The Meeting

Summary: Alone & sick, a common attack leaves Sam bleeding & hurt when a chance meeting saves his life but brings back the past to both Winchesters in a way that neither had been expecting. *Hurt/limp/angsty!Sam & Concerned/worried/angry/angsty/big brother!Dean*

Warnings/Spoilers: It'll have some minor language and a little minor violence. There will be spoilers from the more recent episodes. Set before 08x20 Pac-Man Fever.

Tags: None.

Disclaimer: I don't own the boys or anything to do with the show. This is just for fun.

Author Note: This kind of connects with a couple of my more recent stories, including 'The Last Mistake' for its mention of Walt and also 'Shadow Watcher' to explain who or how this meeting can happen. Enjoy.

Chapter One

"Damn it. This just isn't good."

Sam Winchester stared at the cellphone in his shaking hand as if willing it not to be dead. He could've sworn he'd charged the damn thing earlier in the week so he hadn't worried about it when getting dropped off at the local library in whatever town he and Dean were in.

He'd had to pitch as close to a full out temper tantrum to even allow his suddenly once again way too manic over protective brother to even let him out of his sight to do research into the possible case that had brought them to…Lexington, Vermont.

Sam knew he wasn't in top shape either physically or mentally after doing two of the three trials that needed done in order to seal the gates of Hell for good. He'd long since given up on the idea that he could do these and some out of it in one piece. Now he was just hoping to be alive…mainly for his brother's sake.

As hunters of the weird, undead, or just plain odd both Sam and his older brother had been on the receiving end of some serious shit in their lives, especially the last eight years since they began hunting together again but it had a long time since Sam could honestly say he was feeling this bad.

Not even last year or so when he was struggling to stay sane while Lucifer's voice was running loose in his head was it this bad. Not even after Sam landed in a psych ward did he feel this bad, which if he thought about it should have worried him more.

What mainly worried Sam these days was getting through this last trial, once they figured out what it was, and not disappointing his brother.

For Sam, Dean had been the main source of support growing up. Even though he couldn't remember it, he'd been told by both Bobby and Pastor Jim that it had been his brother's name he'd first said and it was to Dean that he'd taken his first steps to, not his Dad.

It had been a long time since Sam had given any real thought toward John Winchester, which was something else he knew he should feel bad about since the man had been his father but there were still so many things left unsaid between them before John died. Things that Sam now wished he could've resolved.

Thoughts of his Dad had been coming up more now that he realized how the trials were affecting him. Sam knew his Dad had sacrificed his life so Dean would live. Though that brought up questions that he really didn't want to voice right then and since his Dad was dead there'd be no since anyway.

Usually thoughts of John reminded Sam of the pieces of his childhood that he didn't like to think on. He and his Dad hadn't always gotten along, usually didn't get along if Sam was honest with himself because unlike his older brother he didn't like to jump at orders without knowing the why or who parts of it and John wasn't big on explaining himself.

Dean was the perfect son and Sam had never had doubts about that. He'd grown up knowing that Dean could do no wrong in their Dad's eyes while Sam could hardly do anything right.

That should've caused some bitterness in him towards his brother but Sam had never felt anything like that towards Dean. His bitterness and resentment usually was aimed at their Father and as Sam knew those feelings only got worse as he got older.

John had become obsessive with finding the thing that had killed their Mother when Sam was a baby and that obsession drove him. He raised his sons as hunters, as soldiers and while Sam accepted it now, understood it more now back then he hated it and it had drove a wedge between father and son that had never really been repaired.

Now that he wasn't sleeping that well again, his thoughts were turning more and more to back when he'd been younger and his Dad. He knew Dean had strived to keep things as calm as possible between them when the fights had gotten worse and he knew his brother had given up a lot so that Sam could have the normal life he'd been wanting despite John's refusal that had caused Sam to walk out one night.

The bitterness and resentment had leveled off in the past few years as Sam had finally begun to see his Dad's motivations even though he wished either he'd have seen it sooner or his Dad would've just leveled with him and Dean on things that they really should've known.

For Sam, it was the other night when he'd woken up choking on blood and a split second of terror hit him that suddenly made him wish he could see his Dad at least once. If for no other reason than to tell him that he understood.

Of course, he also figured it would've been easier to drop the eventual huge, mother of all chick flick moment on his brother soon than it would their Dad since Dean learned all of his anti-emotional, never let 'em see you sweat rules from their Dad.

Shaking the morose feelings aside to remember the dead cellphone in his hand and the whole reason he'd left the local library in such a hurry, Sam cursed violently while making a quick grab for one of the large stone lions outside the building to keep his balance.

Dean had dropped him off before heading for the local police station to play Federal agent in order to get some information but wasn't due back for at least another forty minutes or so unless Sam called him sooner.

"'Call me if you find anything useful or if you need me,'" Dean had said to him before driving off.

The lessening of the strain and gap between them was a relief for Sam since he'd missed him and Dean really acting like brothers in the last few years but there were still times when his older brother's 'protect Sammy' side got to be annoying to Sam.

This was not one of those times and he really wished his brother had decided to swing back to the library early because Sam knew this was one of those times he needed Dean.

The research inside hadn't really been getting him anywhere and Sam was at the point of wondering if maybe the string of disappearances along an old dirt road outside of town was maybe something normal…like a deranged serial killer.

