Let it Go

Chapter 5

Disclaimer: See chapter 1

A/N: Well, as promised, this is the last chapter. I appreciate everyone who took the time out of their day to read and a special thanks to those who reviewed. This story has been in the works for quite a while and it's nice to have it out there... it was just nice to get it out of my system! Thanks again to Susan and Kelli for all their help.

oooOOOooo

Never let go of hope. One day you will see that it all has finally come together. What you have always wished for has finally come to be. You will look back and laugh at what has passed and you will ask yourself... How did I get through all of that? – Anonymous

oooOOOooo

It was a long night for Dean. He didn't bother to undress and it took hours for him to fall into a fitful sleep. He had a lot of dreams; images of Kristine mixed with those of Sam and his father. None of it made sense and it was all very disturbing. Finally giving up just before dawn, Dean showered and got dressed. He made coffee in the room, but was too restless to sit and drink it so he left to wander around.

Before hanging up with Sam last night, they agreed to find a job as quickly as possible. They both needed something to concentrate on; something other than the demons they had been battling over the last couple of weeks. Going after something more tangible would take their minds off of everything and they would be doing something positive.

Dean bought a newspaper, but gave up trying to read it when the words all started to blur together. He hated this impossible feeling; he didn't like being so on edge with no way to relax. Finally, he went back to the hotel and decided to make use of the gym. Physical exertion was always a good way to loosen up.

He felt somewhat better after the workout and went back to the room for another shower. He still had four hours before he could visit Kristine.

oooOOOooo

Sam awoke with a start. He had no memory of a dream, but he was uneasy nonetheless. His first thought was to call Dean, but it was still early and, though he didn't think he was, Sam hoped his brother was sleeping. He didn't have many plans for the day; the graduation ceremony was that evening and there wasn't a whole lot to do until then.

He showered and dressed, then left the apartment. Rebecca and Zach were still sleeping and he had to make his way carefully around boxes to get to the door. Zach was keeping the apartment for his final year of school, but Rebecca was starting a job in St. Louis at the end of the month and had started to pack.

After getting coffee at an outdoor kiosk, Sam walked to the university campus. With most of the students gone for the summer, it was quiet. Sam remembered spending his first year in a dorm and enjoying the solitude of being one of the few to stay on campus during breaks. It had taken him a while to start feeling comfortable, but he realized now he had never really fit in.

He began feeling a little melancholy as he passed by familiar buildings, but Sam was convinced he was where he needed to be. For now anyway. He couldn't think past killing the demon; he had no idea what life would look like then. Would he and Dean even survive the final battle?

Sam realized it upset him more to think about Dean not surviving than himself and he couldn't help but wonder what would happen to his brother without him. He knew that Dean was more than capable of going on alone, but would he want to? He thought back what happened when they thought Sam had been infected with a demon virus. Dean had been ready to die with him. Too ready.

Even though Sam spent two years on his own, he couldn't picture his life without Dean. They'd been apart for the last few days, but the phone calls were frequent. Even if they hadn't both been facing tough obstacles, Sam was sure there still would have been several conversations. He wondered if he would want to go on without Dean. Would he have the strength?

He sat down on a bench, staring at nothing in particular while he finished his coffee and tried to work his way out of the funk he'd allowed himself to sink into. He looked at his watch and was surprised to find he'd been wandering for almost two hours. The vague uneasy feeling was still there, but it wasn't disturbing so he decided to ignore it for now.

Dean tried to avoid calling Sam because he wasn't sure he could control his emotions, but then remembered what Kristine had told him about letting Sam help. He'd made steps since reuniting with his brother, but Dean knew he was still very closed off. Part of it, he supposed, was self-defense. He was still hurt by Sam's sudden departure from the family, but that was in the past and he knew it was time to let it go. Dean was also still getting used to Sam being an adult. Before leaving for school, he was still a kid who needed the shelter that Dean provided.

So, feeling only a little self-conscious, Dean called his brother. It was under the guise of just checking in, but they both knew that was only a thin veil. They talked about several things, including their plan for meeting up. Dean knew he wouldn't want to stay in town after having to leave Kristine so they decided he would follow the bus route and they'd meet somewhere along the way.

