Dean watched Bobby and Sam leave, hating the uneasiness that always settled in his stomach whenever his little brother disappeared from his sight.

But Sam would be fine.

Dean's kid was with Bobby...and he would be with him again soon...and everything would be fine.

Dean nodded and sighed – reminding himself that he wanted this break – and closed the bathroom door.

Bobby heard the shower sputter to life behind him as he descended the stairs with Sam, his youngest resting against his shoulder and fiddling with one of the buttons on his shirt.

The older hunter smiled, pausing at the bottom of the steps and scanning the downstairs out of cautious habit.

But nothing seemed out of place.

No danger seemed to lurk.

No suspicious odors or sounds.

Just the scent of wood burning in the fireplace...and the wind moaning outside as the snow continued to fall and the sleet continued to pelt the windows.

Sam yawned and shifted in Bobby's arms.

Bobby glanced down at him. "You still awake, squirt?"

"Mmhmm," Sam hummed and then yawned again.

"Good," Bobby replied, walking down the short hallway and approaching the kitchen. "'Cause I know somebody who's gonna be happy to see you..."

As if on cue, Bobby's Rottweiler puppy barked at the sound of the older hunter's voice; the dog's nails excitedly clicking on the hardwood floor in anticipation as he waited on the opposite side of the closed door, his shadow wiggling beneath the door's crack.

"Back, mutt..." Bobby warned good-naturedly and watched Rummy's shadow indeed move back. "Good boy," the older hunter praised and then pushed the door open.

Rummy's reaction was instant; the large, rambunctious puppy lunging forward, jumping and barking and attempting to lick both Bobby and the child he held.

Sam gasped – the sound startled and fearful – and clung tighter to Bobby.

"No!" the four-year old yelled, pulling his bare feet up and away from the dog's reach. "No, no, no! Go away!"

Bobby frowned at Sam's unexpected response. "Sam..."

"No!" Sam repeated, beginning to cry as he continued his frantic attempt to climb higher in Bobby's arms. "Uncle Bobby, make it go away!"

Bobby held the squirming child but didn't otherwise respond, momentarily shocked.

Because Sam had never been scared of dogs...and especially not Rummy.

So what was this?

Bobby shook his head, remembering Dean's words before they had left the bathroom upstairs – the big brother reminding Sam that Rummy was a good dog.

But what did that mean?

Bobby shook his head again, knowing he didn't have time to figure it out now. Instead, he needed to calm the four-year old in his arms before a pissed big brother came downstairs to investigate why Sam was crying on Bobby's watch.

And although Dean was only eight, Bobby still didn't want to deal with him in pissed big brother mode.

Like a mama bear protecting her cub...

Bobby sighed. "Sam..."

Rummy barked and jumped once more.

Sam flinched in Bobby's arms. "Uncle Bobby, please..." he sobbed. "Make it go away!"

"Alright..." Bobby agreed. "Alright, squirt. Just hang on..." he soothed, holding Sam with one arm before crisply snapping his fingers and pointing to the far corner of the kitchen.

Rummy tilted his head, confused as to why he was being ordered to his bed but obeyed the silent command. The puppy whining as he slowly crossed to sit on his wool blanket and blink back at his master.

"Good boy," Bobby praised quietly and then refocused on Sam crying against his shoulder. "Alright, buddy. He's gone."

Sam inhaled a shaky breath and turned to see, hiccupping over his tears as he briefly stared at Rummy and then glanced back at Bobby.

Bobby felt his heart twist at those huge, tear-filled eyes.

"Hey. You're okay, squirt..." he assured the four-year old, brushing Sam's bangs from his forehead. "Uncle Bobby won't let anything hurt you."

"I-I know," Sam replied and rubbed his tired, teary eyes with the back of his hand. "B-but he's big a-and black j-just like that other m-mean dog a-and he s-scared me."

Bobby arched an eyebrow. "Other mean dog?"

Sam nodded, his eyes freshly misting at the memory. "In the w-woods."

Bobby felt his stomach clench.

A mean black dog in the woods?

Holy shit.

Holy shit.

And what the fuck, John?

