A/N Here is the final chapter. Again, my apologies for taking so long to get it to you. I kind of let RL derail me a little. Thanks so much for everyone who stayed with me all the way through. You have all meant so much to me! A very special thank you to my wonderful beta, Cynbad3, who delayed watching tonight's episode so she could help me get this finished and proofed before I saw tonight's premiere. I didn't want whatever might have happened tonight to effect the events of this story, which took place several months ago.
Disclaimer in chapter 1
Dean was silent the entire trip home, still trying to wrap his head around the fact that Castiel had played them all in an effort to get Sam and Bobby alone. He hadn't bothered to try to call again, figuring there would be no point with the sneaky angel sitting smugly beside him. It still rankled that he had not been the best one to be able to fix his brother's issues. He had always been there for Sammy, and he hated that he couldn't be there for him now.
Fortunately Bobby must have been able to get past his own discomfort long enough to help Sam deal with things. At least Dean assumed he had. It was a reasonable assumption considering Castiel had said that the mission was accomplished and they could go home now. He glanced over at his passenger, annoyed to find Castiel watching him impassively.
"What?" If his question came out more like a bark, that was the angel's own fault for leaving him in the dark on his intentions.
Castiel blinked and turned to look out his side window, still silent. Dean shook his head in frustration and focused back on the road. The tension thrumming through his body grew as the sun started to emerge on the horizon and the sky brightened in preparation to starting another day. They had been gone far too long. At least they were finally getting close to home. He grinned involuntarily at the use of the unfamiliar word. Home. It was amazing to think that after their lives full of transiency and motel rooms, they actually had a home.
As much as he had loved his father, Bobby had been more of a dad to the two brothers than John ever had. Instead of the gruff drill - sergeant their father had been, Bobby treated them as the sons he had never had. After Stull, the older man had been there for Dean for anything he needed. Even though Dean had left the hunt in honor of Sam's last request, he had still kept in close touch with Bobby. He had called him frequently, keeping him updated on things like the strangeness of his first day of working a real job, what was going on with Lisa and Ben, and how it felt to have actual neighbors to hang out with.
The one thing he had never talked about was how he felt about losing his little brother. He knew that Bobby understood to some extent. He had lost his wife . . . twice, and he had loved Sam like his own son, although Sam and Bobby hadn't had the closeness that Dean had developed with the older hunter. At one time, when Sam was just a little guy, he and Bobby had been exceptionally close, but the older Sam got and the angrier he got the more he had pulled away from everyone, and that had included Bobby Singer. Since they had reunited with the older hunter just before their father's death, things had been awkward and distant between the two men.
Dean knew that didn't mean that they cared about each other less, but there seemed to be a wall between them, leaving their conversations stilted and superficial. The worse things got between Sam and Dean as the years passed, the worse they got between Sam and Bobby, as their surrogate father was forced to choose sides. Dean was not the one drinking demon blood or hanging out with a demon girlfriend, so Bobby hadn't had much choice as to which side to choose.
Dean sighed, glancing at Castiel out of the corner of his eye surreptitiously. The angel still had his head turned, gazing serenely out the window. For just a fraction of a second Dean was reminded of the Cas he had met in the future, mellow, drugged-up and self-satisfied. He shook his head, smirking at the image. About the only thing this Castiel had in common with that one was the self-satisfied part. And Dean could not wait to get back to the house so that he could see what that was all about.
It seemed to take forever, although in actuality it was probably only a few hours, until they finally pulled into the driveway that wound through Bobby's junkyard and led up to the house. Neither man had spoken in hours, with the exception of Dean's unanswered question. If it had been Sam riding in the passenger seat it could have been a comfortable silence, born of long years of companionship. But this silence had been oppressive, heavy and almost unbearable. Dean couldn't wait to park the Impala in front of Bobby's garage and silence the engine. He pulled the key from the ignition, again looking over at Castiel.
He was totally exhausted, and not in a good way. He hadn't slept in twenty-seven hours, and during that time he had driven twelve hundred miles and spent several fruitless hours searching for something that didn't even exist, and stressing over leaving his brother. Really, now that he thought about it, Cas could just zap himself off the same way he had appeared. Dean didn't have time to worry about him right now. All he wanted to do was see that his brother was okay and then get some sleep.
