When the door opened, Sam actually jerked. Grace stepped into the TV room, glanced around as if expecting someone else to be present, then focused on him. "What are you doing up here?" she asked.

He blinked rapidly a few times and couldn't really meet her eyes. "Uh ..." He cleared his throat. "How's it going with Dean's cast?"

"Lucy's putting it on right now," Grace said. "Don't worry, he didn't throw a fit. But he's a bit disappointed that you ... uhm ... disappeared."

He grimaced while getting up, hiding his reluctance to admit that he didn't want to be around Dean when he got pissed over something by giving in to the soreness of his chest and arm.

"He's a handful, your brother," Grace said with a smile on her lips.

"At times he can be," Sam agreed. "He's still not gonna be happy with the whole cast thing, you know. He may have given in now, but he'll drive you crazy about it in a few days."

For some odd reason, this caused Grace to chuckle. "If he's anywhere near like his father, I'm quite sure I can handle him," she said. "John was always bitching about everything. Of course, our parents might have had a lot to do with his attitude, all things considered. It's not easy being the baby of a family that's not really geared for children."

Sam frowned. "How do you mean?"

Grace shook her head. "Our parents weren't good parents. They cared about what they thought was right and what others thought. And that was all they cared about. My mother ... she cares more about her damned prize-winning flowers even today than she ever did about either of us. That doesn't spell good parent to me," she said. "Was John anything like that?"

For the first time in a while, Sam felt ashamed of his attitude toward his father. "No," he said quietly. "He uprooted everything and took us away from Lawrence to protect us. He taught us how to defend ourselves." He made a face, feeling odd at defending what he had always rebelled against. "I don't think he would have won any father-of-the-year awards, but ..."

Grace nodded. "I'm sure he would have if all this hadn't happened to you guys. John was a very passionate guy," she said, then nodded toward the door. "You need a cast on that arm," she added.

He nodded and followed her back downstairs to the kitchen, where Lucy was putting the finishing touches on Dean's cast. Sam stopped short just inside the door and eyed the extensive cast. "Wow," he muttered.

Dean glanced back at him and made a face, his expression telling Sam he wasn't impressed at all. "Hey, I'm glad my brother stands by me when I'm being tortured," he commented dryly.

"You're not being tortured, you big baby," Sam shot back. "I just wasn't in the mood to witness you throwing a fit over this cast."

"You knew they were gonna slap this on me?" Dean growled. "When I'm back on my feet, dude, you're gonna pay for that."

Sam rolled his eyes and gave Grace a pleading glance, which she obviously understood.

"Pipe down, Dean. You're whining," she said.

"I am not whining," he countered indignantly. "I'm ..."

"Bitching then?" she tried and smirked.

"No, that's his department," he said and jabbed a thumb in Sam's direction over one shoulder. "I'm getting a little tired of sitting on this damned chair," he added and gingerly wrapped an arm around his chest.

"It has to dry first," Lucy said, unimpressed by the banter.

"Yeah, and I've got three broken ribs, honey. So why don't you cut me some slack here?" Dean shot back and gave her an almost acidic smile.

Lucy rolled her eyes, sighed theatrically and rose. "Men. They're such babies when it comes to ... well, anything that hurts," she stated and glanced at Grace.

"Don't look at me," she said, stepped forward and carefully touched the cast. "It's fast-drying plaster. It'll be dry soon enough. Can you handle it for a few more minutes? We should be able to get you back to bed by then."

Dean nodded a little tightly and Sam realized at that point that he wasn't whining. He was hurting. Sam turned to leave the kitchen again, but Lucy stopped him by grabbing his right arm. "Where do you think you're going?" she asked pointedly.

"To get him something for the pain," Sam countered and met her gaze dead on.

Lucy held his gaze for a moment, then released his arm and nodded once.

He returned a moment later with the painkillers they had been given by the hospital, handed Dean two of the pills while Grace handed him a glass of water.

"I'm gonna go all fuzzy in the head from these," Dean grumbled, but took the pills anyway and emptied the glass in one go.

"Better a fuzzy head than an aching chest," Grace said with a smile and affectionately ruffled his hair.

