Title: Allegiance
Author: *bright
Rating: PG-13 (cursing)
Spoilers: pre-series
Character: Sam, Dean, with John's presence looming around.
Category: teen Sam, h/c
Summary: Hurt Sam and destroyed Dean.
Author's note: fic written for sendintheklowns as promised here. And here I offer my profuse excuses; this story has probably been done a thousand times. I know I offer absolutely nothing but emo!porn with this one. When show ditched Sam and the brotherhood, it also ditched my emotional bond to it. I think I went overboard with it in this one, I consider this work a step in the mourning process (laughs at self here) and I am not proud of it in any way or form! I should have done a better job since the author for whom I am writing this is so stellar. Unfortunately, I am not! *facepalm*
Words: 8322.
Disclaimer: Un-beta'd; me own nada but the mistakes.

This all seemed surreal. Nothing like this was supposed to happen. Not to Sammy, not while dad was on a hunt and Dean was all alone. Sam had seemed fine enough a day ago. Moody and bitchy yes, but ever since Sam turned fifteen and his growth spurt transformed his very little brother into a tall, skinny and very gangly bitchfaced SOB, who constantly tripped over his own feet. Now at sixteen, Sam's moods had become harder and harder to interpret. Sam withdrew, building walls around himself and escaping into his beloved books. Drifting away from both him and dad, growing silent and distant.

How was Dean supposed to have noticed? He was supposed to have noticed because this was his Sammy! This was his little pain in the ass brother and he should have been there for him, however much the royal pain in the ass tried to push him away or hide and leave things out. Sammy always did this and this time, Dean had failed like never before.

The tires squealed when Dean took the turn and Sam slid limply over the leather upholstery. Dean had to reach out with his right hand to pull Sam toward his own body to keep him from further injuries. Even with the cold wind blowing harshly through the open car window, Sam was burning up. Dean tried to steady Sam against his shoulder but Sam was not with him on it, he kept sliding down until his cheek hit Dean's thigh. With a brief glance at his crumpled up little brother, Dean fisted the front of Sam's old, ratty t-shirt and held on.

“Hang in there Sammy,” Dean mumbled, feeling the heat burn through the denim. “Because I'm so gonna kick your ass when you get better. Am so gonna kick your proud, stupid, stubborn ass for this Sammy!” His hands shook when the tears broke through the barrier at the sign indicating the left turn to the ER. The blue and the white swam together, twisting the letters.

He hardly saw anything at all when the brakes screeched in protest as he pulled over in front of the admittance door. He didn't care about his tears or broken voice when he yelled at the green clad figures inside. Everything was blurred, everything seemed unreal. Except the heat radiating off Sam's unconscious body.

When a male nurse approached, looking at him sceptically, Dean was frantic. “Help him, help Sammy!”

The nurse was visibly taken aback by Dean's urgency and looked inside the car.

“He's burning up!” Dean forwarded. “I found him like this, he needs help!”

The passenger door was jerked open and the man leaned in over Sam and that was enough for him to realize the heat that radiated off the crumpled up body of his little brother, who still barely fit in the passenger seat. Sam's rapid and shallow breaths competed in irregularity with the erratic heartbeats under Dean's fisted hand.

“Get me a gurney and a doc, stat!” the green clad man hollered over his shoulder. “This kid is in serious trouble.”

This wasn't supposed to have happened!

One week earlier.

Sam was keeping the ghoul occupied by shooting rock salt at it while his brother and Dad were advancing from behind to drench it with kerosene and burn it to kingdom come. This particular one was an ugly beast and it had roamed the countryside in search of midnight meals, preferably consisting of small children in their cribs. The incidents were being blamed on family dogs. Somehow that ticked Sam off enough to go up against dad and drag them to this graveyard.

Dad hadn't been pleased, he had bigger plans a state over.

Right now Sam wished he hadn't been so adamant about this hunt.

The ghoul screeched and lunged for Sam when he ran out of ammunition and he dove to hide behind a tombstone to evade dad's blowtorch. He wrapped his arms around his head and held his breath at the sound of glass breaking. The graveside lantern exploded into a rain of sharp glass shreds and he instinctively rolled away from the pain.

Then the ghoul went up in flames.

He stayed down, head wrapped in his arms until he heard footsteps coming his way.

“What the hell, Sammy?” Dean barked at him. “When I say duck it doesn't mean strutting around tombstones. What the hell were you thinking? You all right?”

Sam rolled to his back, grateful for the darkness. He was sweaty from having run around to lure the ghoul into position. And his arm hurt like hell. “I'm fine,” he sneered, pulling himself up, careful to hide his arm from Dean's inquisitive eyes and the flashlight running up and down his length.

“Where's your coat?” Dad walked up to stand by Dean's side, face hid in the darkness behind the stark light directed at Sam. “What the hell were you thinking, Sam?”