What dumbass takes his kids to hunt a black dog?

The creatures were notoriously unpredictable.

And cunning and vicious and...what the fuck had John been thinking?

"God, he needs his ass kicked..." Bobby growled about the younger hunter sleeping upstairs and then exhaled a slow, deliberate breath; attempting to calm himself before he spoke again. "Sam..."

Sam blinked at him with red, puffy eyes.

"What happened to that mean dog?"

"Dean k-killed it," Sam explained through his tears. "He sh-shot it through the 'Pala's g-glass."

...which would explain the muscle car's shattered back window and the blood that had covered both brothers.

Bobby's mind buzzed with questions. "What else? Where was your daddy?"

Sam shook his head, refusing to offer any other details; his lip quivering as fresh tears slid down his cheeks.

"Okay..." Bobby soothed, now wanting to kick his own ass for asking the four-year old to elaborate on an experience that had clearly terrified the child. "It's okay. You don't have to talk about it anymore, buddy. Okay? It's over now. And that's all that matters. It's over, and you're safe. There's no mean dogs here."

Sam laid his head on Bobby's shoulder as the older hunter continued to stand in the kitchen's doorway and hugged him close, rubbing Sam's shuddering back and slightly swaying in that way Dean sometimes did to calm him.

It was familiar.

It was comforting.

It was just what the four-year old needed.

"I l-love you, Uncle Bobby."

Bobby felt his heart melt...just like it did every time Sam told him that.

His youngest more open with his feelings than Dean, though Bobby didn't doubt Dean's feelings for him.

Still, there was something about actually hearing those words.

Bobby smiled. "I love you too, squirt."

So much.

Bobby loved this kid so damn much...and his big brother as well.

Sam inhaled a shaky breath and tightened his arms around Bobby's neck.

Bobby patted the four-year old's back, his hand smoothing over the fabric of Sam's Superman pajamas.

A few seconds passed.

The wind howling outside, the shower still running upstairs.

Sam sighed as his tears began to dwindle.

"When's Dean coming down?"

Bobby smiled at the question.


"I wanna see him."

"I know," Bobby returned. "He'll be down here soon."

Sam swallowed and glanced again at the puppy still sitting across the kitchen.

"Rummy's a good dog."

Bobby nodded, following the kid's gaze.

"That's right," he confirmed as Sam echoed Dean's words from earlier. "He's a good dog. And he loves you, too. He didn't mean to scare you."

"I know," Sam agreed quietly. "M'sorry..."

Bobby shook his head, his chin brushing over Sam's shoulder as he continued to hold his youngest.

"S'alright, squirt. You've had a rough night."

"You have no idea."

Bobby chuckled at the four-year old's precocious response...even as he knew that was true.

He had no idea what his kids had experienced tonight beyond what he had seen when they had first arrived in his yard over an hour ago...and now this vague mention of a mean black dog that Dean had killed.

Bobby swallowed at the thought of his eight-year old facing down a black dog by himself while John had been god knows where.

Though judging by the head wound Bobby had sutured earlier, the younger hunter had most likely been unconscious, leaving his kids to fend for themselves.

Bobby closed his eyes.

Thankful Dean had been there.

Thankful Dean hadn't hesitated.

Thankful Dean had saved himself and his little brother.

Bobby sighed, opening his eyes and giving another affectionate pat to Sam's back.

"Alright, squirt. Let's see about those sandwiches..." he commented before attempting to put the four-year old on his feet.

But Sam refused, once again climbing higher in Bobby's arms while glancing nervously in Rummy's direction.

Bobby glanced at his dog as well and nodded, instantly understanding even before Sam spoke.

"I wanna stay with you."

Because while Sam was no longer crying and knew that Rummy was not a black dog like they had encountered in the woods, the four-year old was still clingy and anxious.

"Uncle Bobby..."

"I gotcha, buddy," Bobby assured and smiled as he readjusted his grip around his youngest; easily holding Sam while he crossed to the fridge and the pantry.

Collecting cheese and butter and bread and a can of tomato soup...

"Alright, you little spider monkey..." Bobby commented fondly, winking at Sam as he sat the four-year old on the counter between the sink and the stove.

