"This is such a damn bad plan, Dean," Bobby Singer warned for what he figured had to be the seventieth time in an hour. "You dealt with Saunders, Sam's coping as best as he can. Shouldn't you just leave it alone now?"

He'd known once the older boy had learned the truth what his next move would be once he was sure his little brother was as safe as he possibly be. He'd just been hoping that for once Dean would use what brain cells he had…not that he'd been shocked when that hope flew out the window.

"I can do it alone, Bobby. Just leave the spell and you can go back in the house with Ellen," Dean Winchester remarked calmly while loading rock salt rounds into his shotgun. "It might be better if you were with her in case Sammy woke up anyway."

"That featherbrained idjit you like to call an Angel is in the house and there ain't no way in hell that I'm lettin' you do this alone," Bobby growled, slapping an ancient leather bound book that was sitting on his lap.

Calling a spirit from beyond was always a risky move in the right circumstances. The middle of the Apocalypse with Angels, Demons and who knew what else prowling around was most definitely not the right circumstances.

Not that Dean Winchester was listening to that. No, he'd made up his mind and he was hellbent on calling up a spirit either with the help of his surrogate father or not.

Dean understood that Sam would always have issues with his past and that while he was certainly better off than he had been before they arrived at Bobby's, there was one final thing that Dean himself needed in order to put these past days to rest.

"You plannin' on telling your brother about this move?" Bobby asked while sitting the correct candles out and studied the spell. "This does concern him."

"Yeah, it does and no, I don't," was the clipped reply as Dean looked to be sure the other wards and signals would hold before he glanced down at the shotgun again. "Coping with the memories of that bastard is one thing for him but there's no way in hell will I make him face this sonuvabitch. That's what his always awesome big brother is for."

"Dean…" Bobby wanted to advise against this since he didn't want either boy hurt more but he had seen the cold rage in Dean's eyes before and knew that he'd do this with or without backup. "Alright, just promise me to give him a chance before reacting."

Turning on his best look of total innocence, Dean gazed at the older hunter. "Bobby, when have you not known me to the picture of total calm and patience?"

"Let's see…you were four," Bobby shot back with a snort, beginning to read the ancient spell in Latin while adding the correct ingredients to the small bowl before tossing the lit match inside and watching a puff of blue smoke ignite from it. "Now we wait."

"Last time he said that to me Cas about blew down a roof on our heads," Dean grumbled but did lean back against the edge of the old table in Bobby's barn.

He had chosen to do this spell away from the house for two reasons. The first being, he did not want his brother upset or involved. The second, he was not cleaning or fixing anymore damage to Bobby's place than he had already and he was pretty sure he was going to be causing some damage soon.

After waiting several minutes, he finally stood up with a near snarl. "C'mon! Show your damn face!" he shouted to the rafters, turning in a circle but soon felt the change in the area even before a slight breeze blew through and several candles got snuffed out. "You got more strength than that so quit with the damn parlor tricks and show your goddamn self."

"Dean, be careful," Bobby warned, looking around closely even while lifting his own weapon but he knew the boy was beyond advice know. "Damn fool Winchesters."

A harder breeze blew through and Dean felt the motion like something touching his arm but he jerked back, narrowing his eyes. "Stop screwin' around and show yourself!" he snapped, rolling his eyes. "I mean it, I know you're here so just stop playing and come out. Right now. Dad!"

The last shout had a command in it that Bobby had never heard come from this particular Winchester. He was considering advising caution again when a strong burst of air blew through the barn, nearly taking his ever present cap along with it when a voice came from the shadows that he'd long ago thought he'd never hear again.

"Son, I think I taught you about using a certain tone when calling up spirits."

Seeing Bobby's face pale a shade, Dean smirked. Turning slowly to face the dark corner where the voice had come from and where a silhouette could be seen, he nearly laughed at the irony of the stern lecturing tone given that it's owner had been dead for three years.

"Actually, this is as close to a respectful tone as you're likely to get from me," he shot out, the shotgun held loosely in his fist as he motioned with its barrel. "Get your ass outta the shadows, old man. We need to talk."

