A/N: Call me Spammy Mcspammerson. Seriously, it's not like I need another WIP, but I have a few going based on prompts and whatnot. This one is just something I've been wanting to write for awhile. I had a fic called "No Halo" posted in my LJ set immediately post No Rest for the Wicked. It was dark and OMG creepy, and as much as I loved it, I have it locked now. The long and short of it was, after Dean's death, Sam embraced his powers in hopes of becoming strong enough to break Dean out of Hell himself. A lot of weird startling stuff went on, but eventually he did raise Dean out of Hell, but Dean wasn't himself. This story is basically the ending of that one (the italicized stuff is scary so be careful) minus a certain element that most people would disapprove of. I'm not going to say much more about it until the end.

Summary: They get a whole new life. A whole. New. Life. It should really be easier than it is. Dean, Sam, brief mention of Antichrist!Sam, wee!Dean, Bobby, Ellen, and possibly others. It starts out dark, for about a thousand words or so, don't let that scare you though, the schmoop and brotherly love wins out. Tons of angst, bound to be some H/C.

Rating: PG-13 for language and some dark themes

Warnings: Language, dark themes(in italics and only in the first chapter)

Disclaimer: I'm evil and deserve to be sued, but this isn't making me any money.

The Forgiven and Redeemed (No Halo Revisited)

Prologue

The ritual's simple. Any man can do it. Any demon, too. Good thing, since Sam's pretty sure the demon in him has eaten more of the human than he has left, like cancer cells multiplying so fast the healthy ones die. Sam doesn't even need his powers to raise the dead, just the name and some blood.

The name he rips from the tongue of a demon that kneels at his feet, wants to be his bitch, even though he already has Ruby. The blood he was born with. He doesn't know if he'd be able to find Dean, wherever he is, if he were to go looking as anything other than Sam.

Sam's far less patient than whatever it is walking around in his skin these days, spoiling his blood. Something about free will seems to make him think he can will things to existence before they're meant to be. It's taking too long, been going on for hours, and there's not even a whisper from the other side. His restlessness is electric, and the walls seem to breathe with the energy thrumming between inside and outside.

He's been standing in the same place half the night, at least five minutes since he last blinked, when the body moves. At first it's just a finger, then a slight arch in the back. Then nothing.

It's obvious, when they pull into the yard, the good fight's long since gone bad, like the smell of leather steeped in gore and baked in the sun of a thousand open, empty roads.

But this fight's over, and Sam's tired. He unfolds himself from the driver door with a series of cracks and pops, the stretch of constricted ligaments painful, but familiar. He bets Superman doesn't creak and can't help but smile despite the foreign stretch of it, his face and all its tired dirt cracking around it..

"Bobby."

"Sam."

The shotgun's loaded with consecrated iron these days and never more than an arm's length away. Bobby's arms look no less menacing crossed over his chest with the gun leaning against the rail. They're no less open.

"Good to see you." It is. A far cry better than anything he's seen since leaving. Bar one. He's lost weight since then, most of it muscle. Some of it care. Welcome or not, he's home. He's going to sleep for a week. God only took a day, but He had just Heaven and Earth to recover from. Sam's been to Hell and back. "It's been a wild ride," he smirks.

"I'll bet." Bobby squares up his shoulders, shifts over his heels, not budging.

"You still got that spare room?" Sam leans back against the car, the door still swung wide. He's the picture of aloof, perfect foil for the wall of Singer.

"Always got room..." His lips barely move under his mustache, eyes squinted tight beneath the bill of his cap. "...for family."

"Does that still include me?"

"I don't know, Sam, does it?" Bobby takes half a step closer to his shotgun, doesn't uncross his arms, but his chin trembles enough that Sam knows it pains him to do it.

Bobby forgets himself, looks ready to lunge off the porch. Sam doesn't step away. Instead, he moves forward enough to close the door behind him, stands up straight, ready to face his judgment. Bobby's chin tightens up so far his bottom lip disappears, and despite the resolved glare smoothed across his forehead, his eyes blink a little too rapidly.

"Christo..."

