Sam drove Dean back to Cicero in a funk. Roy La Grange was indeed a man of God, but the healing power he had seemed to possess was actually the result of his wife forcing a Reaper to kill other people in the stead of those Roy chose to heal. They learned this fact only after Dean had been chosen—but the victim who died in his place had shown signs only of heart and kidney failure. Dean's lupus had flared up again the moment they'd broken Sue Ann's hold on the Reaper, though not as badly as before. And neither brother had been in the mood for comforting platitudes about God using even chronic illness for good.
Dean would live, but he would never be completely well. And Sam couldn't help feeling like a failure for not finding a better cure.
So when they got back to Cicero, they stayed. Other hunts got referred to other hunters. When word came that John's friends were being killed in order to draw him out, both brothers mourned, but Dean's flare was hanging on stubbornly, and Sam was not about to run off without him into what was more than likely a trap. And he said as much to John when John turned up to beg the boys to help him.
John didn't relent until Dean limped into the room with one hand on his cane and the other on Ben's shoulder and said, "Ben... this is your Grandpa John. Dad, my son Ben."
Ben waved to John shyly and attached himself to Dean's leg.
John swallowed hard, and a dozen emotions crossed his face as he walked over to them and crouched down to be eye-level with Ben. "Hi, Ben," he said quietly. "It's nice to meet you. You look a lot like your daddy, you know that?"
Ben's "Yes, sir" was barely audible.
John smiled a little and gently ruffled his hair, and when he stood, there were unshed tears glittering in his eyes. "You're right, son," he said to Dean. "You're needed here. You and Sam. I'll... I'll find another way."
Dean nodded and sent Ben out of the room. After the adults were alone, he asked, "What's the demon demanding?"
"This." John pulled an antique revolver out of his coat. "Made by Samuel Colt for a hunter like us. This gun will kill anything—up to and including the demon that killed your mama." He paused. "It's got four bullets left. They're all in the cylinder." And he handed the gun to Dean.
Dean stared. "But—"
"Trust me, son. Meg—that's the demon who's been talking to me, the one we ran into in Chicago—doesn't know what the gun looks like. I've got a duplicate. I was... planning to send you and Sam to Salvation, Iowa, to track down the family that's next on Yellow-Eyes' list, but..."
Dean's face hardened as his hand tightened around the gun. "You are not using my family as bait."
"No. Not bait. I'm giving that to you to keep both it and you safe. If Meg falls for the fake, I'll come back to get the real one from you. But if she doesn't, if anything happens to me, I've got a feeling Yellow-Eyes will be coming after Sam. I'll have Bobby come down to strengthen your wards, but... you use that gun if Yellow-Eyes shows. Even if he's got me."
Dean shook his head. "Dad, you can't..."
John laid a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Shoot to kill, son. This ends now, whether I live or not."
"What if I can't?"
John turned to look at Sam. "Then, Sam, you do it."
Sam shook his head. "Dad, no. No, I can't—I've never wanted you dead."
"That's a direct order, son."
"Save it, Sam," Lisa interrupted, walking into the room to stand beside Dean. "I'll do it."
"What?" gasped all three men.
"You might be my father-in-law, Mr. Winchester, but we've never even spoken before. I don't have the emotional attachment Sam and Dean do. They won't be able to help seeing their father. All I will see is a threat to my son."
John frowned. "Yellow-Eyes won't be concerned about Ben. He wants Sam."
Lisa's chin rose. "Any threat to Sam is a threat to Ben, whether Sam's under this roof or not. I'm not stupid; I know demons are as likely to use kids as leverage as they are to use anyone else. But nobody's getting between me and my son. Not even his grandfather."
John stared at her in shock for a moment before laughing and pulling her into a rough hug. "I know I'm late in saying this, but welcome to the family, Lisa."
In the morning, John left about five minutes before Bobby arrived. Bobby was his usual gruffly uncle-ish self, had charmed and was charmed by both Ben and Lisa inside of five minutes, and threatened to tie Dean up if he so much as got up from the couch. Dean protested until Lisa sent Ben to the garage for some rope. Then he shouted snark at Sam and Bobby the entire time they worked.
When Bobby insisted on spending the night, nobody objected.
Lisa had just put Ben to bed when Dean's phone rang. It was Meg, and she taunted Dean that he'd never see John again. Dean didn't buy it—but his cold fury at her words was checked by the burning in his joints. Sam was all for going in guns blazing, but Dean had to admit that as much as he wanted to rescue John, he wasn't going anywhere. And Lisa backed him up.
While Sam and Bobby were still arguing strategy, Ben came running downstairs in a panic. "Dad, Dad... there's a lady outside, and she's scary!"
Before Dean could pack Ben and Lisa upstairs to the bedroom they'd warded the most carefully, the door flew open, and Meg, heedless of the devil's trap over the door, strode in and demanded that Sam give her the Colt.
"I don't have it on me," Sam answered truthfully, moving with Bobby to cover Lisa's movements as she retrieved the gun from its hiding place.
"Didn't I tell you to quit lying to me?" Meg shot back. "Let me have it!"
"Gladly!" Lisa replied, and Sam and Bobby dove out of the way as she fired.
"What'd you do that for?" Dean demanded, pulling a horrified Ben into a protective hug. "We had her trapped; we could have used her to find out where they were holding Dad!"
Lisa huffed. "Dean, you said yourself that you are in no fit state to go after your dad. If he is alive, they're probably using him as bait to trap you and Sam. If you haven't gone after him in a couple of days, they'll have to come up with a new plan. In the meantime, what's going to be easier to explain to the police, shooting an intruder or having a strange woman wander into our house to die tied to a chair?"
"She's got a point, son," Bobby said.
Dean sighed and turned his attention to comforting his son.