"Shit, the idjit's pushin' it tonight," Bobby groaned, feeling the air get thick but watched as the silhouette stepped from the shadows and he looked at John Winchester for the first time in nearly a decade.

Eyes narrowed, Dean took in his father appearance slowly as if looking for some telltale sign of this being a trick.

John still appeared as he had the last time Dean had seen his father in that cemetery after the Devil's Gate was opened and he'd escaped hell. Same clothes, same beard, same typical John Winchester look and while normally that was enough to make Dean hesitate or show the same quiet respect he had always shown his father, this time all he could see was a man who had betrayed his son one too many times.

"Dean," John's voice still carried the same gruff tone of command it always had and it was clear that he was not caring for the way his oldest was acting. "You know it's dangerous to cast spells like…"

"Shut. Up." Dean spat, teeth clenching and it was taking every ounce of control to keep the shotgun lowered. "You do not get to tell me what to do right now. Not you, not after what I'd learned these past days."

Narrowing his eyes at his son, John frowned as he stepped closer but stopped when Dean's body tensed. It was an action that he was familiar with but he had never considered that it would ever be used when addressing him. "I take it you want to talk about something?"

"Yeah, you could day that," Dean's face didn't show the hate he was feeling as he was too good at schooling his facial expressions for that. His voice on the other hand did show something. That and the way his finger was sliding the trigger of his weapon. "Yeah, Dad, I had Bobby summon you because we need to talk but first…first there's something else I need to do."

Both John and Bobby tensed at that since both men knew there was no telling what to expect from Dean when he was in this frame of mind. Neither man nor spirit was ready for when the shotgun lifted suddenly and a load of rock salt shot straight through his father's shocked spirit form.

"Goddamn it, Dean!" Bobby shouted, blinking at the sudden rash act. "I thought you were going to listen before acting!"

"I will, after I did that!" Dean snapped back, pumping the shotgun in preparation for another blast when he whirled. "Touch me and I use a hellava lot more than rock salt," he warned coldly, facing the furious face of his father when he reappeared.

Still seeming shocked by his son's actions, John glared but stepped back only slightly. "You used a damn spell to bring me back just to blast me with rock salt?" he demanded harshly, using the stern glare that never failed to back either of his boys down…until now.

"No, I had Bobby use a spell to bring you across so after I was done saying what I have to then I'd use a different damn spell to send you back in a hell of a lot more pain than you left with originally," Dean replied tightly. Not backing down or feeling the slightest bit intimidated by the glare this time and shooting his trademark cocky grin as he added. "The rock salt was icing."

Not caring for his son's behavior, John frowned deeply but kept his eyes locked on the cold set of green ones that were glaring back. "Alright, Dean. Clearly something's bothering you so why not just tell me what's wrong. Tell me why you're doing this and where your brother is…Dean!"

Only a sharp word from Bobby kept Dean from firing again and he struggled to rein in the fury. "You do not say his name," he gritted, walking away just to get space to think. "After all the crap you laid on him, you do not ever say Sammy's name."

"You want to tell me what the hell's wrong with my son, Singer?" John shot Bobby a sour look as if expecting him to have the answers. "I'm starting to think you may need to toss a little holy water on him."

Grabbing a tight hold of Dean's belt to keep him from going after the spirit they'd worked all night to summon, Bobby shot his former friend a dark look. "This is between you and Dean, John, but you damn well better listen to him and keep your mouth shut before he does let loose on you with something worse than that barrel of rock salt he has," he warned, letting go of the younger Winchester but not before he gripped his arm. "Keep your damn head ya idjit."

Taking a deep breath to level his emotions, Dean slowly lowered the shotgun and faced the spirit of his more than slightly pissed off father and smirked. "Y'know, after you died I dreamed of having a chance to talk to you again but not like this," he admitted, leaning against the table casually but the tick in his face told how his emotions were twisting. "We…need to talk Dad."

