Disclaimer: refer to chapter one
NOTE TO READERS: Well, all things must have an end they say. This is the last chapter to this story. I hope you enjoy it. I made the final chapter nice and long. Thanks so much for reading! I appreciate it more than you could know. I hope everyone that has reviewed or commented received either a personal email or review reply from me. I do try to reply to everyone that leaves me a means to contact you. Thanks again. Happy reading, I hope!
Side Note: The chapter title of this story comes from a piece of the same name by poet John Donne.
The Progress of the Soul
By Dawn Nyberg
Three Months Later
Dean parked the Impala and sat in the parking lot. Something about this action seemed almost like a déjà vu from his days of arriving at the Stillwater Center, but now things weren't so bleak. Sam had made improvements in his tenth month at Stillwater and Dr. Winters found him ready to be transferred to an inpatient residential facility called Daybreak. Dean stared at the sign in its cheery white, yellow and blue colors. Their motto Changing Lives, Creating Futures still made him shake his head. There was a time not that long ago he mused in his head that he would have laughed at the sign, but this place was helping his brother, and he couldn't bring himself to find something hokey about their motto. Dr. Winters still came for Sam's therapy sessions every day.
Dean walked down the hallway toward his brother's room. This facility was nothing like Stillwater. The windows weren't protected by metal grids, and although there was security to make sure patients didn't leave without permission … there was no buzzing into units. Dean saw that Sam's door was cracked and he knocked gently as he began to enter.
"Hey," Sam looked up and smiled. He was sitting in a stuffed chair by his window reading a book. He did that a lot lately Dean noticed. Sam often frequented the facility library, and Dean took note of his brother's reading material, The Waste Land. He frowned.
"The Waste Land?" Dean sat down across from his brother. "Doesn't sound too upbeat little brother," Dean prodded. "You okay?" Sam laughed. Dean studied his brother. He was trying to gauge him. There were still times he worried that Sam's reactions were a little off and that he was masking. He had been alarmed when weeks ago while Sam was still at Stillwater that his little brother had confessed to Dr. Winters that he was having thoughts of giving up, as Sam kept putting it, but Dean knew the translation, he knew it far too well. Sam was saying he was tired and that not being anymore was beginning to sound appealing. His little brother had rallied though, and had flourished once his mind began to get back on track. His memories had begun to return in patches.
"Dean?" Sam's voice pulled him from his thoughts. Dean looked at him. Sam smiled. "Here," he handed the book over to Dean. "No one can accuse you of being a literature buff that's for sure," Sam kidded. Dean took the book and his eyes landed on a random excerpt, April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of dead land, mixing memory and desires, stirring…he stopped reading and looked at his brother with a wrinkled nose. "Kinda like poetry or somethin' Samantha? I mean that's what it sounds like … that fluff stuff."
"Yeah, well maybe Car and Driver isn't my idea of quality reading. And, this isn't fluff. It's a classic."
"In your geek genius world maybe," Dean mused. "So, you see the doc today already?" He shifted subjects quickly.
"Nah, not yet. It's Friday, so he comes a little later. He swings by on his way home from the center. I'm his last patient of the day." Dean nodded. "So, do you expect a busy night at the roadhouse?"
"Well, its Friday," Dean replied. "Usually Friday and Saturday's are the heaviest. They usually stop off for a couple days to plan another hunt, restock on ammunition and supplies. Oh, and let's not forget the braggers."
"Yeah, some of those old coots have some good stories, but I still think some of our stories blow theirs out of the water."
"Yeah, I bet they would." Sam studied Dean for a second. "Um, Dean?"
"Yeah?" He answered hesitantly. There was something about his brother's tone that seemed unsure.
"You know I was talking to the doc yesterday and he thinks I might be able to get released pretty soon."
"Yeah? He hadn't said anything to me. I know he said you were doing great with your self medicating routine with your pills, but he hadn't …" Sam interrupted his brother.
"Yeah, I asked him not to tell you."
"Why?" Dean turned confused and worried eyes toward his brother.
"It's just…" Sam took a breath. "I wasn't so sure I was ready, and I didn't want him to tell you and then I don't get released."
"Why don't you think you're ready?" Dean felt fear clutch at his heart. He worried that Sam was having troubling thoughts again or was having setbacks he wasn't aware were happening.
"You know I've been locked up for almost a year Dean. A year in some kind of mental facility or another. And, I still have my days, you know…"
"Yeah, I do, but we all have our days," Dean commented. "You've been doing great Sammy. You'll still keep having therapy with the doc and maybe you'll be able to go off your meds a lot sooner than you think."
"What about the roadhouse Dean? Ellen and the others?"
"What about them? Sammy, I know you sort of remember Ellen and the others now, so it's not like they're strangers, not really."
"But, they'll think I'm unstable, a cuckoo," Sam lamented and dropped his eyes. Dean let out a frustrated sigh.
"No they won't," Dean began. "Ellen, Jo and Ash have all been pulling for you. They ask for updates. Hell, Ellen was just saying the other day that it'll be nice to have you back around the place."
"But, what if…" Sam stared at his hands. "What if I freak out or something? I don't want to scare them or you." Dean reached out and dropped a hand on top of his brother's fidgeting hands.
"Hey," he said softly. Sam remained looking down. "Look at me Sammy," Dean urged gently. He watched his little brother raise those dark puppy eyes and he saw raw emotion there and it made his throat tighten. He cleared his voice trying to force the lump away. "You're not scaring anyone, okay? Yeah, I worry, but that's just because I want you to be okay in that freaky head of yours. And, you know what," he said with confidence. "You have a bad day, you have a bad day. It's gonna be okay. I don't want to force you to leave here, but I'm dyin' to have my kid brother back. If you truly need this place a little longer I can respect that Sam," Dean asserted. "But, only if it's because you really need it and you're not just afraid to leave."
"I'm that obvious?"
"No," Dean smiled warmly. "It's just you're my little brother I can read you better than anyone. And, I get how you're feeling, I do. I worried for a while that when you finally were released I'd do something wrong or upset you. I worried I wasn't going to be good enough at helping you Sammy."
"That's crazy," Sam looked at his brother with expressive eyes. Dean laughed.
"Yeah, well, maybe it seems that way to you, but not me. So, I guess we're in the same boat, eh? We're both worried about letting the other down. Maybe the only solution is that we get through this together and make our mistakes together. You and me Sam," Dean said with a glint in his eye. "We're what's left. We can do this." His voice was filled with strong conviction. "It's gonna be okay Sammy." Sam smiled and it was a genuine smile complete with two dimples and Dean felt his chest fill with something akin to joy.
