A/N: So here it is, unlucky Chapter Thirteen, but let's not be superstitious about these things! One last time I'd like to thank everyone who's read this, and everyone who's continued to review it - looks like I might actually double the magic total of 100 reviews I set out with (mostly thanks to emotional blackmail of the cliffhanger kind...!) And just to prove I do actually take notice of your suggestions, I made a conscious effort to answer the phone question...
Hope you've enjoyed it! I've had a great time writing it!
Ian moaned as Dean carefully rolled him over, inspecting the gash in his head which had caused the blood to pool beneath him. He'd need stitches, but Dean had seen worse – hell, Dean had had worse – although he didn't like the look of the guy's left leg, which was all stuck out at odd angles.
"Ian?" he whispered, gently shaking the man to try and get some kind of response. "Dude, you dead or what?"
Ian grunted something that may have been a pained laugh. "Dean –
?" he said the name feebly, eyes fluttering open just long enough
to see that the boy kneeling over him was in one piece, as was the
younger one standing behind him. "You guys okay?"
Dean grinned. "Better than you, man," he assured him. "Hang on, we'll get some help – "
"Phone…" Ian managed to croak, trying to point at his trouser pocket with a weakly flailing hand.
"Dude, I know you're Gadget Man and everything," Dean said
sceptically. "But no way is there a phone small enough to
fit in there…!"
At Ian's mimed insistence, however, Dean reluctantly dug in the man's pocket, finally fishing out a bunch of keys.
"Idiot!" Dean muttered, slapping his forehand with an angry palm.
"What?" Sam asked, bending over to more closely inspect what his brother had clutched in his hand.
Dean looked up at Sam, shaking his head as he held out the keys. "Sammy, go to Ian's car – he had one of those car phones, right? Go call an ambulance – "
"Can't we just use a phone in the house?" Sam asked, tentatively taking hold of the proffered keys.
"Trust me," Dean said. "I searched every inch of this place for a phone when things started to get – hinky, and believe me, there ain't one…"
"That better be the only reason you didn't call Pastor Jim," a gruff voice emanated from the darkness across the room. "Or are we going to have to have that whole 'Stranger Danger' talk again?"
The boys both yelled the word in unison, rushing over to where their father still lay, blinking up into the murkiness surrounding him as Sam fairly threw himself against his chest, while Dean stood back a little, waiting patiently.
"Hey, kiddo," Dad said, ruffling Sam's hair before returning his youngest boy's suddenly desperate hug. He frowned when he realised Sam was crying. "Sammy?" he said, trying but failing to manoeuvre himself into a sitting position. "What's wrong?"
Sam looked up at him then, eyes brimming over and bottom lip quivering. "I'm so sorry, Daddy!" he sobbed, shaking from head to toe. "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean…"
Dad squinted up at Dean, expression demanding an answer, but his older son merely shrugged.
"I thought I heard gunshots," Dad said warily, a horrible explanation for his little boy's ragged apology steeling into his groggy brain. He peeled the little boy off his chest and set him upright, meeting the boy's gaze evenly. "Sammy," he said carefully. "Did you – ?"
"That was me," Dean interjected quickly, head shaking a warning at Sam. What Dad didn't know couldn't hurt him, after all. "Offing the bad guy," he added. "Had to shoot out his eyes – "
"There were three shots," Dad insisted, turning his probing gaze back onto Dean.
Dean nodded. "Uh, yeah," he agreed. "Kinda missed with the first one." He didn't look at his Dad as he said that, as usual finding it almost impossible to lie to the old man.
Dad just looked at him for a second before nodding. "Not like you, son," he said. "Maybe you're not practicing hard enough."
Sam looked as if he was about to jump to Dean's defence, but Dean just silenced him with another look. "I'll have to work on that," he admitted to Dad, before turning his attention back to Sam. "Keys, Sammy," he said, taking Ian's keys back off Sam and searching for one that looked like it might fit Dad's shackles. Locating a likely suspect, he quickly unfastened the chains around Dad's wrists and ankles before tossing the keys back to Sam. "Paramedics," he reminded him, Sam nodding before scurrying off up the stairs.
"I don't need an ambulance," Dad protested, once again struggling to sit up and only succeeding this time with Dean's assistance.
"They're not for you," Dean replied, nodding in Ian's direction, who had apparently slipped back into blissful unconsciousness.
Dad's eyes widened as recognition flooded his brain, Dean having to push him back down onto the bed when he made to stand. "That's the son of a bitch!" Dad cried, stretching out his hands as if to throttle Ian where he lay. "That's the son of a bitch who locked me up in here!"
"I know, Dad," Dean said calmly, struggling to restrain his father's bulk. "But he – he kinda switched teams mid-game. He's on our side now."
Dad stopped struggling at that and looked down at his son. "Why would he do that?" he demanded, brow furrowing in suspicious scepticism.