“It kept getting caught in the trees, had to lose it.” Sam backed away from the beams of light. He didn't have to see the disdain on his father's face, the tone spoke it loud and clear.

“And the flashlight?” Dean prodded. “You fell on your face, and lost it, didn't ya? I was barely able to see you, bitch. That SOB was about to gobble you up and I had to fucking guess where you were at before I finished it off.”

Sam bit his lip, suppressing the protests, knowing that getting in to an argument was inutile at this point. Ghouls were supposed to be slow and unsteady on their feet, this one had been anything but and it had been gaining on him fast as they ran through the woods surrounding the graveyard. He was the screw-up of the family. He didn't need reminders.
“I'll go get the damned coat and flashlight, meet you at the car, satisfied?”

“You're gonna need this,” Dean sounded amused when he threw his own flashlight in Sam's direction.

Sam caught it with his left hand, hoping Dean or dad wouldn't notice his wriggling to hide his right arm when he walked away. He wasn't going to let them have that much fun, he was going to take care of this all by himself. Enough was enough.

The chill was creeping in on him now that he didn't have to run for his life. He brushed the sweaty bangs out of his eyes, shuddering at the onslaught of the night air. It was early March, and the nights were still cold. Luckily enough he'd left the coat by the illuminated watering basin. It would be easy to find and he'd have the opportunity to rinse off the blood he felt trickling down his arm. Nobody would ever know how much he messed up this time, he'd see to that. All he needed was to pull out the piece of glass he felt sticking out from just above the elbow and clean the wound at the basin to get rid of any incriminating evidence. He'd wait until they got home to take proper care of business. Dad wouldn't have a chance to point out how useless he was, not this time.

The coat was crumpled up on the ground, exactly where he expected it to be. He scooped it up and proceeded to the watering basin. Looking around, he assured he was alone before he bent his arm and took a better look at the situation. Just like he had expected, there were a lot of small shreds that had merely scratched his skin. Then one long piece, thinning into a sharp point had penetrated deep enough to cut him open. Fingering the piece, he tired to yank it out but it wouldn't come loose. Cursing under his breath, he took a better grip to carefully ease it out. The damned thing must have had propulsion enough to go right through to the bone.


He jumped, causing his grip to slide and cut the skin even deeper before the glass broke. With a deep breath he stuck his elbow in the water. It hurt like hell and he had to bite his lip not to whimper out loud.

“What?” he asked angrily, watching Dean advance on him.

“What the hell are you doing, dude?”

“What does it look like I'm doing?” Sam got out through gritted teeth, back still turned to Dean. “Wouldn't want grime on the upholstery now, would you?”

“Aw com'on, princess! You can do your nightly priming at home. Dad wants to leave and I have one day left of this weekend to get some seep. Everybody can't sleep all day through math, phys. Ed ad whatever like some I know.”

Sam feigned to wash his hands to get his composure back. “You almost cried when Sharon or whatever her name was lost her chewing gum in the car, Dean! Now you're telling me that you'd be fine with me dragging half a graveyard inside?” He dried his hands on his shirt, arranged the rolled up sleeve to press against the wound and slid into his coat.

The moment Sam turned, Dean's flashlight was in his face and he had to blink.

“You sure you're all right, Sammy?”

There was genuine concern in Dean's voice and for a fleeting second, Sam was tempted to tell that he may have a piece of glass dug into his bone. But he was sixteen now, he couldn't always rely on his brother for help, he needed to show both dad and Dean that he was an adult, capable of coping.

“Sure I'm sure,” he growled, picking up the flashlight he had thrown and walking up to Dean. “Stop fuzzing dammit!”

“Stop growing three inches a week and constantly falling on your face, freak!” Dean grinned.

Sam rolled his eyes. His sudden growth spurt was constantly referred to with glee. “Jerk!”


Dean stopped and swirled around on his heels, causing Sam to huff and stumble to a halt. The beam was back in his face, blinding him.

“You did good, Sammy!” Then he turned and continued his itinerary toward the small parking lot.

Sam blinked, touched by the earnest tone of voice. He quickened his steps and pressed his loosely fisted hand to Dean's shoulder-blade, nudging his brother, hoping to convey his gratitude and appraisal for everything Dean was to him. Sam knew he was a pain in the behind for both elder Winchesters, but at least Dean didn't constantly give him crap for being a lousy hunter.

Dean cast a glance at him, the grin visible even in the darkness.

And Sam smiled back.

Three hours into their drive back, Dean was going insane with Sam's uneasiness. He'd been fine the first hour, and Dean had expected him to fall asleep. After all, ever since dad had settled for letting Sam finish school in one place and Dean had found a job at Al's autoshop, Sam had been buried in his books. Nailing every test as usual. But Dean had wondered about the frenzy; it wasn't like Sam didn't pull As easily before, but now? Sam was reading books that were nowhere near the curriculum of Lincoln High, Dean knew, he had checked. That and his occasional stints at the local Walmart had left very little time for sleep. Sam always looked more dead than alive when dad dragged them out for the customary training.

