An Early Afterlife of Ordinary Days
By unperfectwolf
Rated: pg
Warnings: tag for episode 2x22 and 2x21.
Fandom, Pairing: Supernatural, Gen: Ellen Harvelle
Summary: Coda for episode 2x22, "All Hell Breaks Loose Pt 2".
Disclaimer: not mine, never was mine, never will be mine.
Notes: 1,010 words. thanks to Sara, AGAIN! title from Linda Pastan's poem "An Early Afterlife", as is the verse below. Originally published 5/18/2007.

An Early Afterlife of Ordinary Days

And we would bask
in an early afterlife of ordinary days,
impervious to the inclement weather
already in our long-range forecast.
Nothing could touch us. We'd never
have to say goodbye again.

- Linda Pastan, "An Early Afterlife" 1995

They don't tell her right off. In fact, she doesn't remember what the kid at the cemetery said to Sam, too worried about the gun to her head and the fact that a door to Hell has just opened to really try and recall what he said.

But eventually, she figures it out. She can't bring herself to be mad at the kid, not like Bobby is. She can see it in Sam's eyes, the despair that maybe he won't figure it out in time, that maybe he won't come up with a way to save Dean. They all know Dean won't fight when the end comes, that he won't risk Sam to stay alive. It just makes Sam all the more determined to figure it out.

She watches them from a distance as they round up demons. The two have never moved so quick or with such determination. Dean wants to have as many as he can cleared off the face of the earth by the time his year rolls around, and Sam needs to take out every demon he can with the hope that it's the one that Dean owes his soul to.

The Roadhouse is rebuilt. Jo shows up on day two of the raising, keeps her distance from Sam and Dean at first, but doesn't make a deal about it when they all end up hauling roofing up together. There are words, intense and hushed, and afterwards, some of the tension is gone. Ellen doesn't ask, and they don't volunteer, and somehow she's glad because she never wants to hate a Winchester, especially not with what she's seen in the last while.

Hunters start floating through two days after she opens again, all of them shaken by the fact that hell was opened, all of them curious as to what happened and how. The demons are out there, but they're not an army because there's no real leader now. The fact that the charge was headed off by a Winchester shuts a few mouths and keeps those who Gordon blabbed to in line. If it doesn't, one look at Ellen does, because she's not into hearing anything about those two boys, not after what happened.

One year creeps up. It's been a long one, a harsh one. Jo's still home, but she's living a few miles down the road with a guy Ellen's not so sure she likes. It doesn't matter, though, because her daughter shows up most nights to help with the bar, and that means she's not out hunting one of the 200 demons.

Dean and Sam disappear off the charts just about a month before a year is up. Bobby shows up two weeks later, pale and drawn, worried out of his mind. He and John were buddies, she knows. They might have had their disagreements, but Bobby, he loved those boys like they were his own, and with them missing, he's tied up in knots.

Reports of seeing the boys down in Mississippi float in, rumors of a devil's trap and a deal and destroyed crossroads. A year ticks by, and no word from them. Bobby drinks, and Ellen worries, and Jo picks up what they forget to do when they take to pacing.

Nearly two months later, Ellen's head snaps up at the familiar sound of a sleek black Impala rolling into her yard. Bobby's still floating around, having nearly started living in the spare room. He's up and at the door as fast as she is, both of them standing on either side like worried parents after a road trip gone wrong.

Dean gets out of the driver's side, limping a little with a long scar across his chin, but he's grinning. Sam slips out of the passenger side, laughing at something, a little worse for the wear and a black eye, but they can't see anything else. Neither boy has much to say on where they've been, but in the next few months, there aren't many demons left to go after. Things start to settle into normal, the boys swinging through every few weeks or calling when they can't. Bobby goes home, but he's back too often, and after while he's got more of his library at her place than his.

Five years after the hellmouth, Dean gets sideswiped by a wendigo and can't drive for a month. Instead of letting Sam do it, even though they all know he can, the two stick around the roadhouse. Ellen puts them to work, and even after Dean's healed as much as he ever will, they don't go far.

That's when hunters start showing up and looking for them there, expecting them to be there. Instead of just asking if they've been in recently, people are asking if they're around. Gordon gets out of prison and comes looking for them, but instead of finding a lot of people willing to help him off demon spawn, he finds a lot of people willing to defend of one of the people who helped save the world.

When she turns 65, the boys throw her a party. She didn't want it, told them so, and still they rounded up every hunter they knew and had a night she'd remember for a long time. It's then, with Dean behind the bar serving up drinks and Sam taking things to and from tables, that she looks up and realizes that they're family now. They're such a part of her life that when they go out on a hunt and get stuck with no cell reception for over a week, she's about to send out search and rescue in the form of a group of worried hunters.

They laugh about it when they get back, but it never happens again. They don't stop hunting after that, but more and more is passed off onto someone else. When Jo's boy hits 15 they take him on his first hunt. Jo stays behind and frets, and looking at her, Ellen sees herself when Dean and Sam are gone.