If Dean was honest all he felt, on returning from hell and realising that everything was alright, was a strange sense of disappointment. He had expected frogs raining from the skies, rivers of blood or at least Sam looking vaguely demonic and leading an army into hell to get him back.
All he had seen was his brother looking too tired, too thin and so exhausted he could barely stand.
They took a vacation in Nevada, finally standing at the side of the Grand Canyon, staring into the abyss, eyes wide with wonder. They didn't do vacations very well, really, not used to relaxing, not used to having no where to go, nothing to kill, no real purpose at all.
All the demons were back in hell. The gate was firmly closed, evil still walked the Earth, but Dean felt it was no longer his job to curtail every bad son of a bitch between here and eternity.
All he really wanted to do was sleep.
The apartment was rickety and uncared for, paint peeling off the walls and so much damp it was nearly a swamp. The old lady had bad eyesight, sore legs and a rip in her cardigan. Sam carried her groceries up the stairs for her, unpacked her bags and made her a sandwich. She patted his hand with gnarled old fingers and kissed his cheek, making him flush.
As a thank you she gave them the room, one month's rent down and no questions asked.
That night Dean bought paint for the first time.
Who knew Sam could cook? He made a mean stew, burgers from scratch and something with mince in that made Dean groan with pleasure when he ate it. Sam flushed and mentioned that Jess had taught him how to take care of himself, in case anything ever happened to her.
Dean saw the infinite sadness that never went away and he sighed, pushing the food around his plate, appetite gone.
Maybe they would never have normal.
Dean proved a whiz at do it yourself and had, surprisingly, green fingers. Sam cooked and canned the vegetables, freezing most of them for the winter, making enough that Dean was convinced Sam had had a vision about the apocalypse and was laying down supplies. Sam just whacked him on the side of the head and continued to peel tomatoes, a smile of contentment on his face, something Dean would pay good money to see.
The apartment became home, warm and cosy, something they had never had before. They took in a stray cat, feeding it tuna from a tin and in winter, the cat was joined by a scruffy looking dog of no particular breed.
At night they would sit on the sofa watching cable, cat and dog snuggled between them, the nearest thing to family.
Bobby came down to visit and, somehow, never made it back to the Salvage yard. He was old now, bent with rheumatics and short sighted enough to need glasses. He made some comment about loneliness and family and Dean made him up a bed in the spare room.
The dog slept in there from then on.
Sam took a job in the local library, in bliss amongst the books, reading and not researching, enjoying the feel of the pages under his fingers, his mind awash with pleasure. Dean was taken on at the local mechanics shop, surprised that so many people still had old muscle cars, let alone needing them fixed by an expert.
When Sam first bought home a girl, Dean had held his breath and then some. She seemed nice, plain and down to earth and clearly in love with his brother. She read books and worked in the local primary school, had an interest in the occult and liked watching horror films.
Friday night would find them, Bobby, Sam, Dean, Sam's girl and the animals, all watching some old eighties slasher flick, Dean laughing at the plot, Bobby snorting, and the girl hiding her eyes in Sam's shirt, an excuse to cling on that little bit longer.
Dean agreed to be best man if he could pick the suit and the music.
The bride walked down the aisle to 'Back in Black' but laughed all the way, Bobby gave her to Sam, proud in his suit, long hair brushed behind his ears, the tips flushing red as Dean whispered what the coming night might bring.
When four became five, they had to move out of the apartment and into a house, as run down as ever and plenty of work to do. No one seemed to mind though and, at night, they were so exhausted that even the cries of baby Mary didn't keep them awake.
Dean never thought he would have normal, never dreamt about it, never fantasised. In those dark days after his dad's death, Dean would think only in hours, days, rather than years and decades. He thought he would die, go to hell, never see his family again. He never imagined he would even reach the age of 50, let alone celebrating it with his closest friends and his niece and nephews, the eldest begging him to let him drive the Impala.
He sat on the porch swing that he and Bobby had made so lovingly when they had first moved in and watched the fireflies dance in the darkness, lighting the shadows he knew were there, the shadows that would never completely go away, but now only hovered on the periphery of his life, never coming closer, never intruding.
Inside the party was in full swing; Sammy would be dancing with his wife, glasses slipping down his nose, too long hair threaded with grey. Bobby would be in his chair by the fire, eyes too dim to see much, but never missing a trick, old dog on his lap, mangy cat at his feet. His niece would bring in the cake, one she had made from a recipe her dad had given her and Dean would tease Sammy mercilessly about everything and anything, some things never changing.
Dean had seen hell often enough in his life and now he was grateful that he was seeing heaven.
No one could ask for more than that.