Disclaimer: Still don't own them.
I would like to thank Sylia91, once again for bidding on me, and for her incredible patience while I finished this story.
Thanks goes to Soar for putting up with my terrible grammer and spelling and for the awesome beta work.
Also thanks to Julia Aurelia and Sinead-Conlan for all their feedback and encouragement.
Today was the first time in weeks that there was a break in the freezing cold weather. The sun was shining, and the forecast called for it to start getting warmer.
John Winchester couldn't help but think that this was a good omen for once. He had been up early to work on his plan of attack. He was tackling the problem he had with his boys the way he would approach a hunt. Joshua's theory that Dean needed to feel useful was a good one.
It was something John still felt guilty about. He had never meant to make Dean responsible for looking after him and Sam, but his son had done it without being asked. When things were tough after the fire, and then when John had needed help with Sam so he could pursue hunting, it had been so easy to just let Dean step into the role.
The last few weeks with Dean incapacitated had been a real eye opener for John. It wasn't just looking after Sam or the house, there was so much more John hadn't realized that Dean had done for them, from finding a clinic for dental appointments, to helping with homework, to knowing Sam's friends and keeping their finances under control.
After Dean had been released from the hospital, John had only been trying to ease some of the pressure on Dean's shoulders, because he'd seen the toll it had been taking, especially on Dean's schoolwork.
These past few weeks had also given him a lot of insight into his youngest son as well. Sam was capable of a lot more than John gave him credit for. He had looked after the house, and most of Dean's responsiblities this past week. He had walked to and from school by himself several times, and had been trying not to argue with him, and John was attempting to do the same.
The big problem John was contemplating, was how to find a balance. How much responsibility should he give Dean so that it didn't interfere with his school work, yet made him feel useful without stepping too much on Sam's newfound independence?
John still didn't like Sam walking to school on his own. He knew the dangers, both known and unknown, but Sam had proven that he could be trusted to go right to school and then home. His youngest son was growing up and John wasn't sure he liked that one bit.
He looked up at the clock and knew that he needed to get breakfast on and wake up his son for school, but he was no further ahead in his plan about how to make both sons happy. He hoped that it was a slow day at work so he could think about this some more. He stood, stretched, called his sons and opened the fridge and tried to decide what to make for breakfast. He decided that he would make some pancakes. They had been eating Dean's favourite foods the last few days, and pancakes were Sam's favourite. He started mixing the batter and opened the cupboard. He grinned when he found a large bag of chocolate chips. He could make both his sons happy this morning. He hoped that was another sign.
Things got even better for John that day. Before he and the boys left, the phone rang, and it was one of the garages in town. They had an opening and wondered if he could come in for an interview. He hated to let his boss at the convenience store down, as he had bailed him out of a really tough spot, but the job at the garage paid more than his 2 jobs did together. He didn't quit just yet though, he had to get the job at the garage first. If he did, he decided to just be honest with his boss. It was the only thing he could do.
Even better, Samantha Anderson from social services called and told John that there would be no formal investigation at this time, and thanked him for his cooperation. He breathed a sigh of relief. They had dodged a big bullet there.
He hadn't fully come up with a game plan as to how to deal with his sons, but he decided that the best thing to do would be to include them in any decision he made. After all, if John had learned anything these last three weeks, it was just how capable his boys were.
He went to his interview during his lunch break and walked out of there with the job. He went to his boss, who was upset at the short notice, but could understand why John was quitting and wished him the best.
He picked the boys up at school, and surprised them when he drove to a local pizza parlour, instead of just dropping them off at home and going to his night job. He filled them in on all the good things that had been happening that day.
When they got home, Dean tried to disappear into his room, but John stopped him and told him to go into the living room, Sam too. They all needed to talk.
"What do you think dad's up to?" Sam asked his brother. Their father had been in such a good mood that day it was scaring him.
"I'm not sure," Dean admitted. The trip for pizza had been so unexpected, as they often didn't have the money for take out.
"Hey boys, up for some dessert?" John asked bringing in a big strawberry-rhubarb pie. His little darlings had eaten all of his on Dean's homecoming and he hadn't even gotten one slice. He wondered if he should have made Dean aware that he was actually consuming a vegetable.
"Always," Dean admitted and accepted a slice from his father.
"Thanks," Sam replied as he accepted his.