Ignoring Cas, he opened the door and got out of the Impala, stretching. He had just spent nearly nine hours in the car, only stopping twice, and only long enough to fill up the gas tank and grab some caffeine to keep himself going. His legs were cramped after that long sitting in the driver's seat, and he really needed to get rid of that last batch of caffeine before he embarrassed himself. He strode toward the garage quickly, almost forgetting the silent angel in his urgency. After a brief stop in the half-bath Bobby had installed in the garage to keep from tracking grease all over his house, he headed back out to the house. It was time to check on little brother.
He headed for the kitchen, but found it deserted, so he changed course to Bobby's office. Finding no one there either, he was puzzled. It was mid-morning. Bobby had not been in the garage, although his truck was, and Dean wasn't sure where else the mechanic would be. And where was Sam? Maybe he was out wandering the grounds somewhere like he often was lately. That would explain Sam's disappearance, but Dean couldn't figure out where Bobby could be. He checked Bobby's bedroom next, but the bed was neatly made and the room was empty.
He suddenly realized that Castiel had been following him silently, that smug, knowing smile fixed firmly on his face. Dean suppressed an urge to punch the annoying angel and moved on to the bedroom he shared with his brother. Opening the door cautiously, he tightened his grip on the doorknob at the tableau he had stumbled upon. He had found both of the missing men.
Sam was sleeping soundly, looking more at peace than he had in . . . . well, probably years. No frown lines marred the innocence of his sleeping face, and the ridiculously long body was draped bonelessly on the bed. No nightmares were bothering Sam right now, that much was certain. But the thing that made Dean want to pick his jaw up off the floor was that Bobby had dragged a chair in right next to the bed, and he was watching Sam fondly, a look that Dean hadn't seen in a while, at least not directed at the youngest Winchester. He had both feet flat on the floor and was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. One hand was curled loosely around Sam's upper arm, and Dean could tell that the contact seemed to be grounding both men.
He looked up suddenly, sensing the presence in the doorway. His face lit up in a sheepish grin as he carefully let go of Sam's arm and rose from his seat to meet Dean in the hall. He jerked his head toward the stairs and headed in that direction, leaving Dean to follow after him.
Castiel was waiting for them in the kitchen, sitting patiently at the table, back straight and hands folded primly in front of him. Bobby nodded to him distractedly, and then turned to Dean.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" He headed toward the coffee pot in the corner, pouring himself a cup. "We didn't hear anything from you." The tone of his voice indicated that he had just suddenly realized that seemed unusual.
Castiel's pleased expression increased, although Dean didn't know how that was even possible. If Sammy hadn't been sleeping peacefully upstairs, Dean would have knocked that grin off of the angel's face, friend or no friend. Cas had apparently not only manipulated Dean's cell phone preventing him from calling, but he must have also somehow kept Sam and Bobby from realizing that they should have received a phone call long before now.
He shook his head. Who would have ever thought Castiel would be so good at being devious. He turned his attention back to Bobby. "Apparently we did. How did things go here?"
Bobby furrowed his brow in confusion at Dean's cryptic response, but he shrugged it off and replied. "Honestly, Dean, we barely spoke to each other all day. I was working in the garage, and Sam was off wandering somewhere in the yard." He shook his head, remembering their solitary day together. "I'm sorry, Dean. I dropped the ball. I didn't watch out for him after I promised you I would." He looked back at Dean, obviously expecting to be facing the younger man's wrath.
Dean was confused. That didn't sound like the breakthrough Castiel had predicted. He turned questioning eyes on the angel, who nodded encouragingly.
Dean turned back to Bobby. "And then what happened?"
Bobby shook his head sorrowfully. "He remembered. I was just heading in to the house to go to bed when he went barreling past me like he didn't even know I was there. I followed him and found him barefoot in the yard, huddled up against a car. He didn't even have a coat on. I finally got him to talk to me, and he told me he had remembered what . . . RoboSam had tried to do to me."
Dean sat down heavily in a chair. Sam had remembered something that traumatic, and he hadn't been here to help him deal with the fallout. How could this be a good thing?
