They're all laughing. Well, Sam and Dean are laughing, Cas is doing his trademark half smile that always makes his eyes crinkle up and has Dean glancing at him fondly. Sam's trying to come down from the natural high, vaguely attempting to recall the last time he laughed this hard as he wipes the beginning of tears from his eyes and tries to catch his breath.

Dean's still giving little chuckles, shaking his head in amusement. He brings his beer to his mouth, and as he takes a drag, Sam sees Cas's eyes trail over him, his smile growing just a bit. Sam really couldn't have wished for a better end to it all. He's safe, his brother's safe, Bobby and Cas are safe, and most of all, they're happy. It's not something he ever really let himself think to achieve once he had let the devil out, never really thought he deserved it.

There's still evil out there, still things to kill, but there's a contentment that surrounds everything now, and the bad doesn't seem that bad anymore.

"Fuck, you kill me, Cas," Dean leans over giving Cas a peck on the cheek that has Cas making that soft, little smile he does whenever Dean does something like that; pointless and meaningful, all rolled into one.

Sam smiles too, feeling a swell of warmth at the sight before him, Dean and Cas resting comfortably against one another on the couch, Dean's arm slung around Cas's shoulders and Cas nestled against it. It's been a long time in the making, this ease and obvious love, but it was well worth it. Sam could even forgive them that teenage phase, where they couldn't keep their hands off one another and Sam had walked in on them wearing a lot less clothes than he was even close to comfortable with a scarily high amount of times. (Once they got a sock-on-the-door system worked out, and Dean had gained some self control, Sam finally started to feel safe again. His poor eyes.)

Silence descends, but there is none of the charge of earlier years-questions unasked, hanging in the air like the black smoke of a demon and answers that would make no one happy—only a comfort that Sam can best describe as something he never before experienced; a family together before a fireplace after a large meal, sated of all earthly desires and simply soaking in the presence of the others, thankful and drowsy, wearing dopy smiles for no apparent reason. Of course, their fire is a television on mute, showing the black and white rendition of an old western, and their large meal was pizza, but Sam thinks the feelings conjured are still the same.

Sam's starting to nod off, he can feel his eyelids start to droop and doesn't bother to fight it, he feels absurdly safe here, in this motel in small town USA, with his brother and his best friend so close at hand. He catches Cas shifting out of the corner of his eye, curling like a cat into Dean's side.

"I love you."

It's how out of the blue, how entirely unexpected, the words are that makes Sam's eyes snap open and turn towards his brother. It's not that Dean's never said it before, he's sure the words have been exchanged behind closed doors countless times, and it's not that Sam's never heard Dean say it to Cas before, it's just that this wasn't a slip or a joking response, Dean's not glaring at Sam, daring him to say anything, he's not coming up with an excuse or changing the subject. He's just sitting there, running his fingers through Cas's hair and staring down at him with the most adoring expression that Sam feels choked up.

Cas nuzzles closer, sighing contentedly, "I love you too."

And Dean's small, intimate smile grows just a bit more. Sam knows that look, this whole scene is familiar to him in a way that makes his heart both tightens painfully and a smile crosses his lips. That was him before, where Dean is, looking down at Jess with all that love and hope, planning their future behind soft eyes, his free hand fiddling with the ring he'd bought for her weeks ago as she slipped into sleep.

His hand again slips into his pocket and he fiddles with the band of gold that, by the grace of God, he has somehow managed not to lose after all this time. The metal warms at the touch and Sam lets his mind wander over all his memories of Jess as his eyes stay firmly on his brother and friend. He's at the point where he can think of her and not feel pain and guilt, even feel happiness at all the wonders they shared.

She was his first. His first everything. The first one he gave his heart to completely, the first one who gave their heart back. They were going to have a family, grow old together and find new things to love about one another every day.

Sam had first kept the ring as fuel for his revenge, using it to make his hate burn bright for the monster that killed his Jess, and later as a reminder of his failure, how he let the one person most important to him in the entire world go up in smoke. It had taken a while for the ring to stop meaning that, to stop bringing up guilt and pain that ached to his core.

It had taken a while, but now, whenever he sees or feels the ring, it's moments like the ones in front of him that he remembers; that night before finals when Jess was staying up late to help him study and had ended up falling asleep, resting her head in his lap. Or the time they went to the beach with all their friends and just enjoyed the day in the sun, had ice cream and traded kisses and smiles. Or that time she tried to teach him how to bake and he set off the fire alarm, not without first dropping flour all over them both. Or, as cheesy as it sounds, the first formal dance they went to together, Jess in her stunning green dress, and the way her laugh filled the room as she took him in. 'Nervous?' she had asked, looking up at him through long lashes, 'Me too'. And then they had kissed and it had been perfect.

"We should probably go to bed now" Sam feels the slight choke in his words more than hears it, chuckling with Dean as Cas just gives a pathetic 'no' and clutches at his human pillow.