"So," Sam began. "Are you still talking to the doc, too?"
"We don't talk Sam," Dean corrected. "We shoot the breeze." Sam laughed.
"Yeah, okay," Sam relented with a knowing smile. "Well?"
"Yeah, me and the doc get together on Wednesdays at his office." Dean had continued to see Dr. Winters, but mostly the man helped Dean sort out his own thoughts and helped to make sense of the things Dean couldn't figure out on his own. "You know… we talk about the college football scores, stuff like that." He mused.
"Yeah," Sam replied. "Go Bucks," he said through a gentle laugh. Dean rolled his eyes. He knew his little brother wasn't stupid, and that Sam knew the truth of the situation.
Two Weeks Later, Christmas Eve Day, December 2008
"Here ya go Sammy," Dean popped the trunk of the Impala and pulled out Sam's small bag with a few clothing items in it that he used while at the Daybreak Center. Sam took the bag from his brother. Dean watched Sam look around the dusty lot the roadhouse sat on. "You remember it?"
"Yeah," Sam answered absently as some memories played in his mind as a montage. "Were we here in a mini-van once?"
"God," Dean groused. "Now, there's one memory I'd love to forget. I felt like a friggin' soccer Mom. Yeah," he commented. "When I was still rebuilding the Impala after the accident Bobby loaned it to us to use. You remember Bobby, right?" Sam nodded. "Any other memories coming to mind?"
"Ellen and Jo held us at gunpoint. Jo punched you in the nose," Sam said with a wry smile.
"Hey, that was a lucky shot," Dean defended. "Yeah, you're remembering the first time we all met. Anything else?"
"I remember Ellen being pissed at you about something." Dean laughed.
"Yeah, that narrows it down," Dean complained. "She's been pissed off at me more times than I can count."
"Somethin' about lying to her. I think we were on a hunt or something," Sam scrunched his face trying to access the memory a little more, but he couldn't grasp it in its completeness.
"Oh, yeah," Dean dropped his eyes. That was a while ago Sammy. Jo showed up on a hunt. Things went a little wrong. But, hey, all's well that ends well," he supplied. "And, anyway, I think Ellen's managed to reach many more levels of pissed off at me since then."
"She mad at me for anything, I don't remember?"
"You? Yeah, right," Dean snorted. "You could probably paint the roadhouse neon yellow and she'd hug you. You and Ellen never really have friction Sammy."
"Yeah," Dean replied. "Now, come on. I know they're inside waiting to see you. Ellen was excited you were going to be home for Christmas."
"Home?" Sam turned curious eyes toward his brother.
"Well, home for now at least … until I can find us our own place in town."
"In town?" Sam was confused. It sounded like Dean intended on staying for a while. And, God forbid put roots down, a very un-like Dean thing to do, he thought to himself. "What are you talkin' about Dean?"
"Later, kiddo," Dean smiled. "We'll talk later about some stuff, okay?"
"Yeah alright." Sam held back at the door to the roadhouse. He felt nervous seeing everyone again. He knew the last time any of them had seen him he had been writing on his and Dean's bedroom wall in blood, his own blood. He was worried they'd all think he was still that person. He felt a warm, comforting hand gently land between his shoulder blades and rub ever so gently.
"It's okay Sammy," Dean comforted. "No worries, okay?" Sam looked at his big brother and found strength in Dean's confident green-hazel eyes. Sam offered a tentative smile. "Ready?" Sam nodded.
Ellen leaned against the bar waiting. Jo and Ash both sat at the bar. The small group had been waiting the moment they had heard the rumble of the Impala pull up into the lot. The door creaked open and the afternoon light swept inside with both of the Winchester boys. Ellen smiled as Dean entered first with Sam close behind.
"Sam," Ellen spoke with a warm smile.
"Hi Sam," Jo replied.
"Dude, how's it hanging?" Ash waxed poetic.
"Ash, for God's sake," Ellen reprimanded.
"What?" He looked truly perplexed as he looked from Ellen back to Dean and Sam. "What?" Sam and Dean both smiled.
"Never mind," Ellen grumbled in Ash's direction. "Sam, sweetie," her voice was gentle as she tried to gauge how to approach him. She wanted to hug the kid, but she knew he wasn't ready for that. She knew that Sam remembered them, but that his memories were vague and didn't offer a concrete connection or trust, at least not yet. She'd wait. Sam was worth the wait.
"Hi Ellen," Sam replied quietly. "Hey Jo," he paused. "Ash," he said with a nod and a smile.
"Are you boy's hungry? I thought we'd have lunch together."
"Yeah, Ellen," Dean replied. "We haven't had any lunch yet." He looked at his little brother. "Does that sound okay Sammy? You hungry?"
"Yeah, but could I put my bag somewhere?"
"Huh? Oh yeah, come on," Dean motioned with his head. "I'll show you where we're bunking. We'll be back in a few Ellen."
"Take your time. The ribs are still on the grill in back."
"Thanks," Dean shared a look with Ellen and offered a small smile. She nodded.
Later that Night, the Roadhouse
Sam stared at the ceiling waiting for Dean to come back from his shower before turning off the lights. It had been a quiet evening. Ellen had kept the roadhouse closed for the holidays. There was a quick knock on the door as Dean entered still rubbing a towel against his damp head. He glanced at his little brother. "You still awake?"
"Yeah," Sam answered keeping his eyes on the ceiling. Dean moved around their room while still keeping Sam in his peripheral vision. Dean fell into his bed with a sigh and pulled the covers up. He watched his brother for a moment.
"You okay, Sammy?"
"Really? Cause you've been pretty quiet today even with me."
"Nah, I'm good. It's just strange you know," Sam hedged. "Being back."
"Yeah," Sam replied. Dean turned over in his bed to fully look at his sibling.
"You sound surprised," Dean offered.
"I am sort of," Sam answered honestly. "I wasn't sure how this was going to go … you know with me back here, but everyone seems okay with it."
"Told ya so," Dean answered confidently.
"Dean you said we'd talk later," Sam began. "What's this about moving into our own place? You don't want to go back to hunting?"
"Sammy, for starters you're still seeing the doc and being here is the right thing for now."
"But, Dean, I know you; you're going to go stir crazy after awhile. If you want to go we'll go. I'm okay." Dean looked at his brother with soft eyes.
