They sat at the dining table, having coffee and what passed for an awkward silence. Grace sat still, watching Sam watching Dean as if the kid couldn't take his eyes off his brother right now. Dean sat with Mary Lynne in his lap, not talking, just holding onto her as if she were a lifeline that kept him tethered to this world. JD was with Bobby, being fed intermittently, while the older hunter kept glaring at Dean, who for some reason managed to ignore him right now.

"So," she finally said. She had expected someone to talk. Maybe Dean, to give his version of what had happened, maybe Sam, demanding to know where his brother had been, maybe even Bobby, demanding much the same explanation she would have expected Sam to request. But none of them had yet to say a word. "First and foremost ... I think I would like to know where you've been."

Dean glanced at her over the top of his daughter's head, then almost gingerly rested his chin on the unruly mop of hair. Mary Lynne was the only occupant at this table right now who seemed truly happy. "Might not be the best conversation to have with the kids around."

Grace gave him a look she hoped he understood, but when he didn't react to it, only met her eyes dead on, she sighed. "These kids are tougher than all hell," she said and pursed her lips at the titter that escaped Mary Lynne. She had a thing about swearing that made her giggle. If they kept it up, she would giggle hysterically in a minute.

JD took that moment to take it upon himself to help things along and dug both hands into the bowl of sweet corn gruel he seemed to like so much. "Hey, cut that out," Bobby admonished him. The boy gave him a baleful look, then stuffed one hand into his mouth, sucking the sticky gruel off it. "This brat listens as much as you did, Sam," Bobby added, then shifted his attention back to Dean. "Care to fill us in or ...?"

Dean glanced down at his daughter, then made a face. "I saw who killed her," he said. "I had to ... stop her from doing it again."

They all stared at him now, with apprehension, which concern, with curiosity. "Who was it?" Sam asked. His voice was still hoarse. After the funeral, he had gone all quiet, all tense, and hadn't spoken much. JD and Mary Lynne had become his focus, but his demeanor had changed. Now that Dean was back, he seemed incapable of finding a mood to settle on.

Dean met his gaze dead on. "Moira," he said.

Grace felt a shudder rush up her spine. "That hunter woman?"

Apparently her choice of words was funny to Dean, because he smirked briefly. "Yeah, the same," he said, his tone tense.

Grace held up a hand, stopping both Sam and Bobby from saying what they had in mind. "Just tell us one thing," she said, her gaze fixed on Dean. "Is she ... gone?"

Dean stared at her for a second, then returned his attention to Mary Lynne. "She will never do this to anyone else again," he said quietly, his tone very tense. "Ever!"

"That's all we need to know," she said. Bobby opened his mouth to protest, but she gave him a dark glare. "That's all we need to know," she repeated.

Bobby rose, handed JD over to Sam and then nodded at the doorway. "Can I talk to you outside for a moment?" he asked.

Grace eyed him, then rose too and followed him outside.

Bobby closed the door almost carefully behind them, then turned around to face her. "Grace," he said.

She raised both hands. "Don't even start with me," she warned.

"I know that you feel that it's your right and your job or whatever to stand up for him, but trust me when I tell you, Dean is quite capable of doing that himself. And he knows he messed up. He knows he made a really bad decision by bailing out on Sam and not staying in touch," he cut her off. "That don't mean I don't get to remind him."

"He lost his girlfriend, the mother of his child, to a selfish, insane woman. He is going to spend the rest of his life blaming himself for not shooting Moira in the head sooner. You really think he needs to be chewed out right now?" Grace countered and folded her arms over her chest.

"I think he needs to be reminded, yes," Bobby said. "He's not the only one who's lost someone. The look I saw in his eyes when he left that funeral ... he looked exactly like his daddy. John was not a good father, Grace. I don't give a damn that he was your brother and that you loved him to bits. It don't make a bit of difference in the whole scheme of things. He messed those boys in there up because he didn't know any better and because he was a stubborn ass."

Her initial urge to retort angrily was stopped in its tracks by the sheer sense of it. She closed her eyes briefly, then pursed her lips. "If you weren't a fan of John's, I don't really understand how you put up with me," she finally said and suddenly felt very tired.

