Well, here it is. The last looong chapter. I probably should have split this into two chapters, but since I stated there would only be one more, I didn't want to go back on that. Oh, and I should definitely mention that this has not been beta'd, so any goofs are completely mine. So, with my apologies for the length of this beast...enjoy! I'll see ya at the bottom!
A Mother's Love
Sam Winchester felt a bit odd sitting, well, laying in the back of the Impala. For the better part of ten years, minus his stint at Stanford, Sam had ridden shotgun in his brother's classic car, even managing to get behind the wheel a few times over the last several months. It was also the first time in practically forever that he'd had to share the backseat with anyone. But Sam couldn't complain too much about the seating arrangements as he looked down fondly at his backseat companions.
Sam smiled contentedly as tightened his arms around Jenna and Steve Donovan. The two children had insisted on riding in the back with Sam, using his lanky, muscular body for a mattress as they finally succumbed to the lure of slumber.
Sam felt a sneeze threatening as a strand of Jenna's long blonde hair tickled at his nose. Moving slowly, he dislodged his left hand from around Steve's shoulder and smoothed down the little girl's hair. He scrubbed his hand across his nose, pushing away the sneeze that would surely wake the sleeping children.
Sam's finger brushed lightly against the back of Steve's neck as he brought his hand back around the boy. Steve shifted and whimpered at the touch before snuggling closer to Sam. A red three inch welt marred the back of Steve's neck, looking raw and painful. Sam squinted and ran a finger just above the strange wound, trying to determine the cause of the injury.
The car hit a pothole, giving it's passengers a jolt. Sam winced as the two children stirred, but thankfully did not waken.
Stretching his neck forward, Sam sent a good-natured crack up to the front seat. "You wanna take it easy there, Speed Racer?"
Dean craned his neck around to glare at a smirking Sam before returning his attention to the road. "You try driving with a forty pound appendage attached to your side." Dean grumbled in response.
Dean was actually driving quite well, considering his right arm was doubling as a teddy bear of sorts to a sleeping Becky. The little girl snuggled close to Dean's side, her head resting just below his shoulder as she clung to his arm. Becky had practically adhered herself to her savior, never leaving his side even once throughout the long and arduous trek through the wilderness and back to the car.
Jenna stirred, murmuring as she shifted into a more comfortable position. Sam bit his lip as her leg knocked into Sam's badly sprained knee. Breathing through the pain, he put his hand on her lower leg, ready to grab the fidgety limb the next time she moved.
"You all right back there, Sammy?" Dean asked, his green eyes glued to the rearview mirror.
Sam rolled his eyes, more at the dreaded nickname than the question. From the moment they reunited in the cave, Dean had made it a point to drop as many "Sammy's" as possible. His little game had not been lost on Jenna, who in turn tortured her own little brother. However, whereas Dean had inserted the word during normal conversation, "How ya doin', Sammy?" "You need a hand, Sammy?" "How much longer, Hop-along Sammy?", Jenna had employed a slightly less subtle approach. Dean had watched proudly as the feisty seven year old went for flat-out mockery, chanting, "Stevie, Stevie, Stevie!", over and over in a singsong voice. As expected, Steve had turned it into the age old sibling duet, whining an increasingly shrill, "Quit it!" with every breath. Even Sam had joined in, adding background vocals while he tried unsuccessfully to play mediator.
It had been one very long night.
Sam swallowed the initial response to correct Dean, hoping his voice wouldn't reflect his annoyance. "Yes, Dean, I'm fine."
The corners of Dean's eyes crinkled in the rearview mirror, his unseen grin revealing Sam was unsuccessful in hiding his exasperation.
Jenna squirmed, whimpering softly as dark images filled her dreams. Sam lowered his head closer to hers, whispering soothing words as he gently rubbed her back. After a few moments her furrowed brow smoothened. Her rapid breathing began to even out as she pulled herself into a tiny ball, her head resting against Sam's stomach.
Sam sighed and leaned his head back against the side window, thinking back to the conversations he'd had with the Donovan kids during their escape from the cave. Steve seemed to bear no ill effects from the ordeal. He remembered nothing of his kidnapping, nor his time with the bendith. In fact, the entire night had seemed like one big game to the four year old. Dean had appointed him Sam's protector, a role the child had taken most seriously. Steve had carefully guided Sam through the cave, steering the limping man through the stones and pebbles that threatened to send Sam tumbling to the ground. And although the dark woods had initially frightened him, Steve put on a brave face and stuck close to Sam's side, using the flashlight to illuminate roots and various other obstacles that lay in their path.
