Still don't own them...too bad!

Here comes the next chapter:

Chapter 12

The call had unsettled him, definitely so, even before Sam had come out in the open and told him what it was all about. Not that it was unusual for the Winchesters to call him for help, far from it. It was just that lately, since they had gotten older, especially since Dean had been old enough to drive, it hadn't been that often anymore…actually not at all.

When they'd been younger, it had happened every once in a while on a fairly regular basis. John had left them somewhere, to go on a hunt of course, hadn't made it back in time. Or else, had been hurt and unable to get back. Usually there had been some kind of plan of action, one that Dean always followed closely. If John hadn't returned after a certain time, Dean would call Bobby, ask him for help, to come get them or simply come and stay with them. Sometimes, when emergencies had occurred, such as one of the boys getting sick or hurt, food running out, neighbours getting curious, something hunting them, Dean would call earlier, and of course Bobby would come, no exception.

He loved those boys like he would his own sons, he'd always be there for them.

What had been a little unsettling this time, to begin with, was the fact that it hadn't been Dean who had called him but Sam. It would always be the older boy, he was the one taking care of everything usually. If Sam called it had to mean that something was wrong with Dean. Couldn't be good.

Sam had beat around the bush for a while, asking Bobby to come, please, but not been forthcoming with much more information, reluctant for some reason.

But eventually Sam had caved in, telling Bobby everything, or at least so much it made Bobby's head spin, a flood of words pouring out of the kid, not wanting to stop all of a sudden. The parts that Bobby had caught hadn't been good, that much he knew and he had promised Sam to be there as soon as possible, that he'd get in the car and be on the road within the hour. An all the way he couldn't help himself but curse John Winchester for treating his sons the way he did. Those were two damn fine kids, they didn't deserve this shit. He'd deal with John, this time for sure…Bobby being the only one ever standing up to the man, anyway. Not that it helped, usually, but who knew. Something might get stuck in that thick head of his.

He walked down the fairly empty halls of the hospital now, lights dimmed down since it was already well past 9 pm. Had still taken him a while to get here. He asked his way around until he found the right ward, strode up to the nurse's station. A young black nurse looked up at him, gave him a warm smile.

"Can I help you, sir?"

"Yeah, hope so. I'm looking for a Dean…Webster. He's a patient here…his brother Sam is staying with him!"

The nurse gave him a wide smile and Bobby immediately knew that Dean had once again found a willing victim to his charm. He couldn't be all that bad when he was already able to charm the women around him.

"I'm the boys' uncle, Bob Singer." Bobby extended a hand to the young woman and Deborah, according to her nametag, shook it warmly.

"Their dad, he asked me to come take care of them. He has to work, can't get away …he's terribly sorry but you know, can't loose his job now, needing the insurance and all…"

The nurse smiled again, came around the counter.

"I'm glad you're here. Seems like the boys spent a whole lot of time on their own, lately. I wasn't going to say anything but I think they could really need some support there."

Bobby nodded, tried to keep his expression as neutral as possible.

"Yeah, I know. It's been a little rough on all of them. But I'm here now, so it's going to fine! Just, before you show me to their room…I would like to tell me how Dean really is doing…you know, everything. So I can see through the tough guy image he'll put up for his little brother's benefit."

"Yes, I kind of got that impression, too. Still, they appear to be so close, it almost breaks my heart. I wish my own kids would get along half as well…"

Again this knowing smile from the nurse as she led Bobby a little to the side to fill him in on all the gruesome details that Sam somehow seemed to have forgotten to share.

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The light in the room was dim but not completely turned off. Bobby pushed the door open quietly, stepped inside to ease it shut again behind him. He was surprised to find both boys asleep, it was still far too early for both of them to be out like that. But then, they both must be exhausted.

Sam sat hunched on the foot of Dean's bed, curled up against Dean's left leg where he had apparently fallen asleep playing some kind of card game with his brother…the cards now abandoned on the table between the boys. Bobby had to smile at the awkward position the younger boy was slumped in. If he let him sleep like that the kid would have one hell of a kinked neck in the morning.

