The Meeting

Chapter Two

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

"'Hey, Dean, 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.'"

Temper sizzling, heart doing jumping jacks from his chest to his throat while his fingers gripped the wheel of the 1967 black Chevy Impala that was his pride and joy, Dean Winchester was furious.

He was also terrified and those two emotions bubbling inside him mixed with everything else as of late made a dangerous combination.

One that no one with a brain would be eager to encounter so he was just wishing the smartass who'd answered his brother's phone, the smartass who sounded way too much like his Dad for Dean's comfort, would still be within reach when Dean got to the hospital where he was told to 'get his damn ass'.

"Oh, I'll get my ass over there," he gritted from between clenched teeth, jerking the wheel hard out of the library parking lot while trying to see the GPS on his phone after he'd cued up the one in his Sam's to see where the hell he was going.

For Dean it seemed like from the moment they learned about a way to shut the doors of Hell for good that his life was going to hell in a hand basket.

He'd planned on killing the hellhound and therefore starting the trials himself. He wanted his little brother as far away from that mess as possible and he thought he'd made that point and reasoning perfectly clear to Sam but did his big hearted, geeky, hard headed little brother listen to him? Noooo, of course not and that's how Dean found himself in this mess.

Of course he knew that Sam's basic response to seeing or hearing Dean about to become a chew toy for a damn hound form hell…again would be instinctive and that's what it had been.

Sam had jumped to protect his brother, killing the mutt and thereby taking on the trials since no matter how much Dean complained and bitched his baby brother just turned those damn huge puppy dog eyes on him with the speech of making it to the other end of the tunnel and just to trust him and Dean knew he'd lost the battle of wills.

Now after the second trial was done, it didn't take a genius to see that Sam was in a lot worse shape. He'd even stopped hiding it too much even though Dean wasn't stupid enough to think that his brother was fully opening up yet about how bad he felt…not yet but Dean planned on fixing that or he had until he got this news dropped on him.

Dean had picked this case because he'd figured it would be a simple one. Sam could do the research while he checked in with the cops and then he'd park his brother in the motel to sleep, which he'd noticed Sam doing more of, while he headed out to the old road to deal with whatever the hell it was making people vanish.

One the one hand, the hunter supposed he should've expected this day to get worse. It had started with Sam pitching a fit about being relegated to library duty which he argued he could do after seeing the police but that did not work with Dean's plan so after some major bitch facing and near pouting he'd dropped his brother off with orders to call him if he found out anything or if he needed him.

"The phrase call me clearly did not sink in with his kid," he grumbled, not even paying attention to the blaring rock music he'd turned on to distract himself since his brain kept going back to the next set-back he'd encountered.

Keeping his worried thoughts off his sick and getting sick little brother was hard as Dean donned his best fake FBI suit to play a visit to the local police only to be met with confusion and amusement.

Covering his temper spike, Dean deadpanned and made excuses for office snafus when told another FBI agent had already dropped by the night before with news that the out of state serial killer (hunter-speak for either vampire or some other monster of that type) had been dealt with and would no longer be an issue.

Knowing that he and Sam weren't the only hunters still out in the world, though it seemed like it at times, Dean had took that frustration out on the only hunter he could think of and had called to bitch at Garth since the skinny nerdy looking hunter was supposed to be out looking for their equally geeky Prophet of the Lord, Kevin Tran.

"'Uh, hate to break this to you, Dean, but I'm up in Washington state looking into Bigfoot,'" Garth had replied, not at all phased by Dean's rant since he'd been with the older Winchester a few other times and had seen his temper up close and personal. "'Whoever's treading on your case isn't me though I have been picking up hits here and there about someone asking around about you and Sam.'"

So now Dean knew he needed to apologize to Garth for jumping down his throat and find the asshole who was asking about them since whenever anyone, especially another hunter, started asking too many questions that brought out an entirely different side of Dean.

One that people who saw it usually didn't walk away from and that was before he started trying to call Sam only to get nothing by voicemail. Then he got to the library and felt his stomach flip and his temper soar.

Spinning into the parking lot with plans to pick Sam up, complain to him, grab some food, get some sleep before heading back to Kansas whenever Sam woke up, the last thing Dean expected to find were cop cars, a bloodied guy who looked like trouble and made Dean's 'touch my brother and I will kill you slowly' radar begin to buzz.

A quick word with one of the uniforms that Dean had already spoken to earlier didn't make him happy. Learning that the thug along with four friends had jumped a guy as he was leaving the library really didn't make him happy but it was what the woman who'd called the police reported to Dean that succeeded in pissing him off.

"'They cut that boy and were really beating him up until this other man showed up,'" she told to Dean, shaking her head while wringing her hands. "'I wanted to call the ambulance too but the other man said he'd take care of the boy but if anyone showed up looking for him…'" she seemed to eye Dean's suit before sliding a look toward the Impala with a nod. "'Guess he had you down pat. Said if a man with an attitude in a cheap suit and driving an old Impala were to show up to tell him that he was supposed to watch out for his brother.'"

Fighting not to snarl while also fighting not to panic at not knowing what the hell had happened to Sam, how bad he was hurt or who the hell had taken him to who knows where, Dean's first instinct was to put the barrel of his Colt in the face of the groaning and bitching thug and show him what so many others had already learned: you screw with Dean's little brother it doesn't end well for you.

A deep inner restraint and not wanting to deal with the red tape from the cops if he did that, Dean had been sitting in the Impala speed dialing Sam's phone for over twenty five minutes though it seemed like a lifetime to him and only getting his brother's voicemail.

"Damn it, Sam! Pick up!" fighting the dull edge of panic like he'd only felt a few times in his life, hell thinking of Sam being trapped in Purgatory, hadn't even been this bad on him, Dean was about to forget his restraint and go postal on the thug to find out just what the hell he'd done to Sam or who'd stepped in when he finally heard the best sound all day: his brother's phone picking up…and that was when the night finally fell apart for him.

"'Hey, Dean, 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.'"

Even though it had been nearly eight years since he'd last heard it, Dean would still recognize his father's voice and went through a range of emotions at hearing what sounded like John's voice on the other end of the phone before it clicked off.

Being hung up on was one issue but hung up on by what sounded like his dead father was completely different and Dean wanted answers and he wanted blood.

Answers to how bad his little brother was hurt and how he was and then he wanted blood from the asshole who sounded way too much like John for comfort.

Dean's temper was still sparking dangerously when he pulled the Impala into the parking lot and fought not to run into the hospital but he was well aware of how easy it would be to get tossed out by security if he didn't calm down.

Taking the time to count to at least fifty, Dean figured he was still giving off waves of angst and bad karma but at least he thought he could speak without snarling as he found the main desk in the ER which he assumed would be a good place to start looking for his brother.