Finally, it was time to go to the hospital. Dean didn't want Kristine to worry about him so he took extra care getting ready and hoped she wouldn't notice the dark circles under his eyes. He checked in at the reception desk and was led to what would have been a pleasant room had it been anywhere else. There were comfortable couches and chairs, game tables and quiet music playing in the background. He sat on one of the couches to wait for Kristine, but was restless so he paced and eventually ended up at the window.

He could see into a garden with benches and a myriad of plants. Dean didn't know the names of any of them, but he thought they were pretty. There was nothing blooming, but he assumed some of the plants would flower in the spring and summer. Kristine enjoyed reading in the garden at the estate and he hoped she would spend time in this one.

He couldn't believe how nervous he was and, when Kristine joined him a few minutes later, he could tell she felt the same way. They stood several feet apart, uncomfortable and unsure of what to say or do. But this wasn't how Dean wanted to spend their last moments together so he forced himself to reach for her hand. He could feel her shaking.

"How are you?" he asked quietly.

She shrugged, stroking his hand with her thumb. "You look tired."

"I was up early this morning."

"Did you get any sleep?"

"Did you?" he countered.

"I had an unfair advantage. Meds."

Dean nodded uncomfortably. Kristine gestured to one of the couches and they sat down. She curled up next to him and Dean slipped his arm around her shoulders. It almost felt normal.

"So I guess you'll head out when you leave here?"

"There isn't any reason to stay if I can't see you."

"You're meeting Sam?"

"He's leaving first thing in the morning and we'll meet up somewhere along the way."

"You have the call schedule?"

"Yeah, and the number is programmed into my phone." Dean pulled her close. "Don't worry; I'll call."

"My mom and Patrick would take turns calling when I was in the hospital before. And they'd always come to visit…. But they're both gone." Kristine's voice got softer as she went on.

"I'll call," Dean promised. "And the minute they say you can have visitors, I'll be here. It doesn't matter what's going on; I'll be here."

Dean felt her nod against his shoulder.

"Does anyone else know you're here? Other than Travis, I mean?"

"Rachel knows, but I didn't tell her everything."

Dean cleared his throat. He wanted to lighten the mood; he didn't have much time and didn't want to leave when things felt so dark. "So did you unpack yesterday?"

"Not really. We have a standard uniform, as you might have noticed, and all that was already in the bureau."

Dean hadn't thought about it, but it made sense that the light sweats and t-shirt that Kristine was wearing were standard issue. He didn't want to spoil the surprise, but he put one of his own shirts in her bag along with a small teddy bear he'd given her during one of his other visits.

As they got more comfortable, the conversation gradually turned lighter and both of them were in a better mood when Kristine's counselor joined them an hour later. She spoke to them for a moment, then left to give them time to say goodbye in private before taking Kristine to her first group session.

As Dean watched, he saw walls go up around Kristine and he couldn't help but wonder how many times Sam had seen the same thing in him. He knew that she wasn't doing it because of the session she was about to attend; Kristine wanted to get help so she could go back to her life. She put the walls up so it would be easier to let him go. Normally he would do the same thing, but he thought she needed to see that it was affecting him. He knew that she trusted him to keep his word about calling, but she was still afraid. When tears formed in his eyes, he didn't try to hide them.

"I'll talk to you soon," he promised as they stood up.

Kristine only nodded.

"I know you," he said. "You're strong and you'll get through this."

"I will," she agreed. "And you – you promise you'll let Sam take some of the burden off your shoulders before it kills you?"

"How about I promise that I'll try?" He smiled wanly.

She looked into his eyes. "Okay."

Dean pulled her into his arms and held her close. She hesitated for a moment, then wrapped her arms around his waist and breathed deeply. He leaned close to kiss her and when he said that he loved her, it was so soft that she felt his voice more than heard it. She looked into his eyes and he saw her defenses waver for a brief moment.

Back in control, she stepped away. "Be careful."

