, and hope in this!!! I almost wanted Dean to never find Sam because I never wanted this to end! You're so amazing, hon. I love your writing style, I love your images. I felt like I was watching an episode of the show as I read. So AMAZING. :) Thank you so much for writing and sharing! ♥
vail_kagami
Sep. 7th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for commenting!

I had a great time writing this. For once, Dean's head was a very easy space to enter.

Edited at 2011-09-07 10:15 pm (UTC)
fate_incomplete
Sep. 8th, 2011 12:27 am (UTC)
This was just lovely. It ended on such a vaguely hopeful note that it was kinda perfect. I can imagine your Dean and Cas getting to know each other again, and the brothers finding some time to be happy for once before one or the other dies. Beautifully written and I love your characterisation.
vail_kagami
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad the characterization worked, it was a challenge writing them like this, with both coming from such different worlds.
greeneyes_fan
Sep. 8th, 2011 01:53 am (UTC)
I ate this up like chocolate cake. I mean, obviously you can't go wrong with Broken!Sam, but Dean's POV is perfect here. And the ending? Oh, it hurt, but it was GOOD.
vail_kagami
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, I'm happy you liked it!

By the way, I got one of the chapter cards finished yesterday and will work on the second today. Gonna send you them and the edited banner for final viewing/suggestions soon!
(no subject) - greeneyes_fan - Sep. 9th, 2011 12:49 am (UTC) - Expand
purplehrdwonder
Sep. 8th, 2011 02:46 am (UTC)
This was fabulous! What a great concept. It's incredible to think what changing one event so long ago in their lives would change. So many little moments referencing canon that this Dean had no idea about absolutely broke my heart: the moment when Sam's sitting in Bobby's basement and says, "It's just a basement"; Dean telling Sam he'd never encourage a drug habit; and Dean telling Sam throwing away the amulet was tantamount to giving up on him... Just wow. Hurts so good, haha.

And yes, go see the Grand Canyon, boys! <3
vail_kagami
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:21 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy you caught on all those little moments! They broke my heart, too! (Especially the amulet.)
4422shini
Sep. 8th, 2011 06:37 am (UTC)
Wow, that was really incredible. What a heart breaker! I really like how changed yet true you've made the characters. The boys have really been affected by the lives they've led and I like how you have a younger mentality Dean with an older mentality Sam. A very creative idea, thanks for posting, a real joy to read!
vail_kagami
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
it was quite challenging writing them this way, with the boys having lived such different lives, so I'm glad it worked for you!
Thanks for the comment!
etrix
Sep. 8th, 2011 12:43 pm (UTC)
Interesting idea. I like how gradually Dean comes to forgive Sam. There were no quick fixes anywhere, which made it seem more real.

I'm glad I read it. =]

vail_kagami
Sep. 8th, 2011 03:23 pm (UTC)
That's great to know, thank you!
flatlanderjr
Sep. 9th, 2011 12:18 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this a lot. I feel so sorry for what they've all lost, which seems to outweigh what they gained. Awesome characterization, wonderful pacing, good plot. I could relate to the events in the story, too. I started reading this late last night when I couldn't sleep and needed something to read. I've been pretty tired all day today, too, so every time the story mentioned how little sleep Sam is getting, I thought, "Yep, right there with you."
vail_kagami
Sep. 9th, 2011 07:44 am (UTC)
I'm sorry you couldn't sleep! Ironically, tonight was the first time in ages I got a full night's rest.

Thank you for commenting!
primrose_1
Sep. 9th, 2011 04:02 am (UTC)
*applause* What a great story! Thank you thank you!
vail_kagami
Sep. 9th, 2011 07:46 am (UTC)
I'm happy you like it!
sinka
Sep. 10th, 2011 11:05 am (UTC)
Okay, I honestly think you excel yourself with every story you write. This is so amazing that I have a hard time wrapping my mind over all the layers and possibilities and consequences.

Honestly, I think what Cas did, eventhough he meant well, was really cruel and unfair to Sam and Dean. Because both of them lost the brother they loved. Dean lost Sam suddenly and without warning, he lost the brother who smiled and joked, and when he got to see him again his Sammy had become a sad and damaged stranger. He never got to witness and see why Sam is the way he is now, and because of that he will never fully understand him.

Sam's loss is even heavier. Because not only he has to run from a Dean who doesn't really remember him, knowing he's going to be hated by the only person who really matters to him (and I'm sure his self-imposed solitude probably helped to make the wall crumble faster), running ragged trying to save lives in atonement for something he never did in this timeline and that nobody remembers. But, what's worse, even after they are reunited, Dean will never be *his* Dean either. All their highs and lows, their little jokes, their experiences, everything that shaped them and made Sam who he is now are something that are only in his mind now, they will never come to be.

We clearly see this during the talk about the amulet. Sam never got the chance to fix and talk over things with his brother in the original timeline, so somehow he will forever think that *his* Dean gave up on him. And he will always think *this* Dean loves him still only because he doesn't know what Sam did (and obviously Sam will never feel worthy of that love and will never tell him the whole story). This Dean will never know why Sam cried desperately after hearing his words...

Another painful conversation is the one about angels. I'll always think heaven betrayed Sam, and robbed him of his faith (something he had relied on ever since he was a kid). But Dean can never understand how actually SEEING an angel, is a source of deep sadness for someone who strongly BELIEVED in them.

So somehow, even after being together, they are out ot sync. Sam is now the older brother, with a burden that Dean, as much as he may try, can't even start to fathom. And they will stick together and love each other fiercely but at the same time they both will always miss the brother they lost and the one who never came to be.