He'd been about to try another angle when he first noticed how much his right hand was shaking. Pushing that aside as common these days since he'd been getting weaker on the right side since the first trial happened, he went on digging for clues…until his vision blurred out and he felt the blood start dripping from his nose.

Sam knew these were the more serious symptoms of whatever was happening to him since he began the trials even though these normally didn't happen unless he'd strained during the day or it was late at night and he'd end up throwing up in the bathroom for the rest of the night.

Knowing his own body and knowing what would more than likely happened next, Sam knew he needed out of the library and back to the motel but first that required calling his brother for a pickup while trying not to freak Dean out in the process since he hadn't exactly told his older brother about all the new things that had been happening.

Dean had made him promise not to lie to him about anything that was wrong with him and from Sam's point of view he wasn't exactly lying to his brother since Dean hadn't asked him if anything new had cropped up.

He considered it more like stretching the truth if it meant protecting Dean as long as possible from the thought of what might really be called for by the end of this.

Right then though Sam knew that plan was out the window because the second Dean took a look at him he knew his brother would see the truth and the second Sam could see straight again or move without puking he'd be in store for one hell of a huge lecture or it would finally come down to the time when Dean decided shutting Hell just wasn't worth this much risk to Sam.

They'd had this discussion a few times. It was either stop, start over so Dean could take it on or just stop all together and keep on going with them fighting Hell and Crowley every step of the way.

Those 'discussions' usually ended up with Dean showing more open emotion than he had in years and Sam trying to make his brother understand that he could do this and come out alright.

Now Sam wasn't so sure he could and the fear of either failing at the end, dying, or worse which would mean Dean doing something stupid was causing him to wonder if he could do this.

Despite his doubts though Sam knew it was too late to quit. Whatever was wrong with him now was having serious permanent effects, he could feel it now, and that was also something he'd have to tell Dean soon…if he got a hold of his brother before he crashed tonight.

Groaning as the pain like lava shot through his body, Sam dropped to the steps as his legs seemed to give out on him. "Shit!" thrusting the phone into his pocket, he debated on trying to get back inside the library to see if someone would call Dean for him before he got to the point where the pain made him pass out.

Sam gritted his teeth when he tried to push himself up only to feel his right arm and leg go numb. Fighting panic, he decided to push it aside as if not focusing on it would make it go away but the second pain hit in his stomach like a fist to the gut he knew he was in trouble.

"Mister, you okay?"

The sudden male voice had Sam tensing. His hunter trained instincts had dimmed that night due to the pain he was in and the lack of concentration had allowed someone or multiple people since he could hear other dull voices even if he couldn't see clearly right then.

Fighting down the groan along with the taste of blood in his throat, Sam shook his head to clear it and finally was able to locate the voice.

Despite being in pain, feeling like crap and really just wanting to curl up someplace dark until this round passed, a single look at the group of four or five young men told Sam that they weren't just students going to the library for a late study session.

An early childhood of growing up with an ex-Marine for a Father who drilled self-awareness into his sons in addition to growing up with Dean who had taught his brother early on to trust his gut instincts over anything else warned the hunter that this was trouble.

"Uh, yeah, I'm…fine," Sam replied, again trying to stand only to feel both legs give out but tried to make it appear as if he was just resting. "Just decided to sit outside before my ride gets here," he forced his left shoulder to shrug but a look at the men made an uneasy chill go through him.

All five of them were probably around Sam's age or a little younger which would've put them in the late twenties but as Sam's hazel eyes cleared he noticed the worn jeans, dirty T-shirts and the near predator looks in hungry eyes.

Sam learned early on in life that it wasn't just the supernatural things that could hurt him. He'd been hurt more than once by evil of the human nature too and these five were ringing the same alarm bells in him that he'd felt before.

Predators came in a lot of packages and Sam had learned the hard way when he was looking at that type of evil. He also knew when their kind spotted a potential victim and right at that moment he knew they were sharks who were smelling blood and without being able to even pull his sidearm or knife Sam realized he was in a very bad way.

"You don't look so good," the one who'd spoken, who appeared to be the leader, gave Sam another look before glancing at his friends. "We've been watching since you came outta the library. It didn't look like your phone was working so maybe…we can give you a lift someplace. For a price, that is."

Wondering why there was never an Angel or even an annoying King of Hell around when you wanted one, Sam fought back the way his already twisting stomach flipped at that suggestion and made his face stoic. "No, thanks," he replied tightly. "Look, you guys really don't want this. Just back off."

Sam knew he could've pulled that warning off a lot better if he could get to his feet since at 6'4" he was taller than most of these guys but right then he was just impressed when he was finally able to pull himself up, grateful that his legs seemed to decide to cut him a break and move.

"You don't seem to get it, Mister," the lead thug, with slicked back black hair and two earrings in one ear, stepped in front of Sam as he moved away from the steps. "This is our area and no one comes into it without paying us and you look like the type who can afford it," he reached out to flick a finger over the collar of Sam's jacket with a smirk. "Besides, there're five of us and just one of you and you look like you've already been dragged down a road or two."

Basic instincts had Sam moving to both deflect the hand and put some distance between himself and the group when something made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

Trying to concentrate on just staying on his feet and seeing where the rest of the group of hoods were, Sam could have sworn someone was watching him but a quick if blurry look around didn't show him anything but a darkening parking lot, a few cars and the woods that bordered this side of the library.