Steve would be fine, the memories of the night eventually would fade in time. Jenna, on the other hand, wasn't faring quite as well. Taking a page from the Winchester book of denial, the little girl had changed the subject every time Sam asked about her kidnapping. It was only after Sam sent Steve over to clear a bunch of rocks from the cave floor that she opened up, slightly, about her memories.
Jenna, too, could not recall how she had ended up in that cave. However, she did have an all too clear memory of Steve being snatched in the middle of the night by the bendith. Sam had struggled with how much of the truth he should divulge. It was always tough letting people into the sinister world he and Dean inhabited, but even more so when it came to children. After carefully weighing the options, Sam had gone with the truth. He'd even shown her the bendith's dead body while the other two children covered their eyes. Her hand had squeezed Sam's painfully as she looked upon the creature that had turned her life upside-down. Her lower lip had quivered, but to her credit, not a tear was shed. Instead she looked up at Sam with such naked grief in her eyes that Sam felt physical pain at the innocence that had been lost. Dean had looked on with sympathy and his own feelings of sadness and regret as Sam did his best to comfort the girl.
With the children asleep, Sam was finally able to catch up with Dean. Knowing the pain Jenna was going through, his first concern was how Becky was faring. Trying to keep his voice somewhat low, Sam asked what Dean had found out.
"What did Becky tell you about the bendith? Does she remember anything?"
Dean shook his head. "She remembers her mom tucking her in at night. The next thing she knew she was in the cave with Jenna and Steve, with no idea how she got there."
Sam winced. Poor kid. "What'd you tell her?"
Dean shrugged. "What could I say? I told her she must've been sleepwalking."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "That's one hell of a walk."
"Yeah, she didn't buy that one, either." Dean said. "I tried being as vague as possible; that some weird stuff had been going on, but it's all over with, and that she's safe."
Dean paused in his narrative, prompting Sam to urge him on.
"And…?" Sam pressed.
Another shrug. "And that's it. She didn't really say anything else…except that she wants her mom."
Sam closed his eyes. Ah crap, her mom. "You didn't tell her about that, did you?"
"I figured this wasn't exactly the best time to tell her that her mom's currently in jail for killing her." Dean said dully. His voice was tight with worry. Sam sighed again. Killing the bendith and her nasty little offspring had been a piece of cake compared to what they were facing now with the three kids.
"We've gotta tell her sometime." Sam was not looking forward to that conversation.
"We can deal with that later. First we've gotta take out those two little bastards that are still shadowing as Jenna and Stevie." Dean pointed out.
"Steve." Sam corrected automatically, his mind already flashing back to the two crimbil he'd encountered at the Donovan's. It was the middle of the night; how the hell were they going to handle this? Dump off the kids at the door, bolt up the stairs and blast the two creatures right between the eyes?
Sam voiced his thoughts to Dean, who turned around and gave a sly smile.
"Sounds good to me."
Becky's tiny hand was warm in Dean's left hand, a sharp contrast to the cold steel in his right. He readjusted his grip, his finger curling around the trigger in anticipation of filling the final two crimbils full of lead.
Dean locked eyes with Sam, each holding the gaze for several seconds before shifting downward towards the children.
Standing on her own front porch, Jenna's brave front had begun to crumble. Unlike the other children, Jenna had been cursed with the truth. Dean couldn't even begin to imagine what must be going through her head right now. Sam had done his best to fill in only the necessary blanks for her, shielding her from the more vile details. Although Dean had initially questioned Sam's choice to show Jenna the dead bendith, it was the right choice. Her innocence had been lost the moment she witnessed her mother attacking her brother, her mother's seemingly crazy rants about ghosts and monsters confirming that the thing Jenna had seen spiriting away Stevie was real. As terrible as that night must have been, the real horror must have been in the days following, knowing that more than likely the same fate would befall her.
"Daddy's coming!" Stevie announced, lightly padding from one pajama-clad foot to the other in anticipation. The glow inside the house got brighter as various lamps were switched on.
Jenna moved closer to Sam. "You're sure he's my Dad? What if he's….you know?" Her blue eyes bounced from the window to the door and back again.
