It was heaven served on a silver platter. Or maybe some equivalent of heaven. Time off for good behavior, that sort of jazz. Dean couldn't really get over it, couldn't really adjust to the sense of having mom around, of having Sam back in his life, of having dad there too. And Sam was right. Their father was definitely a different man than the John Winchester they had grown up with. There wasn't a hell of a lot that phased him and when something did, he took it in stride. He hardly ever raised his voice to anyone, seemed more intent on talking about things rather than putting people in their place, and Dean attributed that to Mary's presence.

Since going out for a drink was out of the question for the time being, Dean and Sam hung out around the house for the rest of that week and did a lot of catching up on the lives their counterparts should have lived. And it was all good. Well, okay, so it hadn't been good for their counterparts in this reality.

Friday night came around and Dean, who had spent some time going through the countless photo albums in the room he had claimed as his own, finally decided to join the rest of the gang. Only, when he came downstairs, the only one present was his mother. He paused and listened to the quiet house, then stepped into the livingroom. There were certain things he'd wondered about and figured he might as well talk over with his mother while he had the chance to do so in private.

"Hey mom?" He flopped down into the high-backed armchair across from his mother, who was curled up on the couch with a book.

Mary looked up from what she was reading and smiled vaguely. "What?"

"That ... thing I had as a baby ... what was that?" he asked.

A slight frown furrowed her brow and the look in her eyes grew distant for a moment. "I don't know. We never found out," she confessed. "After ... after we thought you'd ... died ... we sort of let it go. John wanted to pursue it at first, but ... it just hurt too much. For both of us." She eyed him closely for a moment. "Why do you ask? Are you feeling okay?" The concern was instantaneous.

"Yeah, I'm feeling great, mom. I was just ... you know ... wondering about it," he said. He glanced toward the hallway and wondered how much he could dig before either of their parents became suspicious. "Do you ..." He sighed and shifted to get a little more comfortable. "Do you believe in God, mom?"

She continued to eye him closely, maybe looking for signs of weakness or illness. Then she shifted her feet off the couch and closed her book. "I guess in a sense I do. I believe that there is more out there than meets the eye. And even though religion as a whole isn't widely recognized, I ... I don't know. It just seems so empty if we're all there is, you know?"

He nodded. "Yeah, I guess," he said. "The reason I'm asking ... if you don't believe in God, why would you tell me that angels were watching over me?"

"Because I don't know what else to call that extra something I think is out there. Angels, spirits. It's just a name." She smiled and he just couldn't get enough of that smile. "It doesn't matter what you call it. All that matters is that it offers a certain peace of mind to believe in something more, you know?"

"I guess so," he agreed, then glanced back toward the hallway. "Where's Sam?"

"Your father and your brother are out somewhere, doing whatever it is they do when they're out somewhere," she said and smirked a little mischievously.

"Oh, they went somewhere and didn't want us along for the ride?" he asked and grinned.

"They like to take off together and talk. John has taken Sam to the shooting range twice. The first time it was an unmitigated disaster from what John told me. Why it ever spawned a second trip I don't know, but it did. Maybe John was hoping for miracles or something when he took Sam the second time. He was beaming when they came back home. Turns out that having lost his memory has turned Sam into a master marksman."

'I'll bet,' Dean thought, but kept that thought to himself. "That sounds nice," he said and fought down a sudden flash of melancholy. Sam had a good relationship with John in this reality and that alone should make him happy. But Dean wanted in on that. He wanted a piece of that cake too.

"I'm sure you can convince him to take you there too. If you ... want to," Mary said, obviously having noticed his shifting mood.

"We'll see," he said and held up a painfully steady hand. "Gotta shake the booze first, though, right?"

"You seem to be doing just fine on that front, Dean," she said. "I mean, you're taking those pills, aren't you?"

"Yeah, just like the doctor ordered," he said. "And I haven't had any issues with them since that first ... reaction either. I really want to kick that habit. Would be nice if I could go out and grab a beer with my brother when he's in town without fear of falling off the wagon."

"I'm sure you'll get there." She glanced at her watch. "I think it's time for a snack. I'm hungry," she added, winked at him and got up.

Dean watched her go for a second, then rose and followed her into the kitchen. "So that's where I get that from," he stated.

She opened the fridge and retrieved an aluminum foil-covered plate. "Grab some plates," she said and put the plate down on the kitchen table. "You want coffee?"