And now that he had a perfect opportunity for some shut eye, he was fidgeting in his seat?
“Sam, you sure you're all right?”

The only reply he got was the patented bitchface.

“You're squirming like a doped up pig on a stick! What the hell is wrong?” He let his eyes flicker between the road and his, more pain in the ass than usual, brother.

“Pigs on sticks don't squirm and nether am I. And what would a doped up pig do on a stick anyway?”

Dean rolled his eyes. Great, Sam's dryer than Mojave in July sense of humor drove him insane. Just as insane as his three times in a minute changing of position.

“It was a figure of speech and you're still wriggling the hell outta me, man! You need to go or something?”

“That figure of speech limps. And no, I don't need to go but I could do with some coffee.”

Dean's felt an alert starting to buzz. Sam wanted roadside dump coffee? Now he knew something was up. And cradling his right arm?

“What's wrong with your arm, Sammy?”

Sam tuned to look at him, majorly pissed off. “So I hit my elbow against the tombstone. Gimme hell now so we can get over it! I'm a klutz, I trip on my own feet, can't walk a straight line without crashing into a wall. I get it, we done now?”

Dean was taken aback with the anger. Sammy was so touchy at times. It was just funny how fast he grew and it did make him uncoordinated at times. Right now he was just skin and very long legs. And a lousy mood that rivaled dad's after a hunt gone wrong.

“I need to get gas anyhow. There's a seven-eleven with a burger joint in about a mile. Can you keep yourself glued till we get there?”

The outburst seemed to have taken Sam's edge off. Embarrassed he wiped the long bangs out of his eyes and smiled apologetically.

It occurred to Dean how much of a lost puppy Sam really looked like. The kid had the please take me home and feed me-look down like a master. And it got to him every time.

Sam always got to him like no one else. Dean wanted to smack him for that alone.

Sam was out of the car the moment it stopped. “I'll get you coffee and pay for the gas, just wait for me here.“

He caught the flabbergasted face Dean made, a perfect imitation of the deer in headlights, to keep up the figures of speech. But this was his only chance to get what he needed. Dean had to be left out of this, Sam had things to prove. Most of all to himself.

Sam took a bee-line to the men's room. It wasn't like his arm actually hurt, but there was this dull ache that irritated the hell out of him. Most likely the fabric of the shirt had gotten stuck in the wound, making his elbow feel achy and stiff.

Closing the door behind him, he wriggled out of the coat, freeing only his arm. The shirt was stuck to the wound, just as he had suspected. He pulled it loose and cursed when the blood started tickling down his arm again. He wiped it off best he could and wrapped paper towels around his elbow. The blood would be a bitch to wash out. He pushed his arm back into the sleeve and stuck more towers into it to make the coat fit snugly around the wound. He'd clean it better when they got home, he was sure there was some whiskey lying around for the purpose. This was just so freaking annoying. He liked this shirt and now the sleeve was all shredded!

The stale coffee had him wrinkle his nose but he knew he'd have to drink it not to blow his cover. He got Dean a chocolate bar and a sandwich, just in case Dean would get suspicious about the time things had taken, before he swung by the drugstore to get some aspirin.

To top everything off, he was developing a headache.

They got back home in the morning, church bells ringing while they dragged themselves up the stairs and into bed. Dean wanted to check Sam out, but the glare he received was enough for him to back off. He just fell into bed, kicked his shoes off and buried his face into the pillow. The sunshine didn't bother him, neither did the neighbors slamming of doors. He knew his brother was in the other bed, snoring and that was all he needed to know. He'd do what needed to be done later, when he was actually able to see straight.

When Dean woke, it was already getting dark outside. The sun was mercilessly falling beyond the horizon and a delicious scent wafted in from the kitchen. Sam wasn't a gourmet cook by any measure, neither of them were, but he made a killer tuna casserole. Lucky for him, because Sam's irritating interest in salads and weird healthy stuff was constantly driving both him and dad to the burger take-out two streets out. Sam didn't quite get that red meat was the only food for men. But Dean would forgive him for that, thanks to the tuna casserole cooking in their small ratty kitchen.

He dragged himself out of bed and into the kitchen. Sam stood by the counter, a book in his left hand and as usual, lost to the world.

Dean grinned. Sam was standing there, barefoot in baggy, blindingly green sweatpants, picked up at a flee-market for five bucks. A t-shirt with plenty of holes peaked through the shirt that once belonged to their father. No wonder chicks never gave his brother a second look, he had no sense of fashion whatsoever.

“Hey, Martha, your outfit is truly stunning.” Dean proceeded tot he fridge, going for the juice, taking a swig out of the container.

Sam looked at him with disgust. “As are your table manners. Ever heard of glasses?”

Dean finished the juice and grinned at his pee'd little brother. “Glasses are for weirdos like you.”