Sam looked at Dean, then glanced down at Stevie and Becky. Dean nodded that he'd gotten the message. The other kids were still in the dark as to what had really happened. It was bad enough Jenna was forced into the dark world of the supernatural; there was no way they would let Stevie and Becky be tainted as well.
Dean turned his attention to the two children, distracting them so Sam could talk openly to Jenna. "Remember, you are to stay with Sam until I come back out and tell you it's ok. Got it?"
"But I wanna help! I can show you where the fire stingers are!" Stevie whined.
Dean sighed. The cover story he'd fed the children, that he and Sam were fire fighters sent to do a thorough check of the house to ensure everything was up to code, had backfired, as the impressionable four year old wanted nothing more than to stay at their side. Although he could tell Becky didn't buy it for a second, she didn't question Dean, still willing to go along with anything her hero said.
"They're fire extinishers, and I already told you, Stevie, you have to stay out of the house until I'm completely done. Understand?" Dean looked sternly at the blonde, who scowled back at him.
"It's Steve." Steve corrected emphatically. Dean didn't respond to the correction, simply maintaining his firm gaze until Steve gave a reluctant nod. Becky also nodded her understanding, her hand still wrapped tightly around Dean's.
Dean gave another long suffering sigh. Kids.
Dean looked over at Sam, who also gave Dean a nod. His arm was draped paternally around a still nervous, but somewhat more settled Jenna.
The front door opened, a groggy and confused Mr. Donovan blinking at the visitors.
Mr. Donovan's bloodshot eyes widened as he looked down at the faces of his children.
"Hi Daddy!" Steve said brightly, a huge grin stretched across his face.
"Jenna? Stevie? What the…? What are you doing with my children!?" Mr. Donovan looked back into the house, then down at the three children standing on his front porch.
"Mr. Donovan, listen to me very carefully." Dean paused as Mr. Donovan's attention focused onto his children. "Hey! Mr. Donovan, I need you to listen to me." he repeated once the older man's rapidly blinking eyes had finally settled on Dean. "I need you and the kids to stay out here with Sam. Whatever you hear, do not come into the house until I come and get you. Do you understand me?"
Dean pulled his gun out from behind his back, positioning it so only Mr. Donovan could see. The father of two gaped at Dean, his stubbly face turning pale at the sight of the weapon.
"Take whatever you want, just don't hurt my children." Mr. Donovan pleaded, reaching a tentative hand out.
"Daddy! They're fire fighters. They don't hurt people." Steve haughtily corrected his father.
Dean rolled his eyes. Grabbing Mr. Donovan's arm, he pulled him out of the house and switched places with him. "Do not move from this spot." he ordered. Exchanging one final look with Sam, Dean shut the door.
Dean moved stealthily down the hallway, making his way to the staircase. Edging up the carpeted stairs, Dean listened for any signs of movement coming from the upstairs bedrooms.
Dean peeked around the corner, taking in the four doorways. A tiny bit of light streamed from three of the rooms, probably from nightlights. Dean crept past the first room, a bathroom, and made his way past the parents' bedroom.
Dean approached the third room. His gun at the ready, he paused just long enough to see long blonde hair cascading across the pink bedspread. Dean moved down to the final bedroom. After confirming the presence of the sleeping crimbil, Dean quietly closed the door and went back to Jenna's room.
Dean took a small penlight from his pocket and shined it right onto the closed eyelids of the slumbering creature. He nudged the bed with his leg, pushing the mattress several times and shaking awake it's occupant.
The creature's childlike hand went up to shield itself from Dean's light, but not before he caught the unearthly gleam reflected in the glow of the penlight. The crimbil was still blinking it's way into wakefulness when Dean made his move.
"Nighty night, bitch." Dean pulled the trigger, hitting the creature right between the eyes.
Unlike the crimbil that had taken Jenna's likeness in the cave, this one retained it's stolen form in death. The creature stared lifelessly up at it's killer, the catlike glow of it's eyes the only indication of the monster that was hidden beneath.
One down, one to go.
Dean left the room immediately and stalked back to Steve's room. Jerking the door open, he rushed into the bedroom and aimed the light directly onto the crimbil's glowing eyes. The creature was sitting up in bed, undoubtedly awakened from the loud report of Dean's gunshot. Not even bothering with a wiseass quip, Dean fired one final time. The crimbil jerked as the bullet slammed into it's skull. Dean watched in grim satisfaction as the form of Stevie Donovan fell back onto the pillows, the final crimbil dead.
