Disclaimer: The Winchesters belong to Eric Kripke and I will be forever grateful to him for sharing them with us. I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing them from time to time; I promise to return them as I found them. And I know the rule. If I break them, I buy them.
A/N: Well this is it. The giant chick flick is at its end. I'm sure Dean would rather gouge his own eyes out than have most of what happened in this story actually happen… but that's what fanfiction is for, right?We get to make them say and do things they won't on the show.
Thanks for sticking with me on this one. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but it demanded to be written and who am I to not comply? Thanks, too, for Kelli's expert typo hunting and constant encouragement.
Dean lay in bed a few days later, staring at the ceiling. He had always put Sam's happiness before his own and never regretted it. This time was no different. He told Sam he liked Portland, and that was true, but it was also true he'd left Sam alone in Palo Alto hoping his brother would have the normal life he wanted. Sam always longed for that and Dean thought that if he wasn't around, Sam would take the opportunity to reach out for what he'd always wanted. But maybe Jessica was right. Maybe Sam didn't really want normal as much as he thought he did; at least not right now.
Dean was the one who'd managed to make some friends, and he would miss them, but Sam was more important. He always wanted to be a good brother, but realized he let Sam down in so many ways over the last few years. He shouldn't have allowed him push away his anguish over Jessica's death and just focus on hunting. That was what their father had done when Mary died and it turned him into a cold, hard man. The same thing could very well have happened to Sam; Sam who had always been so full of life and joy. He practically stood by while Sam's grief ate his brother alive.
Dean thought about the years they'd spent hunting. It nearly destroyed what Sam was, and now he was helping his brother get back into it.
He can't stop hunting. Not now.
Why, Dean wondered. He glanced into a far corner of his bedroom when he noticed movement.
"Hey, Jess." he said, not surprised to see her.
"You're having second thoughts about going to California."
"No. I'm having second thoughts about helping Sam hunt."
"He'll do it with or without you. Isn't it better if you're with him?"
Dean nodded. "I guess so."
"You're doing the right thing, Dean."
"You seem to know a lot."
"I know some things, but I don't know everything." Jess sat down on the edge of the bed. "I miss him, Dean."
He sat up. "I'm sorry."
"I have to go soon. For good. And I don't want to do that with Sam still feeling so guilty. I want to try to talk to him again."
"You'll help him? Take care of him?"
"You have to ask that?"
She smiled. "No, I suppose I don't."
"Are you going to try again tonight?"
"No. Do you think you could talk to him? Prepare him?"
"I can try."
"Thank you." she whispered.
All the boxes had been loaded into a rented truck with the help of Dean's friends the day before and they'd even thrown a little going away party at the bar. Mike gave Dean the phone number of a friend who owned a bar near the Stanford campus, and told him the friend was expecting his call. There was nothing left to do but drive to California.
"Hey, Dean?" Sam walked into the bedroom carrying two cups of take-out coffee.
Dean opened his eyes, immediately alert. "What time is it?"
"Just after nine." Sam put one of the cups on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Why'd you let me sleep so late? I thought we wanted to be on the road by now."
"You obviously needed it." Sam looked at him. "You drank a lot last night."
"I was just having some fun." Dean sat up and reached for the coffee.
"Yeah. You're not having second thoughts, are you? I mean, you can still change your mind and stay here."
"I don't want to stay here, Sam."
"Why? You havin' second thoughts about having me in California?"
"Of course not!" Sam answered quickly. "I, uh, I just want you to be sure about this."
Dean took a sip of coffee and looked Sam in the eyes. "Look. I know you can take care of yourself. And I know that you can do anything you set your mind to. But everyone needs someone at their back; someone who can take up the slack now and then. I wouldn't have offered to move if I wasn't sure."
Sam nodded. "Okay."
They were on the road within the hour, Sam driving the truck and Dean in his car. They stopped for food and gas, broke up the trip with a few phone calls, and finally pulled up to Sam's apartment just after midnight. Too tired for anything else, they left everything but the essentials in the vehicles and made their way inside.
"I'm exhausted." Sam groaned as he dropped onto the couch.
"Yeah, me too."
Sam glanced at Dean as his brother sat down. "You want to get some shut eye?"
"Don't let him go to sleep without talking to him, Dean."
"Yeah, but first," Dean turned to look at Sam. "I need to talk to you about something."
Dean nodded. "It's important."
Sam hadn't seen Dean look so serious in a long time. He sat straighter. "What's wrong?"
"Sam –" Dean sighed and stood up, pacing for several moments. "I talked to Jessica."
Sam felt like he'd been hit in the stomach. "What?" he asked, hoarsely. "How?"
