Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm just playing. I'll put'em back when I'm done.

Rating: PG-13

Synopsis: The world is a different place for the boys. They still hunt, but it's not exactly big prey, considering what they've been up against before. Life as they knew it comes to an end and they experience a new way of living. But not all is as it appears to be.

Author's note: This story, which picks up where But Only Hope left off for the prologue, then jumps six months ahead in time, is written for a very dear friend of mine. I can't remember how we got into this, but I promised her a story with a part for her and this is it. She's a big Dean-fan.

Technically, it is not necessary to have read Finding Grace and But Only Hope, but it will give you a better understanding of who Grace is and how she came to be a part of the boys lives.

1st Warning: This story contains three OFCs, one of which is established in Finding Grace (namely John's big sister, Grace) and two of which will be heavily involved in the boys lives for the majority of this story. We're talking love interests. I will do my damndest to not turn them into Mary Sues, but if this is not your deal, don't read this story. Stick to the prologue if you wanted to know how Grace and Bobby responded to the whole deal in But Only Hope, and then leave the rest. I don't want any complaints about the OFCs unless you think they're too Mary Sue. You have been warned.

2nd Warning: Although this may come off as a fluff-piece in the beginning, it won't end that way. This story has been slapped with an NC-17 rating because of its sexual content. In parts it will be pretty explicit, but not too detailed. If that's not your deal, go read something else. We're talking M/F relationships, though. No slash.

Bobby's place
Fort Pierre, SD

Grace stared at the boys for a moment, her attention shifting from one to the other and back again, until she finally fixed her eyes on Sam. "How are you feeling?" she asked.

He met her eyes dead on, no indication of pain or visual impairment. "Pretty good," he said with a light nod, then started chewing self-consciously on his lower lip.

"Pretty good?" she asked and shifted her gaze to his left hand resting on top of the car door; no brace and he was holding on. "Your hand," she added and nodded toward it.

"Care to tell me what in the hell you boys have been up to?" Bobby asked and eyed Dean a little sternly. "My phone's been ringing off the hook for the past many hours. I've had sixteen calls in the last hour alone. Seems like demons have vanished into thin air all over the place around midnight."

Grace noted that Sam ignored her request for information and instead shifted his attention to his brother, who was grinning smugly. "Yeah, well, it's a long story," he claimed.

"Sam?" Grace tried again.

He shifted his attention back to her, but didn't meet her eyes. "Like Dean says. It's a long story," he intoned.

Unsure of what to make of this, she glanced at Bobby. He had gone through the whole repertory all the way from freakish coincidence to deals made with higher entities and none of it had sounded good to her. And she knew he was worried, scared even, that Dean had repeated past transgressions to save his brother once more.

Dean glanced at Sam and arched an eyebrow. "Wiccans were involved. And demons. Demons that are gone now. For good," he said, grinning.

Bobby's gaze narrowed. "And how'd that come about?" he asked.

"Would you believe we got to meet a goddess?" Dean asked and chuckled.

Sam rolled his eyes. "Just tell them, man," he pushed and gave Dean an almost suffering look. "Ever hear of Gaia?" he then asked and turned his attention to Bobby.

"Greek mother goddess," Bobby agreed with a vague nod. "What's she got to do with this?"

"Everything, actually," Dean said. "Turns out her kids – that's all the other gods – bound her in human form way back when, but she sort of took counter measures. She can't break the curse, but she can pop in and restore the balance when it's needed."

For a long moment all Bobby did was stare at him. Then he frowned. "Well, I kinda get the feeling we're gonna need to sit down for this one," he said, turned around and went back inside without another word.

Grace just stood there. "A goddess, huh?" she asked, to which Dean nodded. "Well, I'll be damned."

"Not in our lifetime you won't," Dean disagreed and shut the door of the Impala. "Let's go get something to eat. I'm starving," he added and followed Bobby into the house.

Sam shook his head lightly, then sighed. "It's a long story," he repeated.

Grace stepped up to him, took his left hand and inspected it for a moment, then checked his wrist, before she looked up to meet his eyes. "A goddess?" she asked again and he nodded. "Well, you gotta tell me more about her, because I think I've just regained my faith," she added with a smile on her lips.

That in turn made him smile too.

She slipped an arm around his back. "Let's go get something to eat before your brother empties the kitchen."

He slipped an arm around her shoulders and pulled in close, which made her smile slightly. "Might be a good idea," he agreed.


After retelling what had happened to them – most of which Dean still had some trouble wrapping his mind around – both Bobby and Grace sat there silently as if waiting for more.

"What you're saying is that the demons are gone?" Bobby finally asked and Dean nodded. "All of them?"

"That's what we were told, yeah," Dean agreed. "Of course, if we'd had more time, we could have done better, but ... on the whole, I don't think that's such a bad outcome, really."

