A/n: Huge thanks to everyone who stuck with me this far, I hope it's worth the wait. I thought Dean would like to have the last word…

Day 8-9: Dean

Dean was woken by the harsh chimes of his phone a little after noon.

He groaned and buried his head beneath his pillow, letting out a sigh of relief when the damn thing fell silent.

He peered out from the covers at the digital display on the nightstand, squinting at the light that was invading the room and stabbing his eyeballs. It was a while before he could get the numbers to make any sense.

He was just drifting off to sleep when the noise started up again, frustratingly loud.

"Ugh… just answer it already," was groaned from under the mound of covers to his right.

Wincing at the light Dean reached out an arm and groped along the counter until his fingers closed around the offending piece of plastic.

"'lo," he croaked, not liking the way his head vibrated as he cleared his throat. His mouth felt fuzzy and he was definitely starting to doubt the wisdom of those last few shots of whiskey.

"Dean? Oh, thank God. We've got a situation."

"Jim?"

"Yeah son, it's me. I'm sorry to call, Caleb seemed to think you might have your hands full with clean-up, but we need you on this one."

"What?" Dean's brain felt stupid and he sat up slowly, swinging his legs out of bed and trying to ignore the way the room was rocking. "Sammy kicking up a fuss about missing his exams?" he griped. Did two grown men really have to resort to waking him because of one teen throwing a snit? "Put him on, I'll talk to him."

He heard movement and the bed shifted behind him. When he turned he could see Carly pulling a t-shirt over her head.

'Sorry' he mouthed, but she shook her head and stood to shimmy into her jeans. Dean was momentarily distracted watching her and he almost didn't hear what Jim had said.

"What do you mean he's not there? Where is he?"

Even Sam knew better then to take off in a huff when they were at Jim's cabin. There was literally no-where to go.

"I mean I haven't seen him. Sam and your father never made it out here."

"What? No… they were supposed to be there…"

"Friday, I know. At first I figured they were just running late but it's been two days and I can't reach them."

Dean remembered again the blank tone he'd heard when he'd tried to ring his father, and realised with a pang that had been two days ago. The plan had been to meet at Jim's but no fixed date or time had really been set; he'd figured if he'd been needed his dad would call; tell him to get his ass in gear.

"Okay. Ummm…" he ran his free hand through his hair; it was hard to think.

"I called my office, to see if they'd left a message… Dean, the hospital has been in touch – Gillian said it was over a week ago. They said they were calling about your father and Sam.

Dean's insides went cold, his vision suddenly painful in its clarity.

"What happened? Are they alright?" he was off the bed and reaching for his duffle before he was even aware of it, scooping up what meagre belongings he'd left out and searching for his pants.

"I called the hospital. They're saying it was some kind of freak bear attack. Sam's okay – they kept him if a couple of days for observation but he's been discharged now. Your Dad… Dean, it sounds bad. They wouldn't tell me much over the phone but he's still in the ICU."

Dean's mind was reeling. He'd wanted to stay in Woodhouse and work the job with his father but the other man had insisted it was a two man hunt and that he and Sam were more than up to it. And then Caleb had called asking for back up – back up that hadn't even really been needed – and Dean had been unreachable when his family had needed him the most. From what he'd gathered from when he'd last spoken to them they'd done the hunt a week ago; what the hell had happened that his father was still in intensive care?

Sam must be freaking out, holding the fort alone.

"What… wait? What do you mean Sam was discharged? He's just a kid; they let him leave alone? The kid's good, but he's not that good."

"No, he's with Social Services some place in the city. They wouldn't give me any details. I don't think you'll be able to get a bead on him until you're there in person, until you can prove you're a blood relative."

"Jesus."

"My thought exactly," the preacher agreed.

"Okay. Thanks for calling, and for trying to find out. I'll let you know what's going on when I get there."

He shut off the phone and finished dressing in silence.

"I take it you're heading out now?" Carly asked and Dean jumped. He'd forgotten she was still in the room. Forgotten he'd been spending a crazy few days with her while his family was falling apart without him.

"Yeah, my dad's sick."

"I'm sorry."

"I've gotta go, make sure he's okay, take care of my little brother, you know?"

"Of course. Will you..?"

"Do me a favour – can you hand the key in at reception when you leave? Thanks."

If she raised any objections he didn't hear them; he was too distracted to hear much of anything as he slipped out of the motel room and threw his duffle in the car.

A few minutes ago he'd have said he was in no state to drive but it turned out there was nothing as sobering as finding out your dad was maybe dying and your brother had been shipped into state care.

