DISCLAIMER: Supernatural and the wonderful people in it are currently owned by someone other than me. They're the ones making money off of it, not me.

NOTE: I have to thank my reviewers. Your comments are greatly appreciated and your support is so fantastic. Oh, and thanks for reading in spite of the writer's block I had which put a damper on the last chapter. You're the best!

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"How's the shoulder?" Dean asked as Sam shifted in the car uncomfortably.

"Oh, fabulous," the younger Winchester replied sarcastically. "It hasn't felt this good since the last time an evil spirit tried to impale me on an archaic weapon."

"I'm guessing from the size of the words you're using that you are not in the best of moods."

"How'd you guess?"

"Really, Sammy, I'M the one that should be mad. You got me arrested."

"I also got you out. Besides, I saved your life, too. You don't think clearly when you're angry. And it's Sam."

"Whatever," Dean shrugged. "The point is that it's me and not you who should be angry."

"I'm not angry; I'm frustrated, and you can't say I don't deserve to be." He sighed. "How's the leg?"

Dean glanced over. "How did you know about that?"

"Come on, Dean, I'm your brother, and I'm not an idiot. You've been favoring that leg since I got out of the hospital. I can only imagine what happened. Did he slice you?"

"Yeah," Dean said, giving up pretenses of trying to hide his injury. "Twenty-eight stitches. No big deal."

Sam snorted. "No big deal, huh? Most people think a paper cut is no big deal, and you're dismissing a sword cut. I'll never understand that. Are you even supposed to be walking on it yet?"

"Do I look like I care?"

Not answering, Sam shook his head and looked out the passenger window.

"Besides," Dean said after a moment, "Are you supposed to be wandering around and using your arm?"

Sam looked over sharply, then grinned. "Touche," he said.

They arrived at Kars Crossing in just a few minutes, both checking for cops before exiting the car. They were battered already, but Dean had been right about one thing earlier – an angry Winchester was scarier than a poltergeist. And there were now TWO angry Winchesters. They had no qualms about their situation. Sam carried the exorcism ritual and a flashlight in his left hand, and Dean hobbled along with a sword and gun.

And just then, it started to rain.

Sam looked up. "Figures," he said, without slowing. "At least we know we won't have to deal with that once we're on the bridge."

"But there will be fog," Dean reminded him.

"That's what the light is for. Just watch for him. He may not materialize this time."

Dean stopped. "Are YOU giving ME advice about the job?"

Sam continued a few more steps, then turned around. "Don't get offended. I'm just trying to help."

"Well, you concentrate on reading Latin, and I'll do the dirty work. That's how we work best."

Sam shook his head but refrained from answering as they got to the bridge. They stood silently for a few minutes, waiting for the rain to stop like it had earlier. It didn't. However, the fog came in, as expected.

"Great," Dean grumbled. "I hate rain, and I hate battling spirits that have already tried to kill me twice. But I hate the two combined even more."

"See anything?" Sam asked.

"Believe me, I'd let you know if I did."

They quit speaking as they waited for their quarry. Sam was ready to give up when Dean suddenly whispered, "Start reading."

Without hesitation, Sam jerked the book open and switched on the flashlight. The fog was very thick, but if he held the book about three inches from his face, he could still read it. The Latin words came quickly out of his mouth as he heard his brother grunt. Sam didn't even look up, knowing what was happening. It would be over faster if he could just get through the ritual.

Dean hit the railing on the bridge hard. He coughed and fell to the ground instinctively as the poltergeist tried to hit his head. He rolled out of the way and got shakily back to his feet. He still couldn't see anything.

The fog started to lift at that moment. The poltergeist was materializing again, and Dean's eyes widened as he saw the sword once more. The blade looked sharper than before, and it was dripping blood. He could only assume that the blood belonged to him and to Sam. That made him angry. He charged the demon.

The poltergeist sidestepped Dean and shoved him to the floor, going toward Sam in order to stop the ritual from going on. Before he could warn his brother, Dean saw Sam get hauled into the air and thrown at the ground. Thankfully, the younger Winchester thought clearly enough to keep his strong hold on the book. His Latin merely slowed down as he hit but he didn't stop. Dean took this time to gather himself up and go for another attack. The poltergeist whirled as he hit, taking the surprisingly corporeal form with him to the ground. His leg screamed at him as he got to his feet once more.

But the spirit was faster, and Dean found himself hitting the wooden bridge before he could even register it. He shook his head to clear it, and found the evil spirit standing over him, sword raised above his neck. He was about to be beheaded, and there wasn't anywhere for him to go. He swallowed in terror as the sword started to come down.

But Sam finally finished the exorcism just as the heavy blade was coming down on top of Dean's throat. Before he could finish his stroke, the poltergeist screamed in pain and started on fire. He stumbled backward, off the bridge, before falling down in a pile of ashes. Dean took a few deep breaths, realizing how close he had come to dying, and then turned to Sam.

"Are you okay?" Dean asked, rushing to his brother's side. Blood was seeping onto Sam's shoulder. "Did he get you again? I didn't think he got you with the sword."

"He didn't," came the reply. "But I think I tore open my stitches."

"We have to get you to the hospital, little brother. They'll have to sew it up again."

"Just sew it up yourself and we'll be good," Sam insisted.

"The way I see it," Dean answered, trying to get himself and his brother to their feet, "is that I have to go there anyway because you're in no condition to sew up my leg."

"Did you rip open the stitches on that?"

Dean gave his signature grin. "Hey, it seemed like the going thing at the moment. After all, you ripped yours open."

"Let's head, then," Sam said. "The sooner we get out of this miserable rain, the better."

