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almost home.

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And whatever I believed in
This is all I have to show
What the hell were all the reasons
For holding on for such dear life?
Here’s where I let go

When the dust settles, there’s still Dean, and there’s still Sam, and there's a tired man in a well-worn coat, all staring blankly at each other.

They’re wondering what the hell to do next. 

Heaven’s boarded up their windows, purgatory's locked up for good, and hell’s gate has been slammed shut and sealed up tight.  And yeah, there are still monsters, still ghosts, even demons still walking the earth, but when Dean sticks Ruby’s knife in their guts, they head back home and they stay put.  

And life goes on. 

They hole up in a motel, out of habit.  Dean takes the Impala and drives in circles, aimlessly; Sam spends his time calling a number in his cellphone, always hanging up before the call goes through, and Cas sits on the edge of a twin bed and stares at his hands for a long time, as though they’re a new and fascinating something he’s never seen before and wishes to investigate thoroughly.

Then Sheriff Mills calls Dean’s cell to tell him that Bobby’s willed the house and salvage yard to him and Sam.

“The house is pretty wrecked from the fire, but there’s insurance money to cover it,” she tells Dean, brisk and all business.  “It took a hell of a long time for the paperwork to go through, but it’s yours now, so you boys better get your asses down here to sign the dotted lines.”

“But what are we gonna do with it?” Dean demands, but she’s already hung up. 

“A house that’s in worse shape than we are, and a junkyard full of scrap metal,” he mutters, but there’s an ache in his throat as he says it, because it’s only been two days since they saved the world, again, and this time Bobby’s not here to celebrate.

And damn Bobby, anyway, Dean thinks sourly.  What was he thinking, leaving them his place?  It’ll be a thorn in their sides until they do something about it.

“We could sell it,” Sam says slowly.  “We could always use the money,” he adds, and Dean doesn’t ask what Sam could use the money for; the ghost of Stanford hangs over his head ominously, and it takes Dean’s breath away because the end’s finally here, he’s supposed to let Sam go now, off to live his own life, and it hurts like hell because Dean still doesn’t want to let him go. 

"Cas?" Dean asks uncertainly, but Cas simply looks at him with weary eyes and shrugs, and that's another problem, this new-found air of uncertainty Cas has hanging around him, and it's just another thing Dean doesn't know what to do about, because for all that he's finally gotten Cas to stay, he's not exactly sure what to do with him now. 

But it’s with a measure of relief that they pack up and hit the road, because it’s a destination, it’s somewhere to go, something to do, and it’s one more thing that’ll keep Sam riding shotgun for just a little while longer.  And it’ll keep Cas here, too; Dean doesn’t know what Cas’s plans are, or if he even has a plan, because despite Cas choosing to be human he sure doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to explore his options.

The trip to Sioux Falls is mostly silent, except for the radio and a few short-lived conversations about what to do with Bobby’s place.  Sam seems torn, Dean’s leaning towards selling; Cas expresses no opinion whatsoever: he hasn't expressed a single one since he fell, not about changing radio stations or choosing a restaurant for dinner or which motel bed he wants.

But no, when Dean pulls into Singer Salvage and puts the Impala in park in front of the ruins of Bobby’s house, he looks at Sam and it’s perfectly clear: of course they’re keeping the house; it’s the closest thing to a home, besides the Impala, either of them have ever known.

And when he checks out Cas’s expression in the rear view mirror, he sees a look that’s part nostalgia, part wistfulness, and Dean realizes that it’s not just a almost-home to him and Sam, but to Cas, too. 

“We can’t leave the old place like this,” he says gruffly.   

"No, we can't," Sam agrees, and he ducks his head and smiles, looking almost young.

“Gonna be a bitch to clean up,” Dean observes, and he glances quickly at Cas in the mirror again.  “Guess it’ll take months to get it back the way it was.”

Cas is staring out the window, with more interest than he's shown in anything since he fell.  “I’d like to help,” Cas says slowly, and something eases inside Dean, a worry he hadn't even been aware of until that moment.

They sign the paperwork at Sheriff Mills's desk during her lunch break.  

“Just my luck,” Jody says with a wry smile.  “Thought I’d finally managed to run all the last bit of crazy out of this town, and now you fellas are moving in,” she says, and Dean glances at Sam, because they still don’t really have plans to move in for good; they don’t have any plans beyond fixing the place up. 

The second floor is a blackened shell of what it used to be, but the rest of the house is fine; everything’s there, more or less, if slightly charred.  

There’s smoke damage, and water damage, and the second floor needs to be completely rebuilt, but it's livable, there's electricity and water, and most of the furniture is undamaged.  

The panic room is, of course, completely fine.

That evening, Sheriff Mills comes over with two bags of groceries and a bottle of Jack Daniels.  There's an extra shot, meant for Bobby, and Dean carefully pours it off the porch, watching the whiskey splash against the wooden slats of the front step.

