A/N: First, let me apologize for the length of time that this story has just waited for an ending. Thank you for your patience, I am not sure why I let this one slip so long. Thank you as always for reading and reviewing, consider yourselves all hugged and if you every stop by, coffee (or tea) from Becci's on me!

The Forest

Chapter Eight

There was a throbbing in time with his heart as Galen leaned against his brother. "Is he alive?" he demanded for what felt like the tenth time. Medical staff had stormed into the room and Mike had firmly moved Galen away from the bed while they worked. Once again, no one answered him. Galen leaned against his brother, closed his eyes and felt for the healing, it was trickling back—he drew on Rob's energy and used the light to quiet the pounding in his head, as he did his vision cleared as well. He glanced up at the monitors over the hunter's bed and sighed in relief. Things were still far from okay, but Dean was alive and Galen was pretty sure he could keep him that way.

"Back to your room," Mike said, stopping in front of him.

"Okay," Galen said, letting Rob help him.

"All of you," the doctor said, glaring at Sam.

"I'll take care of it, Mike," Rob assured him and carefully helped Galen stand, waiting until he was steady on his feet before pushing the wheelchair Sam was sitting in out into the hallway. "We'll go to your room," Rob said to Sam, the younger Winchester nodded, his face gray.

Galen could feel the waves of fury washing off his brother. Rob was more than angry with him, but Galen had done what was needed and how many times had Rob done something like that? More times than I liked to think about. His brother had the annoying habit of doing what he felt was right, and he could hide it from Galen, even through the bond, because he was convinced he was right. One day he was sure it would lead to trouble.

They got back to the room and Rob helped Sam into bed. Galen noticed Sam was shaking, his face tight with pain. He walked carefully to the bed, ignoring the growl from his brother, and punched the button on the morphine pump. Sam sighed a moment later and smiled.

"Thanks," he said. "Will Dean be okay?"

"As soon as I get you out of here," Mike said from the door. "I called the ambulance for the…ahem… transfer."

"What are you talking about?" Sam asked, his voice a little thick from the drugs.

"I told you, I can't have miracle cures, they are very hard to explain and there is nothing we can do to help Dean. So I am having you transferred to some place that can."

"Where's that?" Sam asked, his eyes drooping.

"Our house," Galen answered.

"Oh…" Sam mumbled something else, then was asleep.

"Not until you are stronger," Rob said as soon as they stepped out of the room. Mike followed them.

"I'm okay, Rob, but Dean—if it had been left any longer he'd be dead. I had to do something just to keep him stable until my Gift comes all the way back."

"Killing yourself doesn't seem like a good way to stabilize him."

"I know what I'm doing!" Galen snapped, then grinned sheepishly. "Sorry, headache. Can I go?" he said, turning to Mike.

"Yes, please before Flash decides to show up." Mike eyed him. "Rest until you're strong enough, Galen. I'll be by later tonight to check on things."

"Thanks, Mike," Galen said in relief. "Do I have any clothes?"

Rob laughed. "You don't want to go home in the hospital gown?"

"Not really."

"Don't worry, I put a set of sweats and a t-shirt in your room, you can give them back later," the doctor said.

"Let's go home," Rob said. Galen knew his brother was worried and being safely back at the apartment with its many protective charms would help. "Hopefully Flash hasn't destroyed the place yet."

XXX

The overwhelming pain that had filled every second of the last eternity was easing. Dean took a slow breath, there were still twinges—maybe a little more than a twinge—but he could tell something had changed. He was doing better. As he lay there, he realized it was quiet. Not the quiet of a hospital ward, but quiet. There were no beeps of monitors, no footsteps outside the door, nothing but the soft swish of a fan. He wondered if he should open his eyes. There was no light against his eyelids, so he had a sinking feeling he was still blind, the poison of the black worm destroyed his sight before… He frowned—he had been in a hospital and before that he vaguely remembered the final fight with the creature.

"Sam?"

"He's sleeping," Galen answered him.

"He's okay?"

"Not yet, but he will be. I've managed to stop the spread of the saliva from the larvae, and once the wound is healed he'll be alright, although he might limp for a while, his leg was badly injured."

"And me?"

"You are a mess," Galen said with a soft laugh.

"Thanks."