"Boys, we need to talk," John said after they all had finished their dessert. He had decided that there was no beating around the bush.
"About what?" Dean asked suspiciously.
"Things have to change," John replied.
"What things?" Sam asked in the same suspicious tone as his brother.
"Dean, ever since you got out of the hospital, something has been going on with you."
"I'm fine," came the expected answer.
"Then why do you disappear as soon as you get home, and only come out for supper?"
Dean shrugged as if it was no big deal. "It's more comfortable for my leg," he covered.
"Is it hurting?" John asked with concern. Maybe he and Joshua had been totally wrong.
"It's fine," Dean insisted. "I just..."
"Knock it off," Sam added. "Are you still mad at me?"
"'Course not, Sammy," Dean said softly. "I just..." He stopped. He didn't want to admit what he was thinking.
"You're thinking that we don't need you," John supplied, taking pity on his son.
"No," Dean denied instantly. "I'm not.... My leg hurts, I think..."
"Dean, freeze," John ordered when Dean grabbed for his crutches. "Something's going on with you. I just want to know what it is."
"Nothing," Dean denied everything again.
"Dean," Sam spoke up. "You won't talk to me or dad, and go straight to our room as soon as you get home from school. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that something's bugging you."
"So you're the genius now," Dean snapped. "I'm surprised you noticed since you're so busy."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean that like it sounded," Sam instantly apologized.
"Dean..." John prompted.
"You and Sam don't need me," Dean replied sounding lost. "I screwed up everything."
"How?" John asked hoping to keep Dean talking.
"The house is spotless, the sink's fixed, it's even warm in here, something I could never do. Sam doesn't need me anymore, he has his friends and..."
"Dean," John cut him off, and he couldn't help the chuckle that escaped him. If his son only knew the truth. John instantly felt bad when Dean looked hurt. "Dean, son, nothing's further from the truth. Those first few days were one disaster after another. I was in danger of having the power and the phone cut off. Me and Sam were at each other's throats constantly."
"But the sink, the heat, the house," Dean said in confusion.
"The house was a wreck," John admitted. "I had Sam fix it up, I was worried about social services, and no, that was not your fault," John said putting to rest any protest Dean may have had. "He went above and beyond what I asked. He wanted the place spotless for your homecoming. I turned the heat up because the place was cold, I never even considered the power bill. I ended up borrowing money from Joshua, and there was the money you had won. That's what kept us going, that and my job. I fixed the sink, but only after it turned the kitchen into a lake, twice. I'm amazed at how you managed to keep up with the bills."
"I never paid them all at once," Dean explained. "If you make a partial payment they usually leave you alone."
"Now, you tell me," John said with a grin.
"Dean, I may not need you to hold my hand crossing the street, but I'm always going to need my big brother," Sam said sincerely.
"I'm sorry," Dean said again.
"No, boys, I'm the one that's sorry," John said. "The way you both stepped up when I'm away is nothing short of amazing, and I couldn't be a prouder father of both my boys."
"Thanks, dad," both boys said. John's praise was so rare that they both lapped it up.
"We do need to make some changes though. Dean, you need a bit more free time, and Sam you are capable of handling some more responsibility. Therefore, I'm going to divide the housework between you. Right now, Dean, there are a few things you can't do, but I will give you some responsibilities, and then when your cast comes off, you and Sam will divide the chores more equally. That being said, there will be no excuse for not maintaining your grades, understood?"
"Yes, sir," Dean replied.
John grinned, pleased that he had gotten Dean to open up and they had settled some misunderstandings. Bobby had always told him that he needed to communicate with his boys more.
"You can start right now," John said to his eldest. "You can give me a hand with the dishes and then you can make yours and Sammy's lunch for tomorrow."
"I don't think that would be a good idea, tomorrow's Saturday," Dean snarked.
"Smartass. For that you can do the laundry. Sam, you empty the washer and fold."
"Thanks, Dean," Sam said sarcastically.
"Not my fault he's old and losing his memory," Dean teased.
"Do we need to add more chores to that list?" John replied.
"No," Sam added quickly. "He'll be good."
"Promise," Dean replied in a tone that John wasn't sure he trusted. Dean accepted his crutches from his father and got up. He felt like a big weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
"Hey, Dean, did you spill something on your cast?" Sam asked. When Dean stood up, Sam could see that there were marks on it.
"No," Dean replied, suddenly finding the floor fascinating.
