May 2nd 1995
Nearly two months had gone by since Dean and Cas officially moved in with Bobby. Most of that time had been spent training and doing research, which gave Cas the chance to gain his sea legs and Dean the chance to clear away a few of the lingering cobwebs in his head. They were both doing better; Cas had stopped tripping over his own feet and had learned the limits of his human strength, building up a new fighting style to accommodate his lack of Grace, and while Dean still had the occasional flashback to his time in Hell he was beginning to feel like he could function as a human being again. They were still adjusting, but dedicating themselves to their work definitely helped.
Once he was confident that they could handle their own, Bobby had taken them along with him on a couple of hunts. They worked well as a team and it wouldn't be long before Dean and Cas would be able to handle cases on their own.
It wasn't a monster, however, that had Dean and Cas rolling down the I-29 highway in one of Bobby's rusty old pick-up trucks. It was Sam's birthday today and Dean wouldn't miss it for the world. He had even woken up at a horrendously early hour of the morning so they would arrive at a decent time.
Lawrence looked much the same as he had left it, but it felt different. Dean supposed it was because this wasn't his home anymore. His world was one of monsters and adventure; in comparison, everything around here seemed so ordinary and peaceful. He was glad, because for him hunting was first and foremost about keeping his family safe. He wanted them to be able to live normal lives.
As he turned into their street Dean felt excitement bubble up within him. He couldn't wait to see his family again.
They pulled into the driveway and climbed out of the car. Cas stretched out his muscles, still not quite used to travelling in the confined quarters of a motor vehicle. One of these days Dean was going to arrange for Cas to have a joyride in a small plane so he could feel the sensation of flying again because he knew the ex-angel missed his wings. There was no way that Dean was risking his own life in one of those contraptions though. Give him a car over a plane any day.
Dean slung his duffle bag over his shoulder before making his way up to the front porch. He rang the doorbell. Three seconds later the door had been ripped open and Dean was nearly barrelled over by Sam throwing himself into his arms.
Dean staggered back but caught him and hugged the kid tight. "Heya Sammy."
Sam beamed up at him. "You came!"
"I said I would, didn't I?"
Sam squeezed him tighter and nodded against his chest. "I missed you," he mumbled.
Dean rubbed his knuckles on the top of his brother's head, mussing up his hair. "You too, kiddo."
"Oi!" Sam complained, pulling away from him with a mock-scowl and attempting to fix his hair. "You're still as annoying as ever."
"And you're still a runt. How old are you now?"
Dean frowned at him. "Are you sure? I thought you've been twelve for at least six months now."
"Noo… You're 4 years, 3 months and 8 days older than me. You turned 16 this year, I'm turning 12."
Dean scratched his head. "Huh. No wonder you're still a midget."
Sam glared at him. "Just you wait. I bet that when I hit my growth spurt I'll grow taller than you."
Dean laughed. "Keep dreaming, little brother."
"Is that Dean?" Dad called.
"And Cas!" Dean called back.
"Well get your asses in here to say hi to your folks!"
Dean grinned and dragged Cas in behind him as they entered the house. When they stepped into the lounge room, though, Dean stopped dead in his tracks and stared with wide eyes.
A huge banner was spread across the room that said "HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAM & DEAN."
Sam bounced up and down beside him, grinning from ear to ear. "Surprise!"
"But – why?"
"Your birthday sucked this year," Sam said. He wasn't wrong. January 24th was the day that Dean had received the call about Sam's car accident and had sold his soul to bring him back. It was probably about the worst birthday a person could have. "16 is supposed to be a big deal but everything got screwed up, so we thought we'd give it another shot."
"But this is your birthday."
Sam shrugged. "Yeah, but you're my brother. I don't mind sharing."
Dean didn't know what to say.
"Happy birthday, boys," Mom and Dad said.
"Happy birthday, Dean!" Sam chirped.
"Happy birthday, Sam," Dean replied, still a little shell shocked.
The family shared hugs and caught up on what had happened over the past couple of months. Sam had caught up at school and was already top of his class again – no surprises there. Dad's mechanic business was roaring again, and Mom was volunteering at the local hospital. Dean shared some of their hunting stories that had Sam wide-eyed with awe at how cool his super-hero brother was. Dean was heart-warmed when his parents asked Cas how he was adjusting to human life, genuinely taking an interest in him and treating him like one of the family. Based on Cas's shy smile, he appreciated it too.
"Present time!" Sam exclaimed.
Most of Sam's presents were books. Cas had gone to the effort of translating and transcribing an ancient text from memory, the last copy of which had burned down in the Library of Alexandria. Sam was stunned, and ran his fingers carefully over the spine of the book, promising he would treasure it forever. Dean had been collecting souvenirs for Sam from each of the places he had visited while road tripping across the USA and told Sam he'd keep sending them to add to the collection.
If anything, though, Sam seemed the most excited about Dean's presents. He disappeared off to his room for a few minutes and then came back lugging Dean's old duffle bag.
"It took us a while to extract this from the wreckage, but we got it."
Dean undid the zip and found all of his old belongings – clothes, music, photos – and a small wrapped package. He opened it to reveal an amulet strung on a leather thong.
"I didn't even know about the supernatural stuff when I bought this, but it definitely suits you," Sam said.
"Thanks, Sammy." Dean slipped it over his head. It was a small, comfortable weight against his chest, and Dean knew that whenever he looked at it he would remember how much his little brother loved him. "I love it."
Mom's gift to him was a beautiful, leather-bound hunter's journal with the letters "D.W" inscribed on the inside cover. "Every hunter needs one," she told him.