Carly stood in the doorway to watch him go but he didn't even wave goodbye as he put the car in gear and peeled out of the lot. He was still a good couple of hundred miles from Woodhouse, but hopefully he'd be there by nightfall.

-0-

He passed an area five miles out of town where the undergrowth at the side of the road was cut back, and yellow crime scene tape reflected neon in his headlights. He slowed and drew along side, watching as the tape fluttered in the breeze but it didn't speak to him; didn't allow him to feel any closer to them than he was. Any closer to figuring out the truth.

He'd called the hospital a couple of hours back and had been given the address of the place in Tiverton where his brother was being held. He paused again when he reached the next crossroads, faced with the agonising decision of whether to head straight on through Woodhouse to the hospital and his father, or whether to turn off and head for the city and Sam.

In truth, traffic on the highway had made the decision for him. He wouldn't be able to leave with his brother without petitioning the courts, and he doubted if he turned up on their doorstep at nine at night they'd be inclined to let him in. Sam would be okay for one more night – he'd been on his own for the past seven as it was.

Visiting hours for the ICU were long since over by the time Dean arrived but he was led into a conference room and left to wait for the attending doctor to speak to him. There he was given answers to all his questions, and a healthy dose of guilt over his prolonged absence.

At least there was one positive thing to come from Dean having missed the past week of his father's hospital stay – the prognosis they were able to give him was a lot more promising than it would have been if Dean had been present initially.

Over the last couple of days John Winchester had been weaned off the ventilator and was now breathing on his own, and had been drifting in and out of awareness. Things had been touch and go for a while but they were finally confident enough to say they expected him to make a full recovery in time.

Despite visiting hours being over, Dean was able to convince the doctor to let him step into his father's room for a brief 10 minute stay, and he didn't even have to lie to do it. He really had been driving in a state of near panic all day imagining the worst, and he really did think it would give him peace of mind to be able to see the truth of his father's improvement for himself. He was promised he could take a few minutes while they tracked down someone to talk to him about his brother's brief hospital stay.

The nurse he followed to his father's unit had a kind and sympathetic face, and for some reason it made Dean feel better to know she'd been watching over his father most nights since he'd been admitted.

"He probably won't be awake," Dean was warned, "and he won't be very with it if he is. He still needs his rest, so try not to get him too agitated if he does wake. He's been pretty confused."

Dean nodded and swallowed.

"I have to say, whatever detained you, I'm glad you're back. It might sound corny but I do believe it will do a lot to aid his recovery knowing there's someone here for him, helping him along."

"I hope so too. But my brother's been here, right?" Dean asked, surprised. He knew his father and brother butted heads but nothing could bring them together like a near fatal mauling.

The nurse shifted uneasily.

"He didn't even visit?"

"He wanted too," she assured him hastily. "Put up quite a fuss about it too, from what I heard. But your dad was hurt pretty bad and they didn't think it would be good for your brother to let him up here."

"Good for him how?" Dean asked incredulously. "They thought leaving him on his own to worry would be better for him?"

"I really can't say. I don't know much about your brother's stay, only that the police and family services argued to keep him away. I'm sure they'll explain everything to you when you speak to them."

Dean nodded, not feeling remotely reassured. They better believe they were going to be doing some explaining.

"I'll be back to tell you when they're ready for you downstairs," she promised, before leaving him alone by his father's bed.

Dean was almost glad he'd been out of town; his father looked awful, he didn't want to contemplate how this could be considered an improvement.

"What the Hell have the pair of you gotten into," he murmured, taking a seat by his father' side.

He hadn't been expecting an answer but the silence still felt like a condemnation. He'd had fun with Caleb – it felt good to be out of his father's shadow, be seen as a hunter in his own right. He'd revelled in that and had delayed the moment when it would have to come to an end, when his primary job would be running his brother to school and checking he didn't skimp on his training.

He'd do the school run until Sammy graduated without complaint if he could call do-over.

It was dark in the unit but a shaft of moonlight fell over the bed, highlighting his father's pained face and day old stubble. He wondered if the nurse he'd just met had been the one to shave him, and for some reason the thought brought tears to his eyes.

He was so very tired. Now he was here he would have a hard time moving again, regaining his forward momentum. But there was still so much to do.

There was a cabinet beside his father's bed but the draws were locked. It only took a moment to jimmy it open and examine the meagre personal belongings within – a watch, a set of keys, and his father's wallet. Dean did a quick scan of the wallet to be safe but it held no form of ID at all, fake or otherwise, and lifted a twenty, then pocketed the keys to his father's truck before closing it back up.

