Over the last two years, a lot of things had changed in the way Dean saw the world, and one prominent change was the gradual realization that his father hadn't been a superhero, that dad hadn't been untouchable. He had turned twenty-seven before even allowing that thought to enter his mind. Now, however, he was getting steadily more ticked off at his father for not telling him things that he considered vital to Sam's survival. One of these things would have been the mention that there was family out there, that they weren't alone in the world.

He kept up a steady rubbing motion over his right knee, something that distracted him away from the thudding pain in his leg and the burning agony in his heart. He felt betrayed, felt that all the negative thoughts he'd had lately were coming true one by one. Yes, his father had been an obsessed bastard who hadn't been there for them at crucial times in their lives, but that part of him that still believed that dad had done the best he could with what he had been given, was still alive and kicking.

"Dean?" Sam interrupted his grim reverie and he focused on his brother. "Do we believe her?"

Dean half shrugged. He didn't know what to say really. A part of him wanted to believe her because it would make certain issues easier. If they had an aunt who gave a damn about them, at least Sam would have someone to lean on once ... He trailed off in his mind and swallowed. "I don't know. The birth certificate looks legit, but Winchester isn't exactly an uncommon name."

"Nor is John," Sam agreed to which Dean nodded. "She does look a bit like dad, though. I mean ... she seems to have some of the same mannerisms," he added thoughtfully.

"Yeah, I know. But what are the odds that you'd stumble into her backyard of all places? That other kid came out two houses further up. It might not seem that far, but it's far enough when you're looking for help. And there were houses closer to that forest. You could have gone there instead," Dean surmised and frowned. "At the very least I would have thought you'd head back to the place where you started. Actually, I'd like to see a map of this area. Just for kicks. Just to see how much off course you got to get here."

Sam grimaced, then glanced toward the hallway and the closed kitchen door, and Dean couldn't help a somewhat rueful smile. As rebellious as Sam had always been in their odd little family dynamic, he still had trouble overruling a stranger's order to stay seated. "I don't have a map of this particular town. Maybe Grace does," he said.

"Yeah," Dean muttered and rubbed the tips of his fingers against his aching brow. His head was hurting almost as bad as his leg and most of all he wanted to sleep. But his stomach insisted on food and he knew his mood would hit rock bottom and start digging if he didn't get something to eat soon. "It's kinda weird that she didn't really react when we told her about dad, you know. I'd have expected her to ... you know ... at least look unhappy or something."

Sam glanced at him. "Well, in that area she's obviously like you if she really is our aunt," he said, his tone a bit tight.

Dean decided to ignore that little stab. "I don't get it," he admitted and chalked that up to the concussion. It was hard to think when your head hurt twenty-four seven. "This is too much of a coincidence, man."

Sam's expression remained thoughtful. He started picking at the bandage on his left arm, something Dean had noticed him doing a lot on that cast he'd had on when that zombie girl had broken his wrist. "Maybe," he muttered without looking up.

"Maybe? What do you mean, maybe?" Dean asked. He was sure he was missing something, some subtle little nuance in his brother's behavior that gave away what he was thinking, but right now it hurt just to focus his eyes.

"I don't know, Dean. I just ..." Sam shook his head and sent another brief glance toward the closed door.

"You just what?" Dean glanced toward the door as well, not entirely sure why Sam couldn't see the oddness of this situation.

Sam looked up again while he kept fiddling with the edge of the bandage. "I had the feeling like I was being ... pushed in this direction," he said. "I hadn't thought about it before, but these ... gusts of wind seemed to come out of nowhere and push me off course. A few times. From different directions."

That sounded oddly ominous to Dean. "What, you think some ... demon pushed you in this direction?" he asked. The second he had said it, another idea popped into his head and he could tell by the somewhat terse expression on Sam's face that demons had nothing to do with this.

"No, man. I think ... I don't know for sure, but ... I kinda get the feeling like ... someone was guiding me. And if Grace is our aunt ... there's only one person ... or ghost rather, that I could see doing that," Sam said.

Dean just sat there and stared at him, not sure what to think of that idea. They had liberated enough ghosts in their time to know when the spirit of the deceased passed on and when not, and if there was one thing he had been fairly sure of ever since the night in that damned cemetery, then it was that dad's soul had passed on to whatever lay beyond. Of course, he had no idea if there was a way for the soul to come back again, but he didn't really think so. "Dude ... how would that be possible? We both saw him ... leave."

"I don't know, Dean. As things go, what do we really know about what happens to these ... ghosts that disappear in a flicker of light? For all we know, they could just ... go to a different location. But, what if it was dad? What if he ... was trying to help us?" Sam eyed him quietly, but there was that intense hope in his eyes that made Dean avert his.