Sam was actually a little stunned when all Dean did was smirk at that. Dean generally had a hands-off approach to most people unless they were hot young chicks, and he figured that Dean accepting this had to mean that his brother had accepted Grace as their aunt.

"Sam, could you grab a towel from the bathroom? A big one?" Grace asked and he nodded and left the kitchen again to do just that.

"Okay, let's get you up, honey," Lucy said. Grace and Lucy got Dean up from the chair, which wasn't easy since his left foot wasn't exactly good to walk on either. But they somehow managed to maneuver him out of the kitchen and into the guest room and onto the bed without the cast being damaged.

Grace spread the towel Sam handed her underneath Dean's leg and he was finally able to lie back and relax. "There," she said. "Comfortable?"

"As comfortable as I can be, considering that I'm ..." Dean trailed off and stared into space for a moment. "Wow," he then muttered, closed his eyes and shook his head lightly. "I think I'm tripping," he added.

Grace frowned and glanced at Lucy. "Is that normal?" she asked.

"Uh ... it depends on what he took," Lucy said and glanced at Sam, who was watching Dean closely.

"What the hospital gave us," Sam said and glanced from Lucy to Grace and back again. "Tramadol," he added, briefly having to search for the name.

"And you just gave him two pills?" Lucy asked with an arched eyebrow.

"Uh ... yeah," Sam said, not sure why that should be a problem. Dean had been on these damned pills ever since they'd been shipped back to Grace's.

"That's fine for severe pain, sweetie, but he's not exactly in severe pain right now," Lucy said. "Although it's not dangerous, it's a bit of a head trip when you get too much of it and don't really need it."

"It's fine. I'm having fun," Dean muttered.

Sam grimaced. "I ... didn't know."

"It's not gonna kill him or anything. Just ... stick to half a pill or one from now on, okay?" Lucy suggested and smirked. "Besides, you heard the guy. He's having fun."

Sam glanced at Dean. "Yeah, and he thinks he's Batman when he's tripping," he said and made a face.

"Whatever," Lucy said. "It's your turn next. Come on. I don't have all day, you know," she added.

"Grace, don't leave him alone, okay? He's gonna do something stupid," Sam said when Lucy reached out and grabbed his right arm, pushing him toward the door.

"Don't worry. I'll stay with him," Grace said and stayed behind.

Sam wasn't too sure he liked Lucy. She was too bossy in his opinion. "Sit down," she said and literally pushed him down on the chair Dean had abandoned. "You need to lose the shirt and t-shirt," she added.

With a sigh, he shrugged out of his shirt, then pulled the t-shirt over his head. "How much of a cast do I get?" he asked.

"Wrist to shoulder," she said and started unwrapping his arm to remove the splint first and foremost. When the bandage was off, she manipulated his arm a bit and drew one hiss after another from him. "Well, there's no swelling, so you're not avoiding a cast right now."

"Great," he muttered. "Why does it have to go all the way to my wrist?"

"Because it won't do you any good if it's halfway down the arm. It'll be uncomfortable too," Lucy said. "What is it with you two? You think you know everything better?"

"No, it's just ... " Sam started, but trailed off. He had the feeling that it didn't really matter to Lucy what he said. "Never mind. Just put the cast on."

"You're lucky, you know. The break is close to your elbow. If it had been closer to your shoulder, I would have to put that in a cast as well," she said and started the process.

"Yeah, real lucky," Sam muttered under his breath and flinched when she started wrapping the cold, gooey substance around his arm.


Grace pulled up a chair and sat down next to the bed. "How are you doing?" she asked while watching Dean intently.

He had let his head drop back against the pillow and was smiling vaguely. "Oh, I'm good," he said, his voice slightly slurred. "A little dizzy, though."

"Yeah, I can imagine," she agreed. "So, have you gotten used to the idea of having an aunt?" She knew it wasn't fair to abuse the situation, but she had a feeling that Dean didn't open up easily and this little drug-induced side-trip might help in that department.

"Oh yeah, that's great. I mean ... it's cool. You're dad's sister and all. Guess you and I are pretty much in the same boat there, huh?" he said and grinned.

"Yeah, pretty much," she agreed. "Except your little brother is still around. Mine isn't." Cheap shot, she thought and made a face.