Sam leans closer, over the bed, searching for any signs of... whatever this is... notLife.

It happens so fast, Dean's forehead hits him on the bridge of the nose, sends him sprawling back across the room, a gush of warm blood down his chin.

Sam can't see through the pain, presses the heel of his hand to his forehead and rocks back and forth, trying to massage out the spasm behind his eyes. When he finally blinks the tears away and looks up, Dean's looking back.

NotDean.

There's nothing more Dean-like about the thing sitting on the edge of the bed than the one Sam cast out, the placeholder. Nothing more to this than any of the monstrosities in the church outside or the field beyond that.

"Dean..." He can't help but sob around it, hadn't even known there was still that little bit of hope left in him until it fled, left his chest filled with ice. And Sam's so tired. Been here too many times. He knows he has no right to be disappointed. Dean's changed. How could he not? Sam's not what he was a year ago, either. He's greedy. He's stubborn, and he wants what he wants. He's gotten too used to having exactly that.

He stands, slow, his hands trembling and outstretched, open, but the thing on the bed cowers away, falls off the other side, and backs against the closet door.

"No...," one long trembling protest and Sam's falling back too, leaning into the wall like his legs don't work anymore. His head falls into the wall with a thunk, tears choking in his throat, and he wonders if he can just let the horde have him, if he can just give up the destiny without a fight.

The knife's tucked into his belt. It digs in, hard, the pinch of reality to prove he can't wake up. NotDean. NotSam. Not a dream.

"Come here," Sam barks, not looking up. Dean will come. They all come to Sam. Bugs to the zapper. If he likes them, he kills them. The rest, he sends to Hell.

He just yanked Dean out of there. Sam won't let him go back.

Thing is, Hell's coming to earth, his kingdom come.

That doesn't leave him a whole lotta options.

Bobby's noticeably shaken when Sam doesn't flinch. He flinched the last time and hasn't been home since.

With a smile, Sam says, "Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison."

"Kyrie eleison." Ellen steps out from behind the screen door, and for all her tough as nails armor painted over battle scars, her hands shake.

"Ellen."

"Sam. You look like Hell, boy." She laughs at her slip. Laughs to keep from crying in front of him. Sam's pretty sure she's been crying since he drove in the yard.

He's sorry for that. He maybe shouldn't have come, but Sam's tired, and Dean can't drive. Sam just wants to cocoon somewhere safe. Somewhere safe and far away from the rest of the world. If he's never part of something bigger than just SamandDean, he's okay with that. The society he used to want to be a part of, all those people he used to want to belong with? They're all someone else's somebody. He doesn't need them anymore. He doesn't need to be the center of anyone's attention but Dean's.

"I wish I could believe you, Sam. I really do, but it's been over a year."

Raising his hands from his sides, Sam says, "I'm done apologizing for what I had to do." He glances back to the car, just through the back window enough to see Dean's starting to stir, and swings back around, a pleased grin on his face. "But it's over now."

Ellen's more inclined to listen than Bobby. She would be, losing Jo the way she did. Sam wishes he could've stopped that, too, but he wasn't ready. He can't fault Ellen for wanting her death to mean something. It does. Means she was on the winning team, just missed the end of the war. But not by much.

"What are you talking about, Sam?" She asks the way you ask a child to explain what his imaginary friend has made him do, but she asks, and he answers.

"Do you believe in redemption?"

"I do," she says, even as her eyes fall away from his, her faith not as strong as her back. Not anymore.

"Then, have I got a story for you."

Dean's footsteps thud across the floor, stiff and metronomic, inhuman. Sam tightens his grip on the knife, feels it slice into his hand, just deep enough to boil the blood around the edges. It's a good distraction, keeps him from hearing Dean drop to his knees.

Dean kneels at his feet, black eyes turned up to Sam, waiting. Waiting for Sam to give him an order, just another one of the Legion. Another bastard son.

Sam... hits him. Hard. Backhands him with the fist, blade tucked behind. Not time for the blade just yet, but it's ready.

Dean's head snaps to the side and back without flinching, long, slow blink then up again, and waits.

