A/N: Thanks so much for all of the reviews! Here's the last chapter, so thanks for sticking with me.
John sat back in his chair across the table from Weston, trying to look more confident and certain of himself than he felt. His hands were still shaking though, so he folded them in his lap, determined not to show weakness. Weston, for his part was uncomfortably shuffling papers around, looking almost as nervous as John was feeling. Then again, the CPS agent was staring down three rather pissed off, rather capable men, and John supposed that his nervousness was understandable.
"So," Weston started, shaking his head. "Mr. Winchester, we're here to discuss your sons, and whether or not they are to be returned to your custody."
John nodded, not trusting himself to say anything else.
"I have to say, I don't quite understand what we've seen the last few days. Your sons were clearly showing signs of neglect, Mr. Winchester. Dean is still in critical condition."
"I know that, damn it," John snarled, fists clenching and unclenching under the table. Weston sighed.
"I know you know," he said. "I just want you to understand how serious this is. Despite the clear mistreatment, your sons have declined –significantly- since leaving your care. Now, whether that's separation from you, or separation from each other I don't know. I do know that it's clear that at the very least they need each other, physically need each other. And somehow, I think they need you too, despite your obvious failings as a father."
John nearly jumped out of his chair, stopped only by Jim's firm hand on his knee.
"Can you get to the point?" Jim asked, fairly spitting the question.
"The point is, that if you can prove that you're going to provide somewhere stable for your sons to live when Dean is well enough to leave the hospital, you can have full custody back."
John was silent for a minute, swallowing convulsively and blinking rapidly.
"Umm, that's- okay. We'll find a place to stay. I'll rent a place-"
"They'll be staying with me," Bobby said firmly. "Soon as Dean's better, they'll come stay with me."
Weston looked at them, then finally nodded.
"I'll get the paperwork in order, and then you can go pick up Sam."
"Sam, someone's at the door for you, sweetie," Eleanor said, motioning the quiet little boy to her side and hiding the smile that she felt coming to her lips. Sam looked at her nervously, then opened the door.
"Daddy!" He screamed, throwing himself into the arms of the man outside. The man was big and gruff looking, but his joy at seeing his son was unmistakable.
"Thank you," the man said, his arms full of sobbing six year old. Sam's arms were wrapped around his father's neck, his legs around the waist. Eleanor was only mildly surprised to notice tears welling in the man's eyes, despite his intimidating appearance. "Thank you."
Eleanor smiled, feeling tears come to her own eyes.
"That was Sam's doing. He's the stubbornest little boy I've ever met."
The man laughed, then nodded, burying his face in Sam's hair.
"That he is. Thanks again."
Eleanor handed the man Sam's backpack, the new Transformers toy she'd bought for Sam tucked inside, then watched as they drove away.
"Well damn," she muttered to herself as she wiped a tear off her cheek. Somehow, she would miss that stubborn, solemn kid.
"Sammy, I need you to listen to me, okay?"
Sam had finally settled down enough for John to get him seated in the car, and now John was grateful for the reassuring rumbling of the Impala's engine as he drove toward the hospital.
"Where's Dean?" Sam demanded in response. John glanced at him out of the corner of his eyes and noticed Sam's little fists clenching and unclenching.
"He's still at the hospital, kiddo. That's why I need you to listen to me."
Sam nodded and took a deep breath, visibly relaxing himself. John marveled, not for the first time, at how much control Sammy had when Dean was involved.
"I'm listening, Daddy," he said quietly.
"Okay. Dean- Dean got worse while you were gone, Sammy."
Sam let out a little sob, clapping a hand over his mouth to stifle it. John reached over and tucked his hand around Sam's little knee.
"I know, kiddo. But he's going to get better now that you're here, right?"
Sammy nodded and wiped his cheeks.
"He's going to look a little bit scary, but it's all there to help him. You're going to need to be strong. Can I count on you?"
Sam puffed his little chest out, chin held high.
