Thank you to everyone for the reviews of my previous chapters. You've all been wonderful. This is the final chapter of this particular story, although another idea of what happens after this is percolating in my brain. We'll see what happens. I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: Only the idea is mine. Supernatural and the characters therein belong to the writers, directors, producers, and actors that bring it to life.
Rated T, just in case.
Sitting at the small desk in the living room, Dean stared at the computer screen. Sam had answered his message. For once in his life, he was happy his baby brother was a nagging computer-loving geek.
"Thankyouthankyouthankyou." Scrubbing his face with his hands, Dean considered calling out to Bobby, who was in the kitchen, having been invited to stay a little longer. But he didn't, deciding instead to read the message alone first. If it was bad news, he wanted to handle his reaction to it before Bobby or Lisa saw it. He clicked, and the message opened.
I'll be there tomorrow morning. Not because of your orders though. Because your first email convinced me. Jerk.
Dean laughed, quick and hard, before he put his left hand across his mouth. Closing his eyes, he let the relief wash over him. Sam was coming home. Sam. Dead Sam. Gone Sam. His brother Sam. He choked on the sudden sob and quickly covered his left hand with his right. Eyes still closed, he bowed his head and said a silent thank you to the universe. He remained that way and tried to let it just wash over him. The muscle tremors started deep in his chest, and he could feel them, though no one looking at him would see. Almost like shivering from cold, he felt the trembling radiate through his body, a purely physical reaction to his emotions. Finally, it was over. Dean stayed at the desk, not ready to share yet. Selfishly, part of him wanted to hold the good news inside, like maybe he could protect Sam this way. Stupid. He's been through the worst. What are you going to protect him from at this point? He asked himself. Doesn't matter, he answered silently. I just want to keep him safe. I always did. But it didn't work out that way.
"Bobby! Lisa!" Dean yelled suddenly, distracting himself before his thoughts could grow more maudlin.
They both came in immediately from the kitchen. Lisa came to stand beside him, glancing at the computer screen over his shoulder. Bobby stood tensely in the doorway.
"He answered the email I sent." Dean took hold of Lisa's hand, but looked at Bobby.
When Dean said nothing more, Bobby, exasperated, said, "And? What did he say?"
Dean smiled a bit. Bobby looked surprised, and Lisa gasped.
"He's coming?" Lisa asked.
The smile grew. Laughing and crying, Lisa touched Dean on the cheek. "I'm so happy for you!" She hugged him, and looked back at Bobby. Dean looked over too, and was startled to see tears on the older hunter's cheeks. Dean said, "Hey, Bobby," and started to get up. The other man looked at Dean and shook his head a bit, smiling wistfully.
"I just never thought we'd get him back. Not this time. I didn't think there was a chance in..." Bobby stopped talking as his face crumpled. Jumping up, Dean crossed the room and grabbed Bobby in a hug.
He murmured, "I know, Bobby. I didn't think we'd get him back either. I know."
After a moment, Bobby pulled away. "You know we still need to test him. We need to make sure. I want it to be him more than anything, and I know you do too, son. But we need to be certain."
Dean nodded, and responded, "Let's get everything together. He said he'd be here in the morning."
They spent the rest of the night gathering salt and holy water, and chalking out devil's trap and sigils. Lisa looked a little pained at the writing on the floors and walls, but when Dean assured her he'd clean it, she just smiled and responded, "You bet you will. But I'll help."
Everyone rose early the next morning, anxious. The night before, Lisa arranged for Ben to stay at a friend's house for the day. After breakfast, she drove him there. When she came back, Dean walked out of the house before she could close the car door.
"Lisa, you can't be here." He took the front steps two at a time and crossed the lawn to the driveway.
"What? But I want to be here for you. Don't shut me out."
Dean silenced her by taking her in his arms. Pressing his cheek against the top of her head, he spoke.
"It isn't safe. If this isn't Sam, you'll be in danger. It's the same reason you sent Ben away this morning. I need to be focused on making sure this is Sam. I can't worry about keeping you safe at the same time. Once I know, I'll call you. I'm not trying to shut you out. I'm trying to protect you. Please. No arguments on this one, okay?" He let his palm rest along her neck and stroked her jawline with his thumb.
Pursing her lips, she gazed back at him. Finally, she nodded and leaned into him as he kissed her.
"I'll go run errands or something. Promise you'll call as soon as you know?" She put both hands on his chest.
Her right hand curled into a loose fist and she tapped it over his heart.
"Be careful, Dean."
He nodded, and held the door as she climbed back into the car, then closed it gently. She put the car in reverse and rolled out of the driveway. He held up a hand when she waved, then went back inside the house, resuming his place in the chair by the front window. Bobby sat beside him in another chair. Neither spoke as the morning slowly ticked away.
