It's 3am and pouring rain outside, and it's pretty damn loud on this roof, let me tell you. I'm up under the eaves of this old cabin, trying to sleep on a thin mattress on a hard floor.

Getting here was an adventure I'd rather never repeat – an hour and a half of pure panic followed by ten hours of less pure panic. My first plan was to ditch the ambulance, and Dean was just telling me about the van Sam'd hallucinated to an abandoned warehouse when the boy himself started rousing in the back of our stolen ambulance.

Faster than it takes to correctly say "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsili covolcanoconiosts" five or six times, Dean was in the back with his brother, cast and all, woozy from painkillers, knocking stuff over, and swearing up a tsunami. That was the last I saw of him for the next thirty-five miles. I could hear him, though, plain as day, trying to get Sam to wake up and focus on him, count fingers, name the day, name himself, identify anything so that Dean could tell how far into coherence he was.

And of course as soon as Sam did answer him, sounding worried and confused, Dean was telling him to calm down, relax, don't worry, everything is under control.

Yeah. Right.

So for the next thirty-five miles, Dean stayed back with Sam, talking to him, encouraging him, calming him down, and keeping himself calm no doubt. I could tell it was working when Dean's voice got quieter and his words came slower and once or twice even I heard him laugh.

And I loosened the grip I had on the steering wheel just a little bit, until we stopped to swap out the ambulance for a sporty little Pontiac I'd squirreled away for just such an emergency.

Getting us out of the ambulance and into the Pontiac was a lot of fun.


I opened the back doors and got Dean out first. Clumpy and awkward and I had to keep him upright, but he made it down to the ground.

And then he stood right there at my shoulder while I got ready to get Sam from one ride to the other.

"Go get in the car, y'idjit." I told Dean. "Get off that leg."

"You're gonna need help with Sam."

"I did manage to get him out of the hospital all by my lonesome." I pointed out.

"Yeah, with wheels. You're not getting that stretcher into that Pontiac."

I was just about to tell Dean again to go sit down in the car when all my plans were scuttled by one single word from the boy still inside the ambulance.


And Dean practically pushed me over trying to get as close to the end of the ambulance – and therefore as close to his brother – as possible.

"Here, Sammy. Right here. We're gonna get you out, then we'll get back on the road again. Okay?"

"C'n I jus' stay here? Dean? Don't f'l g'd."

"Sure, Sammy. You can stay there just as soon as we get you into the other car."

I'm not sure Dean realized what he said. Sam sure didn't realize because he answered,


And then Dean started looking around like he was expecting to haul himself back into the back of the ambulance to be with Sam again.

"STAY HERE." I all but hollered at him. "Let me get him or we'll be here all day."

He stepped back, barely, and I hauled my own self into the back of the ambulance. And still had to contend with Big Brother Dean directing the whole process.

"Sam – Sammy – you with me? Bobby's gonna get you out of there. OK? Bobby – make sure he knows it's you, all right? Even half dead, he's got a fierce right hook. Sam? Bobby? Bobby does he know it's you? We don't know what he might be seeing. Sammy? It's Bobby, OK?"

Sam blinked his eyes and I rolled mine at the monologue, but I knew enough to know Dean was right about not spooking the kid. And there was no way I was forgetting Sam's recurring unwanted 'visitor'.

"Sam? You know it's me, right? Just me. And Dean's waiting on us."

It took a few more blinks and then he nodded.

"Bobby." He said, though it was barely more than a whisper.

"Good. All right, let's get you out of here and into the other car." I started unbuckling the straps holding him on the stretcher. "God knows, Dean's not gonna rest until he's got you packed into the back of that car."

"Dean -" Sam whispered out then. And of course - Dean heard him.

"I'm right here, Sam. I'm okay. We need to get you into the car, Sam. Bobby's gonna help you, so you gotta help Bobby. All right?"

For an answer, Sam only made some God-awful sound. That Dean recognized immediately.

