Title: Prisoners of War
Author: *bright
Rating: R (extreme violence, language)
Spoilers: Hints from throughout the series up to 3.11 – Jus in Bello.
Character: Sam, Dean cameos - Ruby, Ellen, Bobby and Missouri (in order of appearance).
Category: Angst, h/c and demonic action.
Summary: The boys get hurt on a hunt, and demons follow their trail to finish off the work. And Dean learns things about Sam that breaks his heart. Set between Jus in Bello and Ghostfacers.
Author's note: I just wanted to fill the void the writers' strike caused.
Disclaimer: Me own zip and nada, ‘cept an over-active imagination. Everything belongs to Kripke & Co.


They were so close to the car when it happened that Sam had allowed himself to relax, just a little bit.

That was why he had almost been too late when he launched himself at the demon. All he saw was its white eyes gleaming in the darkness as it advanced, soundlessly, aiming for Dean. There was no time to think, no time to research options or ponder on strategy. He wasn't able to holler a warning because his throat was paralyzed by the panic that welled up in him. He went all instinctual when he aimed for the kill, there was no moral qualms for the demise of the host, only fear for his brother's life.

Dean had been behind him, already tired from their earlier hunt and that may have hampered his reaction time. But Sam had felt it; something linger in the air, like the hunt wasn't over. There really was no sign of something being awfully wrong, it was just something Sam kind of sensed. Then Dean's flashlight had caught on something that stole its light and Sam knew. 

He had no idea where he found the speed up the slope; he was just there as the demon stroke out at Dean. If it had gotten his brother full on, Dean would be dead now. But San threw himself at the massive body and the impact made its fatal blow miss enough to only catch Dean's side and send him to the ground.  He saw Dean go down and  his heartbeats thundered in his temples when the fear dissipated and rage took its place. He knew he had to get to his brother and help him out, there was no question that Dean was badly injured. But first, he had to kill.

The white eyes flared in his direction, lighting up the night as hands curled around his neck and squeezed. This host looked like an over-sized wrestler, all muscle and demonic strength. Reaching for his knife he was flung back, weapon knocked out hos his hand effortlessly. He heard Dean coughing and wheezing and knew that although he was injured, he was still alive and that what made him lose concentration for a fraction of a second. Which turned out to be enough for the demon to get the upper hand.  The steely grip of his opponent made him realize that this was no low rate demon, this one was all business. He heard bones break when he was slugged up against a tree that immediately broke from the force and he was flung backwards through thick branches and sharp twigs. The demon didn't relent until it had him pinned up against a stem thick enough to endure the force of him being repeatedly  slammed up against it.  Dry and sharp crackling followed when the trunk finally gave in under their combined weight and snapped. He stumbled over the broken wood, loose rocks rolled under his feet and he hit the stony ground hard. There was no pain; his body simply exploded in a spout of anger that made his muscles hard as steel. No oxygen was reaching his lungs anymore and his eyesight started to dim when he arched under the assailant, hands roaming the terrain search of a weapon. All he knew, with every fiber of his being was that he had to kill this thing and get to Dean.

But time was running out, his eyesight was fading fast, everything was blurred and his heartbeat drenched all other sounds. His fingers touched a thick, broken branch of the tree they had slaughtered and he gripped it and drove it into mass above him.

There was a growl as the hands tightened even further, blinding him totally when he pulled the impromptu stake out and thrust it through the flesh and bone all over.     

The grip around his neck loosened slightly, and he took a deep breath before he gritted his teeth and struck again. All sounds were muted,  he saw nothing but a dimming white light flickering as the demon left the host and black, sulphuric smoke slid over his face and burned his skin as it looked for a way inside. The tattoo on his chest throbbed and the black smoke let out a muffled rumble and rose to the sky.  He felt weightless and floating when the nauseating pain finally registered and plummeted him into a whirl of lights flashing behind his eyes to then, at last, explode into a velvety, pain-free darkness.