"Back off and go hassle someone else," he warned in a voice that reminded a little too much of the tone hid Dad and brother would use when pissed off. "I don't want this and I'm not the usual kind you're used to."

Seeing the surprise on the leader's face told Sam that he needed to get as far from the parking lot as he could since while he was on his feet he could tell it was only a temporary thing and his right arm still wouldn't allow him to defend himself if the jackasses chose to push the issue.

Shifting the bag with his laptop and files over to his left hand, Sam had seen a restaurant on the next street that he could hopefully find a phone to call Dean from and maybe something to settle his stomach when long ago learned instincts made him sense the attack before the first blow from a thin hard stick came.

Usually the clumsy ill prepared angry attack would have been easy for Sam to dodge and respond to. This time, due to how he was feeling, Sam's reflexes were shot to hell and he took the blow on the crown of his head which knocked him off balance.

"Son of a bitch," he hissed, unaware of how much like his brother's use of that word he sounded like when he tried to catch himself only to feel a hard kick to the back of an already unsteady leg put him down on the wet pavement.

"Not so tough now are you, hotshot?" the leader sneered, jerking his head. "Get him up!" he snapped, kicking the bag out of Sam's weakening hand for later inspection.

Trying to get back up or reach for his weapon, Sam grunted as a fist struck his already pained stomach and nearly gagged. Feeling his body fight for strength, he tensed when two of the other men grabbed him by the arms to pull him upright.

Being grabbed and held brought back other memories that made Sam try to fight but right then his weakened body just wasn't cooperating, leaving him helpless against the brutal beating that came next.

Tasting and seeing blood, Sam thought he heard a woman shout from the library onto to be told to mind her own business by the leader of the attack.

"Don't…" gasping as another strong right hand hit his face, Sam felt things start to go fuzzy only to tense on instinct at the feel of someone touching him as if to grab for his wallet. "No…that's…argh!"

Sharp burning pain ripped across his side as a light reflected off the short boot knife that had been pulled and cut through his jacket and shirt. "Asshole, we own you," the leader gritted, grabbing a handful of Sam's hair to yank his head back. "You're wallet's just the damn start. You should've just handed it over to start with. Now me and the boys're gonna make a lesson outta you," he bragged, raising the knife. "Starting with that smart mouth or…"


Tensing as best he could despite his body nearly being numb from both shock, pain, and his already weakened system, Sam's ringing ears picked up the sudden shout from what seemed to be close by and felt an odd sense of déjà vu because while Dean still said it when angry and needing to get attention it wasn't his brother's voice that Sam heard.

Knife still in hand, the leader whirled toward the new voice. With two of his friends still holding their new toy of the night, he knew he and the other two would be enough to scare off whatever good and decent citizen decided to stick his nose where it didn't belong.

"Move along, old man or you'll get some of what pretty boy here's about to get!" he threatened, showing his knife as it alone would scare away the bystander. "You don't want a part of this!"

"Really? I don't think you know just how wrong you are about that," the man who'd shouted remarked calmly, his voice low and gruff but his cool green eyes hardened as he looked past the three hoods that were sizing him up to glare at the two still holding Sam. "Let him go."

Used to easily scaring the people they came across or accosted, the small group didn't quite know what to make of the new arrival.

They'd sized Sam up. Normally his size and build would've made them wary of messing with him. Until they watched him longer and noticed how ill he seemed then it was like sharks circling bloody prey. He still might give them a rough time until the beatings took effect but they all were confident that they could handle him.

This new guy, the older man who'd spoke up in his defense, appeared to be in his late forties or mid-fifties with greying black hair that brushed the collar of his worn and battered dark leather jacket. His scruffy looking beard was also greying but it was the look in his green eyes that gave off the inkling that he wasn't just a normal guy passing by.

Not that it bothered the leader much who still thought his gang of hoods and a small boot knife made them unbeatable. "Move along, old man," he growled, stepping toward the man with his knife held ready. "I'll gut you like I have this jackass."

A small twitch of the man's jaw was the only indication of a reaction to that comment. Hard eyes went around the group as if deciding which ones were the more dangerous and while he'd easily decided which one was the boss he knew the two holding Sam were the ones that needed dealt with.

"You think that's a good knife?" he inquired curiously, carefully moving his right hand back under his jacket while motioning with his left toward the group. "You seriously think just because you've probably got the senior citizens of this town scared of you with it that it's a good enough blade to use on someone who really knows what a good blade can do?"

"It's good enough to cut you, asshole," the young hood sneered, not liking the way this guy wasn't backing off like he should've been and he was sick of being made a fool of. "I'll show you!" he took a quick lunge forward to slash the blade while his other two friends went to flank the fool.

Expecting some kind of attack, the man wasn't surprised by the move. In fact, he seemed grimly amused except a brief look toward Sam told him that he needed to end this and get the boy help.

Stepping back, he avoided the knife cut that had been too clumsy to have really done any damage if it had connected. Deflecting the fist that had come from one side with his open left hand, he pulled what he'd been reaching for out and used the handle of it to hit the one thug in the side of the head.

Not forgetting the last hood, the man quickly turned to grab the offending wrist and twisted it hard, hearing a satisfied scream as he let go to finally turn back to face the leader, stepping down hard on his hand when he went to retrieve the knife and showed his own weapon.