Taking inventory of the small fridge, he found it close to empty of anything edible and sighed. “We'll have to get groceries tomorrow. And laundry.”

“I'll do the laundry after school, don't have to go to work until Tuesday anyhow.”

“Whoa? You volunteering to do the laundry? Thought you had a thing for that cute checkout girl?” Dean couldn't help himself; Sam fussing and turning red if any girl even spoke to him was hilarious.

“Go get a shower, the casserole will be ready in ten. And while you're at it, pack the damned laundry bag. Not touching your stinking socks!”

“Good choice Sammy, leave the cute chicks to your big bro.”

“Take a hike!” Sam shook his head and Dean decided to get out before he'd get hit with a wet rag again. Sam had a good aim.

It wasn't until he closed the bathroom door that he realized that Sam hadn't moved and Dean really expected a rag to come flying. Sam was really off it today.

Friday morning, Sam woke from Dean loudly cussing him out.

“Sammy? Dammit! What's wrong with you?”

He opened his eyes to find the bleary image of his big brother right in his face. He pulled the blanket, that Dean apparently had covered him with, halfway up over his face. “Told you, I have a cold.”

Dean glared suspiciously.

“I promise! There's this bug going around at school and I guess walking home in the rain wasn't the best idea, considering.”

Dean reached out to lay a hand on Sam's forehead and Sam grunted and pushed it away. He'd popped aspirin and ibuprofen to lower the fever. He would be fine dammit and Dean needed to take the gig he had been offered. They desperately needed money and two grands would make life so much easier. Sure it involved Dean driving out of town for a day or two but at east changing a car engine was far safer than hunting so Sam was all for it. He was just kicking himself for being stupid enough to forget his cell and wander home in a freaking rainstorm. Specially when Dean was out two hours, driving around, looking for him. It just hadn't occurred to him to do what was an unwritten rule; if safe, wait for big bro. He had screwed up, big time. And Dean was all but happy with him.

“Don't get me started on that, Sam, what the hell were you thinking?”

Sam groaned. He so wasn't up for another sermon like the one he had gotten Tuesday night. “I told you I'm sorry. Let it go already

“You look like re-heated crap and your brain's clearly gone MIA, Sammy.”

Sam knew this was it, he had to get up and convince Dean he was all right or Dean would never get his ass out and in gear.

Every joint in his body screamed when he dragged himself off the couch, his entire body was one big ache and his right arm pounded in rhythm with his heart. The moment Dean was out of the house, he'd get himself over to the free clinic. He'd be just fine and dandy when Dean came back home, he had to be. He so wasn't about to prove both Dean and dad right this time too. He'd get through this, on his own.

“I'm taking a shower. You get packed and out. The sooner you finish, the sooner you can get back here to nag me to death.”

“Not going anywhere,” Dean said. “I'm taking you to a clinic because dammit, you can't even walk straight.”

Sam glared under his brow, steeling himself to keep a straight face. “Ever noticed the lump on the couch? Try sleeping on it! I'm fine, I keep telling you and if you don't go fix what you promised Al to fix, I'll kick your butt. Promise.”

Dean still looked skeptical.

“I hate when you do this,” Sam muttered, turning away to get to the bathroom.

“Do what?” Dean asked, irritated.

“Treat me like I'm five,” Sam replied and slammed the door shut behind him.

“You're so behaving like a brat right now, Sammy.”

“Would you please shut the cakehole and go?”

Sam sank to sit on the toilet, hands shivering from both the cold and the exhaustion. His fever must be back up. He flicked the water on to fool Dean. Pulling out the box with the meds, he sighed and swallowed the last aspirins. He needed to make a list with what to get from the drugstore. Then he added a Vicodin to the mix. Aspirin didn't seem to cut it anymore. He'd somehow have to fill their heavy drug stash or dad would have a fit. He had trouble using his right had, any minor movement sent his entire arm on fire and cold sweat trickling down his spine. The elbow was swollen, smelly pus leaking through the rags he used to tie around it. He'd used up all proper bandage material too. He had an infection, he realized that but he'd thought the antibiotics he'd found in their kit would fix it. He'd been wrong and he didn't know how to fix this anymore.

Sam rested his head against the cool porcelain, trying to will the tremors to stop. Vicodin usually dulled the ache enough for him to function.


He shut the water off. “What?” He hadn't intended to sound that irritated, really he hadn't.

“I left you breakfast on the table. Eat something and put the freakin' milk back in the fridge when you're done.”

“Sure,” Sam lifted his head enough to reply. “Don't floor it all the way to Wilmington. The fines are steep in this state.”

“I'll call you later, Sammy.”

“I won't answer coz I'll be at school.” He so wanted to ask for help. Just have Dean drive him to the free clinic would be enough. But he knew Dean. If Dean got wind of him not feeling well, his stupidly overprotective brother would not only stay but also give him hell for not telling him sooner.

