16

What they saw then, was so satisfying...so beautiful. Edith would hold that imagery in her heart for the rest of her days. Dean was a little more hardened, but he too, would find it difficult to describe later.

Emeline appeared briefly, before them, the moment she was released from her unhappy tether; a misty, translucent wraith. She was no longer distressed, her crying a mere memory. She radiated happiness, relief, absolute child-like joy. They witnessed her ethereal form embrace, and blend, with another; her mother's, who shone with equal elation. The two circled, and spun in a slow and emotional dance, rising and dissipating finally in a fading mist. It left the two mortals shivering in the morning chill, having briefly experienced the absolute completion of the circle of those lives as it should have been two hundred years before.

At the end, Dean and Edith stared at the empty void left by this paroxysm of joy. Neither knew how much time had passed. Finally, they were brought back to the present; the cold, the pain, the immediacy, of the world that they belonged to. The snow began to fall in earnest; big, sparkling flakes, lazily drifting down, collecting on Edith's knit hat, and Dean's short hair. They landed on their eyelashes, clinging until they blinked them away. But they remained standing, the two of them, in silence. Finally the cold got the better of Edith, and she dusted the snow off her shoulders, smiled at Dean and made a motion toward the car. He nodded, and they walked through the crystal frosted grass back to the driveway.


He let the car warm up, turning up the fan to bring some heat quickly. It was Edith who spoke first. She stared ahead, out the windshield as the snowflakes landed and melted on the glass. "I've gone to church all my life, Dean. I never had reason to doubt anything I was told, until this business with the lamb. But when it was all going so badly...I was so angry. They never taught us any of this; all those priests, all the books… How could anyone be prepared for such things, this strangeness, this misery… It was a sin to even believe such things….It threw a lifetime of unquestioning faith in doubt."

She paused, still struggling to find the words that fit. "But after what I just saw... No, more than saw, I felt it, along with them…Such absolute pure happiness, such release from worldly pain. It was …good, and right." Tears brimmed in her eyes, and began to spill over. "Those fools in their black frocks…they can try to guide us all they want, I suppose it's not a bad thing to be steered to the good path. But this….this is what brings my faith back. Nothing they said or read would ever have done it. I saw Hannah and her daughter find their peace. I can't imagine anything more beautiful than that."

Her little shoulders shook with her emotion. Dean leaned over and hugged her. He said nothing in response to her words. He was glad she was so moved. He was affected as well; he didn't often get to see the positive results of their battles; the most they usually got was the knowledge that their quarry was no longer a threat. But he still needed the proof that it was all over. He needed to hear that Sam and Dwight were free of their miseries as well. They drove the short distance in silence.


Once back in the house, they pulled off their snowy clothing and were met by Dwight. He enveloped his tiny old Aunt, telling her quietly that the wailing had stopped, and all was as it should be again. He looked to Dean, catching his eye and nodding. Dean was relieved. –One safe—one to go… "Is Sam up?"

"Not yet. Go on ahead to the den; I'll bring you a cup of tea, or something. " He ended by mouthing the word whiskey.

Dean smiled. "Sorry, dude. Your aunt's on to you. She already offered me a snort of your hidden stash." He turned and headed to the den, leaving Dwight to Edith.

Dean pulled a chair over and sat beside his sleeping brother. He looked peaceful. The sedative had done its job, but its effects should be over by now. He could hear the conversation in the kitchen; -Edith describing what had happened, Dwight asking questions. He so wanted to wake Sam, but he was afraid to; just in case the effects of their morning foray hadn't extended to eliminating Sam's vision. He just sat and watched, cold, exhausted, and worried. He dropped his head into his hands for a few moments.

"Hey dummy...go to bed, you look like crap."

Dean snapped his head up at Sam's voice. "Is she...?"

"Yeah, Dean, she's gone. It's all good. " he smiled, rising to prop up on an elbow and scratch his hair. "So...what happened?"

Dean sighed a deep sigh of relief, and launched into a description of the morning. When he was finished, it hit him. It was over, finally. He had fixed it.

Sam shook his head in wonder. "Wow, that's really cool. I wish I'd been there to see it. And by the way, what were you doing out there alone? You're in rough shape, Dean! You should have gotten me up, I should have been there, in case something went wrong!"

"Nothing was gonna go wrong. And besides, I had a better sidekick along for the ride. Edith came with me. It wasn't exactly my plan, but she made it pretty clear she was coming anyway. And she came up with some good ideas, and she got the inscription translated too."