"That's not even worth being called a knife. This is a knife," he shifted the well-worn machete while sliding a dark look toward the remaining two guys who still held Sam but were looking nervous. "Now take my advice, if you don't want to see what this can do…let the boy go. Now," he ordered in a voice that could've frozen hell as he added directly to the leader. "You think anyone in this town will miss you? I can make sure you don't ever threaten another soul if you don't tell them to let him go and get the hell out of here."

Watching the machete gripped in a hand of someone who clearly knew how to use it, the thugs exchanged looks with each other before deciding what was the best choice for them regardless of what their pal said.

Dropping Sam the two who'd been restraining him along with other two who had by this time picked themselves up off the ground took off running away from the library, leaving their leader behind.

"Come back here!" he shouted, red faced at being made a fool of and from being left alone. "We outnumber him! We…ugh!"

A fist grabbed him by the throat to lift him to his feet, slamming him back against a nearby lamppost with the blade of the large knife held an inch from his throat. "Numbers don't mean much when you're fighting someone who knows how to fight back," he declared, anger plain in his eyes even if his voice remained cold but calm.

"That boy you decided would make a good target tonight? If he was healthy, if he wasn't already hurt, he could've mopped the floor with each one of you sons of bitches without even trying or pulling a weapon," the man's eyes glittered now as he moved the knife to slam his fist into the thug's face until he dropped, bloody and unmoving to the pavement. "I know he could…because I watched his brother teach him and I taught his brother."

Giving another hard look at the punk, he turned at a low moan and was kneeling beside Sam in the next moment. "Damn," he muttered, carefully moving the younger man when he saw blood on Sam's shirt and knew the cut had been more than superficial. "Sam?" he called, feeling for a pulse and not liking either how cold Sam's skin seemed or by the way the pulse in his neck beat erratically. "Sam, open your eyes. We need to move."

Pretty certain that someone in the library or somewhere had called the cops, he didn't want the hassle of the local law enforcement now any more than he had when the boys had been small…which reminded him that he needed to find out where in the hell Sam's brother was during this. "Sam!"

Body in shock, Sam felt like throwing up or just passing out but knew both of those options weren't in the cards at the moment. He'd known something had changed in the altercation even though he hadn't been able to summon even enough strength to break free from two punks.

The cut from the knife had caused his body to go deeper into shock and he knew he was losing more blood but couldn't make himself move to defend himself much less find a way to call his brother.

Jerking at the touch of a hand to his neck, he tried to push it away only to feel strong calloused fingers grab his wrist to hold it down as his pulse was checked.

Sam thought he heard his name being called but it wasn't until he heard the deep, gruff voice snap it in a way that Sam knew he'd never forget that his eyes struggled to open to look for…


John Winchester hadn't fully figured out why he was back on Earth alive or who'd put him there again. He just knew it was for some reason and that it involved his sons. The sons he hadn't seen in nearly seven years…since he died.

He'd been keeping an eye on Sam from a distance since he got back and learned that something had happened to separate his boys.

Without an open source, it had taken John a lot of digging to learn just what his sons had been doing the past several years and he honestly wasn't happy with a lot of it…though he knew most of it was more his fault since he was the one who'd dragged his boys into this life and hadn't been able to prepare them for things that he'd only seen coming when it was too late to prevent it.

Right then he knew his biggest job was to get Sam someplace safe. Someplace where he could see how bad he was hurt and decide if a hospital would be needed…and maybe learn where his oldest son was while his brother was being beaten to a bloody pulp.

"C'mon, Sam, we need to get out of here," he noticed the bag Sam had dropped and snatched it up while also taking Sam's arm to wrap it around his neck and shoulders to get his younger son back to his feet but had to bury a grunt when it became obvious to John that this was not the same boy he was used to moving. "A little help, son."

Blinking and pretty sure he was back to having hallucinations, Sam debated on moving or fighting when he caught sight of the tiny scar on the inside of John's left wrist that made his memory tingle. "How'd…you get that?" he asked, shaking his head as if to clear it and not resisting when he was finally pulled to his feet.

"Now is not the time, Sam," John grumbled, wondering what the hell Dean had fed his brother these past several years to cause him to seem so heavy but then remembered that Sam had always been like dead weight when he was barely on his feet.

Sensing more than seeing the standard bitch face Sam was prone to give; John blew out a breath as he figured the distance between them and where he'd parked his car. "You know where I got it," he replied then guessed why Sam had asked and figured more of Dean's suspicious side had rubbed off on him than he thought. "You were six and Dean was trying to teach you to swim at Jim's place. Your brother got distracted by lunch; you wandered off on your own and got tangled in some barbwire that had floated down. I got cut when I went in after you."

Sam's memory was sparse of that day but he did recall playing in the water, chasing his ball into deep a section and the sharp wire that he'd gotten hook in that pulled him under water as he tried to swim. He also remembered his Dad being the one to save him and he hadn't even yelled that time.

Deciding he was probably dreaming this, he chose to go with it at least until he woke up or Dean got to him. Whichever came first.

"Mister! I called the cops!" a short and petite woman called from the library door, looking at the parking lot. "Should I call an ambulance?"

"No, I've got him," John called back, guessing he probably didn't appear any safer than the thugs to the woman but wasn't in any position to explain things to the cops since he'd just finish dealing with them on a missing persons case. "Just have the cops lock this guy up and…" he paused to consider it. "If anyone shows up looking for him, probably a guy in a black Chevy Impala with a cheap suit and an attitude, tell him he's supposed to watch out for his brother."