"Things change Sammy," Dean replied. "Staying put hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. When you were in the center I just got used to not hunting. It's not a big deal. There's no hurry Sam. Anyway, who says we can't hunt from a home base. Ellen has a friend in town that rents places. He's pretty cool, a weekend hunter, I guess you could call him. But anyway, he said he'd rent us a place in town at a deal. I wanted you to see it first before I told him we'd take it, but it's a two bedroom, one bath with a garage."
"Sounds good," Sam replied. "But, if you want to stay here Dean, I'd understand."
"Why would I? Sam I only stayed here at the roadhouse while you were in the center. I've been able to save some money while staying here."
"Yeah, Ellen pays me to tend bar and stuff, and tips, too. Of course, I've won a few hands of poker and games of pool. Hunters may be bad tippers, but they sure do toss away their dough for a card game or pool."
"When do you want to look at this place in town?"
"Fred, that's the guy's name, he said it's being cleaned and repainted, so it'll be ready in a couple weeks. The tenet only just moved out a few days ago."
"Oh, okay." Sam said glancing from the ceiling to his brother and back again.
"Good," Dean answered in a satisfied tone. There was a minute or two of silence when Sam spoke again.
"I feel sort of bad," Sam began. "Tomorrow's Christmas and I didn't get anyone anything."
"Sammy, no one expects it. It's not a big deal."
"Yeah, but I saw my name on a couple gifts," Sam commented.
"So? Just say thanks and leave it at that. Anyway, Ellen insisted." Dean offered.
"But, I don't even have anything for you Dean. And, you of all people should be gettin' something from me, after all I've put you through." Dean let out a frustrated sigh and sat up swinging his legs over the edge of his bed.
"Listen here kiddo," he started. "You're the one that's had the rough year. You've been going through a lot. I'm just on the sidelines. You haven't done anything to me. And, anyway, you did give me something this Christmas," he smiled and laid back down pulling the covers up once again. He leaned over and clicked the light off dropping the room into darkness except for the moonlight coming in through the window.
"Wait," Sam started. "I didn't give you anything. Dean?"
"Night Sammy," was Dean's simple response. Sam smiled as he recognized his big brother had backed himself into a chick flick mine field and was trying to close down shop as it were to escape the moment he had inadvertently set himself up for with his reply about Christmas. Sam was sure he knew where his brother was headed with his train of thought and decided with a smile to push for a response.
"Come on Dean," Sam urged. "What did I give you?"
"Dammit," Dean grumbled under his breath. He knew he wasn't getting out of this one. Sam was silently laughing in the dark. "You, alright," Dean complained. "Getting you back … are you happy now?" His tone was a mixture of complete embarrassment and frustration. Sam let a snicker slip, and was quickly met with his brother's pillow in his face.
"Hey!" Sam feigned irritation. Sam hurled the pillow back at his brother. The room was quiet for a moment. "Night Dean."
One Month Later, Dean and Sam's Apartment
It was late afternoon and Sam had run down to the store to pick up some things they needed. The grocery was just around the corner and today he had insisted on going by himself. He'd felt on a short leash with Dean since his release from both Stillwater and Daybreak. He'd been going to the center twice a week to meet with Dr. Winters and he worked at the roadhouse and had been helping Ash put together hunting profiles for other hunters when they requested the work.
Dean sat on the closed toilet lid in the bathroom with the door shut feeling guilty as he looked over all of Sam's med bottles. He sat counting the pills in each bottle to see if Sam was taking the meds as prescribed. Some meds were as needed, but one was an every day med until the doc felt Sam could be weaned off of it. Sam had a prescription for anti-anxiety, Valium 2mg (half tab dose), for insomnia he had Ambien 5mg, and every day he had to take an antidepressant Wellbutrin SR 75 mg. Sam had been taking an antipsychotic drug while in the center, but had been weaned off of it before transferring to the Daybreak Center. "I'm back!" echoed from the front room of their apartment as Sam came back from the store.
Dean hurried and finished counting the tabs of Sam's antidepressant prescription. His count matched what should be in the vial. He felt guilty, but smiled that his little brother was taking his meds. "Dean? You here?"
"Yeah, Samantha," he called from inside the bathroom. "Can't a guy take a leak in peace," he complained.
"Yeah, yeah," Sam groused. "You wanna help with some of this crap."
"I'm comin'" Dean yelled through the door as he put the vials back the way he'd found them in the medicine cabinet. "Keep your panties on dude."
One week Later, the Roadhouse
"Damn winter storms," Ellen complained as she walked through the swinging door from the kitchen to the bar. There had been an ice storm over night that rendered most of the county in the dark, but the electricity was slowing come back up as the crews fixed a handful of transformers. They expected everything to be back online by early evening. The roadhouse had been lucky and its power was back up, but the power company had warned of possible short term outages and power fluctuations as other areas were repaired. "Sam sweetie do you think you could do me a big favor?"
"Sure," Sam replied as he looked up from the laptop he was working on. "What is it?" He stood up and walked toward her.
"I usually have Dean do this, but since he's in Randolph picking up those six cases of beer that the driver couldn't deliver … something about frozen fuel lines, anyway," she said with a smile. "There was a shipment of dry goods I keep in the cellar and Dean usually gets them out of the boxes and double checks them on my inventory list and then puts them on the shelving down there and I grab as needed. Could you check them in for me and put them on the shelves. It's only three boxes. You'll probably be done in twenty minutes. I'd do it myself, but I'm swamped in projects to get done before the doors open tonight, and believe hunters are like postal workers, through rain, sleet, snow, ice … blah, blah," she laughed.
"Yeah, sure." Sam headed for the cellar.
"Sam," Ellen's voice stopped him. "There's a light switch just inside the door to the cellar it'll get you down the stairs and then the switch for the cellar is on your left at the bottom."
Ten Minutes Later, the Cellar
Sam had checked the inventory list and was finishing up the last box and putting things in their places on the labeled shelving when the lights went out. It startled him, but the electricity had been hodgepodge at best today. He was thankful for the wireless and cable access for the computers. "Damn power," Sam muttered. He had closed the cellar door behind himself on the way down and now he was plunged into complete darkness. "No flashlight of course," he muttered to himself. "Idiot," he hissed as he tried to feel his way around the large open room. He felt along the shelving toward the direction he remembered the stairwell was located. He didn't get far before the electricity hummed back on and the solitary 60-watt bulb lit up, but the power dipped and the bulb flickered ominously as the power waxed and waned.