"Hi, can I help…" the matronly looking head nurse who was working the evening shift looked up for the chart she was filling out to eye Dean carefully before pursing her lips. "You're probably the boy looking for Sam Winchester, aren't you?" she was confident of that even before Dean blinked at her then offered a scowl that normally put people off but she just continued to watch him. "You're his brother?"

"What? Am I wearing a sign tonight?" he demanded, offering a sigh at the mild look of reproach he was given that reminded him of the warning looks Bobby Singer would give right before he'd give a swift slap to the head. "Yes, I'm Sam's brother. I got a…call that he was brought in here. Where is he, how is he, can I see him, and where's the son of…where's the guy who brought him in?"

Only a sharper look made him pull back from using the phrase he wanted to though right then Dean discovered he wanted to see Sam more than anything else.

"Your brother was brought in with multiple bruises, a bump on his head and a serious cut to his side," she began after checking a chart before gazing back up at Dean. "He lost a lot of blood and by the time we got him he was in bad shape. He's back in one of the rooms now getting stitched up and also receiving a couple pints of blood. The doctor wants to run a CT to make sure he doesn't have a concussion since he seemed really out of it."

Dean knew Sam had been seeming more shaky and confused lately so that didn't bother him as much as the rest of it. "Can…can I see him?" he asked, straining to calm down as he tried to explain. "Sam's…been sick recently and we're just…passing through. He's also leery of hospitals and doctors so…"

"Oh, he's taken a few swings before he finally passed out and the pain killers took effect," the nurse seemed amused by this. "That boy could probably be dangerous of he was steady on his feet but his…your Dad seemed to calm him down by telling him that you were coming."

Blood rushed to his head as Dean's searching eyes shot back to the nurse as his jaw muscle twitched. "My…Dad?" he stared at her while hoping she hadn't noticed the way his hands had suddenly clenched into fists. "Is he…with Sam?"

"No, the doctor said that you'll need to wait to see him until he's a bit more stable," seeming to understand Dean's concern, she stood up to lay a comforting hand on the one that was still fisted on the desk. "He's getting the best care and I'll get you as soon as you can see him."

Not liking that he couldn't see Sam right away, Dean realized this was one head nurse he wouldn't be able to get past and so chose to bide him time in another way…getting answers. "Okay, I'd appreciate that," he nodded with a tight smile while looking around as if searching. "Where is my…Dad?" he asked, nearly having to grit his teeth to get that last word out.

"Oh, he stepped outside after your brother calmed down," she pointed out the door. "He said he didn't care much for hospitals and to just call him if Sam needed him or when you got here, though he seemed to be pretty certain that he'd know as soon as you showed up."

"Oh, I bet he did," Dean forced a smiled then turned to stalk out the doors. The cool night air was clear but he wasn't paying attention to that as he stepped outside to allow his darkening eyes to look around.

A hunter since before he was a teenager, Dean knew his senses were trained to pick up anything out of place. Growing up with the firm instinct to protect his brother, he'd learned early on how to feel if anything was out of place in their environment or to pick up if anyone was too close to them that shouldn't be.

Dean admitted that his concern for Sam might have dulled a few of those senses but now that he was angry and suspicious those were back in full force and his eyes looked around the hospital parking lot as if he was spotting a deadly foe and in that case, he wasn't certain if he wasn't.

Feeling eyes on him Dean knew the second he'd been spotted and just slowly turned on his heel to stare into the darkness towards a line of trees where some benches seemed to sit and despite the deep shadows he still was able to pick out the silhouette of a man standing there.

"Sonuvabitch," he hissed, recognizing the shadowy silhouette as easily as he had the voice on the phone and debated on if his head would explode before he could pull a gun or his knife and put this demon/angel asshole out of his misery. "No."

Not liking hospitals as a general rule and especially not liking them when one of his sons had to be taken to one, John had stayed until Sam was calm again and had finally slipped under fully thanks to the drugs the doctors gave him for the pain and then he'd stepped outside to think, ponder and wait for the inevitable: Dean's arrival.

John had not been planning on seeing either son face to face or at least not until he had a better way to explain why he was alive.

Stepping in to save Sam had not been in question from the moment he'd seen his son go down and while he accepted that he could've walked away after delivering Sam to the ER that part of him that never liked to leave a job unfinished wouldn't let him.

He might not have been the greatest father while the boys were growing up but this time he felt like he needed to stay until he knew how Sam was…even if it meant confronting Dean and John had no doubts had that would go.

Dean had grown up fast and he'd grown up hard. John had lost the sense of that in his obsession to find what had killed his wife and he'd taken that out on the boys but while Sam had lost the chance for normal it was in a lot of ways Dean who suffered the most.

His eldest had been taking care of his infant brother when most toddlers were in school or playing. Dean had grown up taking care of not only Sam but also John when he came in busted up from a hunt. He'd been learning how to use a weapon before he was eight and from the first moment Dean had raised a gun to use it John knew his son's life had never and would never be the same.

As John waited in the shadows that he'd grown accustomed to these past months he thought back to Dean's life. From the happy laughing little boy he'd been up until the night his mother died in flames on the ceiling of Sam's nursery to the quiet soft spoken boy he became afterward.

Perhaps taking the boys with him on hunts hadn't been a wise move but after his meeting with Mary's uncle and the events afterward John's choices were solid. Too many people were interested in his boys and he'd do what he needed to in order to shield and protect them both, even if it meant taking away a small boy's childhood.

Dean had never complained, he never bitched or moaned…to much about what he'd given up for 'the family business'. Only twice could John recall his oldest son ever throwing it in his face about what he'd given up or lost because of John's obsessive desire to keep his sons with him.

Of course both of those times Dean had been either drunk or shot up with pain killers after he'd been hurt and also they happened after John and Sam had a fight and Dean's loyalties between father and brother were stretched beyond their limits.

Unlike what Bobby and Jim thought, John was aware of what Dean gave up to make certain Sam could get the grades in school that he did. He knew that Dean dropped out of school rather than flunk out like he tried to say he did.

John was also aware that Dean had done other things to protect himself and Sam that John didn't know the full story of but mostly he knew that for Dean it wasn't considered sacrificing if it was for Sam.

Oh, he knew his son had grown up with more than his share of an attitude but a lot of that was also due to how Dean grew up, or how John taught him to be.

The cocky attitude, the self-confidence that bordered on sheer arrogance in the face of danger and the ability to mouth off at the worst possible moments all came from growing up a scared little boy with the need to protect his baby brother.

