A/N: Ack, I just realized I mis-added when figuring the due date! It's fixed now.

Chapter 3

Lunch with Jess and Ben provided a much-needed respite for all of them before the care team meeting. Sam suspected that Dean wouldn't ordinarily have had so much to do in one day, but between the urgency of the case and the fact that the hospital would be closed the next day for the Fourth of July, everything needed to be set up right away. And to be honest, it did help for them to have a plan that they could start implementing immediately, from suggestions about routines to establish at home to information on support systems that were available to Lisa and Sam (and Jess) as Dean's caregivers. They got Dean's appointments scheduled for the next several months and left the meeting with a good sense of where things were likely to go from there. And as the meeting broke up, Lisa spoke privately to the Caregiver Support liaison, who told the boys they'd be right back and took Lisa off in another direction, presumably to get a second pregnancy test done. So Sam took Dean on to the pharmacy to get his prescription filled.

As they waited, Sam said, "Y'know, Dean, there's something that's been bothering me. And... I mean, you don't have to answer if it's gonna be a problem."

Dean's eyebrows shot up. "Well, that sounds ominous."

"Right after you... faded again, Lisa called and blew up at me, and you heard her crying into the phone. And somehow you seemed to think that meant she was leaving you. What... where did that even come from?"

Dean sighed. "The summer after you were born, Mom and Dad... had some problems." That was very matter-of-fact, but he didn't seem inclined to elaborate further.

Sam blinked. "Mom and Dad? Seriously? I thought he idolized her."

"Yeah. Didn't become the perfect marriage until after she died. Guess I... had a flashback or something."

Sam couldn't figure out how to respond to that.

Dean gestured toward his head with his stump. "Look, Sam, I got scrambled eggs and bacon up here. What do you want me to say?"

Sam sighed. "Well, listen. If... if you ever..."

Dean's eyebrows shot up. "I'm supposed to take relationship advice from someone who's been married eight months longer than I have? From my little brother?"

Sam started chuckling. "Shut up, jerk."

Dean chuckled and bumped shoulders with him.

"But seriously. I'm here for you."

"Thanks, dude. Seriously."

They sat there in companionable silence until Dean was called to pick up his prescription, and when they sat down again to wait for Lisa, Dean dozed off against Sam's shoulder. Lisa woke him with confirmation that she was pregnant and an approximate due date in early February, which prompted a fresh round of hugs and congratulations and perked him up enough to get out to the car. But he fell asleep again on the way home, so when they arrived, Sam opened the apartment door, then got out the wheelchair and bundled Dean into it with a little help from Lisa.

No sooner had they gotten him settled than Sam looked up to see Dad jogging across the parking lot toward them.

Lisa saw him, too, and looked at Sam in concern. "Sam?"

"Go," Sam ordered quietly.

He didn't have to tell her twice. She raced inside with Dean while Sam ran to intercept Dad.

"Sam," Dad said as they ran up to each other, looking past him at Dean.

Sam held up his hands. "Dad, it's okay. He's just asleep. He'll be fine."

"Bobby said it was bad."

"Well, he's better. We just got back from the VA hospital. But Dad, I need to talk to you before you see him."

Dad finally looked at him. "What? What happened? What's the trouble?"

"It's complicated. Some of it's physical—he fell, he had a fever. But the last time was when he found out a little girl he'd hoped to adopt had been killed. He thought he should have been there to save her."

Dad frowned. "So what? He'll get over it."

"Dad, he can't. He's had a concussion, and he's still not healed. And part of the problem is that he's clinically depressed, and he needs our support. Especially yours."

"... What?"

"He almost relapsed today because he got hung up on the idea that, quote, 'I fail everyone I love.' Where do you think he heard that? It sure as hell wasn't from me."

Dad stared at the apartment in wide-eyed horror.

"Now, he'll be happy to see you, I guarantee that. But if you even think about criticizing his choices or telling him to man up and get over it, you will not be welcome in this house."

Sam thought he heard Jess drive up behind him, but all his focus was on staring Dad down. And Dad seemed willing to be stared down, as he searched Sam's face for something for a long moment. Finally, he sighed and slumped a little. "All right, Sammy. I'll do my best."