Bobby scrubbed a hand over his mouth and briefly glanced out over the lawn. "Cause you're not John," he finally said and focused on her again. "You got sense enough to back down when you know you're wrong. You ain't afraid to admit to it either. And that makes you different. And you're not stingy with the affection, which is what both of those knuckleheads in there need. They need a mom and you're it. You're the designated driver here, Grace. You can't let'em get away with crap like this."

"Tough love, is that what you're saying?" she asked and couldn't help a small smile. "Isn't that what John did to them?"

"No, John put Dean in charge of Sam when he was four years old. That's not tough love, that's bailing out where you're needed the most," Bobby countered somewhat harshly. "What Dean did to Sam here is exactly the same thing John did to Dean when he suddenly took off without a word and left the boy on his own. Sam may have had us around and the kids to take care of, but he was still floundering. And he's afraid of demanding an explanation or letting his disappointment show in case Dean decides to take off again."

Grace blinked, glanced at the front door, then shoved her hands into the pockets of her jeans. "You think so?"

"I know so," Bobby said. "So don't defend him too much. And stand up for Sam too. He needs to know that Dean's not your favorite."

That made her frown. "He's not, actually. I don't have favorites," she said a little sternly.

"Sam's lost as much, if not more, as Dean. While Michelle was ripped away way too early, Dean didn't have to stand by and watch her wither and die. Sam's lost two women that were important in his life. Jessica and now Isabel. As you know, he thinks he's cursed. Personally, I can totally relate to that one. What we gotta do now is convince him he ain't, that his mere presence isn't going to get his kid killed."

Grace nodded. "You're right," she agreed. "They both need to know this, though."

"And there's only one way that they'll get that point. And we ain't gonna be able to help them if we're way out there in South Dakota," Bobby pressed on.

"What are you saying?" Grace asked, but already knew where this was heading.

"Either they gotta move or we gotta. Ain't no other way this will ever turn out good," Bobby said.

"I don't have the impression that either of them are too keen on staying here," Grace surmised and gave the front door a scrutinizing look. "Let's talk to them about it."


The following day

The following morning, Bobby received a phone call that made him step outside for some privacy. Grace frowned briefly at this, then turned her attention toward the guys. "Listen, boys. There's something we have to talk about," she said.

"That's kinda what we want to do too," Dean countered evenly.

In some sense it bothered her a little that he showed no outward signs of how he felt. And this counter offer made her stall a little. "About what?" she asked, wondering if they were already on the same page.

"About us staying here," Dean said. Sam, so far, had said nothing. He was still pretty much caught up in his grief and seemed to have trouble focusing. "The thing is ... no matter how much we don't want to right now, there's still work to be done. There are always critters to kill and people to protect. But ... we can't do that anymore. Not the way we used to. Not with the kids around."

Grace frowned. "If you're suggesting that we take the kids off your hands ..."

The look on his face made her stop short. He looked downright horrified at the mere suggestion. "No, not at all," he cut her off even though she had stopped on her own. "That's not what we want. We definitely wanna be there for the kids. That's not the issue. The issue is ... we can't do the job and take care of these two at the same time. Moving around like we did ... it's not good for them. So ... we were kinda hoping we could find a way to ... involve you guys. If you want to, that is."

Bobby stepped back inside, his expression as unreadable as ever. Grace had the feeling that he had something on his mind related to that phone call, but she was too focused on what Dean had said right now. "Okay, so essentially we're on the same page then," she said. "That's what we were discussing yesterday."

Dean glanced at Bobby, then elbowed Sam in the side when he made no indication of listening to what they were saying. "Pay attention, dude," he said quietly.

Sam frowned at him, then glanced at Bobby, then at Grace. "What?" he asked.

"Just got off the phone with the girls lawyer," Bobby said and sat down.

"Why are you talking to their lawyer?" Dean asked, a little confused.

Bobby glanced at Sam, who was drifting again. "'Cause we promised Sam we'd take care of everything. That includes talking to the suits about what's left," he said.

Sam glanced at him, then returned his attention to that particularly interesting spot on the table top.

Dean nodded in agreement. "That's helpful," he mused. "So ... what'd the guy say?"

"They left the two of you everything," Bobby said. "The houses, the cars, the money, the kids. Everything. There's a will for both of them. Looks like they came prepared."

