AN: A million thanks to everyone who's been keeping up with this story. Thanks for all the reviews, and I really hope everyone has enjoyed the ride as much as I have. :-)
Where the Shadows Lie
Epilogue: Look at Last on Meadows Green
Sam's sitting on the couch that morning when his brother finally comes downstairs. Dean slept for a long, peaceful time last night. Sam's pretty sure he didn't wake up from a nightmare once.
Dean walks into the living room and pauses, and Sam looks up at him.
Sam knows right away that something is different. He looks at Dean, and Dean looks back at him – really looks at him – his green eyes bright and clear.
And suddenly, Sam can see his brother for the first time since he lost him to Purgatory so long ago. Suddenly, it's almost as if...
Dean's voice is rough with disuse, but Sam would know it anywhere. It's his voice – Dean – and Sam's never been happier to hear his brother call him "Sammy."
He feels his heart leap in his chest. He's so shocked he can't speak at first. Then finally, he finds his voice.
"Yeah, Dean. It's me."
Dean takes a step toward him, and then another. Sam stands up shakily from the couch, waiting. He doesn't realize he's holding his breath until Dean wraps his arms around him and pulls him close, and Sam gasps. He laughs to cover up the sob that escapes his throat.
Sam doesn't think he'll ever get tired of hearing his brother say his name.
After not hearing it for so long, the sound of his brother's voice is a shock to Sam's system. Dean's voice is hoarse, and he sounds tired at first, almost shy, but as he tells Sam what happened in Purgatory, he begins to open up. He doesn't share everything: just enough that his drawings begin to make sense. But while Dean remembers what happened to him in Purgatory, the past few weeks are a blur. He can't remember specific events; all he remembers are flashes of emotion. He remembers feeling scared, and confused, and lost. And then he remembers the fever, and how Sam was able to bring him back.
He remembers that Sam took care of him, and that the feelings of fear and confusion began to be replaced by a sense of comfort, safety, and home.
When Jody comes back from work that day to see that Dean is talking again, she finds herself at a loss for words. Then Dean gives her a hug and thanks her for everything she's done for them, and she smiles and thanks God for helping Sam get his brother back.
It's like a switch has been flipped in Dean's brain; like some long lost connection has been made again. Remembering Sam is just what his brother needs to come back to himself.
They stay at Jody's place for another two weeks. Dean tells her he has no problem with them moving back to Rufus' cabin, but Jody stubbornly insists they stay, and neither of them really wants to argue with her. Dean sleeps on a cot that she brings up from the basement. He's not comfortable on the floor anymore, but after months of sleeping on a hard ground Dean still has trouble falling asleep in a bed.
Over the next few days the brothers look into Cas' disappearance. They try summoning spells, hire psychics, even try talking to other angels.
No one knows why Cas was ripped out of Purgatory, where he went...or if he's even still alive.
Then one night, Dean dreams about Cas. Sam wakes to the sound of Dean yelling for the angel, telling him to wait. Sam's just about to get out of bed and wake his brother when Dean jerks up on his cot, panting.
"Dean, are you all right?" Sam asks with concern.
Dean takes a minute to catch his breath. Finally, he looks over at Sam.
"It's...Cas. He's alive. He just...he was in my dream. Only it wasn't a dream. Not really. Does that make any sense?"
Sam nods in understanding, knowing exactly what his brother is talking about. Dean doesn't really wait for a response though, and he continues.
"He's in Heaven, Sam. He's safe. He said something – someone – tore his grace out of Purgatory. One minute he was in agony and the next...he was home."
"How...how is he doing?" Sam asks awkwardly.
"You mean is he still cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?"
Sam cringes at Dean's blasé way of stating things (which, he hates to admit, he actually missed quite a bit).
"No. He's good. Really good, actually," Dean says, shaking his head slightly as he leans back against the wall. "He's...happy. He said he's not sure if he'll come back to Earth. He thinks he will, but not right away."
"That's good to know," Sam says with a sigh. "Who do you think...who do you think pulled him out?"
Dean pauses, lost in thought for a second. He pulls his legs up to his chest and wraps his arms around them. It looks like an unconscious gesture, protective, like he's trying to defend himself against the painful memories of Purgatory.
"Cas was...he was in a lot of pain when he got yanked out. But...I remember...whatever took him was powerful, Sammy. I've never seen anything like it. I don't...I don't know."
Sam nods. As they sit in silence, the pieces click into place in his head, and Sam finally develops his own theory about who sent him that dream about the ritual to save Dean; about who's responsible for Cas' disappearance.
He doesn't share it with Dean, though. His brother's always been a bit of a skeptic.
Dean lies back down on his cot, pulling the covers over himself, and Sam does the same. He's just getting comfortable again when Dean calls out to him.
"Our lives are weird, man."
Sam smiles. "Understatement, Dean. Understatement."
Dean falls back into hunting easily, with one exception: he flat out refuses to take on cases dealing with shifters. He never tells Sam why, but Sam doesn't need him to. Instead he calls up other hunters to deal with those cases for them.
Sometimes, when the weather gets really bad, Sam notices that Dean will get very quiet and tense up. Loud thunder makes him jump, and even though he'll take showers again, sometimes when it rains too hard Dean will insist they stay inside for a bit and wait for it to calm down. Sam does his part to help his brother by not mentioning his odd behavior. He knows Dean will feel more comfortable handling this on his own.
It's weeks before Dean will look at a girl again, but one day a particularly nice one makes Dean turn his head around for a second look. When Sam bursts out laughing and Dean asks him what's so funny, Sam can't bring himself to say anything, so he just shakes his head and laughs harder. Dean calls him a freak and turns back around to stare some more.
Dean gets back his appetite for burgers and fries and pie pretty quickly. The first time he orders a burger at Biggerson's, Dean moans in ecstasy.
"God, Sam. Remember when we had to eat fruits and vegetables because the Leviathans poisoned the food supply? What a nightmare."
Sam shakes his head in wonder as Dean starts in on his fries.
"Yeah, Dean. Fruits and vegetables. Just terrible."
Over those weeks of recovery, Sam became so attuned to the change in his brother's sleep patterns that he can almost sense when Dean's having a bad dream. So it's no surprise to him that he still wakes up to the sound of Dean tossing and turning in his sleep, caught in a nightmare. When it happens, Dean will wake up panting, at which point he'll turn to Sam, find him staring, and tell him to go back to sleep.
One night, Sam wakes to the sound of Dean screaming his name in terror, and he flies across the room and shakes his brother awake. Dean jerks up in bed, looking around wildly, and when his eyes settle on Sam he calms down.
Sam knows what Dean wants to say, how much he wants to say. But he doesn't need him to, because he already knows. Sam squeezes his brother's shoulder firmly. "It's okay, Dean. I understand."
Dean nods his head slowly and rolls over, clutching the amulet tightly in his fist.
He hasn't taken it off yet, and Sam suspects he never will again.
As Sam gets up and turns away, he hears a quiet whisper of, "Thanks, Sammy."
Sam crawls back under the covers with a smile on his face.
Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.
~ JRR Tolkien, "Roads Go Ever On" from "The Hobbit"
AN: I hope everybody liked it. Thanks so much for reading and reviewing! :)
Hopefully October can get here faster. I only have one request out of season 8: please let it be Sam who rescues Dean from Purgatory. No more easy fixes with the angels/demons doing all the work. I want the brothers to save each other like the good ole days.