 At first Dean had no idea where he was or what he was doing flat on his back in the middle of a bush. The darkness was thick around him; the sky clouded starless, the crowns of the high trees sucking up what little light the void above him emitted.  It felt like a truck had run him over and hung him out to dry. The last thing he remembered was going face to face with a tree and obviously the wood won. Trying to move, he felt his ribs screeching in protest and his knee refusing to obey him. The other leg seemed uninjured but stuck. He mumbled a curse and tried to get up but to no avail. He had somehow gotten stuck under a trunk and his midsection and knee were killing him. Whatever assaulted them, the fucker got him good.

“Sam?” He asked, voice muted by the ridiculous bush around him. When there was no reply he felt the panic rise and brushed the twigs out of his face. The movement sent stones rolling and the stem of the tree sank enough to press slightly on his chest and a muffled groan escaped him. He fell back, not believing his fucking luck. They beat demons and slimy creatures and he was looking at the possibility of meeting his demise hugging a  tree?

The stillness of the night was total and Dean felt his mouth go dry. He had no recollection of the fight after he was introduced to the tree, had no idea how Sam had fared. Was he even alive any longer? The fucking thing that had ambushed them was a pro. Usually they'd take a lone one down with their hands tied behind their backs but this one had been cunning and stronger than a fucking juiced up freight-train. And Dean had been MIA. Had he gotten his brother killed?

“Sam, you there? Let me hear you bitch and whine, Sammy!” When there still was no sound, he realized it was time to call the troops. Frenetically he looked for his cell in the pocket, digging around and finding nothing. Not that it would help, Bobby was days away and he'd go insane if he had to lie here and wonder if his brother had been taken or was already dead. At this rate he was ready to cave and call Ruby or Bela or the National guard, anyone to get him to Sam.   If only his fucking cell wasn't missing!

“Sammy, did you steal my cell, you jerk? You hitting on my girls? I swear I had it and now it's gone, so not cool, man. Since I have nothing better to do I wanted to check my texts and see if that awesome chick I met at the bar last night still wants me? Sammy?” 

His voice came out shaky and there was no way he was able to hide the fear in it. He'd been waiting for signs of life for at least ten minutes now and felt like a freak where he lay, trying to suppress the panic while searching around him for the cell.  All he found was gravel and twigs.

“You should just have asked, Sam. I have a couple of numbers I could have sold you. Remember that chick in that place where we took down the freakin' Encantado that almost drowned us? I got the twins' numbers, you can have one.  Of course, they are probably too normal for you, that right? You seem to have a kink for the weirdos.  I'm sure I have a couple of those in my phone book  too.” He swallowed convulsively, trying to get his voice under control. What if the demon had been sent to hunt Sam and take him prisoner? They wanted Sam to lead an army and kidnapping their general wasn't below them. Neither was ritual slaughtering. If they had Sam, there was no telling what they were doing to him. All while he was lying here and doing nothing about it? Why the fuck hadn't his brother watched out? What the hell had he gotten himself into?  Why hadn't he watched out for Sammy?

“Sam?” He yelled, chest throbbing and voice raw with the anger he always fled to when the fear got to be too much to handle.   “Man, you gotta wake up, Sammy! Don't bail on me now you freak, don't fucking bail on me, Sammy!“

The wince to the left of him had his heart leap up into his throat. “Sammy? Talk to me, man. You still with me? How bad is it? You hanging on?”

He wasn't sure if Sam had tried to answer him or only whimpered in reply. But the fact that Sam wasn't up and glaring at him was enough for Dean to realize it was bad, really bad. Still he had to try to get Sam to call somebody and ask for help. He hated doing this to Sam but it was their only hope.

“Sam? Listen to me; my foot's stuck and I can find my phone. Can you get to yours? We fuckin' need help and pronto here.”

“Dean?” Sam's voice was winded and confused. 

“No Einstein, I'm the tooth-fairy. Got your cell with you?” The fact that Sam was able to form a word had his hopes up.

“Think so.”

Dean rolled his eyes at his brother's slowness. “Well, check!”

There was mumbling, clicking  and whining. And Sam was clearly slurring as he spoke. “Dean, no signal. How bad's it? ”

“Well, considering that I'm stuck under this bitch, I'd say we're in deep.”

