Warning: This chapter contains major triggers for child abuse, child neglect, panic attacks and drug/alcohol abuse
Cas simply nodded at his brother and Sam when he returned. Half an hour after Sam and Gabriel arrived Leah appeared in the door looking concerned.
"Hi," Sam said, sounding surprised. Dean looked up.
"Leah." Dean dragged himself from the chair and wrapped her in a hug.
"We're going to take the kids to get a snack." Cas knew. Of course Cas knew. With Sam's help and an enthusiastic Gabe asking the kids about their favorite sweets, they disappeared to the nook down the hall with the vending machines. Leah carefully enveloped him and the tears he had been fighting for hours came, seeming to fight to get out at the same time.
"I got you, Dean. I got you. Just let it out."
"I can feel it in my bones. He's not going to make it."
"It's ok to be scared."
"I used to wish for this when I was teenager. That he'd just get into an accident or something and I'd be free. That stopped when they took the kids away but now that I'm actually faced with it, with maybe actually losing him.
"I've never told him that despite everything he's put us through, the hell we went through, its ok. I don't blame him. He's my dad and I love him." Dean was aware he was shaking and of the tears staining his face, his runny nose. Leah just stood there, a soothing a hand on his back as he sobbed in her shoulder.
"Hey. He's going to be fine. All better and back to his usual crap by summer."
"You're probably right. Damn it, why are you always right?"
"I'm a mom." She said it with a wry smile. She glanced at Dean, whose face had fallen even more. "Sorry, that was insensitive."
"No, no. Just haven't had a mom in a long time. And you are too good to me."
"Someone needs to take care of you sometimes too."
"How is he doing, if you don't mind me asking?"
"He's, well, we really don't know yet. There are some internal injuries and he's still in surgery. The nurse made it sound like it was pretty bad."
"He will be ok, Dean."
"I know, I know."
"And you'll let me know when you have another free weekend. They deserve some time with you. Actual time."
"I will. Listen, I know it's a lot to ask, but when he wakes up, when he's stable, do you think you could bring them to see him? We know he'll be sober and I think it'd mean a lot to him. And Anna, well the first thing out of her mouth was if they'd get to see him."
"We'll see how it goes. I'm sure we can work something out."
"Do you want us to wait here?"
"No. Just take them home. I'm gonna send Sam and Cas home as soon as they get back. They'll let you in to get their things."
"You shouldn't be alone."
"I'll be fine."
"Alright. When you hear something-"
"I'll call. I think it may be awhile."
"Alright." The group came traipsing back in.
"Cas, Sam you guys can head home. Leah is going to take the kids and there's not a lot going on here."
"I'm afraid I will have to leave. I wasn't planning on being away so long, and Rebel has needs."
"Its fine, Cas. Just let them in so they can get their stuff."
"I'm staying. We can't just leave you alone." Dean smiled at Sam, too tired to argue before turning his attention to Gabriel who seemed torn between Sam and Cas.
"I'm gonna head back with Cassie. Get to know my little nephew." Sam smiled covertly at him as they left.
Dean collapsed back onto the chair after hugging his siblings goodbye and promising they could come back. This wasn't supposed to happen. They'd already been through enough. It was all he could think. John Winchester was a lot of things, including a crappy father Dean could admit, but underneath it all, before Mary had left, before things got bad he had been a good man. Now he found himself hopping John could start to pull it together.
"Thanks for staying, Sam."
"No one should be alone in the hospital."
"You and Gabriel, huh?"
"I don't think now is really the time."
"Need something to distract me. Does Cas know?"
"I think at this point Gabe and I barely know. I mean three months ago I didn't even know I was attracted to guys."
"No worries. My lips are sealed."
"Just make sure to tell him before he finds out the hard way."
"We will. You doing ok?"
"All things considered- could be worse. He'll be ok."
"Listen, I'm realistic. I may have a fantasy he's going to change and we're going to magically be a family again, but I know it's not going to happen. But he's not going to die or anything." Sam nodded, realizing reassuring Dean was more necessary than pointing out just how long John had been in surgery.
"Right. Listen; don't worry about rent next month."
"I can't, Sam. I made an agreement. I can, I will honor that."
"It's not a big deal. I got roommates to help, uh,to help me pay for stuff I'm not using a lot of these days. I could make rent before."
"Still. I can't."
"I'm not saying you can't do it. I'm just saying I know money is tight and hospital trips aren't cheap."
"I appreciate the gesture. I really do."
"Winchester?" Dean looked up at the sound of his name. A woman in blue scrubs was looking at him expectantly. Dean took a deep breath, preparing himself for the worst.
"We'll talk about it later."
"Right." Dean crossed the room forcing himself not to panic.
"Hello. I'm Doctor Morgan."
"Dean Winchester," he said stiffly.