Sam felt a cold sweat prick up on his back and chest. His chest constricted in abject fear. There was a rational part of his brain telling him there wasn't anything to fear, but terror won out. He wanted to move to call out, but he was paralyzed in the spot he was standing. He felt his body begin to shake. "Nononono," he began to whisper over and over. The solitary light continued to flicker and the shadows of the room in Sam's mind began to morph into dark swirling mist and cloaked figures and his mind shifted to a buried memory. A memory his mind had desperately tried to block, but now there was no stopping the images, the sounds that invaded Sam's mind and consciousness. He collapsed to his hands and knees as the onslaught took him over. His mind returned to the final moments, the final words of the ritual, and the horrible truth of what happened as the Demon was banished back to hell.
Sam repeated the beginning of the mantra once again before continuing: "I have become one with everything. I have become one with you," he took a step toward the demon, as if, declaring this would end now, tonight, "I become everything." The demon hissed and tried to push into Sam's mind breaking his resolve. Sam's eyes narrowed and he spoke: "Therefore, I become nothing. Therefore, you are nothing," the demon focused on Sam and his face twisted in pain. His brain felt as though a hot poker was digging around in his grey matter peeling and twisting the layers. He grunted and continued: "Without my anger you have no substance. Without my pride you have no form."
There was a howling hot wind that reeked of sulfur and the demon spoke, "You won't win! You have no power. You'll lose yourself. I will win." he hissed. Sam leveled his gaze on the demon and smiled as he finished the mantra.
"Without my hate you have no being," Sam panted out as he felt his mind slip into an abyss within himself. The demon let out a loud scream as he dissolved into a black swirling mist disappearing into a hot vortex of fire.
But, as the vortex claimed one of its own the demon clung to Sam's mind dragging his consciousness down to hell with him. He wouldn't be able to keep the boy there, but he could show him wonderful, terrible things to keep as parting gifts, things to haunt him and eat him up from within. The smell was over powering with the stench of sulfur. The air was thick with heat as he passed through a chasm. The sounds were the stuff of nightmares. Screams of agony resonated in his chest and rattled his ribs they were so loud. Sounds of crying and torture rang out with their non-stop litany of hopelessness. And, when the decent stopped suddenly and violently he looked around.
He felt the demon near and felt his voice hiss at the back of his neck. "Family reunions are always so touching," the demon cooed. And that's when Sam saw him, and their eyes met for the first time in two years.
"Dad?" he choked out. John looked tired his eyes unsure of what they were seeing. It wouldn't be the first time they had tortured him with visions of one or both of his boys. Sam stared at his father who stood tied to wooden pole with his arms outstretched at his sides, a human scarecrow. "Dad?" his voice broke as he stumbled forward. It wasn't until John felt his youngest son's shaking hand touch his face tenderly and with no malice that he knew this was his Sammy.
"God, please, no," John begged. "Not you Sammy. Please…" his voice grew thin as he looked at his son with tear filled eyes.
"I gotta get you out of here," Sam pleaded, but he saw nothing that held his father in place on the wooden pole. He realized in this place demonic power alone could hold you bound at will.
"No," John implored. "Why are you here, dammit?"
"A ritual," Sam scrunched his face as he felt a pull within his own mind. "I…" He shook his head trying to clear it.
"Times almost up," the demon sauntered over and looked at father and son.
"No," Sam panted. His mind felt as if it were ripping apart. "No!" He fought to stay at his father's side.
"What have you done?" John demanded.
"Dad," Sam fought to focus. "I banished the bastard." John looked at the demon.
"A small setback," the demon assured. "Where I fall, others will rise. Banishment isn't forever."
"Sammy?" John turned soft eyes toward him. "You and your brother… you're okay?" Sam nodded. The pain in his head too great to answer his father out loud. John knew of the ritual that Sam must have chosen to use and he looked sad. "I never wanted this for you Sammy. I'm so sorry." John threw his head back and screamed in pain as the demon invaded his senses. Sam watched in horror as multiple, bleeding wounds opened in large slashes as if his father were being cut or whipped and they'd heal almost instantly only to be opened again. It was eternal pain and suffering without the release of death. This was hell and this had been his father's bargain two years ago after the accident.
"Stop!" Sam screamed. But, it was too late and he felt himself pulled from this place and his broken mind return to his body curled in a fetal position rocking in a field. The last thing Sam saw was his father's tear- filled eyes edged with sadness and pain. And, the last thing Sam heard was his father's screams of agony and all was gone.
Sam curled into himself on the cold floor of the cellar rocking as silent tears seeped from the corners of his eyes. The memory of what had happened in its entirety during the ritual finally coming to light. His heart hammered against his sternum until pain flared across his chest as if a molten searing heat burned him from the inside and his breathing came in shallow, rapid gasps. He felt his world dimming on the edges and as the light bulb bloomed to full strength and no longer flickered he succumbed to a welcoming darkness and lost consciousness.
Thirty Minutes later
Ellen looked up as Jo and Ash came back from a quick trip to town to pick up some items for the roadhouse. "Hey Mom," Jo said as she put a box of kitchen supplies down on the bar.
"Hey," Ellen slid the box toward her. Ask dropped some items next to the box. He glanced around noting the abandoned laptop.
"Where's Sam? You got him running around too?" Ellen looked up from the box. She glanced at the clock.
"Oh, I forgot about the boy," she chastised herself. "He was doing some inventory in the cellar. He went down almost an hour ago. I better go check on him."
"Man, Ellen," Ash commented. "I thought you liked Sam. That cellar is the eighth chasm of Hell," he groused.
"Just because the cellar gives you the creeps," Ellen retorted. Ellen left her daughter and Ash in the bar area and went into the kitchen and opened the door to the cellar. The lights were on, so she followed them to the bottom of the staircase. She was talking before she hit the bottom. "Sam, sweetie," her voice called out. "What are you doing down …" her voice died off as she hit the bottom and saw Sam lying unconscious on the floor. "Oh God, no," she ran to Sam's unmoving form. He was curled up and pale. She touched his face, cool and clammy. "Sam," she ran a hand through his hair nervously. She dropped her head against his chest and listened, hope flared in her chest when she heard Sam's heart beating rapidly. She watched the stunted rise and fall of his chest and lurched back toward the staircase.
"Jo! Ash!" she heard the footfalls on the wood flooring of the kitchen.
"Mom?" Jo's voice sounded alarmed. Ellen moved to the staircase quickly. Jo met her mother's eyes.
"Jo call an ambulance, now!" she commanded. "Sam's unconscious and won't wake up. Tell them his heart is racing and he's having trouble breathing. You and Ash wait for the paramedics up there."
"Mom?" Jo seemed stuck in place on sensory overload.
