A FRIEND INDEED

Author's notes:

A couple of weeks ago, in response to an appeal on the Spn-BigPretzel community over on Livejournal, I offered to write a 'short - approx. 1000 words – hurty-comfort fic in aid of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Appeal.' The very kind and lovely 'Elfgirljen' was the highest bidder, and subsequently made a generous donation to that Appeal

My brief is as follows: 'Dean and Cas are my two favorite characters. I thought a Christmas/curtain fic would be nice, a mixture of angst-schmoop with a happy ending.'

Sooooo … I had my plot in mind, and off I went merrily tip-tapping away, but I was about halfway through the first paragraph when I realised I had a snowball's chance in hell of keeping this to 1000 words. What can I say? I'm incorrigible!

In line with my brief, this will be primarily hurt/comfort, a little bit angsty, but hopefully a little bit humorous as well. I'll rate it T for a few naughty words. I'm going to say it's very, very loosely canonical up until the end of Season 7, but as of season 8, I've gone completely off the reservation – this, I guess, is season 8 as I would like it to happen. However, there may be some stray and very vague season 8 spoilers floating around, so be warned!.

xxxxx

If purgatory took its toll on Dean, his return to the real world has only compounded the problems. He finds help and comfort from a very unexpected source.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of them and that's not likely to change any time soon.

xxxxx

Chapter 1

(Sam's POV)

When that unctuous asshole Dick Roman exploded and I was suddenly left standing alone and bereft in that awful, soulless room, the voice of reason - you know, the one you should listen to but don't want to - told me that Dean and Castiel had both died in the blast. They'd been at blast ground zero, and so had been vaporised; simply zapped out of existence.

The louder voice, my hunter's voice, the voice that's been there, seen everything, done it all; the voice that tells reason to go screw itself, told me that they were alive and well; it's just that I didn't know where.

For a while, I was in shock. I barely knew who I was, never mind what I needed to do; my mind was whirling with thoughts of what could have happened to them, but eventually I found the focus to stop assing around and to get with the program – they might both need my help.

I needed to think, I needed to clear my head and to be away from distraction. It was because of this I eventually headed west and holed up at Rufus' cabin. There I began the laborious task of finding my brother and the angel. I would find them, I promised myself that; and for a time I even believed it.

The following weeks rolled into months; a whole load of frustrating, infuriating months of painstaking and ultimately fruitless research. I checked out every John Doe who turned up in every hospital in the land, hacked the police networks, canvassed the hunting community worldwide, and spoke to psychics, mediums and every two-bit fortune teller I could find. I searched out any ancient texts that might be able to shed some light; shockingly, reference material relating to exploding leviathans wasn't exactly easy to come by. I spent night after night glued to Google for hours; saw the dawn come up more times than I care to think - it was nice at first but trust me when you're wired sky high on caffeine and exhaustion has shrivelled your eyeballs into pickled walnuts, it's overrated. Even the Crossroads Demon was clueless; and Dean would have pitched a fit if he knew that I had even summoned the damn thing.

Ten months passed in little more than a blink, after which time I had achieved precisely nothing. I was not one slightest iota closer to discovering what had happened to Dean and Castiel and that goddamn irritating voice of reason, which had been growing louder by the day, finally sat me down and gave me a good talking to.

Crowley had taunted me about being 'well and truly alone'. As much as it pained me to admit it, as much as I wanted to push the thought to the back of my mind and spit at the very notion, I was starting to believe him.

I wasn't convinced that Dean was dead. If he had been there were dozens of ways in which we could contact each other, especially as I've no reason to believe that as a spirit he'd be any less loud and obnoxious than he was as a man. I couldn't believe that he would let me endure ten months of worry and despair without making some kind of contact, but every damned séance I conducted gave me nothing but soul-destroying silence.

Then again, I've no reason to believe he's alive. I know a good hunter can remain hidden from the outside world if he wants to, but again, I can't and won't believe that Dean is out there, alive and well but not getting in touch and allowing me to worry myself into neuroses about him.

Then of course there was Castiel. I know angels can kill other angels (and apparently often do), but aside from that, is there any other way they can die? As powerful as it may be, I wouldn't have thought that an exploding leviathan would have the juice to take one of them out. Jimmy Novak, Castiel's meatsuit, maybe - but not Cas himself.

And if they're not alive, and they're not dead, then where, or what, the hell are they?

This is where I run out of options; I've explored every avenue and for my trouble come up with a whole load of dead ends. The trail's gone cold, and I can't begin to know what to do to warm it up.

So, finally … here's where my train of thought derails.

xxxxx

With no clues and no idea of what to do next, I had to decide where to go from here. It was the hardest decision I'd ever had to make.

I knew that Dean would hate for me to be sitting here with my thumb up my ass, helpless and clueless and wasting my life chasing his memory, but how could I just give up on him?

Then again, there's no way I could carry on hunting without Dean. The hunting life reeks of him. Reminders of him are everywhere; his gruff voice stumbling over the latin incantations, his thumbprints on a flask of holy water, his surprisingly neat handwritten notes in the margins of a bible – complete with spelling mistakes and imaginatively random apostrophe use. It tears me to pieces every time I see it.

I won't dishonour Dean by moping and brooding my life away; I'll do what I'd almost managed to do before, and walk away from the life. It's just too painful to continue. I'll vanish, just as Dean has done; I'll ditch contact with the hunting fraternity and become Sam Winchester, the civilian. Hopefully I can do something worthwhile with my life – Dean would like that.

I briefly considered ditching the Impala too; right now the sight of her is like a knife right through my heart but no, that's one thing I couldn't do. She is as much a part of Dean as he is of her. I can sense him in every rivet; every bolt. It'd be just about the worst thing I could do to Dean.

In years to come I hope I'll once again be able to look on her with fondness, but at the moment I can't think that far ahead.

I can't see beyond tomorrow.

xxxxx

Loading everything he owned into the Impala's trunk, Sam hesitated briefly beside the car, inhaling deeply of the loamy fragrance of early Fall around him. He glanced upwards as a fresh breeze rustled through the forest, and took a last long look at the amber polka-dots of Maple and Linden standing out in stark relief against a sea of evergreen before ducking into her drivers' seat and pulling the door closed.

He scraped a shaky hand through his hair and pulled away without a backward glance.

It would be two months before the cabin was occupied again.

xxxxx

tbc