"Your father is out of surgery. He was seriously injured. The internal bleeding is stopped, however he will likely need further surgeries to repair additional injuries and to remove the tube we placed to drain fluid from his abdominal cavity. Our orthopedic team put metal rods in both his right arm and leg."
"He's going to be ok?" The doctor appraised Dean's face before speaking.
"Your father is in critical condition. He's on a ventilator and is heavily sedated. He could very well recover fully; I've seen much sicker patients recover, but in all reality it will depend largely on him. We'll do everything we can of course, but I don't wish to deemphasize the severity of his injuries."
"Can I see him?"
"Yes, follow me. He's not awake."
"I just wantto see-"
"I understand. And Mr. Winchester, I realize it's none of my business, but may I offer some advice?"
"Go for it."
"After you see your father, go home and try to get some sleep. The last person I saw who looked like they needed a good night's sleep more than you was an intern getting off a forty hour shift."
"I'll try." Dean turned to his roommate. "Sammy?"
"I'll be here when you're done."
"Right." Dean followed Dr. Morgan beyond the set of double doors he had been determinedly not looking at for the past several hours. She stopped in front of a room and cracked the door.
"I'll give you some time."
"Thanks" Dean forced a smile as he caught the proffered door and closed it gently behind him. All the clichés fluttered through his mind- small, lost, frail. The truth was though the man on the bed in a hospital gown attached to a ventilator was none of those things. The word Dean finally settled on was gray. John Winchester looked gray. He crossed the room and pulled the chair across the floor to his bedside.
"Hey Dad. I don't really know if you can hear me right now. I didn't really think to ask. You just got out of surgery though and they said they're keeping you pretty heavily sedated so probably not. Uh, I don't know if you were drinking, or if the crashing was your fault or what happened.
"Maybe I don't want to know. I think I want to be in the dark this time. I've known all the gory details for far too long. I just want to be your son this time. I want you to realize that's all I ever should have been. And I'm sitting here saying this crap but I'm already thinking about how the hell I'm going to pay for this and if I should take Sam's rent offer. It's not going to change anything, not really. I'm not naïve enough to believe that, not anymore.
"But Anna is, Dad. The first damn thing she asked when I told them you'd been in an accident was if they'd get to see you. I mean the only reason I take care of you anymore is because I feel obliged to, it's habit, but Anna loves you. Balthazar doesn't really remember you, but I think Anna tells him stories. If, when you wake up maybe Leah will bring them in, if you want to see them.
"I know things haven't been good, not for a long time, but could you try? For them. I'm a lost cause. But they're bright and vibrant. Anna's sharp, witty. She has your humor, or at least your humor from when you were sober. Balthazar has mom's eyes, and he can draw so well. I don't know if I ever told you that.
"I'm doing my best. Working two jobs, going to school, mostly to appease Bobby if I'm being honest, but the man's done a lot for me; done a lot for you too, even if you don't remember most of it. More of a dad to me then you were. I'm tired, Dad. More tired than I have any right to be at twenty.
"I don't even know why I'm saying this crap. You wouldn't care, even if you could hear me. I'm going to take care of you though. It's gonna be ok. I promise. I'll be back tomorrow."Dean moved the chair back to the wall, ignoring the tear running down his face. Before he left he paused again at John's bedside. "I do love you, you know." He went to the waiting room.
"Let's go home, Sammy." Sam glanced up and stood.
John woke up on Wednesday. Disoriented and in pain, the first thing he asked about was his son. Dean got the call as he exited class. He dropped his phone sparking Cas, who had been standing about 20 feet away to jog over, assuming the worst.
"He's fine. He's awake. He's asking for me."
"Yeah." Cas smiled as Dean walked heavily away. He hoped his friend would be ok; that John would be ok and would against all odds pull it together for his children.
Dean jogged towards the Impala, dialing Leah as he got in. He could barely contain his happiness. She didn't pick up. Dean realized she was probably at work.
"Hey Leah. It's Dean. Dad's awake. If he's feeling up to it maybe you could bring the kids by this weekend? Call me back."
Dean hurried to the hospital, but when he was confronted with the actual task of going into his father's room he halted. He was awake. He was talking. He was healing. Finally he forced himself to open the door. They had taken him off the ventilator but the oxygen cannulas poking into his nose still made Dean cringe. He had some color, at least he was more white than gray.
"Hey." Dean wasn't sure why he was so surprised by how hoarse he was.
"How are you?"
"Thanks." Dean forced a laugh and they sat in silence for a few minutes. "I heard you, you know."
"What you said. I don't know how or why but I did."
"Shit. Just- it was nothing. I was-"
"No, Dean. You're right. I haven't been there for you. I certainly haven't been there for Anna or Balthazar. I've put more responsibility on you than I have on myself. The fact of it is I can't undo any of it; take it back I can't even promise to get better at being there. That I'll even be able to get better. I can try."