“Oh, you'll answer because I'll keep pestering you till your ears fall off, bitch!”


Dean muttered something Sam wasn't able to make out; then there were steps traversing the floor and the door that opened and shut.

Sam took a deep breath, opened his eyes that teared up from the bright light in the bathroom. He'd just lay down in bed, just for a while, get warm and let the Vicodin do its job before he went to the clinic. He was still all shaky and had to lean up against the wall for a while while the room swirled before his eyes. He cursed himself for sleeping on the couch; he must have strained his neck or something because it felt stiff and just as achy as the rest of his joints.

He made his way to the chilly bedroom, stole the blankets off Dean's bed too and curled in under them.

The cell in the pocket of his sweatpants dug into his hipbone and he groaned and curled up into a fetal position, tilting his head back to relieve the pressure. If it just weren't so friggen cold in here! He'd rest, just for a little while. Then he'd get on with what needed to be done.

Dean toweled his hands dry; one eye on the clock on the wall. It was 4 AM and he was all alone, and all done. This would have all taken so much less time if he hadn't had to keep calling his fucking brother, who wouldn't answer anyhow. When he got back home, he'd – he didn't know what he'd do, this was unacceptable, even for Sam. What if he'd gotten hurt and needed help? What if something had happened to dad? Dean was so done with Sam's freaking teenage rebellion right now that he wanted to smack Sam's stubborn ass head in place, once and for all..

He pulled up his phone and pushed the speed dial. Dean took to dirty tricks when needed, a phone call in the middle of the night was sure to get Sam's attention.

Or not.

He was just about to close the phone when Sam picked up.

Dean didn't wait for him to actually answer, he lashed out in anger. “You fucking ass, Sammy! When I or dad call, you freakin' answer, no shitting around 'cos you're pissed off! You realize that one of us could be hurt and need help? Did that ever fucking occur to you while you were emoing around? Did it? Sam?”

His phone beeped, indicating that the battery was running low and he closed it, cursing his brother out loud. The anger had adrenaline running hot through his veins and every thought of finding a motel to rest before he drove home, vanished. He needed to get home, smack Sam over the head and make him understand not to pull anything like this again, ever!

But there was that constant worry, the one that accompanied him whenever he was away from Sam. He tried to silence that little voice, telling him that maybe, just maybe, something was seriously wrong. The voice telling him that Sam would never not pick up the phone, not like this! Sam may make his point once or twice, but he would not at least text him a message and tell him to shut the fuck up. He wouldn't!

When he turned out onto the highway, he dialed the number again. All he got was the indication that the number he was calling was occupied. And Dean didn't know what to think, he kept calling till his battery died. He would not panic, he would not. He kept the pedal floored and imagined Sam watching TV, pissed off at him for disturbing his PBS marathon. The kid was probably watching some lame-ass show about particular physics or what the fuck ever.

He was no more than two hours away, only two.

Dean's hands gripped the steering wheel hard, battling the fear he felt rising. It was so much easier being pissed at his pain in the ass brother. So much easier. But Sam's pale face managed to break through the anger, making Dean's palms sweat.

Dean tried to drown everything out with Led Zeppelin.

Sam tried to get to the phone, he really did. The first time it rang, he'd just been too slow. By the time he got it out of his pocket the room was swirling violently around him and he had to fight the nausea that ripped through him with every movement. He must have blacked out because the second time he woke to the signal, it was already dark outside and he felt like he didn't get air. He needed help, he knew that by then. His memory seemed to fail him because at times he didn't even know where he was. His train of thought was worse than wrecked. The phone stopped ringing before he even understood that it was his cell going off that caused the ruckus that made him nauseous. He was in some kind of murky, slimy place and his head was about to explode. If he'd been able to actually open his mouth and get a coherent sound out, he'd have called out for Dean. But the murky water got darker and darker and his lips were numb and the murky salt water trickled down his temple and burned his eyes when he tried to open them. The thick darkness was his friend and he welcomed its embrace.

There were shrill sounds slowly penetrating the fog. Everything hurt and he wanted to get away. It felt like the beeping was drilling holes in his skull. He reached out, groaning with the pain and searched in the general direction of the sounds. Why wouldn't they just let him sleep? The plastic felt cold to his hand and it took two penetrating shrills before he understood he was holding his cell. The air seemed so thin, his lungs burned with the lack of oxygen and he had no idea what he was doing on a mountain top in the middle of the foggy night.

His thumb slid over the buttons with automation and he was startled when a voice yelled his name. Instinctively he tried to turn away from the anger the voice expressed but he was unable to move and the nausea hit him just before he was dragged into the darkness again.

