That evening Dean went out into the yard needing to just breathe in the fresh air; he could only take so much of the stale, dusty interior of Bobby's house after a while. It was good for clearing his head, too. Currently, he was sitting on the hood of an old '86 Chevy Caprice working on his fourth (or was it fifth?) beer; he'd been out there for the last couple of hours and was now watching the sun set behind the piles of junked cars. As far as he knew, Sam was still upstairs, sleeping off the effects of the demon possession.

He was mid-swig when his phone suddenly rang out in the quiet, causing him to jump and spill his beer down his shirt. "Shit! Goddammit!" he muttered as he fumbled his phone from his pocket. He pressed the device up to his ear as he set the bottle down and shook the moisture from his shirt. "Hello?"

"Dean." It was his father. "How are things?" The sounds of the old GMC could be heard in the background; his dad was somewhere out on the road.

"Sam woke up this morning." Dean picked up his beer and drained the remaining contents. (Couldn't let it go to waste; that would just be a crime.) "It was rough going at first," he continued, "but thanks to some 'special tea' of Bobby's, he seemed to snap out of it."

John let out a breath of relief and then, "Bobby's special tea?" he asked. A soft puff of a laugh sounded through the phone.

"Yeah. Who knew, huh?" Dean let himself smile. Bobby sure was a character. "Actually, I was gonna check on Sam in a little while, see if I can wake him up and get him to eat something, even if it's only soup and crackers. I gave him some pain killers earlier because he was complaining about hurtin', which was expected; he's been sleeping ever since."

"But he seems okay?" John had a hard time believing that Sam could pull through something like a double demon possession without some kind of residual side-effects, certainly not this quickly anyway. Either it wasn't as bad as they were led to believe or Sam was just a tough kid; probably more the latter, John thought.

"Well, I haven't really held a conversation with him yet, so it's tough to say for sure. The only thing that stood out as wrong was that he had no idea how he got to Bobby's."

Dean hopped off the car and turned to look towards the house. He let his eyes drift from the second floor window where he knew Sam to be and then took in the structure as a whole. It wasn't much to look at, what with the hub caps hanging on the walls, the peeling paint, and the crooked shutters (maybe one of these days he'd take a break from hunting and help Bobby with some home repair), but it was the closest thing he'd ever had to calling home since that fateful night when he was four years old. He was on the far side of the yard and had a ways to go before he got back to it. And damn, the mosquitoes were coming out in droves; the little vamps were trying to make a meal out of him.

"Short-term memory loss… Yeah, I guess that shouldn't be surprising. I've seen that happen with other post-possession vics I've dealt with. Give him time, Son. Let's see what happens."

"Any idea on when you're coming back?" His father had mentioned nothing of his current whereabouts or what he was up to. Typical.

"It's more driving than anything. Probably late Saturday. Listen, I gotta go. I'll be in touch." And then the line clicked and he was gone.

"Okay, then," Dean mumbled. John wasn't known for giving appropriate goodbyes. He closed his phone with a snap, tucked it back into his pocket, and then leaned down to pick the cooler up off the ground. As he straightened up and turned around to start his journey back through the maze of cars to the house, he slammed directly into a warm, solid body with an "oomph."

"Shit. Sorry, Dean."

It was Sam.

"Sammy?" Dean backed up a step, looking up at his brother. "Jesus, man. You scared the shit outta me. What're you doing out here? You should be in bed."

Sam ran a hand through his unruly hair, sweeping his bangs back from his face. His mouth quirked and then settled as if he was trying to think of something to say. "Bored? I've been up for a while and, well, Bobby's good and all, but I had to get out, you know?"

Dean grinned. Sam sounded good, normal. He received a smile in return once his brother was fairly sure Dean wasn't going to carry on about being out and about. "Yeah, I got you there," he said with a knowing chuckle. "What do you think I'm doing out here…being one with nature and all." He swatted none-so-gently at a mosquito which had the balls to settle in on his neck. "You hungry?"

"Starving," was Sam's quick reply. "How 'bout that diner downtown?"

The fact that Sam wanted to go out surprised Dean. He took a minute to study his brother and then asked, "You feel up to it? We could stay in-"

"Yeah, I'm good. I took another couple of ibuprofen a little while ago." A crease suddenly lined his forehead and he shifted from one foot to the other. "Something tells me we need to talk. I feel like I have this…I don't know…emptiness inside of me, like I'm missing something important. Like something big happened that I can't remember. When I asked Bobby about the feeling, he shrugged me off, said he didn't know what I was talking about, and then changed the subject."