"Bobby – watch out, Sam's gonna – "


Being loosed from his bonds, Sam at least managed to turn himself enough to puke his guts over the other side of the stretcher, away from my boots. There wasn't much to bring up, I guess he hadn't eaten much the past few days, and he rolled back onto the stretcher after just a few spasms.


That was a whimper, no doubt about it. A whimper that was bound to make Dean go ballistic.

Sure enough -

"Dammit Bobby – what're you doing? He's hurt. Y'gotta go easy."

"I am going easy. He's got a head injury. He's gonna be nauseous."

Like any of that mattered to Dean. Who fumed at me, "If you can't get Sam out of there, get out of the way so I can."

I held back the 'fine, go ahead and try' that was sticking in the back of my throat, because Dean would try, and then I'd have two worse-injured idjits on my hands.

"Back off and let me do this!"

That got Dean to be quiet, and only quiet. His eyes sure were telling me a tale and that curl in his lip was promising me a nasty lingering death if I didn't 'do this' the exact way that he thought it ought to be done.

But he was quiet and he let his shoulders drop just enough that I knew he was 'backing off' if only in attitude.

"Just – we need to just – get him outta there and into the car…" He said.

Like I didn't know that? I ignored Dean and turned to his brother.

"All right, Sam. C'mon. I'll get you to Dean. Y'just gotta let me help you. Okay?"

Sam stared at me a few beats, like he didn't know me, or didn't trust me, or was seeing somebody else just over my shoulder. Or maybe he just needed those beats to process what I was telling him. Finally, he nodded, and started to push himself up. Or he thought he was trying to push himself up, was probably more like it, since he sure wasn't getting results like his muscles were all on the same page.

"Here we go, kid. Let me do the hard work."

I got my arm under his shoulders and lifted – pushed – Sam's body up off that stretcher. Then I held him upright with that arm while I used the other arm to push-pull and drag his legs off the stretcher and get his feet onto the floor of the ambulance.

His stocking feet.

"Bobby – where're his shoes?" Dean demanded, like I was the one who'd taken them off Sam's feet. "He's going to need his shoes."

Why he was going to need his shoes just to walk five feet from the ambulance to the car, I didn't know. But I didn't argue. I sighed, but I didn't argue.

"C'mon, Sam. Big Brother is waiting…"

I got him standing, barely. Six and half feet of wobbly Sam Winchester is a lot to handle. Dean moved forward to stand right at the end of the ambulance, holding himself like he expected to help manhandle Sam down to the ground.

"Back up." I told him. He didn't. "Back up."I told him again.

He didn't.

He put his hands up, out to Sam.

Stubborn idjit.

"C'mon, Sammy. Look at me. We'll get you down from there and into the car. Okay? Sam? Look at me Sam, we're gonna get you down from there."


I sure wasn't seeing a we in this. I was only seeing a crotchety old man and two unsteady young men, one with a shattered leg and one with severe head trauma, and what might as well have been a mile between us and the ground.

"Okay, Sam?" Dean kept on. And Sam seemed to be focusing on him. "We can do this. We can do this. It's a piece of cake for those long legs of yours. Just let Bobby help you and we can do this."

I got it then – 'we' was them, Dean and Sam. I was just there for back up.

Like that took any of the pressure off of me.

"All right, Sam." I started again, trying a different tack. "Listen to your brother. It's just a step. A big, high step, but you can do it."

By the end, I was talking to myself, because Dean was still reaching up for Sam, and Sam was reaching down for Dean, and I was feeling like a fifth or sixth wheel to both of them.

"That's it. That's it, Sammy. C'mon. We can do this." Dean kept on.

The jump wasn't much but that landing sure had to suck, jarring a head that'd been jarred more than enough already. Sam kept his feet though he wavered a bit, mostly because Dean caught him and steadied him, never mind his own instability.

"There we go, there we go, told you that you could do it. C'mon, let's get you settled in the back of the car. You can go back to sleep just as soon as you're settled in. Okay? Here we go, here we go."

They started hobbling themselves to the car, awkward and slow, and Dean spared me a glance back.

