Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Author Notes: Here's the last chapter! And it's a long one. Hope you enjoy it.


Chapter 32


There was something to be said about small towns, about walking into a restaurant and knowing the waitress's name, having someone whistling to let you know where the rest of your party was waiting for you to join them. Sam and Dean didn't expect that kind of home town welcome when they entered the Cooper's Flat Diner two days later but got it all the same.

Jamie, their earlier waitress, came up to Dean before he had barely cleared the diner's front door, cooed, "Good gracious, what other trouble have you gotten into?" as she gently cupped Dean's heavily bruised face sporting a row of stitches along his forehead that hadn't been there the last time she saw him. Her eyes darting to Sam as he followed in his brother's wake, she frowned at the sling on the taller young man's arm. "Oh no, now you're hurt, too. Did this happen during that fight you tried to break up for me earlier this week?" she asked in mortification, real concern and guilt shadowing her features.

"No, no," Sam hurriedly assured her but when her features didn't lighten, he explained with a not so black lie of "Hiking accident."

Though her guilt fled, Jamie's concern hung on as she dropped her hand from Dean but eyed up the two young, injured men. "Car accident, now a hiking mishap," she slowly repeated their excuses but her gaze held a flickering of instinctive motherly suspicion. "Why am I getting the feeling that you two aren't happy unless you're provoking trouble?" but whatever scolding she intended was washed away when she gave them an impish smile. "With my two boys, it was calls to the principal's office, with you two….."

A whistle cut across the noises of the diner, snagging Dean and Sam's attention, along with the rest of the diner's patrons. It was almost comical, seeing Wade giving them a two fingered wave from a large table in the back corner where he sat with Nathan.

Turning back to her two patrons, Jamie's smile became mischievous as she finished her prediction, "…calls from the police department, yup, I guessed it. Go on back, I'll follow with coffee."

Giving Jamie a flirty wink, Dean started to thread through the diner. It was Sam who politely offered, "Thanks Jamie" before he followed Dean to where their friends were waiting for them. Claiming seats at the table, the Winchesters didn't miss that Wade tossed a twenty dollar bill in front of Nathan with ill grace.

"If you're handing out money…" Dean joked, holding his hand out to Wade.

"Your brother should be paying me, he's the one that cost me that twenty spot," Wade grumbled but glared at Nathan instead of Sam.

"How did…" Sam started to question but Nathan gloatingly explained the mystery, "Wade and I had a bet. He said you wouldn't have the sling on and I said you would."

With a confused tilt of his head, Sam replied, "Why wouldn't I? My shoulder will heal faster if…"

"Suck up," Dean muttered, shaking his head as if embarrassed to have such a goody too shoes as a brother.

Sam sent Dean a pinched lip grimace before he transferred his ire to the medic. "You do realize you are the one who ordered me to wear the sling, right?" Thinking Wade, of all people, should take his side against Dean's ridicule.

"Yeah," Wade snorted. "But I didn't think you'd listen. I mean, the apple can't fall that far from the tree." Jerking his head to Dean, who cockily smiled instead of looking guilty for his blatant refusal to sport a white bandage around his head like some wanna be mummy.

"Trust me, Sam's an apple that hitched a ride with a hurricane," Dean taunted, loved the sight of the playful fire brewing in his brother's eyes.

"And tell me again who had to crawl on the floor to get to the shower this morning because he was too stubborn to take his prescribed pain and antibiotic medication last night," Sam cockily fired back, enjoyed Dean's menacingly promise to pay him back when they were alone.

"Dean, for pete sake, two pills, that's all you had to down," Wade exploded, upset that the man still didn't possess a drop of self preservation, was still playing the role of invincible big brother. "Why I bothered patching you up…I should have cold cocked you and dumped your carcass back in the hospital," Wade fumed, was still contemplating that course of action when Sam broke out into laughter and Wade knew he had been had.

Finally able to get a word in, Dean irritably snapped, "He just wanted to get you going," his eyes on his brother before they swung to Wade, who was pinning him with a not-so-trusting look. Sighing at the interrogation and distrust directed his way, he bit out, "I took the friggin' pills, alright. I walked to the shower…I did three backflips to the car…" No need to confess that he had every intention of skipping the dosage last night, had wanted to be clear headed for the next day of travel, but Sam had shook him awake, loomed over him, his pills in his hand and threatened to go absolutely no where the next day if Dean didn't take the pills like he was supposed to. 'Sammy's friggin' fault if I zone out and do a head-on collision two hours on the road,' he internally grumbled at his brother's high handed manipulation.

Holding Dean's gaze, reading the other man's truthfulness, Wade sheepishly shook his head at having been played. Casually picking up his water glass, he raised it toward his lips…but detoured it at the last second to send water sloshing Sam's way. It caught the younger man in the chest, sling and arm and caused the table to erupt into good meaning laughter.

It was at that ill timing that Jamie approached the table. Hand on her hip, she held the coffee pot out of the range of the rumbustious men's antics. "My favorite hometown bad boys carousing with my favorite visiting bad boys, be still my beating heart," she drawled, her twinkling eyes falling on Wade and Nathan. She pointed to Sam and Dean, even as her gaze never left her regular customers, "Do you two have anything to do with the state of these poor boys?"

"No ma'am," Nathan and Wade reverently replied together, giving her their best good-boy expression.

She fondly shook her head at the two men's playacting. "How many times do I have to tell you two that you'll never make more friends if you play too rough."

"I think I need a one on one intervention to break me of my wicked ways," Wade sweet talked, batting his eyes at her. She leaned her arm on his shoulder and looked down into his upturned eyes. "Honey, if I was going to bother breaking anybody's wicked ways at this table, it wouldn't be you," she saucily drawled, then returned the wink Dean had given her a few minutes ago, eliciting a gloating smile from Dean and groans of protest from the three other men.

Pulling back from Wade, Jamie waited until the men settled down from her joke before she took their breakfast order. But she held Dean's gaze a moment before she left the table, knew by the man's soft smile that he knew she wasn't actually hitting on him, had just wanted to give him the spotlight. And he was just fine eating it up.

She greeted police Chief Fox as she headed to the kitchen, turned in surprise when he walked past his usual counter spot and headed back to join the younger men. Suddenly, her earlier taunt about the two visitors being in trouble with the law didn't seem like a joke. It made her wonder if she still had an emergency fund tucked away that would cover bail…but knew her worries weren't justified when the chief actually claimed an open chair at the table beside Wade with a smile. Feeling a strange surge of pride at the four younger men's ability to garner the chief's presence at their table, she ducked into the kitchen and proactively added the chief's traditional bacon and eggs over easy to the table's order.


