Random Acts of Kindness

Summary: Dean gets a reminder that there is some good in the world. This takes place pre-series. Dean is about 24 and Sam has just finished his second year at Stanford.

Thanks to Soar for the betaing this story. Any left over mistake are my own.

For those of you who are waiting for updates on Family is Everything and Camp Sunshine I promise I'm working on them and they are coming along slowly.

I'm not working on anything new but this story has been sitting on my hard-drive forever and I thought I would sent it to my beta and post it. I hope everyone enjoys it.

The sun was just coming up over the horizon, casting an eerie glow over the calm, tranquil waters of Lake Laverty. The cricket's chirp could still be heard, and the light breeze was causing the trees to rustle.

Add in a couple of naked teenagers making love on the sandy shore, and it would be a scene straight out of a Friday the 13th movie, Dean Winchester thought bitterly as he gathered up his meager supplies and shoved them in his duffle bag. He wouldn't have been surprised if the masked killer showed up right there and then. It would be all he needed to cap off this miserable excuse for a job.

To say this was the worst job of his hunting career would be an understatement. Dean had been exhausted before the job had even begun. Burning the candle at both ends, he had just finished 10 jobs in 8 weeks with no down time.

Down time for Dean was not a good thing, though. It was why he was going from one job to the next. Idle time meant thinking, and thinking was not something Dean Winchester wanted to do. The relentless hunting started after Sam left for college. John used it as a distraction, as much as Dean did. Then his father had started suggesting that they split up, they could cover more hunts, save more people and take twice as many jobs. At first, the prospect of hunting on his own excited Dean. It meant his father trusted him to take care of business, but the longer he hunted on his own, the more he hated it.

He was more than capable of researching a hunt, but that was the worst part of the job and there was no little brother to pawn it off on. Neither his father nor brother were there when he needed someone to bounce a theory off of. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to get a hold of his father and the longer he hunted solo, the more he convinced himself that his father didn't trust him that he had been trying to ditch him.

Not that Dean would ever admit it, but as each day went by, he was becoming increasingly lonely. He often sought the company of a willing female to alleviate some of that feeling, but when he awoke to any empty bed in the morning, it only served to heighten his feelings of abandonment which, of course, caused him to seek out more women. It was a cycle he couldn't break.

So after getting a little banged up in a poltergeist job, he had planned to take a week to replenish his funds, let his bruises go away and catch some much needed rest, and he wanted to catch up with his father and spend a little time with him, as well. Dean really wanted to swing by Stanford and check up on Sammy, but he wasn't sure how he would be received, so he stayed away. Having been rejected by his father, Dean didn't think he could handle being rejected by his brother as well.

Then he had gotten a text message from his father, with a set of coordinates, and a message telling him that a black dog was killing campers. Looking up the coordinates, Dean discovered that they not only took him into the middle of the woods, it would take him to the woods in Palo Alto, about 10 miles away from Stanford. That was exactly 10 miles away from Sammy.

Dean had been tempted to text his father back and tell him exactly what he could do with this crap job, but two things stopped him. One, he did what he was told, and more importantly, Sammy might decide to go camping there. Okay, the second one might have been a bit of a stretch as camping was not something Winchesters did for fun, but it was something normal people did for fun. For the life of him, Dean couldn't imagine why, although, if Sam's friends went camping, they could drag Sammy's geeky ass with them.

So that was why Dean had found himself in the middle of this bug-infested hell-hole, wondering why he ever became a hunter in the first place.

He and the great outdoors had never been best friends so he was really hoping he could get in, take care of the black dog and get out. He didn't plan on spending the night in the woods.

Things had started going wrong right from the start. The first thing was when he realized that he had forgotten to get bug spray, and he spent most of his time during the hike to the lake swatting mosquitoes from draining what remained of his blood supply. He'd lost a fair amount after the poltergeist had showed him just how sharp his knife was. After finding the lake, he had started looking for signs from the black dog. They tended to hole up near water. After wasting a good 3 hours, Dean hadn't spotted any sign of the creature and he was wondering if maybe his father had gotten it wrong. He sighed wearily and rubbed his brow, hoping there was some aspirin in his first aid kit. He was getting a headache. His dad had said it was a black dog, so Dean hadn't done any research of his own. He should have known. It could be anything. He just hoped it wasn't some water wraith. He really hated those things as one had tried to drown him when he was a kid.

He had spent several hours searching the surrounding area. It didn't turn up a thing. Nightfall was quickly approaching and Dean was beyond tired. The prospect of hiking through the woods, in the dark, with an unknown supernatural fugly out there while he wasn't 100% sounded less than appealing, plus all his bruises from the previous hunt were making themselves known, loud and clear.

