Disclaimer: Ownership of all things Supernatural is hereby forthwith denied. I absolutely refuse all profit from this and every other endeavor.

A Normal Life

by FraidyCat

It took them both by surprise.

Neither of them saw it coming, when Dean actually fell in love.

Oh, his initial attraction to the attractive redheaded waitress was expected enough. Bobby had sent them to Grants Pass, Oregon on a job. Something was killing tourists in the nearby Oregon Caves, and he had been pretty sure it wasn't stalactites. The brothers had found a small roadside motel between Grants Pass and the Caves, complete with a tiny diner next door, and called it home base for a few days while they figured out the lay of the land.

Sam was pretty sure what they were dealing with from the beginning – a simple haunting. A Park Ranger had shot himself in one of the dark and twisting underground tunnels, heartbroken after finding his bride with another man. Now his spirit roamed the caves restlessly, doing the one thing he had not been able to do when he was alive: killing other people. To the spirit, everyone who fit the general description of the one who had ruined his life – male, 30-something, good-looking – was another chance to rectify the wrong that had been done to him. Sam knew right away that something needed some saltin' and burnin'.

Dean was spending more time at the diner than the motel room OR the caves; since they were coming off a couple of rough hunts; Sam left him to his fun. Even though an afternoon spent with Google and his laptop would have produced the same results, he even drove into Medford to use the main branch of the library for his research. Dean didn't try to talk him out of it.

Turns out Sam was right. The Ranger was in a nearby historic cemetery in Jacksonville, in a family plot, surrounded by folks straight off the wagon train: Gold diggers, dead babies, Chinese railroad workers and other less-than-hardy pioneer stock. All the graveyards he had dug around in, and Sam had never seen the like before. The ornately-carved, barely-legible markers from the 1880s fascinated him. At least, that's what he told Dean, after they'd finished salting and burning. He convinced his brother he wanted to stay and study the area, spend some more time at the cemetery.

For a week, Sam found a reason to leave the small, musty motel room early every morning, before Dean even came back from the redhead's. For seven solid days, he took buses from one small town to the next and kept himself busy until late in the afternoon. He toured a cheese factory, and ate some curds. He traveled as far north as Ashland, and bought a half-price ticket to a matinee performance at the "renowned Shakespeare festival". He packed himself a picnic lunch and hiked along the edge of the mighty Rogue River, eventually falling asleep on the bank and only waking up when a curious raccoon claimed the bologna sandwich; Sam had yelped and scrambled for his gun, thinking he'd just been attacked by the world's smallest Wendigo, before his brain kicked in and reminded him he was in the freakin' wilds of Oregon. He spent half a day in a children's museum, and learned that "Bozo the Clown" hailed from Jacksonville, which was something he could have lived his entire life without knowing. That was the night he dreamed of clowns chasing him down dark alleys, their gigantic red feet slapping in rain puddles, and woke screaming. Not that anyone had been there to hear him.

That was also the night he decided that enough was enough. They'd had their little vacation; it was time to move on. The next morning he stumbled to the diner next door and ordered a paper with his breakfast. The redhead had delivered scrambled eggs, The Oregonian – and Dean, who slid into the booth opposite him smiling like the proverbial cat that ate the too-slow canary. "Hey, geek-boy. Haven't seen you in a while."

Sam lowered the paper and regarded his brother. Dean looked relaxed, happy and so comfortable it made Sam instantly uncomfortable. "I'm looking for a job," he replied almost guiltily. "Don't you think it's time we moved on?"

Dean's smile faltered, and Sam's heart fell. He had wanted his brother to have a good time, but not so good that it would be difficult for him to leave. "Sammy…" Dean glanced quickly at the redhead, swallowed, and looked back at Sam. "I…I'd kind-of like to stay."

Sam had frowned. "There's probably something else at that cemetery, but Dean, it's just going to get harder the longer we stay. Not to mention expensive." He grinned. "I know you've probably been too…busy…to notice, but there aren't a lot of bars around here where we can refuel, if you get my drift."

Dean did something Sam had never seen before in his life. He blushed. He blushed, and turned his head to look out the window. "Casey says she can get me a job as a mechanic with her brother-in-law," he said to the glass pane.

It was Sam's turn to look at the redhead, and then back to his brother, and then at the redhead again. His tongue grew thick and dry in his mouth. "God, Dean," he said quietly. "Did you fall in love?"