John knew this wasn't Dean's fault since Sam was past the age to willingly accept being watched out for but since John had been watching his sons from the shadows he'd seen the change in Sam and had also noticed that Dean hardly let his brother out of his sight.

Recalling the days when his youngest son had been small enough to easily fit in the crook of his arm, it still amazed John that the baby he'd watched Mary bring into this world was now taller than both him and Dean at 6'4" and was nearly dead weight as John struggled to keep him standing long enough to get to his car.

The Chevy Corolla wasn't the Impala or the huge truck he used to drive but it suited John's purposes now as he only needed a way to get around even if he didn't fully understand the GPS thing and missed the old time cassette player in the Impala.

"Easy, Sam," he gritted his teeth while taking the brunt of the weight as he helped Sam ease into the much more cramped front seat. "Where's Dean, Sam?" he asked while looking around.

He'd parked the car back in the woods some to avoid being seen since he'd caught on that if he wanted to watch the boys without being seen or sensed then he needed to stay way back, still amazed at how close Dean had come to spotting him several times after his return from Purgatory.

"Uhhh…cops," Sam had to think for several seconds, struggling to remember why he wasn't with his brother and wishing Dean was there now because he was really in pain, knowing he probably needed stitches. "Missing…people…back road."

"Vampires and they're dealt with," John rolled his eyes, glad he'd handled that nest he'd accidentally stumbled across. "Let me look," he'd noticed the bloodstain growing and went to move his son's shirt up only to feel Sam go rigid and saw the way his hand clenched. "Sam, how bad're you hurt?"

"From what?" came the short reply and again John was reminded that Sam had picked up a few of Dean's more annoying habits, especially the smart mouth when he was hurt.

Grabbing a blanket from the backseat, John eased it around Sam to try to ward off further shock and was finally able to at least ease the shirt up enough to grit his teeth but managed not to let out the next few harsh words. "This needs more stitches than I'm willing to give, Sam."

"Never…stopped you before," Sam mumbled, looking down at the wound and not seeming too worried. "Got worse…while Dean was…in Hell," he decided with a frown. "I'd do it…but the right hand…it's too…God!"

Shifting just in time to avoid the mess when Sam suddenly threw up out the still open car door, John knew without a doubt that Sam was hurting from more than just this beating and the knife wound.

Grabbing for Sam's shoulder to keep him sitting in the Corolla, John did recall the many times when the boys had been younger that trips to the ER had been vetoed because explaining gunshot wounds, or injuries caused by spirits or other supernatural things just would've been too hard to explain.

John had stitched himself up plenty of times and he'd taught both of his sons to do the same. Usually it took a serious injury or illness to cause John to relent to taking one of them to the hospital.

Back then his reasons seemed sound. Now, he wasn't so sure and he couldn't stop the pain in his heart that his sons had ended up in this life or had suffered so much.

"Yeah, well now you're going to a hospital," John decided, going to the trunk to grab a few things then quickly returned to his glassy eyed son who seemed to be focusing on the blood he'd wiped from his nose. "Hold this over that cut and lay your head back," he urged, pressing the clean rag over the knife cut then replaced his hand with Sam's when he realized how weak his son's grip was.

Starting the car, John was glad for the GPS in the car since it would give him the most direct route to the local hospital when he felt eyes on him. "You still with me, Sammy?" he asked without looking over, then smiled a little in the dark of the car. "Or is your brother still the only one you'll let call you that?"

"Usually," Sam admitted slowly, feeling like crap and wanting to sleep but something made him keep his eyes open as he tried to think what was happening.

He remembered the library, getting sick and wanting out. He remembered the group of hoods jumping him and the knife that slashed him but it was when he recalled hearing the voice that things began going weird for him.

Sam had just been thinking about his Dad moments before the attack so he figured that could explain why he'd heard his voice. He just wasn't sure it could explain being in a car on the way to a hospital but that he was willing to chalk up to his mind playing tricks on him.

"Call…him?" he murmured, figuring Dean was going to be pissed when he found out about this and not wanting to worry his brother more than he had been. "Dad, you real?"

Chuckling at the way his youngest son could go from asking for his brother to the more clinical tone of wondering if this was real or a dream, John reached to flip the heater on to keep Sam warm while holding out a hand. "Yes and give me your phone."

"Why're you real and stupid…phone's dead," Sam let his head fall back to the seat but managed to use his left hand to pull his cellphone out anyway. "No…juice, which reminds me…Dean needs to buy more."

Now a little worried, John looked over to see glassy hazel eyes that seemed blown wide open with shock were watching him much like they would when Sam was small and sick and he realized that no matter what Sam probably wouldn't remember this.

John had never intended to let his sons know he was back for several reasons. The main one to him was that he wasn't sure how long he'd be allowed to stay and so he didn't want the boys to see him, talk to him only for him to lose them again.

The other reason was he knew a good deal of what both Dean and Sam had gone through since his death and he wasn't sure if he was ready to deal with the questions either of them would have or the hate since he sure couldn't blame either of his sons for hating him, especially Sam.

It had always been Sam that John had tried to protect. Even before he'd fully come to understand things he'd known Sam was the last baby he and Mary had brought into this world and he'd always protect him.