His eyes travelled over to where Dean lay and he had to swallow hard on the sight. The boy lay on his back, headboard raised up so he sat more or less upright. Event though the blanket covered most of his body up to his chest he looked painfully thin, must have lost so much weight over the past weeks. The bruising on his face had already faded considerably but Bobby could still make out the severity of the injuries caused and couldn't help but wince in sympathy. He was also still way too pale, dark smudges underneath his eyes shadowed even more by long, slightly curled up lashes. His left wrist was only lightly bandaged anymore while a heavy cast still encased his right wrist and most of the fingers. Other than that Bobby couldn't see any of the other injuries he knew to be there, hidden underneath the covers and layers of bandages.

He stood there for an eternity, watching them, thinking about whether or not to wake them, finally deciding against it. They needed their sleep. He'd just make sure that he would be there when they woke up.

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Sam woke up to a stiff neck and the beginning of a pounding headache. He pried his eyes open, taking in the cards strewn out across the little table in front of him. He groaned inwardly at the screwed up position he was lying in. Lifting his head carefully to not wake Dean with the sudden movement he rotated his neck, feeling stiffened muscles snapping back into place. One look at his brother told him that he was still out, at least still sleeping peacefully, not plagued by those nightmares again. Maybe it was the physical contact keeping him calm, Sam wondered silently.

Then suddenly he tensed.

Someone else was in the room with them. He was trained well enough as a hunter to sense someone else there with them, hidden in the shadowed corner of the room, low breathing almost inaudible.

SHIT.

Sam tried to stay calm on the outside, keep his body relaxed so he wouldn't give himself away. His mind was working in overdrive though, eyes frantically searching his immediate surroundings for anything he could use as a weapon against whatever was lurking in the corner. His eyes fell on the knitting needle one of the nurses had given Dean to be able to scratch underneath the itching cast on his wrist. It wasn't particularly sharp but still usable as a weapon, sort of. The thing lay on the nightstand next to Dean's other side.

Sam judged the distance, tried to determine how far away the stranger's breathing appeared to be. If he hauled himself up and across his brother he might be able to reach the needle, problem was he would not only wake Dean in the process but definitely hurt him in doing so. While his mind was still reeling, he realized that the rhythm of the breathing changed ever so slightly and before his still sleep-clogged brain could decide on a course of action a voice suddenly spoke in a low, soft tone. Only two words, but they immediately broke down his tension and he almost sobbed out in relief.

"Hey Sam!"

"Bobby…"

Somehow Sam still managed to crawl out of the bed without jostling Dean or waking him up but as soon as he was out he rushed over to the older hunter and basically threw himself into his arms.

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Bobby had wanted to go outside, just out the door and talk to Sam so they wouldn't wake Dean but of course the kid wouldn't hear of it. So they ended up in the farthest corner of the room, talking in low voices, always in sight of the bed so they'd see when Dean would wake up, could be there right away.

What worried Bobby was the fact that Dean didn't wake during their little chat, the older Winchester usually highly alert even in sleep. That really did show how weak he still was. He made Sam tell him again, everything that the boy knew, which, knowing John and Dean, probably wasn't half the truth, but it was enough to give him the rough picture. That and the information he had gotten out of the nurse plus everything he was still planning on getting from the doctor would give him something to work with.

He was so going to kick John's butt the second he got a hold of him…

Dean didn't wake until the early morning hours and while the greeting he gave Bobby wasn't quite as impulsive and emotional as Sam's had been Bobby still felt the utter relief that flooded the boy as he realized that they weren't alone in this anymore, some freakingly heavy weight been lifted off his shoulders.

Immediately the question of them leaving had been raised, by Dean of course, who couldn't stand hospitals, period and was about to bolt the minute he saw his chance in Bobby who had come to the rescue. The older hunter had been able to, with much difficulty, persuade the stubborn kid to hang in there for a couple of more days, had promised to talk to the doctor about the subject. He still wasn't entirely sure where John had gone to, had gotten some leads from some of his sources but hadn't been able to confirm the oldest Winchester's whereabouts for certain. Just taking the boys and leaving somehow didn't seem right, he wasn't their father, after all. He was a little bit surprised to find out that John had actually put down Bobby's name on the list of relatives allowed to be left in charge of the boys.

That, of course, made things considerably easier. For one, he wouldn't need to spring them from the hospital, which would have been no small feat what with Dean's still weakened condition. It still left him with the decision on when exactly to take them and leave. According to the doctors Dean still wasn't in the condition to leave, needed to rest and get his strength back, while the boy himself saw things differently.

