A/N: Thank you so so much for all the lovely reviews! This is the end of the road...for now. My muse is insisting on continuing the story, but I'm not sure whether I should or not. Either way, I hope you enjoyed the story, and thanks again for the support on it!
There were days where he honestly didn't believe it. He kept expecting to have to pack his bag and head for the car, sit in the back seat and try to read and pretend they weren't going to get dragged around to nine different states in the next week.
But so far, it was true. So far, their dad hadn't gone back on his word.
They weren't done hunting. Dad had parked them near Chicago, almost equal distance to Pastor Jim and Bobby. The Windy City held a lot of opportunities for hunting, like poltergeists, skin-walkers, run of the mill spirits. Lots of things to do and hunt.
Nothing demon-related, though. And nothing related to...
Sam shut his eyes and reached out to grip the comforter beneath him. Hard. Couldn't fly to the ceiling if he was attached to the ground, and his eyes flew open, darting first to the ceiling to ensure that no, he wasn't on it, then to each corner of the room. He kept expecting to see yellow eyes gleaming at him, even two months later and even with their dad's assurance that yes, it was over and done. Yes, the demon couldn't break its word.
All nice and good, but Sam just couldn't believe it. Even though he knew it was a bound law in the demonic world, he just...couldn't. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
So far, though, no demonic issues, no visits to the ceiling. There were wards everywhere, salt set permanently in the grooves of the wooden floor, and something called a devil's trap that Bobby had given Dad when he'd found out about that night in the motel. All were to make sure they stayed safe. Sam stayed safe.
The only reason Sam was sleeping at night at all, though, was one big brother.
The door downstairs banged open and shut, and he could hear Dean talking with their dad. Sam carefully let go of the comforter and turned back to his book. One he was actually going to have to finish, because they weren't moving. Sam might very well be able to graduate from this high school, and he finally relaxed enough to focus on the text.
The thesis contains an entire chapter on the problem of solipsism, a problem raised by the fact that in any human experience of the world, the world is always experienced from an individual perspective or "finite centre". An individual's mental life consists in a changing series of such finite centres, and there is no guarantee that his centres will harmonize with others or even with themselves. There is thus no guarantee that one's experience or self will be understood by others-
"'The Cambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot'?"
Sam laid the book down on the bed. Dean snorted in amusement from the doorway before coming into Sam's room. His own room, not his and Dean's. His very own room.
That didn't stop him from sometimes hiding in Dean's room for the day when his brother just happened to be home from work, or Dean to barge in unannounced to Sam's room. Neither minded the other's being there. In fact, Sam was pretty certain that Dean felt better with Sam in his vision, probably as much as Sam felt when he knew Dean was in the room.
His and Dean's 'centres' were harmonizing just fine. Then again, they'd always been off in a world of their own, according to their dad. Created their own centre that was uniquely theirs.
Still, that didn't mean that they weren't brothers. Sam sent Dean a raised eyebrow. "I'm glad you could read it from that distance; you know, since you're getting so old and your eyes don't work anymore."
"Written by a guy named Moody," Dean said, ignoring Sam magnificently. "Huh. No wonder you like it."
Dean was close enough that Sam didn't have to stretch all that much to kick him. Dean merely laughed and flopped down at the end of Sam's bed. "What the hell kind of book is that, though, seriously?"
"It's for my English literature course," Sam said, and it made him smile just at the thought of it. AP English course, all his own. His scores from all his other schools had impressed his current school, his permanent school, enough that they'd let him into the AP English course one grade level above his own.
Dean rolled his eyes at that, but Sam knew that small grin on his brother's face. It was the one that said, "I'm proud of you," and "Truly impressed," and it made Sam's own smile grow even wider.
"Thank god I didn't have to read that for my classes," was what Dean said out loud. "It looks boring."
"Not really. Not as boring as that old dusty compendium from Bobby does."
Dean frowned. "What old dusty compendium?"
"You didn't see it? That huge thing on the table?"
"It's a huge box, Sam. I didn't look inside. What else is in there?"
Sam merely raised his eyebrows and let them answer for him. Dean's own eyes got comically large. "That's the only thing in the box? That's it?"
"And last I heard, Dad wants you to help him with it tonight, because I have homework," Sam said, and Dean's eyes went from wide to narrow in a split second.
"Totally not fair. I don't understand any of that mumbo-jumbo crap."