He shook the draw a little harder than he meant to slipping the lock back into place and heard something clatter on the dresser's surface. Something had toppled over and was rolling towards the edge. He leaned forward and grabbed a set of interlocking metal loops before it could slip from the table.

Dean stared at the cheap trick for a couple of minutes before he shook his head in confusion, setting it back in its place at his father's bedside.

The nurse returned far too quickly for Dean's liking but he didn't protest, just bid his father farewell and followed her into the corridor. He wanted to stay, he wanted to sit and close his eyes, but he wanted to hear about his brother too and giving in to his instincts to cause a scene would not help Sam. CPS was probably having a field day about this already without Dean providing them with another reason why Sam was better off in care.

So instead of giving the police and doctors a piece of his mind for having locked his brother away, he thanked them for keeping him safe; bit his tongue when they explained why he'd been kept isolated and unable to use a phone or see his father, and clenched his fists so tight he was sure his nails were going to cause his palms to bleed while they told him about the psych hold and how he'd been shipped off to a secure home fifty miles away from anything he knew.

No, Dean wasn't sure exactly what they'd been doing out there in the first place – he knew his dad and brother had been meaning to spend some quality time together while he was away so if Sam said they'd been camping then Dean saw no reason to believe that was untrue.

Obviously Dean was relieved to know that no other animal attacks had been reported – that at least seemed to suggest that Sam and their dad had managed to kill it, or at least wound it badly enough to cause it to go to ground. But he did put in a call to Jim after he left the hospital to report in as promised, and to get the older hunter to pass the word along that there was a potentially unfinished job in the area, or at least clear up that would be required before the DNR stumbled on a body, or a wounded creature, they couldn't account for.

He also had no explanation for why there was a stranger's blood on his brother's knife or clothing – at least, none he cared to share. If he didn't know there was no chance of the police finding an angry victim or a body then he'd maybe have been more worried about it, but the police freely admitted they couldn't hold his brother unless they could prove a crime had been committed.

They left a message with his brother's caseworker to call him as soon as she could to set in motion having Sam released into his care.

It was almost midnight by the time he left the hospital and there was still one last thing he had to do before he could head back to the cabin and crash. The police had made it clear they were yet to find his father's truck. Given what was stashed in its trunk, this was something Dean was keen to not see happen.

It didn't take him too long scanning the maps their dad had left out and recalling what details he could about the hunt to realise the police had been searching the wrong area. If the job had been his, Dean would have parked further out and hiked into the sucker's territory from the other side, hopefully taking it by surprise. It would mean hell of a trek, but Dean was sure his father would have done the same.

Twenty four hours ago he would have been proud of that realisation. Now he was just tired and empty.

Knowing roughly where the truck was and retrieving it were two different matters. He didn't dare take a car from one of the neighbours in case it was considered suspicious one was reported missing hours after he breezed back into town - especially if it was eventually discovered abandoned anywhere near the site of his family's 'accident'. In a town as close knit as Woodhouse, where everybody knew everybody else's business, finding someone who wouldn't connect the dots or ask questions who could drive him out into the middle of no-where, was no easy feat, and even then he had to walk for an hour before the truck finally came into view.

He left the truck at a motel on the other side of Tiverton and checked into a room. Ignoring the pull of a soft clean bed and the temptation to lift another car from there – the intention was to keep the truck away from the prying eyes of the police – he made his slow way back to Woodhouse.

It was long past dawn before he crawled into bed, and it felt as though his head had barely touched the pillow before he was woken once again by the tinny chirping of his phone.

Glancing at his watch he saw that it was just past 9am. He'd been asleep for almost three hours.

Maria Clover sounded like an officious bitch, but he knew better than to antagonise her, no matter how tired or frustrated he was feeling. If he had his way he'd just break in and smuggle Sam out, at gun point it necessary, but he doubted something like that would look good on Sam's permanent record.

He just hoped his brother appreciated his restraint.

She had a meeting all morning so he couldn't get an appointment to meet her until two, and she made it clear he would not be allowed access to Sam without her authorisation.

He didn't go back to sleep after the call. He rose and showered, only realising after the water made him light-headed that he'd put nothing in his stomach since the whiskey chasers of the previous morning.

There was nothing edible in the fridge and the bread bin looked like a toxic waste dump, so he grabbed a hearty breakfast in a diner on the way to the hospital and tried to get his thoughts in order.