Dean's drug-induced mood became a little somber at her words. The smile faded from his lips. "Yeah, well ... sometimes you just gotta do that extra bit to keep'em around, you know?"

"Sam told me about going to college. That didn't sit well with John, huh?" she asked.

"Oh, he was prouder'n hell, dad was. But ... he was scared too. You know? With the life we're livin' an' all. Can't leave Sammy out on his own. Too dangerous," he slurred while staring almost dreamily up at the ceiling.

"Sam seems just as capable of handling himself as you do, Dean." Grace eyed him and wondered what exactly it was that undermined his trip right now, because he didn't seem amused at all.

"Gotta look out for Sammy. That's m'job. Promised dad," he muttered. He was fading, about to fall asleep, and Grace wondered if he was going to let her in on any secrets before that happened.

"Why is it your job? That should have been John's job," she tried.

Dean blinked, then rolled his head almost drunkenly to the side to squint at her. "Nothin's more important than Sammy," he stated and sighed. "Nothin'." His eyelids closed and that was the end of that conversation.

Grace just sat there and stared at him. She might not know either of them very well yet, but they had so much of their father in them that she felt she could read them perfectly already. And, unless she misinterpreted him, what Dean had really meant was that nothing was more important than Sam, not even him. And that raised a big question mark in her head about his self-worth. She leaned forward and brushed her fingers through his hair, which drew a tiny smile from him. "Everybody is important in their own right, Dean," she whispered. "Sweet dreams," she added, rose and left the room to check up on Sam's progress.

Sam glanced up at her when she stepped into the kitchen, instantly worried.

"He's asleep. He's not trying to go anywhere," she reassured him and then watched the process for a bit until Lucy put the finishing touches on that cast.

"Sorry about the mess, Grace," she said with a smile.

"No harm done," Grace countered.

"He needs to keep this arm in a sling," Lucy said and rose. "And Dean needs to stay off his feet as much as possible. Both of them should be able to get the casts off in about six weeks."

Sam's expression indicated that he felt overlooked, which Grace understood. But she knew Lucy and Lucy had a tendency to overrule her patients and talk to their relatives instead. It was a weird habit of hers, but that was just the way she was. "That's fine. I'll keep the date noted and hopefully the damned snow will have let up at that point," she agreed.

"How'd you get out here?" Sam asked, suddenly latching on to the fact that the snow was hip-deep out there.

"Snow scooter," Lucy said and started packing up her things after having washed her hands. "The hospital has a couple of those sitting around. It's not the first time we've had this much snow up here," she added.

"Thanks for making the trip, Lucy," Grace said. "I feel better now that they've got proper casts on."

"Are you guys going to be okay out here? I mean ..." Lucy began, but Grace cut her off.

"We'll be fine. I've got plenty of food squirreled away and even if I didn't, Emerson's down one block have a snow scooter too. I can always borrow that," she said.

"Great. Well, I'll be out of your hair then," Lucy said, packed the rest of her stuff up and got into her heavy snow gear. "Good luck, Gracie," she said when they stood at the door. "You've got your work cut out for you with those two. Your nephews, right?"

Grace nodded. "Yeah, and they're good boys. I haven't had any trouble with them so far," she countered. "And I don't expect I will."

Lucy nodded, an almost overbearing look in her eyes, which Grace chose to ignore. Why Lucy had chosen to be a nurse was beyond her. The woman didn't seem to be much of a people person. "Still, good luck," she said and took off.

Grace closed the door and turned around only to realize that Sam had heard Lucy's comments. "Don't mind her. She's ... not really a people person. I think she would do better as a vet," she said and smiled.

"I would feel bad for the animals in her care," Sam said and shrugged his right shoulder while supporting the still drying cast with his right hand. "Man, this thing weighs a ton," he added.

"That's because it's still wet. Let's get it in a sling for now," Grace countered and returned to the kitchen. She helped him get the sling adjusted, then cleaned up the mess Lucy had made and finally nodded at the kitchen table. "Are you hungry now?" she asked.

"Yeah, I am," Sam agreed. "Can I help?"

"Yeah, you can sit down and relax," Grace said.

"How's that helping?" Sam asked.