"Sure," he said.

Mary grabbed some forks and two cups and put everything down on the table before grabbing the coffee pot.

Dean dropped down on the chair across from her and handed her a plate. "What is it?" he asked and nodded at the foil-covered plate.

Mary grinned. "Why don't you take a look?" she asked.

He eyed her for a second, then pulled the aluminum foil off the plate. There was half a pie on that plate and it looked suspiciously like ... "Is that apple pie?" he asked and glanced up at her. She nodded, still smiling. He shifted his attention back to the mouth-watering pie. "You made it?" he asked on and glanced up at her again. She nodded once more.

"Dig in," she suggested. "You want whipped cream with that?"

"Nah, I'm good," he said, cut a slice of the pie and transferred it to his plate. "I love y ... apple pie," he added. The near glitch could have caused problems he figured, but she didn't respond to it and instead of lingering on it, he dug in.

He couldn't believe the taste. He had adored pie all his life for a reason he had never really been able to explain, but now he knew why. He remembered mom's pie and it was just a little slice of heaven to him. It took him a moment to realize that she was watching him, a bemused expression on her pretty face.

"Best pie ever," he said around a mouthful, gesturing with the fork at the pitiful remains on his plate, which he was quick to scoop up too.

Mary smiled. "Well, I'm glad you like it," she said. "You want another slice?"

He nodded eagerly and held the plate out to her while she cut another slice of the pie and dumped it on his plate.

"You don't get pie often, do you?" she asked.

He forced himself to eat more slowly instead of shoving the pie into his mouth. "Well, I've had my share, but ... nothing's ever been as good as this." He smirked a little sheepishly. "I just like pie," he added with a light shrug.

"I can tell," she agreed, her expressing a little less bemused and a little more serious now. "Dean, tell me about your life. Did ... Elroy ever do anything nice for you?"

The mention of this make-believe life he was supposed to have lived made his enthusiasm for the pie dwindle a little. He put the fork down and scrubbed a hand over his lips. "How do you mean?" He knew what she meant, but he had to stall her a little to come up with something plausible.

"Well, when you were a kid, did he ever ... take you to the zoo or something? Did you go to funfairs? Or carnivals?" she elaborated. "Did he have any family?"

Dean pursed his lips and slumped back on the chair, the taste of the pie still lingering like so many heavy memories that had always both burdened and bolstered him. "No, no family," he said. "It was just me and him. Always moving, always going from one place to another. He told me a lot of stories, though. Taught me a lot of tricks."

"No funfairs then?" she asked, her tone a little sad.

Dean considered it, then half shrugged. "Not really, no," he said and it wasn't a lie either. Dad hadn't had time for fun and games. At first they had been on the run, then on the move, then on the hunt. After John had left them both behind one too many times, Dean had made it clear to him that being left behind was not an option any more and John had started involving him in the hunting under penalty of death if he told Sam about of it. 'Keep Sammy out of it. He's too young for this.' John had pounded that into his head until Sam had discovered what they were up to and had wanted in. Then the tune had changed. 'Keep an eye on Sammy. It's your job to keep him safe.'

"I'm sorry," Mary said and she sounded it too.

He shrugged. "You don't know what you miss out on when you've never tried it," he said and eyed the half piece of pie left on his plate. "We had fun," he added and glanced up at her. "He was inventive. And I know he cared. But ... he didn't have much time. I was used to being on my own and I didn't mind." Now that was a lie. He had never liked being alone, but he hadn't been back then. Sam had been with him all the time, but he couldn't really involve his brother in this. "You know what I've always wanted to see?"

She watched him, her expression bordering on sadness. "What?"

"The Grand Canyon." He smirked, feeling a little silly and averted his gaze to his plate for a second. "With all the traveling we did, we never got around to seeing it. Elroy didn't have time, you know. For sight-seeing. We got close once, but ... he got a call and we had to head the other way before we got there. He kept promising me that he would make it up to me, that one day we'd go there. But ... then he died and ..." He trailed off, opting to not say any more because the memories were real and he might say something wrong if he continued.

"Well ... we'll have to do that together then," Mary said.

He looked up to meet her eyes and suddenly felt an overwhelming need to cry. Quickly, he averted his gaze and fiddled with the fork for a moment, unable to find the words that would cover how this made him feel without him having to get all soppy about it.