He found in his father a vast improvement on yesterday's level of coherence. He gave the other man a brief rundown of the situation and the story they'd given the police, but he wasn't confident any of the information was being retained.

When visiting hours were over he returned to the cabin for the last time, packing their belongings into the Impala and binning anything that was not of vital importance. The art project that Sam had been working on for the past three weeks had to be sacrificed, but since it was unlikely Sam would be finishing out the end of the semester in Woodhouse, Dean couldn't afford the space it took up. He didn't have the truck and he didn't want to have to make two journeys transferring everything to the motel he'd checked into that morning.

He met Ms Clover at her office in town. He was keen to be taken straight to see Sam but he first had to jump through several hoops, defending his father's choices and reassuring her they had Sam's best interests at heart.

These people wanted to take his brother and put him somewhere alone and unprotected, where he wouldn't be allowed to salt his windows or put up protective charms, where his knowledge would have him ostracised and other people's innocence would get him killed. They would be worried if they fully appreciated his brother's abilities with a blade, or the fact that at fifteen he already had a favourite gun, but that had saved his life on more than one occasion. Not only that, but it saved others, too.

In the end he came right out and asked her if Sam appeared grateful for their help or not, pointed out that if they were so awful to live with then Sam would not have put up any attempt to get back to them, or argue for his release.

Dean took the tick in her cheek, and the fact Sam was still on lockdown because he was considered a flight risk, to mean he'd hit the mark.

The Juvenile Detention Centre in Tiverton was a miserable looking building, one of the worst he'd seen, and given some of the places Dean had stayed in his life that was saying something. The paint on the walls was flaking off and the corridors smelt of a strange mixture of dirty socks and cabbage.

He was escorted to his brother's room by a surly looking orderly, conscious of the fact Maria was avoiding his eye. He kept his jaw clenched while the grumpy warden worked the locks on his brother's door, and by the time he was finally swinging it open Dean's whole face ached.

Dean was through the door as soon as it opened, eyes searching.

Sam was huddled on the bed in the centre of the room, an open book held loosely in his grasp and his attention fixed on the wall. He was wearing loose sweats and a grey t-shirt that Dean didn't recognise.

When Dean entered the room Sam looked up and their eyes locked. Dean could see him blink a couple of times, as though he couldn't quite understand what he was seeing, then the book fell to the floor as Sam hurled himself off the bed.

Dean was slightly taken aback when Sam did something he hadn't done for nearly five years; threw himself across the room and hugged him.

Dean smiled and felt is shoulders lower as the rest of the tension he'd been carrying faded.

Then Sam pulled away and started hitting him.

"Where the hell have you been?" the teen demanded, swatting him on the chest, the arm, the shoulder. Dean would have been happy to stand there and let him vent – there was no real strength behind the blows and he deserved worse – but a throat cleared behind him and Maria Clover stepped into the room.

Sam's eyes widened and his arms fell to his sides, and Dean didn't miss the way his brother took a step away from her, keeping Dean's body between him and the CPS representative.

"You ready to blow this joint?"

"Really?"

Dean wanted to kill something at the hope he saw in his brother's eyes, and the fact his gaze flit to Maria's face as though awaiting permission.

"Unless you want to stay, hang out here a while longer," Dean offered.

"God no," Sam shuddered, and Dean threw his brother's case worker a satisfied glare.

Sam inched towards the door, for once in his life waiting for his brother to take the lead.

"Don't you want to get your stuff together?" Dean asked him.

Sam just shrugged, shifting uncomfortable. "Nothing to get," he murmured.

Dean clenched his jaw and nodded before heading for the door. He kept himself firmly between Sam and Ms Clover and any other of the facility's personnel, and kept one hand gripping his brother's arm as they made their way through the corridor and down the stairs. He didn't let go until they were through the front door and heading down the path towards the parking lot, and Sam didn't call him on the contact.

His brother kept his head down as they walked, looking up for the first time as they exited the building when he inhaled deeply, not even commenting on it if maybe Dean's grip got a little tighter before he finally let go. He couldn't hide the wince though, but shook his head at Dean's look of silent apology. None of the facilities staff or social services had commented on the fact Dean was manoeuvring his brother by his injured arm, which just made their belief they knew what was best for Sam all the more absurd.

"Why don't you go wait in the car?" he offered, holding out the keys. "There's a couple of things we need to talk about before we can leave, but you don't need to be there."

Sam smiled gratefully and snagged the keys.

