Missouri directed Sam to sit down at the table and went over to pour him a cup of coffee. Putting it down in front of him she put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed it briefly before sitting down herself.

"So. You want to tell me what's going on in that head of yours?" she said.

Sam sighed.

"I just can't stop thinking about it. When Dean told me – I thought at first it had to be a mistake. I mean, the visions were bad enough but hearing I might turn evil? That I might be no better than what we hunt? How am I supposed to deal with that?" he said, his voice almost pleading.

Missouri looked at him compassionately.

"Sam, I meant what I said before – the future isn't written, not for any of us. Now I've seen plenty of evil in my time, supernatural and plain old human, and I can tell you right now you are not evil. Dean's right, John had to say something so you boys could be prepared although don't get me started on all the ways that how he went about that was wrong. But none of this means you are one of the bad guys, do you hear me?"

Sam didn't look convinced.

"Maybe I'm not yet, but I could be. And Dean just refuses to see that. But what if it happens, Missouri? What if I do 'turn' and I go after him – he won't agree to hurt me let alone kill me, so how am I supposed to convince him to defend himself? It's bad enough Mom and Jess died because of me, it's bad enough that we lost Dad, but if I was the one who," he stopped and swallowed. "If I was the one who killed Dean? I'd rather kill myself now and have done with it."

Missouri reached out and whacked him lightly on the back of the head before he could react.

"Now I won't have any of that crazy talk in my house, do you understand? I get that you're scared for Dean – he's just as scared for you, you don't need me to tell you that. But going down the road you are isn't going to help. I swear I could knock your heads together, I really could. You're both so determined to do everything by yourselves you totally miss the point." she said, exasperated.

"Which is?" said Sam, looking at her questioningly.

"You should be dealing with this stuff together. It's the best way you can face what's coming."

Sam sighed and looked down at the table for a moment, suddenly finding the grain of the wood fascinating.

"I tried leaving. I knew he wouldn't agree to what I was asking and I needed some space to try and get my head round the whole thing. It was a mistake though. Another hunter somehow found out about my 'abilities' and decided I needed taking care of. He kidnapped Dean, to get me out in the open. I tried to protect him and all I ended up doing was putting him in more danger." he said bitterly.

"Then surely that proves my point?" said Missouri, gently.

Sam looked up at her and there was such confusion and pain in his gaze she wanted to do nothing more than put her arms round him.

"What if it's not enough though? If I stay Dean could get hurt, and if I go he could get hurt. I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

Missouri leaned forward and put her hands on his arm.

"Just be his brother, Sam. That's all he needs from you. You boys watch each other's backs and I guarantee, there's nothing out there that stands a chance." she said with a smile.

Sam looked at her, desperately wanting to believe it. Deciding he needed some time to think about what she'd said Missouri patted his arm and got up.

"You finish your coffee. I'm going to go have the same conversation with your stubborn brother now."

"Good luck with that." said Sam, managing to see at least some humour in the situation.

When she went back into the front room Missouri saw Dean was on the couch with his head back and his eyes closed. She was debating whether to leave him to rest when he spoke, making her jump.

"I'm not asleep."

She sat down next to him, glaring as he opened his eyes to look at her.

"That's not funny, you know. I'm too old to be getting scares like that."

Dean's lips twitched but he did at least try to look contrite.

"Sorry. Is Sam ok?"

She shrugged.

"Not yet. But hopefully he will be. Now I'm going to say the same thing to you that I just said to him, so I want you to just be quiet and listen."

Dean shifted and looked apprehensive.

"I know you both think you are doing what's best by shouldering all the responsibility and trying to protect one another that way, but you're just making things worse. Sam's not a child anymore, Dean, and whether you like it or not he's as much a part of this as you are. More so, if you count this whole destiny business. Now you going all 'big brother' on him is actually doing more harm than good. He needs to feel like he has a choice in all this, like he can protect you as well as you protect him. You try and stop him doing that and you'll just drive him away, and I know you don't want that."

Dean swallowed. When he spoke he kept his gaze on his lap and didn't look at Missouri.

"Of course I don't want that! But it's my job to protect him from this, and not just because Dad told me to. I've spent my whole life making sure he's ok – how am I supposed to just stop that all of a sudden?"

Missouri decided to take a risk and put her hand on his shoulder. He flinched a little but didn't pull away, which was something.

"You're not. You're just supposed to let him do the same for you. That's all."