"Do it now Joanna Beth!" And Ellen disappeared back to Sam. "Sam," she held his head in her hands trying to rouse him. She surveyed him for wounds and saw none. "Oh, honey what happened?" Her fear was ratcheting up as the minutes passed. "Sam Winchester don't you do this," she ordered. "Wake up. Open your eyes." Sam didn't move. She placed a hand on his chest and could feel his heart pounding against his flesh. His breathing was erratic and she feared that it may stop all together.
"Mom," Jo shouted as she ran half way down the stairs, "They're on the way."
"Jo Beth call Marcus," Ellen ordered. "His number is under the bar in my personal numbers. Tell him that Sam has collapsed and that the paramedics are coming. I want him to meet us in the ER at Stanton. Try him at Stillwater first. He's probably there. He's should be available for the doctors and Sam." Jo knew better than to ask any questions she simply nodded and ran back up the stairs.
Ten Minutes Later
Sam was being loaded in a waiting ambulance. He was hooked to a heart monitor and an oxygen mask covered his mouth and nose. The medics had already started an IV line and were running fluids. "You'll have to follow us ma'am," the medic answered as they prepared to close the doors. Ellen nodded as she took one last look at Sam.
"You stay here," she ordered Jo and Ash. "Dammit, get my cell," she yelled. "I have to call Dean."
Thirty Minutes Later, Stanton Memorial Emergency Room
Ellen sat in the waiting room. She split her time between watching the ER trauma room door and the entrance. She had called Dean and luckily he was already on his way back, and she expected him any time. Marcus was inside with Sam's doctors and she waited to hear what was happening. She heard the entrance doors slide open as their automatic sensors were tripped. Dean came running inside. She watched him search frantically with his eyes. She stood up quickly and he found her immediately. "Ellen, where's Sam?" He commanded urgently. "He's still in with the doctors. Marcus is here. He'll be out when there's news."
Dean was pacing in tight abbreviated circles. "How long has he been in there?"
"Half hour," she answered solemnly.
"What the hell happened Ellen? He was fine when I left for Randolph."
"He was doing inventory for me," she started. "But, he was down stairs for a while, so I went to check on him. He was unconscious when I found him." Dean's eyes were blazing as he ran a nervous hand over his eyes.
"The cellar?" he stared at her. "You sent him down there?"
"He was okay with it Dean. I didn't…" she stopped abruptly when Dean leveled her with a glare. "No," she bounced back quickly. "You know damn well I'd never do anything to hurt that boy. He wasn't hurt Dean. I don't know what happened. Things were okay. The power went off and came back on, and the lights flickered for awhile after that, but it's been okay." Dean closed his eyes in realization.
"The lights were flickering?"
"Yeah, what…" her eyes grew wide as she remembered Dean telling her about Sam's panic attack at the center when the lights had flickered. "Dammit," she yelled to herself. "I didn't think Dean." Before they could continue the door to the trauma room Sam was taken into opened and Marcus Winters walked out. Dean and Ellen approached him quickly.
"How's Sam?" Dean demanded.
"Dean calm down," Dr. Winters encouraged.
"Cut the crap Marcus," Ellen spouted to her friend. "Tell us about Sam."
"The ER doctors have stabilized his heart rate and breathing …"
"He's breathing on his own, right?" Dean's eyes wide with concern.
"Yes," Marcus confirmed. "It appears he may have had an acute panic attack and passed out. His scans and blood tests have come up negative for any kind of neurological disturbance and his blood came back clean for infection or other problems. He's awake now," his voice trailed off.
"I hear a 'but' in there," Dean pushed. "Ellen said the electricity was flickering. I think that set Sammy off. What's wrong?"
"He's only minimally responsive to stimuli Dean. He's awake, but he's disengaged with his surroundings. I hope that will improve over the next few hours." Dean felt the bile creep up the back of his throat.
"Are you saying he might be like he was over a year ago? We're back to square one?"
"Not necessarily Dean," Dr. Winters corrected. "Look, now that I know about the flickering lights, it is probable that Sam was triggered and reacted. But, it is highly likely that it also sparked a memory of some sort, perhaps one that has had a huge impact on him and he's withdrawn. I'm having him admitted to the observation unit."
"No, Dean," hissed. "My brother isn't going back to a psych ward."
"Dean, I'm not having him admitted to the psych unit. It's the observation unit for patients that need monitoring, but don't require the level of care in the ICU." Dean visibly relaxed.
"What if he doesn't improve in the next few hours?" Ellen chimed in.
"If there is no sign that he is coming out this new disassociated episode it may become necessary to admit him back to Stillwater…"
"I don't want him back in there," Dean argued.
"Dean, I realize you want Sam with you and out from under medical care, but you and I both know that Sam's situation is a unique one, and the sooner he's either bouncing back from his current state or at least under my care the better off he'll be. We can't have him talking to their staff here about Demons and the like," he whispered under his breath. "Being readmitted is just a setback; it doesn't have to be a permanent situation. Let's play it by ear."
"Then transfer him now and observe him at the center," Dean commented. "You said yourself that he's stable and his scans and tests came back negative. So, get him the hell out of here."
"I thought you just said you didn't want him going back."
"I did, but at least if he starts talking or something and it involves our line of work at least I don't have to worry about him getting locked away forever." Dr. Winters nodded.
"I'll see about getting him released to my care, and I'll have a transfer from the center arranged with one of our transports."
Two Weeks Later, Stillwater Center, the Acute Unit
Dean walked toward the day room where they had told him they'd take Sam. He hadn't spoken at all, and even Dean hadn't been able to draw him back from wherever he had gone in his mind. Dean entered the room and saw they had put his brother in a soft chair along a distant wall. The sunlight was falling across Sam's lap as he stared off into nothing.
"Hey kiddo," Dean fought to keep his voice up beat. The first time he'd gone through this didn't seem as hard as this time. Now, Dean fought his emotions constantly. His brother had come back to him and now he seemed even further away than the first time. "Sammy," Dean started. "Um, everyone at the roadhouse says hi." He looked into Sam's blank face. He reached up and pushed his brother's long bangs out of his eyes. "Sammy, I'm here. Please, don't do this," he pleaded. "Whatever happened we can deal with it together, but you have to come back."
Sam rocked violently back and forth as he sat against a wall as a distant voice filtered over him. The empty house was the same as he remembered, but not much remained. The table and chair were gone, the lamp had remained, but now it lay shattered and fragmented just like Sam's life. He had broken it when the bulb began to flicker. The book, he had looked for it frantically, but it was gone and he was alone. The voice he knew was Dean's broke through only now and again, but mostly he heard nothing beyond the voices torturing him as they always do in this place of gray-white walls. Voices from the hallway called out to him from behind closed doors, but he remained rocking. His mind caught in the maelstrom of memories left by his father and his eternal agony.
