I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone for sticking with my story to the end. I really hope you enjoyed it. Hopefully the ending will please everyone, so let me know what you think. I look forward to writing many more stories about the boys! Thanks again, Bambers;)

Chapter Twelve

Sam glanced back over his shoulder to where he'd just seen his brother, then returned his attention to the dominating presence of the angel beside him and the wonders that spread out before him.

Beautiful orbs of soft glowing light danced and floated effortlessly around him. The intoxicating aroma of lilacs and honeysuckle clung to the warm breezes as angelic music filled the air. Sam knew he should be content, knew he should be happy. But in truth, the peace and happiness he had felt dissipated the moment he saw the lost, broken expression on his brother's face.

After Dean defeated Belial, Sam had seen the worried, frantic look in his brother's eyes as Dean looked for him one final time. Then Dean gathered Sam's body into his arms and the pain in his grief was so palpable it tore through Sam's heart to see his brother's sorrow. Desperately Sam had tried to reach him, to comfort him, but there was no way.

I can't go. Not now. Not yet. Not without knowing, if Dean is going to be okay. He wheeled to face the angel and stood his ground.

"What will happen to Dean?" Sam tilted his chin defiantly, jaw clenched tightly, eyes narrowing in determination, adamant that he wouldn't budge until he knew Dean was going to be okay. "Dean doesn't do well on his own. He never has."

It was a feeble attempt to evoke some sympathy from the very intimidating winged-creature, and Sam could tell it wasn't working. He forced an awkward smile when the angel just stared at him without responding. Staring into his dark depthless eyes Sam knew he was in the presence of one of the greats . . . an archangel. No doubt about it.

If Dean had been there, he would have found away to break the icy silence. He would have made some wisecrack, probably at the expense of the brick wall of an angel who stood beside Sam. But as hard as Sam tried, he couldn't find anything funny about the situation. Maybe his sense of humor died along with the peace and joy that was his moments before.

The sweet melody grew louder and the warm radiance of light caressed him. Sam could feel the comfort it offered, but he still felt cold inside. Dean's alone. I promised I would never leave him again. Why didn't I fight harder? Why couldn't I find another way to stop Belial?

"I'm not taking another step until you answer me." Crossing his arms, Sam pursed his lips and shook his head. "The way I see it, I've got an eternity to stand here being a pain in your ass. Believe me, I'm very good at brooding. Just ask my brother. So you may as well tell me what I want to know, or else you'll never have another moment's peace."

The angel let out a deep exasperated sigh, and arched his brow. "Your brother's fate remains undecided." Dark penetrating eyes, held Sam's, boring straight through him, until Sam was forced to lower his head, afraid.

"Why?" Sam swallowed hard, his chest constricted as he braced himself to hear what the angel had to say.

"Many battles remain before him. You are safe now, but demons will hunt him relentlessly until they turn him . . . or death releases him. Either way, he will find no rest."

"You have to stop this. You have to set him free," Sam pleaded, his stomach churning at the thought of Dean alone, trying to fight off endless swarms of demons.

"Is that what you want for him, Sam?" The archangel wrapped finely chiseled arms around his expansive chest and waited for an answer. His expression dark and unfathomable.

"Yes. I want this over for him," Sam blurted out without the slightest hesitation "No more hunting. He deserves a better life, free from demons. He's given you enough already. You've taken too much from him."

"What about all the people your brother could save — his destiny?"

A sharp twinge of guilt seeped into Sam's heart, but he refused to listen. If Dean hunts alone, he'll die alone — I can't have him die alone. "He's saved enough people. He deserves a life of his own."

"Are you so sure that's what your brother would want?"

Reluctantly, Sam shook his head.

"And yet you still ask it for him?"

Sam could only nod, a squirming deep in the pit of his stomach for all the lives he knew would be lost because of his request, but he needed to know Dean would be safe without him.

He eyed Sam for a long time before nodding. "Granted. If your brother agrees, he will be free. This is my promise to you."

Sam's relief was short-lived. "And if Dean doesn't agree?"

"Then you will have to accept it and move forward." The archangel inclined his head toward heaven and nodded. He looked back at Sam. "Wait here. I will return soon."

Sam dropped to his knees as the angel vanished from his sight, cool white mist swirling around him. Wait. They expect me to wait while my brother's fate is decided amongst angels and demons. An angry, helpless feeling burned deep inside his soul. No, I don't have to accept this . . . I swear to God, Dean, I won't let you hunt alone . . . no way I'll let you die alone. I just won't, even if I have to become a ghost, and haunt your damn stubborn ass.

"Dean." Angelina sat beside him, her hand soft upon his shoulder. "I am proud of you. You did the right thing."

Dean refused to look at her, lost to his own grieving. If I did the right thing, why the hell does it hurt so much? And why do I wish I'd chosen differently?

"Look at me, Dean," Gabriel commanded in a tone that brooked no argument.