"I realize that ... it won't be the same. I mean ... he promised you he'd go with you and ..." She hesitated, obviously convinced that his reaction was because the man he had thought was his father wouldn't be there. "If you'd rather not, it's okay."

"No, no, I want to," he said quickly and reached across the table to grab her hand. "Definitely. No doubt about it. It's just ..." He snorted, shook his head lightly, and tried to find the right words to say. Then he met her gaze again. "It's just somewhere I've always wanted to go and ... I even considered going there on my own, you know. But it's way better if I have someone to share it with."

She closed her hand over his and squeeze it lightly. "Well, then we'll make it a family outing soon. Maybe next time Sam has some time off from school, then we can go?"

He nodded. "Yeah, that sounds like a plan," he agreed and could honestly admit that he felt giddy right now. The thought of going there, not only with Sam, but with mom and dad, one big happy family ... it just wrapped him up in a feeling he had never been able to identify before and he figured this was what it meant to be really happy. There was no way in Heaven or Hell that he would ever give this reality up again.

***

Alvarmar Golf and Country Club
Lawrence, Kansas

The grassy hill at the edge of the golf course gave a rather splendid view of Lawrence and on a night like this with the cloud-free star-studded sky above and the weather mild enough to allow an outing like this, the view was just breathtaking.

Sam just sat there and stared at the lights of the town, enjoying the quiet time. The first time John had dragged him out here, he hadn't been able to relax, concerned about Dean as he had been, unable to confide in anyone, incapable of finding that inner peace he so longed for. Now, though, everything was different.

"It's pretty spectacular, isn't it?" John asked. He was sitting next to Sam.

"Yeah, it is," Sam agreed without taking his eyes off the town.

"You seem more at ease today." John shifted a little.

"I guess I am," Sam said and finally glanced at his father. Some part of him was still coming to terms with the obvious fact that his father, the man he had grown up with, would have been like this if it hadn't been for that damned demon. In a way it was heartbreaking, but he cherished the fact that he now knew what life could have been like. "Somehow ... having Dean back ... it's just ..." He sighed, unable to explain exactly why he found it so calming to know that his brother was back with them. That thought made him smirk. Back? Dean wasn't back with them, he was back with Sam and that was all that mattered to Sam.

"Yeah, I know," John said with a sigh of his own. "I had some trouble believing this at first, you know. But ... there's no doubt he's our kid."

Sam smirked lightly. "He's adjusting well, don't you think?"

"Yeah, looks like he's really been longing for some place to call home," John agreed. "I'm gonna drag him to the garage on Monday, see how he feels about tinkering with cars all day long. I'm kinda hoping he'll take to it, since you don't."

It was an ongoing complaint of John's that Sam wasn't into cars and apparently his counterpart in this reality hadn't given a damn about cars. He had only been interested in driving them and nothing more. "I'm sure he will. He seems very keen on it from what he's told me," Sam said, well aware that Dean would kill to work side by side with their father. "He's got a thing for classics."

"One week and you know everything about him?" John sounded a little surprised by this. "I was honestly expecting you two to be at each other's throats in five minutes flat, considering how you reacted to him when you arrived. And now you're best buddies?"

Sam shrugged. "When I saw him, I ... I didn't think he was my brother. I met him in California, you know. We clicked and all, like he said, but ... I just thought it was a bad joke when I got home and ..."

"Yeah," John muttered, pulled his knees up a little and rested his arms on top of them. "It's a hell of a thing, having you both back. You have no idea how much this means to the both of us."

"It means just as much to us, dad," Sam assured him. "And I'm sorry I'm not into cars, but at least now you have Dean to talk to about that."

John snorted and affectionately ruffled Sam's hair. "You know I'm proud of you, Sam. You're a freaking genius, is what you are. How I ever managed to get a son with that much brainpower is beyond me."

Sam grinned in the darkness. "Give mom some credit here, will you?" he countered and glanced at his father.

"Don't you get cheeky with me, boy," John warned in a mocking tone, then glanced at his watch. "I think it's time to head home," he added and got up.

Sam followed suit. "Dad, I've met someone," he said. He felt the need to let John in on this for some reason, mainly because his original father, the John from his reality, probably wouldn't have cared or would have tried to dissuade him from seeing Jessica. But he had high hopes for that this version of his father saw things differently.