For Dean it's like his brother as changed radically, but for Sam it's like his brother is dead. And also, Sam's wall is still there crumbling little by little. And it's something that simply can't be fixed. Sam is going to go slowly crazy and die painfully, and that's unavoidable. And a Dean who never went to hell will be even more clueless (I wonder if he will try to make a deal at a crossroad to save Sam? after all, this is *that* Dean still). But even after they die, even in heaven together for all eternity, they will *not* share the same memories!! They are destined to be together (as Castiel said) but now they are also destined to be somehow apart too.

I have the consolation that they have a few years ahead of them in which they will (hopefully) manage to be happy and make new memories togeter. In which Castiel and Dean get to be friends again (another loss that only Castiel realizes) and the brothers live a calm, domestic life (I can't even describe how much I loved that last scene, with Team Free Will sitting together and both Castiel and Dean watching over Sam), but as hopeful as it is, is still bittersweet.

So, in summary (beware of the rambling above...), this story blew my mind. I've told you before, but the way you use The Wall, is awesome and unparalleled. Thanks for always writing such 'food-for-thought' great stories!

P.S: The art past really has some of the best pieces of art I've ever seen! You made a wonderful team! (going to comment on her post now!)

Edited at 2011-09-10 11:09 am (UTC)
vail_kagami
Sep. 10th, 2011 12:38 pm (UTC)
So, once again you managed to brighten a day that was up until now incredibly crappy and made me cry.

And there you say you can't write!

Well, you managed to make this story sound very dark - which I guess it is, upon closer observation. But I share with you the hope that Sam and Dean will have enough time to make new memories together and rebuild some kind of connection.

Dean making a deal is something to worry about. He might think he accepted that Sam is going to die, but that could change the moment it actually happens. However, he knows what will happen if he does make a deal, and I also believe that Cas will be there to stop him if he gets any stupid ideas.

Also, Dean making the deal was born not only out of grief but also out of guilt because his father made a deal for him - somethingt that never happened this time. It will still be very hard on him.
(no subject) - sinka - Sep. 10th, 2011 09:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vail_kagami - Sep. 10th, 2011 10:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sinka - Sep. 10th, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vail_kagami - Sep. 10th, 2011 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
ratherastory
Sep. 10th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Wow. What a weird case of fandom hive-mind. Your story has the exact same premise as my 2010 Big Bang: Castiel sends Sam's soul back into his younger body so that he can save Dean from his deal. After that, of course, your story is completely different, but it's kinda creepy. Also, I had a sort of similar "You didn't throw away the amulet!" scene in mine, so I love that you fixed that too. :D

Anyway, I really enjoyed this. I love your Cas, especially. His matter-of-fact explanation that he killed Zachariah because it was the most logical way to proceed was just so Cas, it kind of made me want to hug him lots. I love that he stuck with Sam and stayed his friend and tried to help in his own, Cas-ish fashion.

Poor Dean. Kept halfway in the dark the whole time, caught in a constant tug-of-war between forces he doesn't understand, and in the end he'll always come for Sam. Always. It's why we love him. :)

Great story! I hope one day you'll be inspired for a sequel or some time stamps, so we see if they do manage to find a way to fix Sam.
vail_kagami
Sep. 10th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
I don't know that story of yours, but it seem like I need to read it! Knowing your such a great author, I'm pretty sure it will blow me away!
Just went and downloaded the PDF.

Anyway, thank you so much for the comment! Since you're one of my favourite authors it means especially much to me.
wildcatprincess
Sep. 11th, 2011 12:43 am (UTC)
Oh that's it? Sadness! This was a beautiful read. I haven't been able to get into many fics lately, but this sucked me right down. Sam's suffering was so poignant and he was so resigned to it. It all managed to be depressing, yet with (very) subtle happiness. Or maybe hopefulness is a better word. Loved it!
vail_kagami
Sep. 11th, 2011 08:41 am (UTC)
That's exactly what i was aiming for! I'm happy it worked.
Thank you for your comment!
phx69
Sep. 11th, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)
I will admit I was skeptical when I saw the premise for this story and actually started by reading the last chapter first. Then I had a problem. Once I read that one, I just had to check the prior one, and then the one before that and finally - last but not least - I read the first chapter. I was just afraid of how bad things might get with Dean's anger in the beginning. And I was relieved that by the time he found Sam, he actually settled on just a punch. His original letters were so full of pain and, I am terribly glad I had read the other chapters first.

I am not a Castiel fan but did enjoy his part in this story. I also enjoyed Bobby and his gruff affection for the boys. I noticed Sam's declaration that Bobby must miss Dean, not including himself in that equation so I was happy by Bobby's greeting to them both :)

And I loved that Dean recognized that Sam had been alone too.

You cleverly wove canon into this AU and I am so glad I did take the chance and read it.

Very well done!
vail_kagami
Sep. 11th, 2011 08:38 am (UTC)
Your concerns were very similar to those of my beta. Except she couldn't read the thing back to front for obvious reasons. (She had, however, the certainty that I wouldn't inflict something I knew she hated on her.)

I'm happy it worked out for you and that you managed to enjoy it anway!
m14mouse
Sep. 11th, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
This fic is entirely too awesome and sad for words. Just wow...^___^
vail_kagami
Sep. 11th, 2011 08:42 am (UTC)
Thank you! :)
ayane42
Sep. 11th, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
This is a really awesome story! I really like what you did here! Thanks!!
vail_kagami
Sep. 11th, 2011 08:40 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it!
Thank you for commenting!
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