"Now this is what I like, all my suspects in one convenient location," Chief Fox greeted with a Cheshire cat smile as he joined the foursome for breakfast. "You call me here to make a full confession?" he lightly teased, eyes coming to rest on the Winchesters.

"I didn't know you were a priest," Dean purposefully misinterpreted, casually turning to Sam. "Nathan's going Zen and the Chief's a priest, so much for the separation of state and church. Sammy, what'd I tell you about these small towns," he gave a disapproving shake of his head, "always making up their own rules."

"I wish Judge Preston had your sense of humor, kid," Chief Fox retorted. "He was angry enough about his yard being redecorated in the middle of the night, now with the shakeup on Brendal Larson's case …"

"What are you talking about? New evidence has come out?" Nathan demanded as he anxiously leaned across the table to face his boss, wondered how much worse things could get for his friend.

"Not more evidence….lack of evidence," the Chief corrected, his eyes fixed on Dean, trying to sweat out a confession from the younger man. But Dean was apparently immune to his technique, only leaned back in his chair with a smug, blithe pose. Fighting back a defeated sigh, the police chief continued, "When the District Attorney went to review the case, the knife was missing in the evidence lockup, the witness list and their statements were MIA and the coroner's report, just last night, was supposedly sealed by a federal court, meaning it will take an act of congress or God to get it opened for the trial. So should I ask the coroner if two FBI agents, looking like death warmed over, were the ones that presented the court order or do you two want to go for a plea bargain?" This he directed toward Sam, hoping the youngest brother was the weak link, had a spark of hope when Sam conspiringly leaned his way, but when the younger Winchester began to speak, his tone was confident, unworried and his gaze unabashedly met his. "Brendal didn't kill his brother."

"So you thought I'd condone you playing fast and loose with the law?" Chief Fox challenged, but truly mostly as devil's advocate because, really, it wasn't like Brendal was a guilty man in jeopardy of going free.

"Your law would have Brendal doing a life sentence for a murder he didn't commit," Sam countered with a little bit of heat. Feeling Dean meaningfully staring at him, he shot his brother a 'what?' look.

Not bothering to fight a smirk, Dean drawled, "Thought it was your law too, counsel Winchester." Hadn't taken notice before that Sam had begun to lose his aspirations to be a lawyer and was embracing vigilante justice. Sam gave him his typical, tight lipped huffy look, which only upped Dean's amusement.

Pointedly choosing to ignore Dean from there on out, Sam focused back on the Chief. "This stuff, what Dean and I have seen, it doesn't always fall into nice categories of good and evil, guilty and innocent, doesn't translate into sane explanations to include in a defense brief."

Running a hand through his thick head of white hair, the Chief exhaled tiredly, suddenly felt all his years. "I get that but…it's my job to uphold the law, let lady justice do her thing, without me playing favorites."

"Or blowing up a judge's yard?" Wade interjected, eyes coming up to challenge Chief Fox, thought it time to remind the Chief that he had already done some unorthodox, heck, downright illegal and crazy things the last few days. That Sam and Dean weren't the only ones taking liberties with the law, all for a really good cause, like the town's survival.

Seeing a cloud of indignation settling over his boss' features, Nathan knew it was time he took his swing at bat. "Speaking of that," he causally drawled, meeting his boss's eyes over his coffee cup as he took an unhurried sip. "I hear the Judge is still looking for the punk who did that joyride through his yard and started a bonfire with a grenade. I bet if I finger the perp and get the Judge a conviction, I might have a shot at being the next Chief… real soon. "

Chief Fox's eyebrow rose at his deputy's deviousness, but to his surprise, it was pride, not anger that settled in his gut. "Blackmail? Kid you've got more potential for politics than I ever gave you credit for," he said, even as he knew the kid was bluffing, had always stood by him, heck, had wanted to arrest the Winchesters for impersonating FBI agents…but, on his say so, had instead worked with them. 'Course I didn't tell the kid to make the con artists his new best friends and take sides with them against me,' he ruefully thought, feeling a little spike of betrayal.

Instead of an apology, Nathan shot the Chief a cocky, full teeth smile. "It's the company I keep," jerking his head to Wade then the Winchesters.

And there it was. Proof Chief Fox didn't need that his own deputy wasn't going to back him on this, not if it meant Nathan going against Wade, the Winchesters and sparing Brendal, one of his closest friends, an undeserved prison sentence. Cursing, he gave up his stance of reprimand, which the younger men gathered around the table weren't intimidated by anyway and unhappily sank back in his seat. "Well, there goes my chances of re-election."

Wade put a comforting hand on the Chief's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "Don't worry, if it come down to you or Nathan for Police Chief, you have my vote," he pledged with an encouraging smile, laughed as he caught Nathan's mock sour expression at his disloyalty. To his friend he taunted, "Come on, Nathan, you hate paperwork, get nervous speaking in front of a class room of ten year olds and who's going to take that babyface of yours serious as a grizzly-hardened chief of police." Reached out and grabbed Nathan's face in his hand to prove his point, only laughed more when Nathan playfully knocked his hand away.

Sensing another presence, the occupants of the table looked up to see the last member of their pack had arrived. Dean kicked out a chair for Strongeagle and the Indian accepted the gesture for the invitation it was. But before the Indian could pull in his chair, the Police Chief pointed a warning finger at him, "Do not start on your we-stole-this-land-from-your-forefathers spiel."

Chagrined at his former interactions with the police chief ,Greg contritely replied, "No, sir. I was wrong to threaten to sue you, and should have never caused those disturbances of protest during the town events." Then his eyes went to Nathan, who had tolerated and forgiven so many of his Indian power stunts. "Now it seems like all this time I've only been playing at being an Indian, was indignant over a heritage I never even understood."

Surprisingly, it was Dean who defied Strongeagle's self-criticism. "Seems to me that only a true shaman could have gotten Wanikiya and the other tribe members spirits to the cave," his eyes coming up to hold the Indian's with respect.

A stunned expression of pride spread across Greg's features at the hunter's compliment. "But I didn't really have faith it would work."

"But it did," Sam affirmed, sharing in the gratitude for the Indian's help, knew that he and Dean might not even be able to touch each other, let alone leave town together if it hadn't been for the man's knowledge and skill in his family's customs.

"Yeah, I can't quite believe it, but it did work, didn't it," Strongeagle allowed with a small laugh. Then he soberly met Chief Fox's bewildered gaze, knew the Chief was marveling at the change in the Indian he had probably come to hate with all the trouble he had caused over the years. "Paytah passing judgment on the brother population in town, me holding you and this town responsible for my people's time here ending….we both wanted to undo the past, to make it like it never happened, but that's not possible. Change happens, whether you want it to or not. I guess it's what you do after that, that defines you."

