"Dean... C'mon back, okay? Wake up..."

Sam leaned over in the cushioned chair they'd pulled in for him last night so that he didn't have to leave Dean, resting his arm at the edge of Dean's bandaged hand, resting his eyes on his brother's face.

Dean's eyebrows were pulled together, his lips folded down into a frown. Sam could see him fighting against the seduction of oblivion, wanting awareness, but afraid of it at the same. He squeezed Dean's arm, careful of the IV with antibiotics pumping into his brother's system, aware of how warm his skin still felt.

"Dean," he called softly. "Open your eyes."

Look at me... let me know you're still here... let me know you wouldn't leave... let me know you still need me around...

Sam felt Dean twitch; a quick movement of his leg muscles sliding under the sheets, his hands flinching as if to form fists of defense, his face tightening then softening as he worked through whatever haunted him in the dark. Sighing, Sam dropped his head, his forehead resting just above Dean's arm.

"You always were a restless sleeper," Sam mumbled, his voice muffled by the bed. "Always moving..."

It was how Sam had been able to judge that everything was okay. Dean was in the room. Dean was moving. Dean was here.

"Thanks," Sam turned his head so that he lay with his cheek on the bed, the top of his head resting against Dean's arm. "Thanks for pulling me out, Dean. You have never let me down... not once."

Dean's arm jerked slightly, and his head shifted on the pillow. Sam brought his head up, but saw that it was simply Dean fighting against the dark that still held him captive. He wasn't awake. His body wasn't ready.

"Take your time, man," Sam whispered. "I'll be here when you wake up."

www

He was dreaming. He knew that much.

But in his dream, he was actually in control. There was no one else pulling the strings, no helpless feeling of disconnect between his will and his body. He leaned on the hood of the Impala, relishing the feel of the car's solidity beneath him. The warmth of the Chevy's soul seeping into him, offering him strength.

Sam stood next to him, looking in the same direction as he was. Together they watched their father walk toward them, a rueful smile relaxing his rugged features.

"Hey, boys."

John's voice was right. It rumbled through Dean, filling up the hollow inside, scooping out the weight that anchored his breath and setting it easily aside.

"Sir," they replied in unison.

"No bad guy this time," John said, resting his hands in the pockets of his coat. Dean saw himself in that stance, and he smiled.

"Not anymore," Dean agreed. "This one had already taken care of himself."

"You did good," John nodded, his dark eyes taking them both in separately, and then together.

Dean stepped forward, feeling the pleasure of his body respond as he reached out, grasped his dad's shoulder, pulled him close.

"It's good to see you," he whispered. "I missed you, Dad."

"Dean?"

Sam's voice sounded puzzled, searching. Dean turned from John to face Sam and was unexpectedly thrust back into reality. He felt the ache in his chest, the throb in his hand, the itch from the tape that held the IVs down, the grit at the corner of his eyes. The darkness behind his lids suddenly had substance.

He felt it.

"Hey, man, that's it," Sam's voice cajoled. "Please, Dean, open your eyes, okay?"

Dean complied. Barely slits at first, but then he blinked them wider when his blurred vision found the faded image of his brother close beside him. A strange wave of pain chased by relief left him feeling as if he were still bobbing in the waves of the Puget Sound.

"...happened?" He tried.

Sam's shoulders seemed to sag with relief. "God, it's good to see you, man," he said, a sob lodged behind his words. "It's really not the same without you, Dean."

"Could say... same... 'bout you," Dean forced out. His lips felt two sizes too big for his face, and his fingers tingled. "Why 'm I so... fuzzy?"

"It's the meds," Sam explained. "You had a pretty high fever—after they pumped out all the salt water. And your hand was... well, you're an idiot that's all."

"'Bout you?"

"I'm not an idiot," Sam quipped, grinning and wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand.

"Maybe not," Dean cleared his throat. "But you are a bitch."

Sam sniffed, then pushed gently at Dean's shoulder. "You big jerk... going after the body like that."

"She didn't leave me much choice," Dean replied, licking his lips. Sam held his cup of water and straw up for him. "How long..."

"Two days," Sam replied. "I don't remember much after you got me out of that car... until I woke up over there yesterday morning," he nodded to the bed next to Dean, "and they told me you were pretty bad."

"You know I'm always fine, Sam," Dean shook his head against the pillow. "Doctor's always go for the drama."

"No, man," Sam shook his head. "You gotta....you need to be more careful. You're... you live reckless lately, Dean. You either act like you can't die... or you wouldn't mind if it happened."

Dean looked away. He wasn't ready to tell Sam how close to the truth that second statement sometimes was. He felt Sam sit back and looked over at him once more.