"You won't get in the way," she said with a smirk. "No offence here, Sam, but you can't do much right now. Wait until you're healed up. Then you can help however much you want."

He nodded and settled down at the table. "You know ... I must admit that I'm a little ... surprised that you've taken to this so easily," he suddenly said.

Grace shrugged. "You have enough of your father in you to make it easy," she replied. "Besides, your birth certificates are proof enough."

"They could be faked," Sam said, his tone earnest.

Grace stopped, then turned back to face him. "Why would you fake your birth certificate?" she asked.

"I don't know," he confessed. "It's just ..."

"I take it the reason for that you didn't give your real names at the hospital was because of this ... job of yours?" she asked.

"Yeah," he agreed. "The thing is ... it's not like it pays well, this job. When it pays at all, that is, which is rare. And it's not like we can hold down any real jobs either. So money is hard to come by and ..." He trailed of and sighed, obviously uncomfortable with what he was about to say.

"So, how do you get by?" Grace asked.

He didn't look at her, just sat there and picked at the edge of the sling, his expression a little screwed up. "Credit cards," he finally said. "Dean's good at playing pool, too."

"So ... essentially you're hustling your way through life?" she asked.

"Pretty much," he agreed and glanced at her. "It's not really like we have a choice, you know. I know it must be hard to understand and ... it is ... fraud, but ..."

Grace eyed him closely. "Well, a lot of these damned credit companies are so damned eager to get rid of their money, so ... I guess it's the easiest way to get by, huh?" she asked.

Sam looked up and met her eyes. "Uh ... yeah. You don't ... disapprove?" He seemed genuinely surprised by this and Grace couldn't help a smile. Dean probably didn't care one way or another what she thought of it, but Sam was the type who cared what others thought.

"No, I don't," she said. "I really don't care what other people do, as long as they don't hurt others or themselves." She returned to preparing a few sandwiches and decided a good, hefty dinner was in place for this evening. These boys needed food desperately. "Sam, am I misinterpreting something here or does Dean have self-worth issues?" She put the sandwiches on a plate and brought them over to the table, got them two sodas from the fridge and sat down across from him.

He eyed the sandwiches as if they were really interesting and she figured that he stared at things when he was thinking. In that case, this kid thought a lot. "I guess," he muttered. "Why?"

"Because I get the feeling that everything in his life is about you," she said. "He said something before he fell asleep that kind of rattled me a little."

"Like what?" Sam's tone was cautious now and Grace wondered about that. There was a secret hiding here somewhere and she had the feeling that it was a big one.

"Because he thinks nothing's more important than you and I kind of get the feeling that he means himself too. Was that the drugs talking or is that how he views life?" she asked.

"It's ... I don't know," Sam said and shrugged lightly, raising only his right shoulder a little. "It's the big brother syndrome, I guess," he added.

Okay, so he was not going to impart that bit of knowledge; at least not yet. "So, he thinks he has to take care of you no matter what?"

Sam shrugged again, still not looking at her. "Yeah, I guess so. He's ... pretty adamant about it too. It gets a little annoying at times," he added and smiled vaguely.

"I can imagine. It's hard to let go when you're the older one," she said and decided to drop it. Whatever the secret was, it wasn't really her business.

"Yeah, I guess so," he agreed.


A week later

The following week was the longest Dean had ever lived through. The company notwithstanding, he felt trapped, cooped up and got dangerously close to blowing a fuse a few times. The cast weighed a ton, which made moving difficult with his broken toe and ribs and that pretty much made him stationary on the couch in the living room when he wasn't in bed.

At first he did his damndest to maintain a jovial mood, but it got harder day by day and by the end of the week he was grumbling and snapping at Sam. He knew it wasn't fair, but he couldn't help it. At times he contemplated smashing the damned cast just so he could move better, but he knew he would be back in a new one as fast as Grace could arrange it.

The worst part of it was really that time was ticking by and he couldn't do what he needed to do. Sam spent a lot of time on the computer upstairs, which bugged Dean because he couldn't get up the damned stairs with the cast on. Fortunately Grace kept him company some of the time and stopped him from going out of his mind completely.

