Last chapter. And you know what? Chuck was right. Endings are freaking HELL! Hope I didn't screw the pooch on this one. Let me know what you think!

The door to her office opened and Patsy Baxter looked up from her computer. A young man, short sandy hair, leather jacket and long jean-clad legs, stood in front of her desk. She didn't remember seeing him before; he looked about twenty, so not one of the students.

He was also one of the best-looking men she'd seen in ages, so she was disappointed to see that the intense green eyes staring at her were anything but friendly.

"Good afternoon," Patsy asked politely. "Can I help you?"

"I'm Sam Cade's brother. I need to see Brennan."

Uh oh. "Principal Brennan is very busy this afternoon. Is there something I can do for you?"

"Yeah, there is." Eyes hard, Dean leaned on her desk and stuck his face close in to hers. "You can get your butt in there and tell that prick I want to see him."

Eyes wide, Patsy stared at him. "Um . . ."

"Or, I can just walk in," Dean added. "What's is going to be?"

"It's all right, Patsy." Principal Franklin Brennan stood in the doorway of his inner office. "I can see Mr. Cade."

Dean left Patsy staring open-mouthed after him and walked into Brennan's office, refusing the man's offer of a chair. "We're pulling Sam out of here. I want his records. Now."

Brennan started to protest, then reconsidered. "That might be best," he said reluctantly. "Although it's customary for a parent to come in and sign the paperwork."

"My dad's out of town," Dean snapped. "He sent me." His eyes dared the man to cross him.

Acquiescing, Brennan nodded. He keyed the intercom on his desk. "Patsy, could you please bring me Samuel Cade's records?"

There was a slight pause. "Right away, Mr. Brennan."

While they waited, Brennan sat in silence. Dean paced back and forth in front of his desk, scowling, fists clenched. He was having a really hard time not knocking the man through the wall. Only knowing that if he did, jail would be his next stop and Sam would be alone, stopped him.

"It's unfortunate that something like this had to happen," Brennan said at length. "Sam is an excellent student. He's been a great help in tutoring his fellow classmates."

Dean's eyes narrowed. Was he kidding? Was the guy really this clueless?

"You mean like Travens?" Dean said. "Hey, you know what? Screw unfortunate, and screw you, too. Sam almost died and a lot of that is on you."

"Mr. Cade -" Brennan protested, shocked.

"Sam's not the first kid this has happened to," Dean said angrily. "And I hear the other kid's family left town, too. Jesus, Brennan, who runs this school? You or those thugs you call a football team?"

Brennan's narrow face was rigid with insult. "You're exaggerating. A fight between boys -"

"This wasn't a fight and you damned well know it!" Dean hissed, aching to smash the man, hurt him the way Sam had been hurt. "Eight against one is not a fight. It's assault, and damned near ended up murder!"

The door behind him opened and Patsy came in, file in hand. By the look on her face, she'd clearly overheard him.

Dean took the folder from her, turned back to Brennan.

"If Sam had died," Dean spat, "I'd've killed every one of the little bastards. Then I'd have killed you. Then I'd have burned down your fucking school!"

Grabbing the file from the horrified woman, he turned to leave, firing a final salvo over his shoulder.

"Get your head out of your ass, Brennan, before somebody ends up dead!"

Dean listened to his father, cell held loosely in his hand, as he sprawled on the couch. "No, Dad, I didn't touch him, wanted to - man, what an asshole! …. I know ….. Yeah, I got 'em. No problem. Guy's a dick but he didn't give me any trouble."

"We'll be ready to go when you get here …. Sam's fine. Pretty ticked off …. Yeah, I told him what the Doc said. Four more weeks recovery time. He gets it, he just doesn't want to leave here without settling with Travens."

"Well, you can't blame him. Hell, I'd like to rip the guy a new one myself …. I know …. Don't worry, Dad. I'll keep an eye on him."

The doorbell rang. "Listen, Dad, gotta go. Doorbell. We'll see you later tonight. Bye."