Sam watched Dean closely as he talked, looking for signs that his brother knew something. And damn, there it was, that tell-tale twitch of a muscle in his brother's cheek. "Dean, if you know something…" he implored, breaking out what his brother called the puppy dog eyes. (Yeah, Sam knew he was playing dirty to get the answers he was looking for, but sometimes you had to do what you had to do, especially with someone like Dean who could seal himself up like Fort Knox.)

The question lingered heavily in the air, unanswered. So this was going to be on his shoulders, Dean thought as he chewed the inside of his cheek and tried to avoid Sam's desperate expression (those damn eyes could make him break and spill everything). He could tell Sam picked up on the fact that he knew something, too. Kid's too smart for his own friggin' good.

"Yeah, I suppose there's some things we need to discuss," he conceded. "But first, c'mon, let's get outta here before these little sons of bitches bleed me dry." He smacked at another mosquito on his arm and turned around to go back to the house.

Good, Dean was going to talk. Sam quickly fell into step beside his brother; the man was actually outpacing Sam for once, trying to get away from the mosquitoes. "They always did like you more," he said with a smile. Sam didn't react quickly enough when Dean swung around and punched him playfully in the shoulder. "Ow!" He feigned pain and then laughed as he smacked Dean back.

For Dean, there was no better sound in the world than that laugh.

An hour later found the brothers sitting in the back corner of the only local diner. The place had been around for a while; the faded blue and white vinyl seats had patches on them here and there and the laminate-topped tables were timeworn, but they had good food and that's all that mattered. Bobby had been coming here for years, therefore the Winchesters had followed suit and became regulars when they were in town.

Dean had showered and changed into something a little cleaner than what he'd had on. (A love/hate relationship with Bobby's washer was due in the near future.) Sam was people watching as he sat sprawled out comfortably in the booth across from him – if either of them shifted in the slightest, they knocked knees under the table because the booths here just weren't built to contain someone as gangly as Sam. The kid hadn't asked any questions yet. That was good because Dean still didn't know how he was going to answer them.

The waitress, an older woman who introduced herself as Louise, came over and handed them two menus. (Dean didn't recognize her; she must have started since the last time he was in Sioux Falls.) Her shoulder-length dark hair was salt-and-peppered with age and fine lines shown at the corners of her faded blue eyes and bracketed her red lip-sticked mouth. From her sharp, angular features, Dean guessed that she had been an attractive woman in her younger years. "Coffees?" she asked.

Dean looked across the table to Sam, silently asking his brother if he wanted one. Sam nodded. The elder Winchester looked back up at the woman and grinned. "Sure, Louise." Dean knew they liked it when he used their names. "Two regulars, please. Cream and sugar on the side." Sam may have requested black while on the way to Bobby's the other day, but he wanted to cover all bases just in case the man changed his mind since then.

Louise returned Dean's smile, a slight blush coloring her cheeks. (Even the older ladies weren't immune to Dean's charm.) "Coming right up, hun." She turned and headed back behind the counter to get the coffee pot.

As they were waiting for their food a little while later, Sam watched while Dean built some kind of misshapen tower out of the little jelly packets which normally resided in a small metal rack up against the wall. Sam sipped his coffee as he did; the warmth felt good as it settled in his stomach. He noticed that Dean was quieter than usual, like he was trying to avoid the pending conversation. When the man did talk, it had nothing to do with that big gaping hole in Sam's memory.

Sam was trying to figure things out in his head, but he had nothing. He hadn't talked to Dean in months, since January at least. Hell, he hadn't seen his brother in going on a year. Why, all of a sudden, was he with Dean in Sioux Falls? Where was their father? What the fuck had happened? Jesus, and was Jess okay? Did she know where he was? Damn. He should have called her. Sam started drumming his fingers on the table, a nervous habit. Dean glanced at the movement and just lifted an eyebrow, and then he started putting the jelly away when he saw Louise heading to their table with their orders.

Dean got a burger with everything (don't let him fool you, everything except anything to do with vegetables) and fries. Sam got a chicken Caesar salad.

"So, where's Dad?" Sam figured he'd start off with the easier question. But then again, nothing was ever easy when it came to John Winchester.

