Hey guys! So, here it is, the epilogue... it's a lot shorter than an actual chapter (about 1/3 the length) but I figured that since it was the epilogue and the end of this story, that would be okay. I hope you guys think so too and don't feel jipped by the shortness of this chapter...
Okay, time for a massive THANK YOU!!! to everyone who read this story, seriously, you guys have no idea how much I enjoyed writing this and a good chunk of that was because I knew other people were out there reading it and enjoying it too so THANKS a billion times over to anyone who sent me a review, marked the story (or me) as a favorite, put it on your alerts, or just read it silently! All of you seriously rock and made this be a really fun experience for me (despite the seriousness of the story matter)! I really appreciate everyone's support throughout this story and I hope you will like the way it is concluded and will let me know your thoughts on this final chapter. Thanks again for everything and I hope to *see* all of you for the 3rd story, 'Family Matters' which I think I will try to post the first chapter of in a couple of weeks.
Alright, enjoy! :)
TWO WEEKS LATER
Dean smiled as Sam lead Ace out to the backyard to do his morning business and then walked back into the kitchen to take a seat at the kitchen table. He smiled, trying to keep the shock off of his face when he realized that his brother was wearing both a short sleeve shirt and a pair of shorts. The only time he had ever seen his brother in shorts was when they had gone to the water park and he was amazed that Sam had opted to wear that particular clothing item. He kept silent about it though as the last thing he wanted was to make his brother feel self-conscious when he'd finally managed to crawl out from behind his tendency to hide away and blend in with the shadows. I'll be damned he thought as he mentally pumped his fist into the air. Dean walked over to hand his brother his breakfast, smirking to himself. "You got any plans for after school today?" Dean asked as he took his own seat at the table.
Sam shrugged with a non-committed attitude. "Don't really know yet." He answered as he cut into the meat and cheese omelet Dean had made for him. He thought that maybe his group would hang out for a while since it was finally the start of summer… after all, wasn't celebrating the first day of freedom typically what teenagers did when school let out for the year? Freedom… Sam wasn't sure how he was going to handle not having the structured schedule of school to help guide how his time was spent. Did he lock himself back in the house until school started up or was summer more like an extended weekend where it was okay to spend time with both his brother and his friends? And what about Kate… the two of them hadn't gone on an official date, just the two of them to some little restaurant or gone to the movies as Kate had suggested they do yet, and Sam was, admittedly, a bit nervous about just how many of those little outings this summer would bring.
Three months Sam thought, unsure of how this summer would go knowing that last summer, Dean had been the one 'in charge' so to speak, the one coming up with ideas on where to go and what to do as Sam was still working hard to come out of his shell and when he thought about it, he still was. He still had moments where something would trigger a memory of the abuse and neglect and though he wouldn't fall into the mute and dark place where even Dean had a hard time reaching him as much as he used to, his fears and shyness still crept up from time to time. Now though, Sam had his big brother, friends and girlfriend, who he still was in a somewhat shocked state about, to consider too and he wondered briefly if the freedom that summer offered would dampen his newly starting relationships. He really hoped not as he was actually enjoying having friends to call his own. That was all he'd ever really wanted, with being a kid shuffled between different homes and centers with no one who was really his and wanted him, to belong to someone was all he could ever have asked for and now that he had found it... well, Sam wasn't ever going to let go.
That wasn't to say that this whole prospect of belonging to a group of people who were his age and wanted nothing more than to hang out with him wasn't scary because at times, Sam was still downright terrified at what could go wrong if he screwed up. It isn't up to just me he reminded himself, trying to continue to believe that he had the right to protect himself, that if someone wasn't nice or didn't treat him fairly then he could choose not to be friends with them. And that stunned Sam to a certain degree because he'd never had that choice before. When he was little and before Frank, it was simply due to parents and teachers, consciously and unconsciously, teaching their children and Sam's fellow classmates not to interact with the kid who obviously didn't come from the same kind of homes that they did. And then later, it had been Frank being the one to decide who Sam could 'hang out' with and hadn't that worked out excellently? But now, it was up to him. Now, he had a say in who he surrounded himself with… it was his choice and sure other people could offer their opinions on what he should do and God, did he love having his big brother to turn to but when it really came down to it, Sam was the one with the last say.
Dean nodded. "Well, just let me know, 'kay?" He asked as he liked to know where Sam was whenever he wasn't in Dean's sight. He guessed a part of him was paranoid but he thought that with having an unknown number of Sam's potential rapists and attackers still out in the general public, he was allowed to be a more cautious and protective than other big brothers might be. "Sam?" He repeated when his brother didn't answer him. He looked up to see Sam staring out towards the direction of the front of the house, seemingly lost in thought. Dean was relieved though to see instead of fear and worry etched on his brother's face, there was a sense of peace and calm. The kid looked happy.
Things are going to be okay he thought to himself as he watched his brother. He knew that there would probably always be some struggle for them to get through but that was what life was, wasn't it? A struggle to get to the good stuff and Dean knew without a shadow of a doubt that his kid brother was going to beat absolutely any struggle that came his way… Sam was a fighter and one tough cookie that didn't crumble easily. That had been proven time and time again, not just in the past two years but throughout Sam's entire life. And besides, he now had his awesome big brother who swore to kick anyone's ass who messed with the younger brother. Both Sam and Dean were brought out of their thoughts when they heard someone knocking on the front door.