He couldn't allow himself to believe in this. Just the thought of his father's spirit haunting this world, watching over them or whatever it was he did, made him feel cold. Dad was supposed to move on, to be with mom. He had done his time in Hell and he deserved the peace. "I don't know, man." He sighed lightly, then let his aching head drop back against the couch and closed his eyes. "I can't think," he muttered.

"You should sleep," Sam suggested softly.

Dean felt like whacking him over the head for that tone, but he didn't have the energy to get into it. Instead, he allowed himself to drift, to lose touch with reality for a bit, so he could rest his head and work up the stamina to fight the pain another day; both the physical and the mental.

He drifted, the sounds around him disappearing, the world going quiet, while his senses disengaged and the pain ebbed away into nothingness. The total stillness he had made a part of his sleeping pattern at a very young age engulfed him, but far too briefly.

A hand on his shoulder shocked him back into complete alertness and the first thing he did was seek out Sam. In his opinion, he had been out for only a minute or so, but Sam wasn't in the armchair across from him. Instantly worried, he glanced at the hand on his shoulder, then up at Grace. "Where's Sam?" he croaked, becoming instantly aware that more time had passed than he assumed just by the hoarseness of his own voice.

"He's asleep in your room," Grace said. "And I think you should join him."

"I'm hungry," he disagreed and sat up a little straighter. His neck and back ached from the odd angle he had been sitting at. "How long was I ... out?"

"About an hour," Grace said. "I'll feed you, but then you're going back to bed. You're far from being well," she added. Her tone held an odd undercurrent that he couldn't identify.

"Fine," he muttered and cleared his throat. He shifted, gearing up to get up so he could drag himself into the kitchen, but Grace's hand still rested on his shoulder.

"Stay," she said.

He glanced up at her, met her eyes and flinched. Sam was right. She did look a bit like dad. Instead of arguing the point with her – an argument he was convinced he would lose at this point in time – he settled for a silent nod and watched her return to the kitchen while he forcefully squashed that tiny little seed that wanted to acknowledge her as family. Not yet, he thought. Not yet.

A moment later she returned with that tray with the legs and placed it over his lap. "Enjoy," she said.

Dean stared at the meal she was serving him and again fought down the urge to trust her without question. A quick glance up at her was all he offered before he dug into the steak dinner she had prepared. In general, he found it a bit ironic that he had no qualms about eating the food she offered, but he wasn't prepared to believe her claim despite written proof.

Grace left him alone to eat in peace and returned later to take the tray away. Then she settled down on the armchair across from him and eyed him closely. "Sam looks more like John than you do," she said.

He had thought that she would insist he go to bed and in general he felt like he should, but like always he didn't like being told what to do. He shrugged lightly at her words. He had never given it much thought who he looked like.

"But I see John more in your mannerisms than in Sam's. Sam is the rebel of the family, isn't he?" she asked on.

Dean couldn't help a smile at that. "Is it that obvious?" he countered.

"Yes, actually it is," she agreed. "What happened to him?"

A little confused about that question, Dean frowned lightly. "To Sam?" he asked, suddenly afraid that she was seeing something in his brother that he wasn't.

"No, to John. What happened to him? I've tried to find him so many times, but ... the only time I got close ... he vanished and I haven't been able to find a trace of him ever since. He wasn't ... a criminal, was he?" She sounded unsure, but Dean got the feeling that even if her brother had embarked on a life of crime, she still would have wanted to find him.

He sighed lightly. In the world of 'normal', the world of apple pie and white picket fences, he assumed his father would have been considered a criminal, but Dean knew the truth about the man and that was all that mattered. "No, he wasn't. We were just mostly on the road all the time," he said.

"Why?" Grace asked. "What about your mother? He didn't leave her, did he?"

Dean eyed the bandage on his leg for a moment, then glanced up to meet her eyes. "No, he didn't. She died. I was four," he said. Even so many years later, saying it still hurt. It dug ice picks through his defenses and threatened to bring them tumbling down. "He took it pretty hard."

Grace nodded in understanding. "That sounds like John," she said. "I'm sorry. It must be hard to lose your parents that early in life."

Dean shut down his emotions right there and then. He didn't want her pity. He was afraid of the impact it would have on him if he allowed anyone inside his barriers and he didn't know her nearly well enough to let her even get close. "We get by," he said, well aware that his tone was a bit dismissive right now.

Grace eyed him for a moment, the way she scrutinized him once more reminding him of dad and the way the man could stare daggers when he was sure he was being duped. "What's with all the weapons in your trunk?" she asked.

If she had slapped him he couldn't have been more surprised. "What?" he asked. He knew what she was referring to, but it still surprised him that she knew. His mind raced, trying to figure out when she might have seen the weapons and then realized that Sam hadn't gone out for the box in the trunk; Grace had.