Dean arched an eyebrow. "Wow, that's ... well, at least that means we don't have to ask someone for permission to sell these houses," he said.

"Better yet, when you do, you get to pocket the money. Don't expect too much for them, though. There's about ten houses per person out there right now," Bobby countered. "The good news is the money they left you. Did either of you know how much they were good for?"

Sam still didn't pay attention, but had started scratching idly at the spot on the tabletop. Dean, however, stared at Bobby. "Well ... I knew she was well off, but ... we've never discussed the amount."

Bobby nodded. "Technically speaking, neither of them would have had to ever work again," he said. "That they did ... well, some people just need something to do with their time." He focused solely on Dean. "Michelle was good for a little over ten million dollars," he added.

Whatever smartass reply Dean might have had planned on got stuck in his throat. He stared at Bobby for a moment. "Say what?" he asked.

"You heard me," Bobby claimed and shifted his attention to Sam. "Isabel was more money-minded, I think. She's left you a little over fifteen million dollars, Sam."

Sam just sat there, his finger on the spot, his eyes glued to the table top, then he shifted his gaze a bit and looked up at Bobby. "I don't care," he muttered.

Grace sighed lightly. Sam's complete indifference to the amount just mentioned made it abundantly clear to her that it would take a while before he started caring about anything other than Isabel's absence. She changed seats and settled down next to him, laying a hand over his and covering the spot. But she said nothing. There really was nothing to say right now.

"What ... we're good for ... close to twenty million dollars here?" Dean asked and he sounded as flabbergasted as he looked.

Bobby made a face. "If you round up liberally, you're still not gonna hit twenty. But it's still a truckload of money."

"Wow. I had no idea," Dean muttered and glanced at Sam, then reached out and clamped a hand onto his shoulder. "At least we won't have to worry about how to feed the kids, dude."

Sam's expression tensed up a little. "I don't care," he repeated in a low tone of voice.

Dean eyed him for a moment, then nodded lightly. "I get that," he agreed. "No amount of money is gonna bring them back."

"So ... you're okay with this plan?" Bobby asked and kept his attention on Dean. There was no sense discussing practical matters like this with Sam right now.

"What plan's that?" Dean asked.

Bobby glanced at Grace. "You didn't tell them?" he asked.

"I was trying to, but you interrupted," she countered evenly.

"Right," Bobby grumbled, then returned his attention to Dean. "We suggest you sell these houses and move into a house close to the junkyard. The three places closest to my place are empty. I checked into the ownership, but it seems the town has taken them over. So ... all we gotta do is give them a good price and whichever house you choose is yours. That way we can look after the kids when you're off doing your job. And you have a place to come back to that's yours."

"Sounds like a plan to me," Dean agreed, then glanced at Sam. "Right?"

But Sam didn't answer, just sat there and stared darkly at the tabletop. Dean looked over at Grace, who was still sitting on Sam's other side, and arched an eyebrow. To her it seemed almost as if he wanted her to deal with Sam's mood. But how could she? Even though she had lost people she loved, it was still hard for her to understand what Sam had to be going through. She figured that Dean was closer to understanding him than anyone else. "I think you two should figure out when you want to get out of here and we'll just take the kids for a walk," she said and rose.


For a long time after Grace and Bobby had left, Dean just sat there and stared at Sam. Under normal circumstances, his brother would have told him to quit it, but Sam seemed oblivious to the scrutiny he was under.

"Sammy, you gotta snap out of this funk you're in," he finally said.

Obviously, his assumption that Sam wasn't paying attention was wrong. Sam glanced at him. "She's been in the ground for a week, Dean. Isabel. A week. Could you just cut me some slack here?" He didn't plead, he was angry.

"Step two," Dean said.

"What?" Sam snapped.

"You're angry. That's step two," Dean explained. "Sam, I know this is tough on you. But you can't blame yourself for this. Jessica's death wasn't your fault. Isabel's is even less your fault. Cancer is nobody's fault."

"If I hadn't gotten involved with her ..." Sam started, but Dean cut him off.

"She would still be dead, Sam. It was probably genetic," he suggested, then grimaced. Wrong thing to say. He could tell that Sam instantly made the connection.

"Then JD may have it as well," he said while paling.