"You were supposed to be better." Sam's teeth grind through two more swings with the same result.

"Where's your brilliant plan to save us?" He takes a hissing breath in, raises his hand again, stops himself. "Save us! Isn't that what you do?" He pulls Dean's head back by the hair. "Are you listening?" Flinging him backward, he sends Dean sprawling on the floor, his chest caving around the empty space left behind by the sob in his throat. Heaving, like air actually matters, he watches Dean roll over and rise up off the floor, herky jerky like a marionette with only half his strings attached. Quiet, in a voice he hasn't used in over a year, he asks "Please?"

Dean stares back at him, his ravaged soul so thin it barely sparks in his eyes, barely anything left to save.

"Yeah, I didn't think so." He closes his eyes and tries to imagine he got there sooner, that there's more of Dean to send home, more that won't see Hell rise, and raises the knife.

Turns out, redemption is a tricky thing. And sacrifice? Well, it can't be selfish, not if it's going to work. It's like the Trickster said, as long as they keep sacrificing themselves for each other, nothing good will ever come of it.

They never tried sacrificing each other. And there? Is where they find grace.

Dean's blood. Sam's blood, and sacrifice. The armies of Hell never see it coming.

No one does.

He hears the car door creak behind him, knows he's said the magic word. Story. Without turning around, he holds a hand out behind him, feels Dean take it and lean his head against Sam's hip, still tired.

"Can I hear the story, too?"

Ellen breaks, then, and Bobby pushes the shotgun behind the railing. Not safe to have such things around children.

Sam kneels and scoops up his brother, his four year old big brother, smiles into eyes that have never seen fire, revenge, or Hell. With a giant smile, he pokes Dean on the nose, relishes in the giggle that elicits, and says, "You are the story, squirt."

To Bobby, he says, "It's over. All of it. No more Legion. No more war. Just me and my brother, if you'll have us."

Ellen's already holding out her arms to take Dean, who goes with her willingly, the promise of cookies and milk too good to pass up. Bobby takes a second longer, watches them disappear through the screen door.

"How do you know? How can you be sure it's over?"

"I just do. I am." And he does. Bobby pretends to straighten his cap on his forehead, and Sam knows he's using it as a barrier to wipe the tears. The hug that follows is better than any he remembers. Bobby keeps an arm over his shoulder and steers him toward the house. As they reach for the door, the sun breaks over the roof of the shed, painting the world golden.

Sam pauses to take it in.

Once he's inside, the screen door slams shut behind him, jerking on its spring so it pops the frame like a starter pistol. Whole new life. Start here. And he feels like he should spring to action, all his muscles corded and ready for battle. But the war's over. His gut lurches ahead of his body, yanks back with a slosh like he's just crested the steepest rise on the roller coaster and begun the longest freefall of his life.

Dean's at the kitchen table, lodged in between a stack of books as thick as his arms and a forest of empty liquor bottles in a menagerie of colors. The last time he sat there, he was researching Hellhounds and hallucinating his way through his last day on Earth. Now, he's got an old Mason jar full of milk on the table in front of him and a leaning stack of Oreos. There's enough on the front of the t-shirt Sam put on him in place of pajamas to more than explain why Ellen's given him a straw. Sam supposes he'll need to buy smaller glasses so Dean can hold them in his little hands. Buy them with actual money nost scammed off of credit cards. Maybe with honest money, even.

That should not be the scariest thing he's ever faced, but somehow it is.

He should probably scold Dean for blowing bubbles through the straw while he's at it. There's enough gurgling over the lip of the jar to make a puddle on the table, white with flecks of disintegrated Oreo suspended in it. Instead, Sam just stands. Just watches, paralyzed.

It's all been happening so fast until now, like being swept along in a fast-moving current. He's been keeping his head above water best he can. It's been easy to function moment to moment. That's his default setting, it seems. Dean's been mostly asleep until now, barely stirred when Sam scooped him up off the ground, still half-blind from the cleansing light that streamed out around his blade and exploded behind their eyes. Still stunned when it passed and took the demon horde with it, left the little boy in its place. A face from a picture Sam saw once, taken before he was born. A Dean that never knew a Sam.

