A Father Lost, A Father Gained Ch. 24

Disclaimer: The Winchesters and everything recognizable in this story belongs to Kripke and the CW.

Previously: "Yeah Bobby, you're right. I talk with Dean later tonight about setting up some rules or guidelines just in case something like this should ever happen again. Ace needs to know that it's okay to ask for help from you or some of the other hunters like Josh and Caleb if things go awry." John said as he placed Sammy on the couch to rest and then covered him with a small blanket before turning on the television so his boys could watch some cartoons.

Later that evening as Bobby sat in the rocker reading Sammy a story called Guess How Much I Love You?, John decided it would be the perfect time to talk to Dean about setting some rules to make sure the boys were never left on their own again for more than forty eight hours without some form of contact by him. Clasping Dean on the shoulder, he nodded his head for his oldest to follow him out the door to keep from disrupting the story that Sammy was so obviously engrossed in.

"Dad, is something wrong?" Dean queried anxiously as he gazed up at his father after they sat down on the porch swing. "Am I am in trouble Sir, did I do something wrong?"

"No Dean, you didn't do anything wrong." John replied with a smile as he ruffled Dean's hair. "As a matter of fact, you did everything right. You took care of Sammy while I was missing until Bobby came to get you boys."

"Yeah, but I should have done better. If I had, Sammy wouldn't have gotten sick." Dean voiced just above a whisper, his face downtrodden with guilt.

"Un uh, don't you do that Dean. Don't blame yourself for something that wasn't your fault. If it's anybody's fault, it was mine for not being a better father." John retorted.

"No way dad, you're the best father there is." Dean disagreed whole heartedly.

"I know you believe that kiddo, but I have my faults, believe me. And I am going to try to remedy one of them right now. Dean, I never should have placed so much pressure on you, made you think Sammy was your responsibility and that you alone were responsible for him."

"But Dad, Sammy is my responsibility." Dean stated obviously. He had been taking care of Sammy for a while now and he enjoyed it, it was a job he took to heart.

"Yeah Dean, I know he is, but there are times when you may need help taking care of the little Tiger." John rebutted wanting to get his point across without hurting Dean's feelings. "So for that reason, I think I need to set some new rules. I know I've always told you to watch out for Sammy until I returned, but Dean, I never thought about what would happen if I were missing for any length of time. If Bobby hadn't called and picked you boys up, Dean, I could have lost you two.

"Dad, I…"

"No, I want you to listen to me soldier. If anything ever happens and I am out of contact for more than forty eight hours, you are to call either Bobby, Joshua, Caleb or Pastor Jim. They will be your calling tree in the event of an emergency. Do you understand me son?"

"But Dad…"

"No buts Dean, that's a direct order." John replied, cutting off whatever argument Dean was about to use. "Now do you understand me Ace?"

"Yes Sir, I understand." Dean replied, he just wasn't sure he liked the idea very much. It meant trusting Sammy with others, but then he did actually enjoy spending time with Bobby, so maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea.

"Now that we've got that settled, let's get back inside to your brother." John said as he stood up and wrapped an arm around Dean's shoulders to lead him back inside. Walking into the living room, they immediately noticed that Sammy had fallen asleep in Bobby's lap while the story was being read.

"You want me to take him Bobby?" John questioned as he neared the hunter quitly so as not to disturb his sleeping child.

"Nah, he just fell asleep." Bobby replied as he lightly rubbed a hand up and down a slumbering Sammy's back. "I'll put him to bed in a few minutes."

Knowing that he planned on taking the boys and leaving tomorrow, John decided to let Bobby have his special time with Sam. He knew Bobby was going to have a rough time watching the boys go and he felt truly sorry for the man, but it was time for him and his boys to get back on the road.

Later that night as he tucked Dean into bed, John decided it was time to tell his oldest about his plans to leave the following day. He couldn't help but feel a little angst wondering how Dean would accept the news. He knew his sons had gotten used to staying in one place and had enjoyed their time with Bobby. Sitting on the edge of the bed after having pulled the blanket up over Dean's chest, he said, "Ace, I need to talk to you about something."

"Sure Dad, what's up?" Dean questioned as he glanced up to see the nervous look in his eyes.

"Dean, I don't want you to be upset, but I think it's time for us to leave tomorrow. I know you and Sammy have enjoyed staying here with Bobby, but I have to…"

"It's okay Dad, I understand." Dean replied cutting his father off knowing how much it was hurting his father to say the words. "Sammy might be upset about leaving, but I'll talk to him."

Ruffling his eldest son's hair, John breathed a sigh of relief at being let off of the hook so easily. Dean had always been a smart one and understood his need to get back to the hunt. "I knew I could count on you Sport." John voiced with a lump in his throat. "You get some sleep son, I need to go talk with Bobby now too."

"Kay Dad, I'll see ya in the morning." Dean said as he closed his eyes and listened as his dad walked out of the room. Once he knew they were alone, he allowed a few tears to fall at the thought of having to leave. He was hoping they would get to spend some more time with Bobby. He wanted to learn more about working on cars and for Sammy to keep having the fun he was having while staying there. But then he also knew they belonged with their dad and that everything would be alright again, their dad would make sure it was. Glancing over at Sam who was sleeping soundly in the other bed, he thought, "We're gonna be okay Sammy, at least we'll be together with Dad again." Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to drift off to sleep with thoughts of being a family again.