As John watched toward the end, before Sam left for college and during those last few days he'd been with the boys before the semi crash, he'd seen that Dean's attitude hadn't diminished. It had in fact gotten worse, but especially when he was trying to deflect crap from Sam.

Since he'd been watching over them again, John hadn't missed Dean's attitude or actions. He'd seen the tension between the boys right after Dean's return from Purgatory. He'd seen the pain in Sam when it looked like his brother was turning away again and there were moments that John had to remind himself to step back or else he would've gone and slapped his eldest right in the head for some of the stunts he pulled.

Since the trials had started he was relieved to see the side of Dean that he'd hoped that the recent traumas and pain hadn't erased, the big brother side that would take care of Sam no matter what.

It was that side that John knew he'd be facing. Since his return, between what he woke up knowing and from what little he'd been able to learn from others he suspected that both boys were still hiding things from each other but John's rule of no emotion had been drilled into Dean and it was usually only his brother who could make him drop that rule.

Hearing the familiar roar of the Impala actually made John wipe his suddenly damp palms on the sides of his jeans as he watched from the shadows as the car he'd bought back in 1973 was whipped into the lot, parked and the driver emerged in full silent fury.

'Yeah, he's pissed,' John thought, recognizing the signs of anger and fear in his son as ones he'd seen many times when the boys were growing up and Sam was hurt which would scare his brother but he figured the anger had come from not knowing what happened and from his phone call.

Counting down in his head how long it should take Dean to get answers about Sam, John smiled knowingly when he saw his son exit the hospital with a look that warned him that this meeting was not going to be as peaceful as the one he'd just had with Sam…though John knew if Sam had been healthy that one probably wouldn't have been good either.

Taking a deep shaky breath, John took a step as soon as the lot lights shined on Dean's face and it was clear that the hunter senses that he'd instilled in his boy had spotted him.

Before John had no doubts that he could handle his son's temper but now he wasn't so certain and just hoped he could get the stubborn boy to hear him out without having to hurt him since he was only too aware of the fact that Mary would find a way to break his head if he laid a hand on Dean.

"I'm surprised she hasn't already," he muttered, realizing there'd been plenty of times in the boys lives that John knew he'd been too rough or had taken his anger or frustration out of his sons.

That was something else he'd just learned the cause of as well and hoped Dean didn't want too many answers on things that would just end up hurting the boys more.

"Dean, hear me out before you…ugh!" a fast and hard fist to the jaw sent John's head snapping back with a curse. "Damn it, Dean. Listen for once and…ugh!"

Another hard fist to the face knocked John back a good two steps before a fist was curled in his jacket as if yank him up for another round only the senior Winchester had different ideas.

"Demons and angels have been screwing with me and Sammy for a long time and they've made us both see a lotta crap but I will be damned if they'll make my little brother see Dad when he's already hurting!" Dean snapped, anger clear in the tightness of his voice when he went to grab the jacket of this thing that looked so much like his Dad that the hunter could feel a pain in his chest like he hadn't felt since his Dad died. "Not so long as I'm…Sonuvabitch!"

Dean had fought many a demon and angel grunt since his return from Hell and while they were usually stronger he'd learned how to be sneaky. Also a full face on attack usually took this by surprise until he could pull the angel killing blade he still had.

This time when he went to yank this asshole back to his feet after two fists to the face had knocked him back he felt a strong calloused hand grip his wrist, twist it while an open hand shot out to strike Dean in the chest right over his heart, taking his breath away.

Feeling the fist in his jacket loosen, John moved quickly to yank the arm of his son behind him while turning Dean sharply so he could lightly rap his forehead into the roof the Corolla then kept him pinned while showing the demon killing knife he'd pulled from under Dean's jacket.

"Stay still, stop fighting and listen to me," he ordered in the same deep, gruff voice he normally used on Dean when needing to make him listen.

Pissed off about Sam being jumped, angry about what seemed to be happening, Dean did not take the order kindly and tried to fight only to feel the pressure on his trapped arm increase until he had to grit his teeth. "Get…off," he hissed, hating to be pinned but especially hating to be pinned by what he still thought was a demon as it brought back his own bitter memories of Hell. "Stupid demon…my Dad's…hey!"

Cuffing the back of his son's head much like he would when he'd been a teenager, John shook his head for a moment but kept his grip tight because he knew if he let go now that Dean's first move would be to attack and he didn't want that.

"Since when is your brother the easier to get along with son?" he asked dryly, grabbing Dean's free hand before it could reach back to grab for his eyes and pinned it to the top of the car.

Once fully trapped against the Corolla he felt his son tense and supposed that like Sam's reaction to a similar situation John shouldn't be surprised. It just didn't make him pleased as he waited for the most of the fight to ease off until slowly Dean stopped trying to break his hold and finally stilled with a harsh oath.

"You ready to listen to me now?" John inquired, cautious when he moved back that he was clear before Dean could spin around and just easily pushed him back. "Dean! Do I look like a demon to you?"

"Uh, since my Dad's been died and burned for almost eight years? Yeah!" came the sharp reply but Dean stayed with his back to the Corolla, his eyes near slits as he watched the man who looked and sounded like his father bitterly. "Crowley, that bitch Naomi all want to screw with us and that's fine…for me! Not Sam! He still feels way too much shit from his time with Dad, he still misses him and still believes all the crap from when we were kids and no black eyed demon's gonna hurt him like this!"

A little surprised by the raw emotion in Dean's speech, John had to take another step back while considering the best way to handle this.

He'd known that Dean would be the harder of the two to convince since he'd always been the more wary and suspicious of his sons but he hadn't been expecting this. He hadn't seen this much pain or confusion in this set of green eyes in years, not since the night he and Sam had the fight that resulted in Sam leaving for Stanford.

Realizing the best way to make Dean listen would be first to take away all the excuses, which would mean John facing a few things that he didn't think he'd like.

"Fine, you think I'm a demon? Then use the knife in your pocket or the holy water I'm sure is in your jacket," John invited, gazing at the knife he'd taken from his son and knew what it was but turned it so he was holding it by the tip with the handle held out. "I'm not a demon, a 'shifter, an angel or anything looking to hurt you or your brother, Dean," he honestly chuckled as he added dryly. "I don't have enough answers to why I'm alive either but I can at least try to make you believe I'm who I seem to be."

"I burned the damn body," Dean gritted, hesitating before reaching out to take back the demon killing blade but finally made himself meet the opposite set of eyes and hoped the dark hid how much his hands suddenly wanted to shake. "You're too damn solid to be a ghost so whatever the hell game this is I will kick your ass as soon as I figure out what you are or if you touched my brother."