"I sort of figured that when you shot me," John snorted, watching his son more warily now and seeing the signs of anger. "Dean, I understand you're still angry with some of the decisions I made but everything I did, the choices I made were for reasons I thought were correct," he began seriously, seeing his son lift his eyebrows in the way that had always irritated him. "Yes, I might've laid too much on you in regards to…" he stopped as soon as Dean's lip twisted up. "I'm sorry that I put all the responsibility on you to look after your brother. I should have…I should have done it when I realized what was happening."

"Oh crap," Bobby groaned, reading between those lines and hoping Dean didn't but saw the stance change ever so slightly. "John, I said keep your mouth shut not piss that boy off more than he is."

"You should have done it," Dean repeated softly, squeezing the bridge of his nose as if in pain as he registered those words. "That translates into you regret not killing Sam yourself when you learned the truth of Yellow Eye's plans for him?" he asked, the warning clear in his voice. "You knew all about it didn't you? The plans, the blood, all of the crap that Sammy had dumped on him…you knew about it all along, didn't you?"

John walked around the barn, memories still vivid of his visits here. "I found out about the demon two years after he left for Stanford but it wasn't until I got the final lead on the demon that I learned about his plans," he admitted, hearing the sharp breath and turning to gaze at his eldest. "Dean, I thought that killing the demon would stop his plans and…"

"And failing that, you thought I'd just pop a cap in my little brother one day," Dean rolled his eyes, laying the shotgun on the table finally in order to straighten fully. "You told me to kill the boy that I had damn well raised and you think that was alright?" he demanded. "Did you even care how screwed up that was or what it would do to me?"

"It was all I had left, son," the older man replied, stepping closer but a simple glare stopped him. "Dean, if I could've handled all of this then I would have but I had to save your life and you were my only other option to take care of the situation if he got out of control."

Slamming a fist down, Dean couldn't believe this and he had yet to broach the real reason he'd brought his father to the barn. "The 'situation' was your son and you honestly thought that killing him was the right thing? God, I told him you were a selfish cold-hearted bastard but you are so much more."

Jerking his head around, he glared at his son. "You watch your mouth, son. I may be dead but I'm still your father and I knew what was best for both of you."

"Oh, right. Just like you knew what you did was right the summer Sam was sixteen," Dean nodded, a dry smile forming as he crossed his arms. "You were right when you made me break a promise to my little brother, you were right when you shipped me off to hunt with Caleb so you could torture Sammy in training because I wasn't there to soften it for him. You were so right when you hit him the day he told you that your new best bud had tried to molest him in Bobby's house. And you were even more right when you let Sam vanish for two damn days and believed some perverted pedophile over your own sixteen year old son!" he snapped, not bothering to keep the hate and anger from his face any longer when he got to within an inch of his father's startled face. "You called him a liar when he got back and didn't believe him. You didn't even try to look for him, did you, Dad?"

John stared at Dean, a look of both surprise and regret forming as he struggled for words against the accusations that were being thrown at him. "Dean, listen to me…"

" 'Watch your brother, Dean. Look out for Sammy, Dean. Nothing is more important than watching out for Sammy, Dean,'" he mocked, throwing a disgusted look at his father. "Ever since I was four goddamn years old I heard that and I did every thing you ever asked me to do but the one time in his life that Sam needed his father you screw him over. You broke him in ways that Saunders couldn't even do because all that bastard did was molest and assault your son. You showed him that you didn't give a rat's ass about anyone but yourself and your own needs and wants!"

Being hit by a spirit was nothing new to Dean but he had to admit that being backhanded by his dead father was something for the journal. Holding up a hand to stop Bobby who had moved slightly, he just touched his jaw lightly. "You can hit and strike out all you want but to won't change a damn thing, Dad. You sent me away from Sam, you lied to him about me calling him…you told him that I went with Caleb to get away from him!" he yelled, that still sticking in his gut. "Why? Why did you do it?"