Dean shrugged as he finished chewing and swallowed. He took a sip of his soda before answering. "Don't know. Says he'll be back the day after tomorrow though." He picked up a pile of ketchup-laden fries and stuffed them into his mouth.

"I thought you two always hunted together these days. How come you're not with him?" Sam was pretty sure he knew the answer to his question, but he wanted to see how Dean would respond. His brother had been stuck babysitting him because of whatever it was that had happened.

Dean, ever the one with perfect manners, answered with his mouth full of half-masticated fries. "How should I know? You know how Dad is. He said he had to go…so he went." He swallowed and took another bite of his burger.

Sam bit into another forkful of salad and chewed. After a few more forced bites, he found that he was picking at his food more than eating it. He finally got the courage up to ask the question, but when Sam opened his mouth to ask it, Dean cut him off, almost as if he knew what was coming.

"Look, Sam," Dean said as he shifted back in the seat; he thumbed some ketchup off the corner of his mouth, "I know you have questions. Let's just eat and then, I don't know, we'll go somewhere a little less public and I'll tell you what you want to know." It would also give Dean more time to come up with answers other than the ones he didn't want to give.

Sam rolled his bottom lip in and chewed on it. Finally, he nodded, albeit reluctantly. He could wait a little while longer; it really wouldn't make a difference. He stabbed his fork into his salad and took another bite.

Dean pulled the Impala off the road and into a field near an old, abandoned barn. He and Sam were familiar with the place; they used to come here as kids when John was off hunting something or another. When they were really young, it was a good place to play cops and robbers or cowboys and indians, and then as they got older, they practiced their sparring and did some target practice there.

Dean turned the engine off, leaving the keys in the ignition. He sat back in the seat and wiped a hand over his face, sighing. He wondered how Sam was going to react when he told him what had happened. Finally, accepting that he was going to have to get this over with, Dean reached over to open the door and got out. He hefted himself up onto the hood and scooted back until he could rest up against the windshield. The heat of the engine radiated through the metal and warmed him. It wasn't cool outside by any stretch, but it felt good.

A moment later, Dean heard the passenger side door creak as it opened and then closed. The car dipped as Sam silently hopped up onto the hood and slid up to sit next to him. His brother had been quiet since they left the diner.

The sky was clear tonight and the stars were twinkling brilliantly above like a million little diamonds. If Dean had thought about it, he would have brought a six-pack along to share. It was a good night for it. But he didn't, so instead, they both lay there staring up at the heavens, saying nothing for a long time.

And then Dean broke the peaceful silence. "You were possessed." Might as well get straight to the point.

Sam heard the words, but it took a minute for his brain to register their meaning. He closed his eyes. In the back of his mind he had known it was something bad. How could it not have been? Possessed… The word made his stomach turn sour and he felt like he was going to be sick.

Dean couldn't figure out how to not tell Sam what had happened, so in the end, he opted for the truth…although he'd make sure to omit some of the finer details. "That's why you're wearing that necklace. So don't go taking it off…ever." He blew out a deep breath. "You called last Friday night, said something was after you. From your description of it, Dad and I thought it was just a spirit, something harmless, but when we got there, you were gone. The only reason we were able to track you down was because you turned on your phone's GPS.

"The demon, he left you in control of yourself every now and then from what you told us. Good thing, too, or we would've had one hell of a time finding your ass." There was a pause before he asked, "You really don't remember anything, nothing at all?" Dean turned his eyes from the stars above and looked over at Sam.

"I was hoping I was dreaming, you know, when I was stuck…before I woke up. I saw you and Dad. I saw people dying, Dean. Did I do that? Did I kill people?" Sam's voice was starting to crack and he shivered at even the thought of taking someone's life. Did he slit those people's throats like that? Oh, God… He refused to look at Dean as tears threatened to spill.

Shit. There it was: the question Dean didn't want to answer. If Dean lied, Sam would see right through it; the kid knew him too well. But he reminded himself, Sam didn't kill anyone; it was the damn demon. "No, Sam. You didn't kill anyone." The words were steady and firm.