Dean nodded and glanced at the counselor who was now standing in the doorway. "I will. Get better, Kristine. I'll talk to you soon."

She nodded and turned to watch him walk away. The counselor nodded at him encouragingly and he walked toward the exit determined not to look back and to make it to the car before putting up his own defenses. He got into the Impala and quickly left the parking lot. He wasn't quite ready to get on the highway, but he needed to be away from the hospital.

Dean pulled into an almost deserted parking lot and killed the engine. It was still early afternoon in California and he hoped Sam hadn't left for the graduation ceremony yet. He felt he should know, but Dean couldn't remember what time it started or when Sam planned to be there. As he listened to the phone ring, he settled back in the seat and closed his eyes. He was beginning to think Sam wouldn't answer when he heard his brother's voice.

"Hey."

"Hey."

Sam was quiet, waiting for Dean.

"I just left Kristine." The words were said softly.

"How did it go?"

"It…." Dean thought about what he had been about to say. Normally, he would make something up or joke to divert Sam from the question, but he promised Kristine he would try letting Sam help him. "It was almost as hard as watching you get on the bus to head to California the first time."

Sam wasn't prepared for his brother's honesty and didn't know what to say. He'd known it was hard for Dean to let him leave, and he'd tried to talk to him about it since they reunited, but it was something else Dean stuffed away.

"There's a lot I want to talk to you about," Dean said. "Some things happened on the way to North Carolina. I still don't understand…."

"Dude, I'm right here. You can talk to me."

"I promised Kristine that I would – hell, I don't know how to do this."

Sam didn't like the desperate tone of his brother's voice and he wished they weren't so far apart. It wasn't like they never talked about things, but more often than not, they would sit quietly together and almost absorb strength from one another. There were times when words either weren't necessary or were too hard, but being together always helped.

"There's no right or wrong way; no rules." Sam was afraid that too much had happened and he wasn't sure he'd be able to help Dean over the phone, but he had to try. "You don't have to say anything right now if you don't want to."

He waited and Dean stayed quiet.

"Are you in the car?" Sam finally asked.

"What?" Dean had been lost in his own thoughts. "Yeah."

"Have you eaten today?"

"I – I don't remember. I don't think so."

"Why don't you get something to eat and then get on the road? Find a classic rock station or put in one of your Metallica tapes and head this way. It's still pretty early; you can get in a lot of miles if you want. I might be able to get a bus out of town tonight, after the graduation –"

"No. Stay with your friends. It's a big night for Rebecca and you should stay and have a good time with her. Get on the bus in the morning; we'll still probably meet up tomorrow."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah," Dean paused. "But thanks."

"You gonna be okay tonight?"

"Sure."

"You can call –"

"I know. So when do you head out for the graduation?"

Sam took the change in topic for what it was. "A couple of hours. I'll have my phone with me."

Dean smiled to himself. "I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"For sure."

Sam tossed the phone onto his bed and clasped his hands behind his head. He was worried about Dean and hoped they were able to meet up the next day. He was sorely tempted to skip the graduation, but after booting up his computer and checking the bus schedule, he saw there was no point. The next bus going remotely in the right direction wasn't until the morning.

He paced in the small room and, needing something to do, packed his few belongings. Rebecca's father had taken the family out for a celebratory luncheon, but Sam declined the invitation. He wanted to give them time alone and he also wanted to make sure he was available when Dean called.

Sam was happy he had made the trip and, even though he missed his brother and called him whenever things were rough, he was glad he'd come alone. He could do anything with Dean beside him, but he needed to face the things in California by himself. He confronted his demons by going to the apartment where Jessica died and to the cemetery where she was buried and in a few hours he would be a spectator in a graduation ceremony he should have been a participant in.

But it was time to join Dean again. Not only did his brother need him, they belonged together. He knew that if they managed to destroy the yellow-eyed demon and leave the hunting life, they would always live near one another. He thought once that it was wrong for them to be so dependant on each other, but considering their life, he now knew that it made sense. There were some periphery people in their lives, but they really had no one they could depend on unilaterally except each other. There was evil to fight, Sam's destiny to deal with and, on top of all that, they were wanted by law enforcement. It made sense that they needed each other so deeply.