Then it had become more clear as to what had killed Mary and what seemed to be interested in his son and John realized the lengths of what he'd have to do to shield Sam, even if it meant one day losing both of his sons.

Now he had a chance to see at least one of his sons and just hoped he wasn't watching Sam bleed out in his car as he drove to a hospital that was farther away than he liked.


The sudden question brought John's mind back to the present as he noticed that Sam's eyes were still watching him. "Say again?" he wasn't sure if the shock and pain Sam was in was making him more confused or what had brought this on when he still saw another bad habit the boy still had and sighed. "Son, don't roll your eyes. Am I disappointed in what?"

"In me," Sam mumbled, hissing as his arm suddenly burned and he nearly lost his grip on the rag held over the bleeding wound until a strong hand laid over his. "I've…kinda…screwed up since you…died," he blinked a few times against the wetness.

Sam guessed he was either bleeding out or having hallucinations but figured since he'd just been wishing to have another moment with his Dad that he may as well take advantage of it.

"You were…disappointed in me…before now…it'd be worse," he went on slowly, thinking back to this childhood after he learned what his Dad really did to all the bitter fights over hunting, training and just all around differences in opinion between them. "I…was never…like De'n. Didn't…wanna hunt. Disappointed you…you'd hate me…now if you…knew…"

Tightening the grip he had on Sam's to make sure he kept the pressure on that wound, John's eyes went to slits as he listened to that halting admission, hearing the self-hate in the too soft voice. "Sam."

"You knew what I'd be cause you told Dean he'd have to watch me or handle it. Did…you know when I was small?" Sam asked, all the questions he'd been wondering about for nearly all his life rushing together. "That why you were always…harder on me? Cause you knew I'd…be a freak? That I'd be evil? Did you know that I'd…cost De'n his soul and get hooked on demon blood, let Lucifer out of his box and just keep failing until Dean thought being friends with a vampire…would be better than being brothers with…me? Did you…"

"Okay, that's enough," John had listened to the rambling sentence that was mixed with soft gasps as Sam fought both pain and tears until finally he'd heard enough of both spoken and the unspoken that he pulled off the side of the road so he didn't get them both killed.

Figuring the time his son had been bleeding and gauging the time he needed to reach the hospital told John how long he had to try to get a few things through to Sam because while it had been fine at one time to allow the boy to think he was never as good as his older brother or that John had always thought less of him…it wasn't fine now and he supposed it was time he dealt with it.

"Look at me, Sam," he ordered in the same tone he always had when wanting the boy's attention and knowing only the strict no nonsense tone would garner Sam's full undivided attention. "I know we left a lot of stuff unsaid and unresolved between us but…"

"You said…don' come back if I walked and I walked," Sam looked down at his father's hand as if surprised to see it covering his own. "Just wanted to go to school…not lose my family. Now…I'll still probably lose…"

That final night between him and Sam, the fight over his going away to school wasn't ever far from John's thoughts even before he died. He and his youngest had been having a lot of fights since Sam hit his teens but if John was honest with himself that last one had been the worst…it had also been the hardest one for John to fake.

Turning in the seat so he could look fully at his injured son, John Winchester shook his head. "Sam, listen to me. I know you're hurt now and probably won't even remember this but…you're not a disappointment to me. You never were," he began, guessing he owed Sam this much truth at least even if he could never tell him all of it.

"I didn't learn everything about the demon, your Mom, or you…until the very end. By the time I did, it was too late for me to do anything but try my best to end it and when that didn't work, when I realized the only way to save your brother was to make that damn deal then yes, I told Dean some of it but not everything.

"I told your brother what he'd need to know to keep you safe because if there was one damn thing I knew for certain is no matter what I said to Dean about you that he'd never kill you…that he'd find some way to help you," John had learned exactly what his oldest son had done and he wished more than anything that he could've spared Dean that pain and Sam the guilt he still carried.

Reaching up, he placed a hand on the side of Sam's neck and again felt him tense at the touch which reminded him that he was glad Dean had finally dealt with Walt for what had been done to Sam in the time Dean had been in Purgatory and before John had found Sam again.

"Sammy, you've spent nearly thirty years believing I favored Dean over you. Thinking that you never did anything right because I was always bitching or yelling at you, pushing you harder than I ever seemed to your brother…but that wasn't true," John waited for those same huge eyes to finally find his again and wondering how in the hell Dean ever said no to his little brother when he used the puppy eyes as Dean was fond of calling them.

"…didn't wanna be a hunter," Sam tried to focus on saying what he wanted to but found that he still had a hard time talking to his Dad. "Wanted…to be your son but…I know why you…hated it. Got…Mom killed," he whispered, missing the same flash of dark anger that went through John's eyes and face at those words as he went on. "If you hadn't died…you would've…he said you would've killed me. Dean says you wouldn't. Would you have?"

John took a minute to try to and understand that before chuckling. "Damn. You're no easier to understand when you're hurt now than you were as a kid. Only Dean could make sense of 'Sammy-babble' as he called it," he moved his hand from Sam's neck up to push too long hair out of his eyes while wondering why Dean wasn't bitching about his brother's hair. "Translate that, son? Who said I'd kill you?"

That eventuality had been a fear of John's when he'd been piecing the last pieces together. He'd been terrified of not being able to find a way to save his son because he was more than aware of what Dean's reaction would've been if it had come down to killing Sam.

