It was midafternoon by the time Dean rolled into the driveway. Barely a moment later, Lisa was out the door and on her way to him. Ben quickly followed. Then Dean was enveloped in warm arms and voices. He put an arm around Lisa and for once he didn't have to remind himself to smile. It came naturally.

"Did you bring me a souvenir?" Ben asked.

Dean's hand automatically went to his right front jeans pocket, expecting to find something there but it was empty. He shook his head. "Not this time, Ben. Sorry."

But Ben didn't seem too upset and Lisa was busy trying to squeeze the life out of him. Dean melted into them and wondered why he'd left at all. It was so much easier when he wasn't alone. There was still a hollow in the pit of his stomach, a well that needed filling, but something inside of him had eased. Something he'd left unfinished. Maybe he finally thought he'd earned this second life. At least for now. So he hugged them back. Then Dean let Lisa and Ben lead him into the house and shut the door.

Castiel watched Dean vanish into the house between the woman and her child. Even after they'd gone, he continued to watch the bright exterior of the house for a long time. He might have sent up a prayer for Dean's protection to his Father but he feared it would be intercepted. So he remained silent, invisible. It was best this way.

He rolled the rings in his hand, feeling the chill of them in his borrowed skin. They clung together, greedy for each other. It made him feel… complicated. Castiel looked at the rings, the keys to an impossible lock, and he frowned.

There was one more matter yet unresolved. Something in him whispered that it was imprudent to pursue it but Dean's voice still echoed in his head, louder than that whispered warning. One more matter to attend to. Castiel clenched the rings tight in his fist and disappeared.


Author's Afterword: The ending of this story was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to write. Even harder than finishing my novels and that's really saying something. I blame Dean and Castiel. They make it incredibly difficult to get a point across sometimes. Dean with his aversion to talking feelings (unless drunk or forced) and Castiel with his perpetual poker face. I wrote a little bit from Castiel's point of view just so you guys wouldn't think he was a totally heartless bastard. Well, maybe he is a little. In the literal sense. Do angels really even have hearts? I doubt they'd need them. But Jimmy has one so I guess Castiel has one by proxy. Still doesn't have a soul though. Poor guy. Anyway. Please don't be too mad at him. He did it all for Dean's sake. And Dean did end up feeling a bit better by the end even if he doesn't know exactly why.

By the way, sorry the epilogue is so short. I know it's a tease.

Hope you enjoyed the story. Please review and encourage me to write more. I think I have at least a few stories left in me before I return to the land of original fiction. And I swear, at least one of them will have to do with pie. Oh, yes. There will be pie.