From The Land Of No Return.


"So you called me here because your partner here is housing a supposed grave defacing, bank robbing, meant-to-be-dead criminal? One who's been on the FBI's wanted list numerous times? And is officially dead? Honey, you sure do pick your moments" Max Brennan commented, eyeing the young man who was seated on the bar stool at Booth's kitchen bench, a mostly empty plate in front of him as he nursed a glass of milk.

"Yes. With all of the anomalies in the case and Mr Winchester's apparent criminality I believe your past, as a criminal on the run and your experience in living on the fringes of society may come in use in determining the validity of the case." Ever the practical person, Temperance hadn't spared any feelings in her reply, getting a wry look from three of the people present.

"Outlaw, honey. I was an outlaw" Max insisted, eyeing the young man as he gave him a grin. He'd seen the looks Booth was giving the supposed criminal, ones filled with concern. Casting his own eyes upon the kid, he could see why. Max was no stranger to a tough life, but it looked like this kid had been put through the wringer more than once, and he couldn't be any older than his Tempe.

"Anyway," Booth interrupted before Bones could go into a spiel about the technicalities of what her father had been, "it shouldn't be too long before the rest of the squints are here. Bones, Max, do you want to start going over what you know before they get here or wait?

Brennan eyed Dean carefully, giving him the same assessing gaze she placed upon remains in her lab. She noted the dark circles beneath his eyes, less apparent than they had been the day before, but still prominent. She watched as Max, her father, gave the young man his own calculating look. She had been surprised to note the care with which Booth was taking with the younger man, noting similarities to how he was when he had Parker. She would definitely have to question him on his behaviour, wondering what had happened overnight to make him act almost paternal toward the younger man.


It wasn't long before Bones and Booth went off to a corner by themselves, leaving Dean with Brennan's Dad, apparently. Eyeing the older man, the young hunter took in the open stance and friendly eyes, something he was completely unaccustomed to seeing in someone who'd apparently been on the run as an 'outlaw' as the dude had proclaimed.

"So, you're an outlaw, huh?" Dean asked, wanting to focus on something other than the fractured thoughts in his head.

Having had some time this morning thinking about things, the young hunter realised he was touched (if embarrassed) by Booth's treatment of him. However, he was more concerned that this group, who'd apparently been handed his case to solve in a 'once and for all' kind of way, would find out that now he was as cracked as some of the stuff in his file made him out to be. Since Hell... things had not been easy. Flashbacks, a fear of fire he'd never really had before, even with his memories of the burning, intense heat from the night Azazel took his mom away forever. He felt like he had no time to regroup before he had to continue on. He'd just got back, dealt with the disbelief of his return, for both himself and those who knew he'd been taken to Hell, before Sam had died. Castiel had shown up somewhere in there too, spouting about god and finding his 'Father' and wanting Dean's help. Bobby, Ellen and other hunters also wanted a piece of him, and while he knew the older man and woman seemed to care about him, it was overshadowed by the increase in supernatural activity in areas. He felt like his feet hadn't even had the chance to hit the ground before he was running. It's what had led him here- escaping the constant demands of hunters and angels alike, trying to gain some solid ground.

The older man before him grinned. "At least someone acknowledges my outlaw status."

Dean offered the man before him a shadow of his real grin, still too tired to constantly try to keep his mask in place. "So, how long?"

"Almost twenty years, all up. Most of those on the edge, keeping off the radar. Last few were around here keeping an eye on Tempe and Russ, my boy, cleaning up a mess some asshole started years ago. Now I'm a free man, thanks to these kids," Max replied, tilting his head towards the pair away from them.

Dean raised a brow, contemplating the man who, in a way, had lived just as long as he had on the edge of everyone else's world. Realising the length, he deduced that Max would've had to have left his kids (Tempe and Russ?) for at least some of those years.