Dean watched his brother carefully; he could see the slightest tremble in his brother's otherwise still form. Reaching over, he placed a reassuring hand on the younger Winchester's shoulder. "Look at me, Sam." When Sam finally turned his head to him, Dean saw the unshed tears glistening in his brother's eyes. "You didn't, alright. Some bad shit happened, I'll admit that, but you gotta trust me. Nothing that happened was your fault." He stopped there; it was enough. He could see Sam was already starting to freak out. And the more he said, the more things Sam could twist up and figure out how to blame himself for. Dean also didn't want to jar any missing bits of memory loose. He dropped his hand from Sam's shoulder and looked his brother in the eye. "It's over, Sammy. You gotta let it go," he said with a note of finality in his voice. "The demon's dead...dead and gone. He's not gonna hurt you again." And there was no way in hell Dean was mentioning that other demon, the one with the yellow eyes that seemed to know Sam.

Sam nodded tightly, but then his eyes fell to Dean's cast and Dean saw the question there.

"Don't worry about it. Just a small fracture…comes with the job. You know that." And then he smiled. "I'd say the demon got the shit end of the deal. – Are we done now, or do you wanna keep diggin'? 'Cause I think you've figured out the most important part: you're alive."

Sam wasn't really listening to him anymore; Dean could tell. He'd lost him somewhere around the point Sam mentioned seeing people dying. His brother's piercing hazel eyes looked up from the cast to Dean again. Suddenly, Dean felt like Sam was attempting to reach deep into his soul, trying to read him like the open book he could be, especially around his brother. The elder Winchester squirmed under the scrutiny and couldn't help but blink and break eye contact first. Dean sat up and scooted down to the nose of the car, tugging his jacket tighter around himself as if he could hide behind the thick cotton fabric. But he could still feel Sam's eyes burning into his back. Dean hated not being able to tell his brother everything he wanted to know, but he couldn't; he couldn't risk losing Sam.

Sam's brow furrowed as Dean moved away from him. His brother was so obviously not telling him everything, probably trying to protect him as usual. Sam knew people had to have died; that's what demons did. He knew that much. And the bastards needed a body to do it from. But Dean was closed off now; he got all he was going to get out of the man. And Sam knew he wouldn't get much more, if anything, out of his father when he got back to Bobby's from wherever he'd gone. (Actually, Sam wasn't so sure he even wanted to see his dad. They hadn't parted on very friendly terms after all. That was the fight to end all fights as far as Sam was concerned.) He let out a resigned sigh, realizing he'd probably learned as much as he was going to about his possession. Maybe he was better off not knowing everything.

"Jess is probably worried sick about me," Sam said more to himself than to Dean.

Oh, thank God. Sam was dropping the subject. "Maybe you should give her a call when we get back. It's not that late. I talked to her on the phone when we were there, promised I'd have you call her when we found you."

"Yeah." Christ, Sam had missed a lot. Jess had always teased Sam about his "imaginary big brother" because she'd never seen Dean before. Now she'd actually spoken to him. He sat up and moved down the hood to sit with Dean again. "So…since last Friday, huh? What's today?" And then it hit him. "Fuck, Dean. I've got finals coming up in just a couple weeks."

Only Sam could be so worried about school after being possessed by a demon roughly forty-eight hours ago. "It's Thursday, the sixth. So, you know, Happy belated Birthday. How's it feel to be twenty-one?" Dean glanced at his brother, raising an eyebrow. It took Sam a minute to look over at him.

"Pretty fucking shitty." He grimaced. "I mean, from what I can tell so far, I've had a concussion, been stabbed in the leg and in the side, at least that's what it looks like – thanks for the stitches by the way – not to mention the rainbow of bruises up my side, and, oh, yeah, I've been possessed. So yeah, spectacularly shitty."

"Could've been worse," Dean said, tilting his head as he bit back a smile to Sam's response.

Sam arched his brow and stared at Dean. "You're kidding me?" He allowed a slow grin to spread across his face and then broke out into a laugh and shook his head. It felt good after the seriousness of their current conversation. Dean joined in a second later.

They stayed out there for a while, both deep in their own thoughts. Finally, Dean hopped off the hood to the ground. "C'mon. Let's get back to Bobby's. I'll give you your first legal beer and then you can call Jess."

Dean slept in his own room that night. Sam had said he was fine and gently closed the bedroom door in Dean's face. The next morning the elder Winchester woke up to the smell of coffee and bacon wafting through the air. Someone's ambitious this morning, he thought to himself as he rolled over, tugged at the sheet which had wrapped around him like a constrictor overnight, and dropped his legs over the side of the bed. A low groan escaped as he sat up and stretched the stiffness out of his body. He wiped his hands over his face, day-old stubble chafing at his palms. It took Dean a few minutes to gather himself before he stood up to go downstairs, following the mouth-watering aroma of a homemade breakfast.