Sam nodded and relaxed. "That's all I ask. C'mon."

Together, they walked into the apartment just as Dean woke up to find Ben standing at his knee expectantly. Dean broke into a broad smile. "Hey, buddy."

"We gotcha a Father's Day present, Dean!" Ben announced excitedly.

Dean's eyebrows shot up. "You did?"

"Yeah, Aunt Jess has it."

Jess chuckled and handed a Best Buy bag to Dean. "We got talking about video games this afternoon, and Ben didn't know how you'd be able to play with him with one hand."

"Oh, you didn't," Lisa laughed as she held the bag while Dean, grinning, pulled out a box that held an old-fashioned joystick.

"Figured he could brace it between his knees."

Dean laughed. "This is awesome. Thanks, guys."

"Will it really work?" Ben asked.

Dean shrugged. "We can try it and see. Remind me to tell you about the Frogger tournaments me an' Sammy used to have on those old Ataris."

Sam chuckled. "Well, I got you a present, too, Dean."

"Dad!" Dean rocketed out of the wheelchair and gave Dad a hug little less intense than the ones he'd given Sam and Jess the day before.

"Hey, son," Dad replied, rubbing Dean's back. "Bobby said he was worried about you."

Dean scoffed and stepped back. "Hell, I was worried about me. Did he give you the good news, too, Grandpa?" He punctuated this last word by jabbing at Dad's chest lightly with his stump, mirth and mischief sparkling in his eyes.

Dad blinked. "What?"

Dean stepped back a little further and beckoned to Ben and Lisa, who came over to him. He put his left arm around Lisa and his hand on Ben's shoulder. "My wife Lisa; my son Ben; and Baby #2"—here he rubbed Lisa's belly, which made her giggle—"should be here in time for Spring Break."

Though Dean, Lisa, and Ben were all proud smiles and hugs and giggles, Dad was clearly in shock. And Sam got the sense that he was almost—almost—ready to unload on Dean about the suddenness of the marriage, the implications of Ben's age, and the fact that Lisa was pregnant again. But then he made a visible effort to reconcile himself to the facts of the matter and bent down to Ben's level.

"Hey," he said, his voice sounding a little rough. "Ben, is it?"

Ben nodded.

"Hi, Ben. I'm your Grandpa John."

Sam heaved a silent sigh of relief, and Dean somehow looked even more delighted than ever.

That evening after supper, however, while Lisa and Jess were busy with Ben in the living room and the men were still sitting at the table, Dean studied his coffee for a moment, then took a deep breath, and Sam could see him mentally bracing himself. He couldn't quite pick his gaze up past the middle of the table, but he said quietly, "Sam. Tell me about Sora."

Sam's heart tried to sink into his stomach. "Dean..."

Dean was nearly trembling from the effort of keeping himself composed. "You said there was nothing I could have done. I'm havin' trouble believing that. But I know you wouldn'ta said it if you weren't sure. So I need to know."

Dad shifted. "Why don't you tell us what you remember first, son?"

Dean nodded jerkily. "Sora was a little orphan girl in Karabilah. Can't remember how old, maybe six or seven. Her parents had been killed by Al Qaeda. She was living with her grandparents, but man, she loved Americans, and I was her favorite person. She would jabber at me all day, whether I had a 'terp or not."

Dad chuckled. "Knew a few of those in 'Nam."

"I mean, I seriously, seriously thought I was gonna adopt her."

"Adopt a Muslim?" Dad didn't sound incredulous, just curious.

Dean shrugged. "Hell, Dad, people are people. She was a good kid."

Sam sensed it was time to take over. "Capt. Carpenter said she asked about you all the time after you were injured. The guys were trying to figure out a way to get her on base for the Christmas party, so she could talk to you."

Dean smiled, and that seemed to give him the energy to look Sam in the eye. "So what happened?"

"Fox Company was coming up her road. Guess she ran outside to wave, maybe try to find someone to ask about you, but whatever she was thinking, she saw a landmine in the middle of the road. There was no way for her to warn them, so she ran out in the road and sat down on it. And she wouldn't move. Somebody from the lead vehicle got out to talk to her, and that's when he saw the mine. He got the convoy directed around her, and in the process they missed a couple of other traps that nobody'd seen; but when he tried to talk to her to keep her calm, all she would say was to tell you she was sorry and she loved you."