Dean looked up at their second story apartment when he parked in their alloted spot. There were no signs of disturbance, all windows were intact, door was closed and the light was on in the kitchenette. He had expected worse, something like a bloody trail from the door flung wide open. The fact that everything looked just fine, like any other night, just got his adrenaline running again. He look the stairs in three strides and jammed the keys into the lock. The apartment was silent, no constant drone from the TV, no smells of foul play. The door to their room was ajar and dark. The milk was still on the kitchen table and that pissed him off even more. Sam hadn't even bothered to clear the kitchen table, the fucking lazy ass freak he was. Dean had to stop by the clothes rack and take a deep breath before he shrugged his coat off. Chances where that he'd really clock his brother out this time.

It wasn't until he opened the door to their room that he sensed, or allowed himself to sense, that something was off. Flicking on the light, he looked at Sam's bed, seeing nothing but a mountain of sheets and blankets at first.

“Sam?” He was by the bed in a instant, harshly pulling the blankets aside. The heat that wafted against him had him blink.

His brother was curled up in a fetal position, sheets curled around him like snakes, breath running fast and uneven. He was deadly pale under the red fever roses on his cheek. Dean took in the sweatpants, the socks and the hoodie. Sam hadn't even changed clothes.

“Sammy?” Dean functioned on autopilot by now; he cupped his hand over the nape of Sam's neck, his heart almost stopping at the heat of the skin. He found himself repeatedly calling out Sam's name while he freed him of the hoodie, trying to get as much as possible off his little brother to cool him down. Sam didn't react once, he was like a ragdoll, totally limp in Dean's hands. The make shift bandage above Sam's elbow didn't escape him. The rags were soggy with blood and pus and Dean's heart started to hammer wildly in his chest.

“Com'on Sammy!” Dean begged while looking for the phone. Sam usually had it close by and Dean needed paramedics right now. The cell fell from under the blankets and Dean didn't even have to look closely to know that his brother's cell was as dead as his own.

Dean didn't even reflect on other options, all he knew was that he needed to get Sam to a doctor and every minute counted. He got Sam's good arm over his shoulder, pulling him up enough to place the other arm around Sam's waist. Sam's head tilted back, his eyes opening slightly and showing only the whites. Dean found himself chanting no no no while he heaved Sam up into a fireman's hold. It was like carrying a heater gone berserk. He cursed the fact that he had to stop by his coat to get the car keys. He didn't bother to lock the door behind him and kept talking to Sam while he got him down the stairs, wishing more than anything that Sam would tell him to go to hell and stop bothering him.

“I'm sorry Sam, I know this has gotta hurt but yo gotta hang in there for a while. Just fucking hang o will you? Won't take long before we're at the ER, promise. Then I'll have them prod and poke you like you won't believe. You hear that, you freak? Just hang in there until then, because you'll get yours when you wake up. Goddammit Sammy, you'll get it, I promise.”

The task of holding Sam up against the car while Dean opened the passenger seat door proved to be more difficult that he had expected. Sam continued to slide down, threatening to fall over. Sam was just skin and bones but he had gotten tall and Dean had to pull him close his own body and the crouch to get the door open. The burning heat of Sam's body still scared Dean shitless. When he finally had Sam crumpled up in the passenger seat, Dean was out of breath and shivering all over. His little brother was like a boneless sack of pulsating heat. Sam's heartbeat was so rapid and irregular that Dean expected it to stop at any give instance. Dean cranked the side window fully open and closed the door before he leaned Sam up against the door. Sam's head fell back against the upholstery, the white of his eyes still visible and Dean wanted to cry.

He tried to keep Sam upright all the way to the hospital but had to give in when he took the last left turn.

It wasn't until the green clad nurse opened the door hollered for help that Dean's tears broke free.

His vision was blurred when he got out of the car and ran to the passenger side. There were orders shouted left and right while two nurses pulled his brother out of the car and placed him on a gurney. All Dean saw was Sam's eyes still partly open and only the whites visible. He'd never forget that, never. Someone gripped his arm hard and told him to move the car when he was about to follow the gurney inside.

“You move the fucking car,” he growled, violently shaking himself loose and running after Sam into the ER. He was stopped by a stern looking security guard when he reached the small room Sam had been rolled into.

“Sir, you need to stay outside and let them work.”

“What's the kid's name?” someone asked from inside the room. “Do we know anything about this kid?”

“His name is Sam,” Dean moved to get around the security guard. His fingers latched onto the door frame and he pulled frantically to get away and inside. “He's my brother, he's sixteen and a dumbass, stubborn son of a bitch! He never fucking told me he was hurt!”

The security guard held him firmly put and Dean growled.

“I need a full blood-scan on this kid. Someone go talk to the brother!”

“Sir?” A middle-aged woman made her way to Dean. “Son, you need to clam down!” Her eyes were trying to catch his and Dean nodded almost imperceptibly.

“You brother seems to have a infected wound just above his elbow, you know how and when he got it?”

“GCS is 5, E and V 2, we need to intubate this kid and get his SAT up. Check electrolytes every five. He's clearly septic and I need gentamicin on the rapid infuser tight now! We'll have to do the spinal tap later. We need to get his breathing and electrolytes under control asap. Get me a surgeon for a central line! The minute this kid is stable we'll take him up to OR. What the hell is going on with this kid?”