Sam laughed lightly and sniffled.

"Here. Make yourself useful..." Bobby told him, handing Sam the sliced cheese to unwrap.

Sam nodded, accepting his task as Bobby crouched to pull a pot and pan from one of the bottom cabinets; then removed a plate from the top cabinet and a knife from the drawer.

Rummy continued to watch them from across the room, sitting patiently on his blanket in the corner.

Still sitting on the counter, Sam eyed the puppy warily.

Rummy blinked back at him.

Sam sighed, listening as the shower continued to run overhead in the bathroom upstairs, and then glanced at Bobby.

"Dean's coming down soon?"

"You bet he is," Bobby assured, opening the can of Campbell's and pouring the thick red soup into the pot already warming on the back of the stove. "You got that cheese ready?"

Sam nodded and held up the two unwrapped slices as proof.

Bobby smiled. "I knew you were the man for the job."

Sam grinned, the bandage over his chin stretching as his dimples made a brief appearance.

God, this kid was adorable.

"How 'bout some bread?"

"'Kay," Sam responded to Bobby's request and reached for the loaf sitting beside him on the counter.

The four-year old scowling in concentration as he untwisted the bag and handed Bobby the bottom half of the sandwich once the butter had melted in the pan.

"Wanna help?"

Sam nodded.

Bobby did the same, snagging the small step-stool from the corner – the one he kept in the kitchen just for Sam – before lifting his youngest from the counter and setting the kid on his feet in front of the stove.

"Alright, squirt..." Bobby commented, ruffling Sam's hair as he stood behind the kid and reached for a spatula. "We need some cheese, please."

Sam laughed at Bobby's rhyme and grabbed the thin slices of cheese from the counter, carefully placing them on the bread in the pan and then topping it with the other piece of bread.

"Looks like you've done this before..." Bobby teased.

"Mmhmm," Sam agreed, tilting his head back against Bobby's stomach and smiling upside down at the older hunter.

Bobby winked at him and then nodded at the stove. "Time to flip..."

Sam refocused on the pan, holding the spatula with Bobby's hand covering his and helping to turn over the hot, bubbly, golden brown sandwich.

"Looks yummy!"

"It sure does," Bobby replied, pressing the sandwich with the back of the spatula for a few seconds and then glancing to his right at the jingle of tags against a collar.

Sam turned as well, his eyes widening slightly at Rummy suddenly standing within inches of him.

"He's a good dog, Sam..." Bobby reminded, feeling the four-year old shrink back against him as they both continued to stand at the stove.

Sam nodded, then smiled as Rummy cautiously extended his neck.

The puppy gently sniffing the kid's bare feet before licking his toes.

Sam giggled.

Bobby smiled.

Because this was the kid he knew – the kid who loved dogs.

"Rum-my..." Sam sing-songed and then hopped down from the stool, scampering across the kitchen floor to grab the puppy's floppy, gnawed toy from his blanket.

Rummy barked, his nubby little tail twitching back and forth as he playfully bowed at the four-year old.

Sam tossed the toy in his direction.

Rummy chased after it, sliding on the hardwood.

Sam giggled again, then glanced at Bobby when the older hunter called his name.

"Time to eat, squirt..." Bobby announced, cutting the crusts from the grilled cheese sandwich before slicing it into quarters – small pieces for small hands.

Speaking of...

"Come wash up."

Sam sighed but did as he was told, stepping up on the stool Bobby had pushed from the stove to the sink and shoving his sleeves up to his elbows before reaching for the soap.

Bobby stood nearby, stirring the soup still simmering on the stove and then pouring Sam's apple juice into the kid's small plastic Superman cup.

Sam's eyes brightened. "I love that cup!"

Bobby nodded. "I know you do," he agreed, watching as Sam rinsed and dried his hands, then crossed to the table.

Bobby did the same, carrying the juice and the plated sandwich.

"Here you go, buddy. You want some soup?"

Sam shrugged at the offer.

"Okay..." Bobby drawled. "I'll take that as a 'no'," he concluded, figuring he'd be lucky if Sam ate all four pieces of his sandwich.