"Dean, it isn't the way that Sam made it out…damn!" John hissed when his son's fist actually landed a solid right cross on his spirit form. "How the hell…"

"A pal gave me something to make it possible to hit a spirit," Dean showed the temporary tattoos that Castiel helped him put on. "Sam was your son! You should have protected him, listened to him! Not take the word of some bastard who drugged and kidnapped him from Bobby's yard and kept him tied and drugged for two freakin' days so he could…" he stopped, images flashing again and he had to push them back or see his little brother clinging to him earlier.

Locking cold eyes with John, Dean shook his head. "Tell me why you separated us. Tell me why you let that sonuvabitch touch my baby brother and why you didn't do anything about it? Tell me, Dad!"

Glancing at Bobby only to see the barrel of a shotgun aimed his way, John finally sighed and scrubbed his face. "Sam was sixteen years old and not taking hunting seriously. His attitude was getting out of hand and had been since Flagstaff," he began grimly, not wanting this discussion and surprised that Dean was bringing it up. "You were always going too easy on him in training. Not going full out with him in hand to hand or pushing him in weapons. When he said he was tired, you backed off and Dean, I couldn't let that go on so I needed him to train with someone who wouldn't back down. Someone who would push him past the barriers he put up and make him see that what we did wasn't a game."

"He didn't want to hunt so no he didn't take it as gospel like I did!" Dean snapped, stalking away only to whirl back. "You wanna know why I held back as you say? Because I was four years older than he was. A full on blow from me would have broken a bone and I wouldn't hurt my brother like that. Y'see, I was the one who held Sam when he was fifteen and you broke his goddamn arm while 'training'. Bobby, don't shoot him until I'm done."

Dean had heard the sound and knew the grizzled hunter was now fuming but had to focus on his father. "I refused to do that. I refused to see the exhaustion in him when he was pushed too far for too long, so yeah. I coddled him, sue me but I actually loved the kid I raised. You think Mom would be impressed with how you handled Sammy?"

He knew the blow was coming but didn't give a crap. He'd had worse at his father's hands and was too angry to feel anything but saw John hesitate even though the mention of Mary brought fury to his face.

"You touch that boy again, John Winchester, and I swear to God that this time I'll empty both barrels into your hide and cast an exorcism that'll literally spin your damn head," Bobby growled from where he was sitting, shotgun aimed perfectly to strike John without touching Dean. "I told you what Saunders was up to and you wouldn't listen. Just like you wouldn't listen to Sam when he practically fell in my door that day, all beat to hell and back."

"Hey, how come this was left out either your version or Sammy's?" Dean demanded, scowling but remembering to focus. "Never mind, I'll adjust but I still want to know why you…why didn't you listen to him, Dad? If it had been me, would you have?"

John's eyes dropped before lifting again, the answer plain and he saw his son's jaw clench. "Dean, Jonas was a good man who I believed could do for your brother what neither of us could and yeah, Sam told me something but your brother had been lying a lot to me that summer to get outta doing things so…"

Glass broke as a candle was hurled through John's spirit form. "Did you even look at him?" he growled, recalling the bruises he briefly saw on his little brother before Sam pulled away. "Did you let Bobby take him to a doctor for the welts and other wounds? No, because you knew that any hospital would have had CPS on your ass faster than a wendigo could move just like you didn't want me back that soon. You knew damn well that I was close to tellin' you where to go and taking Sam away. Pastor Jim had already said we could come to him."

"I was your father, Dean, Sam was my son and it was my choice on how he was trained or raised," John broke in, shaking his head. "Jonas never gave me any reason to believe that the marks he inflicted were anything out of the ordinary for tough discipline."

"Right and his nightmares for months after that, or his aversion to cameras or how he shied away from even a casual touch for months were all perfectly ordinary too," Dean sneered, staring hard but this time with disappointment. "I know pretty much when your opinion of me changed but when the hell did Sam just become a token item in your arsenal? You nearly beat me half to death for letting him run away to Flagstaff but then you practically sell him to your buddy and for what? What did Saunders offer you, Dad that made it okay to hurt your own kid?" he demanded.

