Disclaimer: I do not own these characters- they belong to Eric Kripke and I wouldn't have it any other way! This story was requested by Emerald-Water.
Summary: Sequel to Sacrificial Son. It's been ten years since Sarina, but a new hunt involving the bodies of teenage boys lined up on a river's edge is bringing back horrible memories for Dean; just what he needs after losing his father.
Tag to Bloodlust. WILL HAVE SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE!
Dean is 27 and Sam is 23.
After tender goodbyes and vows to return, the Winchester brothers and Bobby Singer hopped into their vehicles and left the roadhouse crew behind. The peaceful familiarity of the Impala relaxed Dean like nothing else could and it didn't take long for him to fall asleep, warm breath fogging up the passenger window with every exhale.
Sam spared his brother another glance- the tenth one within the past five minutes- drawing his own comfort from Dean's close proximity. He knew he had been driving his big brother crazy over the last few days, keeping a constant eye on him to make sure he didn't disappear again.
But as always, Dean understood Sam's amplified protectiveness and because of that, he never said a word about it. Of course, that didn't stop him from giving his little bro the occasional eye roll or glare when he inadvertently invaded Dean's personal space.
There was no denying that Sam was still worried about his brother. Though the elder Winchester's nightmares seemed to have stopped and his body was on the mend, Dean had endured more than the average person ever should. The bruises and broken bones would heal, but the emotional scars would undoubtedly be with him for the rest of his life.
Sam followed Bobby right into the hospital parking lot, grateful that the man led the way He had too much on his mind to worry about directions.
Once the Impala was parked, Sam killed the engine and turned his full attention to his sleeping brother. Reluctantly, he reached out and- realizing he couldn't shake Dean's injured shoulder- settled for patting the older man's left knee.
"Hey, man. We're here."
Dean's brows drew together as he began to stir. Slowly, he sat back up and stretched, groaning as the kinks in his back and neck popped. Sam watched him intently.
"How're you doin', Dean?"
Glancing over at his brother's concerned face, Dean fought back a grimace as the throbbing pain in his stiff shoulder returned.
"Well, if I don't move, think, or breathe… I'm just dandy."
Sam decided to play his brother's game, just this once.
"So… You're good then?"
Dean pretended to consider the question for a second with pursed lips, then shot Sam one of his award-winning smirks. "Yep. Right as rain, little brother."
Sam snorted. "Glad to hear it." Then he quickly became serious again. "You sure you're ready for this, Dean?"
"I was born ready, Sammy," and with one last forced quirk of his lips, Dean shoved his door open before Sam could say another word.
Shaking his head, Sam mirrored the move to find Bobby waiting for them, leaning up against the side of his truck.
"How's Sleepin' Beauty feelin'?" Bobby asked as Sam reached him.
"He's holdin' up. I think he just wants to get this all over with so he can hit the road and pretend it never happened. Leave the past in the review mirror and never look back."
"Well can you blame him? Hell, I wish I didn't have to remember what went down and you and me got it easy compared to Dean. Just uh… keep an eye on him for a while, alright?"
"You guys comin' or what?" Dean called, halfway across the parking lot already.
"Don't get your panties in a twist, boy. We're right behind ya." With an encouraging nod of his head to the youngest Winchester, the pair of them trailed in Dean's wake across the parking lot and, after a brief stop at the front desk, all the way to Josh's room on the third floor.
Dean paused just outside the door. "Take this thing off me, Sammy," he instructed, plucking at the sling on his shoulder.
Sam huffed, having had this same argument with Dean practically on an hourly basis. "For the last time… We had a deal, Dean, remember? One week, then we'll reevaluate and…"
"I don't wanna scare the kid, alright? He needs to know I'm okay, so just do it. Please."
As always, Dean was willing to suffer more pain for the benefit of others. Though it went against everything Sam stood for, he did as his brother asked and eased the sling from around his neck.
Dean massaged the aching joint as it slowly acclimated to the change, then straightened, looking every bit the strong and invincible hero Sam had always known him to be. "Thanks, Sammy. I won't be long." With those brief words, Dean strode into the boy's room.
Bobby was about to follow when Sam's arm shot out and brought the man to a halt in the doorway. This was something Dean had to deal with, and he wanted to give his brother some space and privacy. Bobby nodded, quickly grasping Sam's motive, and the two of them watched as Dean made his way across the room towards the boy's bed.
Josh was propped up by pillows, attached to multiple machines, and had bandages covering the majority of his body, but he was breathing just like Sam had said and for Dean, that was all that really mattered.
Josh cracked open the eye that wasn't swollen shut when he heard approaching footsteps and a pained smile spread across his face.
"You got out," he croaked through his bruised windpipe.
"Yeah. I uh… I had a little help." Dean glanced over his shoulder to Sam and Bobby who lurked awkwardly in the doorway. Sam just smiled and gave a small wave in acknowledgment, but Bobby spoke up.
"You probably don't remember me, but it's damn good to see you're still hangin' in there, kid."
Josh frowned in concentration. "Your voice… 's familiar. You brought me here, didn't you?"
Bobby's eyebrows rose in pleasant surprise. "That I did. Gotta say, I'm impressed. You're one hell of a fighter, son."
Josh's face fell. "Hardly. I was too scared to fight back. If it wasn't for him," Josh tilted his head towards Dean, "I'd be dead."