Dean's eyes slid shut, and he pinched his lips together to try to fight the tears.

"Finally, the last vehicle got to safety, and they started trying to figure out how to get her off the mine safely. But before they could even attempt anything, she started screaming something like, 'Get back, get back, for the sake of Christ, get back!' I dunno how they knew she wasn't swearing or how she knew it was about to go off, but they backed off. And then she cried, 'Jesus, save me!' And... and the mine blew."

Dad put a hand on Dean's shoulder and squeezed, his own eyes haunted.

A tear slid down Dean's cheek. "She didn't suffer?"

Sam shook his head. "No. She was killed instantly."

Dean nodded slowly.

Sam reached across the table and took Dean's hand. "Dean, she saved Fox Company."

"I'd say that makes her a Winchester," Dad said quietly.

Dean nodded again.

So did Sam. "Yeah, and apparently Echo Company thought so, too. Her grandparents didn't want her remains because she'd died an infidel. So they got permission to bury her on base, with the last name Winchester."

Dean managed to smile briefly at that. Then he took a deep breath, opened eyes that were pained but still clear, and raised his mug. "To Sora. The daughter I never had."

"To Sora," Dad and Sam echoed, clinking mugs with Dean, and they all drank.

Dad stayed for a couple of days, long enough to get to know Ben and Lisa a little and to go with the rest of the family to watch the fireworks at Randolph Air Force Base. Dean was still grieving over Sora, Sam knew, but having Dad there helped, and so did the lowest-possible-dose antidepressant and the fun they all had together. Before Dad left, they had an early birthday party for Ben, after which Lisa took Ben back to Cicero for a weekend, so he could have the party she'd had planned previously while she finished getting the house on the market and shutting down her yoga studio. She still hoped to be able to open her own studio in San Antonio eventually, but for the short term, she'd found a position at a gym that had excellent benefits and generous maternity leave options. And after that, everyone pitched in together to get Dean's new routine established, which included built-in times for him to hang out with just one family member or another or to go do stuff with just Ben and Lisa as well as outings for the whole family to do together. Sometimes hunting friends would stop by to visit, but they always called ahead—even Cas. The therapy sessions at the VA hospital and the low-key yoga regimen Lisa had him on started to show fruit, too. So they got through the rest of the summer without incident; Dean still had occasional days when his mind was less than perfectly clear, but it was never as bad as things had been in June.

The beginning of the school year brought a new routine of its own. Sam and Jess were enrolled for their final courses at UTSA, and Dean decided he ought to homeschool Ben until he and Lisa decided when they were moving into their own place and where in town that would be. "No sense in him startin' school in one district, makin' some friends, and then havin' to leave again in just a few weeks," he noted—and Sam silently cheered.

"But what about after that?" Ben asked warily. "I mean, when you're done at the hospital. We gonna move again soon?"

Dean looked at him for a moment before replying, "Y'know what? No. I'm not gonna do that to you or your mom. I don't know how long all of this is gonna last, but I think I'll just say here and now, we're stayin' put for a few years."

Ben did cheer at that and hugged Dean, and Sam grinned.

So August passed into September, and the school-year switch went off without a hitch. The house in Cicero sold, and once Lisa found an elementary school she thought would be good, Dean started looking for a one-story house nearby in their price range. And that same day, one went up for sale—on a cul-de-sac called Grace Point.

"Okay," said Dean. "That cannot be a coincidence."

Sam shrugged. "Maybe it's a wedding present from Cas."

Dean laughed until his sides hurt. And then he made an offer on the house.

All things considered, then, life for the Winchester family was as good as it could possibly be... until the last Saturday in September, when there was an unexpected knock at the door shortly after breakfast. Lisa answered, and in walked Dad, beaming and relaxed and very probably slightly drunk.

Dean frowned. "Dad? What are you doin' here?"

Dad shrugged. "Thought I'd stop in and take my grandson to a baseball game."

"... Minor League Baseball's over, Dad."

"Oh. Oh, okay, well, let's go to the zoo, then. C'mon, Ben."

