A/N: Alright, here it is: I've got two endings, and it was difficult to choose which one to use here, but I finally settled on the original ending I had for this fic. Unless you guys really hate this ending, the other will probably become a story of its own. This one got pretty long as it is; it could have become a short fic of its own, with all the expanding upon it I could've done. And in case any of you who've read my other stuff haven't noticed by now, I'm really interested in the idea of Cas traveling with the boys after the Apocalypse, and becoming more human. Not sure why.
When Dean Winchester opened his eyes, he was home: spread eagle across the front seat of the Impala, with a worn blanket tossed over him haphazardly. He glanced around blearily for a minute, getting his bearings as his sleep-addled thoughts tried clicking back into one coherent stream. He rubbed his eyes, mind flooding with recent events as his thoughts cleared, and that's when he shot straight up, scanning his surroundings.
Sam was in the backseat, long legs bent up on the seat and a threadbare blanket effectively mummifying him, but he looked peaceful. Good.
The Impala seemed undamaged, or at least the inside was, and they'd apparently been deposited in Bobby's scrapyard, because they were surrounded on every side by stacked cars, all in varying states of decay. At least he hoped they were in Bobby's yard, otherwise they'd have an interesting time explaining how two men who had been presumed dead by the law for years were now here to claim the car that had been found in a completely different city years after their supposed deaths.
But at least they were alive. Again. And not by demons or angels this time. By the hand of God Himself, to be saints. That just added a whole new layer of bizarre to their lives that he wasn't ready to think too hard about.
In the back, Sam stirred, eyes peeking open slowly. He glanced up and around, then propped himself up on his elbows and looked right at his brother with bleary eyes.
"We're back," he stated plainly, "and we're in your car."
"I think we're at Bobby's," Dean added, tossing the blanket to the side. He climbed out of the car, with Sam doing the same a few seconds later. A burst of warm sunlight hit his face, and he momentarily squinted, using his hand as a visor to look around; moments later, he spotted the Singer Auto Salvage sign and a grin blossomed on his face. Glancing over his shoulder to his little brother, he said, "Yeah, we're at Bobby's. What do you say we go scare the hat off him?" Sam raised his eyebrows, but didn't question his brother as the shorter man started off toward the house.
At the front door, Dean knocked a few times, waiting for the inevitable hollering that meant Bobby had heard him, and he wasn't disappointed.
"Who the hell is it?" the older hunter bellowed, though from the sound of it, he made no effort to actually come to the door.
"The Saints," Dean shouted back with a grin, doing his best to not sound like himself. Sam just rolled his eyes, knowing that antagonizing Bobby was probably not the best course of action right now.
"Go away," Bobby growled in response, sounding none too happy to have someone joking around at his door. Persistent as he was, Dean knocked again, eliciting a string of colorful swears followed by the distinct sound of a wheelchair rolling over wooden floorboards. From behind the door, he heard the audible click-snap of a shotgun being readied. "I said go away."
"Sorry, Bobby, we can't do that," the older Winchester replied, maintaining his less Dean-like tone of voice. Behind him, Sam frowned his usual frown of exasperation, but made no comment as the door swung open suddenly. A shotgun was leveled expertly at Dean's chest, the older man staring menacingly at him for a second; Dean's hands shot up in surrender even though the same stupid grin was still plastered across his face.
A second passed as realization sunk in, Bobby's eyes going wide. He lowered the shotgun slightly, eyes darting between Dean and Sam, the latter of whom waved even as he mirrored his brother's arm motion. The shotgun snapped back up to them, halting the pleasant smile growing on the taller Winchester's face.
"What's going on here?" Bobby snapped, gun shifting between the brothers. "What are you?"
"It's us, Bobby. We're back," Sam replied, as if the simple truth would actually fly with a seasoned hunter. In true fashion, this didn't even faze Bobby.
"Let me guess, an angel raised you both from the dead," he snarked, drawing a quirked eyebrow from Dean.