Dean read the unspoken apology behind the gift for the time Dad had destroyed his journal while Mom stood back and watched, as well as the acceptance for who he was now. "Thanks."
"And now for the biggest and bestest present of all," Sammy said.
Dean raised his eyebrows.
Sam snagged his sleeve and dragged him outside to the garage, letting the rest of the family follow behind them.
"Dad?" Sam said.
Dad pressed a button to activate the automatic roller door. There was a groan of metal, the rattle of gears, and the door slowly opened. Light spilled into the garage, glinting off sleek black metal.
"No way," Dean breathed.
There, in all her glory, was the Impala. Dean's Baby. She gleamed in the sunlight, looking as shiny and new and perfect as she must have the day she rolled off the production line.
But Sam had crashed her into a tree. The accident had been severe enough to kill Sam; Dean had assumed his Baby was a write-off, and as much as he loved her his grief over Sam had overshadowed her loss. Driving around in old rust-buckets for the past couple of months had reminded Dean of how much he missed her, though.
"After the accident I had her towed back here," Dad said. "I've been working on her ever since we got home."
"Yes she is," Dad agreed. "And she's all yours."
Dean stared at his dad with wide eyes. "Are you serious?"
Dad chuckled. "Yeah, I'm serious." He tossed Dean the keys and he caught them out of reflex, but he still could hardly believe it. This was a dream come true.
"I don't – wow, I mean – this is – I can't even – uh-"
Dad grinned and clapped him on the back. "You're welcome, son."
"Thank you," he gushed.
"Take good care of her."
"This is what she was meant for, I reckon. She did her duty putting up with baby seats and grocery runs, but she'd make a badass hunter. In fact, I took the liberty of decking out the trunk with a full weapons kit based on what Mary's told me about hunting."
Dean popped the trunk and, after a moment of confusion, pulled up the false bottom. Dad reached in and propped it up with a shotgun. Dean gazed in amazement at the array of guns, knives, holy water, salt bags, stakes and other weaponry.
"Pretty cool, huh?" Dad asked.
"Dad, this is incredible," Dean stressed.
"Thought you'd like it. How 'bout a test drive? We were thinking of going out for burgers for dinner."
"And pie for dessert?"
"Of course," Mom said.
Dean grinned and scrambled around to the front of the car to climb into the front seat. Cas took the passenger side and Sam squeezed in between them as Mom and Dad got settled in the back.
The joint celebration turned out to be the best birthday Dean had ever had.
They stayed in Lawrence for a week. Dean was reluctant to say goodbye, but when he got a call from Bobby about a Wendigo situation up in the northern woods of Minnesota he felt the familiar stirrings of excitement in his gut. He was a hunter, born and bred, and he was eager to get back out there doing what he did best.
He hugged his family and renewed his promises to be careful and visit again soon.
Dean settled behind the wheel of his baby, and Cas rode shot gun.
With the familiar scent of leather seats, the purr of the Impala's engine and miles of asphalt stretching out before them, Dean felt that he was home at last.
Ready to face the world together, saving people and hunting things, the hunter and his angel drove off into the sunset.
(for real this time)
A/N: Wow, I can't believe this story is finished at last. It has been one hell of a ride!
I would like to thank all of you for coming along this journey with me. I'm sorry for the angst and temporary character deaths and many cliffhangers (jks – I know how much you love them :P). I hope you enjoyed the adventure as much as I did. Thank you so much for all your support and encouragement. Every follow, favourite and review gave me the passion and energy to keep writing. I know I haven't responded to each of you individually but I want you to know your kind words have been greatly appreciated and I couldn't have done it without you. There are a few people in particular I'd like to thank…
To those who have reviewed frequently and faithfully throughout the story:
Missy Winchester, OnyxDay, SkyHighFan, Babyreaper, Lunanime, 1hotpepper, TheOneAndOnlyGodessOfAwesome, Souless666, Mikeysrevenge, Nina Ferraro, deathnoteno1fan-codegeasslover, wildanimelover, Maranna Listten, CarpeDiemForLife, Art Is The Weapon, YaoiIsMyDrug.23, C.J Todd, Evilpinklollipop, Armand, Midnighthaunting12, LunaRains, llama-hunter-on-fire, Squish the Squirrel Fish, KDTBpantherwulf, Detective Kid1412, Fayre Amore, Mizuki hikari, Irreality, Folkvangr, Calypso Jackson, fAnFicLover0147, Alatar Maia, Amelia F. Jones-Resident Hero, cor tenebris, Trucklady53, Sara, Kasey123, Kaddy 16, NCISaddictionMcGeek, Monkeysknees, Carrie, Lifeofme and unnamed guests.
Thanks also to those reviewers who left little gems of encouragement along the way:
DwaejiTokki, Gibevra, Verra, Kit Cat, Bookwormultimate, Katzbac, Jesspanda, Sweetygurl, Superlock1967, Not-Gonna-Update, Bookwormultimate, RandomYawn, Keiriala, ricatosyrupwithabowtie, helinahandcart, Amacon, Jessica, 50penny, Samijackson, gypsymooneysgirl7733, CatishAngel07, Moon angle, AriaStark, OneInsomniaticHoosier, Dream's Abyss, Dementra, Katie Macpherson, KLR1, , Taeriel, kitsuneluvuh, Big three daughter, Alyianna Baggins, I Heart Star Tre, bumblebeatrice, , Dean's Worshiper and MeggieBlack.
I love you all very, very much! Thanks again, and happy reading!