Dean shrugged. "'Cause me and Sammy are just so freakin' adorable," he replied, face completely serious for a second before a grin eventually broke his cover.
Dad grinned right back, cuffing his boy's ear playfully. "Dean Winchester, the day someone describes you as 'adorable' is the day I retire to a condo in Florida."
Dean laughed. "Yeah, I know," he agreed. "Just don't have that whole puppy dog thing Sam's got going for him do I?"
Dad's smile faltered a little at that, eventually becoming all serious as he put one hand on Dean's shoulder. "Dean," he said. "Did Sammy try to shoot me?"
Dean just looked up at him, thought about denying it, but then that telltale chewing on his lip gave him away.
"He didn't mean it," Dean blurted, the wounded look on Dad's face cutting him to the quick. "That Oliver guy – the bad guy? Had his head so twisted – made him think that you – you…" he looked away, unable to meet his Dad's intensely dark gaze any longer. He took a deep breath before re-establishing eye contact. "Made Sammy think that you were – hurting me."
Dad didn't react exactly as Dean had expected. Rather than protesting his innocence, he merely nodded thoughtfully. "Hmm," he mused. "So that's what that was."
Dean frowned at him. "Huh?"
Dad scratched his head. "While I was – sleeping," he explained. "I kept having these – well, I thought they were dreams. But I guess they were memories. Of things that happened when you were little. When Sam was little. Before you were born, when your Mom and I…" he broke off, looking down at the ring on his left hand before looking back up at his son. "So he used my memories, huh? That's what he was doing?"
Dean nodded, surprised that his Dad had figured it out so easily. "They both did that," he explained. "Oliver and Ian. Used your memories. Ian made us think he was our Uncle, Mom's brother – "
"Your Mom didn't have a brother."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Yeah, we know that now," he said. "Might have helped if you'd told us before…"
Dad squinted at him. "You want me to tell you about all the relatives you don't have?"
Dean looked like he was thinking about that one. "Well that's just dumb," he decided, as Dad fought to suppress a smile. "But he knew everything – stuff that happened to us before. Only – only – different. Made us think… Well, made us think bad stuff. About you. And he knew the code, too! The secret code. Or we'd never have let him in the house – "
Dad frowned at that. "We'd better think of a new code then," he decided. "And we're going to have a long talk about why you didn't call Pastor Jim before taking off with this guy."
Dean met his accusing glare defensively. "Dad," he said. "Two words: Mind control. Ian put the whammy on us! Not our fault!"
"Uh-huh," Dad grunted, obviously not convinced.
Dean was saved from further protestations of his innocence by Sam's clattering back down the stairs. He skidded to a stop next to Dean, hands resting on Dad's knees. "Five minutes," he announced. "That's how long the paramedics will be," he added for clarification. He glanced over his shoulder at the eye-less corpse slouched at the bottom of the stairs. "Um, how are we going to explain him?" he asked.
Dad sighed, raking his fingers through his hair wearily. "We're not," he said, rising painfully to his feet as he prepared to marshall his troops. "Dean," he barked, heading over towards the staircase. "Help me get him upstairs. Sam, you stay with Ian, keep an eye on him until the paramedics get here."
"Yes sir," both boys chorused, Dean following his Dad to the foot of the stairs where he had already taken a firm hold around the Mercedes guy's torso.
"Grab his feet," Dad ordered.
Dean hesitated for a second, suddenly face to face with the mess he'd made of the guy's face.
"Dean?" Dad urged impatiently, frowning at his older son.
Dean continued to just look at the guy, vaguely wondering whether he'd been an innocent little boy like Sam once. Wondering whether he had a name. Had he been 'Mr Oliver'? Or had the thing inside him?
Sam looked up from his position on the floor where he knelt next to Ian, looking from the body to the expression on his brother's face. "He was already dead, right?" he said quietly, gently catching Dean's fingers in his own.
Dean looked down at him, as if suddenly remembering where he was, and nodded ever-so-slightly. "Yeah," he agreed, squeezing Sam's hand gratefully. "Already dead." He smiled weakly before grabbing the corpse by the ankles and preparing to help Dad get him upstairs.
"We'll salt and burn him when the paramedics have gone," Dad said, seemingly oblivious to the unsettling fears niggling at the back of Dean's mind as he hefted the body, pulling and tugging as he half-lifted, half-dragged him up the stairs. "Just in case," he added.
Dean nodded, glancing back down at Sammy, an ironic smile catching at the corners of his mouth. "And to think," he said. "You wanted to give all this up…"
Maybe it was the unnatural strobing of the ambulance's flashing blue lights, but Ian looked totally different now as the paramedics efficiently strapped him into the gurney and prepared him for the trip to the hospital. Younger. Somehow more vulnerable. He had a bad head laceration and a very broken leg, but concussion aside, he was going to be fine after his 'tumble down the stairs'.