"Not quite," the older brother replied, "but close. Really, Bobby, it's us. We can prove it." He took a cautious step forward, and when the man didn't immediately shoot him, he stepped through the doorway and picked up a flask on the table next to the door. He tipped it up all the way, taking a long swig of the contents before passing it to Sam, who was right behind him in crossing the threshold. The kid took a drink of his own, setting the flask back down on the table and smiling hopefully at Bobby.
"We can drink the holy water and cross the salt lines," Sam said evenly, never breaking eye contact with the older hunter. "It's us, one hundred percent Winchester." The bearded man eyed them both dubiously, but lowered his shotgun into his lap nonetheless. A long, appraising moment passed, and then he rolled back, eyes still on them as he nodded them into the house.
"Get in here and shut the door," he ordered, wheeling into the living room without looking back. Sam and Dean followed behind him, taking stock of the elder hunter's house. It had fallen into even deeper disorder since they'd last seen it days, weeks or months ago, however long it had been since they'd died fighting Lucifer back into Hell. Scattered among the books littering the tables, floors and even windowsills were empty or half-empty liquor bottles of all persuasions.
"Here," Bobby said, doing a one-eighty to look at them suddenly. He held a pair of knives out in front of him, both one hundred percent polished silver. Sam glanced to Dean hesitantly, but the latter, having already gone through this once, just shrugged and took a blade. Without flinching, he made a small cut in his palm, drawing a negligible line of blood. Sam watched his brother do it, then followed suit, nose wrinkling as he cut a little line into his hand with the silver.
"You good now?" Dean asked, passing his knife back to Bobby, who wiped it clean on a garage towel.
"It's not comprehensive, but I'll take it," the elder hunter replied, gruff demeanor partially dropping away. He re-sheathed the blades and looked up at them, eyebrows raised expectantly. "The Apocalypse is over. I buried you boys last week. You mind telling me what's going on now?"
"Nothing big," Sam immediately replied, attempting to sound as reassuring as he could. "We're done with the end of the world, I promise."
"Damn straight we are," Bobby said, "I'm not in the mood to take much more of that crap." Dean chuckled at that, drawing the older man's attention to him, expression serious. "If angels didn't bring you boys back, but I was close, then what did it?" A moment passed where the boys exchanged looks, all but speaking telepathically, but there really was no debate going on; after all, it was Bobby. He of all people deserved the truth.
"God," Dean answered simply, enjoying the way Bobby's eyebrows shot up in shock as the revelation sunk in.
"God?" he repeated with more than a little trepidation; both boys nodded in response. "As in white beard, flowing robes, almighty smiter God?"
"Yup," Dean replied cheerfully, leaning up against a desk thick with dust. "One and the same. Doesn't seem like he does a whole lot of smiting, though." Bobby just snorted.
"Read the Old Testament and see how you feel about that," he replied, but the usual bite in his words was lacking. Dean's lips quirked into a small smile, but he said nothing, and the elder man took the opening to ask another question. "Alright, so there's no cataclysmic tragedy you're here for, but God sent you back. What is it, a reward? You get to finish up your lives here?"
"Not quite," Sam said, crossing his arms across his chest. "Well, sort of. I'm not even sure it's a reward in the long run, but it's the right thing." Bobby glanced between the Winchesters, mouth set in a hard line.
"What is it you boys aren't telling me?" Again, they looked to each other, Sam nodding slightly at Dean, who then looked back to their stand-in father.
"This is going to sound really weird, but God, uh... God made us saints," he answered, smiling sheepishly.
"Canonized is what Dean is looking for here," Sam added, more matter-of-fact about the whole situation, fitting typical Sam behavior to a tee. Defying what Dean thought was possible, Bobby's eyebrows disappeared under the brim of his trucker hat.