Across the kitchen, Rummy roughly shook his toy in his mouth, growling as he played by himself.

Sam smiled in the puppy's direction, hearing Bobby cross back to the counter and pour a cup of coffee.


Still standing beside the table, the four-year old blinked up at Bobby as the older hunter motioned to the chair.

"You gonna sit?"

"Uh-huh," Sam replied. "With you."

Bobby arched an eyebrow at the realization that Sam was waiting for him to sit.

"I see..." he commented and chuckled as he took his seat, not surprised when Sam promptly climbed up in his lap and reached for his plate.

"You want some?" Sam offered, holding one of the sandwich quarters up to Bobby.

"I'm good, squirt," Bobby assured. "You eat it. I got my coffee."

Sam nodded, taking a bite from his sandwich as Bobby sipped from his mug and Rummy settled down beneath the table with his slobbery toy.

Upstairs, the shower turned off.

Sam froze, looking up at the ceiling. "D'n..."

The name mumbled around a mouthful of grilled cheese.

Bobby smiled. "He'll be down here in a minute."

"Mmhmm," Sam hummed happily about seeing his big brother soon and reached for his glass, noisily slurping his apple juice before grabbing another quarter of his sandwich.

Bobby nodded his approval, pleased to see the four-year old eating.

A few minutes passed.

Sam finished his second piece – half the sandwich – and leaned back against Bobby with a sleepy sigh.

Bobby arched an eyebrow. "You finished?" he asked, wrapping his arm around his youngest.

Sam nodded and turned slightly in Bobby's lap, sinking deeper into the older hunter's embrace.

The four-year old once again drowsy now that he was full.

"Well, alright..." Bobby allowed, deciding not to push more food, and continued holding Sam in his lap; his arms loosely surrounding his youngest.

The wind howled outside.

The bathroom door creaked upstairs as it was swung open.

Sam perked up. "Dean."

"Mmhmm," Bobby agreed, glancing up at the ceiling.

The floorboards creaking as Dean walked down the hall.

Bobby listened, knowing the eight-year old was going to check on John.

Dean pissed with his dad for what had happened tonight...but still concerned about John's condition and wanting to see for himself that his dad was okay.

Bobby shook his head.

Because John didn't deserve kids like this.

Several seconds passed before footsteps came back down the hall, making a detour to the brothers' room before approaching the stairs; sock-clad feet quickly descending the steps and then gliding over the hardwood in the hallway as a garbage bag crinkled.

"Guess who's coming..." Bobby whispered to a drowsy Sam still sitting in his lap and leaning heavily against his chest.

"Dean," Sam answered and yawned, smiling as his big brother suddenly appeared in the kitchen's doorway.

Dean smiled back – his hair still damp from his shower, his clothes changed, the scratches on his face and neck tended to and covered here and there with bandages.

"Hey, buddy..." the big brother greeted and then frowned slightly. "What's wrong?"

Bobby shook his head at the question and glanced down at Sam. "Nothing," he assured Dean about the four-year old. "He's fine."

"He's been crying," Dean corrected, knowing the signs of a recently upset little brother and held Bobby's gaze, silently demanding an explanation.

But Sam spoke first.

"Rummy scared me," he reported, his words quiet and sleepy. "But it's okay now. We're friends again."

Dean absorbed the information, glaring at the dog staring at him from under the table and then glancing back at Bobby.

Bobby shrugged. "We might've had a little meltdown," he confessed about Sam's earlier crying jag. "But everything's fine now," he repeated. "Right, squirt?

Sam nodded and yawned.

Bobby smiled and lightly kissed the top of Sam's head before standing and sitting the kid in his chair.

"I'll make another sandwich," the older hunter announced, crossing back to the stove. "Want some soup?" he asked Dean over his shoulder.

Dean nodded, dropping the garbage bag of his bloody underclothes and towels at the edge of the door and more fully entering the kitchen.

"Yeah," the eight-year old replied about the soup. "But I'll just eat the rest of Sam's sandwich. You don't have to make a fresh one."

Bobby frowned, removing a bowl from the cabinet and ladling the soup from the pot.