"Dean?" Dr. Winters' voice spoke softly from behind. Dean looked over his shoulder.
"No change," he replied softly.
"I'm afraid not. Dean," he began tentatively. "Sam has become more unresponsive over the last few days…"
"More? He's just like he was before," Dean accused. "How much more unresponsive can he get and still be like this?"
"He's beginning to show signs that he's slipping deeper into a more vegetative like state, but not," he hedged. "Sam is unique Dean."
"Vegetative?" Dean hissed under his breath. "I don't get it," his voice was angry. "His eyes are open, he's like before. It'll get better."
"Dean," Marcus sat down next to him and spoke softly. The dayroom was empty for a change as most of the residents were either at lunch or in the new activities room doing projects with activities staff. "Sam is worse than before. We need to put him in a wheel chair to get him from room to room, and lift him into bed when he's taken back. And, before when he was first here he could at least be led around."
"Just give him time," Dean's eyes glistened.
"Dean the IV's are no longer enough nourishment for him," the doctor began quietly. "I'd like permission to have a nasal gastric feeding tube put in, so he can be fed."
"No, I can get him to eat, I can," Dean pleaded.
"Dean, we've tried, you've tried. He needs the tube." Dean looked at him with begging eyes. "Fine, I'll have Kendra bring in something soft. Maybe some yogurt? But Dean…"
"I know," Dean snapped. "If he doesn't eat … I'll sign the consent, okay?" Dean's tone was angry.
Ten Minutes Later
"Please Sammy," Dean tried pushing the yogurt into his brother's mouth. It wasn't that he was refusing the food, he simply wasn't responding to its presence. He wouldn't take it from the spoon. "Sam, come on," Dean half begged, half commanded. "Dammit," he hissed. "Just eat," he shouted. He shook his head. "I'm sorry Sammy, I didn't mean to yell," he touched Sam's cheek softly and cupped it in his hand. "I'm not yelling at you, okay? Just the situation. Sorry," he stroked Sam's cheek with a thumb. He put the yogurt down with a shaking hand. He felt hot tears spring up and sting his eyes before he could get any real control over them. Silent tears ran freely down his cheeks as he looked at his little brother's vacant eyes that seemed completely lifeless. Sam was gone.
Two Weeks Later, Stillwater Center
Dean walked into Sam's room. They had him sitting up in a wheelchair by the window. Although, it had a metal grid covering it you could still see out to a quiet duck pond and the flower garden. He stared at his brother for long minutes. There was thin tubing taped to his face. It was the tail end if the feeding tube they had stowed away under the medical tape. He had an IV port they had him hooked to hydrate him and the feeding tube they used for his nutritional supplements delivered via liquid emulsions. "Hey Sammy." Dean reached for a small terrycloth towel and wiped the saliva running out of the corner of Sam's mouth. Dean stroked Sam's throat to stimulate his swallowing reflex and he swallowed in response. "That's my boy," Dean cooed softly. As his brother had become more vegetative he had begun to exhibit more difficulties and his swallowing had become an issue over the last few days. There was a knock at the door.
"I heard you were here," Dr. Winters replied as he entered.
"Dean," the doctor began. "I wanted to discuss moving Sam to another unit in the center."
"Another unit?" Dean was confused. "What other unit?"
"Sam has been in this unit for a month Dean and he's only declined. There isn't anything I can do to get through to him. At least, before he would respond to some stimuli on a certain level, but now," he took a breath. He hated admitting defeat and the idea that he'd lost this battle had been keeping him nights ever since Sam's relapse.
"But … now what?" Dean accused.
"Now, all we are capable of giving him in this unit is palliative, daily care. This unit isn't the right one for anymore, not unless he comes back a little bit."
"Where?" was all Dean asked.
"I'd like to make arrangements to have him transferred to the LTC Unit. They are better equipped to handle his needs, and I'll remain his doctor of record of course and will oversee his care."
"LTC?" Dean raised an eyebrow.
"Long-term care unit," he supplied softly. Dean couldn't stop the bile rising in his throat and bolted from his chair and emptied his stomach in the small bathroom just inside Sam's room. "Easy," the doctor soothed as Dean collapsed back on his haunches from the toilet.
"I'm got it," Dean grumbled as he shimmied out from under the doctor's hand on his shoulder. "I'm fine."
"Don't pull that shit with Dean," the doctor replied suddenly. He had come to know Dean pretty well over the last year both when Sam was in the center and also when he continued to see Dean to talk. "You're not okay."
"Look don't go all touchy feely with me doc," Dean hissed. "I got it, okay? Sam's not gettin' better, right? Long-term care is where you stick people to die."
"Dean, you act as if he had a fatal disease. Sam is physically healthy, in terms of his body. The feeding tube is working well, but I'll admit that for the long term he may have to have a surgically implanted feeding tube in the future, but I'm not willing to entertain that idea just yet. It's his mind that's broken. And, he could still come out of this." Dean looked at him and wanted to believe. He shook his head slightly.
"But, you don't believe that, do you? You said yourself he's worse now than he was before." The doctor didn't know how to respond, and he knew there was nothing he could say to make it better. "Transfer him," Dean said softly as he stood up from the bathroom floor and returned to Sam's side.
"He'll get the best of care in that unit Dean. They can give him physical therapy to keep his muscles working since he isn't mobile. I promise I'll see him every day."
"You hear that Sammy," Dean gently touched his brother's face and stroked his cheek. "You're getting new digs." The doctor felt his heart swell at the sight of Dean and how he acted with his little brother.
His brother's voice broke through for a second and part of him knew he wasn't alone on the other side of this place, but here that was all he had … complete aloneness.
…God, please no…
Sam heard his father's voice calling from down the hallway.
…I never wanted this for you Sammy…
"Dad?" Sam stopped rocking and looked down the hallway. "Dad, please," he stood up on shaky legs.
…I never wanted this for you…
His father's voice repeated again. Sam went in search of his father, but every door he tried only held an empty room behind it until he reached the last one and opened it. It was a dense woods with fall leaves browning into autumn, he stopped and listened.
…You and your brother…you're okay…
Sam plunged into the thicket in search of his father. He glanced back briefly at the door as it closed. He paused a moment knowing he would be locked away from his brother's voice and he hesitated.