Sam supposed it had always been that way. They moved around a lot as they were growing up and even when they were in one town for any length of time, it was dangerous to make friends. Their father was often gone for long periods of time and didn't always leave them with Pastor Jim. But, no matter what, they always had each other.

He heard the Warrens coming in a few minutes later and went to the living room to greet them. It was nice being around them, but it hurt a little bit as well. Sam loved his brother and father, but he'd always wanted to be part of a normal family. More correctly, he'd wanted his family to be normal. Rebecca's father was proud of her while his own father forbade him to ever come home. Even though Sam now understood his father's reasons and his anger at him leaving, it didn't take away the years of pain. He was completely alone the first few months at school; there was no one he could turn to when he was afraid. He comprehended what happened, but he still hadn't managed to forgive his father for doing that to him.

Dean drove out of Denver before taking his brother's advice and getting something to eat. He'd been on the road for a couple of hours and wasn't even sure what town he was in. He still wasn't particularly hungry, but opted for scrambled eggs at a 24-hour diner. He assumed the food was good, though nothing had much taste for him lately. The coffee was strong and hot and he took a cup with him when he left.

He hadn't turned the radio on since pulling out of the hospital parking lot and before he got back on the highway he turned the knob. He didn't recognize the song that started to play, but realized it had to be a cassette that Kristine left. Not a fan of country music, Dean reached forward to eject the tape, but stopped short when he heard the lyrics. He pulled into the nearest parking lot and turned up the volume. As he listened to the words, he couldn't help but wonder if she'd left him the song intentionally.

Dean was normally able to drive for hours without a break, but he was tired. He wasn't that far from Denver when he stopped for the night. After a hot shower, he tried to watch a television program, but was too restless so he decided to walk to the bar across the street from the motel.

The small place was packed on this Friday night, but Dean managed to find a spot at the bar. He ordered a beer and settled back to take a look around. It was a standard middle of nowhere bar that reminded him a little of the Harvelle Roadhouse. There were young people as well as old milling about and the jukebox was playing some 80's ballad that Dean would have been just as happy not recognizing.

Seeing a young blonde woman smile at him from across the room, Dean remembered the encounters before reaching North Carolina. He still didn't understand why he had a problem with them, but wasn't interested in a repeat performance. Besides, he could still smell Kristine's perfume on his jacket. After finishing his beer, Dean decided to go back to the motel. The bar was too noisy and he was starting to feel a little claustrophobic.

He was unlocking the door when his phone rang.

"Hey, Sam. How was the graduation?"

"It was nice."

"Where are you now?"

"Outside; waiting for the Warrens. We're going to dinner. Are you driving?"

"No, I stopped for the night. I was looking at the map before and I figure I should be able to meet you tomorrow in Winnemucca, Nevada."

"Okay; we'll keep in touch. You doin' okay?"

"Yeah." Dean answered quietly as he closed the door behind him. "Not great, but okay."

"It'll be good to see you tomorrow, man."

Dean smiled to himself. "Yeah, I kinda miss my geekboy sidekick brooding in the passenger seat."

"Whatever, dude," Sam laughed.

Dean realized he'd missed the sound of his brother's laugh. There hadn't been much humor in their lives for the last few months.

"Look, I gotta go." Sam sounded reluctant. "I see Zach coming my way. If I don't hear from you first, I'll give you a call before I get on the bus."

"Sounds good."

"So." Rebecca said to Sam as she walked into the bus station with him the next morning.

"Yeah." He smiled at her.

"I'm so glad you came," she said and suddenly threw her arms around him.

Sam returned the hug and nodded to himself. "I am, too."

She pulled away and looked at him. "I know it had to be hard for you –"

Sam shook his head, but then looked into his friend's eyes. She was the one person who knew the truth about him who also knew Jessica and he knew he didn't have to lie in front of her. "Some of it was. I finally feel like I can put Jessica to rest though. I'll always love her, but…."

Rebecca nodded. "She'd want you to go on. She'd want you to be happy."