"It wasn't like that, Dean!" John finally snapped, not liking what his son was saying and trying to forget those vivid days of that summer. "I had to make Sam stronger. He had to be strong enough to fight what was coming and…"

Dean's temper cracked, stepping into his father's face. "He was sixteen! He'd just gotten over pneumonia after you made him train all night in the woods in a freakin' rainstorm! He just wanted to be normal for one goddamn summer! He just wanted to spend time with…crap," he stared hard when he caught the flash of expression. "Tell me that you didn't let all that happen to Sam because he wanted to spend the summer with me because that would be such a bad thing to say to me right now."

"You were weak with Sam around you, Dean," John replied grimly. "You spent more time looking after him than you did yourself. I needed you to hunt with Caleb to rebuild that strength while I tried to make Sam stronger so that he didn't rely on you so much but…I didn't know how far Jonas would go with him."

"Say what?" Dean blinked, sure he heard wrong. "You didn't know how far he'd go? Does that mean that you had a freakin' clue as to what that pervert did to Sam and you didn't kill him?" his hand was drifting toward the shotgun again. "You knew that he molested my brother and didn't think to tell me?"

"Dean, you'd have killed before I could explain why Jonas did what he did," John sighed, blinking out of sight just as a load of rock salt shot his way. "Dean, stop and let me explain…"

Slamming new rounds into the weapon, Dean pumped it with a sharp jerk before aiming it. "I don't want to hear it anymore, Dad. I grew up idolizing you even though nothing I did was good enough for you. I raised Sam for you. I made sure he was safe growing up in all those motels you dumped us in. I made excuses for when you didn't come back for weeks on end. I made sure he had food to eat no matter where I had to steal it from and I buffered the two of you from the day he turned twelve and disobeyed outright the first time!"

Furious beyond reason now, Dean was surprised that his voice was low. "I threw away any chance at being normal because of all that crap you drilled into my head and for what? So you could take the cowards way out and leave your sons behind to handle all the crap that you couldn't? You knew about Sam, the demon blood, Yellow Eyes before you dropped outta sight. Did you know the rest?"

"The rest of what, Dean?" John was cautious now. He knew when his son's voice dropped to this low calm tone that he was at his most dangerous and he usually had only heard it when Dean was in protective big brother mode.

"About the seals, that when you got out of hell that it pretty much sealed my fate down in the Pit, about your sons being vessels for Michael and Lucifer and the whole Apocalypse? Did you know about any of that?" he asked, knowing the answer before he saw his father's face shift to the grim hard stone visage he used when he was about to lie. "You did."

Reaching a hand out to comfort, he snapped it back when the rock salt went by his head. "Dean, I thought I'd prepared you to handle what came. When I saved you after the accident, I didn't count on you making that damn deal when Sam was killed in Cold Oak. I thought you'd live, handle it if you saw Sam going dark and none of that would have to happen," John tried to explain. "When I got out of hell that night and helped you kill that demon, it was so hard to look at you and know that you'd given your life for…"

"For my little brother," Dean cut him off firmly, eyes burning from the tears he refused to let fall as his heart hurt. "I sold my soul for a kid who had trailed after me every step I took from the day he learned to walk to me. I gave my life because I refused to let Sammy die and God help us both, if I could save him from the pain he's in now or the threat Lucifer is to him then I'd die again if only to make my baby brother safe, happy, and normal."

"Dean, stop," John swallowed, seeing the pain his eldest was in. "You have to stop sacrificing and do what you need to," he urged, seeing Bobby frown as he took a deep breath. "I knew what you'd have to do as Michael's vessel, son and you need to let go of…"

The shotgun blasted right through where John's heart had been when it still beat. "Don't you dare tell me that, you selfish sonuvabitch!" Dean snarled, green eyes slitting in rage. "We were your sons! Sam and I loved you even though you treated us both like crap! You were supposed to protect us, not train us to eventually kill one another!" waiting until he saw his father's form reappear, he aimed again. "If you were going to pull this crap then you should've raised your own damn kid because letting me take care of Sammy just assured that I'd kill for him and if that means facing the damn devil down then I will!"