Sam knows that this new Cas, the one who's skin stays broken after a fight, who needs food and sleep, who is slowly learning to lie, used to be for Dean what the ring used to be for Sam. He could see it in his brother's eyes, that self blame the first time Cas had gotten a hurt that did not immediately heal, or the self hate when Cas had turned to them with cloudy eyes and said Jimmy was gone.

Sam doesn't know the whole story, why Dean wouldn't let Cas drink at first, why he never gives him pain killers stronger than Tylenol, but he knows that something had hurt his brother bad, and that Cas turning human signaled a failure to Dean that he couldn't cope with and instead let it build within him and fester.

Dean had finally exploded after a hunt, all his pent up anger at himself turned on Cas when the new human had gotten hurt saving Dean's ass. Dean had yelled, Cas had yelled back, and Sam had tried to play peacemaker, but their words, tinted with anger (don't look at me like that, look at what I've done to you), hurt (what did I do? Why don't you see me anymore), and worry (are you okay? Please, please just be okay). Then it had all bleed out of them in a swift rush, an artery burst that left the ground covered in their discarded emotions, leaving behind two exhausted men.

The voices had gotten softer, the words being spoken straight from the heart because neither had the energy for shields. ("Do you trust in me?" Cas had asked, hands clasping Dean's, eyes bright and focused. Dean's nod had been a jerk of a thing, as if the truth would not let itself be hidden away, "then trust in my trust in you. You will not let that happen, I have faith") Cas had his first beer as a human that night, and promptly decided he didn't like the taste. The smile Dean gave at that was the first since Cas's fall.

Dean had stopped looking at Cas like he is something broken, something that Dean had taken and shattered with no way of fixing. He had started to see Cas for what he was, a man that could hold his own, that could fight, hurt, and love.

"Come on Cas, Sammy's right," Dean pats at Cas's back, a clear indicator to move, but does nothing else, "we gotta get up early if we're gonna make it to Massachusetts before nightfall tomorrow."

Cas heaves a world weary sigh that has both Winchesters smiling as he drags himself off the couch (and Dean) and makes his way to the beds, bleary eyed. Dean heaves himself up, intent on following when Sam is up and grabbing his wrist, stopping him. Dean gives his brother a confused look, but waits silently as he watches Sam make sure that Cas is gathering his things and going into the bathroom. He doesn't make a move to talk until he hears the tap start up.

Sam fiddles with the ring in his pocket for the last time, and slowly brings it out, showing it to Dean as it rests comfortably in his palm. The ring is almost like a part of him at this point, he knows every contour of the diamond, the smooth plains of the band, the groves of the engraving, all of it, by heart, and it's that fact that cements his decision.

"Here," he says simply. Dean quirks an eyebrow, clearly confused.

"It's an engagement ring," Sam starts to feel nervous and he's not even sure why, "I got it for Jess, but I want you to give it to Cas."

Dean softens an odd mix of sadness and exasperation threaded through with love, "Sammy…" Sam can hear it, the refusals that Dean is starting to form in his head, the 'it's yours and Jess's' or 'I can't, Sammy, it means to much to you', 'you've lost so much, you're not losing this too'.

"Dean," Sam cuts him off before he can start, he doesn't want to hear it, doesn't know if he can take it, really, "you and Cas are so happy together, and I can't keep this with me forever. I don't want to sell it, I don't want to keep it and think that it might never be used. I bought this because I found the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. When I look at you and Cas, I see that. I see the love you two have, how happy you are and I just—I want Jess to be a part of this, of this new life that sure as hell isn't what I pictured back then but it just so goddamn good, Dean.

"So… so just take it, okay?" Let part of that lost future live again, he doesn't say, but he thinks Dean gets it, because he just nods and takes it from Sam's palm. Dean pulls him in for a hug, forceful and hard, full of emotion that Sam can't place while his own feelings are swirling as they are. He thinks he hears a thank you pressed into his shoulder or a word of comfort through the tightening of arms around his waist, but he can't be sure.

The next day, when Sam reaches into his pocket, the only thing his fingers touch is some lint and a penny.

The following week, when Sam sees a sparkle on Cas's finger, he hugs them both hard, and can't stop the wet laugh that come out, filled with so many things—sadness, elation, melancholy, joy, peace—that he doesn't know what to make of it. As he pulls back, Dean and Cas thread their fingers and the look they give each other is one pure love. Sam looks to the sky and smiles fondly. Whatever heaven Jess is in, he knows she would approve. That's one of the many reasons he loved her.

so I know I'm working on other stuff right now, but this idea wouldn't leave me alone! I wanted something needlessly emotional and fluffy and this fit the bill~

As for the engraving on the ring, in my mind, it's not Jess's name, or any devotion of love, but a protection symbol, because no matter what life Sam was living, he was always a hunter, and I think that would speak to his love for her more than any affectionate words, that he would dip back into the world he had left and professed hate for at just the thought that it might keep her safe.

EDIT: I've edited it a bit and addedsome.

anyway, intensely dislike it? find it a horrid mess? do share!