"Just because it's the past…doesn't mean it still doesn't suck, " Dean quietly interjected, couldn't help remembering being teleported to the past, to seeing his Mom, meeting his Dad, of trying so hard to change what came next, to save his mother, to alter his and Sam's fates, but he never could. Just like he couldn't go back in time and save Bobby, take the bullet for the older man, be the one that Dick Roman targeted with his treasured pearl handled gun instead.

Dean hated that he had opened his mouth when he caught the sorrowful, worried look Sam was sending his way. Thought it would be Sam slapping together a hasty pep speech, but Strongeagle beat his brother to it.

Sensing the melancholy in Dean's words, Greg knew it was his opening to share his grandfather's wisdom. "My grandfather used to say some wounds bleed until you heal the evil under the skin. The things happening in this town the last couple of days, that was all Paytah. But for my people, the evil's been their division, one tribe torn apart by the shame of a single defeat. My grandfather called at 4am the other night, when we were just leaving the cave," he announced, his eyes flickering to each man around the table, assured that they got the significance of the time frame as he pulled out his phone, set it on the table and activated the saved voice message.

A voice, gravelly with age, but infused with pride came from the cell phone speakers, the cadence slow and measured of one who had known a language from birth that was not English. "Grandson, I had a vision tonight. I saw a great gathering of our people and they were dancing, not in grief or for war but in celebration. I am proud of you, Strongeagle. You gave up your prejudices, sought your true heritage with your heart not your head and you helped bring unity back to our tribe. Thank the two men who have known both death and resurrection for the honor they have returned to our people and tell them to always trust the strong magic between them."

Then it was if the speaker flicked a switch, began speaking perfect English… with a New York accent. "Ok, enough with the old ways. Tell me again how I get my emails on my phone? I'm not paying extra for texting so don't teach your grandmother…"

Frantically stabbing at the phone, Strongeagle cut off the voice mail, felt an embarrassed blush crawl over his face at his grandfather's drastic shift, feared the others would think his whole family were fakers. "Grandfather…he's not as traditional…"

"As you are, Mr. MBA?" Nathan retorted, earning a relieved smirk from Strongeagle.

"Third generation MBA, I'll have you know," Greg bragged because he knew that was expected.

"No wonder nature rejects him." Wade mumbled, fighting back a smile as he winked at the Indian.

"But he has strong medicine man magic," Dean proclaimed in his best Tonto impersonation.

"You're all jerks," Greg sputtered with laughter. "I saved your butts out there, me and my "strong magic". A little gratitude would be nice."

"Welcome to our world," Sam drawled. "We don't get paid, we only get thanks once in a while, not to mention the risk of…

"Death and resurrection?" Nathan quietly asked, his serious gaze holding Sam's, remembered their conversation and was even more certain that the brothers had done the impossible, all for each other.

Dean watched the interaction between Nathan and his brother but didn't interfere. Sam gave a shrug that was anything but carefree. "It's been known to happen."

The Chief, beginning to catch on, started to ask, "Wait, you're not saying…"

"That they have no health insurance and they have no intention whatsoever of paying their hospital bills," Wade griped, effectively derailing the conversation. He noted Dean and Sam's relief for his meddling as he whined for good measure, "There goes my raise this year."

"Wait, they pay you for playing taxi service?" Dean taunted the medic. "Thought your services were free, that you did it out of the goodness of your heart."

"I would…if all my patients were as awesome and obedient as Sam," Wade parried, loved the scowl it earned him from Dean.

"Bite me," Dean drawled.

"Now play nice, boys," Jamie teasingly scolded as she returned to the table, bearing plates of food to the incongruent group of men that had suddenly and unexpectedly managed to form a tightknit friendship in just a manner of days. 'They probably went and shot something together,' she quirkily thought, smiling to herself at the mystery that was male bonding.


Outside the diner, the Winchesters sent Strongeagle off with handshakes but as the Indian headed to his Beamer, Wade called out "Drinks, Friday at 6?" Surprised at the invitation, Greg spun around, saw that not only Wade but Nathan was waiting for his response. "Yeah, sounds good." And then he climbed into his car, headed out of the diner parking lot and found that he was actually looking forward to Friday. The past few days he had learned a lot more than just his tribe's true past. Had realized that he liked having people he could call friends, enjoyed being in their company, even if they spent their quality time going up against pissed off relatives of his.

'You can't pick your family,' he had heard that adage but had been so caught up, all his life, in hero worship of his tribe's past that he had never conceived he would ever cop out like that, would want to disown his own family. Not until the last couple of days, when the past came knocking and he had to accept that his family was as screwed up, ok, maybe more screwed up than anyone else's.

So maybe family wasn't the end all be all.

'Good thing grandfather has a fallback adage,' Greg good-humoredly thought. He could almost hear his grandfather's voice, using his "tradition Indian tone" telling him again, "Sometimes you get lucky and you don't pick your friends but they pick you." And that gave Greg back some of his faith, made him believe that, the wisdom of the past, it still had merit today. That sometimes luck stepped in and gave you something you didn't even think you wanted but you needed all the same.


Exiting the diner after stopping to talk to some of his buddies on his way out, Chief Fox joined the remaining foursome, knew the Winchesters were itching to get out of town, and after the way the town's longest running resident had treated them, he understood their haste. But he couldn't let them leave without saying his piece. "I know I was a bit hard on you in there, about Brendal's case but…truth is, if you two hadn't shown up, didn't risk your life doing what you do, lots of people in this town would have been hurt, maybe even killed." He stammered on the next part, a little uncertain if the men would accept his words or think they were patronizing. "So I'm…I'm proud of you." But when he held out his hand, it was a startled, humble expression gracing Dean's features as the younger man shook his hand and a revered look in Sam's eyes as they shook hands a few seconds later.

"But one word of advice, when you're illegally impersonating law enforcement officers," the Chief began, saw the two man brace for the lecture they thought was coming, "…for pete sake, keep up the charade." And if there was any confusion on who the lecture was rightfully directed at, his eyes came to rest solely on Sam. "Don't drop your guard, even if your reckless brother's brought down the wrath of nature, because not every small town's sheriff is an old softie like me."

"Yes sir," Sam obediently replied with a repentant nod of his head.

Basking in his little brother being the one in trouble for a change, Dean affectionately patted Sam on the chest. "Aaawww, he just starts blubbering whenever I'm in danger. It's adorable …but so embarrassing."

But the Chief took the paint off of Dean's boasting by jabbing an admonishing finger his way. "And you, you don't know how to lay low or play things safe, which puts a nice bull's eye, not only on you, but on Sam too. So …" but he stammered to a halt at seeing how pale Dean's face had grown at his reprimand, that his well-meaning lecture was hitting the kid hard, too hard. Sparing a look to Sam and seeing the rising tension in the younger Winchester at Dean's discomfort, the Chief softened his tone as he addressed Dean, "So how about you slow down, do your due diligence before jumping into a situation, both feet and remember that, where ever you go, Sam'll follow."