They stumbled to the car together, and drove to the hospital. They were separated immediately. Dean's leg was finished first, and he moved to the waiting room to rest while the doctor did Sam's stitches. He was surprised by a familiar voice.

"Are you two okay?" Krista asked.

"What are you doing here?"

"What a way to greet a friend," she said with a smile. "Actually, I heard from a friend here that there were these two boys in to get their stitches fixed, and I figured it was you. I just thought I'd come by to see how you two were doing."

"Well, we got it," Dean said.

"Really?" Krista was totally amazed. "How?"

"Very carefully," came the cryptic response. "The point is that we got it."

"How's Sam?"

"I think he's fine. They should be done with him in no time at all."

Krista nodded. "I'll go get you coffee. You look like you could use it." And she walked away.

Dean sat in silence for a few minutes after she left, before being rudely startled by a man standing in front of them. He had failed to notice him walk up.

"Dean?" the man said softly.

Dean looked up instantly, his eyes widening. "Dad?"

He stood to receive the uncharacteristic embrace from his father.

"How did you know to come here, Dad?" Dean asked after pulling away.

"That's not important, son. How is Sam recovering?"

Dean opened his mouth to answer, then closed it as a realization hit him like a ton of bricks. "You've been following us," he accused.

"Dean, I couldn't talk to you –"

"You've been following us and watching us get hurt and you did nothing!"

"Dean, please, just hear me out –"

But Dean didn't want to listen anymore. He was cold and angry. "I left you like 20 messages which you didn't answer and the whole time you were right there?"

"Look, Dean –"

"We could have DIED, Dad, and now you show up to make sure Sam's okay? After all the dirty work is over and we're sitting in the hospital?"

"You were fine."

"You didn't know that we were! You didn't even TRY to help us!"

"Dean —"

"No, Dad, don't try to explain. I can't take it right now. Just crawl back into your hole."

John Winchester looked shocked. "What?"

Dean was completely calm now, his face a mask for the emotions that crowded through him. "We've been doing okay without you. You ignored our pleas for help when we wanted – needed – you to come, and here you are, expecting to be received with open arms after abandoning us? I think not."

"Dean –"

"Sam will be fine, Dad. I'm watching his back and he's watching mine. And we're finding friends along the way who will help us. So if all you're planning to do is watch us from the shadows, you can just walk away."

Someone cleared their throat from the hallway in front of them. Both men turned to see Sam, half-dressed and standing very gingerly in front of them. A large bandage covered the right half of his head and his shirt was unbuttoned to reveal white bandages covering his midsection and shoulder. No one said anything.

A nurse, who had walked in right before Sam, looked around nervously. "Are you supposed to be walking around, Mr. Winchester?" she asked with a smile, trying to lighten the mood.

"No," Sam said simply, without taking his eyes off his brother and father.

Dean looked at his brother, studying his face and his reactions. Sam, too, was holding his emotions in. Dean could only pray that his brother would back him up and not be angry that he was dismissing their father after such a long search. A search that had led ultimately to Sam almost dying a good four times, his girlfriend being murdered, and him skipping out on his law school interview – the things he'd wanted for his future. But he wouldn't try to influence Sam in any way. He waited out the others.

After all, it wasn't Sam, but Dean that had really wanted to find their dad. Sam was slightly surprised at his brother's angry reaction. He figured it was just the exhaustion talking, but he was still going to be behind Dean all the way.

John Winchester was the first to break the silence after that. "Sam, are you –"

"I'm fine, Dad," Sam snapped.

"But you –"

"Do you even care?" the younger son asked, the words ripping out of him like knives. "You've been watching us and following us all over the country for who knows what purpose and watching us get hurt and you haven't tried to step in?"

John closed his mouth and eyed his sons. They had every right to be angry at him, but he was sure they would understand if they would only listen to his reasoning. However, neither was in any mood to listen to him right now, so he backed out.

"Boys, if you ever need me –"

Dean snorted. "Yeah, right."

John nodded in defeat and shuffled away.

Sam and Dean both watched him go, then looked at each other. Sam opened his mouth, but Dean spoke first.

"Let's not have a moment, especially in such a public place, okay?"

Sam smiled in spite of himself. "Let's just go. We're late for California."

"Yeah, we are."

Krista, who had just returned with coffee, spoke up. "You can't just leave right now! Look at you – you're the walking dead! If I were one of the people you're trying to help, I'd mistake you for what you're hunting!"

"Well, that was a fantastic compliment," Dean said.

"It wasn't meant to be. I just think you should rest for a while."

Sam shrugged and grimaced with the movement. Dean watched his brother and sighed. "We'll take a day off, then, but no more than that."

Sam grinned. "Caught by the girl, just like usual. It's nice to know nothing changed since I was gone."

Dean rolled his eyes, and the two brothers wandered back out to Dean's car.

"So where should we take our break?" Sam asked as they got in.

The older Winchester his grin. "I hear Vegas is nice this time of year, and it's on the way to California."

"Vegas?" Sam asked skeptically. "You're just going tocheat people out of their money and hit on everything female in the area."

"Hey, don't forget that you got me thrown in jail, and you still owe me for that."

"Fine. But we're only staying for a day," Sam said with a smile. "Don't get too excited."

And with that, the Impala roared to life, speeding toward the western coast.

THE END (I think . . .)

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NOTE: Okay, I have to make a few comments about the ending. I really don't think Dean and Sam would be that angry about their father actually showing his face, but I think his behavior is atrocious and I hate the way he's just leaving them to get hurt and face these horrible things by themselves. Besides, I figured both brothers would probably have some pent-up anger if they realized their dad had been watching them. I had to get it off my chest. Anyway, those are my excuses for the ending. I'd still love to hear comments about it! And thanks again for everyone who reviewed (and even those of you who read but didn't review).