Bobby agreed that he would probably heal a lot faster once he was out of there. He shared the boy's distaste for hospitals, understood his urge to leave and heal in a more comfortable environment. Since Bobby didn't plan on staying in whatever crappy motel the Winchesters had set up their latest camp in, he had made the decision in taking them home with him. There at least they would have a room to themselves, some peace and quiet. Some half decent food, even though he had no idea how he was going to manage that, home cooking not really being his turf.

Time to heal.

Sam still clung to the idea that their dad was going to come back but while Dean never came out in the open and actually say it Bobby could see the silent defeat in the older boy's eyes, as if he'd lost faith. Bobby decided that, even though he himself was mad as hell at John for leaving his sons like that, he couldn't let Dean lose trust in his father, no matter what. It was what kept him going, after all. John might have made a lot of mistakes in his life, one of his biggest most definitely leaving his boys in a situation like this, but he was their father after all. And you could think whatever you wanted about him, but he did love his sons, more than his own life. And while Bobby himself could not imagine what would drive a man you leave his boys like that he figured that John probably had his reasons and if it was only because he thought he was protecting them from something.

Bobby watched Dean push himself to his limits the next couple of days, the prospect of getting away from the hated hospital apparently giving him renewed strength. That and the fact that he was not carrying the weight of responsibility on his own shoulders anymore. Both Bobby and Sam had their hands full with keeping Dean in line and stop him from overexerting himself. Sam hardly ever left his big brother's side, which probably was just as well.

Finally, on his second day, Bobby took Sam with him to the motel they'd been staying at to pack their few possessions. The only thing they had to leave behind was the Impala and Bobby knew that he'd have to break that to Dean very carefully and definitely at the right moment. He'd come back for the car, sure thing, but it might still be some time until Dean would be up to drive her back to Bobby's place which was a couple of hours away after all.

Bobby helped Sam load their two duffels into the trunk of his own truck, then sent the kid to the office to say his farewells to Mrs. Bishop, the nice motel-owner who had helped them out during those first dreadful days. The room was still paid for till the end of the month and Bobby left it at that, Sam only asking for them to be allowed to leave the Impala in the lot until they could come back to pick it up.

Sam, of course, was worried about school – he hadn't been back there since the "accident", had missed almost two weeks already and knew that he was not going to be able to go back there, ever. Truth be told, Bobby had no idea how to handle that. He had called the school to make sure that they knew about the boys' absence but had found out that John had already handled that. So he chose to wait until John came back…which could be anywhere from days to weeks from now, but he'd let him handle it in time. If push came to shove he'd figure something out eventually.

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Bobby had tried to talk to Sam about Dean, had tried to coax at least part of the truth out of him. It wasn't hard to figure out that something was off with those two, apart from the obvious. Both were keeping something from him, but somehow Bobby couldn't shake the feeling that they were keeping something from each other as well. At least Dean was, no doubt protecting his little brother or so the stubborn kid thought. And Sammy hid something too, only that he was more obvious about it than his bigger brother, who was a professional when it came to hiding his feelings, under normal circumstances. If the kid hadn't been in so much pain Bobby was sure he would have had a much harder time to find something amiss.

Cracking Sam had been fairly easy. On their little field trip to the motel, the kid had finally opened up, telling Bobby about the dreams Dean was having, nightmares was more like it. Telling him not the whole truth, he was sure of it, but he got a pretty good picture of how it frightened the kid, not even being able to wake his brother because he couldn't stand to see the devastation in his eyes. Because Sammy knew that keeping his game face on, especially in front of his baby-brother meant more to Dean than anything.

Bobby slowly came to imagine the strain Sammy had to have been under this last week or so before he came along. Not knowing what had attacked his brother, Dean apparently not remembering, or, more likely, not sharing what he did. Those two being alone in this and Sammy, only 12 after all, in charge to watch out for his brother who would most definitely not be able to fight should that thing come after him again.

God, he must have been so scared. That and seeing his strong, older brother so weak, so vulnerable, his hero basically broken in front of him, it had to have been hell. For both of them. This whole thing went both ways.