"Oh yeah? Well, what does it mean?"

"By my side, little lamb, you are never lost."

"Huh. Wow…I mean, that's really..."

"Yeah."

Sam got up to join the living. Unlike his weary brother, he was well rested. He frowned at the deep lines etched under Dean's eyes, his skin looking pale against his dark clothing. He looked older than his years.

"Seriously, Dean; go crash for a few hours. I'll go with Dwight to fill in the holes. He can watch, so you won't worry that I'll fall in and break my neck or something, ok?"

Dean nodded. With the lack of sleep, the earlier adventures, and the morning digging and cold, he was pretty wiped out.

Dwight entered with the promised tea and whiskey. He handed the tea to Sam, and the glass to Dean, and then sat down at the edge of the bed. "There you go, Dean. Nothing like a good snort first thing in the day." Dean raised the glass in a silent cheer, and drained it. "So...it's over, then. You did well, Dean, I thank you, both of you; for all your efforts in this little adventure."

"Well, it's what we do. You're welcome, Dwight." Dean shrugged.

"No! Don't reduce this like that, son. This may be a run-of-the-mill day for you boys, but this has been a profound experience for me, and for Edith. We could never, ever have solved it. We didn't even have the slightest clue how deep this went. And then your injuries because of it….hell, I have no idea how to repay you for that!" he shook his head.

"Dwight, Dean's right; it is what we do. We don't ask for anyone to repay us, and we know what we are up against so we know the risks going in, every time. Sometimes it works well and nobody gets hurt, and sometimes it gets rough. It's all part of the job."

"Well, nevertheless, Edith and I will find a way to even up." He stood up to take his leave. "You boys already know my intention to do what I can for you, professionally. We'll need to schedule some time to talk in depth, later. And I know that old woman out there in that kitchen is planning a helluva feast, to celebrate. You won't be in any great hurry to leave, I hope, now that this is over?"

Dean yawned. "Hell, Dwight...I don't plan to leave my bed for the next three days, let alone Edith's cooking. We'll stay around for a bit, if you don't mind. We can talk later, about…stuff."

Sam agreed. "And I can give you a hand with whatever needs to be done with the Rose cottage. We can clear out the burnt stuff, dry it out, at least winterize it so it's ready to repair in the spring."

Dwight shook his head with a smile. "You're a sucker for punishment, Sam. We'll talk. In the meantime, Dean; go to bed before you drop, and Sam; come and get some breakfast." He turned away, chuckling to himself.

Both brothers did as they were told.


It was probably the most time Dean had ever spent in bed without benefit of a frisky companion. He wasn't serious when he wryly told Dwight he'd intended to stay horizontal for three days, but he slept for sixteen hours straight before anyone could successfully wake him to eat. Even he was surprised at how worn out he was. And he was a little anxious to learn how he had gone to bed in his jeans and shirt, but awakened in sweats…not to mention the four neatly placed bandaids on the dog bite on his arse… As he lay there, watching snow fall lightly in front of his window, Sam opened the door quietly and peered in.

"Hey, Sam." he turned and smiled. "What time is it?"

"Half past Tuesday. You were out for a good long time."

"Seriously?"

Sam pulled a chair over and began peeling an orange. He split it in half, offering the other half to Dean. "Yeah, we tried to wake you a few times, but you seemed pretty happy where you were. And besides; I was worried you'd deck poor Edith. You've done it enough times to me when I've tried to get you up."

"Huh." He ate his orange wedges. "Well, what were you up to, while I was snoring away?"

"Dwight and I filled the holes back up. Then we built a frame around the lamb and the headstone and poured a concrete base around the both of them. You'd need a jack hammer to separate the two of them now...not that it matters anymore. Just symbolic, more than anything."

"Did you talk to Dwight about...that other stuff?"

"Yeah. I sat down with him and we got a lot of facts and dates together; names, places, most of the stuff he needs to start inquiries. He's still struggling with some of the realities as we know them. But he said he doesn't need to think along those lines anyway; it's plain and simple legal shit right now. I gave him David's name, and those two cops, and the Sheriff in Bethel county, the priest...everybody I could think of who knew and believed what we do. And I warned him about Henrickson."

"Oh. Good. So, I don't have to go into any of this crap with him?"

Sam looked at him quizzically. He hadn't realized how much Dean wanted to keep all these things to himself. He guessed it was easier for him to ignore then.

"Dean…does it upset you, to talk about this stuff?"