"It's no trouble."

"I know," Dean returned. "But we shouldn't waste food."

A lesson learned from life on the road, especially when money was tight.

"And I'm used to eating whatever Sam leaves on his plate..."

Because while Sam didn't eat much, Dean always made sure his little brother ate first...and then Dean just ate whatever was left over.

It was better for Dean to be hungry than Sam.

Bobby paused, feeling his heart twist at the realization that his boys were rarely well-fed.

...which was just another reason to kick John Winchester's ass later.

Sam yawned loudly and then smiled at Dean as his big brother crossed to the table.

"You forgot these," Dean told him, pulling a pair of white socks from the pocket of his sweatpants and slipping them on the four-year old's cold feet.

Sam sighed and leaned forward in his chair, reaching for Dean.

"Not so fast, squirt..." Bobby called, setting the bowl of soup and a glass of milk on the table in front of Dean's seat.

Sam froze mid-reach, glancing up at Bobby.

"Let your brother eat before you go all spider monkey on him, too."

Sam giggled at the description.

Dean scowled, not appreciating Bobby's interference.

Bobby shook his head. "Don't give me that look," he lightly scolded the eight-year old. "I got him," he assured, lifting Sam and once again holding the four-year old in his lap. "You eat. Then you can have your Sammy back."

Dean snorted and rolled his eyes at Bobby's comment. "Fine," he grumbled, sitting in his chair and beginning to eat.

Beneath the table, Rummy sighed.

Sam did the same, leaning against Bobby and watching his brother finish his sandwich.

"It's good?"

Dean glanced at his little brother. "Sure is, Sammy," he praised. "You did a good job. Thanks for saving me some."

Sam smiled and nodded. "I always share with you."

Dean nodded as well. "I know, buddy."

Bobby's heart ached from how much these boys loved each other and swallowed against the tightness in his throat before sipping from his coffee.

Several minutes passed.

Dean cleaning his plate and scraping his bowl and draining his glass.

Bobby chuckled. "You want more?"

Dean shook his head, more focused on his brother as Sam's blinks became slower and longer.

Bobby followed the eight-year old's gaze to the kid resting in his lap.

"You want your Sammy back?"

Dean snorted again at Bobby's question but nodded.

Because yeah...that's exactly what he wanted.

Dean wanted to hold his little brother.

He wanted his kid to be falling asleep against him.

It was a protective, possessive big brother thing...and Dean wasn't sorry for it.

Especially not after what had happened tonight...

Dean wanted Sam close, wanted to know that his kid was alive and safe.

Bobby nodded his understanding. "Alright," he agreed. "But let's go to the living room before you two go up to bed. There's something I wanna talk to you about."

"And I gotta talk to you about something, too..." Dean added, standing and reaching for his kid. "Sammy..."

Sam blinked at his brother, squinty and drowsy.

Dean smiled softly. "C'mere, buddy..." he called and lifted the four-year old from Bobby's lap.

Sam wrapped himself around his big brother in response, sighing as he laid his head on Dean's shoulder.

Dean patted Sam's back affectionately and carried his kid to the living room.

Bobby watched as the brothers disappeared around the corner and stood, working out the kinks in his back and snapping his fingers at Rummy still sprawled beneath the table.

The puppy instantly responded, clamoring to his feet and following behind his master.

Bobby crossed to sit beside his boys on the couch, easing himself down so as not to wake an already sleeping Sam.

"Boy, that was quick..." he commented.

Dean smiled and nodded, glancing down at the four-year old nestled safely in his arms.

Sam curled up and sleeping in Dean's lap; his small chest against his big brother's as his head rested in the hollow of the eight-year old's neck and shoulder.

Wordlessly, Bobby pulled a blanket from the back of the couch and handed it to his oldest.

Dean nodded his thanks, wrapping it around Sam and glancing at Rummy as the puppy collapsed at his feet.

There was a beat of silence.

"So..." Bobby began casually, not wanting to rush or push this conversation...but wanting to know. "You gonna tell me?"

Dean sighed. "What do you know?"

"You mean what did Sam tell me?"