Sam was at the table with a half-empty plate of eggs, bacon, and toast in front of him. He was finishing off a glass of orange juice when Dean rounded the corner. Bobby was sitting across from him. They appeared to be deep in conversation about something supernatural from the words "zombie" and "rock salt" Dean had heard as he approached the kitchen. They stopped talking when he entered the room.

"Well, good morning, Sunshine," Bobby looked over and greeted Dean as the young hunter made his way straight to the coffee pot on the counter. "Breakfast is on the stove keepin' warm for you." Dean grumbled something unintelligible back to him in reply. "Need your coffee to get the brain workin', I see," he teased and decided to leave the elder brother alone until he was more awake. Bobby knew from experience that Dean was a bear in the mornings, just like his father.

Dean took a plate down from the cupboard and loaded it with the fluffy, white and yellow scrambled eggs and the deliciously crispy bacon. Once his plate was piled high to his satisfaction, he grabbed another strip and jammed it into his mouth before making his way over to the table to settle in. Bobby and Sam raised eyebrows at the amount of food on Dean's dish. "What?" he asked as he chewed.

"Nothing," was the simultaneous response from both men as they shook their heads and went back to their discussion about whether or not revenants could also be considered zombies or vice versa. They had a lot of things in common, but revenants had some thought processes, whereas zombies had absolutely none to speak of.

Dean listened as he ate. He didn't have much of an opinion on the topic. As far as he was concerned, both creatures needed to be taken out if they were ever up and about, so it didn't much matter if they were one in the same or two completely separate beings. But what the conversation did prove, was that Sam was definitely "all there" and he hadn't forgotten his lore either.

After a while, Sam excused himself, wanting to head up for a shower. He rinsed his dishes off and placed them in the strainer before leaving. "Thanks for breakfast, Bobby," he said as he left the room to go upstairs.

Once Sam was out of earshot, Dean looked over at Bobby. "How is he?"

"He sounds real good, Dean. I think we got lucky on this one, Sam got lucky."

"Has he remembered anything?"

"Nope, don't seem like it anyway. Hasn't asked any questions since yesterday when he got up either. Probably figures he's learned as much as he's gonna." Bobby sat back in his chair and sipped his coffee. "For his sake, I hope the memories don't come back. From what your dad told me, he's better off not knowing everything. Sam's just too innocent; even after all the crap he's been witness to all these years."

"Yeah." Dean looked at the empty stairs and then back at the old hunter. "I know a lot of people don't do too well after possession, they end up in loony bins or wherever, but have any of the ones who've lost their memory ever gotten it back?"

"We haven't kept track of many, because like you said, most end up a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Those who aren't, well, seems like the memories don't ever re-surface. I'm guessin' it's an involuntary survival technique of the brain…a way of protecting itself."

Dean nodded before taking another sip of coffee. He sure hoped those flood gates never opened on Sam. The kid had seemed to pull through the small break the other day, even if just barely. Who knew if he'd get through it again if that wall came down now?

The brothers and Bobby spent the rest of the day catching up with each other and reliving a few of the old, good memories. Some of the more mundane tasks were done (i.e. Dean's long overdue laundry). After lunch, Dean decided to give the Impala a washing and a tune-up and left Sam inside with Bobby in the library. Not too long after, Sam showed up with a couple of beers in hand.

Dean pulled out from under the car when he heard Sam's approach. "Remind me not to get a broken arm next time I go after a demon. It's damn near impossible to change the oil like this. I can hardly get in there to reach the oil filter with this thing on," he complained as he hauled himself up off the ground and accepted the cold bottle from Sam. "Thanks, man." He took a long pull from it and let out a deep, satisfied sigh. "So, you wanna hit up a bar or something later? Shoot some pool, throw some darts…maybe grab a game of poker?" He knew Sam was out of practice on probably all of the above, but it wouldn't hurt to get out for a while. "Dad's supposed to be back tomorrow, so it might be our only chance before we leave on Sunday."

Sam gave the idea some thought and surprised Dean by saying yes. He could use a little fun to take his mind off things. Once he was back at school, Sam knew he was going to be under the gun making up for missing a whole week, and with finals coming up at the end of the month, it was going to be a race against the clock.