"Still threatening to rip the lungs out of people who hurt Sammy?" John nodded, not shocked by this since he'd broken up more than a few bar fights, bailed his oldest out of jail or the principal's office for fights Dean had gotten into while defending or protecting his brother. "He's still four inches taller than you, Dean."

"Don't call him that," eyes already glittering in anger, the use of Sam's nickname threatened to set Dean off again while he finally decided to throw caution to the wind and pulled the silver switchblade that both he and Sam carried that had been gifts from their father. "I will gut you the second you hiss, burn, or anything else weird."

Frowning a little, John shook his head but pushed his jacket sleeve up while holding out an arm. "Y'know, I never realized how much like me you could sound until now and I don't think I like it, son," he winced as the pure silver blade cut and didn't miss the nearly identical frown that came over Dean's face when nothing happened. "Holy water?"

After drinking and swallowing Holy Water from the flask Dean did have in an inside jacket pocket of his suit, walking through an impromptuly drawn devil's trap, not going poof at an angel vanishing sigil and finally drawing the line at being stuck with a knife coated in lambs blood, John gave the now pacing and muttering hunter a hard look.

"You done with this and maybe be willing to listen to me or do I have to knock you on your ass and beat it into your head like I had to when you were eighteen and had your damn brain scrambled by that cult up in Massachusetts?" he demanded, willing to go along with his son only to a point and now realized Dean had picked up way too many bad habits and suspicions in the years he'd been gone.

"It's not freakin' possible," Dean kept muttering, going through his head of possible creatures that he hadn't thought of or a way either the angels or the demons could have pulled this off when he suddenly pulled up short to turn back around with a wary look on his ruggedly tired face. "What…what did you just say?"

The drop on his son's voice from deep and rough which was Dean's pissed off tone toward a possible threat to the more quiet almost questioning one told John that he'd finally made a dent even though he wished it wouldn't have been with that time in Dean's life.

"You were eighteen going on twenty-five by your attitude that week. We were up in a town a little north of Salem on a case of some kind and you got your head and your glands mixed up by a pretty face…then your head got turned around by the goddamn cult she lured you into and Jim, Bobby, and I spent the next week or so bringing you out of it," while trying to keep his voice gruff and easy as if it was just another memory John's real memory of that time were not so easy or as calm.

He remembered all too well the two weeks it took to break Dean free of the drugs he'd been hit with on top of the cult leader's mental job. Of course what still could make John break out in a sweat was the fact that it hadn't been anything he and the others really did to break through to his very dangerous, very confused teenage son but the huge eyes of Dean's little brother when Sam got in the way of Dean's attempt at escape and soon had a knife blade at his throat.

It had been Sam's terrified eyes looking up at his brother and asking him to please be alright soon that had finally gotten through to Dean enough that he'd backed off and John could get between the boys but John honestly wasn't sure if Dean even remembered that.

"Jim and Bobby are gone to ask them what a ray of sunshine you were then but when Sam wakes up you could ask him or…" John lifted a single eyebrow when Dean was suddenly in his face but this time his face didn't show anger, it held the same look of tense caution as it always did when he didn't want his brother to know something.

"That never comes up with Sam," he whispered, refusing the memory and refusing to ever bring it back to his younger brother in case Sam did remember the full event because despite what everyone thinks Dean sure as hell remembered it all. "How do you…"

Dean stared hard at the waiting face, taking in every feature that hadn't seem to have aged a day since the last time he'd seen his father in a hospital before he made the deal that started a chain of events that to this moment was still falling like dominoes. "Dad."

"Well, that took longer than I thought it…ugh!" John's head snapped back when once again a hard fist cracked into his jaw but this time Dean didn't make another move to attack though he still also wasn't looking very friendly. "Damn it, Dean! What the hell was that for?" he demanded, rubbing his jaw carefully while wondering if he'd make it out of this without a broken jaw.

"Gee, I don't know, Dad. You tell me," Dean's eyes rolled while he debated on what would come next. He still had doubts if this was real or a trick but since he couldn't find a way to break the image in any way he figured he may as well deal with in his own unique style.

Anger and sarcasm suited him best and this situation seemed to call for both.

"We can start with why you're standing here and not a pile of ash back in South Dakota. We can go on to the fact that you made Sam's life miserable growing up for no other reason than your own obsessive, selfish reasons and it's still hurting him. Or we can try the fact that you made a deal and died, leaving me to handle all the crap that you didn't bother to tell me about on top of trying to save my little brother.

"Then we move onto the fact that you knew or had to know about the demon blood, about why Yellow Eyes was so interested in Sammy and that it be a cold day in Hell before I let my brother die!" resisting the urge to use both fists as he suddenly discovered that he had no problem saying what his issue was, Dean slid both hands into the pockets of his slacks while moving away to continue the rant.

"You went to Hell for me but you knew I'd never let Sam die. You knew I'd make a deal for him! Alastair was only too happy to tell me how weak I was. How they'd planned on you being the one to break the first seal but yet he couldn't do it. He couldn't break you no matter how long you were down there but he managed to break me in three months…thirty years,

"Sam listened to you yell and lecture that he was weak, that he'd never be good enough but when it came down to it? I broke, Dad. I…couldn't hack it, couldn't deal with it and I gave in to the damn bastard and broke the first seal that ended up hurting Sam more," unaware of how he'd started to shake as images of Hell came back, the years he'd put up with the brutal torture and abuse and what he did and had done to him after he'd given in still haunted Dean.

Needing space to pace, to move, to keep his body and mind distracted at facing his Dad also meant facing crap that he didn't want to.

Ever since he'd been forced to confront Alastair on behalf of the Angel patrol and the torture master of Hell had bragged to Dean that it had been his weakness that had caused the first seal to break it had bothered Dean just how much his Dad had known and if he'd known what would come out of it.

"You didn't give a damn about us. We were just your own soldiers in a war that never concerned us!" he yelled, whirling to close the distance between them only to find his father standing right behind him with a dark look simmering that Dean remembered only too well. "Go ahead. I've been hurt by the best of them, Dad. Your best fist won't phase me anymore.

"Between Hell and what happened to me there and what I did, watching my brother fall apart thanks to some demon bitch and all the doubts and mistrust between us, to losing Sam to a Cage with warring Archangels. To his being a soulless son of a bitch and getting me turned into a vampire to watching him nearly lose his mine to being stuck in Purgatory for a year…yeah, nothing you can say or do will hurt me now," Dean growled, too many memories rushing back all at once and he went to step back before he did something he'd never forgive himself for since he'd never shed an open tear in front of John before and didn't plan to now.

John had stayed silent while his older boy got the most of his feelings out, listening to what Dean was saying but also what he wasn't since whatever had brought him back had also given him a detailed version of the things that both of his sons had done and been through so he knew there was so much more that Dean hadn't tossed out.