There was more movement to his left; the sound of rolling stones and breaking twigs before Sam whimpered and retched.

That had Dean's hopefulness turn to outright fear for Sam's current state. 

“Lie still, dammit!” Dean's hands got a hold of a promising rock and he rolled it in under the trunk above him. It didn't do much to his situation and with his luck, the stones around him were sparse. He'd need a mountain to get enough room to crawl from out under. Just his fucking damned luck as usual.

Sam's face appeared, hovering over him, and the pallor was evident, even in the darkness. Saying he looked like hell was the understatement of the year. Not only was he competing for bleached linen of the year, he was all scratched up with a band of dark bruises around his neck. Dean didn't see the rest of him, he had apparently crawled over from where he had fallen. Dean noted the dried blood under his nose and that his hair desperately needed a wash. The worst thing was his breathing; there was a  gurgling sound accompanying every wheezing breath Sam took.
“Y'kay?” Sam asked fretfully.

Dean glared with disbelief. “Dandy. I always hump trees, haven't you noticed?”

“M'sorry, m'gonna get you out,” Sam mumbled and tried to get up.

“Whoa, man! Just hand me your cell and lie down. A fucking satchquatch on top of me will not make this day any perkier. Just stay still.”

Sam looked at him, disgusted.

“Don't puke on me, man! Whatever you do, don't fucking puke on me!”

“That a tree?” Sam sounded totally bewildered.

“Sam, what the fuck? You trippin´ on me?” Dean was getting desperate.

Sam sent him what supposedly was meant to be an irritated glance and heaved himself up, stumbled over the rocks, flailed for support and fell through the branches and twigs, ending  awkwardly curled up around the tree. His arm gripped the broken branches and he had something of a  half-crazy stare as he pulled and kicked, trying to move it.

“Got'cha, le'ggo o' Dean,” he panted  as if he were talking to a living being. And despite his waxy and ashen face, he still had the brawn to actually move the tree enough to have it roll towards himself.

“Sam! Don't!” Dean cried out in distress and clawed at the gravel to get up . His foot magically came loose and the trunk rolled away enough to set him free to move. He held his breath and worked himself backwards, from under the entrapment. His knee sent daggers up his spine and his ribs jabbed at his intestines but he gritted his teeth and kicked the stem away with his good foot, trying to angle it away from Sam. In horror, he more sensed than saw how his actions backfired and set the tree sliding downwards, gaining speed from the inclination and taking Sam with it, over the loose rocks. It was too dark for him to actually make out what really happened; it was all a blur of motion.

Dean's mouth went dry as the motion stopped with a dull rumble, accompanied with awful sounds of branches, or bones, breaking.

Dean cursed out loud when he felt his leg refusing to co-operate, sticking out straight like it didn't even belong to him. When he rolled around to get up, it finally clicked into place and the pain almost took him out. His fingers dug into the gravel when he breathed through the wave of white-hot.

Then Sam coughed with a gagging sound and Dean finally got a grip on himself and looked in his brother's direction. 

It was so dark he barely made Sam out; the only thing standing out was his checked flannel shirt that peeked through the broken branches. It moved and undulated in the dark while Sam coughed and wheezed.

Then the movements stilled and Dean started shuffling down the slope to get to Sam.

“Dude, your date's a bitch,” Sam whined.

Dean hated laughing with bruised ribs.



Sam just glared in the general direction of the winded laugh.  He recognized it for what it was, relief - but there was no way they were out of the woods just yet. And the thought of getting an injured Dean into the car and driving him to a hospital just seemed too much right now. All he wanted to do was lie down, close his eyes and sleep. His entire arm was on fire and every time he took a breath it hurt like hell. Knowing it was probably worse for Dean, he bit back and got to his feet, slowly. Despite the constant whirling feeling, he got to his brother, half crawling and rested on his knees at Dean's side.

“Dean, you look like crap. C'mon, I'll help you to the car and get you looked after.”

The look he received was one of blatant disbelief.

“I look like crap? And this from the one that is spitting blood?” He moved to grab Sam's arm for leverage and pull himself up. Sam brushed him off and rose to his feet, to avoid Dean grabbing his left arm.