Bobby shook his head in amazement. "All this time I've been feeling like the victim in all this. I never really thought about what it would look like from his side. Dean, I've been trying to forgive Sam for what he tried to do to me, but that wasn't Sam. I finally get that. When he realized what he had almost done, he was so torn up about it that he asked me how I could stand to even be near him."
Dean was shocked to see Bobby's eyes glitter with unshed tears. "He did?" His own voice was hoarse with emotion, and that was just from hearing about the incident, so he could well imagine how much worse it would have been to have actually been there.
"Yeah." Bobby scrubbed a weary hand across his chin. "And that's what made me realize that he was just as much a victim as I was. It was almost like being . . . possessed in reverse. The part of Sam who controls who he really is wasn't home, although I hate it that he's starting to remember the things he did anyway."
Dean sighed. "Yeah, how fair is that? He has two completely separate sets of memories, and they're both bad. Although if this set is this bad, I can't imagine how horrible it would be if he remembered the other set! I wish we could just write off the past eighteen months so he would never have to remember any of it."
Castiel cleared his throat. "So you were able to work things out?"
"Oh. Yeah we were." Bobby shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not much for all that touchy feely stuff, but I guess sometimes you just gotta shed a few manly tears and hug somebody." He grinned self-consciously.
Dean fought unsuccessfully to hide his smile. "You cried and hugged? Wow, and I missed it!"
"Shut up, Winchester." Bobby attempted to come across as angry, but Dean could tell it was just for show. Then his expression softened. "Honestly, I don't know if it would have ever happened if you two hadn't been out somewhere when this all came down. The only reason I was able to help Sam was because I was the only one here who could help him. I couldn't just leave him out there on his own. And then helping him finally helped me to put it all into perspective."
Dean looked over at Castiel, startled at exactly how perceptive the angel had actually been. "Yeah, good thing I wasn't here then."
Cas gave him that look – the one that said "I told you so", and Dean groaned inwardly, suspecting the angel would be throwing this back in his face for a long time.
"Hey, Bobby, I wondered what happened to . . . ." All three heads turned to face the door as a rumpled and sleepy Sam entered the room, stifling a yawn. He stopped mid-step when he noticed the two extra people in the room. "Dean!"
Dean smiled broadly at his brother. "Hey, Sammy! Didja miss me?" He studied Sam's expression closely, pleased at what he saw there.
Sam looked exhausted but relaxed. In fact, Dean hadn't seen him looking this relaxed in a very long time, although something about his expression seemed almost shy at the moment.
"Hey, Dean. Hey, Cas. Did you guys find what you were looking for?" Sam offered them a lopsided smile, but looked a little disappointed about something.
"Yeah, Sammy. We did." Dean's mind was racing, trying to solve this most recent puzzle. What could Sam possibly find disappointing about his beloved (and extremely cool) brother coming back? He would have thought that his little brother would be anxious about him being gone without a word, leaving him alone with just Bobby for company. . .
Suddenly Dean knew what the problem was. He shook his head ruefully. Did he know his little brother or what? Sam was already regretting the loss of the closeness he had developed with Bobby after his meltdown the night before. Now that Dean was back, he would be expecting things to go back to normal.
Bobby must have been on the same wavelength, because Dean could have kissed him (on the forehead. . . in a totally manly way, of course)for what he said next. "Dean, you must be exhausted after all that driving. And did you even sleep at all last night?" Without even giving Dean a chance to respond, he plowed ahead. "I think you should probably go get some sleep. I'm going to go work in the garage." He took a few steps in that direction, and then paused as if an idea had suddenly come to him. "Hey, Sam, would you mind helping me for a while? It's really a two man job."
Dean grinned inwardly as Sam lit up like a Christmas tree. "Sure, I can help you Bobby. Let me just go get my shoes on!"
Dean smiled broadly once his brother had headed for the stairs. Things seemed like they were finally getting back on track. This disaster had been averted. Unfortunately, the bigger disaster still loomed on the horizon. If only they could find some way to keep Death's wall from falling and forcing Sam to confront the more horrific memories hidden there. Maybe he would see if Castiel could help with that. After all, he had been right on the money with this idea about how to fix this. Yeah, that's what he would do. He'd see if Cas could find a way to keep the wall intact.
As Sam came bounding down the stairs and out the door to Bobby's garage, Dean turned his determined gaze on Castiel. "Hey Cas, you got a minute?"