"Bobby? You coming or what? We don't have all day, y'know."

What I muttered to that little crack, I can't even repeat to myself. I didn't bother saying anything out loud 'cause I was already tired of talking to myself. I jumped down and opened the back door of the car and then only stood by while Dean kept Sam upright and considered the best way to origami his brother inside.

"Front seat." He said.

"Come again?"

"Sam's never gonna fit laying down in the back seat. I'll sit in the back. We put Sam in the front seat, pushed all the way back and the seat levered as flat as we can. Okay, Sammy?"

Sammy nodded, staring at the back seat of the car like it was an oasis in an endless desert and he'd been dry for years.

So, I opened the front door and maneuvered the seat back and then it was a few long minutes of tucking Sam in the front, fitting Dean into the back, and then levering Sam's seat back down over Dean's legs as far as I could get it without crushing Dean.

Once that was done, I grabbed as much medical supplies as I could out of the ambulance to toss in the trunk of the car, found Sam's boots on the shelf under the stretcher, grabbed the blanket from the stretcher to toss over Sam, cut the vinyl and foam rubber mattress in half with my knife to give to Dean as a cushion for his back against the car door, and then and only then I finally got us back on the road.

For another good ten hours of sick, bossy Winchesters.

At first, they were pretty much no problem – they slept. Both of 'em. For a good three hours. Then, from the back seat,

"Bobby? We gotta stop."

"You gonna be sick?"

"My leg is on fire."

That wasn't bad. I could take care of that. I'd lifted some good painkillers from the ambulance. I'd have Dean back to la-la land in five minutes.

Except –

"And I gotta pee."

Well, that was gonna be fun.

"All right, let me find somewhere to pull over."

I was driving us on back roads and not the main drag so another mile or two I found a dirt road that led back through a stand of trees that would give us some privacy.

"All right," I said when we were parked and the car was off. I turned around to talk to Dean over the seat. "I think I have a jug in the trunk that you can use."

Well, hell, you woulda thought I'd offered to cut it off, the look he gave me. His eyes were near as big as his mouth that dropped open and his voice practically squeaked out his outrage.

"I'm not using a jug."

"You think you're gonna hoof it to the nearest sapling on a leg that's on fire? After you negotiate your way around your passed-out brother?"

That got Dean to reconsider. Of course. He looked at Sam, still asleep, folded into and onto the reclined front seat. Dean would set his leg on fire himself before he'd risk disturbing his injured, resting brother.

He groaned out a sigh.

"All right. Fine. Whatever."

Gee, thanks. It's not like I'm doing you the favor or anything.

I rummaged through all the supplies in the trunk for an old milk jug filled with rock salt. I emptied the salt into the trunk – doesn't pay to not keep it – and brought it around to Dean.

Who was leaned as far forward as he could get, talking soft to Sam, who seemed to be rousing.

So much for the rest of my nice quiet drive.

"It's okay, Sammy. We're headed someplace safe. You just rest. There's nothing you have to do. Just rest."

Then Sammy mumbled something back to Dean and Dean let out a long, low, "Ohhhh, okay. We can take care of that."

And just as I was wondering what they might be talking about, Dean added,

"Bobby's got a jug."


Dean looked up at me, at the jug, at Sam.

At me.

I could see in his eyes that not once was my help even in his consideration.

"All right, Bobby. Let's get me out of here, and you can dig the painkillers out of the trunk while I handle this."

"You're not getting out of the car on that leg."

"Well, I am. Sam's gonna need my help. C'mon. Let's go."

There are times I know better than to argue with Dean Winchester, and all of those times involve Sam. I moved in to open the front car door. I levered the front seat and Sam with it up a couple of inches, enough to let Dean push and drag himself out of the back seat. Then I helped him lever himself up to lean against the car and handed him the jug.

"I'll be at the trunk." I told him, unnecessarily and with a sigh of resignation. "Holler if you need any help."

I thought he might roll his eyes or huff a laugh, but he gave me a serious 'why would I need help?' look and pushed himself upright.