He checked through the peephole before opening the door and so, when he opened it, his smile was warm and welcoming. "Alice!"

Her answering smile was a bit shy and uncertain. "Hi."

Dean pulled her into the house and gave her a rib-cracking hug. "Thank you," he said fervently. "I know I said it before, but thank you."

The diminutive blonde squeaked a little and he released her, laughing.

"You're welcome," she replied, laughing back, relaxing. "I just stopped by to see how Sam is." She blushed.

Dean looked at her alertly, hid a smile. Oh, yeah? Sammy, you dog!

"Oh, he's a lot better," he answered, glancing toward the bedroom, where he knew his brother was packing. "He'll be glad to see you. Hang on a minute, I'll go get him."

Alice watched him as he left the room.

She liked him. Had since he'd first come to her, a couple of days after the attack, to thank her for helping Sam. She could see how much he loved Sam, knew how much it had hurt him to see his brother's pain.

The bond between the two brothers reminded her of what she and Alex had had together before they'd reached high school and he'd started hanging out with Travens' crowd. Tears stung her eyes and she forced them back. She'd get him back, Alice promised herself. Maybe it wouldn't, couldn't, be the same as before. But she'd get her brother back.

Sam came out of his bedroom, smiling. "Hey, Alice."

"Sam!" She got up from the couch, kissed him on the cheek. He blushed and then kissed her back lightly. He looked much stronger than when she'd last seen him. His color was good and, though she could tell that he was still weak, it was obvious that he was well on the road to recovery.

The three of them sat in the living room, AC/DC playing at an almost civilized volume, and talked for a few minutes about inconsequentials - the coming holidays, a movie they'd all seen, a series of books that both Sam and she were reading. At last, small talk exhausted, Alice sat staring down at the floor, chewing her lip.

"Is something wrong?"

She looked up at Sam and drew in a deep breath. "I wanted to tell you what's been happening, because I knew no one else would think to."

"But first, I have to tell you - Sam, my brother, Alex, was one of the boys from that night." Alice finished in a rush, glad to finally get it out, but afraid to look at him.

Dean stiffened, checking Sam's reaction; relaxed when his brother showed no signs of distress, just nodded.

"I knew that, Alice," said Sam, hazel eyes sober.

"There's no excuse for what he did." There was a shine of tears in her eyes, two spots of color high up on her fair cheekbones. "I'm just so sorry, Sam!"

Sam leaned forward, took her hands in his. "You're not responsible for him, Alice," he said. "You're my friend. That hasn't changed."

She smiled at him gratefully, looked down at their clasped hands for a moment. When she looked up, the tears were gone, but her eyes were a lot older than when Sam had first met her.

"Alex finally told our Mom and Dad what happened. They went to some of the other parents, and then to the police. Then they went to the school board and there was a special session. Principal Brennan got in big trouble. The coach, too."

Dean grinned. "Awesome!"

"We found out that the Chief of Police knew what had happened." Her voice was full of shocked indignation. "He knew! The deputy that investigated your case, the Chief wouldn't let him arrest Randy or Alex or the other boys, but when he found out that it was going to come out anyway, the Chief went to the Mayor and spoke with him. The Chief got into big trouble."

Alice lowered her voice as if she could get into trouble if anyone heard her. "They're talking about having an investigation!"

"I repeat, awesome!" Dean reached out, patted Sam on the shoulder. "Good news, huh?"

Sam flicked a quick glance at his brother, gave a little shrug, then focused back on Alice. "What else?"

"My mom and dad pulled Alex off the team. Some of the other parents did, too. There aren't enough players left to finish out the season so they'll have to forfeit the rest of the games."

"What about Randy?"

She shook her head soberly. "His parents didn't come to the meeting, but it didn't matter. The boys told the board who started it. Everyone knows, the whole school. Randy's been suspended."

Sam did smile now. "Couldn't happen to a nicer guy."

Alice giggled. Then, sobering, "I hear you're leaving?"

"Our dad's coming in sometime tonight," Dean answered. "We'll be gone by morning."