"Yes sir," Dean hoarsely agreed, didn't need to look at Sam to know his brother was watching him, hoping he took the chief's advice to heart. That he used some caution when he finally had his window to go after Dick Roman, that he didn't just react out of blind revenge and get himself killed in the process. 'And get Sam killed with me.'

Recognizing that Dean's reply was sincere, Chief Fox nodded his head, cleared his throat and bade, "Ok, well…ok. Make sure your names don't come across my desk in the form of APBs."

"Yes, Sir," Dean and Sam responded in perfect harmony and the Chief couldn't help but smile, enjoyed their little boy obedience. But as he gave a two fingered salute to Nathan and Wade and got into his squad car, he knew he had it wrong. It wasn't about two little boys obeying a figure of authority; it was the response of a finely tuned fighting unit of two whose self-assigned mission was to take on the things of nightmares.

But he wasn't fooled, knew Dean and Sam's unspoken motto, even if the two men didn't. That going nose to nose with ghosts, that came second to them pulling each other, literally, out of the fire. "And knowing those two, out of the fire and right into a freaking frying pan," he muttered aloud but couldn't help but smirk, because if anyone could finagle their way out of being dinner, it was those two. After all, they had managed to sweet talk a probably soon-to-be-fired police chief into doing a witch's spell on a judge's front lawn, had tamed the town's most radical activist, found a way to quiet a deep welling hurt in the wonder medic Wade, and turned his most straight-laced deputy into a rebel. It made him think he might have a chance at re-election…if he dragged those two boys back into town and unleashed them on the voting populace. Because Dean and Sam might lack tact, common sense and self-preservation, but they had heart, and that could trump the worst of odds.


"You could hang around, wait until you actually aren't seeing double?" Wade said to Dean, felt a twinge of panic at the notion of letting Dean and Sam get out of his sight, of the two men he had come to care about leaving town.

"Seeing two Jamies is not a bad thing," Dean parried, giving a wave to the waitress through the diner's front window. Jamie frowned at first then pulled on a smile and nodded her head, sent them on their way with her blessing for safety.

Sam watched Dean, part of him hoping that Wade would have better luck convincing Dean to rest another day than he had. But Dean didn't buckle under to Wade's logic any more than he did Sam's entreaties that morning.

Recognizing that Wade wasn't going to let it go so easily, Dean sallied back to the medic, "I'm good, took my meds like a good boy, might even eat some veggies during a meal this month, mom."

Wade snorted. "If that actually happens, I want a picture," this he directed at Sam. But Wade, try as he might, couldn't smother the worry bubbling up in his chest. Hoping that Dean might be more reasonable if he didn't have to put on his brave face with an audience, Wade tugged Dean away from Nathan and Sam.


"Twenty bucks says they hug it out," Nathan predicted as he watched Wade and Dean pair off for a private conversation.

Forcing himself to stop tracking his big brother's movement like a lame stalker, Sam turned his attention to Nathan, dryly asked, "Didn't you make enough money on us today?"

"My chief might not get reelected so chances are I'll be looking for a new job," Nathan excused his actions, actually felt no qualms about this particular bet.

"Fine," Sam agreed but jerked his twenty dollar bill back from Nathan's grasping hand before the other man could touch it. "But Dean's got to initiate the hug, not Wade."

Nathan bit his lip, knew that changed the odd but was still running on a lucky high. "Deal," he said as he shook Sam's hand, sealing the beat. Told himself it was because of the bet that he and Sam were watching Dean and Wade's exchange like peeping toms, had nothing to do with him being worried how Wade would take losing Dean so soon after befriending him. But he knew Wade wasn't the only one he should be worrying about. "So you doing ok?" shooting a nonchalant look to Sam

"Yeah, my shoulder's… " Sam began, hand coming up to rub his arrow wound but at Nathan's perceptive look he knew the deputy wasn't asking about his shoulder. Dropping his hand, he shuffled on his feet but decided Nathan had earned a straight answer from him. "Dean and I are leaving town together. That's a better outcome than I thought we were going to get there for a while," gave a light laugh, not sure who he was trying to conceal his case of nerves from, Nathan or himself.

"But something's still got you keyed up," Nathan perceptively guessed, had thought to see a lack of tension in Sam that morning, not rising anxiety.

And there was the rub with letting people close, they saw things Sam didn't want them to see, things that he certainly didn't want them to tell Dean about. Clamping his mouth closed, he thought to outwait Nathan, let the man get the message that he was crossing a line. Knew it wasn't working when Nathan didn't drop the subject.

"I get that I'm a stranger…" Nathan quietly began.

"You're not," Sam quickly refuted, eyes flying to Nathan's, didn't want the man to think he didn't value his friendship, because friendship, it was a rarity in his life, in Dean's life. "I just…opening up…it's not my thing. Never has been. Dean…he talks all tough but…he lets people know him, sometimes gets shredded apart because of that…" His eyes again went to Wade and Dean and he prayed that Wade wasn't scoring new scars into his brother's too vulnerable heart. Tearing his eyes from that scene, he met Nathan's concerned gaze and ran his hand through his hair, finally confessed what had been clutching at his heart ever since it hit him that he and Dean could leave town. "What comes next, it scares me."

Nathan made an effort to hide the jolt of surprise and worry he felt at Sam's declaration, at the hunter admitting to being scared. Because Sam had been pretty fearless in front of a ghost, make that a cave full of ghosts. He had only seen him afraid when…'He was in jeopardy of losing Dean.' The correlation to Sam's present fear did not sit well with Nathan. "You're worried about Dean."

"What? No…yeah. I just…" Sam inhaled and jammed his hands in his pockets. "How things are going to go from here on out…what we have looming over our heads. I don't know how it's going to turn out." Because Dean wasn't going to let his Dick Roman obsession go, wasn't going to stop until Bobby's death had been avenged. And all the well-meaning advice from the Chief or Wade or Nathan, it wasn't going to change that, wasn't going to change who Dean was. His brother saw things through to the bitter end, fiercely, blindly protected those he loved, tried so hard to right wrongs that weren't even his.