Dean had gotten Sam to do his whole doe-eyed thing for the lady paramedic – "I came down into the basement and found my Uncle had fallen down the stairs! I was so scared, I didn't know what to do!" – and Ian had commented that, with a routine like that, Sam would never need to delve into the mysteries of mind control in order to get the things he wanted.
"Hey," Ian said, catching hold of Dean's hand as the paramedics busied themselves attaching various tubes and wires about his person.
Dean looked down at him thoughtfully, actually not wanting to kill him for once.
Ian returned his gaze sadly, choosing his words carefully. "I guess you guys won't be here when I come back, huh?" he said, coughing to cover the sudden lump in his throat.
Dean glanced over his shoulder to where Dad was keeping a wary distance, anxiously checking out the well-being of his Impala, which he had rescued from the shed after temporarily hiding Mr Oliver's host there.
He turned back to Ian, surprised to discover a lump in his own throat. "I don't think so," he said, putting his other arm around Sam's shoulders and pulling the kid to his side.
Ian would have nodded if his head didn't feel like a cannonball. "I pretty much figured," he said, smiling awkwardly. "Listen," he continued, squeezing Dean's hand. "I really am sorry. About everything. I wish…" he trailed off, glancing down at Sam before returning his gaze to Dean.
Dean nodded, suddenly struck by how much Ian's eyes resembled his own, like he really could have been his Uncle. "Me too," he said earnestly, briefly wondering what it would be like to have relatives in the 'normal' world.
The paramedic lady put her hand on his shoulder then, gently ushering him and Sam out of the way as she and her partner prepared to move the gurney into the ambulance. "Okay, honey," she said. "Time to go."
Finally releasing his hold on Dean's hand, Ian continued to smile at the boys sadly. "You guys look out for each other," he said, as the paramedics lifted him into the back of the ambulance.
Sam glanced up at Dean. "Always," he promised.
Dean had to raise his voice slightly as the paramedic lady began to close the ambulance door. "I hope you find your guy!" he said.
Ian laughed at that, while Sam frowned, not understanding. "You'll be the first to know when I do!" Ian promised, the doors closing on his words as the male paramedic slid into the drivers seat and started the engine.
Sam grimaced up at Dean. "What was that about?" he demanded, following Dean's gaze as he watched the ambulance begin to roll away down the drive.
"I'll tell you when you're older," Dean promised. "Like, way older."
"Boys?" Dad was calling them as he hauled his duffel bag out of the Impala's trunk. "Go get your stuff together while I take care of the nice man in the suit." He started to root through the bag, pulling out a container of salt, lighter fluid and a matchbook pilfered from some motel or other.
"Yes sir," Dean replied, turning and head for the house, arm still draped around Sam's shoulders. "You did real good fighting off that Oliver creep, Sammy," he said, steering Sam up the steps towards the kitchen door.
Sam shrugged. "He didn't want what I wanted," he replied. "I don't think we'd have worked out."
Dean laughed at that. "Probably not," he agreed, opening the door and ushering Sam inside. "He certainly didn't seem the Thundercats type, anyway."
Sam chuckled as the two of them headed through the kitchen towards the stairs.
"Hey Sam?" Dean asked as they passed the games room. "You think Ian would miss his video game console?"
Sam shrugged. "You think he'd miss his pool?"
Fifteen minutes later, Sam and Dean were safely installed in the back of the Impala where they belonged, Dad sliding in behind the wheel and gunning the powerful engine.
"It's quite a way back to Gladstone," he observed, revving the old car slightly, just to feel the rumble beneath him. "You guys wanna stop for something to eat? I think I saw a mall on the way in. I might even spring for ice cream – "
"No!" his sons answered as one.
"No ice cream," Sam confirmed, folding his arms across his chest.
"And definitely no malls," Dean added, shuddering.
Dad shrugged, wondering whether all kids were as odd as his could be sometimes. "Alright then," he said, putting the big car into gear and beginning to manoeuvre down the driveway. "That'll give us a good couple of hours to discuss a few things. I think we'll start with strangers: the dangers thereof. Then we can move on to the many and varied uses of the telephone. And we can finish up with the inherent dangers in shooting at our parents."
Sam cringed. "Yes sir," he said meekly.
"Dad?" Dean piped up. "Two words: mind control."
"Dean?" Dad replied. "Two words: you're grounded."
Dean sighed. "Yes sir," he muttered, turning in his seat to watch wistfully as Ian's house retreated into the distance.
He was brought back to reality by Sam's head drooping against his shoulder, and he looked down at the little boy, whose eyes were already closing. Slipping his arm carefully around him, he glanced up into the rear view mirror, where he could see the relief in Dad's tired eyes as he watched them thoughtfully.
Home was where you made it.
And for now, it was right here.
That's all folks! In the words of Douglas Adams, so long and thanks for all the fish...