"Dean, listen to me…" John tried to get his son to listen but stopped when the shotgun rose again. "I know you're angry with me and I don't expect you to understand my reasons but I did have…"

"I blamed myself all those years after Sammy left when you started hunting solo and leaving me on my own. I reasoned that I still wasn't good enough for you and I believed that! I believed that I wasn't as strong as you in hell when Alastair broke me in thirty and that it was because I wasn't good enough for you that you left us," Dean felt sick that he had lived his life looking up to this. "It wasn't my fault or Sammy's. It was you. So long as Sam was around, you needed me to control him. After he left for college you could get back to hunting. You didn't give a damn what I did. You didn't break in Hell because you just didn't care enough to have feelings that he could use. Hell, you probably would have broken Alastair if the gate hadn't opened. Do you even care about us? About Sammy?"

John slowly turned as if to walk away but stopped. "You're my sons, Dean. You're my blood and you're Mary's sons so I will always love you but…" he hesitated before turning back with a look that Dean had grown up recognizing. Single minded determination. "Son, there were things that I knew would happen and even though I tried my hardest to protect you and your brother, I knew the only thing that could save you would be to make you strong enough to be your own men. Only then could you survive. You have that strength but Sam…"

"Sam's been used and abused by people he's trusted too much and that's why he was able to be used by Ruby and by you," Dean replied, the shotgun held firm. "If you would've eased up a little on him then maybe he would have given you more trust but what ruined Sam, Dad was when you chose to believe that lying sack of perversion over him. So now, let me tell you what I've been wanting to from the moment I found out about this fun little excursion."

He took a deep breath, glanced to Bobby before letting his gaze settle on his father. "I tried to keep believing in you. I protected Sammy, I let you ruin our lives by moving from one place to another and worst of all, I let you make me turn my innocent little brother into something that he never wanted to be. The sad part is, it was all for nothing," Dean shook his head, not aware of the single tear that fell. "You only cared so long as we were useful. I once thought Yellow Eyes was right and Sam was your favorite with the way you wanted him protected but the truth is, you don't give a crap about either of us and you haven't since Mom died."

Bobby wasn't sure where this was leading but he knew John well enough to know he was getting angry. Wondering if a shout for an Angel might be in order if things went bad between father and son.

"Sam once said that Mom wouldn't have wanted this life for us and I shook it off but he was right. She wouldn't have and she sure as hell wouldn't be thrilled to know that you've pretty much written your youngest off as canon fodder before he was even old enough to defend himself! Even now, even dead, you can't look me in the damn face and say that you love us, that it would matter to you if neither of us made it out of this mess alive!" he yelled, swallowing the rage. "Was Sam supposed to survive that summer, Dad? Was he supposed to live or was Saunders supposed to kill him?" when no answer came, his fury exploded and he grabbed his father's shirt. "Damn you, answer me! Was Sam supposed to live?"

"No!" John snapped, shoving his eldest away more violently than he intended. "Dean!"

Not fully braced for the shove, Dean fell back to strike his head on the edge of the old table and laid still, stunned.

"Damn it, John!" Bobby snapped, thrusting up his shotgun to halt the man's movement toward his prone son when a sudden flash of light flooded the barn. "Aw, crap. Now what?" he groaned, hoping this wasn't a heavenly horde deciding to pay them a visit.

John had shielded his eyes on old habits until the light dimmed to allow the willowy silhouette to be shown and then he wished he hadn't looked as pain started to grow in the heart that his son said was cold. "Mary."

"Step back and stay away, John because if you touch my son, either of my sons, again I will make you sorrier than you have been in years," Mary Winchester appeared as she had the last night of her life, dressed in the same white nightgown. The soft gentle look that she had once given her two sons appeared as cold firm hunter's eyes when she gazed at her husband.

