Author's note: Here we are at the end, folks. Tiny little epilogue. If there's a time stamp you'd love to see in particular, please leave a comment and I will consider all suggestions! I'm sad to see this story go, so I'd be happy to revisit it. Again, thanks for all the support and the kind comments.
It's Thursday night in Morgantown, West Virginia. A school night. A work night. And Dean's just coming to check in on his little brother before he goes to bed.
Sammy's most likely been fast asleep since he hit the pillow at a quarter to ten, his hair (getting shaggy, probably ought to get it cut soon) splayed across his pillow like a halo, his face rosy and serene. His school bag is packed at the foot of his bed, the top of a typed report about feudal Japan sticking out above the open flap. It's in a fancy binder and everything because Sammy's got a crush on his history teacher. The rest of the room is kind of a wreck, with uniform shirts and jeans spread out all over the floor and a bowl and spoon perched on top of the dresser, but his clothes for tomorrow are folded next to his neatly-organized booksack.
Dean hovers for a minute, relishing the normalcy of it, before he quietly leaves the room and shuts the door.
They've been in Morgantown for six months. They picked it because Sammy's forced travels never took him this far east, so he's less likely to run into Hunters who knew Walt, and he's got no bad associations with the place itself. Sammy had campaigned for Friendly, West Virginia, and Dean had countered with Nitro, but they ended up picking Morgantown because it was big enough that they wouldn't look at strangers too weird, but small enough that Sammy could navigate it without having a panic attack. The perfect size.
Sammy started high school, having passed all of the entrance exams with flying colors—and Dean having passed his own tests, which is to say that all of the school board employees bought his "our parents were survivalists and homeschooled us far away from civilization and also now they're dead" bit hook, line, and sinker. He got a job at an auto shop a couple of blocks from their apartment, and he's making enough to support them. They're not living in the lap of luxury, but they've got food on the table every night, a roof over their heads, reliable air conditioning and, most important to Dean, reliable water pressure. Every shower is a gift that he can't stop thanking the powers that be for.
The apartment's small, and it's not in the absolute best area of town, but it's placed so Sammy still gets to go to a good school. It's got one bedroom, which Sammy ends up in, and Dean sleeps on a futon in the living room. Sammy fought that one, tooth and nail, but in the end Dean had more experience at being a stubborn ass so he won. They probably could've squished two beds in the room, but Dean had decided it was more important for Sammy to have his own space. The futon was comfortable, anyway. Better than most of the motel beds he'd slept on throughout his life.
So no. Not the Taj Mahal. But the look on Sammy's face when Dean took him shopping for stuff, his stuff for his room that he got to choose...it was worth it.
Sammy keeps bugging him about getting his GED, but he's pretty happy in the shop. He's working with his hands, like he always has, and he doesn't think he'd feel comfortable making a living without breaking a sweat. Every day when he comes home and steps into the shower (the glorious shower), he feels the ache in his muscles and can watch the dirt run off of his hands and arms and he feels like he's earned every penny he made that day.
And that's maybe the weirdest thing. He comes home at five or so and Sammy's already home, his homework spread out across the floor of the apartment. He cleans up and Sammy takes a break from his homework to cook and eat dinner together. They talk about their days. Sammy tells him all about high school, an experience Dean largely missed, and Dean tells him about whatever quirky customers he had that day. They laugh about stupid, everyday stuff, they eat actual food prepared in a kitchen, and they argue over whose turn it is to wash the dishes. Sammy talks about college and it hurts Dean's heart a little bit, but there's nothing but Sammy keeping him in Morgantown; he could move if Sammy chooses to. They watch TV together and Dean tries to help Sammy with his homework, though most of the time he's more of a hindrance than an assistance. They're happy.
And it took a while, but Dean's stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop.
He pulls the futon out into its bed form and grabs his blankets from where he folds them next to it, stretching them over the bed and crawling in beneath them. The apartment is dark, quiet. Quieter than the motels ever got. He's still not used to it, not yet, the fact that the apartment is theirs, and they'll be sleeping here in a month's time, in these same beds, under this same roof. His clothes are in a dresser. Sammy's stuff is in another. It's their place, and it'll be their place until they decide—together—to find somewhere else.
As he closes his eyes, Dean can hear some cats fighting outside the window, the chirp of crickets, the sound of a car going by outside accompanied by a quick flash of headlights. And he's totally aware that somewhere in Morgantown, there's liable to be somebody whose life is being fucked up by some fugly.
And he knows, deep inside, that he can't ignore it forever.
Sammy knows, too. They haven't talked about it, not out loud, but whenever something weird shows up in the newspaper (Dean reads the newspaper now, how freaky is that), they always catch each other's eye, and the question hangs unasked: Should we?
The answer's been no. So far.
But not forever.
Maybe that's okay. It's all either of them know, after all. Sammy's been in school now for a couple of months, and he's blossoming, and Dean thinks he could get used to being a mechanic for a while, but in their hearts they know that they can't ignore the world they grew up in forever. Because Morgantown seems pretty safe, but something still curls tight around Dean's heart when Sammy goes out after dark by himself, even if only to take out the trash. He knows what's out there, what's in the dark. So does Sammy, but in the end, Dean's the big brother. And Dean knows, above all, that there are things in the dark that people don't know about, and that some of those things are waiting for his little brother in particular, because while he hasn't shown up yet, Azazel isn't dead.
One of these days he's going to wake up and Sammy's going to be waiting with a section of the paper and a grim expression.
One of these days he's going to wake up and the life his dad trained into him is going to say where have you been?
Dean's not waiting for the other shoe to drop. He's waiting for the past to come knocking at his door.
But it's his door, and he can choose to open it or to keep it shut.
One of these days, he knows he and Sammy will make the decision to open it.
And every night, he goes to bed under the blankets he bought in the apartment he rents with his little brother safe in his own room, and he prays that tomorrow won't be that day.
And so far, it hasn't been.
And for now, that's good enough.