"I didn't want to get your hopes up, but Anna and Balthazar may come this weekend. I haven't heard back from Leah or anything but Anna really wants to see you."
"I would like that."
"Yeah, so uh,"
"You rushed here from school and have to get to work."
"I really want to stay."
"Go, Dean. Do what need to be done. Just come back."
"Yeah. Yeah, I will. Tomorrow."
The next day Dean went to the hospital and actually stayed. John's next surgery was scheduled for Saturday. It was nerve wracking. He remained in the ICU, listed as critical but stable. The reassurance from Leah that she was taking the kids out of school early Friday to bring them to see John had Dean arriving home happy on Thursday. Things were maybe going to be ok. As he unlocked the door and heard a baby crying he realized it was more than likely going to be a long night if Rebel was fussy.
The sight that greeted him as he walked into the living room made him blink several times to be certain that exhaustion wasn't making him hallucinate because what he was seeing absolutely could not be happening. Rebel was still in his carrier, dressed only in a diaper, smudged in dirt and dried fluids Dean immediately identified, his left side mottled purple and blue. Cas sat on the couch; he looked shocked, unable to move.
"Cas, buddy, what's going on?"
"I- she dropped him off like this. Said I did it. That she was going to file charges. Dean I don't know what- I didn't do it." His voice was a rough whisper. Dean sensed he was beyond tears.
"We're gonna get through this Cas. I know you didn't, couldn't do this. Sam knows it too. We're gonna get through this.
"I don't know where to start."
"We're gonna start by getting him cleaned up and fed. I'm guessing he's had a rough week. Then we're going to call a lawyer first thing tomorrow."
"Right. Right. I need to be a father first."
"If you need to freak out-"
"I will later."
"Ok. Do you mind if I call Sam?"
"Go ahead. I'm gonna get a bath ready. Can you bring him in?"
"Yeah." Dean dialed Sam. "Sam. Come home. Now."
"Why? What's going on?"
"I'll explain when you get here."
"On my way." Sam hesitated, sensing this wasn't a moment to try and be a smartass. "I got to the building, actually."
"Ok. Thanks." Dean went over and carefully unhooked the latches on Rebel's carrier. It didn't do much to ease his cries.
"Everything ok in here?" Sam's head poked through the door.
"Sam." Sam came in and made a noise akin to a dying cat when he saw Rebel.
"What did that bitch do?"
"She showed up with him like this. Told Cas it's his fault and that she's pressing charges."
"He's getting Rebel's bath ready."
"So not good?"
"He's holding it together about as well as can be expected."
"What do you need me to do?"
"Know any good lawyers?"
"No, but I know someone who does. I'll make some calls."
"Just get him cleaned up ok?"
"Yeah." Dean turned his attention to the baby. "Let's get you clean." Rebel responded with a piercing scream. Dean made his way over the bathroom where Cas had laid out clean clothes and was currently checking the temperature of the bath water.
"Yeah. He's making some calls." Dean pulled the tabs on the disposable diaper and nearly gagged at the smell.
"That's- oh God what is that?"
"I don't think Meg has been changing his diaper."
"Get it in the trash!"
"Sam!" Dean tossed the diaper in the trash and passed the baby off to Cas. He heard Sam's heavy footfalls coming down the hall.
"Yeah, Ellen hold on a sec." Sam covered the mouthpiece of the phone. "What's going on?" Dean handed him the trash bag.
"Get this outside."
"Ok?" Sam took the bag and put the phone back to his ear. "Yeah. I'm here."
The warm water didn't do much to placate Rebel. Though Cas was being as gentle as he could the baby was still obviously uncomfortable. Cas tried to quell the panic rising in his chest. Logically he understood Rebel wasn't seriously injured, but his mind kept jumping to the worst. The scenarios in his head kept flipping from horrible but bearable to so horrific he thought he might be sick. He wondered when the last time Rebel had eaten was.
"Cas I think you need to change the water." Cas looked at the bath water, now brown and realized the baby wasn't even half-washed.
"Yeah. Hand me a towel." Cas reached for the plug, keeping one hand on the baby. He placed the towel Dean handed him over Rebel to keep him warm as he readjusted the temperature. Once the tub was refilled, the washing went relatively quickly.
"If you're good here, I'm going to go heat up a bottle."
A few hours later Rebel was fed and safely ensconced in his crib, sleeping soundly for the time being. The three men were sitting around the table, staring at the table.
"Ellen said she'll look for a good lawyer. She also said she wishes she could advise to not give Rebel back Sunday."
"But I have to."
"Dean, I'm so sorry. You don't need to be worrying about this with your Dad in the hospital."
"It's not your fault Cas. We'll figure it out."
"I hope you're right."
A/N: Well, uh, please don't kill me?