Dean looked back at him quickly, eyes wide with fear, pleading – or both. "Just for a while, Sammy. We can stay with Casey. She has a great little house not far from here. Hell, kid, it's what you've always wanted, right? 'Normal'?"

Sam just looked at him, his mouth a shocked "O". "What will I do?" he finally choked.

Dean smiled again, all nervous energy, and was all over the question so fast that Sam knew he had thought about it already. Talked it over with someone. Rehearsed. "There are a lot of schools around here, Sam. You could finish school. Or, get a job, if you want. Casey said she'll help." He lowered his voice a little and leaned toward Sam. "She's got a kid, a sweet little five-year-old, Erica, and an ex. He's some high falutin' attorney over in Medford and they got one of those modern, friendly divorces. She said she'll even talk to him about hiring you."

Sam leaned back in the booth and waited for the diner to stop spinning. Finally, he resorted to lying. "Dean, Bobby's got another job for us."

Dean tensed, and looked out the window again. Then he looked at the formica table top, and began to pass the salt shaker from one hand to the other. When he finally spoke again, it was barely a whisper, and Sam had to lean forward to hear him. "Do you think you can handle it alone?"

Something had broken in Sam, then.

For a few months, he used Casey's small house outside Grants Pass, Oregon – white picket fence and everything – as a home base. He took jobs he found on his own, or jobs Bobby found for him. They were all in the tri-state area, and he was never gone more than two or three days before he would come back again, always hoping that Dean would be ready to leave with him. He started taking longer jobs, and not coming back in-between them, when Casey became pregnant with Dean's child. He hunted alone. He hunted with Bobby. He even did a job or two with Bela.

Still, when a werewolf in Colorado nearly gutted him, he staggered back to the rebuilt Mustang he had picked up from Bobby and drove all night and most of the next day to get to Dean. By the time he fell out of the car in Casey's driveway, almost half of his blood supply was soaked into the front seat and he was delirious. He had returned to Dean on automatic pilot. He didn't know where he was, and he didn't care. All that mattered to him was the touch of his brother as he was lifted carefully and dragged into the house; the muttered, "I gotcha, Sammy"; the scent of love that other people thought was just axle grease and sweat.

This time, he stayed a little longer.

When his fever had broken and he could keep down toast longer than it took to eat it, he listened in speechless awe when Dean confessed that Casey knew they were hunters. He lay in sleepy, stunned silence when Dean prattled on about painting the house, going to childbirth classes and the occasional PTA meeting at Erica's school. A protective arm cradled around his gut more out of habit than due to actual pain, Sam lazily blinked at the ceiling and understood.

Turns out 'normal' wasn't waiting for him, after all.

He waited until Dean's son was born before he left for good. He still called, every so often: on Dean's birthday, say, but never on Christmas. Christmas was for normal families, and Dean deserved to spend every one from now on, with the first real family he had ever had. Other times he called when he was holed up somewhere recovering from a hunt. Thankfully he had never been as badly injured as he was in Colorado, and Sam was grateful. It wasn't that he was afraid of the pain from a hunt gone bad, so much as he was afraid that he would get scared and drive back to Dean – and eventually, he would have to leave him again. That was the pain that terrified him, the pain he had to avoid.

Sometimes, Dean called him. "I thought you were coming for your birthday," he said once, and Sam, who had been only six hours away in Northern California at the time, told him he was on the other side of the country tracking down something for Bobby. "I thought you were coming to see JJ learn to walk," Dean said the next time, and Sam had remembered that Dean's son was named after their father, but that Dean couldn't even bring himself to say the name 'John'. Hence, 'JJ'; the second 'J' was in honor of Pastor Jim. Sam had claimed to be in Louisiana that time, and maybe he even was; he had not cared enough to notice in quite a while. "I thought you might come to Erica's baptism," Dean said once, and Sam had been so shocked by the thought of Dean in church voluntarily that he had honestly regretted the fact that he was tracking a cadre of vamps in Florida.

A few days after the vamps had been dispatched, Sam was tossed out of a barn hayloft by a particularly nasty poltergeist, and he had landed on his phone and his left arm, shattering them both. He couldn't take care of that one on his own, and had driven himself, one-armed, to a hospital. There they insisted he needed surgery, and asked if they could call someone for him.

Sam thought of Dean, playing with his step-daughter and his baby son in the yard behind the white picket fence, in front of the little house in Grants Pass, Oregon. "No," he had answered. "I don't have any family."

Turns out normal wasn't waiting for Sam, after all.