Dean stirred, groaning about lake monsters and pain in the ass little brothers when he finally looked up and froze. "Mom? Shit, Sammy hits me and nothing. I hit a table and it's concussion city."

Mary knelt down next to him, carding long gentle fingers through his short hair with the same loving smile that he still recalled as a child. "I'm not sure where you got your sarcasm from but keep it. It'll help keep you from going too serious," she smiled, cupping his face. "I know you and Sam haven't had the easiest of times lately, Dean and I wish that I could take back what I allowed to happen but then you wouldn't be here and neither would your brother. Just remember what you told me the day you first saw Sammy and it will all be fine."

Brushing a kiss over her eldest son's forehead, Mary then stood to come between Dean and John, her hand flat out against his chest. "And you, I can almost forgive your vengeance trip to find what killed me, John but I can not and I will not forgive what you did to our sons. Not just the emotional crap you put them through but you actually thought I'd let you put your hands on my boys and not be angry?" she shook her head, eyes cool. "You let our baby be hurt, you told Dean to kill the only person he has honestly ever loved and this you thought would be fine with me?"

"Mary, I was just trying to…" John looked down at his son before his wife. "I had to prepare them, Mary. Once I knew about the demon blood inside Sammy…god so much of me wanted to…"

A sharp blow to his chest took him back several steps. "If you ever try to harm one of them again, I can still show you some of what my Dad taught me, John," she warned, looking as Dean struggled to his feet. "Stay strong and don't let anyone come between you and your brother, Dean. No matter what it may sometimes look like, he still needs you. I love you both."

Mary smiled before the light built again but before she vanished, her hand grabbed her husband's arm and when the light vanished only Dean and Bobby remained in the barn.

"We love you, Mom," Dean whispered, reaching up to feel the lump on his head and taking a shaky breath. "You know that Sam can never learn about this, right?"

Bobby had stayed silent while the boy adjusted to what he had seen and learned tonight. Now he rolled closer, took the shotgun from Dean's shaky hands and nudged him forward. "Hey, I played cards with Ellen all night so how do I know what you did?"

"Thanks, Bobby," Dean looked to the house and frowned. "Damn it, he's awake."

Not even bothering to ask how he knew that, Bobby allowed Dean to push him back to the house where Castiel was waiting on the porch and Ellen was heard inside trying to be reasonable with an unreasonable still in shock young Winchester.

"Sweetie, you've been through a hell of a lot in the past few days and I don't care if that fever did break, you are not going outside in the night air to catch a chill and wind your butt back in that bed," she was saying, planting herself firmly in front of a clearly worried, very agitated Sam Winchester.

It would have been a comical sight considering that Ellen was half of Sam's size and weight but seeing how easy it was for her to hold his little brother still made Dean concerned.

"Sammy," he only had to speak that one word to have his brother's attention drawn from Ellen to himself in a heartbeat and then he, much to his surprise, had his arms full of a shaking Sam who held on tight to Dean. "Whoa, what's this about? I was just outside with Bobby."

Sam's arms had wrapped around his brother tightly, his breath coming in ragged gasps. "I saw Mom, Dean," he mumbled, fists gathering bunches of Dean's jean jacket. "I woke up and she was standing by the bed, just watching me. Then she looked confused, then angry and told me to come find you. That you were alright but that you needed me and…" he stopped when he caught site of the bruise forming on his brother's head and the thin line of blood. "Dean, what happened?"

"Nothing, Sammy," Dean eased back, keeping a hand on his brother as he headed him back to the stairs while Ellen stepped back. "I'm…fine."

Stopping at the steps, Sam just plopped down on a step to look at Dean and read the pain he was covering. Pain that was usually only caused by one person and he thought of his mother's words and the soft oath she had muttered before disappearing. "Dean, what did you do?" he asked softly. "You summoned Dad, didn't you? That's why he was cut outta the photo in your wallet. Why, what happened?"

Too many questions spoken all at once, the thin sheen of sweat on Sam's face told Dean that the fever had broke and it had left his brother tired, worried, and scared all at once.