Dean sighed. "Some of it." He changed the subject. "Guess I should show my face to the good people. Is the bathroom free? I so need a shower."

"Yeah, all clear, knock yourself out. I'll be downstairs; come down when you're pretty, Edith is working on a huge lunch."

"Perfect. This time I'm pretty sure I could finish it."


Sam was at the table, in deep and serious discussion with Dwight when Dean came down. As soon as Edith saw him, she rushed to him and hugged him. "And here's the last of my three heroes. How are you, dear? Are you feeling better?"

Dean was a little embarrassed at the attention. He scratched his head and smiled sheepishly. "Uh, yeah...thanks, Edith. Pretty comfortable bed you have there."

She beamed at him and ushered him to sit. He had a huge mug placed in his hands as soon as he was seated. He loved that.

"Are you well, son? Dwight asked, concern in his eyes.

"A lot better than a couple of days ago, that's for sure. Man, I love that feather thing. Way better than the ratty blankets we usually get to sleep with, that smell like beer, barf and armpits."

"That's gross, dude; you're at a table, you know." Sam rebuked.

Dwight laughed. "You boys sit. I'll help Aunt Edith bring in lunch."

When he was in the kitchen, Dean asked.. "So, what were you and Dwight talking about? You looked pretty serious."

Sam got a look in his eyes that seemed wistful, almost emotional. "Just…some stuff. I'll tell you later." He saw the worry instantly surface in Dean's eyes."Relax, it's good stuff."

Dean would have to wait, as the lunch was being heaped in front of them now. Edith had made her famous soup, and she had thick slabs of warm, home-made bread, sliced meats, cheddar, fruit and a steaming apple pie. Dean was in heaven. "Dwight, how come you don't weigh four hundred pounds?" he asked through a mouthful.

"Edith only does this for guests, Dean. She serves normal portions when it's just us. And by the way, you're never allowed to leave!"

Edith scoffed and smacked her nephew. "Stop it, you make it sound like I starve you and we can all see that's not true!"

They all laughed at that. When they were completely stuffed, they praised the cook and offered to clean up, which she refused.

"No, stay out of my kitchen, that's my sanctuary. You three go sit in the livingroom. I'm sure Dwight can hunt up something that will warm your insides. I'll bring coffee in a bit." And she dismissed them, humming to herself.


Dean sat by the woodstove, still feeling a bit chilled after being asleep for so long. Dwight brought whiskey for the three of them. "So...Sam, Dean; what's on your agenda now?"

Dean was feeling carefree and comforted in this place at the moment. The question brought the harsh world back to the forefront. "Dwight..." he sighed, "I tell ya; right now I could stay here forever. But the truth is, we can't stick around much longer. Sam and me; we sort of attract trouble, and with cops, and feds on the lookout for us; we don't want to bring any crap down on anybody, especially you and Edith. The longer we're here, the more there's a chance you could get caught in all this."

Sam agreed, sadly. "We are so grateful for you and Edith putting us up, and for your legal help. It's really nice out here, I could get used to it. But Dean's right; inevitably we'll attract the attention of some one, or even some thing; that could really put you guys in harms way. We just can't live with that thought. So I guess we'll head out soon, maybe keep our ears open for new hunts while we tour around."

Dwight looked from one to the other with a sadness. "I wish I could say that you're being paranoid, but I believe you know what you're talking about." he frowned. "If things were different, you'd certainly be welcome to stay as long as you like. Edith loves having a full house and it gets pretty quiet with just the two of us. But I don't want to see her get hurt…either through collateral damage, or by having to witness you boys get hauled away, or worse."

Dean nodded. "I'm glad you're being clear-headed, Dwight. And you working on our defense; man, that's priceless to us. To be honest, I don't know how much you can really do to keep us out of the pen. Me, anyway. But it gives Sammy here some hope."

Sam rolled his eyes at Dean's patronizing. "Nice try, Dean; hanging out with you killed my natural optimism ages ago."

Dwight sipped his drink thoughtfully. "Sam, did you mention to your brother what we were discussing earlier?"

Sam shook his head. "Still trying to absorb that myself, Dwight."

Dwight turned to Dean. "Dean…As I said before; Edith and I are in your debt for what you did. And it's not just saving Edith's cash cow; there's more to it. You saved the peace in that house, and Edith will never forget how you freed the souls of Hannah and her daughter. That had a profound effect on her. And she knows a fair bit of your history. It saddens her deeply; this life you lead, the dangers you subject yourselves to."