Dean hadn't so much as whimpered when Sam carried him through the sanctuary, the shadows of his Legion burned into the walls like so much creosite, greasy over stained glass. Hadn't pretended to know what was going on. Thank God.

Out of the old life and into the new, sunshine over head and steam rolling off the parking lot in yellow sulfur clouds as rain washed away the evidence of what would have been Apocalypse. Sam barely remembers the rainbow sweeping from one end of the horizon to the other, still half convinced, at the time, that he would evaporate before getting Dean to safety.

That was eight hours and three good shots of Holy water ago, and Sam's still here. So is Dean. Seems like forever. For real this time, and too good to be true.

So, why does Sam feel like he's lost something instead of gained a second chance?

"Dean, honey, why don't you sit down before you fall off that chair," Ellen suggests. Sam can see how naturally it comes to her, the mothering, how one hand hovers just behind Dean's back, the other just the other side of the jar of milk, prepared for catastrophe in either direction, but not holding so tight that it can't happen if it must. Sam catches the momentary flick of her eyes in his direction, the questioning glance of a babysitter uncertain of the part she plays when the parent's in the room.

He's the parent. He's supposed to... what? He doesn't even know where to begin. He must have a deer in the headlights expression on his face or a panicked twitch to his muscles, because Ellen's voice is smooth as silk when she says, "Looks like the chair's not tall enough. Sam, honey, maybe some of these books can make themselves useful..."

"Oh! Oh, sure," Sam lurches, the rest of his body finally following his stomach, almost trips over his feet as he scrambles to the table. "Uh, here, lemme..." He scoops up a stack of the books from the corner of the table, stumbles around to the other side and looks helplessly down at his brother who's got his chin propped on the table ledge, eyes rolled up at Sam in expectation. Sam flails for a second, reaching for Dean with the armful of books before he realizes that doesn't leave him much functional use of his hand, then switching too fast to the other hand and almost dropping the books on Dean's head.

"Whoa, cowboy," Ellen intervenes, catching the top book just as it slides off the stack. "Try not to kill him with kindness if you can." Wrong choice of words. Sam's twice as nervous from the near-miss. He knows better than to fist a hand in the back of Dean's t-shirt and lift him off the chair like a briefcase, but he does it anyway, plops the books down and then Dean like he's making a Dagwood sandwich instead of a booster seat.

Mission accomplished, in some sense, at least, Sam grins, a tight, fake smile with raised eyebrows pinched together in the middle of his forehead, one higher than the other. He's got his hands out to the sides like Dean's a stack of Jenga blocks about to topple or he's a quarterback about to be hiked the ball.

Dean laughs, decides he needs more milk, puts the straw in his mouth, then laughs again until milk comes out of his nose. He chokes for a second, and Sam does the only thing he knows to do, a quick whap between the shoulder blades that looks to give Dean whiplash. The milk tips over, and Sam jumps back, then forward, jerking Dean out of the chair before the flood hits the edge of the table and drips into his lap.

Dean laughs harder, squirming like Sam's hands are tickle monsters instead of his saving grace, and Sam almost drops him on his little blond head. He manages to snag one of the little bare feet like a bungee cord tightening at just the right point of freefall, Dean's nose mere inches from the floor. The shock's like an off-switch, and Dean stops. Stops squirming. Stops laughing. Just stops.

And then he starts something else altogether.

Eyes wide as the spreading pool of spilled milk and pale as the same puddle, Dean's breath hitches in his chest, faster, shorter, and with a little hiccup on the end of each one, all while Sam lifts up on his leg and studies him curiously. It takes too long for Sam to realize Dean's crying, great big tears turning his eyes to liquid green. Takes even longer for Sam to stop staring at him like the subject of some experiment he's supposed to observe and take notes on. He's... stunned. Dean, his Dean is crying; his little arms are reaching up, clinging to the front of Sam's shirt, and Sam has no idea what to do.