“Just take it easy, will you? Where's the flashlight?”

Dean wasn't that easily fooled though. “Dude, what's wrong with you? You fricken know there's no chance we'll find it in one piece since one's not glaring you in the face right now.”

“Right.” Sam shrugged. He should have thought of something not so obvious, shouldn't he?  It was just kinda hard to actually think at all right now with the pounding going on in his head. “I just wanna find something to stabilize your leg with.”

Bending forward to look for something to make splints of was a big mistake. The moment he moved it felt like a knife going though his chest.  And Dean didn't miss the moan. To really make a fool of himself, he felt his legs just give in and he suddenly found himself on the ground.

“My leg? What the -? You alright man?”

Answering was simply out of the question because he would puke like a sick pig. Closing his eyes and willing away the pain was all he could do.


Sam moved his hand over the ground in front of him, hitting a piece that seemed sturdy and long enough to do the work. Without looking at his brother he picked it up and wordlessly waved it in the air to let Dean know what he was doing. Concentrating on something else than the pain and breathing though his nose didn't do much, just enough not to gag.

“What the fuck am I supposed to do with that, Sammy? My leg's just fine. You're not thinking straight, man! Lie down and let me have a look at you.”

“M'fine.” Sam fingers followed a second, promising piece of wood. Grabbing it he held his breath and angled himself up to a more erect position. He wanted to wail but instead he just squeezed the stick in his hand, letting his nails dig into the palm, hard, in order to get a grip on himself.

“Sam?” Dean was clearly getting pissed off now, Sam was able to hear as much in one word alone and he wasn't in the best of moods himself.  Luckily he was too tired to really get into it so he only lifted the second stick up for his brother to see.

 “Told me your foot was stuck. You expect me to carry you to the car?” 

“For fuck's sake.,Sammy, I'm fine.” Dean moved to get up and growled when his weight hit the injured leg. Trying to straighten himself he almost toppled over and Sam threw a tired glance from under his bangs at his idiotic brother.  He would have sighed demonstratively but he needed to use his teeth to  hold onto the already torn shirt while he ripped strips from it for Dean's leg.

“I really hate this Nurse Ratchett thing you're pulling, dude!” Dean growled and eased himself back down. 

Sam had too much fabric in his mouth to bother answering.


As if it wasn't enough that his fucking knee was holding him back, the butt of his pants were getting soaked from sitting in the moss. This night was just full of splendor. Not to mention Sam's oddly slow moves and refusal to even look at him. It was like he had retreated into himself, shutting off completely. He sounded and looked like shit and still decided to be his fucking stubborn self, not listening to reason. Dean wanted to whack him over the head but that would probably end in Sam keeling over. Couldn't risk that because damn, as fumbling and uncoordinated as he already seemed, it wouldn't take much to knock him over. And dragging Satchquatch to the car was out of the question.

Like a petulant child his brother was sitting with his back to him and ripping his shirt to shreds. Not once using his left arm. Probably thought Dean hadn't noticed how closely he guarded his left side.  Dean dreaded when he'd have to start battling the stubborn bitch to have a look at the arm. It was going to get ugly. He so didn't need that right now, what he wanted was to get out of the soaked jeans, get a pain-killer and lie down on a bed and sleep for a week. But with Sam in this current mood, they'd end up at an ER, wait for hours and some nurse would tell him to do exactly that; go home, take a pain-killer and rest.  Then Sam would refuse to let anybody touch him and they'd end up arguing all the way back to the motel. And he'd probably have to drag Sam to the ER all over the next day.

“You done?” He snapped, already pissed at the thought of what lay ahead.

Another glare from under the long girly hair had Dean snort irritably

“Would you get a move on already. I'm freezing my butt off here.“ He jerked one of the stripes from Sam's hand and gritted his teeth. as he aligned the twigs to the sides of his knees and slid the fabric in place.

“How many stripes do you need?”  He muttered, more to hide any possible sign of weakness than anything else. The knee still gave him hell when the tied the splints in place. He rose tentatively and   noted that the first-aid did make it less painful.