Of course John had also known that he'd have sooner put the gun to his own head than ever pull the trigger on his boy. In the end, he'd been forced to leave that in Dean's hands but he'd also been more confident in Dean's strength and knew his oldest would fight whoever he needed to rather than lose Sam.

Now from what he'd learned, he wasn't sure which son had suffered more by his inability to finish what had been started that night in Kansas nearly thirty years earlier. Right then though his concentration was on his youngest and not liking what he was hearing.

"Samuel…Mom's Dad since Dean said I didn't have to call him anything else considering what…he did while I…didn't…have a soul," Sam replied, fingers of his left hand moving nervously on the worn knee of his jeans. "He…didn't like you…much."

"At all," John corrected, tensing at the thought that what he'd heard had been true and that Samuel had returned from the dead, that his late father-in-law had done something to the boys. "Samuel didn't approve of me, Sam and I'm not sure why the hell he came back but no…I wouldn't have hurt you.

"Sammy, I'd learned about the demon. I learned what he was trying to do and why but I still had hopes that I or Dean could end it before it got too out of hand," hearing a soft sound from Sam's cellphone as it laid being recharged, John wondered how much longer before it started ringing off the hook but kept his attention on Sam.

Remembering how hard he pushed Sam to train harder, to learn more, to do everything better, John knew with each fight or each shouting match that he was pushing his son farther away from him but had accepted that it needed to be done.

"I didn't know the exact details until about six months before it ended, right before I dropped off the radar and your brother went to get you," John sighed. "I hadn't counted on Dean doing that and Sam, I wish I could say that if he hadn't your girlfriend wouldn't have died but…I think it still would've but…I pushed you harder because I needed you to be able to protect yourself."

Easing the rag aside just to check the bleeding, John looked grim at the amount of blood that had been lost. "Dean picked it up naturally. He knew and accepted being a hunter just like he knew he needed to look out for you. From the first time I realized that too many people were interested in you though…I knew that you needed to be better prepared and…I knew you needed to be away from us.

"Son, I knew how much you hated the moving. Leaving schools, never having friends but after that one time when you were kidnapped by that teacher I couldn't take the chance of losing you so I kept us moving and…I kept pushing you because while Dean was more agreeable at times I knew the best way to drill anything into your head was to make you mad."

John gave a small smile and laughed. "Jim and Bobby always bitched at me for leaving you with your brother and for letting Dean be the one to pretty much raise you but they never understood the main reason I did that," he caught the way Sam's eyes were suddenly shielded behind his lashes and guessed his youngest also hadn't figured out that reason, which he supposed he wasn't surprised at.

"Sam, I know it looked like I didn't care or that all I cared about was hunting but…I did care about you, about both of you, and that's why I let Dean take care of you," he gave a light squeeze on Sam's shoulder and the fact that was no longer tensing was either a relief or a concern, John wasn't certain yet while he tried to explain. "I knew that before the end I'd have to either walk away or I'd be killed trying to protect you boys so I made the choice early on that to keep you safe, to make sure you'd know how to survive, that it'd have to be up to your brother to do those things.

"I taught Dean everything, or most everything, that I knew. I taught him how to hunt, how to protect himself, how to protect you but more importantly I gave him every reason in the world to hate me with how I treated you so that he'd teach you what he knew," John watched as that was digested, guessing it was only how far in shock Sam was that was keeping the response he figured he'd get from Dean from coming. "To protect you, son, I needed to let you go and despite hating it, despite knowing how much it hurt Dean, I had to make you mad enough that night to walk out.

"For four years you had normal, Sam. Four years of what you fought me for and while I wish you could've have that real life you wanted and I hope you still do one day, I need you to understand that nothing you did would have or could have changed what happened."

Sam closed his eyes, tired and in pain but still willing to go along with this image. "Angels wanted you and Mom to meet so you'd have us," he muttered, remembering the bitterness he'd felt for so long at thinking that maybe only Angelic interference had made his parents fall in love. "Said you and Mom fought so much and…"

"Yeah, your Mom had one hell of an attitude," John agreed with a fond smile that always came when thinking of his late wife, feeling Sam trying to grip his hand and let him. "I know people say Dean's attitude came from me but in a lot of ways your brother's attitude and temper also comes from your Mother cause Mary had a righteous temper that I only got to see a few times. We fought when we first met but, Sam? I loved your mother from the first damn second I laid eyes on her and regardless of what anyone told you, we loved each other.

"I didn't know until later about the deal Mary made to save me the night Samuel died. It didn't sink in that the deal had come due the night she died or what it would mean but I don't want you to ever think that either Mary or I regret having you and Dean, because we didn't," he lifted Sam's face up to lock eyes. "I need to get you to the ER, son."

Nodding weakly, Sam knew that he was really hurt and while he still had his doubts if this was real he was willing to let his Dad drive since he didn't want to die…at least not from this. "Can I ask you something?" he asked, coughing and feeling the blood in his mouth.

"You got your Mother's curious side," pulling back onto the road, John looked for a shortcut while nodding. "Go."

"If you…would've known…about the deal…about Mom, would you have still…wanted me?"

Tightening his fingers on the wheel, John blew out a breath. He hadn't counted on that one. "Yes," he replied without a beat, keeping his free hand over Sam's as both a way to apply pressure and to reassure the younger man he wasn't alone. "Sam, even after I learned about it, even after I learned the truth it never changed the fact that you were my son.

