Three days later, Sam wasn't any closer to finding a way to help Dean than he'd been when he first started. Aside from transferring Dean's soul from one body to another or turning Dean into the living dead, Sam had nothing. And he was beginning to realize that he wasn't going to find anything. But that didn't stop him from looking. He'd spent the first two days in Dean's hospital room, still believing that Dean could wake up and he wanted to be there for that. But Sarah had convinced him that he needed to come home, that his family needed him. So he'd gone home and locked himself in his office, researching any and every possibility.
Occasionally he'd stop to comfort one of his kids when he heard them crying, but for the most part, he spent his time in seclusion. It would have stayed that way, too. For as long as Dean was in his coma, Sam would have secluded himself in his office. Years later, Sam would look back at all of this and would think that maybe Dean knew that. And maybe dying had been the last great gift his brother had given him.
There was a knock on the door and Sam looked up, watching as Sarah took on step inside. He took her in. Took in her red rimmed eyes, her face struggling to remain calm, the worried look in her eyes. He took in the phone in her hand and the way she clutched it to her chest, holding onto it as if it were some sort of lifesaver. He took in the way she hesitated before saying his name. And by then, he had already guessed. All Sarah had to say was a quiet, "Sam…" and he knew that he'd lost this battle. His face and crumbled, he'd put his head in his hands and he'd cried. Outright cried, like he hadn't done since his father had died.
Sarah came and wrapped her arms around him, holding him as he let it all out. Sam had never felt so lost in all his life. For as long as Sam had been alive, Dean had always been there. Even during his days at Stanford, or the days after the demon had been destroyed, even though they hadn't talked, Dean had always been there. Sam had always had the option to pick up the phone and call him. Now that that was gone, Sam understood things clearer than he'd ever understood them. He remembered his father's quiet admission as to why he'd been so angry when Sam left for college. He understood Dean's need to always have his family close by. Because now, Sam was alone. He had Sarah and he had his kids, but that wasn't the type of alone he was talking about. Sam had always had someone to make sure he made the right decisions in life, made the right moves. Now, Sam had no one to look to for support. No one to give him grief when he made stupid mistakes.
But as Sarah hugged him tighter, as she laid her chin down on top of his head, he thought that maybe that wasn't so. Sure, he had no one to talk to about hunting, but he wasn't a hunter anymore. He was a father. He was a husband. He had his kids and his wife. And even though he no longer had his father or his big brother, he that didn't mean he wasn't still their son and little brother. But he still had a right to cry. He didn't know what else to do.
The funeral was small. Sam hadn't known who to call. Dean hadn't had very many long term friends. So it had been mainly Sam, his family, Bobby and Missouri, whom both had scolded Sam for not calling the very minute Dean had first had his accident. Sam managed to track down Cassie, who came with her husband and two kids. A couple of Sam's co-workers attended, more to support Sam than because they knew Dean, and then there was the pastor. And that was it. Dean's whole world, whole life celebrated by fourteen people. It seemed unfair, considering all the people Dean had helped during his life. But Dean didn't save people so he could be their friends.
It was over quickly. Sam thanked everyone for coming, accepted the condolences and a few gifts and then it was all done. Sam found himself sitting alone in his living room with a beer in his hand, staring at the unlit fireplace. He stayed there until night, nursing his beer, just staring and thinking of Dean and their Dad and trying to drudge up all the memories he could of them, the good and the bad. He was surprised to find, that as much as he had complained and bitched, that most of his memories were good. He could look back at them fondly.
Hands wrapped around him and he looked up, only to be kissed on the forehead. He gave Sarah a half smile as she played with his hair for a moment. Then after a little bit, she kissed him again and said, "Goodnight. Don't stay up too late."
"I won't," he promised her sincerely. She accepted the answer and headed off for bed.
When she was gone, Sam's eyes roved over the living room. They fell on the ramp that he'd built a week earlier in preparation for Dean's arrival. He thought for a moment that maybe he'd tear it down. But he decided against it. He didn't think he'd have the heart to do that. To destroy something that he'd made for his brother. Next, he looked at the mantle above the fireplace. There were pictures there, of Sam and his family, of Dean, of John, and the photograph Sam had known his entire life. Of a family he barely remembered. An ex-marine with a smile so wide. A blonde woman with a look so soft. A boy with a goofy grin and a baby with a cuddled look.
They were all gone. Not a one of them had made it out of that fire.
Then Sam looked towards the hallway, where the puzzle Dean and his children had put together hung on the wall, glued together. It had been a chore to get the thing to stay together. The puzzle glue they'd bought had been too old to work properly, but Dean had somehow managed to make it stick. Dean always managed to make things stick together.
"Sam?" He turned at his name and saw that Sarah had come back out with Hannah, Patrick and Cameron in tow. He frowned and leaned forward. "Your children have something they want to show you," she said.
Sam set his beer down and turned towards them. "Oh yeah?" he said, wondering what it was.
Hannah was smiling as Patrick stepped forward and Cameron did the same. Patrick bit his lip to keep his grin at bay and then said, "Cam, commando!" Cameron immediately dropped to the ground and started doing his commando rolls across the floor, crashing into the couch and the table and even Hannah, who fell over in a fit of laughter. Even Sarah joined them in chuckling.
Sam merely watched. When Cameron stood up, a little dizzy and said, "Laugh, Daddy," Sam felt tears sting at his eyes and he reached out and grabbed Cameron in a hug and pulled him in tightly. Cameron hugged him back. He looked up at Hannah and Patrick, who were still both smiling.