"There's a duffle full of weapons in your trunk. And don't tell me you're deer hunting. You don't need an arsenal like that for hunting deer," she said.

He eyed her for a second, then dropped his gaze to his bandaged leg while frantically searching for a plausible explanation for why they would have weapons in the trunk in the first place. "They're collector's items," he said and looked up to meet her eyes. "Dad started it. We kept it up."

"Collector's items?" she asked, her tone bordering on the stunned, and he nodded.

"It's a hobby," he agreed.

"You collect weapons as a hobby?" Her tone was familiar territory. Dad had sounded the same way when he hadn't believed something either of them had said. "That's one hell of a hobby."

"It's expensive, but what can we do? I mean, we're named after a famous rifle after all. Seems kinda appropriate," he countered and shrugged lightly.

"No offence, Dean, but that's the dumbest excuse I've ever heard in my life," she said and rose. "But I'm willing to let it slide for now. You need to rest."

He couldn't help a snort. "You think I'm imagining things?"

"I doubt it," she countered and helped him get his leg off the coffee table, then held a hand out to him. "Whatever your reason is for having a trunk full of guns, I'm sure it's a good one. Just do me a favor. If you think it's none of my business, tell me so. Don't lie to me."

Her reaction to this broke the barrier between suspicion and trust a little more. He grabbed her hand and let her help him to his feet. "Okay, fine. It's none of your business," he countered and grunted at the pain from his ribs.

"That's all I need to know," she said and handed him the crutches while holding on to his arm to keep him steady. "I'm good enough at judging others to know that you're not about to rob a bank, Dean. At some point, when you feel you trust me enough, I'd like to know the reason for your nomadic lifestyle and the guns. I severely doubt that it's because you're insurance salesmen or whatever. But, as I said, for now, I'll let it slide."

He nodded, not trusting himself to speak while he made his way over to the guestroom. She followed close behind, ready to help if he should lose his balance and it both annoyed him and settled him. Once he was back in bed, he actually had to admit that he needed this. He also considered her suggestion. "Even if I told you what we do for a living, Grace, you wouldn't believe it," he claimed.

For some reason that made her smile and even her smile reminded him of dad. "You'd be amazed at what I believe," she stated. "Get some rest. We can talk more later." With that, she left the room and closed the door behind her.

Dean grabbed the remote for the bed and raised the head so he was almost sitting up. Then he grabbed his pillow and hurled it at Sam, who woke up with a start when the pillow hit him in the face.

"What the hell?" he snapped and pushed himself up on his elbow.

"You let her see the guns, you moron," Dean snapped.

"What?" Sam blinked, then sat up and scrubbed a hand over his face. "What are you talking about?"

"She saw the guns in the trunk, dude," Dean persisted. He was partially pissed and partially relieved, but knew he wouldn't have been the latter if Grace had made a fuss about it.

Sam's expression twisted. "So, we're leaving?" he asked and looked downright unhappy about the idea.

"No, she's letting it slide," Dean said and sighed. "You have got to be more careful, man. If she had been pissed about it or scared even, we would have been on our own again and, quite honestly, dude, I don't think we can right now."

"Shit," Sam muttered. "I'm sorry. I ... didn't ..."

Dean held up a hand. "Save it. We've pulled through this time," he said and relaxed into the mattress, which he swore he would find a way to take with him when they left. The idea made him smirk lightly.

"Is she pissed?" Sam asked, his eyes locked on the door.

"No, she didn't get pissed until I lied about why we have the guns," Dean countered. "She's obviously good at spotting lies, which kinda makes this situation a bit difficult. But she did give me the option of telling her to butt out, which she seems to accept. At least for now."

Sam arched an eyebrow. "Well, that makes her different from dad then, doesn't it?" he said.

"Well, she's had a different life than dad. She's not a hunter, after all. Probably doesn't even know what's out there," Dean said. "Now shut up. I need some rest," he added. "And give my pillow back," he finished.

Sam made a face and threw him the pillow, then dropped back down on the bed and went straight back to sleep. Dean watched him for a moment, then settled in to get some sleep himself. Sam had to be worse off that he seemed to fall asleep so easily.


The following day

Being unable to fend for himself was bad enough, but having to do so in a house without a television had Dean about ready to climb the walls with boredom. He felt better day by day, figured that he would soon enough be up and moving again without having to rely on those damned crutches, and after breakfast he decided it was time to lose the bandage around his left foot. The moment he had managed to get it off, he realized that might not have been such a good idea. "Holy crap," he muttered at the sight of his broken toe. Not only was it discolored, it was also swollen. He'd had enough broken bones in his life to know when something was wrong and that looked wrong.

"Grace?" he called, hoping against hope that her background as a paramedic made her capable of dealing with this.

"What's up?" She stepped through from the kitchen, a dishtowel in one hand.