"Now that's what I'm talk— ow!" Dean victory grin turned into a grimace as a wave of pain rippled across his ribs. Putting the gun and light away, he gingerly wrapped his arms around his middle and approached the bed.
Dean stared down at the dead crimbil, weaving slightly as the adrenaline started to wear down, allowing exhaustion to set it. Dean nudged the mattress with his knee, watching as the crimbil's head lolled to the side.
"That is one seriously ugly mother—" Dean's cell phone rang, cutting off his flowery statement.
Dean checked the caller ID, already knowing it was a concerned Sam on the other end. He flipped the phone open, answering with a weary, "It's done."
Dean made his way down the stairs as he answered the question. "Dude, I so need a beer." Pausing at the bottom of the staircase, Dean asked his question. "How are things out there?"
"I filled him in on everything, although I'm not sure how much of it he believes."
"I have a feeling seeing the bodies of two dead monsters lying in his children's bed will go a long way in convincing him." Dean hung up as he pulled open the front door.
A pale Mr. Donovan leaned against one of the wooden uprights, an arm around each of his children. Becky ran over to Dean, grabbing tightly to his arm and staring up at him with large frightened eyes.
Stevie pulled away from his father and walked over to Dean. "Did we win?"
Dean caught Sam's eyes as he answered Stevie's question.
"Yeah, Stevie. We won."
It had been three days since Sam and Dean had reunited the real Jenna and Steve with their father. Three long days of holing up in their seemingly shrinking motel room, the brothers' unconsciously competing to see who could be the better nursemaid, and who could drive the other more insane.
Dean paced around the room, using his shoulder to keep the cell phone at his ear as he reached down to adjust the pillows that surrounded Sam's leg. Deep in the midst of his own telephone conversation, Sam could only reach forward and slap Dean's hands away, glaring at his brother and mouthing the words, "It's fine!"
Dean glared back but relented, moving away from the bed and heading over to the window. Turned away from Sam's prying eyes, Dean reached under his shirt and gently tugged on the bindings that wrapped his entire midsection. A pit stop to the ER had uncovered that Dean had suffered not only two cracked ribs, but that he'd also pulled a rib muscle. Certainly nothing life threatening, but enough to put a serious crimp in his lifestyle. While he was definitely ready to take a small break from hunting the supernatural, he was way overdue in his pursuits of the female variety. However, due to his unfortunate injury, it looked as if the ladies of Trinity would just have to make do without him. Pity.
The tinny muzak that had assaulted Dean's ear finally ceased as he was finally taken off hold. His slightly hunched posture automatically straightened as he listened attentively to the information on Elaine and Becky Lanigan. Dean interjected his own questions here and there, ending the call with a meek, "Thanks." and slamming the cell phone down on the table. While he'd gotten all the information he'd needed, it wasn't exactly the news he'd wanted.
Running a hand through his hair, Dean sighed and used his foot to move one of the hard backed wooden chairs out from the table. Moving it so it faced away from Sam, Dean carefully straddled it and stared at his brother. He drummed his fingers lightly on the back of the chair and listened as Sam tried to wrap up his conversation with the Jenna Donovan.
Sam's dimples were working overtime, making an appearance every few seconds as Sam seemed incapable from keeping a grin from his face. Sam's hazel eyes shot over to Dean, twinkling happily as he posed another question. His chin dipped down as he let loose a throaty laugh. Sam's mood was infectious, and Dean soon found himself smiling over at his kid brother. After the hell Sam had been through the last few days, it felt beyond fantastic to see him happy.
Ten minutes later, Dean's smile had faded while his impatient finger tapping had gone into triple time. Sam's chuckles now bordered on aggravating as Dean mentally willed him to hang up the damn phone!
Dean's patience fell away like the last drop of sand in a very small hourglass. Rolling his eyes, he cleared his throat very loudly. Sam continued with his conversation, prompting Dean to redouble his efforts. This time Sam responded by holding up his pointer finger, indicating he'd just be one more minute.
Dean resisted the urge to flash Sam one of his own fingers, and resumed his impatient drumming. At the end of the promised minute, Dean couldn't take it any more.