"Any word on when I can get out of here?"

Sam shook his head and chuckled. "When you're better," he answered. "And not before."

"I'm awake aren't I? That's better."

Sam just glanced away. "Long as you're tethered to this bed, I'm not going to fight with you about this."

"How's Ramsey?"

"He's... pretty messed up," Sam looked at his hands. "They docked the Mystic, finally. And I think the police have had both him and Mrs. Sanders in their office since they pulled us out of the water."

"What did they do with Charlie?" Dean dropped his head back, letting gravity work him over a bit, too tired to struggle.

"She's in the county morgue for now," Sam said, yawning. "Until they get this figured out."

"Guess Mrs. Sanders was right," Dean sighed, closing his eyes.

"'Bout what?"

"She said that when we..." Dean shifted stiffly, trying to find a position that didn't ache. "When we found out who killed Brad... we'd find Charlie."

"Huh," Sam replied. "I guess you're right. Brad killed all three of them... Police are saying he drove the car off the ferry to kill Charlie and then got trapped in the car..." Sam yawned again. "Pretty stupid way to murder someone, you ask me."

"Get some rest, Sam," Dean said softly, looking at his brother's pale, weary face.

"I will if you will," Sam retorted.

Dean let his eyes slide closed, ready to return to the warmth of the dream and the safety of control he had felt there for a moment.

"Deal," he whispered.

www

"Where the hell is that doctor already?" Dean grumbled.

Sam looked up from his laptop screen to watch Dean sit on the edge of his bed, clad in jeans and boots, his T-shirt sitting next to him, waiting for the doctor to return and remove his IV so that he could leave. Two additional days in the hospital had been a necessary evil.

Dean had complied for twenty-four whole hours with the doctor's orders to rest and let his body—and most especially his hand—heal. The following twenty-four hours had taught Sam a few things about the virtue that was patience.

He'd used that time to organize their hunts and records on his computer, impressed by Ash's ability to take John's scrawl and turn it into a usable method to track the demon. If Ash could do that... there was no telling what was possible.

"He'll be here, Dean," Sam reassured for the tenth time. He looked back down at the computer screen. "Hey, Dean."

"Hmm?" Dean leaned back against the pillows, his bandaged hand resting on his bare stomach.

"You know that picture the cop showed you of Dad?"

"Yeah?"

"Was it this?" Sam turned the laptop around so that Dean could see the screen.

Dean blinked at the image, focusing his still-tired eyes. "Huh... yeah, man. That was it. What is that?"

"An article about the attack, or whatever, at the library in Kingston. Unknown man it says. He was quoted as saying he was just in the right place, right time."

"Bet he hated that they caught him on camera," Dean said, a small smile in his voice.

"Uh, hey, Dean?" Sam called again, narrowing his eyes at the date at the top of the newspaper article with John's picture.

"What, Sam?" Dean sighed.

"You remember when we were in Chicago?"

"You mean to meet up with psycho Meg and her daeva friends?"

"Yeah," Sam nodded. "Did you know that happened the same month that Charlie and Brad died?"

Dean sat forward again, a frown folding his lips down. "It did?"

"I have the newspaper article here from when Meredith died," Sam said, pointing to his screen. "The dates match the ones on the newspaper article about the Kingston library. You think..."

"What?" Dean's voice was cautiously hopeful.

"Well... you called Dad then..."

Dean pulled his bottom lip into his mouth, catching it between his teeth as if afraid to voice what he seemed to know Sam was going to say.

"I think... I think he left this hunt to come to us," Sam concluded.

Dean swallowed visibly, then lifted a shoulder. "Well, I guess that would make sense... I mean, he came out here in the first place because he was following the signs, right? And... we thought the demon was in Chicago, so if he hadn't found anything here, he could have figured—"

"Dean," Sam interrupted. "I think he came... for us."

Dean looked down, hiding his eyes from Sam. Dean could bluff his way through a high-stakes poker game with a pair of twos. He could hustle hundreds of dollars out of the best pool player in any bar. He could make you believe the sun was blue and the world was flat if he wanted to.

But there were moments when his eyes were bare and the story of his life was held like a confession in their green depths. And Sam knew when his brother looked away that even a glimpse of Dean's eyes in this moment would level him.

So he held still. And waited.

"Maybe, Sam... maybe," Dean finally conceded just before the doctor walked in and removed Dean's IV, handing him instructions and cautioning him to take care. Dean nodded, but Sam could tell he was barely listening. The doctor left and Dean pulled on his shirt, taking his coat from Sam.

"You bring the Impala?" Dean asked.