Nervous energy had Sam's left leg bouncing up and down in the car for most of the drive. As he got closer to Cicero, the tempo increased, along with the edge of panic in his thoughts. He was almost there. The drive was about three hours, and Sam had been thinking furiously the entire time, wondering what he would say to Dean. How could he even look Dean in the eyes, considering one of the last times Dean had seen Sam's face it had been taunting him and smiling while his fists were beating the crap out of him? True, it was Lucifer who had beaten Dean, but Sam had been there. Sam had seen it, hadn't been able to stop it fast enough. This is a mistake. I should turn the car around, send him another email saying I can't see him yet. Sam's smile was bittersweet. I can just hear the 'son of a bitch' when he sees that email. He tapped his fingers against the steering wheel, thinking of all the times he'd watched Dean do exactly the same. The exit for Cicero was a mile away. Sam eased the car into proper lane and tried to stop his leg from bouncing. If I don't distract myself, I'm not going to be able to do this. He's got to hate me. Lisa will hate me for putting them in danger. Dean will hate me for getting him back into this mess. I was right when I thought I should stay away. A nasty voice in his head answered, You thought you were right when you went to kill Lilith too, and look how well that worked out for you.
"Great, just what I need. An angry internal dialogue to go along with all the rest of this." Sam muttered. He scoffed at himself, pulled over to the side of the road, and rested his forehead on the steering wheel. The exit was a few hundred feet away. Lifting his head, he stared at it for a minute or two, still debating. One voice yelled, Dean, want to see Dean! Sam recognized it as his baby brother voice. The adult Sam voice was telling him to stop being selfish and drive away. Fortunately, he thought, they're both my voices. He shook his head a bit. I might be crazy, but at least I'm not possessed.
"Okay." He spoke out loud again, addressing the air. "I know I have no right to ask, but I could use a sign. Nothing dramatic. Just a small little message that will help me decide if I should drive to Dean, or turn around." He waited. "Someone?" When nothing happened, he sighed.
"I am going crazy." Thinking about the tape he left for Dean, he reached over and flipped the radio on. The dj's voice rang out, "Your classic rock station!" A guitar started up, and after a few chords, Sam grinned. Years of riding shotgun in the Impala ensured he knew the song. His eyes flickered to the sky, and he said, "Thanks." Dean would have loved this sign. He carefully pulled back into traffic, singing along with Ozzy. Together they belted out the lyrics to 'Mama, I'm coming home' as Sam took the exit for Cicero.
A few minutes later, he was on Lisa's street. He slowed down, then parked in front of the house. Briefly, he closed his eyes, hands resting on the steering wheel. Then he took a deep breath. As he exhaled, he opened the car door and got out. He turned toward the house, unaware his face had melted into his puppy dog look. There was movement by the window, and the front door opened.
Every time a car drove by the house, Dean tensed. Luckily, Lisa lived on a fairly quiet street, so it wasn't too much of a problem. She called once. "Anything?" She asked. "Not yet," he'd answered. They said goodbye and Dean went back to waiting. Bobby didn't try to talk to him. Dean could feel the muscles in his body clenching tighter and tighter as morning inched toward afternoon. Where is he? Tell me he didn't change his mind. He can't. Come on, Sam. Hurry up! Unconsciously, he squeezed his knee until his knuckles were white.
"Dean, it's not quite ten o'clock yet. There's still plenty of time." Bobby spoke softly, the way you talked to a skittish animal.
"I know, I know. I just want this over with. The tests. I want to know if it's really him. And if it isn't, I want to end it fast." Dean's eyes were cold. He hadn't hunted in over a year, but that didn't change the fact he would destroy this thing if it was only pretending to be Sam.
Bobby just nodded. They returned to quiet. Minutes passed and Dean kept squeezing his leg, knowing he was leaving bruises, but not caring. The small clock in the hall chimed ten times. Dean started counting his heartbeats to distract himself. When he reached about 120, a crappy little car, painted two different colors, slowed in front of the house and parked at the curb. The figure inside paused for a moment, then climbed out. Dean's first thought was how the hell did Sam fold himself into that tiny thing? Then he saw the look. The one that almost always got baby brother what he wanted, not that Sam knew it was the reason.
He said to Bobby, "It's Sam," and then he was at the front door, not even conscious of his movement. He surged through the door, rushing toward Sam, ignoring Bobby's voice yelling his name behind him. Sam had come up onto the sidewalk, but moved no farther. When Dean was a few feet away, Sam held up his hands, motioning for Dean to stop.
"Hey, big brother." His voice cracked, and he tried to smile while furrowing his brow. Another patented Sam look, Dean thought, feeling his heart stutter.
Dean stood on the balls of his feet and shoved his hands deep into his pockets. He knew he shouldn't, it was dangerous to have his hands tucked away, but he knew if he didn't that he would reach out and grab Sam. Because it was Sam. It had to be.
"You look good, Dean." Sam, too, had shoved his hands into his pockets. He was rocking back and forth, shifting his weight from the balls of his feet to the heels.
"I missed you. So much, Dean. I'm so sorry." Sam gulped quickly, fighting not to cry. "What do you need me to do?"
Dean just looked at him.
"The tests. What tests do you need to do?"
Dean nodded, quick, tense. "Follow me," he said. Pulling his hands out of his pockets, he walked back toward the house, never taking his eyes off the younger man.