Deep down, he knows this is Dean, but in all the ways that count, they've only just met, and the Dean Sam knows would want Sam to look away about now. Kinda hard to do when he's got the kid suspended over the floor by one leg. And there's the part of Sam that's pretty sure he can't just drop Dean on the couch or something and let him cry himself out... but, but, but...it's DEAN.

Lucky for them both, Dean knows exactly what he needs from Sam. Tiny hands fisting in Sam's shirt, he wraps his arms around Sam's waist until Sam gets the hint and turns him right side up, swallowing his little big brother in his arms. "Sssshh, shhh, don't cry," he whispers into silky blond hair. "Shhhhh."

His body takes on a bouncing rhythm, slow and gentle, and he turns easy around his own feet. His collar's soaked by the time Dean starts to hiccup instead of sob, and without thinking, Sam wipes his eyes with the cuff of his own shirt sleeve, then the drips under Dean's nose. He's so engrossed in the task, he doesn't realize the way Dean fits on his hip, the way he tilts his head up, eyes wide and fixed on Sam's until the tears have all dried, the hiccups faded to tiny hitches.

An arm supporting Dean's back, he tilts the little boy away from him enough to look him over without going cross-eyed. "That's better, huh?" He tugs Dean's t-shirt down where it's bunched up between them. "We're okay now."

There's a look on Dean's face Sam can't quite pin, something curious and open, trusting. He's still trying to figure it out when Dean says, "Hi, I'm Dean."

Dean who's never known a Sam.

"I'm Sam," he says, trying not to choke on the words. "I'm your big brother."

Dean blinks up at him a few times, eyelashes still clumped together, then nods. "Okay."

His little head's suddenly too heavy. Crying takes a lot out of a guy, especially one this size. Dean leans into Sam's shoulder and falls fast asleep, and Sam's glad.

Asleep, Dean can't see him cry. Crying takes a lot out of a guy, especially one his size. They end up curled together on Bobby's couch. A new life starts with a good night's sleep.

So what if it's only afternoon.

TBC

A/N: So, I know the de-aged thing has been done before, but here's the thing. Especially after recent episodes where Dean's basically said he can't ever forget the things he's done and that were done to him, I've often thought there can't be any happy ending for my boy. Even if they survive the Apocalypse, he'll have to live with this forever, unless he dies, which I won't be able to live with. In "No Halo" I figured out the best way to give Dean back a full life and allow him to reach his full potential, he'd have to forget any of the last twenty-something years ever happened, and I didn't care much for amnesia. I liked the idea of Dean getting a completely fresh start (Plus I totally gakked the idea from Friday the 13th the series). The story was supposed to end with Sam and Dean turning up on Bobby's doorstep, redeemed by the light of God's grace, but I've been haunted all summer with the idea of what it would be like for Sam to raise his brother without any of the supernatural element. Both their lives are completely uprooted, and Sam's essentially on his own. He still has Dean, but not one who shares any of Sam's memories or history. A complete role reversal. I wanted to write it, but I am afraid people will think it's overdone or just too sad. So, you know, if y'all don't like it, just say so. *winks* It's more of a 'verse than a linear story, so I'll try not to leave cliffies.

Oh, and this was inspired by the song "Angels Wish" by Steven Curtis Chapman. Here's the lyrics:

Was God smiling

When he spoke the words

And made the world?

Did he cry about the flood?

What does God's voice sound like,

When He sings or when He's angry?

These are just a few things

The angels have on me.

Chorus

Well, I can't fly,

At least not yet.

I've got no halo on my head.

I can't even start to picture Heaven's Beauty.

But I've been shown the Savior's love.

The Grace of God, has raised me up.

To show me things the angels long to look into.

And I know things the angels only wish they knew.

I have seen the dark and desperate place

Sin will take you.

I've felt loneliness and shame.

I have watched the blinding light of Grace

Come breaking through,

With a sweetness only tasted

By the forgiven and redeemed.

Chorus

Bridge

Someday I'll sit down with my angel friends,

Up in Heaven.

They'll tell me about Creation.

I'll tell them,

The story of Grace.

Chorus

And I know things the angels, only wish they knew.