"I'll need some water too, if you got it." He gestured with the jug. "Rinse this out when we're done."

"We can just leave it." I told him. Not like I was planning to reuse it for anything.

"How much longer 'til we get where we're going?" He asked.

"About seven hours."

He tipped his head and gave me another look, a 'I really need to explain this to you?' look.

"We might need it again before then."

Then he stumped and pivoted himself around the open back door and toward the open front passenger door of the car. I went to the trunk and found the water and painkillers and waited until I heard the all-clear.

"Y'got that water, Bobby?"

I cracked the bottle and brought it around to Dean who was leaning near the open front door. He poured the water into the used-but-empty-again jug, swished it around, dumped it out and handed both back to me. He was looking pale and sweaty.

"Painkillers, coming up." I told him. He nodded, grateful, and closed his eyes for a long breath.

I stashed the jug and brought back a syringe filled with joy juice.


Dean pulled his shirt off his shoulder and pulled the sleeve of his t-shirt up, all the while staring at Sam, restless now in his front seat makeshift bed.

"I hate taking painkillers when I can't give Sammy anything for his head."

"Can't give painkillers for head injuries. Not the good stuff anyway." I reminded him. I swabbed his arm with the alcohol pad and dosed him up.

"I know we can't give him painkillers. I just – wish I could."

There was nothing I could think of to say to that. If Dean could, he'd take on Sam's head trauma. If Sam could be asked, he'd say he was glad he got the worse injury instead of Dean. I couldn't be part of that, I could only stand on the side and marvel at it.

"Come on, let's get you in the car while you're still awake." I said, in place of anything else. "Before that morphine turns you to Jell-O.


Dean pulled his shirt back over his shoulder and maneuvered himself back into his post in the backseat. He sat forward while I got ready to ratchet Sam back down as flat as possible again.

"Sam? Sammy, you okay there?"

Sam was still restless; his hands reached up for his head but didn't quite make it. His eyes watered and blinked, and he looked around at the sound of Dean's voice.

"Mmm hmmm…" He managed a tiny nod but squeezed his eyes shut when he did.

"Your head hurt bad?"

Sam gave another nod, not even bothering to open his eyes.

"You think – Sammy, you think you could swallow some Tylenol? It might help. You can take Tylenol with head injuries."

"Nnh nnh. Puke. Make me puke."

"Okay, okay." Dean reached over and patted Sam's shoulder. "You let me know. Okay?"


Dean sighed and nodded up to me and then and only then did I lever Sam down, and all the while Dean kept his hand on Sam's shoulder and Sam kept his head turned toward Dean and I was feeling four kinds of invisible.

"Can we get on the road, now?" I asked, because I figured I better ask, in case I was missing any minute thing with Sam that I'd hear about as soon as I took one step.

Sure enough, Dean gave Sam another full-over body scan before he finally sank back against his cushions. He looked as pale and done in as Sam.

"Yeah, yeah, we can get going now."

Just what I was planning.

We were back on the road fifteen minutes, maybe, and Dean was out. Morphine and stress and trusting me that I'd wake him if Sam needed him. When Sam needed him.

No pressure, though.

No such luck with Sam. He didn't go out or down or anywhere but that world of hurt he was stuck in. His face was pale, his eyes were squinting, he was swallowing like something either wasn't going down, or wasn't going to stay down.

"Sam? You doin' okay?" I asked him.

He shook his head, then he nodded, then he scrunched his eyes up even more. His voice came out like something rusty and dragging.

"Dean. Hurt."

"I know it hurts. I wish I could make it stop hurting for you. You just gotta ride it out."

His scrunched, squinty eyes opened and he gave me a hard stare.


I almost laughed but it came out more of a broken sigh. Same as all his life, you tell Sam that something, anything, can't be done, and his first response is Dean, because to Sam, nothing is impossible for Dean.

"Dean's wiped out in the back seat, Sam. He offered you the Tylenol. You think you could take some now?"