Dean went to a clearing in the field and pulled out the emergency tent, grateful he had decided to bring it. He quickly assembled it, got a fire going and set up some protective wards around his campsite. He drank a bottle of water, popped some aspirin and ate the few energy bars he had packed.

It may have been California but it got damn cold at night, and since space in his duffle was limited, Dean hadn't brought his sleeping bag, just a thin blanket, so he soon found himself shivering. There wasn't much he could do. He heated some water up over the fire so at least he had some hot liquid and that helped to warm his hands for a bit, but not much else, and when that was gone he just zipped his coat up, huddled under the useless blanket and waited for morning to come.

It stood to reason that he wasn't at his best the next day, so he made the decision to hike out, regroup, do some research and come back. He'd just have to hope that no one came in. The prospect of coming back was less than appealing, but he never left a job unfinished. A valuable lesson was also learned on this hunt. Never take second hand information, no matter how much research sucked.

He hadn't gotten too far from his campsite when he felt something off. He quickly pulled his gun and stood at attention, ready for anything. Nothing came. He cursed himself for being paranoid. It was then that he noticed that his shoe was untied. When he bent down, it caught his attention that his necklace wasn't swinging like it usually did. His hand immediately flew up and felt the spot where the little horned figure should have been. There was nothing there. Panic started building up, as Dean checked for the string around his neck. All he came away with was an untied cord. The knot had come apart.

All other thoughts flew out of his head and he frantically retraced his steps, hoping he would find the shiny, gold object. He didn't have much, but that pendant meant the world to him because it had come from his brother. He didn't find it anywhere around his campsite. He didn't even remember if he'd had it when he hiked in yesterday. It could be anywhere and he wasn't leaving until he found it. He walked down by the lake, hoping against hope that he would find it. Dean didn't know if what happened next was luck or fate. He could see something resting in the sand and he ran over and found his pendant. Breathing a sigh of relief, he reached down to pick it up. No sooner had he secured in a zipped pocket, when he felt something slam into him, causing him to fall directly into the water, where his side connected with a rock and he felt all the breath forced from his body.

Looking, he saw it that it wasn't a black dog but a bunyip. This was a creature that was very similar to a black dog, which fortunately could be killed the same way. Consecrated iron would send those bastards back to hell, and Dean had time to pull his gun from the waistband of his jeans and nail the sucker just before it attacked him again.

Dean lay there for a moment, panting. He was having trouble catching his breath and he guessed that his ribs were bruised, if not broken. It was a friggin' miracle he hadn't been killed. He could live with a sore side, but it made packing up the tent and hiking out of the woods a nightmare. The only thing that could make things worse was if it started raining.

Famous last words, Dean thought as he felt the first drops start to land on his shoulders.

The hike out had taken twice as long as the hike in. He had to take frequent breaks to try and catch his breath, and it seemed to take longer each time. Plus, his duffle wasn't light and he found it pulling on his side, causing the pain to double with each step.

He nearly cried in relief when after five hours, he finally emerged from the woods and saw the Impala parked on the side of the road, right where he'd left it. The way the last couple of days had gone, he wouldn't have been surprised to find she'd been stolen.

He deposited his duffle in the trunk after grabbing the blanket to sit on. He was soaked to the skin and didn't want to damage the leather. The first item on his agenda was to find a coffee shop and get something hot. The cold had settled into his bones and he was shivering violently and, of course, this wasn't helping his ribs. His day got significantly worse when he realized that he had no money on him and he wondered if he could find a coffee shop that took a credit card. It wasn't long after he got into the shelter of the car that the rain stopped, as if on cue. Typical, Dean thought cynically.

"I just need to get out of here and find a motel," he told himself as he stuck his keys into the ignition and started to car, only to listen to gears grind but refuse to turn over. After trying a few times, he growled in frustration, got out and popped the hood, and as he reached over to check something, the pain in his side exploded, almost dropping him to his knees. Note to self, don't bend over.

Dean climbed back into the car and took some deep breaths, trying to get his breathing under control. He rested his head on the steering wheel and thought about the gun that was on the seat next to him. He was seriously considering using it on his father for sending him out there in the first place, or maybe he should just use it on himself and end his misery.

KNOCK KNOCK

The noise startled Dean out of his thoughts and he berated himself for not paying attention, again. This time it seemed to be a human that had snuck up on him. He quickly shoved the gun under the blanket and rolled down the window.

"Hey, buddy, you okay?" the man asked in concern.

"Fine," Dean mumbled. The guy was probably a car jacker or an axe murderer.

"Sure about that?" the guy questioned.

"Yeah," Dean grumbled. Go away. Just go away.

"Hang on," the guy said as he walked away from the car for a moment. Dean thought maybe something was going his way until the guy grabbed something out of his car and walked back. Great, so he was a psychopath.