Dean let out a long sigh. It sounded so simple when Missouri said it like that but he knew it wasn't. It just wasn't in his nature to let someone else take care of things for him, to be the one protecting him. But he also knew she was right. He couldn't risk Sam taking off again and truth was, he had a feeling they'd need both their strength to face what was coming. He looked up at her.

"What did Sam say?" he said and she shook her head, smiling.

"Please don't tell me you're gonna do the whole 'I will if he will' thing – aren't you boys a little old for that?"

Dean looked indignant.

"Hey, I can make my own decisions you know. I was just curious."

Missouri just smiled even more and Dean glowered at her, which didn't really help. As if sensing they were done Sam limped into the room. He was relieved to see Missouri smiling, even if Dean did look less than pleased about something. At least the tension from earlier was gone.

"Mind if I join you?" he said and Dean looked up at him.

"Hell no." he said with feeling and Missouri's hand went from his shoulder to the back of his head in one smooth movement.

"Don't cuss." she said, standing up to let Sam sit down.

Dean rubbed the back of his head.

"See? I told you she'd be whacking me, didn't I? Not even 24 hours." grumbled Dean.

Sam tried not to laugh although it was difficult given Dean's expression. Winking at Sam as he sat down, Missouri went into the kitchen saying something about making a start on dinner.

For a few minutes neither of them said anything. Sam risked a sideways glance at Dean and saw he seemed deep in thought. He nudged him slightly with his leg and Dean looked at him.

"You ok?" said Sam, softly and Dean gave a slight smirk.

"You know you should just have that put on a tee shirt, Sammy. It'd save time."

Sam rolled his eyes but managed to imply with a look that he was still waiting for an answer.

Dean almost shrugged but remembered at the last minute attempting that with a dislocated shoulder was probably not a good idea.

"I'm probably about the same as you are." he said and Sam actually had to marvel at the sneakiness of that answer. If Sam acted too concerned now, it implied that he himself was finding the whole thing difficult. Whereas if he left Dean alone, then by default it meant he was coping ok and therefore Dean would be much happier anyway.

"That's not fair." he said mildly and Dean just grinned at him. He knew Sam was taking the whole thing seriously though – not that he wasn't, of course – so he relented after a moment.

"Look, I'm not exactly thrilled with the way this year's been turning out but the way I see it we're still here and considering our luck lately? That's pretty impressive."

Sam couldn't really argue on that point. Images of Dean trapped in the wreckage of the Impala and being given CPR in the hospital sprang to mind and he shuddered. Pushing them firmly away he considered Dean's answer.

"I can't argue with you on that one. But it doesn't change the fact we don't know what's coming." he pointed out.

"No. But then we never do, do we? You and I both know living this life - there's no guarantees. All we can do is take it a day at a time."

Sam frowned. "I get that. But what about.."

Dean didn't let him finish.

"I swear you use the words 'if I turn evil' I'm going to stick Missouri on you. I've said it before and I will keep saying it until you believe me – nothing is going to happen to you, not with me around."

Sam looked at him with eyes that were suspiciously bright.

"And what if you're not around?"

Dean gave him a genuine smile.

"Not gonna happen, Sammy. You're stuck with me, I'm afraid. You shoulda realised that by now."

Sam found he was smiling despite himself. He desperately wanted to believe that was true but what if it wasn't?

It was Dean's turn to nudge Sam with his knee this time, waiting until Sam looked up at him.

"I never thought I'd hear myself say this but Missouri is right, Sam. We need to stop trying to deal with all this separately and just trust that we can handle whatever it is as long as do it together. And that means no more taking off, no more secrets. And no more asking me to kill you, ok? Cos it's not gonna happen."

Sam said nothing for a long time then he nodded, reluctantly.

"Ok." he said quietly. He still wasn't convinced but he was tired of fighting with Dean about the whole thing and he really needed to believe, even if only for a moment, that what his brother said was true. That they could beat this as long as they stuck together.

"So are you boys done or do I need to go get my spoon?"

They both jumped and turned round to see Missouri standing in the doorway, wiping her hands on a cloth.

They glanced at each other and it was Dean who answered.

"We're done. Did you say something about dinner before?"

Sam glared at him.

"Dean!" he hissed and his brother looked innocent.

"What? I slept through lunch, Sam, you can't blame me for being hungry."

Missouri just shook her head and looked amused.

"Well, we can't have you fading away now can we? It'll be ready in 5 minutes." she said, disappearing back into the kitchen.

