Final chapter! AHHH! I've had such a great time with this! :D thank you, you awesome reviewers, you guys are truly amazing! This one's for you (and season one Sammy) ;) I hope it meets your expectations! Happy reading!


I arrive just in time for Sam to fall forward against me, my arms sliding underneath his arm pits to gently lower him towards the ground, the sudden heavy load bringing me down with him. "Sam! Sammy? Hey, talk to me, buddy…"

Sam groans, gasping in pain. God, this has to be hell on his ribs. His forehead presses into my neck, fingers weakly curling into my shirt and jacket. I can smell the motel shampoo in his hair, the soft strands tickling the tip of my nose and reminding me of happier times. Of simpler times.

"Damn it, Sam, you should have stayed in bed." The words are meant to be stern, angry, they really are. But instead they tumble from my mouth in an unmistakable mix of desperate concern and fervent worry.

I'm trying to keep both of us upright, Sam's weight leaning against my chest, and I can only pray that he doesn't pass out. His breathing is ragged, hitching with the torture merely drawing in a proper lungful of air inflicts upon him. It presses all the wrong buttons in all the right ways and by now I'm dangerously close to the edge. I feel a hand on my shoulder, Dad at once by our side and kneeling to assist me with my little brother.

The animal in me rears its giant head, roaring. Pulling Sammy farther into me, I let out a feral snarl, "Don't you touch him."

Dad looks at me like I've grown a second head, a brief flicker of exasperation there and gone again. "Dean, let me help…"

"I got him!" I snap, cutting him off. "Don't you think you've done enough?" I'm beginning to wish I'd punched the man when I had the chance, maybe then I would have fixed the messed up circuit between our father's head and mouth. God knows we all have a bad habit of not thinking before speaking, but this just takes the Winchester cake.

Finally, Dad seems to get it. I glare daggers as he steps back, watching us with an unfamiliar helplessness emanating from his dark round eyes, his expression remaining one of slight bewilderment. I swallow, but refuse to entertain the instincts within screaming to throw the man a bone, screaming to allow him to try and be what he'd already failed to be on so many levels tonight.

"Sorry, Dean….heard… heard yelling. Thought maybe…maybe you were in trouble." Sam gets out, voice quietly rasping and rough.

I shush him, shooting one last warning glance in Dad's direction before carefully beginning to maneuver Sammy into a semi standing position, the poor kid flailing as he attempts to help but barely being able to stand on his own two legs. "Easy now, sasquatch. Let's just take it slow, all right?"

Supporting nearly his entire weight, the five feet to the bed are like a marathon. Every gasp he tries to cover up, every hiss of pain, it stirs and boils in my stomach. It claws in my mind and leaves a bad taste in my mouth because there isn't anything I can do to alleviate the agony, there isn't anything I can shoot or kill or maim to make this better. Not one thing. And what else is a big brother good for? Most certainly not stopping these kinds of things before they happen, no matter how vigilant or careful or over protective I may be.

Failure, failure, failure…

I can practically feel Dad's eyes following our every move, boring into us as I assist Sam onto the bed and carefully lower him against the pillows, making sure he doesn't try to move too fast or heck, take too deep a breath. Sam's blinking up at me, gaze a bit unfocused and hazy. I wonder if he knows he's still gripping my jacket.

Probably not.

When we were little, he'd wrap himself around my leg sometimes, finding it absolutely hilarious to sit on my foot as I tried to walk. I did though, and Sammy went right along for the ride, laughing every step of the way. It's like he's trying to do that now, trying to hold on to me so that if I were to go somewhere, he could go too. The wistful memory prevents me from comprehending Dad's brazen approach.

"Sammy…" He begins, stepping to my side, near Sam's face, deep voice uncharacteristically soft, yet persistently oppressive.

"Don't even start, Dad," I growl, attempting to wedge my body between him and the bed, "I think we get the picture."

Dad's jaw clenches, the vein in his forehead bulging faintly. I can tell he's making a valiant effort at keeping his temper in check. "If you'd just let me explain…"

"Why? So you have another chance to say something stupid? No freaking way!" I hiss and am in the midst of pushing aggressively at his shoulder when Sam's calm voice stops us once more.

"Dean, stop. Please."

I pause, Dad's eyes narrow to look beyond me. Damn it, how can I ever resist that kind of plea? He knows it too.

Spinning to face my little brother, I'm dismayed to find him struggling to shove himself up onto his elbows. Trying to push him back down I say, "Sammy, let me handle this, ok, kiddo? You just rest."

"Let him talk, Dean." The words may be soft and vulnerable, perhaps even with a trace of fear, but Sam has his head tilted in that stubborn way, the line appearing between the hollows of his hazel orbs. He's going to get what he wants. For a moment, I want to stamp my foot, because no way am I not going to drag Dad to the door and drop kick him into the street.

Sam and I noiselessly square off for an instant before I finally growl in frustration, the damn 'dewy eyes' far too great to conquer. "Fine!" My hands are thrown into the air and I am forced to immediately back away from the both of them so I can safely mutter under my breath things that would put a sailor to shame.