Sam shrugged, but he still grinned. God, he couldn't believe he was able to think about hunting and smile at the same time. This type of hunting he didn't mind. This was all easy stuff, nothing dangerous. Nothing...nothing demonic.
He swallowed hard and covered it with a cough. "Yeah, well, I don't either," he said, pretending to roll his eyes. The ceiling was empty and smooth, and Sam wasn't anywhere near it. He scanned the corners quick before turning back to his brother.
Dean was watching him with a knowing look, his own smile gone. "Sammy," he said gently, and the single word and gaze said more than Sam's name. You're gonna be fine and It's not coming to get you and, more importantly, I'm right here.
Sam let out a shaky sigh and ran a hand through his hair. What little had singed off had grown back, but it still felt sometimes like it was all burning away. "I know," he said. "I just..."
Dean rolled up to standing and stood beside Sam's nightstand. Nightstand, dresser, bed, closet. Even a desk that Dean had found for him, someone at the garage he worked with who'd been looking to get rid of it. Most of the wood pieces didn't match: Sam didn't care. It was all his. His own room.
His very safe room. Nothing could get in without Sam's permission, because the room was his.
Sam looked away from the furniture and back up to his brother. Dean looked calm and strong, but Sam could see the fear in his eyes as he spoke. "Dad made sure it's not ever coming back. I swear, Sammy. You're gonna be okay, we're gonna be okay."
He didn't look as sure of his own words as he'd sounded saying them, though. His voice was strong, but his face was still full of fear and worry.
Guess he wasn't the only one who wasn't banking fully on a demon's word being solid gold, then.
"I know," Sam said, trying to sound certain but winding up halfway between nervous and trembling. Dean reached out and caught his shoulder, pulled him in, and Sam leaned against his brother's torso. The position was awkward, Dean's sharp hip bone was pressed into his arm, and even two months later, Dean's hand on Sam's shoulder still caused a twinge of pain.
He didn't care. Dean was there, and that was all that mattered. Wards could be broken, salt could be brushed away, and the devil's trap could be detoured around.
But Dean? Dean was his unfailing constant. Dean wouldn't let Sam down. Not ever.
The embrace didn't last for long, but it didn't need to. Dean headed out towards the door, looking calm again. This time, when he glanced back at Sam, his face reflected it as well. "Think we're gonna order pizza tonight," he said with a small grin. "And then I want to watch that movie we got the other day, so finish your homework, bitch."
"Jerk," Sam threw back, and Dean chuckled as he left. Sam watched him go, smile still on his lips. Dean was home, and Dad was right downstairs. Had picked Sam up from school himself, looking happy and relaxed for the first time in years. They didn't butt heads as much anymore, only over little stuff like laundry duties and shower time. Normal stuff.
And both of them would come running if Sam even so much let out a gasp, and he knew that from personal experience. There'd been nightmares, the first couple of weeks. There were still nightmares. And there were still two people who hurried in to protect and hold.
The urge to look at the ceiling and the corners was growing with intensity. Sam bit down on his lip and reached for his book. He only had to look quickly and then he could get back to reading without any worries or stress. Just to make sure.
He had to let it go, though. He had to try to let go, at any rate. Even if he didn't trust the wards or the demon's words, he had to trust his dad, trust Dean. And that meant trusting that he was safe. They were both in the house, wide-awake, and they weren't going to let anything happen to him. They'd saved him before. They'd save him again, if they had to.
Resolutely he kept his gaze from the corners and the ceiling, and if his fingers dug a little harder into the pages, he pretended not to notice. He focused on the passage in his book and continued reading from where he'd left off.
Communication of the inner life is always a courageous act of faith across a gulf of privacy and difference.
Sam thought of his family downstairs and smiled. Courageous act of faith, sure. Trust always was. But there wasn't a gulf of anything between them. Closer now than ever before.
"Sammy! Dad wants us both to look at the book, you little dork, and I need to know what you want on your pizza!"
Sam shut his book and tossed it onto the bed as he pushed himself off the end, smile back on. He hurried down the hallway towards the stairs, towards Dean and his dad, and didn't even look once at the corners or the ceiling of his room.
It's a bright horizon and I'm awakin' now
Oh I see myself in a brand new way
The sun is shinin'
The clouds are breakin'
'Cause I can't lose now, there's no game to play
"Don't Look Back" - Boston