Bobby had wanted to talk to Dean, too, but it was close to impossible with his little brother around all the time. Dean would never open up with him there so Bobby had to find a way to get to him alone.

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Back at the hospital, their duffels stored safely in Bobby's truck, the older hunter sent Sam off to the cafeteria, gave him a couple of dollars to treat himself to something sweet and some magazines with the unspoken hint to stay gone for a while. And while he was sure that Sammy had a pretty good idea on what he had planned out, for once the kid complied without discussion.

The older hunter approached the younger one carefully, pulling up the chair that had practically been imprinted with an image of Sammy's backside over the last couple of days and settled himself next to Dean.

Dean eyed him suspiciously. The kid wasn't stupid, he knew something was different when Bobby had sent his little brother away.

"So, I talked to your doctor and he said we could get you out of here tomorrow…"

At that Dean's face lit up ever so slightly, lips tugging into an involuntary smile.

"He's not overly excited about it, mind you. Would still like to keep you around for a couple of days. But of course I told him that there was no way you'd go for it. Told him he was lucky you went with it this far."

Dean wouldn't miss the slight irony in these words but Bobby didn't care. The kid couldn't quite wipe that smile off his face, too. If that wasn't worth it Bobby didn't know what would be. He had hardly had any reason to smile for far too long now.

"There are a few conditions, though." He got Dean to nod his assent before going on.

"I'll take you guys back to my place. I know the drive won't be too much fun but better than staying at that dump of a motel, right? Once there, you stay in bed or on the sofa, sleep and watch TV, eat the food we give you, take your medication. The moment you feel funny, something hurts out of the ordinary, you let us know. No fooling around on this one, Dean, you got it? This is still serious. If those stitches reopen, the internal injuries start bleeding again we gotta react right away. With that many broken ribs to top it off, you can't move around too much, period, not for a while. You do exactly what I tell you, no taking risks on this one. You take it easy, rest, give yourself time to heal. I know you feel like hell, no use denying it, but pushing yourself too far, being angry at yourself is not going to help you get better any sooner, on the contrary. You gotta let Sam and me help you, Dean. You're not alone in this, got that?"

Dean had looked directly at Bobby during most of his little speech, but at the last two sentences his eyes had shadowed over again, head not turning but eyes averting reluctantly from the hunter's face.

Bobby could see him struggling but he wasn't going to let him off the hook easily, not this time.

"Dean, are we clear on this?"

"Yeah Bobby, whatever you say. Just as long as you get me out of here."

Still not looking at him so Bobby kept staring at the young man, thinking of how to handle this. He didn't really have all that much experience in getting kids to talk, especially Winchesters. Give him a demon to exorcise any day… but this?

"I know there is something you are not telling me, Dean. But if it's got something to do with whatever did this to you, you better spill it now. I got to know everything there is to know in order to be able to protect you guys…"

Again Dean didn't answer, his eyes glued to a very interesting spot in his lap, fingers of his left hand tracing nervous patterns on his hospital gown.

"Dean…"

"Bobby, no. I already talked about this with dad…there is nothing I remember. Nothing you can do to help besides everything you already are doing. You just get us out of here and as far away as possible. I'll be alright then, I promise."

Bobby hadn't missed the way Dean's voice shook slightly at the mention of his dad, the way his eye flicked up to him for the beat of a second, then quickly shot away again. Well wasn't that just great. The guilt John was able to instill in his sons when he himself was the one who had messed up. Royally.

John Winchester left and Dean felt guilty as hell. He was so going to have a little talk with John once he got back.

Bobby took off his ever present baseball cap, ran a hand through his hair, put the cap back on. Stalling tactic – he knew. Whatever it took.

He forced himself to soften his voice. Not that he usually meant to snap or speak harshly to the kid, it was just the way he usually spoke. It was also the tone of voice Dean would be most likely to obey to. His dad's military-like training having paid off, apparently. But Bobby couldn't, wouldn't force Dean into sharing this. This he had to do on his own accord.

"Dean, this isn't your fault…you know that, right?"

Again that flicker of…something…in his eyes. Guilt and pain and fear and something else…

"Yeah, I know." Defiant and almost angry now. Definitely not accepting.

"No, Dean, I mean it. None of this is. You can't be that st…you can't have that low an opinion of yourself. You did good, everything you could. You survived, after all, made it back. Few people would have been strong enough."