He also figured the biggest part of those were things Dean wouldn't say because he didn't want Sam hurt more by bringing up the demon blood addiction, the bitter fights, the attempts to save the world that while helping it just hurt his boys. He knew Dean wouldn't bring that up but right then his main thought was on something else.

Dean's time in Hell had also been brought up by Sam and John wasn't surprised that his sons believed what they did since neither demon nor angel were likely to tell the truth when they were working to break the boys apart in order to create the damn Apocalypse.

Not thrilled at recalling his own one hundred years in Alastair's chamber of horrors, John realized his discomfort wasn't important anymore. What his elder son thought; the guilt and pain of being weak and failing that Dean still harbored was important to him.

"Dean," aware that touching his son now could very well end up with a fist to the face again John took the chance when he laid a hand on the closest shoulder and tightened the grip when he felt how much it was trembling. "Stop."

"You don't get it, Dad. You told me to watch over Sammy. I've done that all his life. I tried to protect him but by saving him, I doomed him because by leaving him alone they were able to hurt him. I hurt him," Dean still knew this because he knew it was his lack of faith in Sam before Lucifer was set free and then afterward that had allowed everything else to happen.

"He just wanted to make you proud. He wanted to someone you'd love and in the end I'm the one who destroyed what you hadn't because I let him think he wasn't good enough to be my brother and when I tossed the amulet…I still can see his eyes that day," looking over his shoulder into the solemn eyes of his father, Dean's smile was grim. "You left me to handle it but I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't the son you thought I'd be, I guess and…"

Having heard enough, John's gut was in knots. In the past two hours he'd listened to both his sons and while he'd known that he wasn't parent of the year and that he'd left them both to clean up a mess that he should've while he'd been able the amount of pain, grief, doubt and self-hate that his boys still held tore him apart and made him wish that he could take it back. All he could do know was try to reassure and explain.

"Dean, I told Sam that I'd only found out the full truth shortly before all that happened and by then it was too late to do much but pray," John began, seeing the side of Dean that he'd gotten from Mary; the softer, more vulnerable side that his boy hardly ever let be seen, especially these days.

"When you got hurt I knew Sam would need you. Losing you, on top of losing his girlfriend would've been too much on your brother. He needed you because I had let go of Sam too long ago for him to trust me or rely on me like he does you," needing to make certain he was getting through, John nudged until Dean sat down at one of the benches nearby and straddled the bench beside him.

Noticing that Dean's fingers were playing with the black band he'd taken to wearing again, John remembered something he'd had upon waking up and knew who it needed to go to before he left his boys again. "I know what I told you that day and it was wrong of me to lay that burden on you, son. Protecting you boys was what I've tried to do since the night your mother died.

"I figure Sam won't even remember talking to me so this is the part of that you need to understand because it goes with what I'm going to tell you," looking between the hospital and Dean, John considered this before sighing. "While I didn't know the full extent of it, I was aware that too many people wanted Sam and you. The first time that was driven home was when I met Mary's uncle and things went downhill from there but then I guess from what Sam said you've already encountered the Campbells."

"Please, can we not go there?" Dean snorted, not needing to be reminded that he still had scores to settle with that branch of his Mom's family. "I much rather think of your father than Samuel and the Soup Kids."

John caught that but ignored it for the moment since he'd trained himself since he'd been a boy not to think of his own father and wanted to focus on his son. "Dean, I know what it looked like to you growing up and I know that I put a lot of pressure on you but I needed you to be able to protect yourself and Sam for when I wasn't there.

"I needed Sam to depend on someone, to be close to someone he could trust and that's why I let you be the one your brother turned to. The one he went to when scared, the one who raised him, the one who taught him what he'd need to know and the one I knew would always be there for him," he didn't miss the look of surprise in Dean's eyes but was relieved when slowly his son begun to relax and he was confident that he'd be able to talk to him now with at least very few interruptions.

"I was hard on you and yeah, I was harder on Sammy but every time I pushed you boys it was to make you better, to make you stronger, to make you able to depend on one another," he paused as another thought came to mind and he knew it was also in Dean's by the way he'd gotten that smart ass smirk on his lips. "I won't say that I was a great father, Dean and I know there were times you hated me. That there were times when you probably could've killed me for things I did to Sam or to you and I wish I could remember all those, but it was only when I went to Hell and since I came back that those times became clear to me."

Wondering how he could possibly explain that he didn't have clear memory of the times he took his punishments too far or when he'd push Sam's training routines far past the boy's endurance or the time that Sam had run away that he beat Dean.

He honestly didn't know how to tell Dean that for John those times had been like shadows in his mind of someone else and only now did he remember them. Only now did he have a suspicion as to what had affected his mind so many times back as they were growing up.

Choosing to hold off on a full explanation until he had more answers and solid proof, he shook his head. "I could give you what I think happened but all I need you to know about that is…if I'd been in full control I would never have laid a hand on either of you.

"The training would've been hard and I probably still would've pushed you but I never would've pushed until Sam was sick or until you'd get in my face to back away from him. You were my sons and I loved you but…"

"Okay, you are not my Dad," Dean broke in with a smirk, listening and actually considering the words but couldn't resist commenting on that admission. "My Dad hasn't said the 'L' word since Sam was probably six months old…before the fire."

Sticking his tongue in his cheek to keep from commenting right then, John did give a look that made his oldest boy shrug. "Yes, I have said it. I've actually said it to both of you," he retorted then sighed. "Usually when you were asleep or hurt…just like you still say it to Sam. When you're damn sure he won't hear it or when he breaks you down with those damn eyes that you taught him to use."

"Shut up, Dad," Dean muttered, refusing to either admit or deny that but finally settled back on the bench to watch John closely. "Fine, let's say I buy that something or someone was playing in your head or whatever it was, it doesn't change the pain Sam felt or how useless he still thinks he is and that you didn't give a damn about him."

"No, it doesn't and I hope he'll remember something of what I said to him but that brings me to you," John had so much that he wanted to say, to try to explain but knew he needed to pick and choose his battles and that there were more important issues to clear up. "I put too much pressure on you which was wrong but I knew you'd be stronger than I would if it came down to saving your brother or losing him to that damn demon. You were always strong, Dean."

Nearly choking at that, Dean's eyes shot up with a look of pure self-disgust. "Hel-lo? Gave up in Hell? Broke the first seal? Couldn't protect Sam from addictions, demons, losing his soul, nearly going mad or thinking I hated him? That's not strong, Dad," he argued with a bitter laugh. "If I'd been as strong as you wanted me to be, I could've found a way to save Sam from everything he's been through."

