So, here it is. The last chapter. Hope it's ok
(Runs off to hide under the bed)- Chick xxx

C24

-o-o-o-o-

Dean grinned when Sam wandered into his room, but it faded when he saw the look on Sam's face.

"Sammy? What's the scowl all about?"

Sam grabbed a notepad and pen that had become Dean's ears on the world and quickly scribbled Likely to be discharged soon. Reading it, Dean frowned up at Sam in confusion.

"Ok...Shouldn't that be a happy thought?"

Sam looked at Dean, making sure his brother could see his lips.

"I want to stay here, with you."

"Really...And what, exactly, makes you think I'll want you hanging around here constantly? I've been working on a couple of these luscious nurses. You're gonna kinda cramp my style if you're always hovering at my side."

Sam grinned and wrote on the pad again You're just worried they'll like me better.

Dean gave a snort of laughter.

"Please!...Not gonna happen baby brother. See, I got this whole deaf thing goin' on. Those girls? They're just falling over themselves to mother me."

The smile left Sam's face and he began to write in earnest Don't do that. I know how worried you really are, and so am I. Any word on when you get to see the specialist? Dean looked serious as he read Sam's comment and he nodded, accepting Sam's admonishment, recognising the undercurrent of care running through it.

"He's comin' tomorrow sometime apparently. Guess we'll know more then. It's been a bit better over the past couple of days though. I've been picking up on some sounds. Not enough to make out what people are sayin' yet. It's kinda like I'm under water, while everybody else is talking at me from dry land."

Sam stared in shock at his brother's words before rapidly writing again Why didn't you tell me?

"I...Maybe because I wasn't sure? Or because I didn't want to get your hopes up, just in case? Maybe because I didn't want to get my own hopes up? Honestly? I dunno Sammy!... Just because, is all."

-o-

The following day quickly spiralled into an unexpectedly hectic one for all concerned. Dean's named nurse confirmed that the hearing specialist would be seeing Dean later that afternoon. Further cause for smiles all round came when the HDU Consultant proclaimed Dean to be out of danger and, much to Dean's delight, well enough to be transferred to a normal medical care ward with open visiting times. It was a much more subdued reaction from Sam when, during his Consultant's ward round, she and the rest of Sam's medical team agreed that Sam should be discharged and furnished with follow up appointments for the surgical outpatient's clinic.

-o-

As the day progressed, Bobby found he was having to act as referee, baggage handler, secretary, friend and foe. Each time he thought he might just give in to the temptation to knock the heads of a certain two young Hunters together, he reminded himself that there was a friendly half bottle of single malt sitting on his desk, just waiting to welcome him back home. When it came to dealing with Sam's persistent drive to stay at the hospital with Dean, Bobby thought about that half bottle on numerous occasions. Things came to a head when Sam wrote something akin to a begging letter in an attempt to recruit support from Dean himself.

"No Sammy. No way. You can be here every day all day if you want, but wanting to be here while all I'll be doing is sleeping? ... That's just weird! ... S'not like I'm at death's door, is it?"

"No. Not now. But you were."

"But not now! ... Look Sam, Bobby's right...

"Bobby? He told you to...

"Whoa! We talked, we agreed. Nobody told anybody anything! ... Sammy, this arguing ... It's kinda gettin' to be ... hard work you know? ... Tryin' to breathe at ... the same time."

"Oh, God Dean! I'm sorry! Should I get someone?"

Looking suddenly paler, Dean shook his head and waved a hand to signal no to his panicking brother.

"It'll calm ... Please Sammy ... I need you to take the ... time to rest and heal, ok? ... I won't sleep if I'm busy worrying about you not sleeping ... An' then it might take me longer to escape outta here ... an' I'll blame you, and have to kick your ass. See? ... Not worth it dude. So, here in the day. But you go home at night. Agreed?"

It was an intentional low blow from Dean. He knew that there was no way Sam would risk doing anything that might endanger his brother's recovery. Were the positions reversed, Dean would feel the same way. Eyes downcast, Sam reluctantly nodded his agreement, missing the amused grin on Dean's face as he watched his tall, strong, intelligent younger brother turn into a toddler in front of his eyes.