Dean glanced up, stormy green eyes locking with resoluteblue ones. "Never doubt you did the right thing. You saved a lot of people, including yourself."

Shaking his head, Dean closed his eyes tightly against the sight of the angel standing before him. "I didn't do it for myself. I did it for Sam. I couldn't bear the thought of him feeling the same guilt I felt when I realized what my father did to save me — it would have killed Sammy to know that."

"Don't sell yourself short." Gabriel knelt beside Dean, glorious wings fanning outward, a light breeze gently ruffling his feathers. "You are a great man, who is destined to do amazing things. This is only the beginning for you."

"No, not without Sam," Dean's breath caught, a painful knot in his throat. "I'll hunt alone; it's all I know how to do. But don't talk to me about destiny. My heart is gone, it died with Sammy." He lowered his head, drawing Sam's body closer, his chin resting on his brother's head. When he looked up again, there was an emptiness in his eyes.

"You don't have to hunt anymore, Dean. That life is over for you," Angelina said as she lightly caressed his cheek. "Our promise to Sam."

Dean looked from her to Gabriel and back again. "What do you mean, your promise to Sam?"

"His soul couldn't be at rest if he thought you were hunting alone and his sacrifice was so great we could not deny his last request," Gabriel replied as he glanced toward the sky.

"So I have no choice in the matter?" Dean's brows pulled close together, his eyes narrowing, an angry scowl on his face. "What about all the people who will suffer if I stop hunting?" Dean adamantly shook his head. "No. I can't just let other people die because I didn't even try to stop it."

"It's your choice," Angelina replied, her voice soft and reassuring. "But it is what Sam wants for you. He wants you to be happy, to get married, have kids, grow old with someone you love."

"I don't want to love anyone. I can't." Dean shook his head, his lips pressed tight against his teeth. "I won't lose anyone else."

"Then what do you want?" Gabriel asked.

Sammy. I want my brother back. I want things the way they were. Dean knew he couldn't ask it, knew it was impossible, but it didn't stop his heart from wanting it desperately. "Just let me hunt. I want to kill as many evil sonsuvbitches as possible, and save as many lives as I can before I die."

"You'll die alone, Dean," Angelina assured him, her green-blue eyes filling with tears. "Your body broken, your lifeblood spilling into the earth. No one to mourn your loss."

"I know."

"And you accept this?" Gabriel rose to stand, his wings lifting imperiously.

"I do."

"And what of Sam? What he wanted for you?" Gabriel waited for Dean's answer.

A wry grin lit Dean's face. "I think Sam already knew my answer; but tell him his guilt trips only work on me when I can see those big, sad puppy dog eyes of his."

"I will." Gabriel frowned. "But from what I've already experienced with your brother, he is not going to take this lightly."

"Yeah, that's Sammy." Dean's breath caught, a wistful smile on his face.

"He will know of your decision." Gabriel fanned his silver-white wings as if to take flight and then disappeared in a flash of glimmering golden light, leaving Dean alone with Angelina.

"That damn stubborn idiot!" Sam stalked back and forth through the swirling mist, his fists clenching and unclenching as he listened to the archangel explain what his brother had said. "And you did tell him it was my last request right?"

The archangel nodded.

Damn it, Dean! Don't you know you're supposed to honor a dying man's last request? Sam paced for a few moments more before he swung around and faced his companion, crossed his arms and glared defiantly at him. He pursed his lips and shook his head. "Nope, if he's gonna be a stubborn ass then so am I."

"What are you talking about?" the angel asked, a hesitant smile on his face.

"I'm so gonna haunt his sorry butt." Sam turned away, contemplating how he was going to make his brother's life a living hell until he gave in. "I'll turn on country music when he's listening to Metallica, flatten his tires when he is getting ready to go on a hunt, turn the water cold when he wants to take a shower — Oh, I could shave off his hair when he's asleep." A devilish grin twisted on his face as he ran his hand through his hair. "Never did get him back properly for putting Nair in my shampoo."

"You can't do that, Sam."

"Why the hell not? Angry spirit here." Sam jabbed his finger into his own chest for emphasis. "Even Doctor Ellicott said I had a lot of unresolved family issues when me and Dean were researching the Roosevelt Asylum."

"Well, it is true you are a bit more hostile than most people heading for the Pearly Gates," the archangel said, his voice tinged with humor.

"Exactly." Sam scratched the back of his head, not entirely sure how he would become an angry spirit. His mind raced through the extensive ghostly knowledge he'd accumulated, determined to find an answer that eluded him. Nothing. He turned a quizzical eye to the angel. "How does one go about becoming an angry spirit?"

The archangel nearly choked on a laugh. Sam blushed. He turned away, not wanting him to see how stupid he felt.

"You could. . . ." the angel's voice trailed off.

"I could what?" Sam swung back to face him, a determined glint in his eyes.

"No," he shook his head, his glistening wings ruffling. "I was just thinking aloud. It's not something I would even want you to consider."

