Title: Haze

Author: C Cawthorne

Note: Final chapter. Wasn't sure if it was going to happen. It's much harder to write this wrap up than it was to write the hunt, the mystery, the action. I think I've found where my strengths lie and what I need to work on!

Thank you so much, everyone who has read this and put up with my insanely long bout of writer's block. I feel pretty humbled that Haze has been so well received, and am still amazed at the number of people who've read it. It wouldn't have been finished without your feedback. Hopefully I'll be writing more, and when I do I'll add it here.

And of course, thank you Kripke for creating these beautiful boys and their world, and for allowing me to play in your sandbox without suing me – even though I do want to simultaneously kill you and hug you for the season three finale. sob

Sammy refused to speak to him the rest of the day, and that obstinate silence stretched into the night. Dean tried to win a few words out of him as they packed, but his brother wouldn't even look at him. Instead, he finished stuffing his scant possessions into his duffle bag and then sat crosslegged on his bed, defiantly opened his history book, and began to read.

Knowing it was hopeless, Dean moved on to another impossible front – their father. He couldn't stop them from moving, nor would he, because he agreed they had to go. Too much had happened to explain; there was simply no way that everyone involved in the case were going to stay quiet. And even if Greg, Joel, and Tom didn't talk, the police might still check into what had happened.

No, things could unravel very badly. They had to go, but maybe there was one thing he could do for Sammy.

"Hey dad?" he asked, voice raspy as he helped John pack up the weapons.

"Yeh?" his father grunted, not looking up from his task.

"Could you let Sammy go to school tomorrow morning so he can say goodbye to his friends?"

John glanced at him, exasperation warring with amusement in his eyes. "Think that'll make it all better, do you? Sam should know by now that we're going to have to move sometimes no matter what the plan used to be."

"He knows that, sir," Dean said. "But he made some friends this time. He's got gym second period; he could see everyone he needs to by the time you get those records, and then you could pull him out."

His dad grunted again. "What about you?"

Dean shrugged. "I'm ready to go whenever."

"Huh." John looked at his son a moment longer, then went back to packing. "I'll think about it. How're you doing?"

"Good enough."

"Up for driving tomorrow?"

"Yes sir."

"Good. Finish up here. Jim should be back from the hospital soon; we'll grab some dinner." John reached out, squeezed his shoulder briefly, and disappeared into the back bedroom where all his research materials remained unpacked.

Dean watched him go, so surprised that he didn't even notice the pain his dad had aggravated in his wounded shoulder. He wouldn't fool himself into thinking that John approved of what he'd done – that he'd hunted without him – but maybe he was proud of the results. He blinked, for the first time really thinking about what had happened. He'd been focused so completely on the negative that he only now just realized it – he and Sam had sent a ghost packing with no help from anyone. Even as he closed the ammo boxes, he found himself grinning.

"Pretty bad-ass, I gotta admit," he murmured, much of the gloom he'd been feeling since last night slipping away.

Much to Dean's surprise, his brother got to go to school the next morning. Both John and Sam left before he woke, so he didn't even know if his dad was changing his mind about moving. He doubted it; John changing his mind was about as likely as Dean ditching Metallica for New Kids on the Block.

Jim was in the kitchen, where the remnants of a real breakfast sat warm on the stove top. The sight – and more importantly, the heavenly scent – made Dean pause, and the priest smiled and started filling up a plate for him.

"Thought you could use something that wasn't microwaved," he said, handing him a heaping breakfast of eggs, grits, and bacon. "How are you feeling?"

"Sore, but pretty good," Dean answered after swallowing a few large mouthfuls. "Mmm, this is fantastic. So how's Sammy?"

"Still upset," Jim said, sitting down across from him and resting his forearms on the table. "That was a good thing you did, getting your dad to take him for a few hours."

Dean shrugged and kept shoveling food into his mouth, but inside he was pleased.

"Anyway," the priest continued, "he's going to sign you two out, pick up Sam at lunch, and then y'all will be on your way. Think you'll be ready?"

He nodded. "Not anything left to pack other than pots and pans, and we're not getting the deposit on this place back so it's not like I have to clean the bathroom or anything. Is there any more bacon?"

Jim chuckled and slid the last two pieces onto Dean's plate, then gave him the rest of the eggs and grits as well. "No point in leftovers, right? Now if you don't need me, I've got to get to work on a sermon. I owe the man who filled in for me yesterday."

He nodded, then looked up at him quizzically. "Why're you sticking around, anyway? I mean, it's fine, it's just. . . ."

"Weird?" Jim supplied, then smiled wryly when Dean shrugged. "Y'all are moving to Blue Earth. Your dad figures you might actually finish your senior year if I can keep you out of trouble when he's gone."

"Really?" he asked, surprised, around a mouthful of grits.

"Yes. So behave, or I'll make you an altar boy," the priest said mildly, a twinkle of mischief in his dark eyes as Dean choked. "I'll be in John's room if you need me."

By the time he stopped choking, the priest had disappeared. Dean finished his breakfast, then quickly washed his plate and the pots and pans that Jim had used. Once they were dry, he chucked them in a box and then parked himself on the couch. He deserved a few hours of television before the long drive.

Even though daytime TV sucked about as badly as a werewolf bite, the hours flew by, and when he realized it was past eleven he levered himself back onto his feet. He took the clattering, half-empty box of pans out to the Impala, then returned for the TV – he wasn't going to let that precious commodity slide around in the back of John's truck. Porting it outside, he was carefully securing it in the trunk when he heard a car pull up behind him. He knew immediately that it wasn't his dad just from the sound of the engine. And sure enough, it was a navy blue VW Golf.