Ben, seeing the expression on Dean's face that was rapidly turning from confusion to anger, stayed put.

Meanwhile, Dean stood and got between Dad and Ben. "No. Ben is my son. I decide if he's going to a ballgame. I decide if he goes to the zoo or the park or the Alamo or the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame or the Grand Canyon. You want to go with us when we're already going somewhere, that's fine. But you do not get to use my son to make up for all the things you never did with Sam and me."

Lisa had looked ready to object until that last sentence, which explained... well, everything, in Sam's view.

Dad, on the other hand, looked baffled. "I... I thought you'd be happy."

"Do you want to know what would make me happy? Really? Do you?"

Dad nodded.

There was a pause as the anger drained from Dean's face, and when he spoke again, his voice broke. "Then come home, Dad."

Dad opened his mouth to reply, but instead, what came out was a grunt of pain, and his right hand flew to his chest.

"Dad?" Sam and Dean chorused, concerned.

Dad let out a couple of harsh pants and collapsed.


Jess flew into action, putting Dad flat on his back and checking his vitals. "Heart attack," she declared and immediately started CPR.

Dean scrambled for the phone and called 911. Lisa took charge of Ben, and Sam, feeling helpless, stood by to spell Jess if she needed it. He didn't know how long the ambulance took to arrive, but it felt like an eternity. And the second the EMTs left with Dad, both brothers, without even thinking, ran out to the Impala and jumped in, Dean behind the wheel, Sam in shotgun, just like the old days. They slammed their doors at exactly the same moment, and Dean was peeling out of the parking lot before Sam could even stop to process what was happening.

"Dude," he gasped then. "Are you—"

"Shut up, Sam," Dean snapped.

Sam shut up and prayed for Cas, anyone, to come save Dad.

By some miracle, they arrived at the ER in one piece, and the admittance desk already had Dad's wallet and his fake ID du jour. Sam had to make up a next-of-kin relationship for them, but when they sat down to fill out the paperwork, Dean snatched it away from him and filled everything out so fast, Sam was amazed it was legible.

Then they were stuck in the waiting room, along with Jess and Lisa and Ben, who had apparently followed in Jess' car at a more sedate—hell, sane—pace. It took forever and a day for the doctor to finally come out and talk to them.

"Mr. Havasu is going to need open-heart surgery, we think a triple bypass," the doctor said. "But Mrs. Winchester, right now, it looks like you've saved his life. This particular blockage location, the left main branch, is one we call the Widowmaker—most patients don't live long enough to make it to the ER. He's still in danger, but he's stable, so there's hope."

"Is he awake?" Dean asked. "Can we see him?"

"He is, and you may, but only for five minutes."

Dean nodded. "Okay. Thanks, Doc."

Sam had to keep a hand on Dean's shoulder to keep him following the doctor to Dad's bed rather than charging past and knocking down anyone who got in his way. Lisa, Ben, and Jess followed close behind them. But when they arrived, Dad was pale but still breathing.

The brothers waited until the doctor was gone to press themselves against the side of the bed with a chorus of "Dad?!"

Dad's eyes fluttered open, and he smiled, though it was hard to see it under the oxygen mask.

Dean grabbed Dad's hand. "Dad, you... you gonna be okay?"

Dad squeezed Dean's hand and nodded. And Sam thought he'd fall back asleep and that would be the end of the moment.

Then suddenly Dean started shaking, and his breathing turned ragged. Dad frowned.

Sam grabbed Dean's shoulder. "Dean. Dean. Hey."

But it was too late. Dad's eyes widened in concern as the color drained from Dean's face and his eyes glazed over.

Lisa swore quietly and grabbed Dean's left arm. "That's what happened in Chillicothe, after the hunt."

Sam pushed Dean toward her. "Get him home. We'll stay here."

She nodded and pulled Dean's arm across her shoulders, taking his weight. "C'mon, Ben, get doors."

"'Kay," Ben replied, looking scared.

"Dad?" Dean asked weakly.

Dad squeezed his hand as hard as he could.

"I'll run interference," Jess said and took point.

And then they were off, hustling Dean home, leaving Sam alone with a teary-eyed Dad.

Sam anticipated the question Dad couldn't ask and sighed. "That is why I went toe to toe with you in July."