-o-

The time stretched on into a further two full weeks before, to the relief of all three Hunters, Dean was at last discharged back to Bobby's. He left the hospital happily clutching the contact numbers for the two attractive young nurses, as well as an appointment at the respiratory clinic so that his progress could continue to be monitored. They arrived back at Bobby's just before lunch, Sam and Dean already having had two disagreements, the first triggered by the question of who was going to ride shotgun alongside Bobby, and the second being caused by Sam's insistence on taking charge of the drugs which had been prescribed for Dean. Dean instantly claimed Sam was already swamping him before beginning to persistantly refer to Sam as Flo, after Florence Nightingale.

-o-

Almost immediately after Dean walked into the familiar embrace of Bobby's house, Bobby himself set to work, becoming a veritable blur of bread, fillings, pickles, salad stuffs and butter. Whilst Bobby was turning into some kind of sandwich maniac, Sam sent Dean to sit outside. Following not long afterwards, Sam grinned and bowed low as he presented Dean with his first beer in weeks. Raising the bottle in salute to Sam, Dean savoured each swallow. A shout from Bobby drew the brothers back indoors, where Dean found himself sat at the kitchen table, staring in amazement at a delicately leaning heap of sandwiches and a pre-baked giant sized homemade cherry pie which Bobby had originally planned to surprise Dean with in the hospital. The leaning tower of sandwiches gave into gravity and began to gracefully topple, saved by Sam's quick reflexes. It appeared that Bobby had made it his personal mission to ensure Dean regained the weight that he had lost throughout his ordeal.

-o-

As always, Bobby proved yet again how attentive he was as a parent to "his" boys. When he noticed Dean beginning to look tired after lunch, he responded quickly. Taking no prisoners, and without a moment's hesitation, he ordered both brothers up to their room for an afternoon nap.

-o-

Holding open the door to the bedroom they shared whenever they stayed with Bobby, Sam watched with concern as Dean slowly walked into the room, heading straight for his bed. Suddenly it became clear to Sam that Dean still had a way to go before he could honestly claim to be back to his usual peak of fitness. Walking around within the confines of a hospital ward was one thing, but the energy needed to simply climb up the stairs had left Dean noticeably breathless. The hospital had sent him home with a goodly supply of inhalers, yet more antibiotics, and a month's supply of steroid tablets. Sam immediately took them into his care. Not willing to allow Dean the opportunity to forget to take them. Force of habit led to Dean griping about not needing a babysitter, but he hadn't the stamina for any kind of serious argument against Sam and his self imposed role. Dean sat himself down on his bed and began to untie his boots with his good hand before kicking them off.

-o-

Standing on the floor in one corner of the bedroom was Sam's backpack, still packed from the day they were brought down off the high plains and flown straight to the nearest hospital. Sam hadn't bothered with it before, but now he walked over to it. Opening the pack, he curled his nose up at the intense, powerful, fusty smell he had unfortunately released from inside the pack. Actively trying not to think about what new life form might be evolving in there, Sam shoved a hand into it's depths, feeling around quickly, he grabbed what he was searching for and swiftly fastened the top of the pack up again. He decided the best, and possibly the only, way to deal with whatever else was left in there was to take the pack outside, turn it up-side-down, dump the contents on to the ground and burn everything that could be replaced, backpack itself included.

-o-

Sitting on the edge of his bed, Sam placed his prize on top of his bedside cabinet. Dean was already sprawled on his bed, on his back and fully clothed. He eyed the ball of cloth with mild curiosity.

"Whass that?"

Sam began to remove his over shirt.

"Souvenir. For Bobby."

Nodding, Dean accepted Sam's vague explanation, then his eye's lit up in excitement.

"Hey Sammy! What do you say about going back up there and exploring the chambers and following the tunnel further in? I never got to see any of it. You up for it?"

"Sorry dude, no can do. Bobby's contacts, the guys that got us out? Seems they went back the day after and managed to have a minor accident with some explosives, right there, in the cave entrance and suddenly, oops, no more cave entrance!"