"Damn, you are way too much like me than I ever thought you'd become," John shook his head, tightening the grip he still had on Dean's shoulder when he felt it tense. "You think you have to hold the weight of the whole world on your shoulders and that's never what I wanted for you."

"You wanted soldiers and despite me telling Sam that all I am is a damn grunt it still feels as if I've failed," Dean stared at the black rubbery band on his wrist then back at his Dad with true pain in his eyes. "You shouldn't have died. Maybe if you hadn't…Sam would've…"

"Your brother would've bolted and fell apart without you, son," John broke in, hating to see this and wishing he could make it right in some other way than with just a few words. "Yes, Sam did some things that maybe weren't so bright but he did what he thought was right, just like you did. You protected him from falling all the way and you couldn't keep what happened with Lucifer because…those events had been set in motion long before you made the deal."

Recognizing Dean's look that he was winding up for an argument, John decided it was time to stop it since he knew what this would always come back to and had other things to talk with Dean about. "Dean, you didn't break the seal," he heard the sharp breath but forged on quickly.

"Regardless of what you were told by Alastair or the angels that seal was broke before you saved your brother. It took the bastard nearly the full one hundred years but all it finally took to break me was him bragging that you'd sold your soul to save Sam and I knew that you had no real idea what you boys were being led into.

"You see, that was the big thing, son. I learned too late that you and Dean had been chosen to be vessels even before Mary and I met," John didn't miss the way Dean's green eyes dropped as if he was remembering something and then recalled what Sam had mentioned. "Hey," reaching over, he grasped his son's chin to lift it up in order to reestablish eye contact. "Your Mom and I loved each other, Dean. We fought but no matter what anyone says we never doubted that love or the two sons that it brought into the world.

"I broke but it didn't matter because while they needed the seal broke they also needed to break you in order to try to make you give in. They needed to take you apart like they need because the bastards needed you to think so less of yourself than what there really is," John sighed as he could still see in his son what no one, either Hell or Heaven, would ever understand and what he hoped that he could make Dean see.

"They needed to hurt you, to break you in order to make you doubt yourself and Sam cause it's your strength that ultimately protects your brother. You might think that Alastair broke you and he did hurt you in ways that no one else would ever get but he never broke what makes you the man who raised and protected Sam,

"No one can break your spirit or your strength that keeps you fighting," John offered a smirk much similar to the one his son often uses. "You could've given in to Zachariah, you could've said yes to Michael, you could've forgot about Sam during that time he was gone or you could've given up on him anytime he was soulless or any number of times…you could've walked away but you didn't. Why?"

Blinking like he'd just been asked the most stupidest question in the universe, Dean snorted with an eye roll that he often bitched at Sam for using. "Why? I didn't say yes because I wasn't letting those dicks rule my or Sammy's lives. I didn't say yes because I'd be damned if Lucifer was riding my little brother or if I'd let Michael use my body to hurt Sam."

To this very day Dean could recall the look of rage then shock then horror on Zachariah's face when pulled back his agreement. "Sam and I might've been through hell over that and I admit that I let those sons of bitches push and pull until I did lose faith in him for a moment but I never quit or walked away or gave up on him because…because he's Sammy and no one screws with my little brother. Then, now, or down the road.

"Sam might have to do these trials that we got involved with to shut Hell for good but I will not lose him," knowing how sick his brother was getting, Dean was more aware than Sam knew just how badly this second trial was messing him up. "I will do whatever it takes to let him do this third one but I'm not letting this thing drag him down with it.

"I made him a promise that nothing bad would ever happen to him while he was with me and this time I'm bringing him out of this even if I have to carry him out like I did when he was a baby," the vow was quiet but firm as Dean caught a glimmer of a smile of his Dad's scruffy bearded face. "What?"

John chuckled. "That's what I mean about them not breaking the part of you that makes you the son I raised, Dean. No matter what, no matter who you face, no one can break your spirit. No one can break that bond you have with your brother and that's what will pull you both through this."

"Henry said it's because we're Winchesters," Dean was more cautious when he said this since he knew what his Dad thought of his early life. "Y'know, I really could give you a hard time about having a music box that played 'As Time Goes By' when you were a kid."

"Considering some of the stuff I let slide when you were young I wouldn't…what did you say?" John stared at Dean for a long moment while trying to recall if he'd ever mentioned that to either of his boys.

He knew he would occasionally whistle the old song but since he could barely recall his early childhood he didn't think he'd ever spoken of that little music box. Then the name sank in and a piece of John grew cold. "Dean, who told you about that?" he demanded warily.

"Yeah, well since I'm talking to my supposedly dead father I guess this would be a good time to mention that Sam and I met your time-traveling father who had a very interesting story to tell…before he…died trying to save Sam," Dean arched a brow as if to mean that he could give as could as he got. "Henry Winchester, the owner of the journal you had, that Sammy and I now have and a guy who had a very low opinion of hunters."

Not used to being the one at a loss for words, John remained silent for a long while before scrubbing a hand over his face. "Dean, what in the hell have you and Sam been up to?" he couldn't figure out how this had happened since he'd been close to the boys except for that one time when he'd checked out a lead on his own. "My dad took off one night when I was…"

"Four, yeah. He told us that he put you to bed, told you he was going to work but he actually went to get fully initiated into this Men of Letters thing and…it went bad," Dean sighed, figuring if he was hard headed than convincing his Dad of this one would be like cutting Sam's hair for the first time…a huge pain in his ass.

"The short of it, the Men of Letters was a secret society that knew a lot about anything but before Henry could get all the knowledge or get sworn in this demon chick, Abbadon, killed the guys. He did a blood spell to jump time which shot him out of mine and Sammy's hotel closet one day and he and I didn't exactly hit it off," he wondered if that was a personality flaw of his or just something in the Winchester attitude.

"Apparently this Men of Letters thing was big and it's gone way back in the Winchester line…which means Campbells hunting on the Mayflower ain't so big now, and we are legacies…whatever the hell that means since the group sort of went extinct," the younger man shrugged then sighed. "It also means that your Dad, Henry, he didn't abandon you, Dad. He tried to go back, to change it from happening once he learned what you thought but…if he had Sam would've died and…"

Listening to the hesitance in Dean's normally easy going voice told John what must have happened. He had a hard time thinking of his own long lost father as some sort of super spy or however Dean described this group, but what he did recall of the man reminded him that his father, while torn between going back to his own time to his son or saving his grandson, would have chosen saving Sam…of course he also figured his Dad had help with the choice.

"You make the choice or did he?" he asked, hiding his small grin at the why Dean squirmed. "Knocked him out, didn't you, son?"