"You were the last thing that Mary and I created together and no matter what I've said or how I've acted, you were always my little boy…even when you hit that damn growth spurt and shot past your brother in height," he added, hearing a soft snort. "Next?" he asked since he knew his overly emotional, always questioning child wasn't done yet.

"Did you know if you didn't break in Hell…that they'd target Dean?" Sam had never told Dean that Ruby had told him things since Hell was still a bad subject between them. "They…hurt him, Dad. I got killed and…Dean made a deal but they said he wasn't…as strong as you and broke and…"

"Is that what your brother was told, Sam?" John figured he knew who'd told his oldest that lie and wondered how hard it would be to convince Dean of the truth. "Sam, I do know what happened. I know why Dean made that deal and I also know he doesn't regret it. He'd do anything to save you but…as for the demons not being able to make me break? That's between me and your brother," he smiled at the bitch face that caused. "Son, your brother didn't break the first seal."

Floating now in a space between pain and sleep, Sam's eyes seemed to snap open at that comment. "What?" he tried to ask only to start coughing violently and lost his grip on the now bloody rag as panic shot through him when he couldn't seem to take a breath. "Dad?"

Cursing, John managed to keep one hand tight on the wheel while he reached over to pull Sam closer so he could lean on his shoulder. "Hang on, Sammy," he urged tightly, getting the rag back under Sam's hand and pressing his own back over it while also seeing the blood from Sam's mouth. "What's this about?" he asked even though his knew.

Taking a couple shallow breaths, Sam was soon able to breathe again but didn't move away even though his head was saying he was too old for this. "Found out a way to close Hell," he gave a weak one shouldered shrug. "Dean was gonna do it but I did it and now…we're down to one and…I…have my doubts if I'll make it out like I told Dean I could."

"Huh," John was vowing to blast the next demon or angel he saw for ever touching his sons but knew in a lot of ways from what he'd learned before he died and now since he'd been back that Sam and Dean were just destined for pain and grief.

Of course he also knew that his sons gave as much as they took and so far, much to the dislike of both sides, the Winchesters always seemed to come out on top. John just prayed it was that one more time because he had no doubts of Dean's reaction if anything happened to Sam or vice versa.

"You and Dean will make it out of this, Sam," he replied without saying that he'd find a way to make damn sure of that. "Any more questions or are we good for now?"

Briefly thinking how much like Dean that sounded like, Sam was about to reply when another thought bugged him but wasn't sure how to ask it without seeming weird or childish. "Dad? Two more," he saw his Dad's profile which still looked the same as the last time they'd been in a car together…right before the semi slammed into the Impala.

"If it had been me dying that day, would you have made the deal?" he didn't miss the way John's knuckles went white of the wheel but pressed on with the last thing he needed to know before he passed out fully. "Do you…I mean…are you…ashamed of me for…everything I've done?"

This wasn't the first time someone had asked him that first question since Alastair had loved throwing it in his face about the different ways he seemed to treat his sons and John had a hunch that the last one wasn't the real question Sam had wanted to ask but since he'd been raised to not bring up emotional stuff he'd backed off to a safer one.

Even before joining the Marines, John's life had made him more reluctant to show open emotion. After losing Mary, he'd shut his down again and hadn't allowed himself to show his sons the love they'd deserved or needed.

He'd known that between them, Sam was more like Mary and was more open with his unlike Dean who'd learned early on how to shield himself to avoid being hurt…much like John had been.

Breaking old habits was hard but since he realized this might be his one and only meeting with his son, then he at least could answer him honestly. No matter how much it hurt.

"Yes, I would've," John replied slowly, relief at seeing the signs for the hospital up ahead. "I taught both of you boys about dealing with demons but for either of you I would've made the same damn deal and no, I'm not ashamed of you, son," he glanced over to see a small smile flitting on Sam's face then heard him groan before his body finally gave in to the pain and he went limp as unconsciousness claimed him.

Thinking back to when Sam was born, how innocent he seemed, John ached for the loss of his son's childhood and his innocence as he moved a his hand up to card it back through sweat soaked hair with a shaky smile on his grizzled face while adding in a low whisper. "I love you, Sammy."

Pulling up to the ER, the now fully charged phone that John had plugged in began to shrill and vibrate which broke the somber mood in the car while he began thinking of an excuse for the staff and debated on answering the phone.

A look at Sam gave him the answer to the second as he exited the car with the phone in hand while two interns came toward the car, moving quicker once they took a look inside.

"He's…been stabbed and is losing blood," John told them, guessing he'd work on the exact story once Sam was stable or he'd gotten his brother here to handle it.

Catching the blindly reaching hand since he knew Sam would move as soon as he was touched, John held onto his son's hand much like he'd seen Dean do when Sam was younger and hurt while flipping the phone open and smiled at the sharp, highly annoyed voice he heard on the other end.

"Damn it, Sammy. If you don't pick up this time I'm so grounding your ass when I…"

"Hey, Dean," John spoke lowly, hearing the voice of his oldest choke off and went on before the growling could start. "Your brother's hurt so GPS his phone and get your damn ass over here cause I'm not real impressed with how you're watching after Sammy."

Clicking the phone shut, John closed his eyes to take a deep breath before going inside the hospital to check on Sam and begin to give details while also preparing himself for the one meeting he knew would not go well.


A/NII: I'll update soon with Dean's reaction to this.