(Picks up right after Sam looks in the window, during the end of the Season 5 Finale)
Sam turned away from the window with a small smile, wondering if he should feel more sorrow than he did. But he really couldn’t bring himself to feel bad about this.
Dean was happy.
Happy and living the apple-pie life they’d always wanted each other to have, and doing exactly what he’d promised. He’d followed Sam’s last wishes and gone to find Lisa, to find the life Dean had always wanted with her. He’d earned the break after all the shit they’d been through in their lives. And knowing Dean, Lisa would be safe, just like the kid Dean had had with her would be. He wasn’t stupid.
That kid Ben was a dead ringer for Dean, and, happy as they were, he was going to leave them that way. Lisa might’ve lied to Dean once, about his son, but she wouldn’t again. Not when Dean was owning up to his responsibility and doing the right thing.
Ben was his son, and Dean would be able to retire here, with them. He’d earned it.
Hunting wasn’t really Dean’s thing, not like it was Sam’s. He’d never said he wanted out, not explicitly but Sam was good at reading between the lines. Dean lost a little more of himself every time they couldn’t save someone, falling a little deeper into the darkness hunters fought against. He’d always wanted out, would never truly be happy with hunting for his life, and he had that now. He had that with Lisa, and his kid. Ben.
He was free. Free of obligation to the hunt. Free of dealing with people who cared more about themselves than him, free of all the senseless death that came along with hunting. Free of the guilt that wrapped him in its clutches so tightly it would never let him go and the emptiness Famine had tried to give him. It was the best thing for Dean, especially with what was coming this year and how much Dean hurt every time an innocent life was taken. Sam and the Campbells could keep him out of it all.
Keep him safe, away from the pain that the next few years were sure to bring down on all of their heads.
Dean had a girlfriend. A kid. Apple pie and all. The life Sam had wanted for years and years, and never gotten the chance to have.
Sam had been damn sure Ben was Dean’s kid years ago, and seeing him now, he looked just like Dean had at that age, again. He was even more certain of it now, now that he was really looking for the similarities. And with the way Dean had been acting with Lisa…Sam could leave him there, and know he was safe, and happy. Because he was, now, for once in his life.
Sam couldn’t lie to himself, though.
It hurt. Just a little bit, but it still stung to see how fast Dean had adjusted to life without him. It had only been a month and Dean was starting to smile again, starting to come back from his grief, and it was good but it was—it hurt. It was what Sam wanted him to do. But it was weird.
And it didn’t hurt nearly as much as he was expecting; probably a side effect from the Cage.
Whatever he’d forgotten involved that, too. When he’d been pulled out, he hadn’t been quite the same. He was a better hunter, now. Which meant he’d changed, but that was for the better.
Probably a side effect of overpowering Lucifer. Something about him had changed, forever. And he’d be stronger for it. He…didn’t even really miss the feelings, but—he should have.
Dean didn’t know he was still alive, and didn’t know he was out of the Cage—or how he’d made it out, either, but neither did Sam. The Campbells, their mom’s family, had found him shortly after, wandering around Kansas. Taken him to see his grandpa, Samuel, who’d recognized Sam because of Dean traveling to the past two years ago. He’d not been around before, but Sam was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt; the old man had probably hated John just as much as the rest of the hunting community did, or he’d have come looking for the Winchesters a long time ago. And Dean—being Dean, his brother wouldn’t have accepted any sort of outside help.
Sam had found Dean not too long after, tracked him by using the names they usually did for long term cover. Dean was going by their mom’s name these days; his legal name was now Dean Michael Campbell. But he’d sworn to himself that if Dean was happy, he’d leave him to it. And since the angels seemed to be finally leaving Dean alone, after all the shit they went through, he’d leave Dean here. Happy, free from a life of hunting, from wondering what lay out there in the dark, waiting for him to stumble just into its path.
They were free to choose what they did with their lives now that the apocalypse was over. Sam was a hunter at heart, but Dean…Dean was a caretaker, a father, and a brother, first and foremost. He hated the angels, and hated everything they stood for, except Cas, who was long-since gone. Without Cas, there was no way Dean would be content just hunting with Sam again. He was healing, finally, from losing Cas to the fight. Sam wasn’t stupid; his brother was stupid in love with that angel, and if Cas was gone, Dean needed to move on. To rekindle his relationship with Lisa if only to get better. So Sam wasn’t going to ruin this for Dean, not when their weird bond was the whole reason Dean had even hunted in the first place. Dean deserved a chance to have the life he so desperately wanted.
Sam didn’t notice the eyes watching him from the alleyway. He didn’t notice them, not because he was unused to being on alert, but because he wasn’t tracking demons in his vicinity right now. They were working with a couple of Crowley’s lackeys to stop the monsters from raising whoever or whatever they’d gotten into after the apocalypse. This one was probably one of theirs, or the Campbells would have reacted to it by now. Since they didn’t, he figured it was one of Crowley’s he could feel.
He was wrong, not that he knew it.