"But not such a huge mess that it can't be fixed. I've had to go a little slower than usual healing you—between the spell that killed the worm and the poison…"

"Am I still blind?" Dean asked.

"Is that why you haven't opened your eyes?" Galen asked gently.

"Yep."

"I'm not sure."

"That's not a really good answer," Dean said. He cracked his right eye open. The room was dimly lit, only a small lamp beside the bed was on and it cast long shadows into the corner of the room. He sighed in relief as he opened the other eye. "They work." He looked over at the other man. "You look like hell."

"Thanks," Galen said, smiling. "It's been a long week."

"You're sure Sam's going to be okay?"

"Yes," Galen assured him. "In fact, Rob's discovered the only way to keep him distracted is propped up in the corner of the room by the rare books. The two of them have been…discussing…things now and then."

Dean grinned. "Discussing?"

"Loudly once or twice, Rob disagreed with something in one of Sam's favorite sources and that led to the two of them pulling books off the shelf, each trying to prove the other wrong. When Rob lapsed into Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse, I just tuned them out."

"I would have tuned them out before then." Dean shifted. Pain shot through his body. "Son of a bitch."

"I told you—you are not better yet," Galen chided him. He helped him sit up in bed, propping the pillows behind his head. "I have some doctor style pain killers here." He handed Dean two pills and a cup.

"Thanks. "Dean took the pills and leaned against the pillows. "Can I have coffee?"

"You sound like Rob," Galen said, laughing for some reason. Still he pulled out his cell phone and hit speed dial. "Hey, Sarah, can you deliver some coffee? Rob's and Sam's usual, a mocha for me and…"

"Americano, sugar, inch of cream," Dean said.

"Did you get that? Yeah, just come up when you get here."

"Coffee delivery by hot baristas." Dean sighed. "Nice." The coffee arrived a few minutes later. Dean wondered what theme day it was as he looked at the woman's outfit. Whatever it was, it was good. "Their coffee really is better," Dean said, happily sipping the hot coffee.

"It is. And Becci is doing very well. She said something about maybe opening another stand."

"Awesome, finally a reason to come back to Washington. The state hates me." Dean wondered where that came from, then remembered the pain pills he'd taken.

"The state hates you?"

"Yeah, every time we're here it's something."

"We have the kind of calling that leads to somethings…" Galen pointed out.

"It's not the werewolves, orcs, or other creatures I mind."

"Then what?"

"Have you noticed that the nettles here get taller than Sam? And there are blackberries everywhere on the West side of the mountains. On the east side you have nettles—smaller I grant, but no less fun—rattlesnakes…The list goes on."

"Nettles are handy," Galen said.

"What?"

"I even have some growing in the garden."

"You have what growing in the garden?"

"And dandelions and some other things most people think are weeds. They are medicinal—and magical."

"Huh." Dean was nearing the bottom of the coffee, the pain pills working their way through his system. He blinked and realized it took longer to open his eyes than it should. "I need to…" He closed his eyes, as he did, he felt the coffee cup taken from his hand.

"It does not say that!" Rob's voice woke Dean sometime later.

"Yes, it does," Sam replied in the same tone.

"That's because it's translated wrong. Look at this word here…"

"I see that, but this one modifies that one."

Dean sat up cautiously. The pain was almost completely gone. He peeked at his chest, the dark wound was gone, only a tiny ring of pink left where it had been. There was a set of clean clothes and a towel set on the end of the bed. Dean took that to mean he was allowed to get up and have a shower. He stood, steadying himself on the headboard. He was better, but still not all the way—and made his way to the bathroom. After a shower he was feeling nearly normal and he walked towards the large, main room of the apartment. Although he was wondering if he should.

"Have you read anything else by him? The man is an idiot! He once mistranslated bear and if you are out hunting something it's handy to know if it's a bear or something else," Rob said.

"I read that one," Sam replied. "I wondered why it said bears when they were obviously…"

"That's what I'm talking about! The man is an idiot."

Dean slipped into the room. Sam was sitting with his back to the hallway. His foot was propped up, but from the set of his shoulders, Dean could tell his brother was feeling better. Galen spotted him and smiled.

"How do you feel?"

The simple question had the effect of silencing everything in the room.

