Dean didn't realise it yet, but today was to be the first day of the rest of his life.

He awoke in the sun-lit bedroom to Lisa's gentle caress on his cheek; lingering feather-light, just enough to convey her affection and happiness in having him there, warm and alive at her side.
Dean turned into her touch as he did every morning, hoping against hope that this day would be the one that would bring him a semblance of peace and acceptance.
Then the rational part of his brain would kick in and he knew today would be like every other day in the past year.
He would experience the identical gamut of emotions he always did.

It would begin with GUILT, for daring to impersonate a near-normal husband and father to Lisa and Ben; then FEAR that the evil encountered in his past life would reappear to threaten the two innocents who had accepted such a broken man as himself into their home and hearts.

An unwillingly recognised APATHY for the loss of the challenge and adrenaline-fuelled danger of hunting;GRIEF for his Baby, relegated to age under a tarpaulin in Lisa's garage, except when she kept him company during the hours of darkness as sleep eluded him and he passed fruitless hours curled up on her seats studying quasi-illegible books of lore, attempting to find a way to free Sam

Yet he knew that all these were insignificant when compared to the emotions that would follow.

PAIN, a torment so uncontrollable that he could only dull it with litres of whisky; a medicine that he imbibed regularly three times a day, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, under the compassionate eyes of Lisa who with her silence was more eloquent than a thousand words.
SELF-LOATHING for even considering complaining about his anguish, when it was utterly non-existent in comparison to that which his brother was still experiencing in the Cage.

Dean had been to Hell.
He was well acquainted with the pain and terror, but he had been treated no differently to all the other unfortunate wretches in that infernal realm, whilst Sam was helpless at the hands of Lucifer; Lucifer who was personally invested in making Sam suffer as much as possible.

His emotions continued with RECRIMINATION and REGRET because he knew that if he could turn back the hands of time, he would never allow his little brother to jump into the Cage with the Devil.
He would have hauled Sam's ass away with him, even against his brother's will and let the whole damn world go up in flames, leaving the angels and demons to enjoy their eagerly craved-for Apocalypse.

RESIGNATION because he couldn't find anything that could optimistically be called a trace to getting Sam out of the Cage.

TERROR, because it was getting more and more likely he would never see his brother again, neither in this world nor the next; condemned to an eternity without the other half of his soul, with no hope of ever reuniting the two parts.
If his brother had been in Hell, he could and he would have joined him there, but Sam was elsewhere.
The Cage was closed and there was no way for him to open it again.

His last emotion was the only one that made him get up every morning and suffer through the others. It was HOPE.
The ultimate life-line for a desperate soul.
The final, tiniest, most potent flicker to come out of Pandora's Box.
HOPE that today would bring him something, anything, that would or could be useful for getting Sam out of Lucifer's clutches and back into his own welcoming arms.

HOPE, that little hitch-hiker, would be Dean's ally today.
It would banish a year of anguish and swirling whisky-drowned emotions that had tormented him for months, uplifting him to the JOY of waking from a year-long nightmare to the vision of his little brother sitting calmly in front of him, alive and breathing and then warm and real within the heart-warming, breath-stopping iron grip of his arms.

The End