Dad sagged backward and let the tears fall.

Sam took Dad's hand in his and put his free hand on Dad's shoulder. "Dad. You just get well. Let us worry about Dean. Okay?"

Dad nodded, squeezed Sam's hand, and shook it side to side a little.

Sam understood, and a corner of his mouth turned up. "We love you, too."

"Triple bypass," Dean repeated when Sam called to bring him up to speed later that afternoon, after a nap and an emergency dose of Xanax succeeded in pulling him out of the adrenaline crash-caused blankout. "A tri—Dad?!"

"Too many years of cheap booze and road food," Sam replied. "From what the cardiac specialist said, his heart was basically a time bomb. We're just lucky it happened here."

Dean swore in Arabic. "How long's he gonna be in the hospital?"

"At least a week. He came through the surgery just fine, but he still has a long recovery ahead of him. And then the next step's probably a nursing home for a few weeks, unless you guys can close on your house, like, tomorrow. We don't have the space. Jess can't take the time off, either."

"Dude, I can—"

"No, Dean. You've already had one breakdown over this, and I'm not ready to let you risk another one. Besides, you can't take care of all the things he'll need help with using only one hand."

"Sam, it's Dad."

"We can put going to see him on the schedule every day. But you are not going to jeopardize your own health over this, not when you've got Ben and Lisa and the new baby depending on you."

Dean didn't say anything.

"Dean, we're looking at months here. It'll be eight weeks or so before he's even cleared to drive. And even when he's released from nursing care, he'll have cardiac rehab—and we will make him stay for it."

"Now you're talking. How long will that last?"

"Probably until Christmas, give or take."

"Awesome." Dean paused. "Y'know, I hate to say it—"

Sam huffed. "You don't have to. I was thinkin' it, too."

Dean huffed in turn.

"Listen, you and Lisa figure out where to put seeing Dad on the schedule, okay?"

"Got it. You stayin' there?"

"For now, yeah. Visiting hours are over at 8, but we'll probably leave with you when you come by later."

"Yeah, good idea. We probably pushed his cover a little far as it is. 'Course, how the hell his fake insurance will hold up..."

"Guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there." Sam paused. "Or else..."

"Ash," they chorused.

"I'll call him. You guys work on getting that house taken care of."


Dean and Lisa came back to the hospital shortly after 5, by which time Dad was awake and up to talking a little. "You all right, son?" Dad asked as soon as the nurse had left the room.

Dean shrugged. "Better living through chemistry."

Dad snorted.

"You do anything stupid like try to check out AMA, though, I can't make any promises."


"I mean it, Dad. You're gonna stay in this hospital, and you're gonna get well, or the next monster you meet's gonna have you for lunch."

Dad huffed.

"You owe Ben a baseball game. And since baseball season's over, you gotta survive at least until Spring Training."

That got a smile out of Dad. "I understand. I'm sorry I've caused so much trouble. Of course I'll stay."

That was a lie, and all three men knew it. Dean's eyes narrowed. "Don't you lie to me, Corporal," he growled as if Dad was his subordinate and stormed out.

Lisa shot Dad an apologetic smile and followed Dean.

Dad frowned, puzzled. "I—I thought—"

"Positive thinking doesn't mean rivers in Egypt," Jess replied. "And it doesn't mean telling people what they want to hear rather than what you really mean."

"Besides, Dad," Sam added, "you raised us as professional liars. You can't con a con man."

Dad's face fell.

Sam sighed. "Get some rest. We'll be back tomorrow."

Dad nodded. "Night, Sam. Jess."

"I don't think he understands how close he came," Jess said on the way out to the car.

"Oh, he probably understands that," Sam replied. "But Dean's stay at BAMC was the longest any of us have been in the hospital in years. Dad was down once with double pneumonia and a cracked rib and checked himself out AMA after two weeks."


"Insurance fraud," he whispered in her ear. She huffed, and he straightened. "Besides, I think either he thinks he's indestructible or he's been just this side of suicidal since Mom died."

She shook her head. "Guess you come by it honestly."


"What Cas said, about what losing me would do to you. I couldn't picture you being so mad with grief that you'd fall in line with Azazel's plans... but that was before I met your dad."