Sam couldn't help but laugh. "I'm not sure I even know how to be happy."

"You do," Rebecca reached up and touched his cheek. "You just need to let yourself."

Sam spent almost nine hours on the bus. He sent Dean a text message just before it pulled into the station in Winnemucca. Dean said he was at a gas station and would meet him in the parking lot. Sam wasn't too surprised at the excitement he felt knowing he'd be back with his brother in a matter of minutes.

He got off the bus and walked outside with his duffle bag hefted over his shoulder. Sam's heart warmed at the sight of Dean leaning against the driver side door of the Impala, his arms crossed over his chest. He stopped walking briefly and smiled at him; Dean only nodded. When Sam got closer, he saw an affectionate look in his brother's eyes.

Dean pushed himself from the car and met Sam a few steps away from it. He slapped Sam's arms, keeping a tight hold on them. "It's good to see you, man."

Sam dropped his duffle bag and smiled. "Yeah, you too."

They looked at each other for a moment, both grinning childishly. Sam didn't expect Dean to pull him into a bear hug, but he didn't hesitate in returning the embrace.

"I missed you, Sammy."

The younger man's breath caught when he heard the nickname and a warmth flooded over him. He realized this is what coming home must feel like.

After putting Sam's bags in the car, they walked down the street to a family restaurant. Dean's appetite was back and Sam needed a break from being on the road. The conversation was easy and even though they'd been in nearly constant contact since separating, there were still things to talk about. They kept things light; they had plenty of time for the heavy stuff later.

They both still wanted to find a job, something to get their mind off the last couple of weeks, but decided that the next day would be soon enough to start looking. Sam mentioned they were only about ten hours from the Grand Canyon National Park and Dean nodded, noncommittally.

Leaving the diner later, Sam impulsively put an arm around his brother's shoulders as they walked to the car. It wasn't something he would normally do, but Dean didn't pull away or make a derogatory comment.

When Dean started the engine, Sam heard music he immediately realized wasn't something his brother would have gotten for himself.

"What's this?" he asked, nodding toward the radio.

"Something Kristine left," Dean said nonchalantly.

"It doesn't sound like something you'd listen to."

Dean reached for the controls and rewound the song to the beginning. "It's nice."

Sam looked at his brother, surprised, but settled into the seat and listened to the song. The lyrics had a powerful affect on him and even once it was over, he found himself thinking about the words. They passed a road sign a few minutes later and Sam smiled. They were headed toward the Grand Canyon.

Let It Go

Written by Aimee Mayo/William C. Luther/Tom Douglas
Performed by Tim McGraw

I been caught sideways out here on the crossroads
Tryin' to buy back the pieces I lost of my soul
It's hard when the devil won't get off your back
It's like carryin' around the past in a hundred pound sack

Today, I'm gonna keep on walkin'
I'm gonna hold my head up high
Gonna leave it all behind
Today, I'm gonna stand out in the rain
Let it wash it all away, yeah wash it all away
I'm gonna let it go, Oh oh, Oh yeah
I'm gonna let it go, oh oh, Oh yeah

Skeletons and ghosts are hidin' in the shadows
Threatening me with all the things that they know
Choices and mistakes they all know my name
I'm through holdin' in and holdin' on to all that pain

Today, I'm gonna keep on walkin'
I'm gonna hold my head up high
Got no more tears to cry
Today, I'm gonna stand out in the rain
Let it wash it all away, yeah wash it all away
I'm gonna let it go, Oh oh, Oh yeah!
I'm gonna let it go, Oh oh, Oh yeah!

And I know, I know, I know I been forgiven
I know, I know, I know, I'm gonna start livin'

Today, I'm gonna keep on walkin'
I'm gonna hold my head up high
I'm Gonna leave it all behind
Today, I'm gonna stand out in the rain
Let it wash it all away, yeah wash it all away
I'm gonna let it go, Oh oh, Oh yeah!
I'm gonna let it go, Oh oh, Oh yeah!
I'm gonna let it go, Oh oh, Oh yeah!
Oh oh, Oh yeah!

Fin