A line of salt lay across the threshold. Dean stepped over it, then walked out of the devil's trap on the floor in front of the door. Bobby stood inside, tucked in a corner, holding a bottle of holy water in one hand and a pistol in the other. His eyes widened as Sam's frame filled the doorway. Reflexively, he clutched the holy water. Sam didn't notice him, having eyes only for his brother.
"Should I come inside?" He asked Dean.
"What do you think?" Dean answered, raising an eyebrow.
Sam half smiled. "I have no idea what to think anymore. But I'm guessing you want me to come in without an invitation, just in case." He stepped over the threshold and the salt, and took a few steps inside. The devil's trap was behind him. He looked down at it and said, "Lisa must be pretty pissed about what you did to the floor."
"I promised her I'd clean it up." Dean just stared at him.
Sam nodded, but didn't move, just waiting. He wanted to know what Dean was thinking, but couldn't bring himself to ask.
Finally, Dean broke the moment by pointing to the small table next to Sam.
"Drink the holy water."
Sam grasped the flask, and lifted it to his lips, chugging down about half of the water. He looked at Dean and asked, "Silver and iron next?"
Dean nodded and Sam held out his arm, palm up. Swiftly, Dean nicked him with first a silver blade, then an iron one. When nothing happened, he pointed to the cloth on the table. Sam picked it up and wrapped his hand.
"Say the exorcism rite in Latin," Dean ordered.
"Exercizo te, imundissime spiritus, ominis incursio adversarii..." He continued until he finished with an 'Amen', looking at Dean the entire time. His brother stared back at him.
"What were the last words you said to me?"
Sam closed his eyes as memories of Dean that day washed through him. Dean, helpless and sprawled on the ground. He had been swollen and bloody, broken, inside and out. Sam was horrified, knowing his fists had done it. Lucifer was clawing at the inside of his mind, frantically surging through his body, desperate to regain control of his vessel. But all Sam had to do was look at Dean's face and know that he couldn't let Lucifer come back. He couldn't let Dean suffer any more. When he had turned and opened up the gate with the rings, he wasn't thinking of saving the world. His only thoughts had been of saving Dean.
Realizing Dean was still waiting for an answer, he croaked, "I told you it was gonna be okay. I said, 'I've got him.'" He looked sadly at his brother. "I couldn't let him hurt you anymore. Not after... everything." When his brother still didn't answer, confusion crossed Sam's face.
"Wait, did you mean what I said to you at the cemetery, or the last thing I said on the tape? The last thing on the tape was that I left you something. I wasn't sure if you wanted it back." He glanced down at Dean's chest, but saw nothing. Sam swallowed hard and closed his eyes against the pain.
"I guess you didn't." Involuntarily, he took a step back, away from Dean.
"Sam," Dean said softly. He waited until the younger man opened his eyes, then reached up to his neck and tugged the amulet from beneath his shirt. Sam's eyes locked on the amulet as tears slid down his cheeks.
Dean said, "Sammy." Sam's short bark of laughter cut through his tears.
"It's been so long since you called me that."
And then Dean had him, his arms wrapped tightly around his brother, practically crushing him with the strength of the embrace. Sam sobbed a few times, breath catching in his throat, and Dean was crying too, tears flowing openly.
When they finally pulled away from the hug, Sam asked, "What made you so sure it was me?"
"Only you could be so literal minded about the last words you spoke to me. Cemetery or tape? C'mon, Sam, seriously? Which did you think I meant?" They were still standing close together, so Dean reached up and cupped Sam's head in his palm, shaking it a little.
Sam smiled a little and shook his head. "I dunno. Which did you mean?"
Before Dean could answer, Bobby cleared his throat. Sam turned his head and seemed to see the older hunter for the first time.
"Bobby." He breathed out the name softly. "Bobby, I'm so sorry. I tried to stop him, but it was so quick. I'm so sorry."
Bobby shook his head slightly. "Oh, my boy. I am getting too damn old for this. Come here." He motioned for Sam to step closer, and then Sam was enveloped in a second hug.
Bobby pulled Sam's head down to whisper in his ear, "We are so proud of you. And so glad you're back." He pushed Sam back so they were standing at arm's length, but didn't let go, holding Sam by the shoulders.
"I'm sorry I shot you."
Sam's smile was sad, and a little bitter. "You didn't shoot me, Bobby. You shot him. And I deserved much worse." He looked over his shoulder to Dean.
"I'm so sorry."
"Stop apologizing. It's like I told you in the email, Sam. You fixed it. You made things right, no matter what the cost was. The cost to both of us. There's no more reason to feel guilty. I'm just happy to have you back. I didn't think this one was a round trip flight."
"Neither did I."
"Yeah. Well. I'm glad we were both wrong. It's so good to have you home, Sam."
"Home," Sam murmured. This time the smile was a little more like the old him.
They looked at each other for a moment, thinking how things between them still needed to be mended. Too much had happened for everything to be perfect right away. But they were together, which was most important. Together, they could fix it. Then Dean glanced at the devil's trap on the floor. A huge grin crossed his face. He pointed at the trap.
Sam looked down, then back up at Dean. "What?" he asked, confused.
"You're helping me clean it up," Dean answered. And there it was. The smile Dean had been waiting for. His baby brother was home.