He sighed. "Jess..."

"You take after him. That's all I'm saying. I'm not worried about you now."

"You're not?"

"Nope. The war's over. You've got Dean back. And I'm still alive." She smiled at him smugly.

He stopped and looked at her for a moment, then pulled out his phone and dialed. "Hey, Dean? You mind if Jess and I get a hotel room tonight?"

There was a pause, and then Dean laughed heartily. "Go get 'em, Tiger," he teased and hung up.

Dad was in Cardiac Care for three days and had to have fluid drained from his heart twice. By the time he was in a regular room, he was as irritable as Sam had ever seen him. Sam and Dean went to see him every day, but the only reason they succeeded in avoiding shouting matches was their fear of sending Dad back into cardiac arrest.

On Wednesday, however, they arrived to find a woman they'd never seen before coming out of Dad's room. The brothers exchanged a confused look, and then Dean called, "Excuse me, ma'am."

She stopped and studied them as they walked up to her. "Well," she said. "You must be the lawyer and the Marine." She could scarcely have sounded less pleased if she'd said the rattlesnake and the Gila monster.

Before Sam could object that he was only a paralegal for the moment, Dean crossed his arms, showing his ring and his stump prominently. "And you are?"

"Kate Milligan. I'm from Windom, Minnesota. John is the father of my son."

The brothers exchanged another look.

"Oh, I've heard all about you two. We're not exactly close, but he stops by now and then and at least attempts to be a father to Adam. And he's always talking about how proud he is of his other sons." She paused. "We've seen a little more of him over the last few months. He hasn't told us what changed, but he's been around once a month or so. But last time, about two weeks ago, he showed up drunk. And I threw him out."

Sam blinked. "So why are you here?"

"John asked me to come down. He wanted a second opinion. Then he wanted me to tell him that the doctors were lying, that he wouldn't have to change his diet and stop drinking and stay in one place for two minutes longer than he wants to."

"And what did you say?"

"I told him the truth. And I told him if he walks out of this hospital AMA, he can forget seeing Adam ever again."

"You don't sound like you want to see him ever again," Dean observed.

Ms. Milligan shrugged. "I don't suppose I do. Adam's in high school; he needs a full-time father or none at all. To him, John's just a man who takes him to baseball games now and then."

The muscle in Dean's jaw twitched.

"Thank you for coming, Ms. Milligan," Sam said.

She nodded once and left.

Dean unfolded his arms and stalked into Dad's room. He didn't even give Dad a chance to say hello, and his first words were, "You cheated on Mom?!"

Dad winced. "It was after Mary's death, son. And you know how it goes."

Dean ran his hand over his mouth to keep from breaking something.

Sam decided it was his turn to play peacekeeper. "How'd it happen?"

Dad sighed. "January of '90, there was a ghoul outbreak in Windom. I got sliced up, had to go to the hospital. Kate's a nurse. She took care of me, and when I was released, she... brought me back to her place for a few days. Then, about the time Sam left for Stanford, she called me, said... said she needed some help with... our son."

"And you couldn't have told us?" Dean said tightly.

"I didn't think you needed to know."

"Do they know what we do?"

"No. They think I'm a salesman."

"So you give him all the attention you never gave us, but you leave him vulnerable?"

"Dean, he's not—"

"What? He's not your son? He's not your responsibility? He was a mistake? Dammit, Dad, at least I married the girl!"

Dad's eyes flashed with anger. "That was a mistake, Dean! It's not safe!"

"Well, guess what? The war's over, and I'm medically retired. From everything."

Dad's eyes widened, and Sam stared at Dean. This was the first time Dean had expressed an intent to stop hunting for good. "You sure?" Sam asked.

Dean looked at Sam and nodded. "Yeah. I'll find a job when I can, but this?" He held up his stump. "Even if it doesn't keep me from ganking the monsters, it's one hell of a distinguishing feature."

Sam shrugged with his eyebrows. "Yeah, good point."

"Besides that, I've got kids. I'm not leavin' 'em."

Dad shook his head. "Dean, you shouldn't have married Lisa for the sake of the children."