"God made you two saints?" he asked, almost disbelievingly. Dean frowned, vaguely hurt by the man's tone of voice, but completely understanding the shock at the same time. Most of the time, saints were virtuous monk types, not hard-drinking, hard-living vagrants like them. At least God's reasoning made sense.
"Yeah, he did," Sam replied. "We were shocked, too, believe me."
"Shock don't begin to cover it, boy. Not that I don't think you deserve it," Bobby added as an afterthought, "but it's damn bizarre. I mean, I've heard rumors and a legend or two about saints actually walking the earth, just never thought I'd actually meet one, or that they'd turn out to be you two idjits."
"Hey!" was Dean affronted response, earning himself only a level stare from the older hunter.
"You know damn well hunters ain't exactly the noble and virtuous type. Most of us'll be lucky to make up to the Pearly Gates, what with all the killing and law-avoiding we've gotta do just to get the job done. Sainthood isn't quite what any of us are shooting for." He paused a second, glancing between Sam and Dean, and then released a quiet sigh. "But if it was gonna happen to anyone, it might as well be you boys."
"Bobby–" Sam began, but he was cut off by an upraised hand before he could get any further.
"Don't get all sentimental on me, boy," the older man ordered. Sam just nodded slightly, a barely-there smile appearing on his lips; Bobby's way of showing affection was about as open as Dean's.
"So," Bobby started, maneuvering away from the moment, "I suppose you're gonna be the patrons of hunters, and not the big game sort." Sam and Dean both nodded in the affirmative. "So what're you doing here? Shouldn't you just grab your car and start gallivanting around like God's littlest warriors?"
"Aw, come on, Bobby," Dean shot back, almost affronted by the older man's obvious underplaying of the importance he held in their lives. "God zaps us back onto earth and you think we wouldn't come see you?" In classic fashion, Bobby raised a doubting eyebrow, to which Dean quickly ceded, "Alright, he dropped us off inside the Impala, but this is the first place we were gonna come anyway." A mischievous grin appeared on the older Winchester's face. "Besides, God's got a surprise for you."
The capped man's mouth twisted into a disbelieving frown as he said, "And that would be...?"
"He sent legs."
They bummed around Bobby's house for a couple weeks, working on cars, cleaning the house, cooking the odd meal or two, just readjusting to life without the weight of the world resting on their shoulders. It was quiet, as quiet as two pranking brothers and their grumpy surrogate father could be when confined to one house. They made a few grocery and supply runs, but for the most part, they stuck close to the junkyard and got back into the swing of things.
Bobby himself was readjusting to walking again, though he got his groove back pretty quickly. It took him more effort to not go crazy with Sam and Dean so happy all the damn time. He harped on them when they got into a wrestling match on the floor of the kitchen, trying to decide who had to do the dishes, and about had an aneurysm when he found the pair in the living room vying to see who could stack the highest pile of books, all of which were one-of-a-kind tomes that wouldn't take well to falling over because two morons got competitive.
For the most part, though, he was glad to have them around, even for all the trouble they caused. It put some energy back into the house, making it seem sunnier and more alive than it had in decades. Maybe that was in part to the thorough cleaning they put the old place through, but even when it was pristine in the past, it had never been alive like this. They were the closest things he had to sons, and truth was, he was damn happy to have them back, whether he acted it or not.
To add to the general commotion around the house, Castiel arrived the day after the boys did, standing awkwardly on the front step. He explained his situation as Bobby ushered him in, the older man calling the brothers in from their odd jobs out back.
Apparently, right after God had talked to Sam and Dean, he had spoken with Castiel, laying out his options and how they could work in conjunction with what the Winchesters had chosen. Among the innumerable choices were the options to return to his post watching over Earth, become the leader of his former garrison, or stay on Earth as a physical extension of God's will. According to him, though, there had never been any other choice: he would stick by his friends, even if it meant defying God, though apparently the Supreme Being had just laughed when he heard that.