Dean's head hurt while trying to decipher the intel. The phrase 'the moment this kid is stable' was stuck in a loop. His eyes wouldn't leave what little he could see of Sam while the nurses cut the clothes off his little brother.

“A week ago, last Saturday,” he responded the nurse. “I'm not sure but I think he got it from being in the way of an exploding lantern. Is that why he's so out of it? Then the fucker walked home in a rainstorm and got practically drenched. I figured he had the flu. I couldn't even get him to open his eyes! What the hell is going on with him?”

Sam was hooked up to a myriad of beeping machinery and Dean's fingers hurt from his grip on the door frame.

“Glass? Get an x-ray of the elbow!” The nurse turned to the room. “There may be a foreign object in the wound. Listen sweetie,” she turned back to Dean. “ Has be been complaining about ache in his joints?”

“He's been looking like crap this last year and growing so fast we can't keep tack. I think he's gained two feet over the past coupe of months. He's been moping over practically everything. I stopped listening to his emoing, I just didn't -.” Dean's voice broke and he looked down to the floor.
“Sam's not very forthcoming when it comes to himself. Not when it really matters. He kinda leaves things out.”

“There's something stuck there all right.”

Dean looked up and caught the physician looking at a monitor on the wall. “It got him in the most vulnerable area too. His bones are not fully ossified yet, kid's growing fast. It's penetrated the growth zone right into the marrow. A perfect channel for an infection. The picture is getting clearer now. It has to be an bacterial infection and it's eaten itself right into the bone marrow and caused meningitis. We need to add Cefoperazone to the rapid infuser.“

“What does that mean?” Dean asked.

“SAT 82 and BP 90 over 70 and rising steadily, fever down to 105,” a nurse informed the doctor.

“Time to take him to the OR,” the physician nodded, turning to face Dean. She even managed a brief smile. “I'll be back to explain the situation as soon as we've gotten Sam upstairs and prepped. Don't worry, your brother is in good hands.”

Dean looked at the woman, locked eyes and tried to estimate how much of a lie her statement was. She turned at the rattle of the bed's sides being raised and secured. She didn't look back when the bed was piloted toward the already waiting elevator. Dean felt somewhat calmed by the physician's focus on Sam; maybe his brother really was in good hands after all?

The nurse at his side rested her hand lightly on his arm. “Can I call somebody?”

Dean shook his head. He had no idea how to explain this to dad; how he had failed to look out for Sam, again. Dad had to be kept out of this, as long as possible. He didn't have the energy to explain his short-comings, not this time when Sam's life was on the line. This time he had to concentrate on Sam and Sam alone.

“No, it's just Sam and me. I'll take care of the paper-work. Least I can do for him, right? He's the only dumbass brother I've got.” He tried one of his cocky smiles but it must have come out wrong because the nurse's face softened into a maternal smile.

“Everything's going to be all right, son. First we need to get you something to eat, you look beat. Then I'll help you out with the needed paper-work.” She turned him around and placed a hand on his back to steer him away from the room where Sam's cut up clothes were in a pile on the floor.

Dean was glad he'd pulled the hoodie off Sam before he took him here. Sam loved that ratty hoodie of his. Then it struck him how absolutely insane it was to think like that. He had to swallow the lump in his throat and blink back the tears.

This all should never have happened.

Light burned though his closed eyelids. A reddish painful light that was interrupted by someone calling his name. There was an odd floating sensation, as if he was slowly rising up toward both light and sound. It was the sound that cleared first; the distinct order spoken in form of his name. His attention was directed at the voice, trying to disrobe the different sounds emerging enough to recognize the voice asking him questions.

“Can you hear me, Sam?”

All he knew was that it wasn't Dean and all he wanted to know was where Dean was. Was he okay? What had happened? He tried to nod but wasn't able to. Opening his eyes to the burning light wasn't really a thrilling option option but it was the only one he had at this point. He knew the light would hurt but he hadn't expected the explosion of pain when he pried his eyes open. For a moment he lost all self-control and the primal reaction was fleeing; clawing himself out of the situation at any cost. He tried to cough to free his throat but all that came out was a whine.

“It's all right Sam, you have a tube in your throat to help you breathe. I need you to take a deep breath and exhale so I can pull it out. I won't hurt you.”

The light was dimmer now and the shapes were getting clearer. Scanning the room revealed where he was at, but Dean wasn't there. He nodded and took a deep breath and coughed when the tube finally vanished. The woman leaning over him finally had a face, a human face and he was relieved. His body wasn't exactly co-operative yet but he was able to look around the room, automatically searching for Dean or a way out.

“You know where you are?” The physician, Ruthie Wilson, according to the name tag, leaned closer.

He nodded. “Hospi-,” was all he got out before he coughed again, throat itchy and dry.