Walking down the stairs and into the kitchen where Bobby sat at the table drinking coffee, John tugged his fingers through his hair as he contemplated how to break the news to Bobby. He owed that much to the hunter at least to let him know they would be leaving in the morning. He just hated knowing how much it would hurt the man since Bobby had been a lifesaver for his boys. He didn't deserve the hurt he was about to go through.

"John, you got something on your mind?" Bobby queried apprehensively as he watched the hunter walk over and pour himself a cup of coffee. He had seen the angsty look on the man's face as he came back downstairs and it set off warning bells in his mind.

Sitting down at the table and playing with the half filled cup in his hands, John sighed before saying, "Bobby, there's something you should know. I, uh, I don't mean to hurt you, but, uh…."

"Just spit it out John." Bobby gritted out through clenched teeth knowing what was coming next.

"I'm sorry Bobby, but me and the boys will be leaving tomorrow. I've been away from the hunt too long and I have to find that thing that killed Mary."

"Damn it John, can't you just give it a while longer. Sammy's barely been out of the hospital and with all the problems he has had…" Bobby trailed off as tears glistened in his eyes.

"I've got his prescriptions Bobby and I can call Jefferson if needed. Us leaving won't be forever Bobby, we'll have to swing by here at least once a month for Sammy's check up. I'll be damned if I am going to trust some quack with his health, especially where his heart might be concerned." John stated trying to ease things for the man who had mentored him in his early days of hunting.

"John, I just think it would be better if you stay a while, give the boys a little time to get used to the idea of leaving." Bobby retorted thinking that really, he was the one who needed time to get used to the idea.

"I'm sorry Bobby, but I've already talked to Dean about leaving so we'll be hitting the road sometime in the morning." John stated somberly at the look of hurt that crossed Bobby's face.

"Well, uh, I guess I better get some sleep then. Those boys are going to need a big breakfast to eat in the morning." Bobby said with a quiver in his voice. Pushing himself away from the table, he trudged up the stairs allowing silent tears to fall down his face. He knew he would have to get a handle on his feelings to keep from upsetting the boys in the morning when it was time for them to leave.

Early the next morning as they all sat around the breakfast table, Bobby just pushed the food around on his plate, his stomach too upset to even think about trying to digest any food, even if it could get around the huge lump in his throat. Furtively glancing at the boys, his heart broke at knowing this would be their last breakfast together for a while. He would no longer have to get up in the morning to make chocolate chip pancakes for the boys or clean up the mess that Sammy always left afterwards.

Too soon, breakfast was over and Bobby felt like his world was about to cave in on him. John had carried their duffle bags out to the Impala and Dean was helping Sammy to get his shoes and jacket on. Clearing his throat, he walked over to where the boys were sitting on the couch. "Ya know, I'm sure going to miss you two boys." Bobby said as he struggled to hold back the tears that were gathering in his eyes.

"Ain't you coming with us too Uncle Bobby?" Sam questioned innocently as Dean tied his shoes for him.

"Sorry Tiger, I wish I could, but I have too much to do here." Bobby answered his voice breaking on each word. Turning his head to the side, he quickly swiped away the tears that were once again rolling silently down his cheeks.

"But I want you to come. I love you Uncle Bobby." Sammy pleaded as he tugged on the man's sleeve.

"I love you too Sammy, I love both you boys with all my heart." Bobby answered as he pulled them both too him and hugged them fiercely. "I wish you boys could stay here with me forever, but I know how much your daddy needs you and that you boys need him too. But if you ever need me, I'm just a phone call away. Just pick up the phone and I'll come running ya hear me?"

"Yes Sir. We'll miss you too Uncle Bobby." Dean said as he wiped away the tears that were now cascading down his cheeks too. "Don't forget us okay?"

"That could never happen in a million years Dean." Bobby voiced as he palmed the nape of his neck. "You boys will always be special to me. Now we better get you two outside before your daddy comes looking for ya."

Picking up Sammy, Bobby carried him out the front door with Dean walking beside him to find John sitting on the porch and waiting for them. From the tears that were misting John's eyes, he could tell the man had overheard their conversation. Placing Sammy in John's arms, he said, "You take good care of these boys Winchester or you'll have me to deal with."

"You know I will Bobby." John replied with a sad smile. "We'll see you in a month when it's time for Sammy's check up."

"You'd better or I'll make damn sure you're sorry." Bobby said with as steely a gaze as he could muster.

"Don't worry Bobby, I'm not taking any chances with my baby's health, I promise you, we'll be back." John told the hunter as he reached out to shake the other's hand. "See ya around."

"Bye Uncle Bobby." Sammy shouted over his daddy's shoulder as he waved goodbye al the way to the car.

"Bye Tiger, bye Dean, I'll see you boys later." Bobby said with a quick wave of his hand. Standing there on the porch, he allowed the tears to flow freely as he watched John load the boys into the car and drive away. As he watched, he couldn't help but think how lonely his place was going to be now.

The End!

Author's Note: I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who have read, reviewed, and/or put this story on alert. You have truly made it a wonderful and enjoyable experience for me. And yes, I plan to do a sequel that deals with how the rheumatic fever affects the family in the future.