This fic would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of pkwench. She held my hand when I wibbled, encouraged me when I got all cranked up and excited about my fic, and gave me numerous kicks in the pants when I stalled at the end of the first chapter.
She beta'd this beast while working full-time, studying, and writing her own fic. I have no idea how she did it, or even when she slept, but I am damned grateful. She was tireless in her encouragement, cheered in her comments to the fic even while gently pointing out that my sentence structure sometimes made it sound as though Castiel was dating his food instead of eating it. She nudged and prodded and cajoled, commiserated and offered internet cookies and amusing cat anecdotes to keep me going, and basically kept me sane and on-track during the writing process.
In short, if she hadn't been around, this story would not exist as it currently does, and it would be the poorer for it.
Very special thanks also need to go out to my artist, daggomus_prime, who as I said put up with flailing and way too many emails, and a last-minute script change from me. Please check out her livejournal post, number 17985. That way all the gushing I'm about to do will make sense.
I find that my words are inadequate to describe her artwork. It's so very singular in its beauty, the look and style all her own. Even though the characters are recognizably themselves, they are also unmistakably ihers/i, and that's a tour de force not many artists can claim. I'm looking forward to the day when she's famous and acclaimed and I can point to this Big Bang and proclaim that she once drew something ALL FOR ME.
*spoilers for the story below*
I am in awe of the illustrations she painted for my fic. The scene of Cas and Dean sleeping in Claire's old room is beautiful in its muted tones, its graceful lines, and the detail of the hands and fabric make me want to pet the picture, I kid you not. And the bunny! I stared at the picture for a good few minutes with nothing but "BUNNY!" on loop in my head.
I love her Sam in the three-panel comic she drew. In fact, there is nothing about the comic that I don't love. The play of light and shadow, the teeny-tiny form of Dean huddled up on the car seat, sleeping away with his bunny. There was something poignant, visceral even, of seeing my words brought to life like that, and it actually brought tears to my eyes. The sheer weight of emotion she managed to imbue into that simple scene took my breath away.
In short, her artwork is sumptuous, and you would be remiss not to go look at it and leave reams and reams of praising comments in her LJ.
And last but not least, dear flist, thank YOU. Thank you, readers and cheerleaders and everyone in-between, who encouraged me all along this wacky journey and put up with my flailing and squee'd right along with me at regular intervals. If you weren't there to read the stories, there would be very little point in writing and posting them.
Warning: there will be spoilers for the story in the notes.
This story didn't start out as a Big Bang. It started first as a vignette that went nowhere in my head, and sat unused on my hard drive because I couldn't figure out what to do with it. It then became a sort of Team Free Will idea in my head, in which Dean and Cas would first explore this new post-apocalyptic world and then be reunited much faster with Sam. At which point… I had no idea what they would do. My thoughts kind of got bogged down with world-building and OCs who started taking over my imagination.
While this was all well and good, I still had no real plot, and try as I might I couldn't get myself to sit down and write it and try to work it into a cohesive whole. So I let the whole thing lie, and figured I could just chalk it up to one of those experiments that just wasn't meant to be. I have a ridiculously large "discard" folder of orphaned and/or aborted fics. Stuff which was born of a nifty idea but never really went anywhere.
Then along came the Dean/Cas BigBang, and suddenly I was visited with the urge to dust off what I thought of in my head as "The Adventures of Cas and wee!Dean." I realized that by reframing it as a story about Cas and Dean trying to find Sam, it worked much better and gave me an end to work toward, which, if you're me, is vitally important to the fic-writing process.
Basically I was mostly interested, by then, in exploring the nature of the relationship between Dean and Castiel. Would it change if one of them was fundamentally altered in some way? If both of them were? I made Cas fully human, and turned Dean back into his four-year-old self (mostly because I find wee!Dean adorable, but also because I think this is as close as he'll ever get to a fresh start), and decided to see where it would lead. The relationship of trust has always been there: the show may waffle a bit where the friendship is concerned (and while I love the Dean/Cas ship with much love, there is very little basis in canon for it), but from very early on in the game Dean trusts Cas, and that's what this story came to be about.
In short, the story became about faith, in all its various incarnations. I suppose that, in a story starring Castiel, that shouldn't be altogether surprising.