Nathan wanted to say something profound, to give Sam hope, to believe that Sam's worries were misplaced, but he wasn't really that great of a Zen master, didn't know the right words or the future, just knew what he wanted to be true and what he believed in. "I know we've just spent a truckload of time hashing out the past, that it's pretty terrifying that some bad choices can still have fallout nearly three hundred years later but you can't psyche yourself out about the future either. It's unwritten, Sam, it can still turn out ok. So I say revel in your win, enjoy road tripping with your brother …" here he dropped his arm around Sam's shoulder and pulled him close, "and thank me for siphoning out half of your gas tank . Which means, in two hours, Dean'll have to stop for gas and you can take that window of opportunity to drag his butt to a motel and drug him to the gills."

Loving where Nathan's head was at, Sam smiled from ear to ear and mischievously declared, "No matter what Wade says, you're a good man Nathan."


Having maneuvered down to the edge of the building, which afforded them a bit more privacy, the hunter and medic came to a stop, stood there quietly for a moment or two.

When Wade broke the silence, his tone was as earnest as Dean had ever heard it. "Dean, I'm serious. There's no reason you and Sam can't stay here to heal up." Afraid he was coming off too pleading, was revealing too much of himself, Wade skittered back behind his emotional barriers, formed words to lightly coax instead of beseech, "I mean, it's not like the cops will run you out of town and you've charmed the prettiest waitress in the state. Not to mention, you've made friends with the most influential people," waited a beat before he cockily listed: "Nathan and I."

Dean smirked but didn't make a reply, didn't want to hurt Wade or repay all the other man had done for him and Sam with a flippant refusal.

Reading Dean's silence and almost apologetic expression, Wade projected levity vanished and the weight in the pit of his stomach doubled. He forlornly shook his head, knew that he would have as much luck changing Dean's mind as he ever did Oliver's: None at all. "But I'm just wasting my breath, aren't I?" he bitterly retorted, couldn't believe Dean was all set to don the invincible big brother demeanor again in some stupid notion that's what Sam expected of him. Wade went to walk away, to surrender Dean to his delusions but the other man grabbed his arm, halted his retreat.

"Wade, look….Sam and I, we have things we need to take care of," Dean explained, hoped Wade could respect that vague statement because he had no intentions of weighting the man down with tales of Leviathans staging a world domination. Surely didn't want to admit his and Sam's capability in the Leviathans being topside, that it was their job to stop them since it was missteps on their part that had gotten them lose in the first place. Wanted to leave town with Wade thinking he wasn't a bad guy, wasn't such a screw up that the world might end because of him, again. Needed to know that there were a few people still in the world who actually liked Dean Winchester.

"Other ghosts, curses to break?" Wade pressed, his brows creasing in worry, didn't like the thought of his not-even-healed-yet friend having another ghost encounter.
"Something like that," Dean elusively returned.

Wade knew in his gut that Dean's dismissiveness, it did not bode well. "It's more dangerous than that, isn't it?" he tersely cross-examined, didn't want to be kept in the dark, treated like something fragile, to be protected…while someone he cared about got hurt, not again.

Pulling on a cocky smirk, Dean drawled, "Come on, when danger's your middle name…."

Wade heatedly cursed and looked away, breaking off Dean's lightheartedness. Felt a well of emotions closing off his airways. Suddenly the past few days didn't feel like a win, didn't seem like a road to some kind of redemption, were just a bitter déjà vu. Oliver lying to him, telling him he was alright…..dying in his arms. Dean hiding away his pain, telling Sam he was ok, leaving town and heading right into danger all over again. Dean hadn't learned a freaking thing, wasn't going to change, was going to die young, just like Oliver had.

At Wade's obvious distress, Dean sobered. "I'm not your responsibility, neither is Sam. We never were."

"Yeah, you were, still are!" Wade hoarsely shot back, eyes searing into Dean's. "That's what it means to be friends!" Angry that Dean didn't get that, was trying to pretend he shouldn't care, thought he wasn't worth worrying over.

"Ok, fair enough," Dean almost softly conceded. "Then, as my friend…wish me luck, promise to take care of yourself, and stay out of the cave."

At Dean's requests, Wade swallowed, hard. "You think Oliver…"

"…already said his goodbyes to you. He let you go because he knew you were ok here, with Nathan, were helping people in this town. Now you have to let him go," Dean advised firmly, wanted to save Wade more heartbreak if he could.

"Just like that, so simple," Wade resentfully challenged, hurt that Dean didn't seem to understand what he was asking of him. But the next second, he knew Dean did, better than he wanted him to.

"Nothing simple about it at all," Dean painfully countered, raw emotions glittering in his eyes. Because he knew he had to take his own advice, had to give up his naive hope that some part of Bobby was still with him. And accepting that, it felt like he was being forced to watch the man he had loved like a second father die all over again.

Getting that Dean's advice, it wasn't off the cuff, was heartfelt and painful for the other man too, Wade nodded his consent, was consoled by the fact that he and Oliver had had time to say their goodbyes this time. That his brother was proud of him and would be waiting for him when his life was over, that they would be together again, somewhere down the road.

Knowing that he couldn't delay Dean's leaving any more, that he really didn't have a right to, he breathed out a ragged breath and steeled himself for the other man's departure. "I'd hug you but we both know I put you back together with baling wire and toothpicks so you'd probably scream if I even touched you," he teased.

"I do not scream," Dean gruffly denied, seemed determined to prove his point because the next moment he pulled Wade into a hug.

Wade was careful to make his returning embrace light, knew that, contrary to Dean's denials, the other man was still in pain, had to be with all the wounds he had accumulated in just the last week. When Dean pulled back, Wade gave a last gentle pat to the back of his friend's neck before he forced himself to step away, to let Dean go.

"I know ordering you to take care of yourself would be useless so take care of Sam…" Wade commanded with a tinge of annoyance but when Dean went to rejoin his brother, Wade couldn't stop himself from clamping onto Dean's arm. Meeting the man's gaze head on, he imparted a message that he hoped Dean took to heart. "And the best way to take care of Sam… is to take care of yourself. It's really the thing he wants most of all."

Before Dean could refute Wade's words, the medic was stalking back to Nathan and Sam, leaving him standing there absorbing his insight. When Sam's eyes met his across the small distance, conveyed a worried question of 'are you alright?', Dean had to begrudgingly accept that Wade might know what he was talking about this time. Pulling on a small encouraging smile for Sam's sake, Dean headed back to his brother's side. But when Sam's expression merged with a 'who's the chick now' smirk, signifying that Sam had witnessed him pulling Wade in for a hug, Dean almost rolled his eyes, mockingly thought, 'Yeah, like he has room to judge me, Mr. Chick Flick himself.'


Sam almost didn't mind that he had to hand over a twenty to Nathan when it was Dean who pulled Wade into a hug. Had to give Nathan and Wade kudos because, it wasn't often someone was crafty enough to pull one over on him and Dean. 'Guess we truly met our match,' he conceded with amusement, had forgotten that sometimes losing felt a lot like winning when it was between friends.