"You look like you could use this," the guy said. Dean tensed and closed his eyes, waiting for the bullet or whatever it was the guy used. He suddenly smelt the strong aroma of black coffee wafting under his nose. Dean took as big as a deep breath as he could. He opened his eyes and saw the guy holding a thermos and handing him a mug of the steaming liquid.

Not caring that the guy was a complete stranger, Dean accepted the mug and took a mouthful. He didn't care if the guy admitted it was poison. It solved Dean's problem either way. If it wasn't, he got a hot drink and if was, it would also end his agony. "Thanks," he mumbled again and downed half the liquid in one gulp.

"No problem. Car trouble?" the guy asked.

"Yeah. I was just about to go check it when the rain started," Dean lied. "So I decided to wait until it stopped." His brain must not have been functioning because he was soaking wet, and he knew his story made no sense.

"I can take a look if you want. I work as a mechanic."

If he wanted to get out of here, he was going to have to take this guy up on his offer. His injury prevented him from fully checking things out himself. "Sure. I think it's the battery or the spark plugs. It may need a jump." Dean popped the hood. He steeled himself against the pain and got out of the car. He needed help, but that didn't mean he had to trust this guy completely. He also didn't like anyone near the engine of his baby but himself, Bobby or his dad.

"Cherry ride," the guy said appreciatively.

"You like the classics?" Dean asked in surprise. If he did, he couldn't be all bad.

"Yeah. I just opened my own shop. I have a '69 mustang that I just fixed up." The guy opened his wallet and pulled out a picture. "You would think I'm a proud father," he joked.

Dean just grinned and pulled out his own wallet. He had a picture of his car too. He felt his chest grow tight. He and Sam had been sitting on the hood in that picture. Their dad had taken during his 18th birthday when his dad had presented him with the keys.

"That your brother?" the guy asked as he walked over to his car and grabbed his tool box.

"Yeah," Dean said affectionately. "He's at Stanford. Full ride," he added proudly. Where the hell had that come from? Why the hell was he telling this to a complete stranger?

"I have a sister. She and her husband just found out they're having a baby. I'm going to be an uncle."

"Congratulations," Dean said sincerely.

"There's more coffee in the thermos if you want it?"

"Thanks," Dean said again.

"It looks like your spark plugs. I can give you a boost, but the plugs are going to need to be replaced. If you want to follow me to my shop, I can give you a set."

"How much?" Dean asked. He was flat broke.

"It's okay. I have an old '68 that I can take them out of. No charge."

"I can pay," Dean insisted even though he really couldn't. He had been raised not to take charity.

"Bring me a cup of coffee then. Don't worry about it. The Chevy can only be used for parts and a set of spark plugs is nothing."

"Thanks," Dean said again as he wondered what exactly had happened to his vocabulary. Before he could think about it anymore, a cough ripped through his lungs. It caused the pain to grow exponentially and left him gasping for air.

"I'll just grab the cables from my car. Hey buddy, are you alright?" the other man asked worriedly when he suddenly saw the young man grip his side and slide down against the side of his car.

"It's Dean," the young hunter ground out. His dad called him buddy and he really didn't like anyone else calling him that. "I'm fine," he added out of instinct.

"I'm Sam," the guy said as he knelt down next to Dean. "Let me see."

Sam! That figured. He wished his Sam was there. He'd see through Dean's 'I'm fine' in a minute, but he was too stubborn to admit otherwise. "You... amateur... paramedic?" Dean panted.

"No, I'm lucky I can tell my left from my right. I was just trying to make you feel better," the guy said with a smile.

Dean couldn't help but grin back. "Just my... luck," he said. It was starting to get harder to breathe.

"You asthmatic?"

"No... fell... at lake... hit... side."

"Hold on," Sam replied and got up.

Dean wanted to call out to him. He didn't know what was happening to him and he didn't want to be alone. He didn't care who it was and this guy seemed pretty decent. "I'm getting my cell," Sam explained. He immediately dialed 911 and explained the situation. The operator told him that an ambulance was on the way so Sam hung up and then knelt next to Dean, keeping him company until help arrived.

The ambulance arrived within 15 minutes. Sam informed the paramedics what he knew, which wasn't much, but they assured him that they would handle things from there. It wasn't long before Dean was transferred to a stretcher and loaded into the back of an ambulance.

"Dean, I'm Bobby," the paramedic addressed him. "I understand you're having trouble breathing. I'm going to give you some oxygen. Hopefully it will help." He slipped the mask over the mouth and nose of his young patient.

Did this guy just seriously say his name was Bobby? Dean was extremely close to the gruff, elder mechanic and that longing feeling that Dean felt when Sam had introduced himself returned. Dean wanted his family. There was no way this day could get any weirder.

"That's my partner, Joshua," Bobby indicated the other man with him. "We'll have you at the hospital and feeling better in no time."