Again, Dean tryed to shrug it off. "Dwight, as I said before; this is just what we do. You guys are not responsible for what happened to Sam and me; we would have faced the same things on any other hunt."

"Yes, I know." he said, dismissively. "But Edith saw your scars, Dean; when she helped Sam get you out of your day clothes after you fell asleep. You have a helluva lot of them. She was absolutely beside herself, feeling that her troubles had contributed a few more to your tally. And you know that woman; when she has something stuck in her craw, there will be no rest until she is satisfied she's done her utmost to fix things." He got up and refilled their glasses. Dean didn't know where all this was going and he was very uncomfortable. And he knew Sam was privy to it already.

Dwight continued. "So...you're wondering what the heck I'm yapping on about. Well, I'll get to it…but first, Dean, and I already said this to Sam; I want you to hear me out before you start your protests. And after I'm finished, keep in mind you can protest all you like, but her mind is set, and I have the experience to assure you that once it is-, she will not change it."

"Okaaay…" Dean said warily.

Dwight laid it out. "It is Edith's wish that the Rose cottage be left to you boys when she passes on."

Dean blinked at that bombshell. Of all the directions he thought Dwight's speech could take, that was definitely not one of them. "Say again?"

Dwight smiled patiently. "Dean... It is Edith's choice, she has decided to amend her will. You boys will inherit the Rose cottage on her passing. That's about as plain as I can put it."

Dean stared at Sam and Dwight with shocked disbelief. "What? Why? Christ, Dwight, we're strangers to you! She can't be serious! And you sure as hell can't be happy about this! For shit's sake, it's like we'd be stealing it out from under you! No! No way!"

Dwight chuckled. He knew he'd get that reaction. He leaned forward and spoke earnestly. "Listen to me. This has nothing to do with me, ok? I am well set up. Money is not an issue for me, and I'm already going to inherit this house. I don't need two of them. And Edith and I; we have no heirs between the two of us, so it's not like you're robbing some poor kid of his due. She was going to bequeath the cottage to the church, but after all this, she got a better idea."

Dean spluttered, speechless. He looked to his brother for help.. "Sam?"

Sam simply smiled. He'd already traveled this path with Dwight. He knew where it went. He let Dean flounder.

"Look, Dwight; this is nuts! Edith's an old woman! She can't be in her right mind, doing something like this!"

"Now, Dean! You've been around her long enough to know she's got all her marbles in a tidy pile. And you go right ahead and suggest to her face that she's too old and senile to make her own choices. I guarantee that this won't even be an issue then, because she'll outlive you for sure!"

No one, other than Bobby, and David, and Ellen; had ever done something so profoundly good for them. Dean had no idea how to react. "I…I still don't get it….Why?"

"Because…she feels that you have suffered too much and given too much already, with no place to call home at the end of the day. And that, Dean; that is what would keep her awake at night, thinking that you boys have no home. You have to understand; home is everything to Edith. She was born here, grew up and married here, grew old, all in the place her ancestors chose so long ago. Those roots run deep. And she's suffered in her life, just like any one, but she had the comfort of home to get her through it. She wants that for you boys. And he's a little peeved at the church, anyway, for letting her down when it came to dealing with all this. She's still a faithful, God-loving person; she just has less use for all the rest of it. It comes down to this, boys. It makes her happy."

Dean was still in shock, but he came to realize that this was a done deal. He stared at the floor, his eyes blurring. Sam just continued his silly grin. "Well I…I don't know what to say, Dwight…" Dean murmured, keeping his eyes to the floor.

Dwight got up. "Dean; you don't have to say anything. It's a shock for you, I expected that. And in the present, it's pretty abstract. I mean, we're talking about the unhappy day that wrinkly little firecracker leaves us all to muddle through on our own. But just remember that Edith chose this, and it makes her happy. She doesn't like to talk about it, that's why she asked me to. So; how about we consider this dealt with for now?"

Dean nodded, still not raising his gaze. Dwight smiled gently as he patted his shoulder. He glanced at Sam and winked. "Sam, how about it; want to go over to the Rose cottage for a bit of clean-up?" he asked, heading into the hall.

"Sure, Dwight. I'll be there in a sec." He waited until they were alone. "Dean...you ok?"

"Yeah ...well, no, but…man… Sam, I gotta get outa here for a bit, do you mind?"

"Sure. Why don't you go for a drive? You can swing by the cottage later."

"Yeah. Yeah, I'll do that. I'll see you later."