A few minutes later, when the handshakes were done and the goodbyes said, Sam matched Dean's stride to the car. Catching his brother's gaze over the roof of the car, he noted that it was contentment brewing in his brother's eyes and turning up his lips not regret. And that, for Sam, was worth everything Paytah had put them through.

Almost laughed as he realized that he and Dean were leaving town with their brotherhood more intact than when they had come. And wouldn't that just tick Paytah off to no end to know it was all his fault.


As Nathan and Wade waved goodbye to the Winchesters, Wade said around his wide smile, "So Sam fell for the hugging bet."

"Like a newborn baby," Nathan gloated, handing Wade a five dollar bill.

Looking at the bill in his hand like it was a wet fish, Wade turned on his best friend. "Wait, thought you were going to bet a twenty spot not a ten."

Nathan gave a defeated shrug. "I could only get ten out of Sam."

Narrowing his eyes, Wade scowled as his natural bullcrap meter started ringing in his head. "I can't believe you! You're holding out on me."

Feigning wounded by the accusation, Nathan recited, "I'm an officer of the law, Wade. I've sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth…"

"….And to not gamble inside the town limits?" Wade sarcastically added to Nathan's don't-do list. "I think the Chief and I will need to have a conversation about one of his employees."

"Tattle tale," Nathan grumbled as he dug out his wallet and slapped another five dollar bill in Wade's waiting hand.

Stuffing his winnings in his jean's front pocket, Wade tracked the Winchester's car as it pulled out onto the two lane highway. "Think they're going to be ok?" he asked, didn't bother to conceal his worry.

"I think they've been through worse things than we'll ever know and I think they'll go through even more," Nathan gave in answer, could feel Wade's glare for his frankness.

"That the best pep speech you got?" Wade snapped, starting to stomp away but Nathan stepped into his path and their eyes clashed.

"But, between you and Oliver and Sam and Dean, I've had to redefine my definition of family loyalty, of what it will endure and overcome," Nathan proclaimed before he jerked his chin toward the road and the departing Winchesters. "So my last dollar, it's on those two making it through anything."

Wade sagely nodded in agreement then wrapped his arm around Nathan's shoulders and steered his best friend to his truck. "Speaking of family loyalty, where were you, bro, when Jamie broke my heart in there, huh? You're supposed to sell her on all my wonderful attributes."

"You have wonderful attributes? When did this happen?" Nathan snarked back.

They were still bickering as they climbed into Nathan's truck and headed out to their favorite fishing hole. After the week they had, they figured that the least they deserved was a day off. A string of trout from Judge Preston's privately stocked pond ….that sounded like just desserts.

And if the old coot Judge thought he could oust their favorite chief of police? Well, he was in for a real war, because Wade and Nathan, they took care of their own. Even when "their own" slid into town one Monday and slid out the next, had a bad habit of waving around fake badges, racking up medical bills they didn't pay, stirring up almost insurmountable trouble and had managed to change their lives forever…. with just one little bitty ghost tale. Because after all, giving out free passes, wasn't that what being family was all about?


"So you think it's like 'Back to the Future', that we need to do 66 miles per hour to break through to the other side?" Dean joked as they approached the Cooper's Flat town limits, the line a few days ago he couldn't cross, not without getting pancaked by a tree. He shot a look to his brother but Sam wasn't sharing in his mirth, had that pinched, 'I want to talk about something but I know you won't like it' set to his features. Which got Dean huffing out a "What?"

"Pull over," Sam ordered, his voice strained and when Dean didn't let up on the gas he turned his brother's name into an entreaty, "Dean."

Foot shifting from the gas pedal to the brakes, Dean eased the car off the two lane highway and put it in park before he turned to his brother. But before he could demand an explanation, Sam, his eyes on the empty road ahead, quietly announced, "We can go back to the cave."

Ready to brave Dean's reaction, Sam shifted in his seat to face his brother. He rushed the next words out before they could get tangled in his throat. "See if we can contact Bobby. Even if he's not a restless spirit, he might be able to come. I got a rope from Wade and some ingredients from Strongeagle. I think if we…."

Dean felt his world tilt, hadn't expected this opportunity, especially not to come from Sam. But his own advice to Wade echoed in his head, about not going back to the cave, about letting Oliver go. "Why?" he hoarsely cut across his brother's words, his eyes searching his brother's.

"Why what?" Sam posed in confusion, had envisioned a lot of reactions from his brother but this simple one worded question hadn't been among his perceived scenarios.

"Why are you suggesting this?" Dean asked, not with anger but a flash of anguish.

And Sam winced at Dean's palpable heartache. "I thought….you wanted Bobby around, to talk to him," Sam choked out, hated that he had made a misstep, had not eased his brother's grief but seemed to have found another way to drive Dean's hurt deeper.

"For me, not for you. You'd do this for me?" Dean said with a tone of astonishment.

Sam meekly shrugged his shoulders, gave a hoarse, timid reply of, "Yeah. I mean, I miss Bobby …but… " he broke off, didn't say the rest out loud. 'But I still have you.' Thought maybe he had said that last part aloud when Dean didn't move, kept staring at him.

After all of Sam's speeches, after all of his brother's attempts to get him to give up the hope that Bobby was around, that he could have more time, even just a final conversation with the older man, here Sam was offering to drag them both through the woods, back into a hole in the ground, ( so not Sam's favorite locale) to try and summon a friendly spirit in a cave that could be a channel for any spirit wanting to pay a visit for good or for evil. For him, because his brother wanted to give him what he wanted, even if it was a thousand times selfish desire on his part.

"No…we….he's gone, Sammy," Dean painfully declined Sam's gift, hated that his eyes were welling of their own volition, which had him focusing out the front window instead of his brother. "I wish he wasn't but he's gone and I….I have to accept that. Have to let him have his peace, God knows, he deserves it," he tried to chuckle but it caught in his throat.

Though Sam nodded his head, accepted Dean's decision, his own eyes were tearing up and it wasn't all about losing Bobby, was about the grief that still clung to Dean. "He'd be here if he could, I know that much," Sam vowed, knew that Bobby had been fiercely loyal to them but he had had a special soft spot for his big tough, sometimes so exposed brother. Had been with Dean when Sam hadn't been, had saved his brother time and time again, had made sure that, whether Sam was coming back from the dead, Hell or soullessness, he had a brother to come back to.

"Yeah, I know he would," Dean agreed, voice thick as he rubbed a hand over his eyes before he straightened in his seat, couldn't fight a wince as his arrow wound made a protest at the movement, any movement. And then he pulled the car back onto the road and when it unassumingly sailed over the Cooper's Flat town limits, the cocky smile of victory that he sent to Sam was mostly genuine. "Eat your heart out, Paytah!" he yelled out the window, and Sam couldn't help smile and shake his head at his brother's antics, that weren't so different from Sam's early, silent and so civilized dig against Paytah.