The next few days were spent recharging their batteries, something they'd had precious little time to do lately. After talking things through with Missouri, Dean felt a bit more relaxed around her. He was still careful to keep his thoughts from straying to anything too 'deep' but he did trust her enough not to try and read anything from him when she'd promised not to. Even Sam seemed to finally relax a little, easing up on the whole 'hovering' thing he'd had going on since the accident and their father's death.

They didn't really do that much the whole time they were there. Given their physical limitations there wasn't much they could do to help Missouri around the house anyway, but they did manage one or two little jobs for her. Neither of them were comfortable with staying without doing something in return.

Dean also managed to do some minor servicing on the Impala one handed, although he did endure a 10 minute lecture when Sam caught him with the sling off when he was trying to put one particularly awkward bolt back on. Missouri's intervention prevented bloodshed on that occasion and she made Dean promise to keep the sling on after that.

Which he did, since he certainly wasn't stupid enough to break a promise made to the psychic.

Dean had thought he'd be bored but it was actually kind of nice to take some time out and not worry about the next job, or getting caught out with the card they were using, or any of the other things they wrangled with on a daily basis. He and Sam spent some time just hanging out and talking about almost normal stuff. Demons and destinies were barely mentioned, which was fine by both of them.

Missouri genuinely enjoyed having them there and she was pleased as she watched them recover from more than just their latest injuries. She knew when they were working up to leaving though. Dean's sling had been taken off, with her approval, the day before and although his shoulder still ached a little he had full movement back in it. Sam had stopped using the cane and his limp was also nearly gone. Dean in particular had started to get that look about him that said he'd reached his limit with the whole regular routine thing and she was ready when they raised the subject of moving on over breakfast on their eleventh day at the house.

They both looked genuinely sorry to leave and she made a point of smiling and telling them it was fine for them to be moving on.

Even though she would have loved to be able to keep them there, safe, forever.

They loaded the car between them and Dean cornered her in the kitchen as they prepared to go. He tried to push some money into her hand but she was having none of it.

"Now don't you even think about paying for you staying here, Dean Winchester. This isn't a hotel, it's a home, and you are more than welcome here anytime. Do you understand me?" she said, standing in front of him with her hands on her hips.

Dean could see he was fighting a losing battle and John hadn't raised him to be stupid so he simply ducked his head and nodded.

"Ok."

She followed them both outside and they came to a stop next to the Impala. She reached out and gave Sam a hug, holding him tightly to her for a moment.

"Thank you." he whispered in her ear and she knew it was for more than just the place to stay.

She smiled at him as he stepped back, letting him know he was more than welcome without saying anything.

Dean leant against the car and she saw him look at her a little nervously as she turned her gaze to him. She gave him a mock glare.

"Boy, don't make me come over there." she said and Dean reluctantly stepped forward until he was standing close enough for her to get her arms round him.

He tensed at first but then he relaxed, just briefly, and returned the hug although he stepped back so fast it was almost comical. Certainly Sam's lips were twitching but he controlled himself given the look Dean was giving him.

"Thanks for letting us stay." Dean said, genuinely, and she shook her head.

"Like I said, you boys are always welcome. Now you take care of yourselves and don't be strangers you hear me?"

They both nodded and Dean walked round to the other side of the car to get in. Sam flashed her one final grateful smile as he opened the passenger door and slid into the seat.

The engine started up and Missouri winced as music blared out of the speakers. She wasn't the only one and she watched as Sam reached for the stereo only to have his hand slapped away by Dean. She saw the glare Sam gave his brother and heard words being spoken, but she couldn't make out what was said. Clearly Dean must have won the argument though as the volume stayed as it was.

She grinned, amused at their antics. For all their maturity and the seriousness of what they faced on a daily basis, sometimes they were no different than a pair of kids.

She hoped they never lost that.

Winding his window down and rolling his eyes when he caught Missouri's gaze, Sam reached out and waved a hand in farewell. Dean did the same on his side and she waved until she saw the Impala finally disappear into the distance.

She stood there for a moment, staring even though she couldn't see them anymore.

She really hoped she'd been right about what she'd said, about them being able to defeat anything that was coming their way. But as she stood there she shivered for a moment and she was struck by a horrible sense of foreboding.

Trying to dismiss it she turned round and walked back up the steps into the house. She couldn't resist one final glance in the direction the Winchester's were heading though. She said a quick, brief prayer as she stood there.

She had a bad feeling they were going to need all the help they could get.