"You told me I couldn't sign your cast, you said that was for little kids," Sam said suddenly, as he went to Dean and pulled up the leg of his sweat pants, revealing the bottom of his cast. He suddenly started laughing. Only his brother!
"What is it?" John asked coming over and inspecting, and then found himself laughing with Sam. The bottom of Dean's cast was covered with girls' phone numbers.
"What?" Dean said feigning innocence. "You won't let me get a black book, dad. I had to improvise."
"Come here, you little rascals," John said, scooping his sons into a big hug. Mary, I wish you were here.
Things continued to go smoothly for the Winchesters over the next few weeks. John kept his word. He made a schedule that all of them followed.
Sam and Dean weren't naive enough to think that their father had changed completely. They both had no doubt that when Dean's leg was fully healed, their father was going to find a hunt, and things would be back to the way they were before, but they both decided to enjoy it while it lasted.
Sam found, much to his surprise, that he liked having his dad home, and getting a glimpse of what he had probably been like before the fire.
Dean had to admit that it was nice to not have quite so much responsibility at home. He was becoming good friends with Justin, and with his extra time, he had made friends with two of the girls in the mentoring program, Sasha tutored History and Miranda tutored French. He and Justin had gone out on double dates with them a few times. He was even able to put his plan into effect. Justin had told him the football players were scared of him, so he made it known to everyone that he and Justin were friends. He knew it wasn't a permanent solution, but at least it gave Justin some temporary peace.
His leg was even cooperating by healing on schedule, and he was extremely happy when the doctors finally announced that he could have his cast removed.
Dean sat next to his father in the waiting room at the orthopaedic clinic at the local hospital, waiting for his name to be called.
"Dad," Dean asked in a nervous tone. "Do they really use a saw to cut the cast off?"
"Yes," John confirmed. "It's just a small one, though." He had broken his wrist once.
"It's still a saw. Are you sure it's safe? I mean, what if he cuts too deep and cuts my whole leg off?"
"Dean, I'm sure the doctor has done this hundreds of times and I doubt he's lost a limb yet," John said indulgently. He couldn't believe that his son, who had exorcised demons, was scared to have his cast removed.
"Do you know that for sure? I mean, did you have him investigated? What if he's possessed by a demon that likes to collect kid's legs?"
"You're thinking of the tooth fairy," John reminded his son. The Winchester boys never put their teeth under their pillows when they lost them. They knew the truth. The tooth fairy was a witch that stole kids' teeth and used them to make a mask to hide her deformities. "You don't have to worry about the tooth fairy, Bobby and I took her out."
"Dean Winchester," the receptionist's voice called.
"I changed my mind, dad," Dean announced. "I like my cast, and I'm keeping it."
"Okay, son," John said placating his son. "I guess you don't want to drive the Impala anymore."
"That's not fair," Dean pouted.
"Come on, lets get this over with," John encouraged.
"You're coming in, right?" Dean asked sounding like a little boy.
"Let them try and stop me," John replied as he handed Dean his crutches and helped him stand.
"Thanks dad," Dean replied gratefully and followed his father towards the treatment room, only to stop dead when he got near the door.
There were three treatment rooms, and when Dean had started hobbling towards his, he heard a really loud noise come from the room next door. "What the hell is that?" he demanded.
"It's the saw, it's just loud," John said honestly. "Come on," he said nudging Dean forward and forcing him to move again.
"You're going to let them use that on me?" Dean said playing to his father's sympathy.
"Unless you really want to live in that cast, you're going to have to," John said gently. He knew this wasn't the time for teasing. Dean was genuinely nervous. "It sounds worse than it is. I promise."
"Thanks dad," Dean said as he took a deep breath and followed his father inside.
"Hello, Dean," Dr. Andrews, the attending physician, greeted him. He was someone who Dean had seen on his previous checkups. "I'll be removing your cast. Have you ever had one removed before?"
"No," Dean answered truthfully. He had experienced broken ribs, but he'd never broken an arm or a leg before.
"I'm going to get you to change into this gown, then we'll get you on the table and get that cast off. It'll be over before you know it."
"Swell," Dean muttered as he accepted the hated green hospital gown. It showed John just how nervous Dean was when he let his father help him change and get on the table.