Okay, I was wrong, Dean though. Joshua was a medical doctor that they went to when they couldn't go to a hospital.

"Dean, are you having any chest pain?" Joshua asked.

"Side hurts. Fell... ribs," Dean explained.

Bobby grabbed a pair of scissors and cut Dean's shirt up the middle before he had a chance to protest. Dean was extremely glad that he hadn't been wearing one of his favorites. "That's a nasty bruise," the paramedic said. "I would say broken ribs."

"Me... too," Dean agreed.

"Ever break them before?" Bobby inquired as he placed a stethoscope on Dean's chest.

"Once... long... time... a... ago," Dean wheezed, his voice muffled by the oxygen mask.

"Breath sounds on the left are almost non-existent. It's most likely a pneumothorax. We need to get to the hospital now, Josh," Bobby said urgently.

"We'll be there in 10," Joshua said as he got into the driver's seat and started the engine.

"Lights and sirens," Bobby shot back. "Dean, I need to start an IV. Are you allergic to anything?"

"Pene... he mumbled.

The insertion of the IV was quick but Dean was used to that. He heard Bobby pick up a radio and rattle off a bunch of statistics to someone on the other end. The numbers meant nothing to him, but for some reason, none of them sounded good. "How are you doing?" Bobby asked Dean.

"Okay," Dean replied. He wished they would stop asking him things. Breathing was becoming much more difficult and it was the only thing right now that he wanted to concentrate on.

There was flurry of activity when Dean arrived at the hospital. Leads were attached to his chest, a blood pressure cuff was wrapped around his arm, and various objects were inserted into different parts of his body. More medical jargon was called out around him, leaving Dean wishing that he had an interpreter. He also found himself wishing for his dad. His dad had made it a point to understand medical terminology to better understand when he could sneak himself or his boys out or the hospital.

"It's okay," a soothing voice suddenly called out to him. Dean looked to his left and saw Joshua standing next to him. "Your blood pressure and your heartbeat are little high, but normal in this circumstance. Pneumothorax means the docs think the broken ribs might have nicked your lung, causing air to leak into your chest cavity. They need to take x-rays."

"Can we call anybody for you?" Bobby asked him.

The wish for his father intensified. He didn't care if he was 24 years old. His dad had a way of making everything work out. Dean wanted his brother. Sam would stay with him. He didn't want to be alone, but there was no point in calling dad. He wouldn't answer anyway and Dean didn't want Sam to worry, and a part of him wasn't sure Sam would answer either. He was half tempted to tell Bobby to call Bobby, then he decided against it. His Bobby was on the other side of the country and it would take him hours to get here, if he even came. The last time he and his dad had been there, they hadn't parted on the best of terms. "No," Dean replied shaking his head. "There's no one."

The next few minutes were a blur as x-rays were taken and examined. "Dean," the doctor said a few minutes later. "You have a collapsed lung and we need to get a chest tube in you."

What the hell was that? The young hunter didn't like the sound of that one bit. He shook his head with as much force as he could muster, which wasn't much.

"We have to," the doctor said in an apologetic tone, which told Dean with absolute certainty that this was going to hurt, a lot.

"Hey," a gentle voice called out to him.

Dean looked and saw that paramedic Bobby had put a gown and a mask on. "I'll stay with him," he told the doctor who nodded and finished preparing his supplies. He was glad it was the end of his shift and he was able to stay. The kid looked a little lost.

"Fine," Dean muttered.

"I won't lie," Bobby said, his voice full of compassion. "This is going to hurt and no one should go through it alone."

Much too soon for Dean's liking, the doctor announced he was ready. "I won't do anything without you knowing," the doctor promised. "I'm just going to give you a shot of valium. It won't knock you out, but it will relax you."

First the doctor injected the valium into his IV and then some lidocaine into his side. Afterward, he told Dean that he needed to make a small cut with his scalpel. Dean could feel pressure as the blade pressed against his skin, but it didn't hurt until the doctor said he was inserting something called a hemostat in the cut. Dean tried to brace himself but nothing could have prepared him. It felt like someone had just shoved a red hot poker into his side. He yelled out in pain, not able to help himself.

It seemed like an eternity before the doctor said he was done. "We're going to do one quick x-ray," the doctor said. "To make sure the tube's in the right place. Then we'll get you something for the pain."

That sounded freaking fantastic to Dean's ears. "You did great, Dean," Bobby said sincerely.

"Better be... in right place..." he said causing Bobby to smile. "Not... doing it... again."

"Don't blame you on that one. Is there anything else I can do for you, or get you?"

Dean shook his head. "No one... to call... but some m... M&M's... be good."

"I'll see what I can do. Why don't you get some rest," Bobby said with a small chuckle.

That was the best piece of advice Dean had heard in a long time.

"Dean. Hey, Dean. You with us?" he heard a voice call him.