Dad lowers himself slowly so he can be even with Sam's face, his hands fluttering as if he is unsure with what to do with them. I draw closer, the need to protect Sammy all consuming; by now I don't trust our father not to worsen things. Not to hurt the kid more than he already has.

"I…I'm so sorry, Sam." I tense as Dad begins speaking. Sam's not looking at him though, his shoulders shrinking back into the bed. How does he manage to look so small? "I was wrong to take off like that…to leave you."

Sam flinches then, and it's all I can do not to intervene. But I'm shocked when a cursory glance at the older man's face reveals the usual stern eyes to be shining. It has to be a trick of the light…surely. Dad at last seems to find a place for his drifting hands, resting them on Sam's bent arm and squeezing gently. Astonishingly, Sam doesn't pull away. I'm only half sure that he wants to.

"Seeing you move that gun…" he pauses, eyes wandering as if the memory is flashing in front of him, "seeing the pain it caused you. It…it scared the hell out of me."

My molars dig into the flesh of the inside of my cheek as I observe Sam's eye brows furrowing minutely, face turning in our father's direction. "Why did you-why didn't you say anything? What about just now…outside?" Sammy's voice splinters and cracks, certainly against his will. I take a significant step forward and my knee brushes against the edge of his leg, reminding him that I'm still right here and that I'm not going anywhere.

"What I said outside was stupid, I didn't mean it, son. At all…I was just angry, scared." Dad shakes his head, somewhat sadly, "I've always tried to protect you boys. Tried to keep you safe. But this…" Sam's downright looking now, almost meeting Dad's gaze. It must be encouraging because the words come easier. "These visions, these powers, whatever the cause or whatever the reason you have them, I can't protect you from it, Sammy. That's why I ran. It…I just needed time, I couldn't think. Just kept seeing…seeing your mother, that night in the fire."

That night is strictly, unequivocally taboo. The fact that he's brought it up at all is enough to tighten my throat and burn my eyes. The man is being serious. He doesn't screw around when talking about…Mom.

Sam's adam's apple bobs and he fixes Dad with the most heart breaking expression I've ever witnessed. He's so hopeful and every fiber of my being is screaming for our father not to let the kid down. "You mean you don't think I'm a…" Sam chokes on whatever word he's intending to say, although we get a pretty good idea. What comes next makes my legs utterly weak, "…you don't hate me?"

Dad's jaw drops a bit, shock flitting athwart his haggard face. This is it; he better make this right, he better fix this or so help me I will never forgive him. His right hand grips Sam's shoulder, meeting my little brother's hesitant gaze. "Samuel Winchester, I could never hate you. I know we've had our differences in the past, and I know what I did tonight was…wrong, but you're my son, Sammy, and I love you. Both of you." Dad's eyes dart in my direction. Not far considering I've virtually been on top of them throughout the entire exchange.

A heat tingles in my chest, my skin flooded with the residual warmth that at once spreads to encompass my whole body.

Sammy's subsequent, endearing smile lights up the whole damn room and makes me want to gather him up in my arms so I can keep it on his face forever. The kid's got too much on his shoulders. His eye lids flutter, tired orbs no longer bogged down by so many conflicting emotions. "I'm sorry you had to find out this way." Sam whispers, voice trailing off as sleep sinks in its determined claws. Then, he adds in a manner that could very well bring a Wendigo to its knees, "Love you too, Dad…"

We remain frozen, watching Sammy. There's so much innocence in him that I wish will never go away. I wish I could bottle it up and store it in a safe place, just to ensure this freaking life doesn't suck it right out of my little brother. I need it…I need him, bleeding heart and all.

It's the only thing that keeps me grounded, keeps us grounded.

"I'm not going to apologize." I can't help but belligerently declare, at once breaking the contented silence. I'm expecting, or better, asking for, an argument, some sort of rebuke for the way I'd treated the older man. I know firsthand that you don't deliberately behave disrespectfully to an ex marine without serious consequence.

Dad doesn't even look my way at first, and when he does, he's got this strange, amused, yet sly grin on his lips.

It kind of pisses me off.

"Oh I didn't expect you to, son. You were just doing what I told you to, what you do best." He chuckles and leans back on his haunches, the denim of his jeans stretching and fading to white.

I reach down to pull the covers more snuggly over Sam, my hand pausing when it brushes over the kid's heart, finding vast reassurance and comfort in the soft thump that pounds beneath my fingertips. "What's that?"

Dad doesn't answer right away so I glance, genuinely curious and not anywhere near ready to forgive the bastard, exasperatingly in his direction. His weary, brown eyes search my own and he gives an unexpected nod of approval. "Protecting Sammy."

I can't do much more than stare back at him, caught completely off guard. I can still feel Sam's stuttering heart beat though, reverberating through me as the familiar cadence I'd marched to my entire life. That's when I suddenly am confident that as long as this remains so, than whatever is coming, whatever awaits us out there, we'll face it together.

As a family.

With these thoughts, and Sammy resting peacefully before us, I at last manage to find it within myself to smirk back at Dad, "Damn straight." Because what do you know? John Winchester is right about something.

The End

Awwwww :D John, you got so schmoopy! Sorry, I couldn't resist, I'm a sucker for a happy ending ;) it was just too fun! Review? Hugs!