"Alright," Dr. Andrew said. "I know this can be nerve wracking, especially with the noise of the saw. It's nothing to feel embarrassed about. I've had grown men cry, and have to be restrained or sedated. Being a little nervous is normal, especially with sharp objects near your body, but I swear I haven't lost a limb yet."
John shot Dean a look that said 'I told you so.' Dean just scowled in return.
"Here," Dr. Andrews said handing Dean and John a pair of earphones. "The saw's really loud. It won't hurt, Dean, but you will feel some heat on your skin. Let me know if it gets too bad."
Dean swallowed nervously and said, "Okay," in a voice so low that they had trouble hearing him.
"The biggest thing I need from you is to lie very still. I'm really good at this, but if you move around, I could accidentally cut you."
"Dad," Dean said looking around for his father.
"Right here, son," John said and grabbed Dean's hand for moral support.
Dr. Andrews turned the saw on so that Dean was comfortable with the noise before he started on his cast.
Dean couldn't help but flinch when he felt the saw touch his cast. He felt the burning sensation Dr. Andrews had warned him about. He still didn't want it anywhere near his leg, and he tried his best not to pull away no matter how much he wanted too. He guessed he wasn't doing a very good job when both the doctor and his father said, very firmly and in unison, "hold still."
Dean doubled his efforts. He squeezed his eyes shut and started humming Metallica. He didn't care if the doctor heard him. It calmed him down.
He heard the saw shut off and the doctor announced that he was done.
Slowly, Dean opened his eyes, fully expecting his leg to be missing when he looked down. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that it was still attached and relaxed slightly, until he saw a big pair of what liked pliers in the doctor's hand. "What the hell are those?"
"Spreaders. I can't cut all the way through, so I use these to separate the ends of the cast. This may hurt a bit, but the 'don't move' rule is still in place."
"Fine," Dean mumbled, tightened his grip on his father's hand and resumed humming Nothing Else Matters. It did hurt a bit, mostly when he got to the area where Dean's injury was, but it wasn't too bad. He had certainly experienced worse.
John gave a sad smile when he thought the same thing. His boys had experienced way too much pain in their short lives.
"Okay, now I just need to cut the bandages and we're done," Dr. Andrews said brightly.
This part wasn't too bad, it was just a pair of scissors. Dean watched as Dr. Andrews cut away the soft material that protected his skin from the plaster of the cast. "That's quite a collection you have there," Dr. Andrews said referring to the phone numbers. "Any you want to keep?"
"No thank you," Dean replied, a little embarrassed about them.
"The strangest thing I ever saw written on a cast was a novel. It was pretty good actually."
Dean looked down and saw his leg for the first time in weeks. He couldn't believe that was actually his leg he was seeing. It looked skinny and withered. He looked to his father.
"It's normal," John said soothingly. "You haven't used your leg in weeks. It makes sense that your muscles would have atrophied. You'll get full strength and mobility back, kiddo, promise."
"Your father's right," Dr. Andrews said confirming John's words. "It's extremely important that you don't put any weight on that leg. It would never hold you. I'm going to get a wheelchair and take you to x-ray."
"I can walk," Dean insisted. He hated sitting in wheelchairs, even temporarily.
Dr. Andrews refused, saying that there was too much temptation to walk on his leg. Dean tried to protest, but a glare from his father stopped it before he could vocalize it.
It seemed to take forever, but after the x-rays, and a visit to the physical therapy clinic so he could get his brace and PT schedule, Dean was finally released.
The brace was as big and bulky as the cast. It consisted of two large metal rods that ran down the length of Dean's leg, and Velcro straps that wrapped around. The only good thing about it was that there was a catch so that when Dean released it, he could bend his knee. He was able to sit in the front seat of car on the way home.
It was exactly 5 months after the accident when Dean finally got the okay to remove the brace and walk unassisted.
Progress had been slow, and Dean got frustrated easily that he wasn't healing faster, but his brother and his father kept at him, making sure he obeyed all his doctor's orders.
In the time that Dean was working on strengthening his leg, John was working on a surprise of his own. He still felt guilty that he had had to spend all of Dean's prize money, but he just didn't have a thousand dollars to pay him back with. He hoped his surprise would make up for it.
He had called Bobby, who was finished with his latest hunt. He was upset to learn that the boys had been hurt, but he was glad they were okay. He told John that he had just what he was looking for and could get it to him by the time that Dean had his final appointment.