"Yo!" Dean splayed his arms outward, his eyes wide as he stared at Sam. "You wanna wrap up the girl talk, already? For cryin' out loud!"
Sam frowned at Dean, but began the effort to end the conversation.
"Jenna. Jenna, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I really have to get going. Yeah, yeah." Sam's eyes flitted back to Dean, smiling mischievously. "Yeah, he is. Yeah, I know, but he's my brother." Sam threw his head back and guffawed loudly. "You noticed that too, huh? No, it's better off not telling him. Trust me on that."
Dean narrowed his eyes into the big brother death stare, silently warning Sam that if the next few words didn't include, "Goodbye," Dean was going to begin pelting him with the greasy, ice cold french fries that sat on the table, left over from the previous night's dinner.
"All right, I'll talk to you soon. Ok, hun, bye." Sam hung up the phone and raised his eyebrows at Dean as if to say, "Happy now?"
Dean cocked his head to the side, giving his own silent answer. "About damn time!"
Outloud, Dean got back to business. "So how's she doing?"
Sam reached down and readjusted the air cast that engulfed most of his right leg, keeping the severely sprained knee immobilized. "Better. No nightmares last night. Oh, and Steve's coming home the day after tomorrow."
Dean grinned. "That's great."
The morning after The Winchesters had reunited Mr. Donovan with his children, the stressed out father had taken Steve to the police station, demanding they release his wife immediately, and that all charges be dropped. Insisting a horrible mistake had been made, Mr. Donovan vehemently denied that his wife had attacked their son. The police had been completely baffled as they looked at Steve's flawless skin, the deep cuts and abrasions that had marred his body only one day earlier, completely gone. Child services had taken the child away, checking him into the hospital for a series of physical and emotional tests to try and uncover the truth.
"So are they releasing Mrs. Donovan?" Dean asked, hoping for a true happy ending.
Sam shook his head. "No. Well, not yet. Although the doctors were able to back up Mr. Donovan's claim, there's still the matter of the police report, the pictures and medical reports detailing the extent of the attack. But, with Steve showing no physical signs of the attack, plus passing a lie detector test— "
"They put him through a lie detector test?" Dean interrupted incredulously.
Sam nodded before continuing. "The D.A.'s going to have a hell of a time prosecuting this one. It'll take a while, and Mrs. Donovan'll probably have to have supervised visits with the kids, as well as massive amounts of therapy, but I think, in time, the family will be back together."
The brothers sat in a comfortable silence for a few moments, each lost in their own thoughts. Sam was the first to speak, asking Dean what he'd found out about the Lanigans.
Dean blew out a breath, wishing his own story had a better ending.
"The cops still have no clue what to make of that one." Dean began.
"Becky's still at the foster home?" Sam asked.
"Mmhhmm." Dean stuffed a cold, limp, day old french fry into his mouth. "I guess she's gone through much of the same testing Stevie went through. Her dad's in town, fighting for temporary custody while the whole thing gets straightened out."
Sam gaped as Dean devoured several more fries, momentarily distracted by his loud chomping. "Um, so what about the charges against Mrs. Lanigan?"
"Well, they burnt "Becky's," Dean made greasy air quotes with his fingers, "ashes, so they caught a break there. But they still have to deal with the other physical evidence, as well as Mrs. Lanigan's signed confession. Even though Becky's alive, they still have a murder to solve." Dean paused to down another fry. "We'll just have to wait and see, and hope it all works out in the end."
Sam's mouth was twisted in a miserable frown. "Yeah, I guess."
Dean silently observed his troubled brother, knowing the effects of this case would be staying with him long after they left the tiny hamlet. Needing to say something to fill the uncomfortable silence, Dean softly asked, "You ok?"
Sam snorted, keeping his eyes cast downward. "Just peachy." he answered dryly.
Dean stared at Sam for a few more moments. Forget the cold, dark graveyards, the mind numbing terror, the numerous injuries and constant threat of death...this was the worst part about hunting. Dealing with the emotional aftermath.
Dean got up and walked over to Sam's bed. Stiffly positioning himself near Sam's knees, he sat facing his little brother. Sam's eyes bounced up for the tiniest second before retreating, the slope of his shoulders decreasing as they followed his gaze downward.
Dean opened his mouth to speak, then abruptly closed it. The line between a heartfelt pep talk and a nausea inducing chick flick moment was a very thin one. He needed to choose his words carefully.