John eyed him closely for a moment. "I'm assuming you're talking about a girl here?" he asked, which earned him a chuckle from Sam.

"No, dad. His name's Larry," he said and shook his head lightly. "Yes, of course I'm talking about a girl, dad," he added, adding just the right amount of mocking hurt to his tone.

John punched him lightly on the shoulder. "What are you trying to do? Give your old man a heart attack?" he grumbled. "So, what's her name?"

"Jessica," Sam said and there was just something about telling dad about this that made it feel so damned right. "She's great. She asked me to move in with her."

John smirked. "You don't waste any time, do you?" he asked while they made their way back to the parking lot. "Are we gonna meet her some day or is it too soon yet?"

"Too soon," Sam agreed.

"Well, whenever you're ready, I'm sure you mom will be delighted about this. She is starting to grumble about grandkids, you know."

"Way too soon, dad," Sam said, raising both hands in mock surrender. "For now, we'll just try living together."

"Yeah, that might be a good idea," John said and unlocked the car, then gave Sam the keys. "You drive. I'm beat," he added.

Sam grinned and slipped behind the wheel while John walked around the car and got in too. "Are you still gonna take me to the airport on Sunday?"

"Of course I am. I promised you I would, didn't I?" John countered. "Now, get a move on. I just happen to know that your mom has some apple pie stashed away in the fridge and I've got a craving for that right now."

Sam smirked. "Good luck," he said. "From what I know of Dean, there won't be any pie left. That guy's into pie like nobody's business."

"Well, step on it then," John said and Sam did.

***

The rest of the weekend passed in a flurry of various activities done as a family and for the first time that Dean could consciously remember, he was completely happy. There were no monsters out there to threaten their idyllic existence and all dad seemed to worry about were some bills he hadn't expected.

"You are such a worrywart," Mary chastised lightly and punching him on the shoulder.

"Hey, I'm the one paying the bills here, okay? And when we get stuff like that in, stuff I don't know about, it's just a bit upsetting," John countered. "I mean, this one," he added and held up one of the bills. "What's this even for? What is this shop?"

Mary snatched the bill away from him and studied it for a moment, then looked up to meet his eyes and arched an eyebrow. "Do you really want me to say that out loud?" she asked and smirked.

John eyed her back, then sighed. "Okay, fine. You win. But this ..." he said and held up another bill, which she snatched out of his hand.

"Don't worry about it, okay? I've got this covered," she said and cupped a hand against his cheek. "Let's just go out and enjoy ourselves a bit. The circus is in town and Dean's never been to one."

Dean, who had listened to their little 'tiff' while pretending not to pay attention, looked up. Then he glanced at Sam, who was sitting at the dining room table, messing around with his laptop. The mention of the word circus had stopped him short, though, and Dean opted to not say anything just yet.

"The circus?" John asked. "Don't you think they're a bit too old for that sort of crap?"

"No, they're not. You're never too old for the circus," Mary disagreed.

Sam swallowed almost convulsively and shifted on the chair, then sent a pleading look to his brother.

Dean arched an eyebrow and returned his attention to the car magazine he had been leafing through, briefly enjoying the torment his brother had to be going through at the thought of having to go to the circus.

"It's noisy and messy and ..." John trailed off, then turned around to face them both. "What do you boys say? You wanna go to the circus?" he asked, his tone indicating that it wasn't what he wanted to do.

Dean held his tongue, curious about what excuse Sam would come up with. "Uhm ... I ... it's not really ..." Sam tried, but couldn't come up with something good.

"Honestly, guys, dad's right. We are a bit too old for that," Dean agreed and gave Mary a disarming smile.

She arched her brows and sighed. "Oh really?" She looked a little disappointed, which almost managed to change Dean's mind about it. The only issue was, of course, that a visit to any circus would be no joyride for Sam. She glanced at Sam, then back at Dean and pursed her lips. "Okay fine. Then you come up with something."

Sam sighed with relief, then shot Dean an annoyed glance which he brushed off with a smirk. "I don't know," he confessed. "I'm not really up to par with what's fun out there."

Sam rolled his eyes. "What about a round of miniature golf?" he asked.

Dean gave him a look he hoped made Sam reconsider that suggestion, but Sam blatantly ignored him.

"We could. What do you think?" Mary agreed and turned her attention to John.

John's expression bordered on the painful. "We could go for a walk in the forest," he suggested instead.