"Can I drive?" he asked, but the light tone didn't reach his eyes. The question was probably a reflex at this stage but even so, Dean appreciated the effort.

"Don't push it."

He watched Sam drift away and settle himself in the passenger seat of the Impala before he turned back to the welfare personnel. He had to sign a few forms and make a couple of appointments they wouldn't keep, and hopefully this whole incident would soon be a bad memory.

Sam was huddled on the seat when Dean reached the car, feet on the upholstery and knees against his chest, leaning forward and bracing himself with both palms on the dash. He was staring into the foot-well and didn't look up as Dean tugged on the driver's side door to find it locked.

He knocked on the window to attract Sam's attention and his brother finally raised his eyes, starting at Dean for almost a full minute before finally uncurling and reaching over to unlock the door and let him in.

"You okay?" Dean asked, settling into his seat.

"Can we just go?"

Dean nodded and started the engine.

"They feed you in that place?" he asked. "You wanna grab something to eat?"

"Not hungry," Sam murmured, bringing his feet back onto the seat so he could hug his knees to his chest, turning away from Dean to stare out of the window.

Dean tightened his grip on the steering wheel. He drove past the signs for McDonalds and took the turning back to the motel.

"I'm sorry… that I wasn't…" he turned to take in his brother again. Sam had moved his head to face the windshield at the sound of Dean's voice. "I got here as soon as I could."

"I know," Sam assured him, flicking his eyes up to Dean's face for a second before lowering his head again and hiding them beneath his bangs.

The rest of the journey was made in silence. Sam sat up straighter when they pulled into the motel's parking lot, glancing Dean's way in surprise. They pulled into a spot alongside their father's truck.

"Dad's here?" Sam asked, scrambling to open the car door before Dean had even put her in park.

"No," he said gently. "He's still at the hospital."

"Oh… okay." He sank back into his seat, the breeze from the open door ruffling the hair around his face.

"He's doing better," Dean offered. "Semi awake and everything. Visiting starts in a couple of hours, we can go see him then."

"Really?" Sam's face whipped round to look at him so fast Dean thought it had to hurt, and the hope and gratitude in Sam's face was painful to see.

"Of course," Dean told him steadily. "Now let's get inside."

Dean sat on his bed and worried while Sam took an inordinate time in the bathroom. The Sam that came out was barefoot and towelling dry his hair, but was at least wearing his own clothes now and was recognisably Sam, just subdued.

The next couple of hours were awkward. Sam answered enough of Dean's questions to reassure him the hunt was over and they'd covered their tracks as best they could, but didn't volunteer more than the basic information.

He did stand in alarm when Dean got up and made to leave the room, blushing and folding into himself when he realised Dean was only heading to the bathroom. That, and the rumbling stomach the kid seemed determined to stoically ignore, convinced Dean to order pizza to be delivered straight to their door.

Sam picked at his first slice like he was trying to see how slow he could eat it, but he got it all down and seemed to gain momentum after that. The way he quietly murmured his thanks when Dean offered him the last slice instead of engaging in the usual battle for supremacy, made Dean want to do something permanent damage.

Sam actually had a wash and combed his hair before they set out to the hospital, which freaked Dean out even more – he hadn't been aware his brother even owned a comb. He trailed behind Dean like a clingy shadow as they entered the hospital and made their way up to their father's wing. A couple of doctors and a cute nurse said hello, which just caused Sam to scuttle even closer, and Dean would swear he didn't see the kid take a breath until they were safely in an elevator and out of sight.

Dean had been worried about how Sam would react seeing their father in the condition he was in, but he should have known better. For Dean, the pale skin and hollows around their father's eyes, the collection of monitors, was still a shock. He had to steel himself each time to enter.

Sam took one look at the still form on the bed and breathed out a sigh of relief.

"He looks better," Sam offered, shifting under Dean's scrutiny. "Better than the last time I saw him anyway, when the…" He took in a shaky breath and trailed off.

Sam moved to sit by his father's bed but Dean hovered for a moment by the hospital screen to give them some privacy. He didn't hear when Sam said, just took in the hitch in his chest, the way his trembling fingers hovered over his father's hand, unsure.

"You won't hurt him," Dean assured him, moving a chair to the other side of the bed so he could sit and watch over his father and brother at the same time. They were both a wreck, but they were all together now, in the same room at the same time, and for some reason it was always better that way.

As long as he could keep his family together the rest of it seemed less important.

Sam's fingers closed around his father's hand and Dean saw the older man's squeeze back. Sam caught his gaze and smiled.

Together, they could fix anything.

END