Dean drove aimlessly, his mind and emotions churning. He let the car go where it seemed to want, finally ending up at the public dock in Annapolis. It was quiet. The boats were out, the tide high. Seagulls whirled lazily overhead, looking for leftovers from the scallop boats. A few walked around on the pavement, shrugging their wings and picking at this and that, and complaining when the morsel didn't measure up to their expectations. Dean stared at the water, as the sun sparkled on its rippled surface, looking warm despite the season.

He covered his eyes and quietly broke down.


Epilogue

Edith wouldn't let him go.

At least for a good few minutes. They stood on the porch; the Winchesters and Edith and Dwight, solemn and unhappy. A weak autumn sun shone pale morning light on the shivering group. She knew that once the two of them were out of her house, out from under the safety of the umbrella of her attentions; she had no control over the perils and dangers they seemed destined to battle. They would face all those ugly things; they would sleep poorly in strange places, they wouldn't eat right… She held him in a tight hug, silently begging him to be safe, to stop chasing hurtful things, her tiny little old arms squeezing like an band of iron around Dean's middle.

He looked down, face reddened, but he didn't pull away.

Finally Sam told him to quit hogging, and she released him, teary-eyed. She did the same for the younger hunter.

She was very fond of both of them. But it was Dean who struck a chord in her…so like her late husband; brash, confident...careless. And she knew where he stood regarding his brother; she knew he was charged, by that father of theirs, and even more so by himself, with keeping Sam safe. But no one kept Dean safe. He shrugged off any attempts to do so, regardless of the source. She knew his future would be ruled by fear and pain and uncertainty, and there was precious little she could do to help that. But she'd done what she could; making sure in the end, that they had a blissful week of sound sleep, hearty meals and plain and tiring tasks. And then leaving the Rose cottage as their sanctuary, their home, when the strife ended. If it ever did. If she'd had a son, she'd have wanted that, at the very least, for him.

Dwight shook their hands with the solemnity of a father seeing his sons off to war. They had exchanged all means of contact, and it was not intended to be a final farewell. Dwight fervently hoped that it wasn't. He recommended a few sights to see, while they were in the area, and gave them some names of good destinations when they were ready to stop driving for a while. And he reiterated his intention to pursue their legal case.

After Edith's celebratory dinner that could have fed twice their number, and after some happy days spent repairing and winterizing the cottage, the brothers finally felt it was time to move on. They had a wonderful time with these open and generous people, and the best way to repay their kindness was to lessen their exposure to potential harm. And Dean and Sam knew that harm would find them. It was merely a matter of time.

They finally broke away and got into the Impala. Dean had started it earlier so that it was now good and warm, and the engine purred deeply in anticipation of a good run. He put it in gear, backed up, and was almost clear when Edith motioned frantically for him to halt. She disappeared into the house for a moment or two; reappearing, clutching the down duvets from the two guest beds. The fluffy pile of striped flannel dwarfed her; the only thing visible was a pair of spindly legs, and two hands. She came to the Impala's side, pried the door open and stuffed the bedding into the back seat. And she fled back into the house.

The brothers exchanged looks, not quite sure what to do. They looked to Dwight, who still stood on the step. He just shrugged, grinning, and waved. They returned the gesture and drove off'


"Well, I guess you charmed yourself a granny-for-life." Sam teased.

Dean scowled, embarrassed. "She's your granny too, you know."

"Yeah. Sure."

They were silent for a while.

"Told ya." Dean said, finally.

"What?"

"That she liked me best."

Sam shrugged, smiling. Dean could win this one.

They got on the main highway towards Halifax, with no real goal in mind. It was an hour of silence before Sam broke it. "So…what do you the whole future home-owner thing?"

Dean shrugged, and sighed enigmatically. "It's a good idea. Real...what's his name; Norman Rockwell, you know? Nice to think about." He didn't want to finish his thought. -but that's for other people, not uswe don't get that kind of happy ending…I don't get that kind-

It was Sam's turn for silence now. He stared ahead for a little while, then turned to Dean. "You know, Dean; it is real. The cottage will be ours to go to when we need to. It's not supposed to be depressing, it's a good thing. Yeah, maybe a way-in-the-future kind of thing…but when this is all over, it will be really, really good."

"I know, Sam." He faked a smile. "When this is all over."

They drove for some time, each absorbed in their own thoughts. Finally Sam returned to the present. "So...any thoughts as to where to?"

Dean grinned. "Nope. But I know I'll sleep well when we get there."

-end-