"Dean!" Sam turned and stood—a little unsteady—but before Dean could react his brother was across the room, pulling him into a tight hug, Dean returned it, leaning against Sam for a moment. "Are you okay?" Sam whispered.

"Yeah." Dean replied, then let go to look at his brother. "How are you?"

"I'm fine,' Sam said, then looked at him, frown deployed at full squinch. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yea…" He stopped, Galen's words from the tunnel coming back to him. "Mostly. Just another day or two of coffee and I should be fine."

"It is the magic elixir," Rob said. "Right, Galen?"

"Only in your world, Brat. Do you feel like eating?" he asked looking at Dean.

"Starving," Dean said, lowering himself onto the sofa. Sam sat in the chair, watching him.

"Do you like Indian food?" Galen asked.

"Um…"

"We'll be right back. Rob? Pry yourself away from the books and let's go get something from Gateway."

"Good plan," Rob said, carefully tucking a book back on the shelf. "We'll be right back."

Dean waited until they were gone before looking at his brother. "I'm okay, Sammy."

"You…" Sam's eyes were bright.

"But I didn't," Dean said, nudging his brother with his knee. "Let me see your leg."

"It's fine."

"Sam…"

With a sigh, Sam pulled up his pants leg and showed Dean the healing scar on his leg. "Galen said there won't be much of a scar left in a few weeks. What about you?"

"The poison is gone, I can see and the scar is almost completely gone."

Sam nodded, his eyes still suspiciously bright. "Dean…" He shook his head as a tear trickled over his face.

"It didn't happen, Sam, we're both okay. This one is a win."

"Yeah," Sam said quietly. "Next time, Dean…"

"There won't be a next time, I told you the poison is gone."

"Not that, I mean the next time there is something wrong and you don't tell me about it…"

"What?" Dean snapped.

"Just don't, okay?" his brother asked softly, the tears still there.

"Yeah," Dean agreed. Unless it's for his own good.

"And no qualifying your answer."

"Stop that," Dean said.

"Stop what?" Sam asked with a smile.

"Oh god."

"What?" Sam asked the smile disappearing.

"They're vegetarians, what the hell are they going to bring back with them?"

Sam started laughing, Dean grinned then laughed too. They'd made it.

It was another two days before Galen let Dean head downstairs into the Apothecary. He sat behind the counter, moving his stool so he could clearly see the coffee stand across the street. Sam and Rob were still arguing about various books, but they'd moved the argument into the shop where there was a collection of books that Rob had for people to use for research. After a few hours, Dean had just tuned them out. He'd tried to follow their discussion over dinner two nights in a row, but had just given up and he and Galen had turned to cars and music.

Last night Flash had shown up with bags of food, vegetarian for Galen and Rob and "real food" for him, Sam and Dean. Flash was interesting—to say the least—and had accompanied the Emrys brothers on several hunts. Dean suspected the scars that marked the man's face and neck came from one of those hunts. Flash had stayed late and after dinner he'd dragged over several guitars and they'd spent the evening ignoring Rob and Sam and playing a bizarre game of "name that tune".

"Coffee?" Galen said, breaking into Dean's thoughts. "It's goth fantasy day."

Dean slid off the stool. "Like you had to ask."

They walked across the street, as they reached the stand the window opened and Becci leaned out. "Hi guys. The usual?"

"Yeah, thanks, Becci," Galen said with a smile.

Dean was grinning. Goth fantasy day was even better than scarf day or whatever it had been a couple of days ago. He also marveled at the fact that the baristas all knew the "usual" drinks for all of them. Dean also noticed that Galen never paid for coffee.

"Why doesn't she charge you?"

"I helped one of her employees, she won't take my money. Flash takes full advantage of the 'if you are delivering it to the Apothecary you get a freebie too' program."

"He would."

"One day Becci is going to skin him, because sometimes the coffees don't get to us." Galen laughed as they walked back to the shop.

"I'm going to miss this coffee," Dean said after he'd handed a cup to his brother and Galen had given one to Rob.

"It's always here," Galen said seriously. Dean took it for what it was, an offer of sanctuary. If they needed help it would be here waiting as well.