Of course, at that point, Dean had no idea that his plan to drive straight through the day would be cut short by a baffling empty gas tank, a suddenly overbearing brother who practically strong-armed him into checking into a motel and made Wade's "bed side manner" look nurturing when he threatened to withhold the pie he bought him if he didn't down some pain pills and antibiotics. But Dean didn't go down without a fight…or at least a compromise. Agreed that, he'd take his meds…. if Sam took his.


When Dean cut the car's engine, neither Winchester made a move to exit the car, sat there in silence, staring at the bland cement wall of the storage unit. It felt like years since they had stood there, each with their own offering for the sacrifice, a rift cracking between them that seemed almost too vast to bridge.

And now…everything they had argued about…it seemed foolish.

Dean, his eyes still fixed on that wall, was the first to sever the silence. "Bobby would kick our butts for arguing over him, would burn the flask himself if he knew I was letting it come between us."

"Same for the amulet," Sam added, reminisced with a small smile, "Like that time we were arguing over who got Mrs. Houck twenty dollar bill when we mowed and mulched her yard that month we stayed at Bobby's place."

Dean chuckled. "Yeah, he grabbed the twenty out of my hands and ripped it in three pieces, gave each of us a piece and he kept the last piece himself."

"Said that we'd get the last piece when we stopped bickering with each other and figured out what we could buy with the twenty dollars together," Sam fondly recalled, finally meeting Dean's gaze, was relieved to see amusement breaking though his brother's grief.

"But he didn't believe us when we said we wanted to buy him a gift with the twenty bucks," Dean snorted, shot Sam a devious grin. "We never could pull much over on him."

"Not much," Sam quietly agreed with a co-conspiring grin, felt an easing of the well of loss in his soul remembering the good times. Then there was the immense gratitude for all that the older man had done for them, the times that he had been there for them, when they were kids and through the last six years. Suddenly Sam knew that none of that would fade away, Bobby's memories would stay with them both, and his advice, they would take it… when they could. But he worried that Dean couldn't see that, wasn't feeling the same comfort in the memories as he was, didn't know that, what Bobby had left them with, was his love.

"He loved you, Dean, more than anyone," Sam declared quietly, knew that Dean needed to know that, to accept that. That Dean didn't need an old flask to carry that love with him.

Before Sam could stop him, Dean flew out of the car, left the door open and walked a few paces away.

Sensing Sam's exit from the car, Dean kept his back to his brother, hoped Sam didn't say it again, didn't say anything. Hoped just as badly that Sam didn't get close, didn't see the tears that refused to be blinked away.

But Sam never was one to let things go, especially things that hurt his brother. "He wouldn't want you taking foolish risks to avenge him," his voice trembling with his own fear for Dean, his own desperation to keep Dean among the living, to not lose him too. His voice nearly came apart with the next words, "And neither do I."

Dean clenched his jaw so hard that it hurt, but he had to if he didn't want to shatter, didn't want Sam to know just how broken he felt inside. Almost missed the movement behind him, as it was, he reacted too late, didn't escape Sam's grasp but got caught right in it.

Anticipating Dean's attempt at escape, Sam had dodged left, had cut in front of Dean's retreat, reached out and seized Dean's arms to forestall his evasive action. But logically determining that he needed to confront Dean, get him to open up, was world's away from being ready to see the tears on his brother's face, to be hit with the pain glistening in his eyes, to know just how badly his brother felt the loss of Bobby Singer. His brother's name came out as a broken endearment. "Dean."

"Don't," Dean growled tried to rip his arms from Sam's grip but his brother wasn't letting him go. Did the opposite of what he wanted him to and stepped closer to him, crowded him, trapped him. "Sam.." he warned, needed Sam to Let. Go.

Ignoring his brother's warning, Sam tightened his grip on his brother, bent down a little so his eyes were level with Dean's. "You said it yourself, Bobby said he'd be pissed if you died before him. But you know what he'd hate worse, Dean?" When his brother's eyes darted away from his, he gave Dean a shake, waited until the angry green gaze was searing into his. "He'd hate you dying because of him. So if you're thinking about going after Dick Roman with some half-baked plan that's more likely to get you killed than end Dick, think again Dean. Bobby wouldn't want it and I won't allow it."

Dean belligerently started to deny, "I wouldn't…"

"Yeah, yeah you would, Dean!" Sam shouted, before his tone morphed into steely resolve. "But you know what, same rules apply as the cave. We both go after Dick and either we both survive that or we don't. So unless you want to kill me…I say you have a friggin' awesome plan to gank him before we green light it."

And there it was: the ultimatum that beat all ultimatums. Sam was pulling out all the stops, was using the frigging 'If you go, we go' "Backdraft" motto. Was using Dean's down right refusal to see harm come to his little brother as leverage against him, was blackmailing him. And it wasn't just words, he could see that unshakeable determination in every line of Sam's features. Sam meant it. Had followed him into a gaping hole in the ground and would follow him into whatever confrontation he had with Dick Roman, no matter the odds.

That loyalty, it deserved something better from him than angry frustration. It deserved matching loyalty. And with how hard he and Sam had just fought to stay together, that should tell him something, did tell him something, that going it alone was no longer an option.

"Ok, Sam, Ok," Dean earnestly vowed, found that he meant it, that when Dick Roman poked his head up again, he and Sam would both be there to chop it off.

Reading the truthfulness of Dean's vow, Sam gave a nod, felt the hammering fear that he had just barely managed to keep under the surface since Bobby's death slowly begin to dissipate. He loosened his stiff fingers from Dean's arms but didn't release Dean, just couldn't do that yet. When Dean moved, he thought his brother would shove his hands away, instead Dean reached up and coiled his hand behind his neck and gave it an affectionate squeeze.

"We go after Dick together," Dean promised, sensed that Sam needed him to say it again, to spell it out, to make it iron clad.

"Good," Sam declared, his voice husky but brimming with relief and gratitude. Gave a tremulous smile as Dean gave his neck a pat and pulled away, started for the storage unit door. Knowing that Dean's vow, it wasn't just for his sake but for Bobby's too, Sam silently offered up to their family friend, 'That's another one I owe you Bobby,' a little bittersweet that it would be the last time he and the old hunter would gang up on Dean and win an argument.

Then Sam was following Dean into the unit. Bypassing Dean as his brother hit the lights, Sam reverently retrieved the amulet from the crate, wasn't expecting Dean to snatch the necklace from his fingers.