Dean grunted at that, immediately wincing, too, as the slight huff strained his chest.

"Yeah, well…you go tell dad…" SHIT.

From the panicked look that immediately crept into the kid's eyes Bobby saw clearly that Dean hadn't intended to say that out loud. He turned at least two shades whiter, too, and that was no small feat considering how pale he already was.

Dean tried to turn away from him then, moving over despite the pain it apparently caused him. Immediately Bobby put a restraining hand on the boy's shoulder, holding him back and in place.

"Dean, your dad knows…he knows it wasn't your fault. Why would you even think that?"

Another bitter grunt, a little more subdued this time but still not answering, still refusing to look at him.

"Dean, look at me. This has nothing to do with you, alright? Your dad left because he is an idiot, I'll give you that. He shouldn't have left, no doubt, but I can assure you that it wasn't because of anything you did or said."

Dean said nothing for the longest of times, apparently working on getting up the courage though, trying to sort his tumbled thoughts, bring them in the right order. Bobby gave him time, sitting by patiently, waiting. He was not gonna press him, but neither was he going to let him get out of this, not this time. When he finally did speak, he still didn't look at Bobby directly, but at least he spoke.

"What makes you so sure?" His voice sounded raspy, as if he hadn't used it in a long time. Close to cracking but not quite there yet. And Bobby knew Dean would fight it with every bit of strength left in him.

"You of all people should know that your dad…he can get a little…obsessive, when it comes to hunting, right? I mean, this isn't the first time he took off, not the first time he left you guys alone. I won't argue with you on how inappropriate a time this is, but that's just your father. Dean, he's made mistakes, plenty of them. You can say whatever you want about John, but you can't say that he doesn't love you guys with all his heart…"

Again Dean was quiet for a minute or two, his eyes shadowed by long lashes, not giving anything away, as usual.

"Dean, your dad loves you, both of you. Believe me, he would never be disappointed in you, he loves you too damn much." Too much for his own good, sometimes.

There was no way of telling if Dean believed him or not. Bobby could see him struggling, trying, wanting to believe more than anything. How could that be so damn hard?

The kid had started to close up again and Bobby knew that once he had, there was no going back. He had no idea what had happened to make Dean feel so strongly about this. The kid usually did load heaps and heaps of responsibility and guilt onto his own back, but this was pretty heavy, even for him.

"Are you going to tell me what happened?" Bobby tried again. He was one hundred percent sure now that Dean knew exactly what had happened. He was almost as sure that he was not going to share. It surprised him even more when Dean gave him a smile, and not one of his cocky devil-may-care smiles but an actually genuine one. A little sad and insecure, as if he didn't really know how to handle this, but it was a start.

"You know, Bobby, I think I do need some time to…deal with this whole caring and sharing kind of thing here…"

Another smile, already a little more Dean this time. The pieces slowly falling back into place again.

"But I promise that you'll be the first to know once I'm ready."

Back in full mode now, but Bobby still knew that something had stuck. Something in his eyes that was…genuine. A thank you – unspoken but screaming loud and clear through those intense green eyes of his, betraying his cocky words. Somehow Bobby knew that Dean actually meant it, that he'd tell him once he was ready – if he should ever be, however doubtful that might be. But it was the thought that counted, right?

"So, you are going to spring me tomorrow, huh?"

Bobby actually had to smile at how easily Dean slipped back into his game.

"Yeah, if you're up to it. Unless you wanna stay and take another hit at the nurses."

"Nah, I think I'm good. Besides, the other patients need the attention I've been drawing away from them."

Oh yes, Dean Winchester was back, no doubt about that. A little worse for wear, but back. Bobby was about to get up, find Sam and get him back to his brother's side when Dean reached out to actually grab a hold of his arm.

"Bobby, one more thing. I need to ask you a favour."

"Sure, whatever you want, kiddo."

"Tomorrow, when we're out of here…I need you to take me somewhere…There's someone I need to see before we leave."

Tbc

AN:

Alright, only one more chapter to go after this. I hope you still like it.

I'm just going to risk sounding like a broken record here and say thanks again for all the wonderful and encouraging reviews – you guys are awesome! Just keep them coming, I really, honestly thrive on them!

The last chapter will be up next week.

Take care.