Sam quickly finished his breakfast as Dean stood and answered the door. "Hey guys, come on in." He said, inviting Sam's three friends into the house.
A moment later, Sam walked out into the front hall with his backpack slung over his shoulder. He smiled when he saw Bobby, James, and Kate talking with Dean as they waited for him. He knew that his friends didn't have to do this; they didn't have to come pick him up every morning just so he wouldn't have to walk into school by himself but they did and Sam was beginning to understand why. It was the same reason why they had come to see him after Ryan and Zack had pulled that prank or why they had left the card and Christmas present for him after he'd had his first surgery done… it was because they cared. They cared about him, not what condition his clothes were in and what their parents said about people of 'his status' but him… his wants and dreams and nothing else, just like Dean did. To them, as he was to Dean and their friends, he was just Sam and that was really all he had ever wanted to be.
Dean silently observed his brother's interaction with Kate, watching as how the two shy teenagers flashed each other sweet smiles before Kate finally walked over to Sam and took his hand in hers. Sam had hung out with Kate only a few more times since the two had become an official couple two weeks ago though it had only been at their house. Sam was a bit nervous about meeting Kate's parents for a second time with his new position of being their daughter's boyfriend despite both Dean and Kate constantly telling him that her parents were aware of the fact that the two of them were dating and seemed to be alright with it. Hell, Dean was pretty sure that out of the two sets of parents, he was the more nervous one because even though Kate seemed like a sweet girl and he doubted she would ever do anything to intentionally hurt Sam, he worried about how his kid brother would react to normal things that all couples went through. On the other hand, he couldn't help but be proud of his brother for taking a chance on starting a relationship with someone that was more than friends and certainly different than their brotherly connection, even after all the hurt Sam had experienced. "Go have a good day last day, alright?" He said after he'd glanced at his watch and realized that if the group didn't want to be late, then they had better get a move on.
Sam smiled as he nodded. "Yeah, I will." He replied, having the most amount of confidence in his voice that Dean had ever heard.
Sam couldn't believe that the long and rather tumultuous year was over with or that he had stuck it out. He remembered wanting to quit and just going back to being tutored by Mike until he could get his high school diploma at the start of the year before Ryan and Zack had been expelled or the terror that the attack at the diner had caused and his subsequent hiding. Yeah, this may not have been the smoothest year but as Sam looked around at the people surrounding him, he knew that it was worth it… they worth it and slowly, Dean, James, Bobby, and Kate were teaching him that he could be worth something too. "Bye Dean, I'll see you later." Sam smiled at his brother, his dimples showing.
"Yeah Sammy, I'll see you later." He said, smiling affectionately back at his brother and watching as the small group exited the house minus one member but Dean, really and honestly, liked his brother's group of friends better this way. He knew he could trust the three of them to look out for the kid when he couldn't be around but they had also helped him get through to the kid that protecting yourself wasn't a crime or something done only by 'good' people, everybody had that right.
He can stand up for himself Dean thought as he remembered how proud he had felt to finally get to see his brother assert himself. He had gone out to the front office to get some costumer information for the car he was working on when he had noticed his brother sitting on the front steps of the shop. A further look outside had revealed Andy to be standing a few feet away causing the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He didn't trust the kid and had waited by the door, ready to go intervene if needed. He had been taken back when Andy had begun to apologize but as Andy had continued to talk, Dean had felt as if maybe Andy wasn't apologizing for the right reasons. Because yeah sure, the kid had mentioned how he had acted like a jerk and all but he hadn't said anything about hurting Sam and Dean hoped that his brother would realize that. It wasn't that he wanted Sam to hold grudges or become unforgiving to people who genuinely meant their apologies; he just wanted the kid to realize that just because someone said sorry, it didn't mean that he had to accept it and he had been shocked when Sam had told Andy no. As he had watched his brother stand by himself on the steps, he had begun to worry though that maybe Sam would begin to have second-thoughts about not taking Andy's friendship back and he wanted the kid to feel confident in his decision making so he had walked outside and slid an arm around his brother's shoulders, hoping Sam would get just how proud he had made his big brother.
"Yeah, it's gonna be okay." Dean muttered to himself, finally feeling like he could breathe easier for the first time in a while. Seeing his brother surrounded by his friends and the fact that they made him happy enough for his dimples to show up helped to give Dean the confidence that even though this year had been a rough one, Sam still had the strength to fight and Dean knew that as long as his brother was fighting to reclaim his life, he would be right there beside him because without even consciously doing so, Sam had saved Dean from a self-pitying and angry existence and Dean owed it to his kid brother, his hero, to make sure Sam was never sent back to the hell that he had to endure for four years because Dean knew that without Sam, he would surely return to his own lonely hell.
Hey! So, how was that? Did it sum up everything okay, I hope so. Thanks again so much for reading, I really appreciate all of you taking the time out of your busy schedules to read this :) I hope you'll let me know what you thought of the story's conclusion and I promise I will get started on 'Family Matters' as soon as I can. Thanks again and have a great weekend! :)