"Not a bad outcome?" Bobby huffed. "Couldn't have been much better if you ask me." He shook his head, scrubbed a hand over his lips, then leaned back on his chair. "Looks like it might get a tad boring around here now."

"Boring?" Grace asked and gave him a look that could melt stone. "You're actually gonna miss this? People dying? Getting possessed?" She sounded incensed, like he had just offended her deeply. "My boys are in the middle of this, their lives at stake, and you're gonna miss this? Jeez!"

Bobby glowered at her. "Don't get your pantyhose in a twist, woman. I didn't say I'd miss it. Just said it'll get more quiet around here. And there ain't nothing wrong with that."

"You better believe it," she countered sternly and folded her arms over her chest. "Boring," she muttered and shook her head. "I'll give you boring."

Dean glanced at Sam, who was watching them with slight surprise. "Well, it'll cut back on the workload, I guess," he agreed. "But everything else is still roaming around out there. Demons aren't the only things we have hunted over the years."

Bobby nodded, then eyed Sam for a moment. "And you're back to normal now?" he asked.

"I guess," Sam agreed and flexed his fingers repeatedly. Dean was beginning to worry that might turn into some sort of obsession with him, but figured he would be able to deal with it if it came to that. "The scars are gone and I can use my hands again."

"So I see," Bobby said and gave him a pointed look, which made him stop flexing his fingers. "What are you boys aiming at doing now? You gonna go on hunting?"

For a moment Dean just sat there and stared ahead of himself while he let his mind run with that idea. Then he shrugged lightly. "First and foremost, I think we're gonna take a vacation, kick back and relax. I think we've earned it."

"I'd say you have," Bobby agreed. "So, this goddess of yours, she's gone back to sleep?"

"I supposed you could say that," Sam said with a light nod. "As a human being, her name's Dawn and she has no idea who she really is. I think Elaine tried to tell her, but she just didn't register it or something."

"So ... if the shit should hit the fan again, we can't count on her?" Bobby continued.

Sam frowned, then glanced at Dean. "Depends on what kind of shit you're talking about," Dean said, picked up his mug of coffee and sipped the hot brew. Things had improved since Grace had arrived. The coffee was a hell of a lot more palatable than it had ever been before. "But if you're thinking in terms of demons ... well, if they pop up again and threaten the world or us, chances are that Gaia will be ready to kick some ass again. And Sam's gonna be the first one to know."

"I got the impression that I was done with that," Sam said and he looked a little concerned about the whole thing. "Elaine said the torch had been passed on."

"Yeah, dude, if you have a kid. But you don't have a kid," Dean countered and eyed him closely for a moment. "Or is there something you wanna tell me?"

Sam rolled his eyes. "Don't be stupid," he shot back. "I'm not ..." He stopped, glanced at Grace and blushed.

Dean smirked. "What? Come on. You know you want to say it, Sammy."

"Shut up," Sam muttered and dropped his gaze to his own coffee mug.

"Right," Dean agreed. "If there's something left to hunt out there, we'll hunt it. But for now ... we just need a vacation."

Sam glanced at him. "For how long?" he asked.

"Why does everything have to fit into your frigging day planer all the time? What are you, on a schedule or something?" Dean countered sternly. "Man, you have got to learn to relax."

"How long could it take?" Grace inserted and arched an eyebrow at him when Dean looked over at her. "I mean, is there such a thing as too much sex for you?"

Bobby smirked and Sam snorted, almost choking on the coffee he had just taken a sip off. Dean just stared at her. "Uh ... I don't know. I haven't maxed out yet," he admitted a little reluctantly, which drew an almost sardonic smile from his aunt. He narrowed his eyes at her. "Are you sure you're not possessed or something?"

She pursed her lips. "One never can know, can one," she said with a light shrug.


Over the next few days, Sam slowly got into the groove of what had happened. The fact that he'd been out of commission for most of the events was probably the main reason for that he had a hard time wrapping his mind around the events in the first place. But the absence of the otherwise life-altering injuries that would have left him handicapped and in part disfigured for the rest of his life – it was hard to forget the uncomfortable scaring on his back even though it was gone now – helped him along in the process.

The thing that really messed with his ability to enjoy their newfound freedom was the fact that he kept snapping back to all the things that could have gone wrong. The demon blood could have corrupted him, Ruby could have succeeded in turning him, Dean could have ended up in Hell for him. And it just kept coming, all the what-ifs, all the concerns of the past few years, all the loss they had both gone through. He couldn't sleep properly at night and spent a lot of time pacing around the downstairs of the house to not wake anyone up. Dean was aware of his insomnia, but had yet to comment on it. Grace, he was pretty sure, was aware of it too and in extension so was Bobby. But neither of them said anything. At least not at first.