"Must've been hard, leaving your kids behind like that, right?" The younger man asked, tilting his head softly towards Brennan, watching as Max's eyes softened with affection that made him recall the times he'd seen his Dad with that look, causing his heart to ache. No one would be looking at him like that anymore, he knew. He was a true orphan now- no mom, no dad, no little brother. As much as he loved Bobby, he knew the man couldn't be what he wanted, needed. Bobby had had his own family once, and lost them, which tied another bond between them, but not the one Dean secretly yearned for.

Max swung his gaze from his previously estranged daughter to the kid before him, noticing the longing hidden in the hazel-green eyes, amongst all the grief, pain and heartache. "Hardest thing I ever had to do. Tempe's mom and me, we had to leave them behind after a robbery went bad."

"You were a bank robber?"

Max grinned at the questioning look, the hint of life and curiousity in the gaze. At least he wasn't too far gone. He knew from the looks Booth had given the kid, that it was one of the agent's concerns. Whatever had happened last night, and he had his suspicions, it seemed to have forged a connection between the two young men, and Max had a feeling the one before him would need it.

"Yep. Though I gotta tell you, it had all gone smooth before we were pretty much press ganged into working with this group. We were more white-collar thieves than robbers."

Dean passed the man a small grin at that, nodding. "No guns?"

"No guns."

Even though Dean had been raised with knowledge of firearms, and he loved the few pieces he was sentimental over, he never enjoyed the harm they could do, only the fact they could save someone's ass, maybe even his own. He'd known that his Dad, and, later, Sammy (and god, this about him hurt), had been more interested in killing the demon that took mom and Jess than necessarily saving people. Not that they didn't save people, he'd just known it wasn't always their first thought; like when Sammy had been pushing to search for dad rather than help some poor supernaturally-plagued person. Or when Dad pushed cases onto him or another hunter when Sammy was at college, too invested in tracking down potential leads on his wife's killer.

Dean always tried to cut them both slack, knowing he didn't have quite the same loss (though mom was his mom) as the pair. However, even being raised knowing of monsters, Dean always preferred to look at the 'saving people' side of things first. To begin with, it was because he was a kid, and he liked the idea of being a hero (even if it was only in his head). But as he grew older, and he recognised the pain he could spare people by keeping them in the dark about monsters, and saving them from them, he wanted to do it just for that. Sam never seemed to understand his brother's need to help. He, and even John, had always thought Dean wanted to just be a hunter, that he didn't want 'apple pie normal'. It wasn't that, though. Dean didn't think normal sounded bad. If he was truly honest with himself, he'd dreamt of the scene the djinn had shown him more than once over the years.

No, he did what he did so other people could live those lives.

Shaking off his reminiscences, Dean nodded to the older man. "I can see that."

"See what?"

Oops. Turns out he'd been thinking longer than he'd realised. The bug guy (Jack?) had arrived, and so, as he hesitantly returned the grin he was given, had the kid, the one who made his heart burn as his mind superimposed a young Sam. "Uh, not using guns," he blankly replied as he noticed Max standing beside him now.

"Seriously, I'd have thought you'd be all for weapons" Jack said in a questioning tone.

"He means my, er, earlier days, Hodgins" Max interrupted, knowing that any answer Dean could give would make him uncomfortable. He was beginning to get a good read on the kid, he thought. He could see now why Tempe would want him here, and thought perhaps even Russ could be a good addition later on. Maybe give him some understanding a little closer to his age? Whatever the kid had going on (and it was a doozy of a story, regardless of what panned out as truth and exaggerations), Max knew having someone in your corner, or even just likely to understand a bit, meant a lot. He felt his heart warm even more as he realised that perhaps that's what Tempe was doing, in her socially awkward way.

"Ohhh, right right. Yeah, I getcha now." Hodgins grinned at Dr B's dad. He kinda thought the older guy was pretty cool.

"Yoo-hoo, knock knock, amazing artist with baked goods and hot chocolate at the door!"

The room seemed to lift as Dr Brennan smiled and swung the door open to greet her best friend, lifting some of her burden and ushering her into booth's home in her authoritative (assertive?) manner.

"Hi, sweeties. Oh, Max hi!" The enthusiastic woman hugged her friend's father, 'You know, I thought Brennan might bring you, aren't you lucky I'm so wonderful I got hot chocolate for you just in case?" the tall woman asked, smirking in pleasure.