And the answer I got was a breathy growl, like he was pushing it through his teeth. I wondered if he wasn't thinking of puking again. Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong if I was actually trying.

"Is. Dean. Hurt?" Sam managed to yell at me in a quiet voice, jaw tight, meaning clear – did I really not get that he was just as worried about Dean as Dean was about him? That boy can say volumes without words and I figured I'd just been called an 'idjit' to my face.

"Yeah, he's hurt. Not as bad as you though. Broken leg, he's in a cast. He's sleeping just behind you, in the back seat."

He turned his head back to have himself a look, but it turned out to be a bad idea. He whimpered and gulped and pushed his head back down. And right on cue, a second later, Dean was back among the living.

"Sam? What? What is it? You okay?"

And one hand was on Sam's shoulder and the other hand was clinging to the back of my seat, keeping Dean upright and as close to Sam as he could get.

"Sammy? Just hold on. Just try and get some rest. Okay? Just sleep."

"Are. You. Okay?" Sam gritted back to Dean, keeping his head down and eyes scrunched.

"Yeah. I'm okay. I'm fine. Let's just worry about you."

"Bobby said – broken leg."

I couldn't see Dean's face in any of my mirrors, but I sure felt the glare burning through the back of my head for telling Sam that and worrying him.

"Yeah, a broken leg. A broken leg is nothing, Sammy. You might have to carry me into the cabin once we get there, of course."

And Sam breathed out what must've been a laugh because Dean chuckled.

"So that's why I need you to sleep now, okay? We'll get you the Tylenol when you can keep it down. Okay? Just – now – just try to sleep."


"Okay." Dean said and he patted Sam's shoulder.

And still held himself upright, watching his brother.

Just as I was about to ask him what in the heck he thought he was doing, not getting himself comfortable again, his brother beat me to it.

"Lay. Down. Dean."

Without even opening his eyes.

Dean humpfed and grumbled but laid back. And in another five minutes he was gone.

Sam didn't sleep, I didn't think he did, his breath didn't even out the way it should if he'd been sleeping. His face pinched and unpinched and then pinched some more whenever I looked at him. His whole body just seemed strung tight.

I felt bad for the kid, I've had concussions and taken whacks to the head and survived hangovers that would dizzy an ox. I could imagine how bad his head could hurt, and I knew that it probably hurt a dozen times worse than even I could imagine. And I knew that Sam wouldn't admit to it hurting that bad or ask for any special treatment or consideration for himself.

"How're you doing, kid?" I asked a while later, when his eyes blinked open and he seemed to be holding his breath.


I was onto the code this time.

"He's sleeping in the back, he's okay."

Nope, there was a line of code I'd missed.

"Don't wake him up."

I sighed. Loud. There might've even been some grump in there.

"Wouldn't dream of it." I told him. "Just – let me know when you need something."

"Mmm…'kay…" He answered me. "Thanks."

And from the backseat,

"Yeah, thanks."


After that, I got another few hours of quiet driving. Dean napped in snatches of fifteen minutes or so at a time, and in between each, he had himself a look at Sam, who was surviving a cracked skull and a pounding head and the vagaries of interstate road maintenance with little more than some sharp breaths, clenched fists, and whimpers hidden in coughs.

There wasn't much conversation between them, and what little there was came from Dean verbally, and from Sam in nods and breaths and silence. They both understood each though. Of course.

Until finally, Sam muttered back to his big brother, "Dean, I think – I think now I could," and Dean said, "You got it, Sammy" and I wondered if I needed to stop again for the jug. But it was only,

"Bobby, we need the Tylenol."

"Sure thing."

I pulled over and made another rummage through the trunk. I didn't bother suggesting it'd be easier if I dosed up Sam, I just handed the Tylenol and water in to Dean and stood by in case – in case – somebody somewhere might need my help.

Wasn't anybody in this car. Dean managed all by his lonesome to dose Sam up with two pills and two swallows of water and one really heartfelt,

"It's okay, Sammy. Everything's gonna be okay. I'm right here. Okay?"