Friday evening he just sat there, his leg on the coffee table, while he watched anything on TV without paying attention to it and he swore he was going to go nuts if he didn't find something interesting to do soon. And by interesting he meant anything not indoors. The snow kept coming down in spades out there and at the back of the house it was halfway up the landscape window, which made it more than waist-deep.

Pebble the cat was curled up next to him and he more often than not found himself paying attention to the pesky feline because the critter didn't argue with him, it just lay there and purred when he scratched it.


He glanced up at Grace and tried a smile, which he knew failed miserably.

"You look ... bored," she said.

"No, really?" He couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

She settled down on the arm of the couch and glanced at the TV. "What do you do for fun?" she asked while watching the shopping channel for a moment.

"Not this. I can tell you that," he said and sighed deeply. "I've gotten that far out that I can actually see why I may need a set of Samurai knives," he added.

"Ouch," Grace countered. "I wish I could help you somehow, Dean. I don't like being cooped up inside all day either, but with the snow there's not much we can do."

He closed his eyes and let his head drop back against the couch. At least the concussion was gone and with it that pesky headache. On the other hand, it had been kinda handy, because it had made him sleep all the time. Being mentally alert did him no favors right now. "I'm going to die here, aren't I?" he groaned. "I mean ... can you actually die of boredom?"

Grace chuckled. "No, I don't think you can," she said. "Tell me what you do for fun and I'll see what I can do to help you."

That in turn made him chuckle. "What? You're gonna get me to a bar?" he asked, raised his head again and gave her what he hoped was a disarming grin.

"A bar?" she asked and arched an eyebrow. "You go out drinking to have fun?"

"Yup. I would love to shoot some pool, have a few beers and ... well ... you know, go with the flow."

"Girls?" she asked.

He narrowed his eyes for a moment and turned his attention to the shopping channel, which was now trying to sell him a set of frying pans like none other. "Yeah," he agreed.

Grace sat there for a moment and did the same. "Well ... there's always Holly," she said.

Dean glanced up at her. "Who's Holly?"

"Neighbor's daughter. Bit of a wild thing. And since you're not on medication any more ... a few beers wouldn't hurt, I guess."

All he could think of doing was stare at her. "Are you kidding me?" he asked suspiciously.

"Dean, if having a ... party is what it takes to save you from a death of boredom, I'm all in favor of it. I mean, Sam seems perfectly happy with the computer and I know for a fact that Holly is bored out of her skull as well. She hates that she can't go out. At least it would be a new face," she said. "You want me to call her?"

He blinked and returned his attention to the shopping channel. Quite honestly, he was completely and utterly stunned. That Grace liked to help others was evident, but this? He glanced up at her again. "You're serious?" he asked.

"Of course I am," she agreed. "It's worth a shot, isn't it? If you don't hit it off, at least you've had a few hours of suspension from the boredom."

He had to agree to that one. And he really couldn't find anything wrong about it either. "What if she doesn't want to come over?" he asked and glanced up at her. He almost felt like slapping himself when he said it. It sounded whiny and needy all rolled into one.

"She'll want to," Grace said with a smirk. "I already asked her."

"You what?" Not much in this world could shock him, but this woman certainly had a knack for that and for some odd reason it embarrassed him.

"I asked her if she wanted to meet my nephews. She said yes," she said with a smirk.

Oh, well that was different. "You know Holly well?" he asked.

"Yeah, I do. I've babysat her a few times when she was little," she said. "She's a sweet girl. A little on the wild side, but I'm not one to judge. I wasn't exactly Ms. Proper when I was young."

"You weren't?" That actually surprised him.

"No, Dean, I liked to party. The more the merrier. It was a way to get out of the house and I preferred the company of others to that of my parents. John usually tagged along. He wasn't a saint either," she said and smiled at the memory.

"Dad was a party animal?" In general Dean wasn't really surprised about that, but it was somehow hard for him to imagine his father as laid back and having fun. His memory of his father wasn't of a fun-loving guy who went out to party, after all.

"Pretty much. And the girls were all over him. And he soaked it up too," she said. "Anyway, you want me to call Holly? I can guarantee you that it won't be awkward. Holly doesn't know the meaning of the word," she said.

Dean shrugged. "Sure. Why not. It'll be a nice break from watching the shopping channel," he said and smirked.