He really wanted to tell them to go away. He just wanted to sleep.

"Dean!" he heard the voice call sharply to him once more.

Reluctantly he opened his eyes and saw the doctor standing before him. He groaned when he felt the pain still present in his side. His eyes immediately slid to the right, looking for his father or his brother, until he remembered they weren't here and they weren't coming. The only thing that was next to his bed was a big yellow bag of peanut M&M's sitting on his bedside table.

"Bobby insisted," the doctor replied.

It took Dean a few moments to remember that it was the paramedic and not his Bobby. "I'm going to give you a quick exam," the doctor announced. "How's the pain on a scale of one to ten?"

"Eleven," Dean admitted in a rare moment of honesty. His dad wasn't there. Why did he need to lie?

"That sounds about right. I'll just need to get some readings and then I can give you some painkillers. I don't think I introduced myself the other day. I'm Dr. John Castiel."

You have got to be freaking' kiddin me. This was all just getting to be little overwhelming. "What happened to me?" Dean asked, trying not to think about the fact that in the last two days, he'd been helped by Sam, Joshua, Bobby and now John.

"You've been out for the last three days. You developed an infection. Definitely not something we needed with the pneumothorax. We seem to have gotten a handle on the infection, but you still have a low grade fever, so we'll be keeping you on the antibiotics for the next couple of days. Your lung is still not fully healed so we'll give it another few days."

"If it doesn't heal?" Dean asked a little fearfully.

"We may need to go in and repair it."

"Surgery?" Dean asked. No way.

"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it. No point in borrowing trouble. I'll be back in a bit. I'll arrange for a TV to be brought it. It can be a long day in here, or I can get you some books if you like."

"TV's fine," Dean replied.

"Kay. Oh, by the way, a man named Sam Uriel came by. He was the guy that called the ambulance for you. He wanted me to give you a message. This is a direct quote. He was very insistent I phrase it this way. He said ' I towed your car to my garage and I'll watch her for you.' He left his card at the nurses' station. It's in with your personal belongings."

Dean suddenly had to get out of there. What if Sam found the weapons in the trunk? His gun was on the front seat. He attempted to sit up when he felt pain explode in his chest.

"Hey, you have to lie still," Dr. Castiel cautioned strongly.

"I have to go," Dean insisted.

"Calm down or I'm going to have to sedate you," Dr. Castiel ordered.

The words seem to have an effect on Dean as the doctor had eerily sounded like his dad. "I'll have a phone brought in and you can call Mr. Uriel and make arrangements about your car. If it makes you feel better, I've known Sam Uriel for 10 years and he's a really good guy. You can trust him," he offered, thinking that was the cause of Dean's distress. "You can sign out AMA, but you wouldn't make it to the front door with the shape your lung's in."

Dean realized that he had no choice. Maybe he should call his dad. "Okay," he conceded. "Can you get me that business card?"

"Sure, give me about a half hour."

Despite how weary he felt, Dean tried to stay awake. He needed to know about his car, but he soon found the effects of his medication drag him back under. When he awoke a few hours later, it was to the sight of a pretty blond dressed in nurse's scrubs. Things seemed to be looking up.

"Good morning," she said brightly.

"It's looking better," Dean flirted.

The young girl blushed. Dean wondered who she was. She seemed too young to be a nurse, yet too old to be a candy striper. The girl smiled. "Dr. Castiel sent me in with your phone. I just got the TV hooked up." Dean nodded his thanks. "I'm going to take your vitals. Don't worry I'm a pro at this," the girl said.

"Are you a nurse?" Dean asked bluntly.

"Not yet," she supplied. "I'm a student. This is a teaching hospital." She stuck the thermometer in Dean's ear and waited for it to beep. "My name's..."

If she says her name's Mary, I swear to God, I'm pulling out every tube and walking out of here, Dean thought.

"Jessica, Jessica Moore."

"I'm Dean Rose." That's what his ID said this week. That was one benefit of hunting on his own, he got to pick his own alias. "Maybe we could get to know each other a little more?" he asked suggestively.

"As much fun as that sounds, I really think my boyfriend would frown on that."

"Figures," Dean replied. "Can't blame a guy for trying. Will I live?" He asked as Jessica finished noting everything on his chart.

"I think so," she replied with a smile. "I haven't lost a patient yet."

"How many have you had?"

"Including you?"

"Yeah."

"One," she said with a grin.

"My luck, I guess," Dean replied. He shifted, trying to get comfortable, and grimaced when he felt the tug of the chest tube.

"You okay?" Jessica asked when she noted his sudden discomfort.

"Just pulled this thing. It hurts like hell."

"I'll get Dr. Castiel; he can give you something for it. In the mean time, try to keep your breathing steady."