"Mmm hmmm."

"Let me know if you need anything."

"Mmmm hmmm…you too…"

"I will."

It's not like I hadn't seen the give and take as much as the durm & strang of these boys' relationship for nearly thirty years, but I knew I'd never been this up close and personal to that Winchester care that trounces everything and anything that comes between them. With worlds falling down around us and everything set to quash us soon as look at us, these boys still cared – would always care – more for each other than anything and anyone else. Including themselves.

So, the Tylenol helped Sam drift off, which helped Dean drift off, and I finished the drive to the cabin in relative peace and quiet. And since Sam was feeling better, marginally better, when we got there, Dean was less of a bear about me manhandling the poor kid out of the car, into the cabin and onto the bed.

Marginally less of a bear.

"Watch out, Bobby watch out in case he's gotta hurl again, all right? Don't move him too fast. Let him go at his own pace. Don't push him. Bobby? Sam? Sammy? How're you doing? Bobby, how's he doing?"

And all that before I got the seat and Sam levered up to where he could ease himself to his feet for the two foot and a half walk from the car to the back door of the cabin.

His stocking feet.

"Bobby? Where's his boots? Didn't you at least put his boots on first? How do you know there's no broken glass or nails or sharp rocks on the ground? How do you know – "

By that last sentence, I had Sam through the door and into the cabin. He was tall and wobbly, he nearly mistook the wall at least once for a clear path, but I managed to steer him clear before he took a bump and ripped through Dean's last nerve.

"All right, Sam. You with me? The bed's just over here in the corner. Up a step, but not a tall one. Soon as we get you down, I'll get you some more Tylenol, okay? That'll help you get back to sleep."

He shook his head. With his arm around my shoulders, and my arm across his back, just a few feet from the bed, Sam shook his head at my offer of my painkillers and I wondered if his stomach was flip-flopping.

Nope, I was wrong. Of course.


I was tired. I was exhausted. I never had much in the world, but the little I had was lying in smoking ashes back in Sioux Falls. I'd just driven hell for leather for over twelve hours to get these broken, injured boys to the safest place I knew. I was helping Sam from the car to the bed and still his first and only thought was Dean.

"Dean what?" I asked. I tried to not sound too crabby.

"Dean needs help. Too. To get in." He sounded winded and in pain. "Help Dean first."

"Kid –"


I don't think there's been a human being born anywhere anytime that could resist Sam Winchester when he turns those eyes and that soft pleading voice on them. I know that I never could resist.

"All right. Dean first. Tylenol second. C'mon."

The poor kid practically rolled himself onto the bed, with a deep, loud groan and then a pretty nice, "Thanks, Bobby."

"Don't even mention it, kid."

He nodded and grimaced and reached blindly around until he got hold of the pillow and pulled it over his face.

Dean's turn.

Well, the idjit had half my job done for me by the time I got to him. He was already out of the car, holding himself up on the car door, keeping his weight off of his shattered leg.

"Were you planning on letting me help you?" I asked.

"Yeah, sure. Why not."

Gee, thanks. Not like I'm doing you the favor.

Dean slung his arm over my shoulders and I helped him hop into the cabin.

"Did Sam get settled OK?" He asked me.

"He's in bed. Blocking the light with a pillow across his eyes. The place only has one bed, I'm gonna have to put you on the couch."

I expected him to ask to just be set next to Sam, or have me shove the couch near Sam, or something, anything that had to do with being near or next to or right on top of Sam. But he only said, "Sounds good," and let me set him down onto the lumpy, stiff cushions.

"Your leg on fire again?" I asked him.

He didn't even try to deny it.

"Like you wouldn't believe." He wiped sweat from his face and looked at his watch. "It's going on nine? Really? Geesh."

"It'll be dark soon." I said. I helped him get his good and bad leg up on the couch and bunched the stiff, lumpy pillow up behind his back. "I'll get you some more joy juice and then get tucked in for the night."