Sam had been followed to Dean’s house, and even as he watched Dean laugh, picking up the kid—Ben—and kiss Lisa on the cheek, the perfect father, he’d doomed them. Dean had a family, the perfect apple-pie life—everything they’d ever wanted and aspired to as kids, and adults. He’d never thought either of them would have it, not after Jess died and Cassie rejected Dean. But here, Dean was happy.
Cas was…gone, or he’d have tried to set Dean up with the angel. Dean would’ve been able to—well, it didn’t matter now. Cas was gone, and Lisa was here.
And Dean was happy now, starting to figure out how to live again, and Sam couldn’t take that away from Dean for their grandfather’s mission and what was coming. Not unless something really big and really bad happened. Dean couldn’t bear being caught in another war; not without Cas by his side. He was hurt badly enough when the angel had died for them the first time. Sam sent up a prayer this time, to Cas, to leave Dean to his apple-pie life if Dean were truly happy. And to tell Dean he was alive, if the angel was still here. Still alive.
Not that he held out much hope for that.
Cas had come back once, but coming back from Michael smiting him would’ve had to be something else entirely. One miracle? Good. Two were impossible. There would be no third chance; of that Sam was nearly certain, but miracles did happen sometimes. Only occasionally, though. And not for them.
Sam could handle the Campbells’ mess on his own. Dean shouldn’t have to clean up a mess that wasn’t his in the first place, and Aldrich had been the idiot responsible for letting the last vamp get away.
Mind made up, Sam smiled at the window, silently wishing his brother all the happiness in the world with his new life with his son.
The minute Sam turned and walked away, it hid, leaving Sam to walk to the Campbells’ old van. He got in the back, nodding to Gwen and Aldrich who were in the front. They hadn’t taken any monster with them this time, so he could sit in the back comfortably and stretch out.
“Definitely not him,” he lied, deciding to keep Dean out of this at all costs. “I was wrong. He’s just a civilian with a military past. Same name as us, but no relation to the Campbell clan. If there is, it’s pretty distant.”
“Damn,” said Aldrich “That brother of yours would’ve been useful. You went up against, what, Satan?”
Which was why Sam was keeping him out of this war. This wasn’t Dean’s fight. This was Sam’s fight; leaving Hell had left a part of Purgatory open and let a lot of monsters free, and it was his responsibility to fix that mess. His mess, his problem; Dean had gone through enough with the apocalypse.
Sam coughed “Yeah, but like I said, Dean’s good at disappearing. If he doesn’t want to be found, we can’t find him, not with the extra protections we added during the apocalypse. He’s a damn good hunter, but if he’s gone to ground, we’ll never find him. I’m willing to bet he’ll be right on top of us if something big happens, but he’s probably figured out what’s going on and gone to ground already.”
“Hmm,” said Gwen, starting the car, smirking at him “That’s a good quality, really. Means it’s harder for things to find him.” Sam nodded, taking a swig of the whiskey they kept in the back. “How long did he train for, again?”
“Ever since the house fire. He kept me out of it for a good six or seven years, something about not eating well enough for that, but he was four when he started,” said Sam, shaking his head. “He didn’t try to keep me out of it completely, but he wouldn’t let me really train until I was eight. Made a good case of it to an ex-Army sniper, but that’s Dean. He’s really stubborn.”
“Huh, well that’s different,” said Aldrich, as he started the car. “But family’s family. He sounds a damn good brother, though. Wish Chris was nice enough ta do that for me,” Gwen rolled her eyes, and Sam did too.
Christian Cambpell was an asshole, but he wasn't that bad. Then again, Sam hadn’t grown up with him and Gwen had. She’d probably had a better judgment of him than Aldrich, who was his cousin—but maybe not. Sam looked out the window, trying not to give away the game. He’d made the right choice here. Which meant not taking Aldrich’s bait.
“See anything that might be a monster?” asked Gwen, as they pulled out of the slow lane “Or no?”
“Nothing interesting. Just a normal suburban neighborhood. Might have a few hunters in the area, but I didn’t see any wards,” said Sam. “No obvious ones, at least.”
There were some less-than-obvious ones on Dean’s house, but that wasn’t something he was going to mention. He already knew better than to mention the demons. Last time he’d asked he’d been given a crash course in why they shouldn’t talk about them, and who knew if Aldrich or Gwen were in the know about Samuel’s deal?
“Typical,” muttered Gwen as they pulled onto a much busier road, and Sam turned to look out the window.
She turned the radio on, one of the Top 20 stations, and the sound of Christina Aguilera’s Falling In Love Again filled the car, letting Sam relax a little. His cousins didn’t think anything of leaving Dean there because they didn’t know he was lying to them in the first place. And now he had the time to think about what was going on with the mess Aldrich had landed them in.
Why would Lucifer being gone bring a resurgence of monsters like shifters and vampires?
They had to catch one if they wanted an answer. Sam smiled to himself, thinking of how easy it would be, with everything that had happened, to get an answer. The name Winchester would ensure they got answers—they’d taken down Satan, the “baddest bitch of them all,” so that meant he’d probably get some really good information the next time he found one.