Dean dropped his eyes to the floor, his feelings of guilt and failure bubbling just below the surface.
Bobby tugged on Sam's sleeve. "We'll give you boys a chance to catch up." Together, they disappeared from the doorway, leaving Dean hovering awkwardly a few feet from Josh's bed.
"I owe you my life," Josh stated softly, looking up at his savior.
Dean just shook his head. "It wasn't exactly the heroic rescue we had planned. I almost got you killed."
"I'd rather have died than have stayed there with them. Either way, thank you."
Knowing exactly how the kid felt, Dean had to concede. "You're welcome."
"They… They're gone now, right?" The hint of fear in Josh's eyes was easy to pick up on. "The police stopped by and said…"
"Yeah. They'll never hurt anyone ever again. You can rest easy, okay?"
"I will. For the first time in a long time."
"Good. Well I won't keep you up, but take care of yourself, and take care of your mother once you're back on your feet, got it?"
Josh smirked tiredly, his eyelids getting heavier by the minute. "Yes, sir."
Dean smirked back at the familiar expression, feeling weird being on the receiving end of it when he was so used to saying the exact same thing to his father. With a gentle squeeze of Josh's hand, Dean turned and headed back towards the door.
Just as he stepped out into the hallway to find Sam and Bobby, he was knocked back a step as frail arms enveloped him in a warm hug. Glancing down in surprise, he found a weary but grateful Ms. Bennett squeezing his torso for all she was worth.
He grunted involuntarily at the unexpected contact and she released him immediately, glancing up at Dean with unadulterated gratitude in her eyes. He smiled at her, subconsciously rubbing his good hand over his healing ribs.
"Your partner told me you were in here. Thank you for saving my baby, Detective. He's all I have and I don't know what I would've done if I had lost him."
"Happy to help, Ms. Bennett. He's a good kid. Sorry to intrude on you guys. I just wanted to make sure he was doin' alright."
"You're welcome to visit any time, son. Our door will always be open to you boys."
"That's kind of you. I appreciate the hospitality."
Her broad smile turned sad and slightly pitying as she took in the bodily damage that wasn't hidden by his clothes. "You poor thing… You look like you should be sharing a room with Josh in here."
"Nah. I'm fine, really. Just a few bumps and bruises. Comes with the job."
"Bless you, Sweetheart. It's terrible that jobs like that even have to exist in this world, but as it is, I for one feel much safer knowin' there are people like you out there watching over the rest of us."
Dean shifted from foot to foot, feeling uncomfortable and unworthy of the praise. "I didn't have much choice, Ms. Bennett. I was raised in this line of work. It's who I am."
"Just make sure you take care of yourself in between saving wayward children and whatever else you boys do, alright?"
"I will, promise."
Ms. Bennett kissed Dean on the cheek, too afraid to risk hugging him and causing further injuries, then smiled warmly at him for the last time before taking up vigil beside her son's bed once more.
Dean watched her from the doorway for a few seconds, feeling nostalgic about the few times he could remember Mary sitting by his bedside, singing him to sleep or reading him a bedtime story.
Dean jumped, immediately going on alert at his brother's call. He glanced up in time to see Sam jogging around the corner and making his way down the hallway.
"Sam? What's wrong?"
"Bobby got a copy of the coroner's report. She wasn't pregnant."
Dean stared blankly at Sam before managing to spit out words. "Come again?"
"Edgar's wife. She wasn't pregnant."
"Okay, I'll bite…"
"Apparently she lost the ability to have children after she had Billy. Maggie must have blamed Edgar and that's why he beat the living crap out of his son every chance he got. And if she thought her husband was shooting blanks, that could explain why she was dead set on finding another lover. She was so desperate to have a second child, she actually became delusional."
"So I'm in the clear?"
"You're in the clear."
"Man… You have no idea how much of a relief that is." Dean started making his way down the hallway toward the waiting room, knowing Bobby would be there. Sam matched his stride. "I mean, I know it doesn't really make a difference, her bein' dead and all… but for a while there I felt like the high school jock that knocked up the prom queen."
"Nice, Dean. Knowin' your track record though, sometimes I wonder if there are any little Deans running around in this world…"
"Dude, are you tryin' to give me nightmares?"
"I think you'd make a great dad for what it's worth."
"Oh yeah… Teachin' the kid the difference between usin' a shotgun and shotgunin' a beer. I'd be dad of the year."
"Seriously, man. You should think about settlin' down someday. Gettin' out of this life while you're still kickin'."
"I think one pregnancy scare is enough for the time being thank you very much."
"Fine. But hey, look on the bright side…"
Dean quirked an eyebrow and Sam shot him a smirk. "At least we weren't dealin' with a Rusalka."
Dean glared at his little brother. "You suck, you know that?"
Sam laughed, clapping Dean gently on the back as Bobby met them by the door.
"You idjits ready to get the hell out of Dodge?"
Dean snatched the Impala's keys from his brother's hand, ignoring Sam's protest. "You don't have to ask me twice. Let's roll."
A/N: Once again, I'm sooo sorry for the long wait but I hope this final chapter was worth it! Thank you all very much for your continued support and reviews, and happy Father's Day to all the daddies out there! Catch you on the next one!