"Dad, I didn't know Ben was my son until after I married her. She didn't know she was pregnant again until we got down here. It wouldn't have mattered if I had known, but she wanted the choice to be about her and me. And it was. And you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna stay home and feed bottles and change diapers and respect the fact that my wife can't leave the house on a moment's notice unless somebody's free to watch the kids. I'm gonna support my wife the way she supports me. And I am not walking out on my family."

The way Dad paled, he clearly had a better idea of where that mini-rant had come from than Sam did. "Dean, I—"

"Save it, Dad. You just get well, and that's an order. C'mon, Sam."

Sam tried to smile at Dad, but it probably looked more like a grimace. Then he followed Dean out into the hall, where Dean paused to run his hand over his mouth again.

"You okay, man?" Sam asked him.

Dean nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm just... remembering why I joined the Marines."

Sam huffed. "C'mon. Let's stop by the store and get some pie."

Dean smiled.

Cas evidently pulled some strings, because Dean and Lisa closed on their house sooner than expected and took possession a few days after that. The crew of hunters that had helped Lisa pack came down to add accessibility modifications to the master bath and kitchen in addition to moving them in, and they were all pleased with the house and Dean's progress and Lisa's baby bump. Jo and Ellen even surprised them by setting up the nursery for them. And not only did they paint, but they also covered the walls with subtle wards and put a devil's trap above every door and window, plus salt and iron under the threshold of every entrance.

"There," Rufus said as he placed the final touch. "Only bad thing this won't keep out is a burglar."

Everyone laughed.

The hunters all took turns going to the nursing facility to see Dad, too. He was improving steadily and had been released from the hospital after a week, but cardiac rehab was taking enough of his energy every other day that he hadn't yet been able to attempt an escape. Ellen gave him what for, and Bobby called him an idjit, but neither seemed to diminish his determination to go back to hunting at the first possible moment.

Then Pastor Jim got hold of him. Sam had no idea what Jim said, since he was leaving just as the boys arrived for their daily visit, but he had evidently spent most of the day with Dad. And Dad was sitting in an easy chair and staring out the window when the boys walked into his room.

"Hey, Dad," Dean said cheerfully. "Just saw Pastor Jim."

Dad finally looked over at them and smiled a little. "Hi, boys. Yeah, Jim... Jim and I had a long talk today. He gave me a lot to think about. He told me you and Lisa are just about moved in," he added quickly.

Dean noticed but rolled with it. "Yeah. If you're up for a drive this weekend, you should come see it. Not a real huge yard, but hey, less to mow."

Dad chuckled.

"It's got a nice deck, too, and Lisa got me a grill. I can fix you some heart-healthy burgers or something; I can do that with one hand."

Dad chuckled again. "I might do that, son, thanks. Now, Sam, do you have plans for Dean's room?"

Sam took the opening. "Yeah, Dad. Since Dean and Lisa took his bed, we put Lisa's old bed in there. For you."

Dad looked away, out the window again. "Your lease is up pretty soon. You... planning to stay there a while?"

"Probably, at least another year. It's a good location for us."

"If... if I stay more than... a few weeks... would I need to put my name on your lease?"

Sam and Dean looked at each other, and Sam cleared his throat. "I expect so, but I can check with the manager. Your cover ID should hold, though. Ash got you set up."

Dad nodded and looked down at the floor. "Jim... set me straight about some things. Things I hadn't really thought about before."

"Like?" Dean prompted.

"Like what my death would do to you." Dad dragged his gaze up to meet Dean's. "Dean, when you crashed in that hospital, it... it scared me stupid. But I thought it was just a matter of your day bein' thrown out of whack, and if we all kept everything merry sunshine, you'd be okay. I never thought..."

Dean shook his head. "Dad, I lost a whole week over Sora. I'm doin' better now, yeah, but losin' you..." He broke off, still shaking his head.

Dad nodded slowly. "That's what Jim said. He said the best way for me to take care of you is to take care of myself. 'There are other hunters, John,' he said. 'Leave the rest of the monsters to them.'"

Dean nodded. So did Sam.

Dad got up and put a hand on Dean's shoulder. "I get it now, son. Truly. And you're right." He sighed. "I'll come home."

Dean hugged Dad like his life depended on it. And honestly, Sam thought... maybe it did.