"Look, I know you wanted the storybook, 'They all lived happily ever after,' ending, but life doesn't always work that way." Dean frowned as Sam rolled his eyes. Dean switched gears. "Sam, three children are alive because of us. We saved their lives!"
"Please. They were in a cave listening to music." Sam shook his head. "Destroying all those lives, stealing children just to teach them music. It's just so damn ludicrous."
Dean blew out a nervous breath. He'd held back a horrible fact when recounting his discovery of the children, not wanting to further burden Sam's conscience. However, given the rock bottom state Sam was in, Dean decided to tell him the truth.
"There was more going on in there besides just music, Sammy."
Sam finally looked up, hesitant curiosity tingeing his tone. "What do you mean?"
"Did you notice the marks on the kids' necks?" Dean asked, referring to the comma-shaped welts that had been on each of the children.
Sam tilted his head to the side as if remembering, then nodded.
"I think the bendith was feeding off the kids somehow. You know, their…" Dean snapped his fingers, searching for the correct word, "…their lifeforce or something."
Sam pursed his lips, a far away look in his eyes as he tried to sort through the new information. "But why--?"
Dean sighed. He really didn't want this next fact to come to light. "Sam, the place where I found the kids was littered with bones. Human bones."
Sam's face paled. "Oh God."
"Remember Michael? Hannah Eagan's son? He showed up ten years after his mother supposedly killed him, yet he hadn't aged a day." Dean recounted.
"He hadn't aged because the bendith had been feeding off him all those years." Sam finished slowly, real understanding finally dawning. "I wonder how he got away?"
Dean shrugged. "He's lucky he did." Dean leaned slightly forward and lightly bumped Sam's arm with his fist. "And it's damn lucky Jenna and the others had us in their corner, or else…" Dean trailed off, hoping his words were enough to bring Sam some comfort.
Sam dropped his head again, whispering, "Yeah. Or else."
Dean frowned. This was not going the way he'd hoped.
"Sam, look at me." Dean ordered in a no-nonsense tone. Sam sluggishly lifted his gaze, his thick bangs not quite covering the tense lines of his forehead.
Dean ducked his head so his eyes were level with Sam's. "We did a good thing here. We saved three innocent lives and killed a whole clan of butt ugly creatures all in one day, and still managed to walk away relatively intact." Dean looked down at Sam's cast. "Well, limped away."
Sam smiled at Dean's gentle quip, even managing a small laugh as he gently pushed his fingers against his thigh. "Yeah, I guess we did."
Dean smiled. "Damn right we did."
Dean settled back, silently regarding his brother. It would take some time, but Sam would be alright. Dean cleared his throat, changing the subject.
"What do you say we get a move on? If I spend one more day looking at these four walls, I'm gonna go postal." Dean said, already hoisting himself off the bed and heading over to the dresser.
"Are you sure you're up to driving? Maybe we should stay a few more days, you know, heal up a bit more." Sam asked.
"Dude, I broke a few ribs, not my hands." Dean turned around. "Besides, you can keep tabs on Jenna just as easily by cell phone as you can from here." Sam scowled when Dean called out the real reason Sam wanted to stay. "Good try, though."
Dean resumed packing, quickly finishing up his bag, then moving on to Sam's. He could feel the younger man's eyes boring into his back as Dean shoved the clothes into the large duffle bag.
Dean's ears perked up as the all too familiar sound of a hand reaching into a bag of candy immediately followed Sam's voice. A split second later a volley of M&Ms sailed through the air, pelting him on the back of the neck and shoulders.
Dean ducked his head, whipping around. ""Dude, what the hell?"
Sam grinned somewhat sheepishly, looking away for a second, then smiling sincerely at Dean. "Thanks, man."
Dean looked at Sam a moment, then turned back to his packing. "No big deal. You know, you really need to get some new clothes, man. Since when did you become such a mousy preppy? I mean, come on! I can't believe you're willing to be seen in this crap."
"I didn't mean for the packing, Dean. I meant—" Sam tried to correct the misunderstanding, but Dean cut him off.
Keeping his back turned so Sam wouldn't see his smile, Dean paused in his packing. "I know, Sammy. You're welcome."
Well, that's it! Thank you so much for reading along, and a massive thank you to everyone who has dropped me a line on the story. Your amazing support means more than I can possibly say. Thanks again!!