John was grateful that he had such friends, who would do anything for him.
While Dean was at the hospital, Bobby made good on his word and showed up with what John had asked him to bring.
"Are you sure you're doing this the right way, Johnny?" Bobby questioned.
"Dean's always wanted the..."
"I know that," Bobby cut John off. "I just don't think teasing him like this is a good idea."
"He'll be fine," John replied, but he did have some doubts. "He's going to figure it out. Don't worry. I'm going to go pick up Dean. You go get it, and have it waiting for when we get home."
"You got it," Bobby agreed and grabbed the keys to the rental from John. He had to go return it.
"Thanks, Bobby," John replied, and left to go pick up his son.
"Hey boys," John called to his sons when he arrived at the hospital to pick up his sons.
"Hey dad, clean bill of health," Dean replied as he climbed into the truck that his father had picked him up in. "Cool truck," he remarked.
"Where did you get it?" Sam asked.
"It's one Bobby had sitting in his yard. I bought it off him and Bobby got her running again," John explained. Five, four, three, two....
"What about the Impala?" Dean asked as if on cue, and with concern as if he was talking about a member of their family.
"What about it?" John asked playing dumb.
"You said you could repair it."
"They why do you need a new truck?" Sam asked playing his part, he was in on the secret.
"The Impala has a new owner. I needed a vehicle to get around," John replied.
"You sold the Impala? Dad how could you... that car... I mean it's..." Dean cried out in disbelief.
"Dean, breathe," John said and berated himself. He should have listened to Bobby. He had really believed that Dean would know who the new owner was. He knew what that car meant to his eldest son, and no matter how bad thing got, he would never give it away or sell it, and he'd had many offers. He was going to wait until he had gotten home, but enough was enough. He pulled an envelope out of his pocket. "I know these last few months haven't been easy, and I want you to know how..."
"You sold the car," Dean muttered again. "She was like a part..."
"Dean, would you let me finish here, son. I want to say that I'm really proud of you and your brother for the way you two stepped up. While I wish I could give you your thousand dollars back, I can't, so I'm hoping you'll take this as compensation."
Dean accepted the envelope from his father, opened it up and pulled out the Impala's key. He looked to his father. Had his dad just done what he thought he had?
"Yeah, kiddo, she's all yours. I expect you to..." That was as far as he got.
"You mean it? She's mine, like for real, and forever," Dean said afraid to believe it.
"As long as you take..."
"I'll take real good care of her, dad. I promise," Dean said excitedly. "When do we get her back?"
"I think she's at home waiting for you," John promised and pulled up in the driveway. Sure enough, the Impala was in the driveway, gleaming as if she had just come off the showroom floor.
Dean jumped out the truck and ran to inspect his car. He couldn't believe she was his. He had never really believed his father would give her to him. He couldn't wait to get behind the wheel.
"Thanks dad," Dean said again as he went up to his father and gave him a great, big, bear hug.
"Hey, kid, it's nice to see you too."
In his excitement, Dean had completely missed the fact that Bobby was standing next to the car.
"Hey, Bobby," Dean greeted him as he accepted a hug from the older hunter. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, son."
"Want to go for a ride in my new wheels?" Dean asked his family.
"Tomorrow. I heard from Sam that you have plans tonight," Bobby said.
Dean had almost completely forgotten that he and Justin were double dating tonight. "Thanks for reminding me, Sammy."
"No problem, Dean," Sam replied. "You can take me for a ride tomorrow as well," Sam offered. He knew that his brother probably wouldn't want him along on a double date.
"Sure, call your friends, they can come with us," Dean offered.
John stood on the porch about an hour later and watched Dean get into his car and drive off for his date. He felt a little melancholy that he no longer owned the Impala. He'd had that car since before he'd gotten engaged to Mary when some stranger convinced him to buy it.
It had been the one constant in their lives since Mary had died. It had become a home, of sorts, for the Winchesters. They had driven across country and back in it, had slept in it when they had no money for hotels. The car had saved their lives, acting as a getaway car, speeding them to the hospital, and John was fully convinced that she had greatly reduced the injuries the boys had received in the accident. It was reliable, and dependable and always there when they needed it.
John smiled as he realized that it was only fitting that Dean have the car. After all, he was always there, just like she was.
"Look after him, okay," John whispered and walked back in the house.
I hope everyone enjoyed the ending. Please read and review and let me know.