“Ust nough ta  'ix yah jibs,” Sam responded with his mouth full of shirt.

“If you think you're fooling me 'bout your arm, you're a moron.” Having the leg set actually did lessen the pain and he rose cautiously. Sam spit out the fabric and looked at him. It would have been a poignant stare if he wouldn't have swayed enough to almost topple over.

“Jesus, Sam, you won't make it to the car, will you?” It was slowly dawning on Dean that all this bitching and sulking was just a way to hide the fact that Sam was probably hurting too much to even walk on his own. And Dean really didn't have much aid to offer right now.  “Maybe we should stay here and wait till dawn?” he suggested.  

“Hell, no,” Sam mumbled and leaned on his hand for leverage when he worked to get to his feet.

Dean instinctively reached out to grab Sam's coat and steady him. To Sam's credit, he only gagged twice and spit blood on only one of Dean's boots in the process.

“Sam, look at me or I'll clock you one,” Dean ordered, gripping his brother's coat harder.

“What?” Sam whined. “My legs fell asleep, whadda'ya want?”

“You're a fuckin' liar Sam,” Dean remarked dejectedly. “You sure about this? Because if you fall face down in a ditch and drown, I'm not so sure I'll be able to save you. You're no lightweight.”

“Don't need no saving,” Sam mumbled and Dean could practically hear the pout. “Just lean on me and I'll help you to the car.”

Dean would have laughed if it wasn't that Sam actually seemed to believe what he was saying.

“Right.” Dean wondered how far they'd get before his stubborn-ass brother would take a nose dive?       At least they'd already rolled down the slope so what they ha left before they reached the dirt road was relatively flat. The darkness was a slight disadvantage though, he discovered as much when his foot hit a pothole and he winced. Not wanting to lean too much on Sam, he swayed on his feet, trying to find some balance. He was sure he'd have his ears full if Sam hadn't been as winded as he was after merely ten steps. Still his dumb-ass brother had to twine his good arm around Dean's waist in the girliest manner ever. When Dean reciprocated, Sam flinched and stumbled. It was just in the nick of time that Dean managed to make him take two steps to the side and lean his back on a tree. By that time Sam was shivering all over and fighting to get air, head drooping and the wheezing breaths cut sharp through the night.

Dean waited, standing close enough to catch him if he didn't manage to pull himself together. 

“It's not just the arm is it?” He didn't get an answer, not that he had expected one.  “Sam, this is no time to go Rambo on me. Plant your ass while I go get the car, it's not that far but the way you're traipsing, it might as well be on the moon.”


The negation came out surprisingly strong and unyielding.

Sam still refused to look at him, stubbornly clinging to the tree with his good hand, he kept his face  turned down. “Dean, we gotta go, now!”

Then he finally looked up and Dean was taken aback by the glazed, blank eyes. Hard resolution the only thing evident on his brother's face. Sam was on survival mode and there was no debating. Sam had closed off all emotions and would walk till his body gave in. Dean wondered if he was even really there and not in some dazed state of mind with imagined demons lurking in the dark? It occurred to Dean that Sam was actually his own worst enemy right now; not reasoning, his OCD making him fail to see the big picture. Dean almost wished Sam would  black-out so he'd get some rest. If he did, Dean would go for the car and get some help. That was really their best option. Leaving Sam behind was perhaps the logical thing to do, but Dean found logic highly overrated in their line of work.  And leaving your brother behind was unthinkable, after all they were at war and Sam would be defenseless in this semi-coherent state.

“C'mon, Satchquatch,” he urged and Sam obliged.



Sam's vision was constricted to a narrow tunnel. All his mental capacities went to getting one foot in front of the other and holding onto Dean. He hated the fact that he wasn't able to be the support Dean needed, that in fact it sometimes seemed to be the other way around. Only thing he knew was that Dean wouldn't be able to drive the car safely with just one foot and a concussion, he'd have to drive them to the nearest clinic. Because if he only looked through one eye, the world wasn't that blurred.  And with a couple of pain-killers, he was sure he'd be able to get Dean the aid he needed. And that was all he cared about right now.