"Easier said than done." Dean was glad he didn't have to put on a brave face for once. The pain from his chest tube was unrelenting and he wasn't refusing meds.

"I know," Jessica sympathized. "I broke my collar bone a year ago. Hurt like the blazes. My boyfriend told me to breathe through the pain. I told Sam that if he said that one more time, he was going to know just how hard it was to breathe through pain."

Breathe through the pain. It was something his father always said to him or his brother when they couldn't get help right away. It seemed strange to hear someone else say it. Wait did she say her boyfriend's name was Sam. Could it be? No, this girl was way out of his Sammy's league.

"Come on, just do it, wuss," Dean tried to convince himself. He needed to call his father. He had been in the hospital for five days now. His dad could be trying to get a hold of him. Despite the fact that his father never picked up the phone, John would get really mad if Dean didn't answer his.

First he dialed his voice mail. "You have no new messages," the electronic voice greeted him. So his dad hadn't called. He shouldn't have been surprised. Still, he felt that someone should know where he was. He quickly dialed his father's number before he could change his mind. "This is John Winchester, leave a message," his father's gravelly voice greeted him. Dean hung up without doing so.

Before he could allow his himself to think, he suddenly dialed the number for Singer Salvage. He got the garage manager, who informed him that Bobby was out of town and he wouldn't be back for another month. Getting desperate, Dean dialed Caleb's number. There was no answer.

To his complete and utter horror, he felt tears prickling at the corner of his eyes. He had always wondered if anyone would miss him if he fell off the face of the earth. Apparently, he had just received his answer.

He pushed those feelings down quickly, letting anger take its place. He threw the phone as hard as he could and watched it crash against the wall. What the hell did he need it for anyway? Before he could do anything else, two German Sheppard's suddenly burst into his room. A man was close on their heels, calling for them. "Michael, Zachariah, no! Bad! I'm so sorry," the stranger apologized. "They normally obey me. I hope they didn't hurt you."

Dean shrugged, trying to get his heartbeat under control. "I'm okay. Just surprised. Hey boy," Dean said when one of the dogs came closer to his bed."

"Michael, get away." The dog ignored its master and licked Dean's outstretched hand.

"He can stay," Dean said as he stroked the dog's head. He didn't care if they were demons. He didn't want to be alone.

"I think he likes you," the guy added when Michael continued to ignore him and enjoy Dean's attention. "Any reason why the phone had to die?" The man asked curiously as Zachariah walked over and sniffed the broken equipment.

"It slipped," Dean said in a warning tone. Maybe being alone was a much better idea.

"Bad day?"

"I'm fine. You a shrink or something? If you are, you can turn around and march right out that door."

"No, I'm not a shrink. My name is Jim Pastor."

"Is this some kind of joke?" Someone or something was enjoying screwing with him.

"No," the man replied a little taken aback. "I know Pastor's not a common name."

"Sorry," Dean apologized. "It's just that I know a Pastor Jim. It just came as a bit of a surprise."

"I can see how it would be," the man conceded. "I promise this was just one of those things. I run a pet therapy program on the geriatric ward. I was just on my way out when Zachariah and Michael decided that they wanted to visit." Jim wisely left out the part that sometimes animals could tell when someone was lonely. The guy in the bed reminded him of some of the seniors he visited. The ones that had no family. "Mike and Zach seem to really like you. I need to get them outside for before the janitors kill me."

"Kay," Dean said reluctantly. "See ya."

"I'll be here tomorrow with my St. Bernard. I can bring him to see you if you want," Jim offered.

"Sure," Dean agreed, ashamed for feeling so needy. "Your dog's name wouldn't be Caleb would it?"

"How did you know that?" Jim shook his head.

"Lucky guess," Dean replied. There was no point in explaining. He'd just end up the psych ward.

Although the next few days passed slowly, they weren't all bad. Since Dean hadn't called him, Sam Uriel stopped by to visit. He promised Dean that his car was still safe and that he had replaced the spark plugs for him, that he had also given the Impala a complete tune up and that he hoped Dean didn't mind. Once he started working on the classic, it had been too good to pass up. Dean offered to pay him but Sam refused, saying it was his pleasure and that he was glad he could help.

He did mention the gun on the seat, but all Sam said was that he had locked it in the glove compartment. Dean guessed luck had been with him and Sam hadn't found the hidden compartment in his trunk.

Paramedic Bobby stopped by a few times, just to talk. It left Dean shaking his head that apparently Bobby's last name was Jefferson. They didn't speak about much more than movies or TV shows, but Dean looked forward to his visits. Bobby seemed like a nice guy and in a lot of ways, he reminded Dean of his Bobby.

Even paramedic Joshua visited him once to see how he was doing.

To his surprise, he really enjoyed the visit with Jim Pastor and his dogs. They helped break up the monotony of the days.

