As they walked out of the Beach City Grill for the last time in a long time to come, Sam decided to play it subtle, "So I rang the hospital in Lawrence." Okay, maybe not subtle. Who cares. "And they said that Dean Winchester only ever had one sibling, a younger brother."
As they approached the car, Dean knew he should thank Sam for covering all bases where his clone was concerned. For calling; for finding out the one thing Dean had been hesitant - almost scared - to do. Instead he just looked back at the store, where his double was joking with the others, and feigned puzzlement. "Sammy, are you trying to tell me you were adopted?"
As they both seated themselves in the car, Sam accepted the unspoken thanks and replied in the only way a Winchester knew how. "Jerk."
Dean started the car. "Bitch."
The trip was made in companionable silence as they exited the town, happy to be away from Henricksen yet again. It was only when they passed the city limits that something occured to Sam, and a coy smiled played his lips as regarded the scenery.
"So, what really happened to Priestly's shirt?"
The look on Dean's face as he struggled to come up with a reply was enough to let Sam know that Dean had resorted to his usual fail-safe when confronted with things he thought were evil.
Sam couldn't help but laugh. "You burned it!"
Piper was the last to arrive the next morning. Tish was already brewing coffee while Priestly wiped the dishes Jen washed.
When the customary greetings were over, a silence had settled over the shop. A familiar and yet strained silence, as they each had something to say, but weren't willing to speak up.
After a few minutes, Piper crumbled. "So, they're gone."
"It's just... I don't know." Piper looked around. "It's like I'm waiting for something else to happen."
"I know what you mean," Tish said, "It's as though the whole world's changed and now everything's different. I mean, ghosts are real. Who'd've thought?"
Priestly put the last of the dishes away and threw the tea towel over his shoulder. "John Edwards?"
His answer was met with the obligatory eye roll.
"And to think," Jen added, "there's a much better version of Priestly out there. It boggles the mind."
Priestly looked at her. There was something he had to... ahh, that's right. He raised his hands towards her neck. "Jen, come here a minute..."
She wasn't listening. In fact, she had turned deathly pale. Priestly was about to make a ghost joke - which would be even funnier now because hey, real! - when she opened her mouth. And after all he'd witnessed in the last week, her words chilled him more than any restless spirit;
"Does that mean there's a better version of me out there?" She sounded lost; a little girl on the verge of breaking.
When the silence stretched on longer than he cared for, Priestlys' hands went from mock strangulation to embracing Jen.
"Listen here Jen: even if there is someone out there who looks like you. And they could be a friggin' saint, or some sort of psycho invisible murderer-"
Tish blinked and mouthed, invisible?
Priestly ignored it and ploughed on. "-it doesn't matter. Because as far as we're all concerned, you're the one that's here with us. The one that's too nice for her own good. The indisputable 'better' one."
The others nodded in agreeance, and Jen looked up at him, hopeful and yet slightly hesitant. So he added,
"Just like I am."
The female portion of the store all snickered in unison, and he smiled at each of them in turn, his gaze lingering on Tish. She saw his smile and raised him a smirk. Then she inclined her head to the bathroom, before striding oh-so purposefully past him.
Oh, things had definitely changed alright.
Priestly made sure Jen and Piper were both distracted before he threw the towel off his shoulder and followed.
Yep, just another day in what he liked to call his own little slice of heaven.
Cookies to the person who gets the pop-culture reference there.
And a hearty thank you to everyone who read, reviewed and enjoyed this story. Particularly the reviewers, because then I knew for sure whether or not you enjoyed it.