The physician smiled, like she was outright proud and offered him some crushed ice.

“That's right. Nurse Tanya will give you something for the pain. You had a nasty case of septic meningitis due to the infection in your arm and the flu that compromised your immune system. But you'll be fine. You up to seeing your brother? He's right outside, he just wants to see you now that you've woken up. Is that all right? You'll get drowsy from the meds and fall asleep and I'd like your brother to see you while you're coherent. He's likely to get very angry if we don't allow him that much.”

Sam felt his eyes tear up and he relaxed. Dean was here, and alive. Whatever else had happened, he could handle, as long as Dean was all right, everything would be fine.

“Dean's here?” he rasped, eager for reassurance and finally his left hand obeyed enough for him to wipe the stupid tears away.

“Right outside, I'll go get him now and come back to check in on you shortly. Don't talk too much, your bro-, Dean isn't expecting you to, he just wants to see you.”

Sam nodded and more stupid tears rolled down his cheek.

When he finally was allowed back in, Dean hesitated. Three days of vigil. Most done outside Sam's room with only very brief moments of actually seeing his brother up close, Dean wasn't sure he'd be able to keep his game face on.

He'd been waiting here forever as it seemed. All through Sam's threatening renal failure due to the toxins from the bacteria dying, the fluid in Sam's lungs thanks to the potent antibiotics that made him tachy, or whatever-cardic, all the risks he was constantly informed of, he felt numb. Unable to process. He'd only been home to load the batteries in their cells, praying that dad wouldn't call because he didn't know what to say. How to let their father know that Sam almost died while under his watch. All he gave himself time for were the essentials, a shave and a shower; he didn't want to look like crap warmed over when Sam woke up, because Sam would worry and Sam didn't need more worries right now. He'd swung by Al's to let him know he needed time off because his little brother was very sick. Al's wife had hugged him and made him sandwiches to take with him to the hospital. That had almost brought Dean to tears, again. Kind, caring people was something Dean didn't see all too often. They never stayed in one place long enough to have anyone give a damn. Al had been so understanding, letting Dean know he was the best mechanic he'd hired for a long time and that he should take his time to see his brother get better. Family was more important than anything according to Al. For a brief moment Dean had wished that dad was a little more like Al; actually giving a damn about something else than the revenge. Just for a while. But he was not being fair to dad, if dad were here, he'd care. Dean knew he would.

And now, when Sam was finally declared on the mend, he was afraid to step into the room?

He decisively took one step closer. Sam was not hooked up to quite as many blinking and beeping things as last time he'd been allowed inside. But he still looked so small in that bed. Dwarfed by the whiteness around him, made non-Sam-like by the stillness and pallor. Dean had still not shaken the mental picture of the whites of Sam's half-open eyes.

It wasn't until Sam shakily wiped tears away with the backside of his hand that Dean's fearful numbness lifted and he was by his brother's side with two long purposeful strides.

Sam turned to watch him; eyes finally filled with Sam, not emptiness or confusion, but all puppy-eyed, little brother Sammy.

He still looked like run over, re-heated crap; pale, shaky and teary-eyed, thinner than Dean ever remembered, but still all fucking Sam. The relief washed over Dean like a tidal wave, making him dizzily happy. The smile that broke though the desperation he'd felt so long had his own eyes tear up and he blinked just as frenetically as Sam, to keep them at bay.

“You all right?” Sam asked, his voice all hoarse and crackled.

Dean just smiled, couldn't stop smiling, and nodded. “Yeah, Sammy, I'm all right now.”

Sam closed his eyes before he bought his arm up to cover them. “I'm sorry. I really intended to get to the free clinic. I, I just wanted to rest first.”

Dean pulled the small stool from under the head-end of the bed with his foot. His legs felt kind of shaky and unstable all of a sudden. Having Sam actually open up, even that much, was a miracle these days. The chatterbox-Sam of earlier days was far gone. And now, Dean found no words. Instead he sat down, looked at his brother and tried to scramble together a comforting phrase.

“Nice dress you've got on,” was all that came to him.

Sam made a sound, something like a half sneeze, half chuckle.

“Dad?” Sam asked.

And Dean had expected and dreaded the question. “He doesn't know yet, want me to tell him?”

Finally Sam pulled his arm down and turned to look at him. “No.”

Dean reached out to ruffle the mop of hair. “I kinda figured.”

Sam twisted his fingers around Dean's sleeve and closed his eyes. “Thanks.”

Dean rested his hand on Sam's bony chest and said nothing. Sometimes Sam was a total enigma but he still was his brother and Dean knew the Sam under all the freakishness. He knew the core; it was all Winchester after all.

And Dean swore he'd never let this kid down again. Not even when Sammy was at his most stubborn, head-strong, bitchy worst. Not even when he pissed Dean off like no one else. He looked at Sam, falling asleep, fingers still curled around Dean's sleeve.

He'd rather die.