On the fifth night back, Sam sat on the couch in the living room and stared ahead of himself at three in the morning, hands clasped between his knees, elbows on thighs, while he tried to set things straight in his mind. He kept worrying even while he kept trying to convince himself that there was nothing to worry about.

"All this spare time's getting the better of you."

He closed his eyes briefly, then glanced over at Dean standing in the doorway to the hallway beyond. "What are you doing up?"

"Good question. Got an even better one for you. What the hell are you doing up?" Dean countered and stepped into the room, then grimaced and glanced down at his bare feet. "Man, it's cold," he grumbled.

With a sigh, Sam slumped back on the couch and made a face. "I don't know. I can't sleep. It just keeps bugging me."

Dean yawned and dropped into a high-backed armchair and pulled his feet up. "What does?" he asked.

Sam shrugged. "All of it. Our roles in this. The risk that it might happen again. All the crap that could have gone wrong. All the crap that has gone wrong. It all feels so ... anti-climactic that it's over, just like that. Like someone pressed a reset button. Only the reset didn't work properly and only half the things that should have been reset got reset."

Dean blinked, yawned again, then ground the heel of one hand into his right eyelid. "Man, you are so not making any sense right now," he claimed tiredly. "Look, Sam, why can't you just ... enjoy that it's over, huh? The demons are gone. Bobby gets calls every damned day from hunters that don't know what to do. The phone lines are working again. Humanity will reestablish itself."

"Yeah, and in the meantime dad's still dead and we still lost everything over this," Sam muttered and folded his arms over his chest.

"You worry too much about the past, Sam," Dean said and brushed all ten fingers through his hair. "There's nothing we can do to change that. Yeah, dad is dead, but at least he's not in Hell any more."

Sam eyed his brother for a moment. "So where is he? Why hasn't he ... called?"

For a moment Dean just stared at him, then he chuckled and scrubbed both hands over his face. "Man, you just cannot let that go, can you?" he asked and shook his head. "Sam, ever since I picked you up at Stanford, you've been complaining about him not getting in touch with us. The man's dead. He's probably moved on to bigger and better things now that he doesn't need to look out for us any more. Can't you just let him rest?"

In the end, this was really what it all boiled down to, wasn't it? "I miss him," he finally admitted and couldn't help a joyless chuckle himself. "I miss fighting with him, Dean. How screwed up is that?"

"That's pretty screwed up, yeah," Dean agreed. "But he's talked to all of us, hasn't he? I mean, he called Grace, he called you and he called me. He's done all he can except come back to life and I can't really see that happening now. He's made it abundantly clear that he's proud of us, Sam. Why can't you just take that for what it is? What do you want from him? He's probably with mom now. He's probably happy. Isn't that good enough?"

"I guess," Sam muttered and sighed deeply. Man, he was tried, but he couldn't face sleeping right now. His mind was too full, too active. "Yeah, it's good enough," he added after a moment. "I just ... I wish ..." He snorted. "What if I'd wished that none of this had ever happened? What if I'd wished that mom hadn't died?"

"Then our lives would probably have looked very different," Dean agreed. "Fact is, though, that you didn't. You made the only choice you could have made at the time and you've saved a lot of lives this way."

"We both have," Sam tried.

"No, this one's on you, Sammy. You made the choice. It was your nosiness that got you into that position and you managed to make the best of the situation. Dad is proud of you, Sam. I'm proud of you. You did the right thing when all the odds were stacked against you. Screw the rest. Enjoy the rest of your life, man. You've earned it. And ... if you wanna go back to school, I think you should. Just ... pick up where you left off. No demon's gonna drop in and ruin it for you this time around."

Sam eyed his brother closely for a moment while trying to determine if Dean really meant that, but he figured, deep down somewhere, Dean didn't mean it at all. He was just saying it because he figured this was what Sam wanted. "I don't want that life any more, Dean. It's not for me," he said. "Besides ... it's not like everything evil out there is gone. There's still ghosts and ghouls and werewolves and vampires and other interesting stuff messing up people's lives and there are a hell of a lot less of us than there used to be. All the more to protect."

The look in his brother's eyes wasn't something Dean would ever express openly. The relief was almost touchable, the obvious joy that Sam had chosen the same path as him for now was so evident he might as well have said it, but Sam knew that words like that would never cross his brother's lips. But that was okay. Sam didn't need to hear him say it. He just needed to know that Dean was okay with this, that they could go back to being hunters and doing what they did best, hunting things, saving people. The family business. "Well, if that's what you want," Dean said, his tone forcibly calm.

Sam smiled vaguely and nodded once, and suddenly he figured he could sleep, because what had been bugging him suddenly wasn't so important any more.