As it was, he was right where he wanted to be, with no standing orders on when to return to Heaven and his full angelic powers restored, with a little extra to boot. He was promoted to be the official leader of his garrison, but those duties would only become important if the rest of those angels had to come to Earth themselves. For now, he was free to do as he wished.
As soon as Dean saw Castiel, he pulled the angel into a tight hug, completely forgetting about manly pretenses when he saw his friend. When he stepped back, he was only vaguely abashed about his lapse, and it was all forgotten when Sam gave the angel a hug as well. Cas repeated his story for them, though they already knew some bits from their own talk with the Lord, and when he was done, asked tentatively if he could stay with them. The Winchesters laughed outright, while Bobby just gave him a wry grin and admonished him for even thinking they wouldn't let him stay.
The following days dissolved into an even more chaotic mash of constant movement. Between Bobby and the boys, they better acquainted the angel with the minutiae of human life, even if he was technically more inhuman now than he had been a few weeks ago. They knew that if he was going to spend any time on Earth with them, he was going to need to know more than the bits and pieces he'd picked up over the last few years.
Dean demonstrated how to fix a car, Sam showed him how to use a computer and Bobby taught him the fine art of cooking, with both gas station food and real supermarket food. Disasters cropped up in every instance, but nothing so major that he was banned from trying again, though the grease fire that cropped up when he tried making french fries almost got him kicked out of the kitchen, and earned him several days worth of teasing from Sam and Dean.
Things were about as uneventful as they could be for the first week or so, but life had to catch up with them eventually. A vindictive spirit started attacking people not far from Bobby's house, and the older hunter volunteered to go, mostly just to get himself back in the game. It was only a salt and burn, but everyone thought it'd be better to start off easy.
Besides, Bobby wanted to get out of the house because, as if everything had decided to happen all at once, the boys discovered that in addition to the onset of occasional voices in their heads asking, often begging, for help, they could pop in and out like Castiel, and Dean proceeded to abuse the holy hell out of it, like he didn't know how to use stairs anymore. Sam wasn't quite so bad about it, though he did jump around to mess with Dean when necessary.
For the most part, the calls for help were infrequent, at least for now. They only had to jump to a call once a week or so; Cas mentioned that once the so-called Winchester Gospels gained a more general awareness, they'd probably have more work on their hands. Even after a couple weeks to process everything, that was completely freaking absurd, the idea that people would read about their lives religiously.
To that end, they'd paid Chuck a visit, not because he thought they were dead, because he'd seen everything, including their talk with the Big Guy, but because they genuinely wanted to see the writer. And because they wanted to tell him in person that he was allowed to start publishing again, even if they weren't entirely crazy about the idea. At the very least, they promised not to hunt him down when he started putting out books again.
In the mean time, though, they were saddled with the usual chores around Bobby's, plus a saintly job every few days; these were the only times they jumped to a job. Dean staunchly refused to take anything but the Impala on regular hunts, and Sam really didn't argue. It just seemed right, being back in the front seat, watching the country fly past them. After all, they'd grown up in that car, and in the end, it was hard to imagine being away from it.
Castiel and Bobby came on a few jobs, the former more so than the latter, and sometimes the pair even worked together. Cas was getting good at hunting, even without his added mojo, and Bobby appreciated working with a partner sometimes. Just as often as that happened, though, the older man hunted on his own; after all, he'd been doing the job since the boys were smearing mashed peas on their onesies.
As weeks turned into months, they spent less and less time at Bobby's, just like they had in years before. They returned to cheap motels and diner food, though they never went more than a month without popping in on him. Castiel stuck with them almost exclusively now, claiming the once empty backseat as his own. He even managed to ditch the same suit Jimmy had put on years ago and get some more appropriate hunting gear.