"Yes, sir," he said, and John hid his smile.
Sam hesitated at the door to Dean's room, biting his lip uncertainly.
"It's okay, Sammy," John whispered, kneeling next to his son. Bobby and Jim had walked out of the room and were sitting in the small waiting area across from Dean's room. Sam glanced back at them, taking a deep breath when Jim gave him a reassuring smile and Bobby nodded encouragingly.
Sam stepped into the room, swallowing thickly past the lump in his throat.
"H-Hi, Dean," he whispered, walking to Dean's bed. His big brother looked even worse than before, as white as the sheets he was laying on, a big tube snaking out of his mouth. There was another tube in his nose, but Sam tried not to think about that one, 'cause it was gross.
"I, um, I'm back now, Dean. I'm going to stay with you and Daddy again. So, if you want to wake up, that would be nice."
Sam shook his head and drew a hand under his nose, which was running. He sniffled loudly. John put a hand on his son's shoulder.
"You're doing great, Sammy."
Sam nodded and sniffled again, then turned back to Dean.
"Wake up, kiddo," he whispered, running a hand over Dean's hand, snaking his fingers carefully around the IVs running into his brother. John smiled lightly at Sam's calling Dean 'kiddo,' shaking his head once again at his youngest's tenacity.
Sam's stomach growled loudly, bringing the moment to an abrupt halt.
"Sammy, we should get you some food, kid. We can go down to the cafeteria real quick and be back soon, okay?"
Sam shook his head.
"I'm not leaving yet. I just got here."
"I know, Sam, but you haven't eaten a good meal in a few days. How would Dean feel if he woke up and you were in the hospital too?"
Sam looked down guiltily.
"But he didn't wake up yet," he whispered. John bit his lip.
"I know, kiddo, and that might take a while. You can't stop eating the whole time, can you?"
Sam sighed and shook his head.
"You're right," he whispered, then stood on his tiptoes. Leaning over, he put his mouth next to Dean's ear and whispered something loudly. John intentionally turned away, not wanting to eavesdrop on such an intimate moment between his sons.
"Okay," Sam said finally. "I'm ready." He carefully slipped his hand into John's, startling the older man, and walked towards the door. They were about to step out when Sam stopped.
"Sammy? What's up?" John asked. Sam turned around, letting out a shout and scrambling across the room. John watched with wet eyes as Sam climbed onto Dean's bed, curling around his newly conscious brother. Dean brought a hand up weakly and rested it on Sam's head, his own cheeks wet, before he drifted back to sleep.
With a soft smile, John brought a chair up next to the bed and watched his sons, Sam staring adoringly at Dean, until he too fell asleep.
Two weeks later, Dean was released from the hospital, crutches and inhaler (just in case) in tow, Sammy carefully holding the doors open for him. Bobby had installed a ramp to help ease Dean's walk into the house, and he'd set up a guest room on the first floor for the boys to sleep in.
John helped get Dean settled, watching with a grin as Sam played with one of Bobby's multiple dogs and Bobby and Jim shared a beer together.
"Dean? I want to talk to you, buddy," John said, sitting on the couch next to his son. Dean was pretty lucid for all of the medications he was on, and he nodded attentively.
"I'm sorry," John said, looking intently at Dean. "I shouldn't have left you home alone for so long. I shouldn't have made you worry about food so much. You shouldn't have so much responsibility."
"It's okay, Dad," Dean said, awkwardly patting John's head.
"It's not okay, Dean. It won't happen again, I swear to you."
Dean made a face that John couldn't read, then shrugged.
"Yes it will, Dad. But this time, you'll make sure I have food, and I'll have a backup plan. This was my fault as much as it was yours, and it won't happen again. I promise."
John stared blankly at his son for a minute before Sam came bounding in, babbling happily to Dean about something and leaving John alone with his thoughts.
Dean was right.
It would happen again.
It would always happen again.
Sometimes, John Winchester hated himself.