"I wanted my brother, so yeah," Dean replied shortly, reaching into his pocket for his wallet to remove something. "He had this so I figure you might want it," he held out the photo that Henry had been carrying. "You didn't talk too much about your past but…I really don't think he planned to leave you. Sam and I figure he escaped through time but died here and couldn't make it back to you. Dad…"

Standing to take a few steps away while considering this new curve in his life, John thought back to how he'd felt when strangers had arrived to take him away. The bitterness he'd held toward his own father on top to the things he'd endured growing up had certainly helped to shape the man he became.

He'd tried to avoid making the same mistakes with his own sons as had been made in his life but in the end he guessed he'd still left the boys feeling as abandoned and insecure as he'd felt at four and was relieved to know that his father had at least gotten to meet his grandsons and had helped to save his youngest.

"He said he was proud and I think he meant it," Dean stood up slowly since he still knew how unpredictable his Dad could be and hadn't quite let himself believe in this yet. "Gotta admit that I liked him better than Samuel."

John laughed at that. He hadn't been a fan of Samuel Campbell either and if he'd known then what he did now about the man, about the family of hunters, he would've made damn sure they couldn't touch his family.

A look at Dean's eyes told him that his sons encounters with that side of their family also hadn't been good and he hoped to hell they didn't need to deal with them again, though something Sam had said warned him that it wouldn't be that simple.

"So, you're legacies now?" he didn't know what that meant but it made Dean smile a little more which was something John always noticed his son didn't do much of after Mary died, unless it was to make his brother relax or he was flirting with a girl. "That what the new hangout's about?"

"Yeah but I really don't want to think about how close you've been," Dean's more cautious side made him wary about anyone knowing about the Men of Letters base then waved a hand. "Sammy can be a Man of Letters. I keep telling him I'm more of the grunt hunter type which pisses him off to no end."

That didn't surprise John since he was more than aware of how protective Sam was of his older brother and he was sure of the lengths that Sam would also go for Dean.

He'd often wished that Mary could see the men her sons had grown into and was confident that she'd be as proud of them as he was, though he also knew she'd be less than thrilled with him on how he'd brought Sam and Dean up.

"You know what's coming won't be easy," he wished that he could tell Dean differently. "There are limits to what I can do."

"Hell, I'm still trying to decide if you're real or I'm just too tired and am having a really vivid dream," Dean shrugged, hearing his name being called by the nurse. "How bad's he hurt?"

Knowing Dean meant Sam, John shook his head. "From tonight? That cut seemed to be the worse but he was going downhill before that," he narrowed his eyes in a way that reminded Dean of when he'd been a teenager and his pesky little brother had pulled a stunt that didn't impress their Dad. "Sam was getting sick tonight but it seems his phone died on him before he could call you. I didn't plan on letting either of you see me, Dean."

"Yeah, kind of figured that since from what I'm guessing and from what I was hearing about some weirdo asking about us you've been watching over Sam since I was in Purgatory which also means you let him put a dog in my baby," Dean rolled his eyes, still ticked off about that little matter but didn't miss the warning tone. "I know. He's…getting worse and as soon as I get him home I'm benching his butt until I think he can at least stand up straight."

"Uh-huh, good luck with that plan, son," John decided, remembering all too well how stubborn his youngest son could be and especially knowing how he got if he thought his brother was coddling him. "You okay?"

"Oh, sure. I learn my dead father's been resurrected by someone to do something that he doesn't even know what and I get told that all the crap I've taken the blame for since Hell hasn't really been my fault. Yeah, I get that every day," Dean rolled his eyes then growled under his breath when he was slapped in the head again. "Did you give Sammy this peppy speech?"

"One like it though I doubt if he'll remember it," John wasn't sure since Sam had been pretty out of it. "You'll tell him what you want to about this…but just tell him that I was always proud of him, just like I still am proud of both of you."

Waving a hand at the louder call to him, Dean suddenly frowned. "You're not…coming in, are you?" that didn't surprise him since something in his gut just said that it wasn't that time yet for their Dad to be this out in the open. "Why did you let us see you? I mean, I get with Sam since he was in trouble and I appreciate you bailing his butt out but…"

"You're my sons, Dean. No matter what happened in the past, how much I've screwed up or what may happened in the future you and Sam will always be my sons," John replied, looking toward the hospital almost wistfully then faced his oldest with a realistic look on his face. "Sam may or may not remember seeing me but I did want to see you, to at least explain what I could and say…I'm…sorry."

"Nope, there again…you are not my Dad cause my Dad just does not apologize," Dean knew he was being a smart ass and expected the slap to the back of his head this time. "What? You don't."

"Shut up and go see your brother, smart guy," John growled, swearing that he didn't know how in the world his oldest son lived this long with the mouth he'd gotten from his mother. "Dean…wait…"

Debating on actually doing what he'd been considering, Dean turned at his father's voice to see what else he might say then had to work hard not to either gasp or let his mouth fall open in shock when the man who'd taught him all his no chick flick moment rules pulled him into a hard hug.

"I guess this is what Sam feels when I do this to him," he muttered, returning the gesture fully then stepping back but still felt the grip John had on his shoulders. "You gonna be around?"

"As much and as close as I can be for as long as I'm allowed," John nodded, giving a final tight squeeze to his son's shoulders before letting go. "Go on, go see your brother."

John waited until Dean was a good two feet away before calling out to him. "Dean! Watch out for Sammy," he shook his head at the returned gesture since he knew Dean would always take care of his brother. It was the taking care of himself part that he worried about his elder son doing.

Leaving something on the dashboard of the Impala, John got back in his car to drive back into the shadows that he'd been dealing with since his return only to pause with a last look at the hospital where his sons were. "I love you boys," he whispered, putting the Corolla in gear while promising himself and Mary that he'd find some way to shield the boys even if it meant his life again. "Goodbye, Sam. Goodbye, Dean."

Inside the hospital:

"He's still a little confused and shaky but that's to be expected considering the amount of blood he lost," a white coated doctor was saying as he led Dean to a room back in the ER. "He's insisting on releasing himself but I don't think that's a…"

"Is he in danger if he does?" Dean knew Sam would want out of the hospital as fast as he could since his brother didn't like or trust the places and because he knew with how he was now it would be too easy for the medics to freak out if he starting coughing up blood.

A very definite frown was shot his way but the doctor merely shook his head. "No, not if he's careful but it would be…"

"Against medical advice, yeah. Been there, done that before," Dean assured the man, tapping a finger on the chart. "Just go draw up the usual AMA release papers cause if Sam wants out there's very little I can do to talk him out of it."

Waiting for the clearly unhappy doctor to stalk off, Dean blew out a breath before stepping into the ER exam room to shoot his own unhappy look toward the bed. "So, this is the last time I let you go near a damn library on your own, Sammy."