"I'm sorry to hear that." Alice looked sadly at Sam. He cast his eyes sideways at Dean.

Taking the hint, Dean stood. "Thanks again, Alice. You take care." On his way out, he ruffled his brother's shaggy hair playfully.

With a clearly exaggerated long-suffering look, Sam sighed. "Dean."

Cackling, Dean left the two teens alone for a more private good-bye.

It was late evening. Everything packed and ready to go, just waiting for their father's arrival. Dean stopped by his brother's room. "You ready to go, Sammy?"

Lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, Sam nodded.

Dean frowned. "Sam, are you still upset about -"

"Dean - I don't want to talk about this!" There was a rough edge to his voice.

"Sam, I'm sorry, but -"

"Listen, I get it. Four more weeks. I get it." With an impatient growl, he rolled over onto his stomach, winced and rolled back over. "Randy gets a walk. I freaking get it!"

"We can come back in a few weeks -" Dean trailed off.

Sam laughed bitterly. "Come on, man. That's not gonna happen. Once we're out of here, Dad'll never agree to come back. He'd never let anything as unimportant as me kicking Randy Travens' ass come between him and a hunt."

Dean would have liked to protest, but there was no point. Dad had been furious at first about what had happened to Sam, but he was pretty much over it. Once they left here, it would be out of sight, out of mind. And since Sam wouldn't let Dean deal with it . . .

Sam sighed. "I'm going to try and get some sleep before Dad gets here. Can you hit the light for me?"

"Okay, Sam." Dean answered quietly. He flipped off the light, hesitated a moment, and then closed the door.

Sam lay still for a couple of minutes, listening to his brother walk back to the living room; waited until he heard the television come on. Then, easing quietly out of bed, he pulled out his cell phone and re-read the last text message he'd received.


Randy was waiting for him near one of the goal posts, body tense, fists clenched.

Sam stopped a few feet away from him. "Travens."

"Cade." Randy stared at him, eyes hot. "Hear you're leaving town."

"Yep." Sam grinned mockingly. "Hear the football team's shot to hell and you're suspended."

Randy flushed and his eyes glittered. "Thanks to you."

Sam's laugh was bitter. "Yeah, right. Sorry my whole spleen thing screwed you guys up."

"Our team has been at the top of our league for the last three years. Coach said there was a scout coming to check out next week's game!" Randy seethed. "He's not coming now. Thanks to you!"

"So, what, you think I screwed up your chance to play pro ball?" Sam bared his teeth in a tight grin. "Oops!"

Randy stalked toward him. Sam circled, keeping some distance between them.

"You scared, Cade?" Randy sneered.

"Why, were you planning to have the rest of the team hold me down again so you can try to kick me to death?"

Randy flushed angrily.

"No?" Sam shrugged derisively. "Not too scared, then, coward."

With a roar, the bigger boy charged. Sam slipped swiftly to the side, kicking him on the back of his knee as he passed and Randy fell heavily to the ground.

Sam backed off a little, waited until Randy climbed heavily to his feet, looking a little more wary. Neither boy spoke. They circled for a moment, then Randy rushed him again, faster this time. Sam slipped to the opposite side, this time striking a hard blow into his adversary's kidneys and then another kick to the back of the same knee.

Randy cried out in pain and fell to his knees. "Son of a bitch!"

Sam stayed well back from him, panting. A fine sheen of sweat stood out on his forehead, though the night was chilly. His abdomen throbbed from the sudden swift movements. Gotta end this quick. I can't last, and if he gets hold of me, I'm dead.

Randy started up again. Before he was halfway up, Sam came in close and swung, fist connecting solidly to Randy's chin, sending him crashing back onto the grass.

The force of the blow sent a shock wave through Sam's abdomen and he clutched both arms around himself, gasping with pain. Warmth trickled down his belly into his pants and he looked down to see blood soaking through his t-shirt.