He'd lost  count of the steps, concentrating on actually getting air into his lungs and walking had proved to be difficult enough. It felt like they had been walking for hours when he finally spotted the car, or actually, almost tripped over it.

“Jeez, Sam, don't jump my baby.” Dean muttered at his side as Sam leaned his good side up against the solid metal.

Dean unlocked the driver's side door and told him to hold on. Sam hesitated just for a moment, wondering if he'd actually manage to get himself inside because it did require bending and moving.  Biting down hard on his lip, he moved to open the door and more slithered than sat down on leather upholstery.

“Hey!” Dean protested. “Three seconds too long for you? You realize it's gonna hurt like hell getting up from there, don't you?”

Dragging his left leg inside made his vision blacken and he had to brace himself not to fall over.

“Get in!” he ordered through gritted teeth. 

“You're hilarious, Sammy, really but pardon me if I'm not laughing my ass off here. You think you're gonna drive? Man, you didn't see the car when it was right under your nose. Get real, man! Let me in and when I can get a signal on the cell I'm calling an ambulance for your sorry ass.”
“You steer, I'll handle the pedals and gears.” Sam felt snot running down his face and wiped it off.

“Sam, this isn't the time to -.”

“Dean, now!”

“And you tell me I have crazy ideas? This one takes the cake, Sam! Of all the stupid, crazy stunts anyone's ever pulled, this is it. And I will clock you one for it, as soon as you're back up on your feet.”

“Clutch down,” Sam announced and with a long harangue of curses, Dean turned the key in the ignition.

“They don't even pull this crap off in the movies,” Dean pointed out. “And I've seen some pretty whacked flicks.”

Sam shifted to first gear and lifted the clutch. Dean was right, he didn't really see the road ahead, not more than a few feet, then it all got twisted, broken and misty. The pain was clearly pushing through more often, dimming his concentration with flashes of white-hot waves that he was unable to suppress.  The car moved slowly with Dean's hand steady on the wheel. Sam switched to second. “Tell me if I have to brake.”

“I swear I'm gonna go religious if we make it through this.” Dean replied with a voice dripping of sarcastic disbelief.

Sam was only glad they were going somewhere at all because he was able to sense the danger creeping closer and closer in the darkness.

And what was coming was stronger than anything they'd ever encountered before.

“Sam, what more is it you're not telling me?”

Sam didn't have the energy to try to explain that he was just sensing something out there, it would just be too X-Files for Dean.  Or maybe he was just being paranoid? Right now it felt like he knew nothing for certain, he just needed to get Dean out of here. The darkness was welling in over the road and he wasn't sure if it was his imagination or for real.

“Is the road looking right to you?”

He felt Dean looking ardently at him for a moment.

“Dude, you're really creeping me out here. You hallucinating too now? Just keep your friggen hand off the wheel will yah? Road's just as fine as any God-forsaken dirt road out in the middle of nowhere.”     

“Then shut up and drive, would you?”

“What the hell?” Dean suddenly let out, jerking the wheel to the right.

Instinctively Sam pressed the brakes to the floor and it sent the car skidding on the road. Dean cursed out loud and was over all him, both hands on the steering wheel. 

“Fuck, Sam?” Dean's voice exploded beside him.

The engine died when Sam felt the side-window slam against his head.


Dean was ready to kill the bitch standing in the middle of the road. As soon as he got his heart down from his throat, he'd step out and strangle her with the shoulder leash of the bag she was carrying.

Ruby walked up to the car and jerked the driver's door open, never minding that Sam was about to fall out of the car.  Steadying the unconscious man against her hips, she bent over him and reached for the handle to lower the back of the driver's seat. 

“You're getting sloppy,” she remarked. “You just killed the host of an upper grade demon, probably Lilith's, but I'm not really sure who the hell that was. Grapevine's going haywire these days, you can't even keep track on who's siding with who any longer. Rumor has it she's had it with you two, so if that one was one of hers, she'll find you and kick your asses. Stupid, just stupid! I can't say you surprise me, but Sam?”

Dean was searching for a pulse on Sam's neck and didn't bother answering because what he found was too weak and thready for his liking.