The person who visited him the most was Jessica. Dean really liked her a lot. She was very friendly and smart. She was exactly the type of girl he wished his brother could meet.

He even liked his doctor, which was rare for him. Dr. Castiel was always honest with him, and he really appreciated that. Plus he had a sense of humor.

It was the morning of his eighth day in the hospital when Dr. Castiel approached him, and told him that his lung wasn't healing and that they were going to have to repair it surgically.

Dean wanted to refuse. He didn't want to do this. Not by himself anyway. Sure there were people that were nice to him, but they weren't family.

"The procedure is very non-invasive. Unless there are major complications, we don't need to cut the chest open. We can do it with video-assisted thoracic surgery. We make 3 or 4 small incisions and use a camera to see what we're doing when we repair your lung," the doctor explained.

"Can't we wait and see if it heals?" Dean asked.

"We could, but it's been over a week and you're showing no improvement. I really think this needs to be taken care of surgically."

"If I agree, will you take this out?" Dean asked pointing at his chest tube.

"You'll still have it when you wake up and you'll be intubated as well. It's standard procedure when a person has thoracic surgery, but the ET tube will be removed shortly after you come out of the anesthetic," Dr. Castiel added quickly when Dean visibly tensed up. "The chest tube will be a day at a time."

"Can we just get this over with?" Dean conceded.

"I'll have everything set up for the day after tomorrow," Dr. Castiel said kindly.

Jessica spent the whole evening with him the night before his surgery. Dean appreciated it more than he could say.

"Can you do me a favor?" Dean asked just before Jessica was getting ready to leave for the evening.

"Sure," Jessica agreed readily.

"My jacket, there's something in the pocket. It's a gold pendant, kind of looks like a Viking. Will you get it for me?"

Jessica retrieved the object Dean had requested. It was the ugliest thing she had ever seen, but something about it seemed familiar, she just couldn't quite place it, she could tell it was important to her patient though, as she handed it to him. "My brother gave it to me," Dean explained when he saw her staring at it.

"I didn't know you had a brother," she replied. "I thought you said you didn't have family."

"My brother and I don't really speak," Dean explained. "I just..." He stopped. As nice as Jessica was, she would never understand.

"You really should call him," Jessica encouraged. "Anything can happen." Her boyfriend had told her that he had a brother he didn't speak to either, and no matter how much she encouraged him, Sam wouldn't contact him either. Sam was convinced his brother wanted nothing to do with him. Jessica had never even seen a picture of him. She knew Sam had one in his wallet, and she had caught him staring at it a few times, but he always put it away quickly when she entered the room.

"I might," Dean mumbled even though he had no intentions of doing so. He really wished he hadn't brought up Sammy. "Can you get me something so I can sleep?" Dean didn't want to think anymore.

"Sure, I'll be right back."

Sam Winchester sat at the desk in his study going over tort procedures. They were some of the most boring things he'd ever studied, but the class was required for graduation.

"Sam, I'm home," he heard his girlfriend's voice calling from the front hallway.

Grateful for the excuse, Sam closed his text book and went to kiss his girl. "You're home late."

"Yeah. I was with that patient I told you about. I just feel so bad for him. He told me today he and his brother didn't speak. Having no family around and the fact that he's facing surgery in the morning has to be rough."

Sam pulled Jessica into a big hug. Her compassion was one of the things he loved most about her. "Did I ever tell you how much I love you?"

"Many times," Jessica whispered as she returned his kiss.

It was a little later in the evening when fate intervened once again. She had been putting some things away when she accidentally knocked a box off the shelf. It was Sam's keepsake box. He threw odds and ends in there that he didn't want to throw away, but didn't know what else to do with. Only one thing actually fell out of the box. It was a picture of Sam. He looked like a teenager and around his neck was the exact same pendant, like the one she had handed the young man in the hospital. Goosebumps suddenly broke out on her flesh as a theory began to take shape in mind.

"Hey Sam," she called. She grabbed the picture and walked into their study. She respected that he didn't like to talk about his family, but if her theory was correct, she could help both Sam and Dean.

"Yeah."

"What's this necklace?" she asked as she handed Sam the picture.

"Where did you get this?" he asked uncomfortably.

"I actually knocked your box off the shelf. It fell out. I wasn't snooping. I swear."

"It's nothing."

"Tell me," Jessica requested.

"Why?" Sam asked curiously.

"You remember me telling you about that patient. He had a pendant just like this."

Sam startled. It couldn't be, could it? "The patient's name is Dean, Sam. Didn't you tell me that was your brother's name?"

"Yeah," Sam said softly. There was no way. The patient Jessica had talked about endlessly couldn't be his brother. "I was 16 and about to go take my driver's test for the second time. I was so nervous the first time that I failed. Dean gave me his necklace so that I would know he was with me. I passed with a perfect score," he added fondly as he recalled the memory and Dean snapping the photo.