Dean nodded. His face was pale, his knuckles were white, gripping the edge of couch cushion, more sweat was breaking out on his face. He looked like forty miles of bad road. Still, as I turned to go back out to the car, he called after me,

"Make sure Sammy gets some more Tylenol first."



I was exhausted, hungry, I needed a beer, a bath and a bed. But first I had to take care of those boys. I went back out to the car. I shut the doors and opened the trunk and started hauling out supplies, food, water, painkillers, salt, weapons – and the jug, just in case - and the sky opened up right on top of me.

Of course.

Now, I never been in a line of work where 'easy' was an all-the-time occurrence, but damn if this wasn't getting wearisome.

I carried all the supplies into the cabin and was not surprised that Dean had hobbled his way over to his brother. He was on the edge of the bed, bad leg not getting in the way of helping Sam, who was turned onto his side, hanging over the the bed, retching up into some moth eaten rag Dean had conjured from God-knows-where.

"Okay, Sammy. Okay. It'll pass. It was just the walk in here. It wore you out. It'll pass. You don't have to move anymore. You and this bed are in a long-term relationship, now. Get it?"

For an answer, he got more retching, some whimpering, and then in the midst of it, Sam called over to me.


"Yeah, kid?" I set my bags and bundles down in the 'kitchen' and walked over to them, Tylenol and a bottle of water at the ready.

"Bobby – Dean needs more morphine."

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiigh.

"I'm on it, kid. Just as soon as Dean is ready."

"As soon as Sam can take more Tylenol." Dean threw in his totally expected, totally unnecessary two cents.

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiigh.

I left the water and pills with Dean and got the morphine shot ready for when the orbit of the Planets Winchester finally aligned.

As I watched those boys, though, some or a lot of my exhaustion-induced irritability drained away. They were all they had. Yeah, I was here. I'd be here as long as I could, and even longer after that if I could. But they were each other's keystone and cornerstone, each other's back-up and fall-back and – well, they were just plain each other's.

I could maybe take faster and easier care of both of them than they could take care of each other, but I knew that I couldn't take better care of them. It wasn't just what was happening right this minute; there were the memories of a lifetime of care in every touch and dose and jibe they gave each other. I could never do better than that. All I could do was help out.

So, while Dean got Sam dosed with two tablets and three careful sips of water, I picked up Sam's pillow from where it got tossed onto the floor and set it next to Dean on the bed. I emptied and organized the supplies while Dean got Sam laid back and as comfortable as he could be. I built a fire in the fireplace while Dean waited for Sam to fall asleep.

Then, at Dean's quiet, "Okay, Bobby," I helped him stand and hobble back to the couch, where I got him laid out and covered up and shot full of morphine. And then I waited until he fell asleep.

And then the cabin was quiet, even with the rain battering the roof, inside it was quiet. I could finally start winding down. I finished putting away our gear and grub, set an empty jug next to each boy, banked the fire, turned on my battery-powered lantern and set it on the floor near the couch, had a shot of whiskey, and took myself up the squeaking set of open steps to the loft where there was still the musty old bed I'd used when I first set foot in this place with Rufus all those years ago.

The next thing I know, it's 3am and the roof is still pounding with rain, and the downstairs is still quiet. I push myself off my paper-thin mattress and have a look. Both boys are where I left them, safe, asleep, at peace maybe, if only for as long as they are asleep.

I set my watch alarm for another couple of hours and go back to my luxury accommodations. The rain eases off as I fall back asleep.

The End.

A/N: for those who are fans of Dean & Cas's friendship on the show, I highly recommend Jaye North's trilogy of Supernatural meta shorts "Agents of Fate" for sale on Amazon.

"An analytical look at the relationship between Dean and Castiel. Covers their initial meeting in the first episode of Season Four ("Lazarus Rising") only. First in the Supernatural Meta Shorts series. 8,200 words." The other two are "Are You There, God?" and "In the Beginning."

I highly recommend these metas for an in depth look at the relationship between Dean & Cas. The first one "Agents of Fate: Lazarus Rising" will be free on Christmas day.