"That's sweet of you, kiddo" Max said, squeezing her in thanks, and smiling.

"Is this everyone?"

"No" Booth replied, "I'm waiting on Sweets and Caroline as well."

"What d'you mean waiting on us, cherie, if you had any observational skills at all you would have seen that both Dr Sweets and myself have arrived" the strong woman declared, bustling her way into the room, a grinning Sweets tagging along behind. "Ms Julian and I met after parking, Agent Booth" Sweets explained for the bewildered man, who had been bustled right out of his own kitchen as the women handed out the hot beverages and opened the boxes and bags Angela had brought, unloading the pastries onto plates for everyone.

Turning to their 'case', Sweets smiled at the man only slightly older than himself. "Mr Winchester, good to see you" he greeted, noting the improvement already in the other man's complexion.

"Dean, please. If we're not in an interrogation room, I'd rather not feel like it" the man offered with a slight grin, still obviously not like his former one on the videos Sweets had seen, but a fraction better, and a good sign.

Sweets had felt a little conflicted at first, being so immediately concerned with a potential criminal's well being, but after re-reading the case, he simply felt that eve though the man was obviously guilty of credit card fraud, he'd been accused of several things rather unjustly, which cast a whole shadow of doubts upon the validity of anything in the case file.

Sweets felt that the closer they looked the more the file would unravel, and now he just hoped they could do right- by the law, but more importantly, by the people involved in all the cases, the man before him not least of all. He felt a little overwhelmed- they always seemed to catch the big, complicated, and, at risk of sounding like Hodgins, conspiracy-inflicting type cases. Blowing out a breath, he gave an easy smile to Dean. "Sure, Dean. I'm Lance, by the way, or Sweets, if you prefer."

Dean nodded back, "Lance" he stated.

Lance grinned widely at that; it wasn't often now that someone involved in his work called him by his first name, mostly co-workers used his title or last name, like Booth and Dr Brennan, and while he liked the formality for respectful reasons, it was nice for a change. He noticed that with his response, the man opposite him seemed to get a little brighter. Interesting, he noted to himself.


The rest of the morning went in a similar, somewhat relaxed way, considering the topics of some things discussed. While the team had decided the initial focus of the case would be to sift fact from fiction in the existing file using 'just logic', and disregarding anything supernatural, there were questions asked towards Dean that touched on those topics. Mostly, though he was feeling a sense of gratitude that he was being left out of the harder stuff for now. It was a relief to not have to be in the hot seat just yet.

Booth, along with most of the team to certain degrees, sensed this relief, and made sure to be considerate towards the younger man. Zack initially seemed to cause Dean some distress, and Booth knew this was because of the similarity in ages (and even hair, to a small degree) to his now deceased younger brother, Sam. He recalled the night just gone, and how broken the young man had seemed. For now, though, he was holding himself together pretty well, and the atmosphere surrounding the team actually seemed to help him relax just a little.

Max had taken Booth aside quickly and quietly when dean had gone to the bathroom earlier, murmuring his thoughts and questions to the agent. The concern Booth had gained overnight was now shared in full by Bones' dad, he knew, and Seeley appreciated the paternal feelings being shared. Max seemed to understand a little more the behaviour Dean might have, which, given his time on the run, wasn't all that surprising.

Blowing out his tension in a long breath and rolling his shoulders, Booth hoped this case would get a little less stressful at some point.

He had a feeling, though, that it wouldn't.

End Chapter.

Readers!: I am *so* sorry it's taken me so long to post an update! I know lots of you have been following, and probably thinking 'not another halfway done fic' but it's not, I promise, even if the WIPs have been a long time without update. Review, give me a kick in the butt, say hi. =) ~readersdigest

All the reviewers; THANKS! Thank you so much for reviewing with your comments, compliments and suggestions. I have tried and will try to reply to all of you, but unfortunately I can't really reply to all the anonymous/not signed in ones, but thanks to all of you- you're awesome :-)