"Thanks." He sat back on the stool behind the counter, watching the flow of customers. A few wandered over to where Rob and Sam sat among the books, but most were coming for herbs or other items. As it got busier, Dean moved the stool so he could ring up purchases and leave Galen free to help customers. He was surprised by the variety of items they sold—herbs, charms, jewelry. The variety of customers was surprising as well. Some were there just for the vitamins and popular herbs, but others were there for more esoteric items and one of them, a man named Marc, came in and he raised all of Dean's hunter instincts the moment he walked in. Galen treated him like any other client, so Dean didn't say anything until the man had gone, then he turned to the other man.

"He wasn't human," Dean said with certainty.

"No, he's a werewolf," Galen said calmly. "He's been coming to me for help."

"Help?" Dean looked at him. "Are you crazy?"

"So far he's fine." Galen put a bottle of herbs away. "If there ever is a problem, it will be dealt with." He glanced over at Dean.

"Even if he's a friend?"

"Especially if he is," Galen said, steel in his voice. "And he knows it."

Dean was taken aback by the look on Galen's face. "You've had do it before?"

"Yes, once, a long time ago. He was a friend and classmate at University—when I was an undergraduate." He turned away for a moment. "And part of our duty as Keepers is to ease others into the Otherworld. I…" He paused.

"What?"

"My father."

"Your father? God, Galen, I'm sorry," Dean said contritely.

"It's part of our duty." Galen smile wanly. "Doesn't make me feel less guilty some days."

"Galen," Rob said quietly.

"I know," Galen said, and the two exchanged a silent look. "Rob had to kill me, so…" He grinned.

"He had to what?" Dean asked.

"Long story, I'll tell you sometime. It's closing. What's for dinner?"

"We decided Thai," Rob said, standing and walking over to lock the door and turn off the open sign. "And you two can go get it. We're finishing this up."

"What? You're going to throw books at each other?" Galen asked.

"Not yet," Sam said with a laugh.

Galen walked into the back of the shop and took a set of keys off a hook by the door. He smiled at Dean. "Want to drive?"

Dean grinned. "The Thirty-nine?"

"She's the one we use for in-town errands."

"Oh hell yeah," he said, taking the keys and walking out the door to the pristine 1939 Ford parked in the lot behind the shop.

Epilogue

Galen stood beside the Impala as Sam and Dean put the last of their bags into the trunk. Rob had given Sam several books, and Galen had made sure the hunters had a box of medicinal and magical herbs, as well as a few charms he thought they might be able to use. It had been almost two weeks since the Winchesters had been released from the hospital, and Sam had found a hunt that he insisted they needed to pursue. From the tone of his voice, and the emotion washing off him when he said it, Galen thought it was something that they had faced before. Dean had muttered something about "finishing it this time".

"That's everything," Dean said, closing the trunk.

"Thank you," Sam said. "For…"

"Everything," Dean finished for him.

"You have our number, if you ever need anything, call," Rob said.

"We mean it," Galen said. "Research, another pair of hands, whatever, we have some interesting resources."

"I figured that out," Dean said with a laugh. He looked like he was about to say something else, cleared his throat and nodded. "Yeah."

"Yeah," Sam agreed.

The Winchesters got into the car and the engine roared to life. Dean waved out the window and as they pulled out of the lot, Galen heard the stereo come on. Rob looked over at him.

"You okay?"

"That's really annoying, Brat."

"So the answer is no?" Rob said as they walked back to the shop.

"I am…"

"But?"

"I just have an odd feeling, you know?"

"I do." Rob met his eyes, Galen knew his brother had seen something in one of the Winchesters he was keeping to himself.

"They'll be back," Galen said.

"I hope so," Rob agreed, he nudged Galen. "Coffee? I've only had sixteen shots so far today."

"Sixteen? Your heart is going to explode one day."

"Yeah, yeah, you always say that. I'll be right back."

Galen watched his brother walk across the street, Becci leaned out of the stand with a smile. Things were back to normal, and they'd made it through. It had been close, he wondered if Sam and Dean realized how close it had been for all of them. For now, he let it go. They were okay, the shop had survived Flash's care and—Galen smiled—the sun was even shining. He walked to the door to enjoy it, noticing the dark clouds massing over to the north. There was another storm coming, but for now he was going to enjoy the sun.

The End