Dean grinned. "Alright, then. It's a date. We'll leave around eight." He looked back at the Impala. Its hood was up and the air filter housing was disassembled, waiting for the new filter which was still sitting on the work bench behind him next to several quarts of oil. "I have some more stuff I have to finish up on out here, but I'm not opposed to you hanging out. I could probably use some help, too. Freakin' cast," he mumbled.

Sam just stared at Dean and shook his head. He couldn't help it. "Seriously? You're complaining about a broken arm? Dean, you're lucky that's all that happened. I know you haven't told me everything, but I'm guessing you could have had it a lot worse, like dead." Sam looked on as Dean slid back under the car. The man didn't reply and Sam let it go, not wanting to start a fight. They had so little time together as it was and he didn't want to spend it arguing. "Hey, remember the time that poltergeist threw you out that window when you were what, seventeen?"

"Yeah, yeah. No need to go there." Dean had fractured his right humerus (who the hell came up with these names?) and he certainly hadn't found it funny. He had no mobility of his arm then and was laid up in motel room after motel room for that whole month. Their dad hadn't been happy about it and blamed Dean for not being on top of things. Maybe he hadn't been. He vaguely recalled worrying about a thirteen year old Sammy being pinned to the wall by a rogue table at the time. "Why don't you make yourself useful and install that new air filter for me. That should keep you busy for a while." It was a two minute job, but Dean knew Sam couldn't make heads or tails out of an engine and smirked as he reached up and began to screw the new oil filter into place.

Eight o'clock finally rolled around and they left for the local watering hole. The bartender knew Dean by name because he usually made a few stops in every time they were in Sioux Falls. They knocked back a few shots of whiskey at the bar before grabbing a couple of beers. It didn't take long to work their way into a game of poker. Sam had apparently picked up some tricks at school because he made off with the pot. When they were done, Dean gave him a congratulatory clap on the back and they bought rounds for everyone to keep the peace.

A couple of hours later, after Dean made sure he was sober enough to drive, they made their way over to the diner from the day before and ordered a couple slices of warm apple pie and two cups of coffee. Dean asked for extra whipped cream on his pie and somehow Sam felt like he ended up wearing more of it than Dean actually ate. Eventually, they packed it in before the other late-night patrons could give them too many irritated glares.

It had been a while since they'd been able to enjoy a nice, relaxing evening without anything hanging over their shoulders. But both knew that once their father got back things would change, that tension as thick as the London fog would arrive on the man's coattails.

John turned into the driveway to Singer Salvage at exactly seven-thirty the next evening. His body was nearly numb from being at the wheel so much during the last few days and he was bone tired. John knew he had been pushing it by driving so far in such a short period of time and he had just managed to get everything done that he had set out to do. But now that things were taken care of, he felt much better, safer. He had no regrets.

The inevitable tension worked its way into his body, unbidden, when he pulled up in front of the house and saw Sam sitting in a chair on the porch. John could see the same tension in his younger son's features. It was uncanny how much Sam reminded John of himself when he was that age. The kid was determined and focused, always standing his ground, and always needing to know everything. (Unfortunately, he had inherited the gene for Winchester stubbornness, too.) They were good traits, but they were traits that caused a grating friction between father and son more often than not.

Turning off the engine and pulling the keys from the ignition, John took a breath, bracing himself, and then stepped out from his truck. Sam had already gotten up and was standing at the top of the porch stairs. Dean and Bobby were nowhere to be seen.

"Hey, Sam," John said with a cautious smile as he rounded the front of the truck. "Good to see you up and about." He gave Sam a visual once-over, head to toe and back, making sure the young man was as okay as Dean had said.

"Yeah, I guess I've had a rough go of it. Dean told me most of what happened, at least the parts he wanted me to know about." Sam came down the steps and approached his father.

There was a slight hesitation in Sam's footsteps and John noticed it at once. He let his duffel slide off his shoulder to the ground. The two men eyed each other for a moment and then John opened his arms, inviting Sam into them. "Come here, Sam." His son stepped into the offered embrace and hugged him tightly. "I've missed you. I know the last time we talked, it wasn't good, but that was then. I'm just… God, I'm just happy you're safe now."

"I know, Dad. I've missed you, too. I'm sorry." Sam felt his eyes water as his dad held him. He missed this closeness. It had been gone since about the time Sam had hit double-digits.