"Take a look at this. It doesn't look right," he said and nodded toward his toe.

Grace walked over and eyed his foot for a moment. "It doesn't look broken," she said and prodded the swollen skin with one finger. Dean merely grimaced, keeping any claims of unprofessional behavior at bay. "It looks sprained," she added and took hold of his toe with two fingers. She felt over it, then carefully bent it. "Not broken," she confirmed and glanced at him. "I think you should leave the bandage off and keep the foot elevated as much as possible. And stay off it."

"Yes, ma'am," he muttered a little surly. He wasn't a fan of her bossy tone of voice right now.

"Don't call me that. I'm not a teacher and I'm not your superior officer. I'm your frigging aunt," she stated and gave him a look that made him a little uncomfortable.

He sighed. "Okay, Grace," he said, stressing her name. "About that," he added.

"You still don't believe it," she finished for him and gave him a crooked little smile. "That's fine. Take your time." She straightened up while a frown slipped over her brow. "And don't unwrap your right leg, okay? I'll call the hospital, find out if they can maybe send someone out here to put a cast on it."

"That's gonna be messy," he said. He had the impression that she wouldn't be too keen on the mess the process would create.

"You don't say," she shot back sarcastically. "But you need a cast on that leg. The sooner the better," she added, turned around and left the living room in search of her phone.

While she made the phone call, Dean started wondering where the hell his brother was. He hadn't seen Sam in about an hour now and it always worried him when he didn't know where Sam was.

The second Grace hung up, he shifted to better face her. "Where's Sam?" he asked.

"Upstairs," she countered. "They're sending a nurse out tomorrow morning to put a cast on your leg if the snow hasn't receded by then," she added and glanced out at the unrelenting masses of snow. It kept snowing at almost regular intervals and the temperatures were low enough for it not to melt. The snow had risen a hand's breadth up over the lower edge of the landscape window, which probably made it more than knee-deep outside.

"Which is about as likely as hair on a chicken," Dean said and gave the landscape window a somewhat irritated look.

"Hair on a chicken?" Grace eyed him closely for a moment, then shook her head, dismissing it. "I suppose so."

"What's Sam doing upstairs?" Dean asked, ignoring her obvious surprise. He had no idea where that phrase had come from in the first place. Maybe he'd just made it up.

"He's on the computer. There's no wireless in this area," she said. "Can I get you anything?"

"Nah, I'm good," Dean said. "You have a computer?" he then asked.

Grace gave up on returning to the kitchen and sank down on the armchair across from him. "Yes, I do," she said.

"Do you have a TV?" he asked on.

"Yes, I have a TV," she said and smiled.

"Where?" he asked.

"Upstairs," she countered.

Dean sent a look over to the staircase and nearly groaned. "Oh man," he muttered.

"What?" she asked.

"I'm bored, okay? My head is feeling way better and ... I'm bored stiff," he confessed.

"I get that," she said. "Why don't I bring it down here?" she asked and rose again.

He returned his attention to her and eyed her. She wasn't exactly weak-looking. "Not a big one, eh?" he asked nonetheless.

"Big enough," she countered. "I actually have two. A big one and a small one."

He knew he was being pushy, but the prospect of avoiding further boredom made it really hard for him to keep this under wraps. "How big's the big one?"

"Fifty inches," she said. "But that stays upstairs. It's too heavy to lug downstairs."

He nodded. "What about the smaller one?"

"Twenty-six inches," she said.

"Bigger than any motel set," he said, mostly to himself, then gave her a crooked grin.

Grace snorted and shook her head lightly. "I'll bring it down," she said.

"Isn't it heavy?" he asked, not sure he wanted to risk her dropping it or something like that.

"It's a flat screen TV. It doesn't weigh that much," she said and disappeared upstairs.

Dean knew it was only a matter of time before not even TV could distract him, but he was happy for at least that. And once he had the damned cast on, things should get better on the motion-front.

The TV was put in place and he was quite happy to lose himself in the inanities of daytime TV for a while; especially since Grace had any channel imaginable. To his delight he found a channel that showed nothing but old monster movies and before he knew it, the day had basically passed with an endless parade of movies he had seen hundreds of times before and never tired of seeing again.

"Dude, what are you watching?"

Dean glanced up at his brother and smirked. "Godzilla vs. Mothra," he countered.

Sam settled down next to him and watched for a moment while the two monsters fought it out, then glanced at Dean. "Is that the one that dad liked?" he asked.

"He liked all of them, as long as they were the old versions," Dean said and sighed lightly. "I must have watched that one with him about a million times."

"Yeah," Sam muttered and eased back on the couch.

They watched in silence for a while. Dean didn't really need to watch the movie. He knew it by heart. But it just felt good to sit here and watch something they'd shared with their father. It almost felt as if dad was with them.