"Not necessarily. But we can have a doctor check it out. Talk to Isabel's doctor. Maybe he knows more about this, how she got it. Just stop blaming yourself for it."

Sam's expression tightened. "How can I? Everyone I get close to dies."

"Bullshit," Dean spat, getting angry himself now. "Grace isn't dead, is she? Or Bobby? Or me? And if anyone's in the line of fire here, it would have to be Bobby and me. And we're still here, aren't we?" He hauled in a deep breath and held it for a moment. Then he grabbed Sam's wrist. "Listen to me and listen good, Sam. No matter what abilities they may have slapped you with ... you don't kill your loved ones. Mom died because of the demon, not because of you." Sam opened his mouth to object, but Dean tightened his grip on his wrist, stopping him. "Dad didn't die because of you either. If anyone should take the blame for his death, it's me. He died to save me. Jessica died because of the demon. True, she may still have been alive if she hadn't met you, but she did and there's no going back and changing things. Isabel died of natural causes. No matter how you twist and turn it, cancer is a natural cause. It sucks out loud, but it's still a natural cause." He gave Sam a moment to collect himself, to maybe start arguing, but when he didn't, he plowed on. "I know how you feel, Sammy. I know 'cause I've known you all your life and I know what you're thinking. But getting all hung up over the past isn't good for you. You can't go back and change it. You gotta take the good with the bad and learn from it and then move on. I'm not saying you should forget her. I'm saying you have to keep on living. Because Isabel would want that. And you have JD to look after." He hesitated for a moment. "And me."

Sam blinked, then finally focused on him. "You?" he asked, obviously a little uncertain.

"Yeah, me. You think I got any kind of life without you?" he countered and smirked joylessly. "Sam ... I need my family more than I need anything else. I don't think I could live on my own. I tried being alone when dad up and left and I hated it. I hated it so much, I had to come get you to help me find him. Not because I couldn't have found him on my own, but because I didn't want to."

For a moment all Sam did was stare at him. Then he returned his attention to that spot on the tabletop while making no attempt to pull out of Dean's grip. "I feel so damned bad," he finally muttered.

"Yeah, I know you do," Dean agreed, but Sam looked up, his eyes burning.

"No, I feel bad because I was more worried about you. I loved her, you know. I loved the way she made me feel, the way she laughed, the way she did stuff. The way she always knew how to take over when I needed it. But ... losing you would be worse." He grimaced. "I know how that sounds, okay? So keep your snarky remarks to yourself."

Dean shook his head once. "No snark," he said quietly. "All while I was tracking Moira, all I could think about was that she needed to pay. Not just for Michelle, but for you as well, for what she did to you. And when it was all over, all I could think about was getting back here as fast as I could. Because of Mary Lynne. But mostly because of you. And I didn't even know about Isabel then."

Sam met his eyes for a moment, then managed the tiniest of smiles. "Thought you didn't do chick-flick moments," he said quietly.

Dean grinned. "Dude, if you ever tell anyone about this ... I'll deny everything."

That pulled the first real chuckle from Sam. It was still broken, still hesitant and unsure, but it was there and it gave Dean hope that Sam would pull through this as well. "Thanks, Dean," Sam muttered.

"Dude ... without family, what are we? We just need to get back on track here. I say we pack up what we want to bring and leave the rest for any potential buyers. I'm sure that lawyer-dude will be more than happy to manage the sale of the houses here," Dean said, then eyed Sam closely. "Unless you wanna stay?"

His brother didn't even need to think about that. He shook his head instantly. "No way. There's way too much that reminds me of Izzie here," he said and glanced around the living room. "I don't even think I like this house anyway."

Dean nodded. "Yeah, I feel the same way. Whatever made it home, it's gone." He let go of Sam's wrist and rose. "Come one, man. Let's get this show on the road. We can tell the parental units about our decision when they get back."

Sam frowned. "Parental units?" he asked, then obviously understood who Dean was talking about.

"Bobby and Grace have been more parents to us than our own parents, dude. Mom didn't have a choice, of course. But dad? He messed up. And I think he knew it too."

Sam sighed heavily, then rose. "He did the best he could, Dean," he said and managed the first sincere smile since Dean had returned.

"Forward motion, dude. The moment you can stand up and defend dad to me, we're moving forward," Dean countered with a grin.

The End