"An accident? Really? Well I never! ... Sam? You do realise the scary guy downstairs is gonna want the full unedited version debrief later, from both of us."

Sam shot Dean a mischievous look.

"Yup, he is...And obviously, you realise he's been patiently waiting all this time for you to get your ass thrown out of hospital so he can finally wipe the floor with you for going off on your own like a...How did he put it?...Oh, yeah! A complete novice dumbass?"

Dean felt his cheeks start to burn.

"No fair! You know I wasn't thinkin' straight, right? I already told you, I just got this idea that I could go, do the job and be back before you even knew I was gone. And yeah, I know it was a dumb move. Jeeze, you've told me that often enough but, like I said, it made complete sense at the time."

"Good luck telling that to Bobby. I don't envy you dude!"

-o-

Dean rolled over onto his stomach, his head turned away from Sam. He spent a brief moment wriggling around, seeking out his favourite dip in the mattress, before closing his eyes and breathing out a contented sigh. Sam watched with an affectionate grin as his brother went about his familiar settling down routine. In the relative silence that followed, Sam could hear the reassuring sound of Bobby whistling to himself in the kitchen, alongside the clatter of dirty plates being washed, and he could still detect the slight wheeze underlying his brother's breathing. For a while, Sam's thoughts drifted, reflecting on other times over the years that he and Dean had stayed in this familiar place. Sometimes it was because they chose to, quite often the stay was enforced, such as now. It didn't matter. Whatever instigated their stay at Bobby's, it was always here that he and Dean were closest to those small, but precious, moments of normality. Like listening to the sounds of pots being washed in the kitchen, or being given chores for the day, or sitting down together eating a home cooked meal ... Home. That's where they both were when they were here, irrespective of the reason...

"You do get that watching me is totally pervy...Right?"

Sam grinned at his brother's muffled voice.

"I wasn't watching, I was just sat thinking."

"You were too watching! I could feel it."

"Was not!"

Dean smiled to himself.

"Was too."

Dean listened to the solid thud of Sam's boots dropping to the floor, followed by the creak and shuffles that were his brother finally moving to lie down on his bed.

-o-

The sounds of domesticity from downstairs had now ceased. Comfortable and content, Sam was very soon teetering on the edge of sleep.

"S'my."

There was a split second when the quiet, sleepy sound of Dean's voice transported Sam straight back into the tunnel and his first sight of his dangerously ill brother. He quickly regained his sense of self when his eyes opened to the afternoon daylight.

"Wha'?"

"M' sorry I went all Looney Tunes on you up there. You wouldn't have got hurt if I hadn't been such a douche."

"Dean, you don' know that. It might've been even worse if we had gone out together. An' for once, bein' a douche wasn't your fault...Unless you're sayin' you went an' got Pneumonia on purpose?...You didn't, did you?"

"Now who's bein' a douche?"

"You started it."

Hearing no reply from his brother, Sam closed his eyes again ready to drift off.

"S'my?"

"S'my's not here ... Go to sleep, or I'm tellin' on you."

"S' juss, you saved me...You looked for me an' you saved me...Am alive 'cos o' you."

"Only did it so's you didn't die an' haunt my ass. No big."

Dean's voice grew fainter as sleep began to claim him for it's own.

"Only out cos a' you S'my...Only cos a' you...My awesomey li'll broth'r ... Awesu ..."

Sam smiled, the change in Dean's breathing signalling that his brother had fallen asleep whilst still speaking. Sam raised his head off his pillow, twisting around slightly to look over his shoulder at the back of his brother's head.

"Any time bro' and, I love you too Dean,."

-o-

The dozily murmured response was soft and quiet, but not so quiet that Sam might not hear it.

"Perv..."

-o-o-o-o-

FIN
Dedicated to DearHeart, Starcatcher 95 & ncsupnatfan

My HUGE heartfelt thanks to everyone for your incredible reviews!
Many of which have honestly left me sitting in stunned silence :-o
Chick xxxx ;D