Dean nodded. "Yeah. I know Dad doesn't remember anything about tonight."

"You're right," Bobby confirmed, remembering his earlier conversation with John.

"So...what did Sammy tell you?"

Bobby shrugged. "Just something about you killing a black dog in the woods..."

Dean nodded again. "I had to."

"I don't doubt that," Bobby returned. "And I'm proud of you, son."

Dean glanced at him.

"I am," Bobby assured. "I'm damn proud of you doing what you had to do." He paused. "But where was your daddy?"

Dean snorted, hugging Sam a little closer when the four-year old shifted in his arms at the sound.

"Dad was knocked out," the eight-year old reported. "He had left us in the Impala and had gone off to find the black dog. But then I guess the black dog had circled back and was coming for us instead..."

Bobby nodded at that conclusion, some species of black dogs preferring children over adults.

"...'cause Dad came running out of the woods," Dean continued, staring at the crackling fire across the room and rubbing his little brother's back soothingly as the kid slept against him. "Dad was yelling and about to shoot...but then the black dog attacked him first. And he went down."

Bobby waited, hearing the fear in Dean's voice, hearing the shock.

There was a beat of silence.

The wind whistled.

Rummy grunted as he stretched out on his side.

Dean glanced at Bobby, holding the older hunter's gaze. "I thought he was dead," he confessed, his voice barely a whisper. "Bobby...I thought Dad was dead."

From the amount of blood that had covered John's head and face, Bobby could understand how the eight-year old would have thought that.

"But your daddy's fine," Bobby reminded. "He's got some stitches and a mild concussion and gonna have one hell of a headache for a few days...but your daddy's fine."

"I know," Dean agreed, briefly burying his face into the warm, snuggly four-year old sleeping in his arms; inhaling the familiar scent of a clean little brother. "But I thought he was dead. And I didn't know what to do. We don't have a plan for that, Bobby."

Bobby's stomach twisted at the eight-year old's words.

John having drilled Dean on plans to cover everything that could possibly happen in this hunter's life...except a plan for what Dean was supposed to do if John died.

Or more accurately, when John died.

Because if John continued on his current reckless course, the young father would end up dead within the next year.

He was damn lucky he had lived this long.

Bobby sighed. "Dean..."

"But now I've come up with my own plan," Dean announced before Bobby could continue. "I know what me and Sammy are gonna do if Dad dies. I just wanna make sure it's okay with you."

Bobby arched an eyebrow. "Alright," he replied, already knowing whatever Dean said would be okay with him. "Let's hear it..."

Dean nodded, then glanced down at Sam as his brother suddenly fisted his shirt; the four-year old making a distressed sound and scrunching his face in his sleep.

Dean frowned. "S'okay, Sammy..." he murmured, briefly cupping the back of Sam's head.

Bobby narrowed his eyes with concern.

Dean waited, then smiled when Sam settled beneath his touch. "There you go, buddy..." the big brother soothed as his kid relaxed against him, once again sleeping peacefully.

Bobby smiled as well, always fascinated to watch Dean take care of his little brother.

"Anyway..." Dean sighed, readjusting the blanket to more fully cover Sam. "If Dad dies, I think me and Sammy should come live with you."

Bobby nodded, having expected that plan because it matched his plan.

If something happened to John, then Bobby would gladly adopt these boys to raise as his own.

Hell, Bobby practically already had.

"Can we?"

Bobby held Dean's gaze as the eight-year old once again stared at him in the dimly lit living room, the shadows cast by the fire flickering over their faces.

"Absolutely," Bobby agreed. "I'd take you boys in a heartbeat. But Dean...your daddy ain't goin' nowhere."

"You don't know that," Dean countered, once again rubbing Sam's back out of habit.

The big brother's gesture affectionate and soothing and reflecting just how much he loved the kid sleeping in his arms.

"Everybody dies," Dean told the older hunter still staring at him.

And Bobby blinked at the bluntness of Dean's statement, feeling strangely sad that an eight-year old already knew that fact so well.

"Everybody," Dean repeated. "Even Dad." He paused. "And I know that Dad's a good guy...and most of the time, I know he's doing the best he can. But he doesn't seem to care if he lives..."