…Can we not fight…half the time we fight I don't even know what we're fighting about…
And, with those words Sam turned and ran into the woods and away from the door and away from the reach of Dean's words. He caught himself on errant tree limbs as he ran past them. His father's voice was still fresh in his ears.
"Hey Sammy," his father's voice startled him and Sam spun around. His father was dressed in jeans and a gray t-shirt as he leaned against a tree with that warm smile Sam remembered, so well.
"Dad?" Sam took an unsteady step forward and stopped abruptly. His mind was fighting with rationality even in his befuddled mental state. "You're not here. You're not real," he accused. John stepped away from the tree.
"Well, I am," he replied bluntly.
"No, I remember where you are," Sam's eyes stung with hot tears at the visceral memory of his father's agony. "You're just a figment of my mind. You're not here," he choked out and took a step back. "You're with the demon, you're…"
"Sammy, son, please," John spoke softly. "You need to understand a few things," John began. "The soul and the spirit aren't the same thing, not really. And, as much as that yellow-eyed bastard would like to think he controls me … he only has dominion over my soul, but my spirit," he said with a grin, can go wherever the hell it wants to a certain degree and that demon can't stop me. I'm here." John stepped forward and pulled his youngest child to his chest and held him. Sam closed his eyes drawing in the scent of his father and cried.
Meanwhile, Sam's room
Dean watched Sam's eyes close slowly and his head dipped toward his chest. It didn't alarm Dean; after all, his brother would fall asleep fairly quickly and without much preamble. "I'll get an orderly to get him into bed." Dr. Winters spoke.
"No," Dean replied. "He's my brother. I got him. Dean bent down and slid his hand under his brother's knees and under his arms. Dean moved Sam's head against his shoulder and rested it in the crook of his neck. He grunted as he picked up his little brother. "Here we go Sammy. Up we go," he spoke softly. Dean placed Sam in his bed and covered him up as he adjusted him into a comfortable position.
"Dean I'll make arrangements for the transfer for later today. The sooner we get him settled the better it will be."
"Better, huh?" Dean's tone was lackluster and he simply sat down and took his brother's cool, slack hand in his own. "I'll be here," he said without looking back up to the doctor. The doctor excused himself and left the room to make arrangements.
One Week Later, Sam's Room
Dean sat watching Sam. He alternated between stroking his hand with a thumb as he held it to telling Sam's stories of when he was little. He studied his brother's silent features. He never thought that one week ago when he watched his brother close his eyes that he wouldn't open them again. Sam neurological response tests had only continued to degenerate. He had become less responsive to pain stimuli and each day his coma became more profound. He was able to breathe on his own; however, the doctor's in the Medical Unit had prescribed a nasal canula for oxygen supplements. When Sam hadn't woken Dr. Winters had become alarmed at Sam's sluggish pupil responses and had called in Dr. Nish, the neurologist that had previously cared for Sam. And, Sam had been transferred from the LTC Unit to the Medical Unit for acute care.
"Dean?" Dr. Winters poked his head into Sam's small room. Marcus looked at Dean and silently wished things weren't as they were. Dean looked tired and so much older than his years. "How are you?" He grabbed a chair and sat facing Dean.
"What'd the doc say about Sam's latest tests?" The doctor sighed. He wasn't surprised that the older sibling was overlooking himself. Dean studied the man's face and dropped his eyes and returned to watching his brother. "He's not waking up is he?"
"Dr. Nish has noted a decrease in brain activity, but Sam still maintains some activity spikes. But, Dean, his pupils are barely responding to light and Dr. Nish believes it's only a matter of time before he loses his gag reflex." Dean looked back at Marcus Winters.
"You mean they'll put a tube down his throat, right?"
"Yes, only to guarantee his airway Dean. Sam is breathing on his own just keep that in mind. Once his gag reflex goes we just need to insure he doesn't choke and aspirate into his lungs. It's a precaution."
"I get it," Dean's voice was angry.
"Dean, talk to me," the doctor urged.
"I got nothin' to say."
"Ellen told me you moved back to the roadhouse," he tried to push a conversation.
"No point in keeping the apartment. I stayed for a month after," he looked on Sam with agonized eyes. "I can't stay there…" his voice trailed off suddenly and his jaw twitched.
"Why can't you stay there?" He knew the answer, but wanted Dean to try and admit he couldn't stay there because his brother wasn't there.
"Look, I'm a big boy and I can take care of myself. I don't need my hand held. I just want to sit with Sammy for a while before I have to be at the roadhouse to cover the bar."
"Dean, I didn't mean," Marcus began.
"Just go," Dean mumbled. "I just want to be alone with my brother. Can't I just have that?"
"Sure," Marcus stood up. "If you need anything…"
"I won't," Dean interrupted the doctor before he could say another word.
"Fine, okay," he replied softly. He walked to the door and before he left he looked back at Dean who had resumed his vigil of holding his brother's hand and stroking his bangs. "It's okay to be angry Dean," he offered. "I'll stop in again tomorrow." Dean didn't look at the doctor or even acknowledge he'd heard his final comment. Marcus Winters left the room and closed the door behind him with a small click.
"It's just you and me again Sammy," Dean spoke softly. "Just the way it's supposed to be." He smiled at Sam's unruly bangs. "You know Dad would have a fit at how long your hair has grown. You used to drive him to distraction when you were little with that long hair." He laughed quietly. "I remember he tried to give you a short haircut once and you bobbed and weaved so much he thought he was going to lop of an earlobe, so he gave up. And, from then on you only had trims." The memory was warming and oddly soothing. Dean quieted and went back to watching his brother. Dean dropped his head for a moment whispering his brother's name, "Sammy."
Sam thought he heard his brother's voice. His father smiled. "You hear him don't you?" Sam looked at his Dad. They sat beside a lake. It was a lake he remembered from childhood.
"Sam," John's voice wasn't reproachful, but it brooked no argument. "You heard Dean. You need to go back now Sammy."
"No," Sam turned away from his father. "This place is good. I'm out of that damn house and the voices are quiet here. And…" his voice trailed off for a moment as he turned back and looked and met his father's soft eyes. "And, you're here. There's no pain for you here."
"Sammy, son," John began softly. "This," he waved his hands around. "All of this," he continued. "It's not real. It's all in your head. My spirit is real, but this place isn't. My pain still exists, but Dean is alive because of the deal I made, and I have no regrets. This isn't your fault and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. You've buried yourself so deep inside yourself Sam that you've almost completely slipped away from your brother. You've pushed memories away that you need to reclaim. I'm so sorry you had to see what you did. The stake, the pain, none of it is your doing. You need to let it go." John paused and reached out cupping the back of Sam's neck. It was a gentle and loving motion. "You need to let me go Sammy. Dean needs you more than you could imagine. You both need each other."