"Shut up and use the indoor tone of voice," Sam winced as his head seemed to throb. "I want out."

"Just hold on while the doctor who stitched you up is getting the AMA papers ready," Dean eyed his brother critically, catching the bruises as well as the bandage on his head but what he wanted to see was Sam's side. "What happened?" he asked while gently easing the T-shirt that Sam had struggled back into up to growl low in his throat.

"Felt like shit, couldn't call you and I got jumped," Sam sighed, expecting the usual lecture from his brother only to blink when he felt the hand on his shoulder. "There was five of them but I still should've been able to…"

Shaking his head like only an older brother could, Dean light his grip tighten carefully. "You're hurt and I shouldn't have left you knowing that so we both learned a lesson tonight," he shrugged it off easily while debating on going back to rip the lungs out of the thug he'd seen. "We'll get you outta here and then you're doing nothing but resting until I get a handle on where Kevin's at."

Wanting to argue that he'd be fine, Sam shut his mouth while laying back since he couldn't leave without signing papers.

Watching his brother move around the room restlessly, Sam bit his lip as if considering what he wanted to bring up. "Dean? I know it was probably the shock of everything and the pain but…what would you say if I told you I saw…Dad?" he winced at the thought of the pain his head would be in at the tone of voice his brother was probably going to use. "Saw and talked to him."

"You saw Dad," Dean mused, keeping his back to his brother while deciding how best to handle this one. "What he say?"

"Umm, that nothing was my fault. That he was sorry for how we grew up and that basically…he was proud of me…of us," Sam's head hurt so while he thought there was more to it than that he really couldn't recall it right then.

Plus he was pretty certain he'd been dreaming anyway. "He…also said that nothing was your fault. I guess I saw Dad cause I was thinking about him before I was jumped," he sighed, surprised to feel sad. "Dean?"

About to let Sam believe he had been seeing things so that in case they never saw their Dad again he wouldn't be upset or confused, a single look into still huge puppy looking hazel eyes and Dean blew that plan up with a deep breath.

"He said he was proud of you, Sammy and that he loved us…of which I got slapped in the head by pointing out that our father never used that word in most of my life," he replied slowly, sitting on the edge of the bed to take notice of the blood on his brother's shirt and feeling his fist curl again. "Dad was…chatty to say the least."

Blinking to clear his tired eyes, it was several seconds before Sam's eyes popped open to stare at his brother. "Come again?" he wasn't sure he'd heard Dean right. "You…you saw him? I wasn't…but Dad's…I think I'm going to be sick."

Keeping a supportive hand on his brother's neck, Dean did grab a trashcan in case Sam was being literal. "I can't give you hard answers on why he'd alive or if he's alive really…I don't think Dad knows himself but all I know is he was damn solid when I punched him."

"You…punched Dad?" if he'd felt better Sam knew his eyes would've bugged out then smirked as he recalled the times he had seen his Dad and brother get into a fight and how it usually turned out. "You still get your ass handed to you?"

"Shut up, bitch," Dean growled then turned as he heard the doctor coming. "Best not so sick-sick guy act, little brother," he urged, preparing to give the best performance of his life if it meant getting Sam signed out of this place.

Thirty minutes, a fight with a doctor and some shaky steps later Dean was finally able to close the passenger door of the Impala after getting Sam settled.

"I hate doctors," he muttered to himself, jerking open the door to get behind the wheel when he caught sight of what was dangling from Sam's hand and swore his lungs had stopped working again. "Where…?"

"It was on the dashboard along with a note," Sam's hand shook as he held out the small gold amulet that he'd last seen dropping into a trashcan of a motel close to three years earlier. "It says for you not to lose it again. Um, do you want it or…"

Regretting the stupid move to throw away the amulet that Sam had given him the Christmas Sam was eight just because Zachariah's trip to what Dean now believed was a fake version of Heaven or mostly fake, he reached out to take it from his brother while not missing the way Sam's breathing had become shaky while waiting to see his reaction.

"Hang on a second," getting back out of the car to go dig into the trunk, Dean took a long moment to stare at what he'd been searching for before knowing it was the right thing to do. "So, you feel like eating cause I'm starving?"

Not wanting to admit that all he really felt like doing was sleeping, Sam shifted carefully so the stitches in his side didn't pull or tear when he blinked the sudden burning tears out of his eyes.

Seeing the gold amulet back around his brother's neck was one huge relief for Sam since that little thing had always meant something to them, it had been a huge bond between them. A bond that Sam had feared he'd lost but it was smelling the familiar scent of gun oil and aftershave on the old battered leather jacket that he hadn't seen his brother wear since that day in a cemetery in Stull that really made things feel real for him.

"You…I thought you'd…um," he tried to say something without falling into chick flick moment but couldn't when he watched his brother's face for a long moment and for just a second Sam was taken back to a time when things were so much easier. "Ever miss fighting Wendigos?"

"Only every day, little brother," Dean smiled, starting the engine and feeling right for the first time in a long time while sliding a smirk over to Sam. "Garth said he's hunting a Bigfoot so I figure he'll be getting ate pretty soon."

"One almost ate Caleb," Sam recalled, letting his head rest on the seat while hearing the music come on and playing along. "We really need to update this cassette collection you insist on hanging onto."

"Everything nearly ate Caleb and if you touch my tapes I am so ending you, Sammy," Dean shot back with a grin, watching as his brother slowly fell to sleep like he always would and knowing that Sam would sleep the full trip back to Kansas unless he stopped at a motel.

To Dean his brother looked pale and sick but knew that it wasn't all because of the knife wound. These trials were taking more of a toll on Sam than either of them had counted on and Dean knew that while he could no longer call do-over that he would do his best to keep Sam alive if for no other reason than he wanted to see his father and brother together at least one more time.

Feeling the weight of the amulet back where it belonged, Dean smiled in the dark and drove them back toward the main road while wondering how his Dad had gotten the amulet and if it was better off if he didn't know.

He and Sam had come to Vermont looking for a case and both had found a meeting with something from their past. The talk with John had helped Dean more than he'd admit even though he still had questions and knew Sam would too.

Right then though he was happy that his little brother was still moving and that at least in some way he had another form of back up in keeping Sam safe…until the next trial and then Dean could only pray they all came out of it alive.

The End

A/N: Thanks for reading. This chapter turned longer than I planned. I hope everyone enjoyed it and I look forward to hearing from you. Be sure to look for new stories coming soon and check out the page on Facebook for updates as well. Just look up morgana07 and the page for 'Supernatural Fan Fiction by morgana07 should pop up. Thanks!