"And risk being mauled by bears? Yes, that's a great idea," Mary said, her tone dripping with sarcasm.

"Oh, shut up. We're not gonna get mauled by bears," John shot back and shook his head lightly.

They ended up having a picnic instead, in the local park, and it was a hell of a lot better than the circus or miniature golf or a walk in the forest, because they were together, they were eating and they were having fun. They nearly ended in a foodfight that Mary started and she seemed so damned happy that it brought tears to Dean's eyes. He pretended to cough to cover that display of weakness and Sam thumped him on the back and whispered "Wimp" into his ear.

***

Sunday evening rolled along and despite Mary's suggestion that they should all come to the airport, Sam declined, said he couldn't stand it that she cried when he left for California.

"I do not cry when you leave," she huffed indignantly, her eyes a little bright at that point.

"Yes, you do, mom. It's okay, but I have to fly on my own and I don't wanna sit around and look like I just lost my entire family. So, please, just stay here," Sam pleaded, not afraid to seem weak or wimpish in this reality.

Dean grinned, unable not to. Things were so different here and they had a mom who was supportive of emotional displays and a dad who didn't get that hard look when they did and it was all good.

"Okay fine. You don't want your mom to say goodbye to you, just go. Get out of here," she said and waved a dismissive hand at him. Sam smiled and hugged her and she hung on a little longer than necessary, then wrapped her hands around his face. "You be careful out there all on your own, you hear me?"

"I hear you," he agreed. "And I love you too, mom."

"I know you do, baby. I know you do," she cooed.

Such display of sappiness would have made Dean cringe if it had been anybody but mom, but since it was her, it was okay. It felt right, somehow. John carried Sam's luggage out to the car and Mary followed him, leaving them alone to say goodbye.

Dean eyed Sam closely for a moment. "You gonna be okay?" he asked.

Sam grinned, a tad overbearing, a tad embarrassed, and nodded. "Yeah, Dean, I'll be fine," he promised.

"You better stay in touch," Dean warned.

"It's a two-way street, man. You can call me too," Sam countered. "How about you? Are you gonna be okay?"

Dean spread out his arms, encompassing the house and everything in it. "I'm home, dude. I'm not going anywhere. I'm gonna be great," he said. There was that odd sense in the pit of his stomach again, the feeling that he was being left behind, and he struggled to subdue it. He knew where it came from. Mom and dad were the make-believe part in this little fairytale they were living. Sam was real and he was the one leaving again.

Sam inspected him visually, a look Dean had become very familiar with ever since he'd picked Sam up from Stanford in another life. Then, without hesitation, he stepped forward and hugged Dean.

For a moment all Dean could think of doing was to just stand there. Then he wrapped his arms around Sam in turn and hugged him hard for a moment before pulling back. "Be careful out there, Sam. If anything weird happens, you call me."

"And what? You'll be on the next plane out?" Sam countered and smirked a little ruefully.

"If it's bad enough, man, I'll fly," Dean assured him. "I won't be happy about it, but ..."

"It won't be bad. There's nothing to worry about in this reality, man. We're safe here," Sam cut him off. "That said, the same goes for you. If anything happens, call me. Okay?"

Dean nodded. "Don't worry. You're the only one I can talk to about this crap anyway, so ..." He left the rest unsaid. "You'd better get going, beanstalk. You'll miss your flight."

Sam nodded, picked up his backpack and shifted toward the door, then stopped again. "I left the laptop. I've got a spare back at Stanford."

"Thanks," Dean said and smirked. He had considered getting one of his own, but knew he wouldn't be asking his parents for the money. "Just until I get the money to buy my own," he added.

"Whatever. Stay in touch, Dean. I mean it," Sam said, his tone serious now.

"Right back at ya," Dean shot back and thumped him on the shoulder a few times for good measure.

"I'll be back in a few months," Sam said with a smile and finally left.

Dean just stood there and stared at the open doorway for a moment, then followed him outside to watch him get in the car. Mary stepped up to him and slipped an arm around his back and he slipped an arm around her shoulders while John pulled the car out of the driveway and he and Sam drove off. 'See you, little brother,' he thought to himself and felt the absence of Sam so acutely that it was almost painful. Then he glanced at his mother and felt the pain lessen a little. He wasn't alone, Sam hadn't left him for good, and there were no monsters out there. To hell with the rest.

***