Randy, face wild with pain and anger, lunged up again, cursing when his knee refused to support him. Holding one arm against his stomach, Sam staggered over to him. Randy glared up at him. "Motherf-"

Gritting his teeth, Sam put everything he had left into his next swing. It connected squarely with Randy's chin. There was an audible snap and the boy flew backward and slammed into the ground again. This time he lay still.

The force of his blow spun Sam around and he went to his knees, crying out in pain. Vision blurred, choking, he still managed to keep his eyes on the motionless body of his opponent.

The pain in his stomach eased up after a few long and tortuous minutes and Sam managed to pull himself to his feet. He stood over Randy for a minute, watching the boy breathe; then rolled him over onto his side, in case he had to puke, making sure the s.o.b. didn't choke himself.

Certain now that he wasn't a murderer, even by default, Sam started the walk home. He didn't feel like he was hurt too badly, maybe a few pulled stitches, but he wasn't sure he could get back up if he fell, so he took small, careful steps and watched his footing.

Better get home. Dad's going to want to kick my ass. For some stupid reason that sounded as funny as hell and he couldn't stop laughing, holding on to his stomach and groaning in between giggles.

At one point during the interminably long trip home, he found himself holding his cell phone, Dean's number ready to dial. Shaking his head, he forced himself to close it.

No. He would not be rescued. Not again. He'd come out on his own. He'd get back on his own.

Almost there, anyway. Almost there.

There. The house, and the Impala parked in the driveway. His dad's truck wasn't there yet. He could see the light of the television through the curtains of the living room, knew Dean was up, waiting for their father.

Sam sighed wearily. There was no way he was climbing back through his window. Caught or not, that was beyond him. One slow careful step at a time, he made his way to the front door, pulling his house key out of his back pocket.

Before he got the key all the way into the lock, Dean pulled the door open and stared at him in astonishment. "Sam?" He saw the blood on Sam's t-shirt, the shadowed, exhausted eyes. "Crap!"

Then, without another word, he put an arm around his younger brother and half-carried him into the bedroom. Relieved beyond words, Sam let him.

On his bed, he slumped back against the pillow with a ragged but relieved sigh. Dean left for a minute, came back with needle and thread, bandages, antiseptic, and whiskey. He held the glass of whiskey to his little brother's lips, watched as he drank it and nodded with satisfaction as the color came back into his face.

Finishing the whiskey, Sam lay back, feeling curiously content as Dean pulled his shirt off and examined the stitches. Surprisingly, considering the blood, most of the stitches had held. Only a few had split open.

"Gonna have to re-stitch these, kid."


Dean washed the blood away, disinfected the area and swiftly re-stitched. Sam didn't move. Deciding a pressure bandage would be a good idea, Dean took care of that and then sat on the bed next to Sam.

"Dude, Dad is gonna kick your ass."

"That's okay. Worth it." Sam frowned slightly. "He's gonna get on your butt too, though. I'm sorry about that."

Dean shook his head. "No sweat, brother. You think I don't get why you did it?" He gave Sam's dark hair a quick tousle. "I'm just a little mad you didn't take me with you."

"You wouldn't have let me go. Besides - it had to be me. Just me." Sam's eyes held his brother's.

"I know, Sam. " Not wanting to ruin the kid's Rocky moment, he grinned. "So, Randy."

Sam's eyes gleamed. "Yeah, Randy."

Dean motioned to Sam's bandaged stomach. "Did he -?"

A small chuckle and shake of the head. "Never laid a hand on me."

They did a quick high five. "Nice!"


They looked toward the bedroom door as their father's voice rang through the house and the front door slammed.

Dean got up, sighing. "I'll go talk to him. You rest until we're ready to go."

Sam looked up at him. "Don't worry, Dean. Whatever he says, it's okay."

Dean reached out, cuffed him gently. "Yeah, you are." He left the room, turning the light out, leaving the door open behind him.

Sam listened to the rumble of voices from the living room, temper unmistakable in his father's tone. He smiled sleepily, turning his face contentedly into the pillow.

It didn't matter. He'd done what he needed to do.

And now, Sam thought, he could sleep.