"It's still at the dock," Sam answered. "I haven't left the hospital."

"How far are we from the dock?"

"Not too far," Sam said. "You okay to walk?"

"Absolutely," Dean nodded, shrugging his shoulders inside of his coat a bit as if he were trying to physically rid himself of the feel of sickness.

As they walked along the sidewalk, in stride despite the difference in their height, Sam ran the hunt's events over in his mind. Ramsey had no idea that Charlie had been in love with Wyatt Abrams. Mrs. Sanders didn't realize the depth of Brad's infatuation with Charlie. It made him wonder if it was a product of being in a family that made it easy for someone to disappear into what they were thought to be instead of what they were.

"You're thinking too loud, Sam," Dean commented. "Care to share with the class?"

Sam realized that Dean's stride had slowed. Matching him once more, Sam sighed.

"You ever think about how different things would be if Mom were still around?"

"Whoa," Dean stopped walking, causing Sam to turn and face him. "Where the hell did that come from?"

Sam shrugged. "Just thinking about this case. These people died because... well, because nobody was paying attention.'

Dean lifted his eyebrows, his expression a clear yeah, so?

"I just think," Sam looked away, unable to look directly at his brother. "I think if you hadn't been around..."

Dean stayed silent.

"I'm just glad you were around," Sam finally finished. "I'm glad you're here."

Dean shook his head, scuffing the toe of his boot along a crack in the sidewalk, a small grin flushing his still-pale cheeks. "You missed your calling, Sammy. Ought to have you write Hallmark cards. Could make us a killing." He clapped Sam on the shoulder with his good hand and continued toward the docks.

Sam watched Dean walk away, then followed, needing to keep him close. Just in case.

www

"You boys leaving?" Ramsey asked, leaning against the Impala, watching them approach.

"Soon as you move away from my car," Dean groused.

"Calm down, there, Cujo," Ramsey patted the air, stepping away from the car. "Was just waiting to say thanks, is all."

Dean shrugged. "Just doing our job."

"Well..." Ramsey looked down, sniffed, then rubbed at his nose with a weathered hand. "You gave me my girl back."

"They done questioning you?" Sam asked, his eyes shadowed.

"For now," Ramsey nodded. "They're searching for Abrams' body. Don't think they're going to find it, though."

"Why do you say that?"

"They showed me a picture of the kid when I was being questioned and, uh...I'm pretty sure that's who your Dad was helping Charlie with. When we were in that library...I, uh, I saw him."

"You saw him? And you never said anything?" Sam was incredulous.

"Not like there was anything anyone could do," Ramsey shrugged. "Guy was dead."

"Nice," Dean shook his head, a bad taste in the back of his mouth.

"Anyway," Ramsey said, holding out a hand. "Thanks."

Sam shook his hand and Dean waved his bandaged one at him. "Don't need us again, okay?"

"Don't plan on it," Ramsey nodded.

Climbing behind the wheel, Dean sighed as he rested his hand on the wheel, his body settling into the familiar feel of home. He turned on the engine, then looked over at Sam.

"Where to, bro?"

"Head East," Sam said, not looking at him.

"Why?"

"Just head East, Dean," Sam said reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling something out.

Dean looked down at Sam's hand and felt his heart still, sputter, then pick back up.

John's dog tags.

"How did you get those?"

"I took them from his truck when we were in Salvation," Sam answered. "Dad never wore them—he didn't want to be identified, right?"

Dean nodded.

"So... I saw them in the glove box before he left to meet Meg, and... well, I don't know, I just took 'em."

Dean simply blinked, suddenly too moved to speak, too weak to move. Sam's voice was a soft beat of hope against the ringing in his ears.

"I don't know how to make this right for me... for him. I don't know how to feel sometimes, Dean. I just... I gotta do this, okay? I know where we gotta go."

Dean shook his head. John had been wrong about the vampires. He'd been wrong about the spirit haunting Charlie. He'd been wrong... Sam wanted to make it right...

Dad could be wrong about Sam...

"There'd better be a hunt when we get there," Dean muttered, back away from the lot and facing East.

Fighting evil, he knew. Searching out, finding, and beating the bad guy, he could control. Figuring out why he was still around to do so... why Dad left him with such a weight to carry... why Dad wasn't here with them... that was too big to even try to wrap his head around in the moment.

"You never know," Sam shrugged, apparently happy that Dean was doing what he asked without too much fight. "Maybe we'll just get some time off."

"Maybe," Dean conceded, knowing it wasn't likely.

He fished out a tape and stuck it in the deck, cranking up the volume and letting the music mask the shudder of dread that accompanied the weight making itself home once more in his chest.

Maybe...

The End