They pulled away from each other and John took Sam's face between his hands so he could look up at him (when the hell had that happened?), and then slid them down to rest on the young man's shoulders. "No, Sam. I'm the one who should be apologizing. I'm proud of you, proud that you stood up for yourself when I was such a hardass." He let go of Sam before the touch got too awkward. "I know we'll probably always have our issues, but just remember, I love you two boys more than anything. You're all I have, my family."

Sam wiped the moisture from his cheeks and nodded. "Love you, too, Dad."

Both men jumped when the screen door to Bobby's house slammed shut. They looked over and saw Dean coming down the stairs, making his way towards them.

Dean had seen and heard most of the exchange between his father and brother, but kept it to himself. That was their personal business, but he was glad they'd gotten more than five words out to each other without throwing any punches. "Hey, Dad. Good to see you. Trip go well?" Dean bent over and picked up John's bag, ready to help his father get settled in.

"I got done what needed to be done," John replied cryptically as usual.

"Well, that's good to hear. One less ugly to ruin someone's day." Dean turned to head back into the house. "There's sandwiches-"

"I didn't go on a hunt." The words stopped Dean in his tracks and he spun around to look at his father with a questioning frown. Sam looked just as confused.

"Oookaaay… Care to share?" Dean asked when the man didn't volunteer anything further.

"I went back to Palo Alto." John looked at Sam and reached into his back pocket to pull out a slip of paper. "I knew you had plans on moving before the fall," he said as he unfolded the paper and handed it to Sam. "I found you a new place and arranged to have your stuff moved. That's your new address. It's not far from your old dorm and it's safe. I put up a few powerful protection wards, set up a couple of permanent defensive spells, and left hex bags in some strategic places." John saw Sam's mouth twitch. "Don't be mad, Son. I had to make sure you're gonna be as safe as I can make you if Dean and I can't be there to help keep an eye on things. And I didn't want to have to do this twice, that's the reason for the new place." He smiled then. "It's big enough for both you and your girlfriend. I've already talked to her. Actually, Jessica helped me get this done. There's a good possibility she'll be moved in by the time you get back there."

"Dad…" Sam was speechless. How had his father known his plans with Jess? But then again, this was John Winchester. The man always seemed to know everything. Sam didn't know whether to be angry, happy, shocked, or all of the above.

"Dude, close your mouth before you start catchin' flies," Dean teased.

Sam turned to Dean then. "Did you know about this?"

Dean raised his hands in mock defense and shook his head no. "Dude, don't look at me. I'm innocent on all counts."

"Uh, thanks," was all that Sam could say when he looked back at his dad. "Wow."

"Like I said, I just need to know that you're safe. And that girlfriend of yours, take care of her. She seems real sweet on you." John's smile was genuine. After a moment it faded and he became serious again. His eyes fell to where he knew the anti-possession charm should be resting on Sam's chest. "And Dean's talked to you about that necklace?"

Sam reached up and clasped the amulet through his shirt. "Yeah, I got it. It's not going anywhere. Trust me."

"Good." John nodded and then looked at Dean, brow raised. "Now, you said something about sandwiches? I'm starving." He needed food and a bed.

It still felt weird hugging his father the next morning when Sam was saying goodbye. After the recent journey to and from Stanford, John opted to stay behind. He needed some downtime. They had all gotten to bed late last night and the man still needed some serious shuteye.

"You take care of yourself, Sam. I'll stop by when I can, see how you're doing."

Sam wasn't sure whether to believe the man's words or not, but for now he'd just go with it. His father did look like he was going to miss him, though, which was a first. "Yeah. You, too, Dad." And then he walked over to Bobby and gave the old man a quick hug. "Take it easy, Bobby."

"See ya around, kid. And I don't wanna hear about your ass gettin' into any more trouble, you hear me?" It was said with a smile. "And keep in touch."

"I'll do my best." Sam looked at the two men one last time before heading over to the awaiting Impala.

Dean was already waiting in the car, sunglasses on. "Ready?" he asked as Sam slid in and pulled the door closed behind him.

Sam let out a sigh and then nodded. "Yeah, let's go."

Dean turned the key and the Impala roared to life. He reached over and flipped the radio on and suddenly Metallica was blasting out of the speakers. "Alright then. Let's get rollin'!" he said happily with a wicked grin and punched the gas, laughing when Sam flew back into the seat and gave him bitch face #18.

All was right with the world…for now at least.

The End