Head snapping up to Dean, Sam wanted to tell his brother that he didn't have to take it back, that he understood he had hurt him, that the amulet didn't represent what it once had and his brother didn't have to pretend that it did.

"You gave it to me," Dean meaningfully reminded, eyes rising from the amulet cradled in his palm to his brother's startled features. "Not to Dad, but to me," and the truth of what Sam's choice had always meant to him, still meant to him shone in his eyes, along with a plea. "If it's ok…I'd like it back."

It was more than Sam had ever hoped to hear from Dean, was forgiveness that he knew he didn't deserve, was a promise that, no matter what came next, they were brothers and nobody and nothing was going to change that. Ever. "It's always been yours, Dean," he replied, wanted his brother to know that, no matter all the crap that they had been through, he had never rescinded it …or their brotherhood,

Dean's eyes reflected how touched he was with his brother's declaration but then a twinkle broke through his seriousness. "Good…'cause I'd hate for my brother to be an Indian giver."

"Really, after what we've gone through, you wanna go there?" Sam snorted, fighting a smile, didn't want to encourage his brother's political incorrectness.

"Come on, Sammy. Don't go on the ….war path," Dean's smile boasting how proud he was of his own wit.

Turning on his heels, Sam walked away from his brother, was then free to smile at his brother's antics out of Dean's line of sight. Fought down a chuckle when Dean called out to his back, "Don't be mad…let's smoke the peace pipe."

Grinning at Sam's exasperated departure, Dean slid the amulet over his head, felt that comfortable weight settle on his chest. And it was like something that was lost to him, no, some part of him that he had discarded had been restored to him. It made him feel a little less likely to shatter, that the grief that he had nearly allowed to wash away everything was receding, was no longer crashing over his barriers, seeking to drown him with the next breath he took.

Fingers skimming the contours of the charm, he found that he believed once more in the meaning behind his little brother's gift. That someone valued him, that he wasn't alone, that his brother was there for him, with him, that it was the two of them against the world. And that gave Dean something he hadn't in a very long time: hope.

Sam wasn't in the car but was resting against the hood when Dean left the storage unit. He didn't move even as Dean approached, kept his trained eyes on his brother, wondering if more needed to be said. But he was stunned into speechlessness when Dean held out Bobby's flask to him, was willing to forfeit the last meaningful memento of Bobby's over to him. Into his sometimes selfish care.

Knowing what it cost Dean to make that sacrifice, Sam reached out but didn't take the flask from his brother's hand, instead, his hand coiled around Dean's and curled his brother's fingers around the scoffed, silver decanter and gave the flask and his brother's hand a meaningful squeeze. "No, Dean, he'd want you to have it." 'I want you to have it.'

Too grateful to protest and too choked up to speak, Dean simply nodded and when his brother's hand slipped from his, he tucked the flask in his inside coat pocket. He would keep it safe, just left of his amulet and close to his heart, where he kept everything that really mattered.

Wordlessly, they climbed into the car and Dean pulled it back onto the highway.

Sam was about to say something but the sun glinted off the amulet dangling at his brother's chest. Then words were impossible, couldn't slip out past the sudden constriction in his throat. Felt the same way he had seven years ago, when he got his first look at his brother after two years of absence and saw his gift right where he had last seen it: around his brother's neck. Conveyed what Dean might never verbalize: that it was still treasured, that he was still treasured, even after all the hurt he had inflicted on Dean, even after leaving him and seemingly never looking back.

'I looked back Dean, so many more times than I'll ever admit to, even now,' Sam thought, would never forget the part of him that he had tried so hard not to miss when he went to Stanford, the part of him that was Dean's little brother, who was loved unconditionally, even when he rejected that love and the brother that went with it.

But since then, they had faced far worse things than his escape to college, and through it all, the amulet had played a part. Sam remembered taking the amulet off Dean's Hell Hound ravaged body, slipping it over his own neck, feeling the weight of the charm rest on his sternum, where Dean sometime would give him a reassurance pat. And he had not taken it off, ever, had clutched onto it in the middle of the night, sick with the thought of Dean in hell and praying that Dean knew he was still loved, that that would give Dean strength to hold out until he freed him.

'Course I didn't free him, Cas did,' and there was less bitter jealous in that thought than there had been before. Because, after his own hell stint, he knew that what came after torture was sometimes worse, was when you broke apart…if you didn't have someone there being your stone number 1. And as much as Dean had been that for him…he had been that for Dean, Dean had let him be that. Even through his Ruby/Revenge/Blood Addition betrayals, Dean had always wanted it to be him at his side. Had never wanted them to be anything less than brothers. Until he believed Sam didn't feel the same way, until Heaven's slide show, until Dean gave up on him, on them, dropped the amulet in the trash and walked out the door, didn't look back.

But Sam couldn't give up on them, on their brotherhood, had lived without his brother and had been inconsolable and utterly lost. Knew what he was without his brother, that their bond, it made him stronger, better, more alive than he ever felt on his own. So he had salvaged the amulet from the trash can, had desperately clung to the hope that Dean would find it in his soul to forgive him. But he had come to learn the painful truth that, forgiveness didn't undo the hurt of the past, just buried it, whitewashed it into something not so garish. And what was left in the wake of that forgiveness was the horrible uncertainty that their brotherhood would ever be as strong as it had been, that Dean would ever love him like he once had.

Now Sam had his answer. Knew that, though the amulet hadn't led them to God, it had done something just as miraculous: it had restored their hope, had strengthened their love, and had led them back to being brothers again. And that wasn't too shabby for a twenty year old gift that had been hastily wrapped in newspaper. But then again, things given out of trust and out of love, they sometimes had the power to change the world.

"You Ok?" Dean quietly inquired, his eyes going from the road to his brother, a bit worried about where Sam's thoughts were at. Knew that, behind Sam's cool front, his brother was struggling to let the past go too.

Holding Dean's gaze, Sam thoughtfully proclaimed, "Yeah, you know, I'm good." Found that it was the truth, he was good. Felt a measure of relief when Dean didn't second guess him, simply nodded in acceptance, had a look in his eyes that told him he even agreed with him. "You have a destination in mind?" he asked, jerking his head to the road before them.

"Not a clue," Dean answered with a wide smile, not bothering to conceal his contentment. Honestly, he didn't care where they were going, because, as long as he and Sammy were going there together, it would be right where he wanted to be.


The END!


I'm so happy…and a little sad to see this story come to an end. I can't believe this story took me ….what?! A little over 2 years to complete and 32 chapters!? That's just crazy.

Love to all my reviewers, nods of thanks to all the silent readers out there and my appreciation to whoever began this journey, didn't lose faith when I took a year off and are here at the finale with me. You rock!

Have a wonderful day!

Cheryl W.