Knowing that even though he had vowed never to hide things from Sam again, Dean was firm that his baby brother would never learn what their father had said this night. Better for Sam to keep what little good memories of John that he had and allow Dean to help him cope with the more bitter ones.

Of course, that didn't mean he's outright lie either. Sitting down next to him on the step, Dean pulled his leather jacket tighter around Sam once he noticed that his brother was carrying it like a security blanket. Pushing damp hair back so he could see Sam's eyes, he was relieved to see that while they were tired, they were also clear.

"I buried our past, little brother," he finally responded, seeing those eyes wrinkle in confusion. "It's just you and me, Sammy. It doesn't matter what the Angels or the Devil says, we will fight 'em all and we'll win or lose but we will do it together. The Winchester boys together like it always has been and if anyone screws with you…"

"You'll feed 'em their lungs," Sam quoted, remembering another time his big brother had spoken those words and smiled weakly. "Hey, Dean?"

Slipping an arm around his brother, Dean eased Sam to his feet and suddenly remembered how hard it could be to move Sam around when he was sick. "Yeah, Sammy?" he heard the unspoken question in the other voice but was concentrating on just getting up the steps without having to ask Cas for help since he doubted if Sam would be willing to let himself be touched by anyone but his brother yet.

"After we're better, Ellen suggested a case we could have," Sam yawned, but struggled to keep his eyes open to watch his brother.

"That's cool, little brother," Dean acknowledged without much thought then smirked. "The last case she openly gave us had killer clowns, Sam."

Another yawn and he grabbed Dean's arm to stay upright even as he was being lowered back to his bed. "Nah, last case she tossed us was the serial killer with Jo," he corrected, blinking as he felt Dean sit next to him on the bed. "This is a nice little place in Michigan."

"Yeah?" something about the tone told Dean that he was being setup but allowed it to happen just so he could see his brother happy again. Leaning up against the headboard of Sam's bed, he waited while his little brother snuggled into a prone position next to him. "What's the critter we'd be hunting?"

A small almost giggle was heard from Sam as he lifted his head enough to meet wry eyes. "Locals say it's a lake monster in a real lake this time, De'n," he grinned. "I told her that you love to check out lake monsters and…hey!"

Dean's hand splayed over his brother's face to push it back down before curling his fingers through shaggy hair that was just soft enough to remind Dean of when his brother had been a baby. "Shut up and go to sleep…bitch," he growled, though the laugh in his voice took any sting from the words.

"You first…jerk," Sam returned sleepily, falling asleep next to his brother and felt at ease for the first time in three years.

Waiting to be sure Sam was asleep fully and resting easily, Dean finally smiled. Letting his hand move from his brother's hair down to his back where he began moving it in a familiar soothing motion and he began to fall to sleep as well. He'd let Bobby and Ellen clean the bump on his head in the morning. Right then, all Dean wanted was to sleep and as he looked down to see that Sam had moved closer like he would as a child, he relaxed fully.

He knew that he and Sam still had issues to resolve but he was determined that he'd keep at least one promise and that was the one he made the first day he'd laid eyes on his little brother. "Don't worry, Sammy. Big brother will always be there to protect you," he whispered, closing his eyes and going to sleep.

Neither Winchester brother was awake or aware when a blanket was gently laid over them. Nor did they feel the soft touch of a mother's hand brush over faces that she vowed to protect. "Sleep, my baby boys," Mary whispered, adding over her shoulder. "Protect my sons, Castiel. You owe them that much."

"I owe them that and more, Mary," Castiel murmered from the door where he had chosen to stand watch over his new friends but wondered if he should inform Bobby about that little problem with his kitchen before the older man found…

"What the hell did that featherbrained idjit do the trash compactor?" Bobby yelled from downstairs, growling about stupid idjit boys and angels being the death of him even before the Apocalypse.

The End

A/N: Well, that's it for this one, folks. Thanks to everyone who has read it, chose it as a favorite, and reviewed. Your words mean so much and I'll catch up on the replies soon, promise.