"Dad?" Hannah asked quietly and Sam looked at her. "Uncle Dean told me to make sure that we made you laugh." Sam thought back to that day in the hospital when Dean had whispered something into Hannah's ear. He'd thought Dean had said something about the drum set, but apparently not. Sam closed his eyes and thought about when Dean had given up hope and Sam had told him that he could always count on him to make him laugh. And here he was, dead and gone, and he was still working on making him laugh. The notion itself made Sam chuckle out loud.
"It worked!" Cameron cried triumphantly and pulled away from him. Sam chuckled again, wiping at his eyes. He leaned back and looked at his family, all of them smiling at him and he couldn't help but think that he had Dean to thank for this. Not just this moment, but for all of this. Dean had done so much to ensure Sam got the family he had always wanted. If not for Dean, Sam would have probably died in a fire. If not the one in Lawrence, then definitely the one in Stanford. If he'd made it through the fire, he probably would have died from grief over Jessica's death. How many times had Dean saved Sam's life? How many times had Dean made him laugh? How much had Dean taught Sam about life so that when someone came up, he was always prepared to handle it? Hadn't Dean been the one to point out that Sarah had been checking him out? Hadn't Dean been the one to push him into asking her out on a date? Hadn't Dean been the one to convince him to call her after John's death, after the hunt was over? Look at everything Dean had done for him. Everything he wouldn't have had if not for his brother.
"Do you miss him, Dad?" Hannah asked.
Sam sucked in a breath and nodded. "Yeah, I do."
Hannah came over to him and crawled onto his lap. He wrapped his hands around her. "Me too," she told him. They sat like that for a moment. Patrick and Cameron stood by their mother, the room having sobered a bit. Hannah broke the quiet. "When are we going to pick up my drum set?"
Sam laughed out loud and that and looked down at her, seeing the same innocent face that he'd seen on his brother so many times. No doubt he'd taught it to her. "You know about that, huh?" She grinned and nodded. "Well maybe we'll go pick it up tomorrow."
"I promised him I'd learn how to play Zeppelin," she told him matter-of-factly. "I'm gonna play drums, Pat's gonna play guitar and Cameron gonna do the keyboard."
"Oh really?" Sam asked, looking at his other children. They both nodded their agreement. "Well then it looks like I have a lot of instruments to buy. Not to mention lessons and music books. It's going to take a lot to learn how to play these things. Are you sure you're not just going to get bored and discouraged with it after a few weeks?"
"Dad," Hannah said, looking at him with a "duh" look on her face. "I promised Uncle Dean. A Winchester doesn't go back on their promise."
Sam smiled at her. It was the first time he'd heard her say something like that. The first time he'd heard her call herself a Winchester other than introducing herself as Hannah Winchester. It felt good. Incredibly good to hear his own child refer to herself like that. "Just making sure," he told her.
Hannah nodded and jumped off his lap. "Come on," she said to Patrick and Cameron, who jumped up and followed her. "Maybe we could write a song about Uncle Dean," she said as they walked back towards their rooms. He decided not to comment on the bag of gummy bears he saw Hannah trying to hide, nor the sly looks on his sons' faces as they were delighted to be a part of Hannah's late night ritual.
Sam chuckled as he heard Cameron reply, "Like a Superman song!"
Sarah came over to him, sitting down on the arm of the chair he was seated on. He wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling her neck a bit. She played with his hair some more. "Are you going to be all right?" she asked.
Was he going to be all right? That was a good question. Dean wasn't around anymore. But then again, he was everywhere. Everything that Sam was, everything that he would ever be, had been influenced by Dean in some way or another. His children would never forget their uncle, Hannah would definitely dedicate her life to doing what he uncle asked of her, which was okay with Sam. He knew that Sarah and Dean had exchanged words in the hospital, because she'd been giving him a look lately that told him Dean had passed the torch to her. So even though Dean was gone, even though Sam no longer had his big brother to watch out for him, Dean had made sure that he would always be watching out for Sam. He'd be watching out for him by making the people around him watch out for him and love him.
"Yeah," Sam answered, looking into her eyes. "I think I will."
i Six year old Sam hugged his teddy bear tightly to his chest and pulled his thumb out of his mouth, remembering that this was a habit six year olds were too old to do. He looked up at his brother. "Dean, tell me a story," he pleaded.
"It's too late for a story," Dean replied, looking down at his brother as he stood beside his bed.
"Please? Just a short one?" Sam begged, reaching out to snag Dean's shirt.
"Okay, fine," Dean sighed and shoved Sam's hand back beneath the blankets, tucking them in around him again, looking irritated that Sam had messed them up in the first place. "Once upon a time there was this family and they fought bad monsters all day and all night. They grew up and became heroes and saved the world. The end." Dean nodded and said, "Now go to sleep."
"Did they live happily ever after?" Sam asked, growing sleepy.
"Doesn't every hero?" Dean asked as if it wasn't the most obvious thing in the world.
And that was good enough for Sam. He smiled and rolled onto his side, curling in on himself. His thumb found its way back to his mouth. Dean fixed the blankets again so they were perfectly cocooning his brother. Then he headed towards the door, turning off the light on his way out.
"Night Dean," Sam called softly to his brother, sleep already grasping at him.
Dean stayed in the doorway for a few seconds, watching his little brother fall asleep. Then he smiled and before going down the hall to his bedroom he whispered,
"Night, Sammy." /i