Final chapter, I swear! All right, this is it. Hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it :)

Thanks again for all the awesome reviews (I really never expected this many for a story like this), as always, they kept me writing!


4

Aftermath

Sam stayed up all night, sitting in the bedroom and staring blankly at the wall. Every once in a while he thought he heard the distant rumble of an engine, thought he saw headlights flashing by outside, and he even could have sworn that he'd heard the sound of someone trying to pick the lock on the back door. It was times like these that he tensed up, ready and eager to protect the little boy sleeping soundly in the room's single bed from whatever monstrous human might try to harm him again.

Other than that slight movement, the simple tensing of muscles as he prepared to attack, he never moved. Never even blinked. He just kept watch and thought. He thought about the day, about the days ahead, about what his life would be like, and what Dean's life could be. How much of a difference could he really make? How different would Dean really be in the end?

Sam stiffened in the chair, realizing for the first time what the day's events could really mean. His brother was going to leave him, fall back into his own mind and disappear completely, leaving Sam with only memories and a poor substitute that would someday grow up and leave him all alone.

Suddenly, he knew how Dean must have felt when that bus to Stanford had finally pulled up. "Looks like it's your turn to stand alone in the rain, Sammy-boy," he whispered into the darkness.

"You kidding me?" a small voice called out, scaring Sam so much that he jumped, suddenly alert, "you can't get rid of me that easy."

Dean slid out of the bed and padded across the room to his brother's chair. "What are you talking about?" Sammy asked nervously

Smiling, the boy climbed up onto his brother's lap and snuggled in close. "I'm not gonna leave you. Not for anything You're gonna need me just as much as I'm gonna need you, man, because parenthood ain't a cakewalk. This isn't gonna be easy, but you won't have to do it alone."

Not like you did, Sam thought, nodding as he wrapped his long arms around his new son and Dean snuggled up just a little bit closer. "Don't worry so much about me," he grinned as his brother tried to turn a tired yawn into a sigh, "grown-ups can take care of themselves."

"That's what you think," Dean muttered, letting his eyes slide shut as he rested his small head against his brother's chest and drifted off to the sound of Sam's heartbeat. For the first time since the fire that had taken his mother so many years before, he felt safe, protected, loved, and good enough.

18 Years Later

Dean sighed and shook his head as he crossed off another poorly scribbled answer. If things didn't turn around he'd have to schedule a conference, and he hated talking to these people. They always believed that their kid could do no wrong.

A small smile worked its way onto his face as his eyes slid from the paper he was checking to the picture that he kept at his desk. A man and his teenage son standing in a driveway, posing in front of a jet-black beauty of a car. A sixteenth birthday present that had topped the rest.

Not all parents were bad, and some kids actually deserved to be thought of as the best.

The door to the room creaked open, but Dean didn't look up, just went back to his paper. "Mr. Smith," he said as the door slid shut and the person that had entered the room coughed to announce his presence, "I'll be with you in a minute. Just need to finish up here."

The man standing by the door sighed. "A teacher, huh?"

Dean's head snapped up, the papers he was grading all but forgotten, his heart pounding hard in his chest. "D-dad?"

John Winchester nodded, stuffing his hands in his pockets and crossing the room to the teacher's desk. "I saw the car outside. You went back to get it?"

"Sam did. Eventually. What do you want?"

The older man (and he was so much older than Dean remembered him) smiled sadly. "I just wanted to see what you made of yourself. Wanted to see what being good enough could get you. So, tell me, Dean, how's the life?"

Dean sighed, leaning back in his chair and gazing around the classroom, at the empty desks, the pictures that lined the walls, the cubbies that held supplies, and smiled. "It's great, sir."

"You mind elaborating?"

"I wouldn't want to waste your time. You've got people to see, demons to hunt. I'm surprised you even came back at all."

"I just wanted to see how you were doing."

"Sam's fine. A little grey around the edges, but fine. He went back to school, got himself a decent job, and we settled down here. He's good. That's what you really wanted to know, right? How Sam is?"

John shuffled his feet, glancing around the room, noticing the number of pictures hanging on the wall, all addressed to the teacher that now sat in front of him. "What about you?"

Dean smirked. "Never did get that full-ride to Stanford your little genius managed, but I got by. Graduated, at least. Got a job here, nice home with my dad, and a class of adoring first-graders that couldn't possibly love me more. What else could a guy want?"

"Did you miss me?"

"Not a bit."

The older man nodded, gazing down at his feet. "I need your help."

"I'm not going hunting with you."

"Not that," John muttered, swallowing his pride, "son, I'm sick. I need a transplant, and-"

"You want me to donate. Sammy isn't the right blood type, but I am, and you need me to donate. What do you want from me this time, dad? You need a lung, my liver, or a kidney? Maybe my heart, huh? You want that? It'll match perfectly with the self-esteem and confidence and self-respect you've already taken."

"What happened to you?"

"I woke up as a little kid, but I didn't get left alone. I got pancakes for breakfast every morning. I got a car I never thought I'd see again for my sixteenth birthday. My father came to my graduation ceremony. He paid for me to go to college and follow a dream. He supported me. He stayed with me, no matter what. He loved me, sir. I gave up everything I had to keep him safe, and he returned the favor. I gave everything I had to make you love me, and you kept trying to take. You dropped off the face of the earth for eighteen years and only came back to ask me if I'd give you something else. That's what happened, dad. I finally got what I wanted. I got a family."

John nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Where's my son?"

"I'm right here, dad," he smirked, "I never left. I held on, and I stuck it out. It wasn't hard to control that kid. Actually, it got easier as he grew up. I found a happy medium, kept the balance between kid and adult. Nowadays, I can't even tell the difference. It's like I'm one person again."

"A better person than you were before?"

"What do you think?"

"I think a good person would help his dying father, that's what I think."

Dean just smiled. "I never said I wouldn't help you. I just thought I should warn you that whatever you need from me, won't ever be good enough for you."

END


Well, that's it. Any final thoughts?

Thanks again for the support!