"Sam, can I see that picture of you and Dean?"

Immediately he pulled out his wallet and handed Jessica the picture. He was young, but there was no mistaking that Dean Rose was the guy sitting next to Sam. Jessica didn't bother to ask why the last name was different. Sam wouldn't answer anyway. Sam saw the recognition flood Jessica's eyes as she looked at Dean in the photograph.

"My brother's been in the hospital this week," Sam stated in disbelief. "You said he's having surgery. I have to go see him."

"Sam, wait," Jessica called after him. "He's been sedated for the evening."

"I don't care. I need to see him. I just have to know he's okay."

"Wait, I'm coming with you."

Morning arrived way too quickly for Dean. He didn't want to open his eyes because the doctors were coming for him. Knowing it was inevitable, and wanting to get this over with, he forced his eyes to cooperate and found himself staring at a guy that looked like a carbon copy of his little brother. Maybe he really was going crazy.

"Dean," the voice called out tentatively.

It even sounded like his little brother. "Sam?" he asked tentatively.

"Yeah, I'm here Dean."

"Sam." Dean didn't want to let himself believe Sam was here. He couldn't take it if he wasn't.

"I can't believe you didn't call me, jerk," Sam said affectionately.

"I didn't want to bother you," Dean said sincerely.

"You're my brother. I would have come if you called."

"I believe you, Sammy," Dean said softly. If he was honest with himself though, he wasn't sure if he believed it or not.

"You ready to go?" a new voice said joining them.

Dean swallowed nervously and looked to Sam.

"I'll be here when you wake up," he promised.

"I'm ready," Dean said with conviction.

"I'm Travis," the orderly said as he started unhooking Dean's lines. "I'll be taking you to the OR."

"We know a..."

"Sam, forget it, okay?" Dean said cryptically. "You can't fight it."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Sam asked in confusion.

"Nothing important. Let's go."

Sam watched as Dean was wheeled out of the room. He picked up his phone and made a decision to dial a number he hadn't dialed in a long time.

"Hello, this is John Winchester. Leave a Message."

Sam was fully prepared to do so. He just hoped his dad's answering machine had enough space because he had a lot he wanted to say to the man.

Sam kept his promise and was sitting next to his brother's bed when Dean woke up. He had to fight with Dean to keep him from trying to pull out the ventilator tube, but to Sam, it was an encouraging sign.

The second time Dean awoke, he found his father sitting next to his bed, leading him to believe that he had been hallucinating again, but his dad was able to assure him he wasn't.

The next several days passed steadily. Sam and John were never in the room at the same time, but Dean would take what he could get. His Bobby even called to tell him that he was an idjit for not trying harder to get in touch with him. His garage manager had known how. Their friends Jefferson, Joshua and Caleb had called as well to see how he was doing.

Dean had almost wished he'd gotten hurt sooner and was now dreading his release from the hospital. He didn't want to go back to being alone again.

The night before he was released, Sam came to see him. He told Dean to keep in touch and Dean said he would, but neither brother felt the other really would. It was almost as if too much had happened.

"Do you belief in fate, Sam?" Dean asked his brother.

"I don't know," Sam admitted. "What brought that on?"

Dean held up his amulet. "If you hadn't given me this, I would have walked out of that campsite. When I realized the cord had broken I went searching for it. If I hadn't gone searching for it, the creature wouldn't have gotten the drop on me and I wouldn't have gotten hurt. If I hadn't gotten hurt, I wouldn't have met Jessica."

"Who recognized the amulet and let me know that you were here." Sam finished.

"Yeah."

"Coincidence or fate, it was good to see you, bro. I missed you. I'm sorry you had to go through most of this yourself."

"I missed you too, Sammy." Dean smiled and he thought of Sam Uriel, John Castiel, Jessica, Bobby Jefferson, Joshua, Jim Pastor, and his dogs Zachariah, Michael and Caleb. "And I wasn't alone, not completely."

When he was released from the hospital, Dean went to Uriel's Garage and picked up his car. It was just as the man had promised. He wouldn't take any money, but Dean supplied him with Bobby's business card as well as his cell phone number and told him to call if he ever needed anything. Sam made Dean do the same.

On the way out of town, Dean stopped by his Sam's apartment. It was tough leaving, but his father had said they'd work their next job together and Dean wanted to get going. After all, there was some good in this world that needed saving.

Dean smiled for the first time in weeks as he reached over and flipped on the radio. His smile turned into a huge grin as Metallica's Nothing Else Matters played on the radio.

So Close no matter how far...

When Dean drove toward the city limits of Palo Alto, he reached his hand up and gripped the amulet that was now bound around his neck with a new sturdy leather cord. Truer words were never spoken.

The end

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