Dean shrugged. "In dreams. I guess they were dreams. She's been trying to communicate with you, but –"
Sam shook his head. "No. No, that couldn't be. You didn't even know her."
The younger brother stood up and walked to the window.
"Sam, you have to listen to me. She needs to talk to you, but you won't let her. You keep thinking about her on the ceiling and then --"
He turned to face Dean. "NO!"
"She wants you to know it's not your fault. She wants to tell you that herself."
Sam leaned against the wall. He knew what Dean was saying had to be true; Dean wouldn't lie to him and wouldn't pick a time when they were so exhausted to talk about it unless the conversation had really happened. He slid down to the floor, elbows on his knees, his head resting in his hands. Dean waited for a moment before sitting on the floor near his brother.
"Dean?" Sam looked at him.
"The dreams I was having? Those were from Jess?"
"Part of them. She was just trying to talk to you."
"She's okay?" Sam couldn't hide the shaking in his voice or the tears that threatened to fall.
"She's fine, Sam." Dean whispered.
"And you're telling me about this now because –"
"I've talked to her twice, Sam. Last night she told me she wanted to try to communicate with you again and, well, I didn't want to let you go to sleep without talking to you."
Sam nodded. He leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes.
"She's going to say goodbye, isn't she?"
"Yeah." Dean said quietly.
"I don't want her to."
"But she'll leave even if she can't tell me goodbye, right?"
It had been a long time since Dean heard Sam sound so small and lost. He wanted to reach out to his brother, but resisted, not sure how he'd react. "Sam, I don't know what to tell you. She can't stay here forever; she's already been here too long. You have to let her go."
It broke Dean's heart to see the tears flow from his brother's closed eyes.
"I don't want to go to sleep."
"Yeah, I know. But, Sam." Dean hesitantly touched his brother's arm. "Sammy."
He opened his eyes.
"You can't stop what has to happen."
Sam didn't want to sleep, but he was too tired to do anything else. He had been so tempted to stay in the living room with Dean, but he had already asked so much of his brother. Besides, this was something he had to face on his own. Dean would be there later, and it was enough knowing that.
Sam looked around the beach he was standing on and knew Jessica would be there soon.
"You look so sad." she smiled, walking up behind him.
She took his hand; he was surprised he could feel her touch.
"Jessica, I'm so sorry."
"You didn't do anything to be sorry for."
"I should have warned you; I should have been there."
She shook her head. "No, Sam. You had no way of knowing those dreams were anything more than dreams. And if you had warned me, nothing would have changed. The demon was determined to kill me and would have done it, no matter what you tried to do."
Sam's eyes filled with tears.
"But you beat it. You and Dean finished the job your father started. You saved other people and that's important to remember."
"But I didn't save you."
Jessica smiled sadly. "We would have had an incredible life together, but you have to go on without me."
"I don't have a choice, do I?"
"You always have a choice. You haven't let me go yet and it's been three years"
Sam stared at the water.
"Please, Sam. Please let me go. Promise me that you'll stop feeling guilty for what happened because no matter what you did, the result would have been the same. Sooner or later, the demon would have won."
"All I can promise is that I'll try."
"I'll take that." Jessica said. She considered telling him about the premonitions returning and what was in store for him, but she decided against it. There was no sense in warning him about something he couldn't change, and she knew Dean would be there to help him.
They walked down the beach, holding hands. Jessica stopped in front of a lighthouse that Sam hadn't seen until now.
"I have to go."
"I know." he turned to face her. "I love you, Jessica. I always will.'
Jessica looked into Sam's eyes. "I know you will. But not so much that you don't live your life, okay?"
"Okay." he whispered.
Jessica wrapped her arms around him and Sam tentativelyleaned down to kiss her. They held each other for a moment longer, then Jessica slowly pulled away. He watched as she walked toward the lighthouse.
"I love you, Sam Winchester. Live well."
"Jessica –" Sam woke up in his room, sunlight streaming in through the partially open window blinds. He could feel the dried tears on his face.
Sam stared out of the window for several moments before noticing Dean sleeping in a chair in the corner. Sam left the room and, as he did, Dean stirred.
"You okay?" Dean asked, joining Sam in the living room a few minutes later.
"Yeah, I know. But you will be."
Dean sat in the auditorium watching his brother walk across the stage to receive his diploma. Sam had become a full-time student and a part-time hunter, excelling at both and finding satisfaction in both. As Jessica had warned Dean, the premonitions did return. Painful at first, Sam learned not to fight and gradually the pain lessened.
With Dean's encouragement, he had made some friends and together, they were even establishing their own contacts to help with paranormal research. But most importantly, Sam no longer yearned for a normal life because, finally, he realized that whatever life he led was normal for him.