"Tell me."

The archangel was quiet for a long time as if deciding what he should say and then he cleared his throat and spoke. "You could go back — finish what you and your brother started together."

"I can do that?" Sam's brow furrowed in confusion.

"Would you really want to return?"

"I want to go back. I want to be with my brother."

"You'd be leaving behind any chance for real peace you might ever find."

"I know." Sam glanced toward the shimmering light beckoning to him, and saw his mother. She reached out to him, a wistful look in her blue eyes. He smiled at her, wanting to comfort her, but knew he couldn't. Not now. Please understand, Mom . . . Dean needs me . . . I need him. He turned back to the angel. 'I'm ready to go home."

Angelina lifted her face toward the heavens, and smiled. "Dean, give him to me." She reached out to take Sam from his brother's embrace.

Dean shot her a nasty look. "Hell no! You can't take him from me." He pulled Sam's body closer against him, safe from her outstretched hands.

"Trust me. I have no intention of taking him from you."

"Nope," Dean shook his head emphatically, "I trusted you once already and my brother died."

Angelina let out an exasperated sigh. "Very well." She leaned over Sam, kissed his pale blue lips and placed a hand over his heart. "Two ravaged lives intertwined, their hearts and souls combined, one life lost, one left behind, dear heavenly Father, let the dark hours of his death unwind. Bring back your Warrior Son, there is too much he has left undone."

Sam's body jerked out of Dean's grasp. His back arched as he drew in a deep breath followed rapidly by another and another.

Dean's eyes widened, his mouth agape as he stared at Sam. Dean leaned over his brother's prone body, pressed his ear to Sam's chest, straining to hear the faint rhythm of his heart growing stronger with each beat. He looked up at Angelina, not quite believing — praying with all his heart that it was true.

"Sammy?" No. It can't be. You can't be breathing.

"Now that, Dean," she pointed toward Sam. "That is supernatural — and don't you ever forget it."

"How?" was all Dean could think to say, his mouth suddenly dry, his voice hoarse.

"Your brother loves you, Dean — loves you so much he would die for you, defy angels and demons for you, give up Heaven for you."

"I know." Dean lowered his head, watching to make sure Sam was still breathing. When he saw Sam's chest rise and fall in rhythmic precision, Dean let out a deep laugh and patted his shoulder. "You're gonna be okay, Sammy."

The laughter died on his lips as he thought about what Sam had given up for him. Damn it, Sammy, why would you do such a stupid thing? I saw you, you were at peace. I've never seen you like that before, ever. Why would you give that up for me?

Angelina cleared her throat, drawing Dean's attention back to her. "He doesn't regret his decision, Dean" She rose to stand."He wants to protect you too — let him."

"I will," Dean said with a single nod of his head.

"No, you won't," Angelina said with a laugh. "But try, for both your sakes."

She turned to leave a fine, silvery mist rising around her, then swivelled back to face him, brushing stray chestnut locks out of her eyes. "I just wanted you to know I didn't come here to save Sam, Dean. I came to save you."

"I don't understand."

"Somewhere along the line you've come to feel your life is less important than Sam's. That's simply not true." She leaned down, placed her hands on either side of his face, and kissed him on the forehead.

Dean stared at her mutely, biting at his lower lip.

"You are a great warrior, Dean, but you are an even better person. Don't ever forget that." Her fingers stroked his cheek, a satisfied smile on her face. She let her hand drop to the side. "And so I came here to let you know demons are not the only ones who have great plans for you boys." Angelina drew in a breath, then let out a deep sigh. "But more importantly, I came because sometimes even heroes need to be saved."

Dean swallowed hard, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down with the effort. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Shimmering mist rose to enshroud her as she spread her wings to take flight. "Take care of yourself, Dean. I'll be watching."

To Dean's utter amazement, she flew away, silver-white wings glistening against the indigo sky.

"Dean?"

"Damn it, Dean," Sam grumbled, a cool draft vexing his backside. Glancing over his shoulder repeatedly, Sam tried ineffectually to see if the stupid hospital gown he was wearing was closed. He groped at his back, grimacing as he felt a good size gap between the drawstrings holding the gown in place. Grasping hold of both sides of the thin material, Sam attempted to cover his bare butt and turned narrowed eyes toward his brother. "Boxers would've been nice, dude."

Dean smirked as he held up both hands and shook them. "There was no way I was touchin' your underwear, dude."

Intent on keeping himself unexposed, Sam tripped over a thick root snaking across the ground and stubbed his toe. Catching a short gasp through clenched teeth, he grabbed his foot and cursed under his breath. When the pain subsided, Sam noticed the amused expression on his brother's face. "So not funny, Dean."

"I didn't say a word." Dean shook his head, feigning a look of complete innocence.

Sam glanced down at his bare feet, a disgusted look on his face. "Shoes . . . shoes might've been nice too."

"Quit being a girl, Sammy."

"Jerk."

"Bitch."