Jody apparently regards the likelihood of two grown men and one fallen angel being capable of feeding themselves as slim to none; she cooks them spaghetti on Bobby’s ancient stove and allows them to get belligerently drunk before taking off in her dusty pickup.

They toss blankets and pillows on the floor of the library.  Many of Bobby’s books are burnt, all of them smell of smoke but many are still salvageable, and Dean can tell by the way Sam's eyes flicker around the room that Sam's time will soon be consumed by working his way through the stacks, rebuilding Bobby's collection. 

That night, Dean doesn’t fall asleep for a long time.  He's too busy listening to Sam's light snores echoing across the room; he's far too occupied watching the silhouette Cas’s chest makes against the library wall as it rises and falls rhythmically.

Jody tells them that the insurance agents combed the place over months ago, and it's only a week after they arrive before there’s a check in the mailbox.

Dean refuses to hire a contractor.  “Spent that whole year at Lisa’s building houses,” he tells Cas.  “Think I can figure this out on my own," he says, but Cas looks skeptical.

He squints at the blueprints Dean’s drawn.  “Your measurements are imprecise,” he says, and grabs the graphite pencil out of Dean’s hand.  "If not entirely inaccurate."  He bends over the table, frowning in concentration, scrawling calculations furiously across the graphing paper. 

“Huh,” Dean snorts, and crosses his arms against his chest, but it's nothing but a relief, the way Cas focuses his attention on Dean's blueprints with almost his old intensity. 

“There,” Cas says, a few minutes later, “I fixed it.  Now the likelihood of witnessing the second story collapse on top of your head has significantly decreased."

Dean feels suddenly, immeasurably fond of him right then.  Cas looks smugly pleased with himself, and Dean has to fight against an inexplicable urge to ruffle his hair.

"You mean I can't huff and puff and blow the house down?" Dean teases, and he's rewarded with the frown of annoyance tugging at Cas's mouth. It's almost perfect, this bantering back and forth, almost just like it used to be back when all they had to worry about was an apocalypse, and maybe that's why Dean avoids having anything but light-hearted moments with Cas these days, avoids any conversation that might delve too deeply into the reason why Cas is here and not back home in heaven.

The downstairs bedrooms are all right, except for being smokey, and in the second week Sam takes Bobby’s truck out and comes back, looking sheepish, with a brand-new mattress.  

“I’ve always wanted one of my own,” he says to Dean.  “Even when Amelia and I..." he hesitates for a moment. "Well, it was hers and Don’s.” 

He takes over the second bedroom downstairs; neither he nor Dean will touch Bobby’s room, and Dean feels oddly reluctant to move out of the library.  Someone needs to be there for Cas, he reasons, Cas is doing all right but he has nightmares, sometimes, and Dean doesn’t want him far away.  And he doesn’t mind the lack of privacy; in fact it feels strangely more private, with Sam away in his own room, and just Dean and Cas in their separate corners in the library.

Sam talks to Amelia every night.  

Dean overhears Sam’s side of the conversation sometimes, when he’s washing dishes by the window that looks out over the porch.  Sam tells her about the work they’re doing on Bobby’s house, tells her about rebuilding the second floor, about the three bedrooms; asks her advice on wallpaper and paint colors and Dean isn’t surprised when, three weeks later, Amelia shows up at the door, assaulting the doorbell with passionate intent, two duffel bags slung over her shoulder and Riot’s leash in her hand. 

Dean sees her before Sam does, sees Sam’s look of disbelief, then his sudden smile; the way Amelia chews her lip nervously; how they don’t hug immediately, not until Amelia suddenly tosses her bags to the ground and flings her arms around Sam’s waist. 

“I sold the house,” Dean hears her tell Sam, uncertainly, and he sees the way she drags a hand through her hair, wraps a finger around a curl, tugging hard.  “It wasn’t a home without you there."

“I missed you too,” Sam tells her, burying his face in her dark hair, and Dean looks away, away from the window, to give them a moment of privacy, and fixes his gaze on Cas instead, sitting at the kitchen table and staring solemnly at a newspaper. 

And for the first time since the last time they saved the world, he lets his gaze linger on the way Cas's hair curls just above his ear, right above the collar of the faded, blue plaid button-down shirt he's wearing.

Cas looks up then. 

"Dean," he says, and it takes it a moment for Dean to focus on him, because Dean's suddenly overwhelmed by the knowledge that everything's all right, it's all okay, for once; even if Amelia stays it'll be all right, even if Amelia goes and takes Sam with her it'll be all right, and he's even beginning to think Cas might just be planning to stay with him for good and that's all right too.  More than all right.

Bobby's old place might just be enough of an almost-home for all of them, and if he gets restless there's still the Impala, and there's Cas, and there's still a few ghosts left that need to be ganked.

"Dean," Cas says patiently, "Dean.  I think I've found a case."