"Dad, I can't," Sam's lips trembled. "I…"
"You're scared, I know, but it's time Sammy. You've been here too long already. You need to open your eyes. There is nothing to fear," John touched the side of his young son's face and Sam flinched as images and voices filled his mind in rapid fire succession. Every lost memory came flooding back. Every moment bloomed to life in his mind and he staggered under their weight. "You were never meant to see me that day Sammy the demon wanted you to be haunted, but let it go. Let it go." He pulled Sam to himself and held his child.
"I remember everything," Sam sobbed. He remembered Dean's anger and grief after they lost their father. And every moment in the two years that followed that horrible day. They had made a life for themselves. He smiled as good memories made in the past two years cascaded over him like a warm soothing shower. "I don't want that empty house," Sam lamented.
"Then don't go back to it Sammy. It's just a prison your mind made for you to hide inside of anyway. You have your memories now. Reclaim your life and go back to Dean. He won't be able to handle losing you Sam. Let me go."
"No, but, Sammy," John replied. "Letting go doesn't mean forgetting. I love you boys. I always have and I always will. Remember that always, but let me go."
Sam turned his head toward the faint voice carried on the wind. "Dean needs you Sammy. Hell, even here buried deep he's breaking through. It's time to go home."
Sam understood home was going back to Dean. His family. His big brother. Sam pulled his father into a strong hug. "I love you Dad," he choked. "I should have said it before. I wasted so much time picking fights, I…"
"Shh," John comforted his son. "You and me," he said softly. "We both made mistakes, but no matter what there was always love Sammy, always. It's time." Sam noticed the lake and the surrounding woodlands were slowly beginning to dissolve into a white void. The light was comforting and there was no fear.
"You'll be okay," Sam asked suddenly afraid he was abandoning his father. John gave that knowing smile Sam knew too well.
"I'm always okay, son. Open your eyes now Sammy." John urged. Sam reached for his father and pulled him into one last embrace.
John stepped back and cupped the side of his youngest child's face. "You always favored your mother," he commented softly. "I'm proud of the man you've become Sammy." He leaned forward and whispered into his son's ear. Sam smiled and the white void claimed him.
Dean held his brother's hand when he felt the slightest twitch. "Sammy?" Dean's voice was hopeful. He squeezed his brother's hand. "Sammy, can you hear me?" He thought his heart would beat out of his chest when he saw dark lashes flutter against milk pale skin. "Sammy, come on back. That's it," he encouraged. Lashes fluttered and then dark eyes opened slowly to settle on Dean's face.
Dean felt hot tears run unchecked down his cheeks. "Sammy?" He watched his little brother focus on his face. Sam squeezed his big brother's hand. "Please, Sammy," Dean urged.
"Dean," came out a mere whisper, but it was the most beautiful sound Dean thought he'd ever heard. He smiled down at his younger brother and ran a gentle hand through Sam's hair.
"Hey," he replied softly. "Long time no see kiddo." Sam smiled and Dean the weight on his soul lift. He pulled Sam up against himself and held him. "Missed you," he whispered into the crown of his little brother's head.
"Yeah," he answered softly.
"Dad, says Hi," he whispered through his unused voice. Dean stared at him wide-eyed. Sam smiled weakly. "Oh, and he said to wax the car." Sam looked at Dean for a moment as his big brother sat in a state of stunned and confuse silence. "Missed you too," he whispered. Dean broke out of his silent stupor and held his brother close.
Two Months Later, February 2009
"Damn," Dean complained as he and Sam trudged out of the cold storage in the rear of the roadhouse each carrying a case of beer. It had been their fourth trip back and forth. "I got to start working out again."
"Well," Sam replied with a glint in his eyes. "You did turn thirty last month. You're not a spring chicken anymore," he mused.
"I'll show you spring chicken you little shit." He grunted as he put the heavy case down on the bar top. "I can still kick your ass," he grumbled. "You wait until we get back to the apartment later." Sam chuckled and raised his hands in surrender.
"I wouldn't want you to throw a hip out or anything," he replied. His dimples making an appearance as he smiled at his brother.
"Bitch," Dean complained.
"Boys," Ellen walked into the room having caught the last part of the playful banter. "Don't make me tan both your hides."
"Yes, ma'am," Sam and Dean answered in unison. Both siblings caught each other's eyes and smiled.
"Sam?" Ash strolled into the room.
"Can I borrow you for about an hour? I got a project I think you could help me with." Sam looked at Ellen.
"You boys finished bringing in the stock right?"
"Yeah," Sam answered.
"Then go," Ellen commented. "I've got Dean and Jo's around here somewhere."
Dean watched his brother go off with Ash and he couldn't help the smile that pulled at the edges of his mouth. Sam had opened his eyes two months ago and things had only improved every day. He had all his memories and there was no more lost time. He had the two missing years back.
Dr. Winters still spoke with Sam, but only twice a month and he had taken Sam off his meds a week ago. Life was good. When Dean had asked Sam later after he first woke about the message he said was from their father Sam only vaguely remembered saying anything, so Dean never pushed, and they never spoke of it again, but Dean believed their Dad had managed in some way to reach Sammy in a way he couldn't from the outside world. As Dean returned to stocking the bar his mind thought silently to itself, Thanks Dad. Dean heard Sam's laugh echo across the roadhouse from the back room. He smiled again. Yeah, he thought, Life was good.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this story and that the ending wasn't a letdown for everyone wanting a big angst ending. I promised to have it done on or before January 1, 2007 and I kept my promise. And, as mentioned in the previous chapter … I will be going on a hiatus for a bit. I anticipate having a pretty hectic schedule for a little while. I have two ideas for two more stories, but I'm going to have to let them percolate. I'll try to find time to write, but I won't be posting unless I have something complete and I can just update chapters at will. Otherwise, the waiting time between updates could be lengthy. At any rate, I just wanted to say that although I'll be on a writing hiatus doesn't mean I plan to quit fanfic. And, I'll be making time to at least read some fic.
Thanks so much to everyone who has taken the time to comment and/or review even one chapter of this story as it developed. I really do appreciate it. I hope you enjoyed the final installment to this fic.
Final Side Note: The Waste Land was written by T.S. Eliot
Have a wonderful New Year! Be safe. Happy 2007.