Dean's words faded with a shrug, lifting Sam's head with the motion.

"Sometimes I don't think he even cares about us," the eight-year old confessed about John. "He just wants that demon that killed mom. And I get it..."

Dean paused once more.

"But Bobby...what about us?"

Bobby clenched his jaw at Dean's wounded tone, freshly pissed at the younger hunter sleeping upstairs.

Because John had the two most precious gifts in this world, the two best things Mary could have ever given him...and he was ignoring them.

Was throwing everything away...and for what?


Bobby snorted.

Because yeah...that always worked out well.

Dean blinked at the older hunter sitting beside him on the couch and then lightly rested his chin on Sam's head as the four-year old sighed in his sleep.

Bobby sighed as well.

"Dean..." he began, deciding to keep his words to a minimum to prevent himself from saying something he didn't need to say to an eight-year old about his dad. "I can't speak for your daddy. But I promise you that will speak to your daddy."

And it won't gonna be pretty.

Because this was ridiculous...and it needed to stop.

It needed to stop right fucking now.

John Winchester needed to get his head out of his ass before it was too late.

Before he was dead and his kids were orphaned.

Or even worse – before he was dead...and got his boys killed right along with him.

Bobby fisted his hands at the thought.

Dean sighed, beginning to feel tired now that he had asked what he needed to ask.

He just needed an answer before he could go to sleep.

"So..." the eight-year old prompted, glancing at Bobby. "Can me and Sammy stay with you if dad dies?"

Bobby nodded. "Damn right you can," he assured. "You can stay with me now if you want."

Dean smiled at the offer. "Nah," he dismissed and shook his head. "Dad needs us."

Bobby nodded again, glancing at Rummy as the dog shifted on the floor.

"Yeah," the older hunter replied. "I guess maybe he does. But you need him, too. And it sounds like he ain't keepin' up his end of the bargain..."

"It's alright," Dean responded and glanced down at a sleeping Sam held securely in his arms. "I've got Sammy."

He paused.

"And Sammy knows he's got me."

Dean paused again.

"And we've both got you, right?"

Bobby swallowed against the emotion that tightened his chest.

"Yeah," he choked out and cleared his throat as he nodded. "You got me."

Dean smiled. "Then I guess we'll get by."

Bobby nodded once more. "I guess you will," he returned and winked at his oldest as he lifted his arm. "C'mere..."

Dean hesitated – not accustomed to being comforted – but slowly leaned toward Bobby.

Because it had been one hell of a night...

Bobby's arm wrapped around Dean as the eight-year old settled against the older hunter's side.

Dean sighed, still holding his sleeping Sammy but now resting his own head against Bobby's chest and allowing himself to relax in the solid presence of someone he trusted, someone he knew loved him and his little brother.

"You did good tonight," Bobby praised, squeezing Dean's arm.

The older hunter still wanting more details about what had happened out in those woods...but knowing the full story could wait until later, could wait until the events weren't so fresh and raw.

Dean nodded, his head rubbing against Bobby's shirt as he accepted the praise.

"And I promise you..." Bobby continued. "Everything's gonna be alright."

One way or another, Bobby would make sure of that.

Would talk to John – would gladly kick the man's ass, if that's what it took.

But one way or another, Bobby would make sure John realized what he was sacrificing in his pursuit of the demon that had killed his wife.

Because Mary was dead...but his boys were alive.

Sam and Dean were alive.

And they needed their father.

It was past time that John remembered that.

Bobby sighed. "Everything's gonna be alright..." he repeated, staring into the fire crackling across the room.

Dean nodded. "I hope so," he murmured, wanting to believe; the eight-year old feeling safe and secure for the first time in a long time.

It was a feeling he could get used to.

Silence settled as Dean glanced down at Sam still held in his arms and then closed his eyes, allowing himself to give in to the exhaustion that pulled at him.

Minutes ticked by.

Hours passed.

Outside, the winter storm continued to moan and bluster.

Upstairs, John continued to sleep.

On the floor, Rummy continued to sprawl.

And beside his sleeping boys, Bobby continued to keep watch.