"Oh hell," was all he could think to say as Ms. Martin got out, her motions swift and noticeably controlled.

"Dean, I need to know what . . ." Her demand trailed off into silence as she stared at his bruised neck, and her control slipped to reveal concerned alarm. "What happened? Did your father–"

"No ma'am," he interrupted her as firmly as he could with his injured vocal chords. "Don't you accuse him of anything. He's a great man."

He'd seen her look of skepticism on the faces of so many others over the years that he was heartily sick of it. "Seriously, ma'am, don't even think of it. My dad's never laid a finger on either of us. He does the best he can, and that might not fit your definition of what's good but that don't mean you're right."

She didn't look surprised at his tone, a tone that would have merited detention or worse on school grounds. Neither did she look cowed.

"You've got a circle of bruises around your neck that wasn't there Friday, and Monday your father is yanking you and your brother out of school," she stated, catching and holding his gaze with dark eyes that were much too similar to his father's for comfort. "Any person with even a hint of intelligence would wonder if there was a connection. And I have a duty to report suspected abuse, even if I'm not your teacher."

Dean did his best not to clench his hands into fists, but his fingers twitched as she threatened him with one of his worst fears. "I got into another fight Saturday. My dad didn't get back 'til Sunday morning. He got a better job. That's where we're going," he said, his voice low and strained as he struggled to keep control of his anger.

"Who did you fight with?" she asked, her tone cool, her gaze analyzing him and weighing him just like his father had yesterday.

Crap. He couldn't say the obvious, because she would put two and two together in a heartbeat. "I went to a bar."

"You're seventeen."

He rolled his eyes. "Please."

"You went to a bar and left Sam home alone," she parried, her eyebrow raised in challenge.

"He was at a friend's house. That Japanese kid he's working on your project with," he shot back. "I get to have fun sometimes, you know."

"And getting into bar fights is fun?"

"Yes!" he declared, throwing his hands up in frustration. "Give me a break, lady. Sammy's the scholar, okay? Not me. I'm sorry I don't fit in with your whole 'go to an Ivy League' expectations. That's not me."

She exhaled hard and turned her head away, studying the shabby rental house with its peeling paint and cracked walkway. Dean watched her as she stared at it, knowing she was taking in every dilapidated detail. After what seemed like a minor eternity, she looked at him once more.

"I've known too many kids like you, Dean. You have your life all figured out right when everything should be opening up." She crossed her arms in front of her. "If I've misjudged your father, I'm sorry. But one thing I do know for certain is that you've got a lot of potential, and you're not using it. And in five, ten years tops, you'll be regretting it."

The teacher's words touched such a deep chord that Dean buried them, so quickly and thoroughly that he barely registered her meaning. "All due respect, we're fine ma'am."

She looked so doubtful that he started praying for his dad to get back home now. Salvation came from a different source, though, as Pastor Jim's mild voice called out from the front door. "Everything all right out here?"

"This is Ms. Martin, from the school," Dean explained, his shoulders relaxing now that he had backup.

Jim nodded his understanding and walked forward, extending his hand in greeting. "Jim Murphy. Are you one of Dean's teachers?"

"No, one of Sam's," she answered, shaking his hand with an uncertain expression. "Nancy Martin. Are you their priest?"

Jim chuckled and shook his head. "No, just a family friend. It's nice of you to come out and check on them. Unless . . . was there a problem withdrawing them?"

"No," she answered, sizing him up so thoroughly that Dean could have mistaken her for a cop. "To tell the truth, I'm concerned about how sudden this is, and how bad he looks."

Dean sighed. "I already told her about the bar fight," he said grudgingly, as if the last thing he wanted to do was bring the incident up in front of a priest.

"Ah, that," Jim said, shooting the teenager a long-suffering look before returning his attention to Ms. Martin. "Dean can get into things without thinking. But you don't need to worry. He's learned his lesson, and he didn't suffer any serious harm."

It was absurdly easy to read her doubt, but all she could do was nod. "That's all I can ask," she conceded, then turned to Dean.

"Please think about what I said, Dean. I hope you do well at your new school." With a stiff nod, she turned away, got back into her VW, and drove off.

"Thought she'd never leave," Dean exhaled, closing the Impala's trunk and leaning back against it.

"Mmm. I can see what you see in her," Jim commented, a smile quirking the corners of his mouth.

"Please. She's annoying."

"No, she's concerned." The priest turned to face him, his expression sobering. "It caused you a little trouble, yes, but the world would be a better place if more people acted like her."

"Huh. Well, let her be concerned for someone who needs it," Dean declared.

Jim just smiled, patted him on his uninjured arm, and returned to the house. Fifteen minutes later, John and Sam returned bearing burgers and fries. Ten minutes after that they were all in their cars, Sammy insisting on riding with Jim.

As the Impala rumbled down the road, Dean looked in the rear view mirror without regret. One more sucky house, one more little town, one more annoying school – he wasn't going to miss any of it.

Reaching into the box of tapes, he grabbed the first one that caught his eye and pushed it into the stereo. Cranking up the volume, he rested his left arm in the rolled-down window and settled in for the drive to Blue Earth as Joe Perry's crunchy guitar fought the sound of the wind in his ears.

We all live on the edge of town

Where we all live ain't a soul around

People start a-comin'

All we do is just a-grin

We gotta move out

'Cause the city's movin' in

I said we gotta move out

'Cause the city's movin' in

Yes we do. . . .

-the end-