The first time one of them was seriously injured, they freaked out. After all, a set of werewolf claws to the chest used to mean weeks of recovery, if not a close brush with death. Now, it just meant an assload of pain and a few days of taking it easy. Weird as it was, it at least it cut down on some of the worry during the hunt. They didn't exactly cut loose and go nuts during any hunts after that, but they took a few more chances than they would have before. Besides, after staring down the End of Days, a vampire, kappa or even a few demons didn't really seem that difficult anymore, and the accelerated recovery time added to that mentality.
More difficult than hunting, though, was being able to pop between Heaven and Earth. On their initial trip upstairs, Saint Peter had shown them around, leaving their family for last. When he walked away, leaving them alone outside their parents' place, an exact replica of their house in Lawrence before the fire (different things for different people, Saint Peter reminded them), Dean could almost hear Sam's heart thudding against his colossal chest. It had taken everything he had to knock on that door, but when his mom opened it up and smiled a thousand watts at him, all his doubts were swept away.
She hugged them both, pulling them inside the way only a mother really could. Sam could hardly talk at first, tears pricking the corners of his eyes, and even though Dean was on the verge, too, he'd never admit it. Their dad came in at the same time, hugging both so tightly that they could barely breathe. They hung out in that house for hours, talking, crying (almost entirely on Sam and Mary's part), trading stories and apologies and confessions.
After that first time, it became markedly easier. They visited every so often, when they weren't on a hunt or around Bobby's house. Sam saw Jess, who knew John and Mary by virtue of Mary already knowing about Jess from years of watching over Sam; they got along fantastically well, and there was none of the lingering animosity over her death that Sam had expected. Dean was sure there was some crying, though. With Sam, there just had to be.
The elder Winchester himself visited Jo, even though it was sort of weird at first–admitting mutual attraction after the way they'd parted tended to be a bit strange, he supposed. They got past it eventually, and he might have been the only person alive who could say he had a girlfriend in Heaven. It was odd to even say he had a girlfriend, never mind that his status as 'alive' was, at best, sketchy.
The years rolled on by; they watched things change around them like they had for their entire lives, with a few new exceptions. For one, they had stopped aging entirely. Their hair still grew, their stomachs still rumbled, old scars still ached sometimes, but they were stuck at thirty-one and twenty-six forever. That meant that they had to watch Bobby grow older, being one of the few exceptions to the usually short life span of a hunter. After a while, he couldn't even hunt anymore, though in true Bobby fashion, he was pushing seventy-five by then. He still had the usual Bobby spark and wit, but even he admitted his reflexes and aim just couldn't be trusted anymore.
He kept on kicking for almost twenty years after that, begrudging the boys the entire time for never looking a day older. They visited more regularly, helping around the house even though Bobby hated it when they treated him like an old man. He was as spry as any ninety-two-year-old could be, with a sharp mind right up to the very end. Unlike most every other hunter as active as him, he died quietly in his sleep; the boys gave him a traditional funeral pyre with heavy hearts, even knowing that they could see him any time upstairs.
Thanks to mass publication of the Winchester Gospels in their entirety, the calls for help were more frequent now. Chuck continued writing about their more interesting jobs well into his old age, and they duly kept up their work, of the hunting and saintly varieties, with Castiel by their side. Bobby's house became their retreat, and they maintained it with the utmost respect. Aside from the usual care, Sam continued adding books to the already impressive collection, while Dean kept up the salvage business. In their minds, it helped to maintain his legacy.
When they were on the road, people rarely recognized them, but there were a select few who knew. From these devout hunters, they received free beers and silent nods of thanks, and that was all they needed.
Even as the world changed around them, they roared down the backroads that never quite fell out of use, ate at the mom and pop diners that stayed open despite the chains spreading like weeds around them, stayed at the dodgy motels that looked like they would fall apart at any moment and yet didn't. They fought evil and saved lives, and did a damn good job of it.
It wasn't what most people would want, but for them, it was all they needed. They were living legends, two saints and an angel walking the earth and kicking ass, and as the Good Lord would put it, it was good.