Given the obvious signs of forced entry, the police didn't hesitate to accept the explanation that the Winchesters had been the victims of a home invasion. That still left the problem of what to do about John... and how to keep Dean from making himself worse.
Ben actually helped in the latter case. He was (understandably) badly shaken by the shooting and needed lots of cuddling, especially from Dean. And Dean, childhood trauma survivor that he was, couldn't deny Ben that comfort and support. But Sam and Bobby talked about the former problem for hours before concluding that they were arguing in circles and needed to take a break from the discussion for a while to clear their minds.
Lisa took both Ben and Dean up to bed early that night and took the Colt upstairs as well. A few hours later, Sam and Bobby were startled to hear a knock at the door—John's coded knock.
Sam frowned. "You think it's really him?" he asked quietly.
Bobby shrugged. "Only one way to find out. Run get the salt, would you?"
"Salt? Why not holy water?"
"If he is possessed, there's a chance it's the demon you're after—and from what John's said, he's mighty powerful. Holy water might not be strong enough. Salt's quicker'n an exorcism, and it'll hurt your daddy less."
Sam nodded and ran to the kitchen. Whoever was at the door knocked again as Sam returned. Bobby motioned Sam to a spot behind the door and then took a sip of whiskey from his flask.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm comin'," he grumbled more loudly, sounding somewhat drunk. "Hol' yer horses." Then he fumbled a bit with the locks, deliberately scuffing the salt line as he did so, and opened the door. "John, you son of a gun! Heard you got captured."
John stumbled in, looking half alive. "Yeah, they roughed me up pretty good. Barely managed to escape. Surprised you're still here, Bobby."
Bobby started to steer John toward the couch. "Well, I figured the boys needed backup."
"They've got the Colt, though—right?"
"Colt? Di'n' hear nothin' 'bout a colt. C'mon in, John, sit down, lemme get you patched up 'fore the kids come down," Bobby said just as they reached the edge of the trap.
From his position, Sam could see that the trap stopped John cold, but John—or the demon possessing John—covered it by angrily pulling away from Bobby. "You mean they don't have it?"
"I di'n' say that. I said I di'n' hear nothin' 'bout it. C'mon in here."
Again, they hit the edge of the trap. Again, the demon wrestled backward. "Dammit, Singer, forget about that! I need the gun!"
"Oh, no, you don't," Bobby replied, suddenly sounding much more sober, just before tackling the demon to the ground.
Sam rushed out from behind the door just as John's eyes flashed yellow. The demon opened his mouth to say something, but Sam didn't give him the chance, pouring salt down John's throat in a steady stream. The demon choked and spluttered and finally came out with a shriek in a cloud of thick black smoke.
Sam barely had time to register the reproach in John's exhausted but normal eyes before Dean and Lisa charged down the stairs. "What the hell?" the couple exclaimed in unison.
"That's what I'd like to know," John rasped as Bobby let him up, brushing salt from his face and coughing once or twice before continuing. "I thought you were with me on this, Sam. Killing the demon comes first—before me, before everything."
Sam shook his head as he turned away to reset the salt line. "No, sir. Not before everything. We've still got the Colt; we've still got three bullets. We can find the demon again."
"The demon's going to find us, dammit! Meg was his daughter; he's furious that Lisa shot her. He'll be back the second he's got another host, and he'll kill us all."
Dean held his hand out to Lisa. "Give me the gun. Go get Ben, get ready to run, just in case."
Lisa frowned. "Dean..."
"I'll make it, Lis. I was in worse shape when I hauled Sammy out of his apartment. Get Ben."
Lisa sighed and handed him the Colt, then kissed him on the cheek before hurrying up the stairs.
"You got the wards reset, Sammy?"
Sam locked the door. "All set."
Dean hobbled purposefully toward the front window. "All right, then. Now that Dad's safe... this ends tonight."
So of course it was the back door that blew open seconds after the lights began to flicker. Sam immediately grabbed the Colt out of Dean's hand and ran to intercept the demon, who was strolling in past the scattered salt line.
The demon tsked at him. "Now, now, Sammy, where are your manners? You interrupted me earlier."
Sam didn't even snarl at him. He just fired—but not fast enough to stop the demon from setting the room ablaze. Flames shot up the walls as the demon sparked and died.
"RUN!" he yelled.
"LISA!" Dean bellowed.
"DOWN THE TREE!" Lisa yelled back.
When Sam ran back to the living room, Bobby was herding John outside and John was herding Dean, who was nevertheless still watching for Sam. Sam scooped Dean up and ran for the curb, ignoring Dean's yelp of protest. Once he'd set Dean back on his feet, he dashed back to the tree that grew outside Ben's bedroom window and got far enough up to let Ben climb onto his back before clambering back down. Then he handed Ben off to Bobby and waited to make sure Lisa got down safely.
"What the hell, Sam?" Dean demanded as Sam and Lisa ran up to him, flanking him and each putting an arm around his back for support.
Sam laughed. "Dude, you've carried me out of two fires now. Turn about's fair play."
Dean didn't say anything for a moment, but Sam had a pretty good idea of what he was thinking. Yes, Lisa's house was a casualty, and the loss did hurt, but they could rebuild. Their war was over now. They, and maybe even John, really could retire. Dean could get his health back, get a job, settle down with Ben and Lisa for good; Sam could transfer to one of the schools in Indianapolis, finish his degree. They could have a normal life, be a family again.
Maybe Dean's lupus was a blessing in disguise after all.
But Dean didn't say any of that. Instead, after looking thoughtful, he put one arm around Lisa and the other around Sam and said, "Hell, you know what they say."
"What's that?" Sam asked.
Dean's arm pulled Sam a little closer, into something suspiciously like a side hug. "The life you save might be your own."