“I tidied up for you,” Ruby continued. “But being that I had to torch the sucker, someone will spot the fire and you'll not just have Lilith tagging you this time if we don't get this car and your asses away from here. We better get Sam in the backseat on his right side, don't like the way he's breathing. How's the pulse?”

Dean glanced up at her, hating to admit that he needed help. “All over the place.”

Ruby nodded and pulled her bottom lip in between her teeth, watching Sam concerned. “I got some medical equipment in the bag. I'll hook him up to an IV and get some fluids into him. You better keep an eye on his breathing.”

“Whoa! Where did you get your MD? Off the back of a cereal-box?”  Looking at Sam, he knew she was right. Finally getting a good look thanks to the lamps, he realized that his brother was worse off than he had thought. The wheezing sounds of his breaths were accompanied with a reddish foam appearing at the corner of his mouth with every exhale.

“Holy hell,” Dean felt his heart miss a beat. “Damn Sammy, why didn't you tell me?” He reached out to wipe his brother chin when Ruby opened the back-door and grabbed Sam.

“You're gonna baby-sit till we get some real help. I'll get you some pain-killers when we're set. You don't look so hot but I read on the back of the cereal-box what meds you can give the evil-assed, smart-mouthed and concussed.”  

 The bitch told him to look out for Sammy? Like he needed to be ordered to?  He resented the superior tone of voice but he knew when to pick a fight and now wasn't the time. But still, he couldn't resist   snarling irritably. “Gee Sam, you're a walking attraction for the buckets of crazy!”

Ruby gripped Sam's coat by the shoulders and looked at Dean, her eyes demon black. “You jealous?”

With one smooth pull, she had Sam on his back on the back-seat, inching herself in between the seats she had him on his side, with another lift-pull before she adjusted his legs to fit on the seat.  Ruby proceeded to pull of Sam's coat, exposing the damaged side and Dean felt his stomach turn into a hard knot. There wasn't too much blood, except from a few scratches, but his collarbone was broken, that much was clear from the bone sticking trough the skin and the coagulating brood around the bone-pipe. Sam's shoulder fell to the back of the seat in an odd angle and Ruby rolled the quilt they carried  behind his brother, to keep him somewhat steady. Sam's hand looked mangled, like every bone in it had been crushed.  Ruby draped the coat over Sam, blocking Dean's view. When she looked over her shoulder at Dean, her eyes were the normal blue-green shade.

Dean arranged himself to sit with his back to the road, his leg stretched in front of him between the back of the seats. His hand found Sam's pulse-point and he curled his fingers around the wrist, which was  undoubtedly broken too. How the hell had Sam managed to even stand up?

“Open and swallow,” Ruby ordered rummaging around in her bag.

“The hell?” Dean snapped.

“Hey shortbus,” Ruby growled, “I'm not gonna go all Mommy on you too and trick you into popping these with grated apples. You're gonna hurt Sam if you remove the hand and you need the other to hold the water bottle.”

Dean hated the way she looked down her nose at him but he opened his mouth and took the offered water-bottle. Swallowing the pills with a grimace,  it struck him that she might just as well be poisoning him. He wouldn't put it past her.

“You know I'm gonna have to kill you for this bossing around,” Dean snarled while watching Ruby cutting Sam's sleeve up to the elbow.

”If he starts trashing around, push this into the IV:” She handed him a filled syringe and her eyes turned black when she proceeded to insert an IV-port into Sam's vein.  She taped it in place and fastened the tube to the bag and hung it on the coat-hanger before she emptied another syringe in the port and turned around to face Dean.

“I gave him a shot of adrenaline, he may wake up for a short while. I suggest you tell him whatever you need to, in case this goes south.”
“Shut up, bitch!“ Did she have to actually point out what was painfully obvious? The chick thrived on kicking him  in the worst places possible. “He's fucking gonna be alright, you're just jinxing him. That right, Sammy? You're gonna help me kick her ass, won't you bro?”

Ruby was already in the driver's seat and had the engine running.  When the Impala eased out on the dirt-road and picked up speed, Dean groaned.  He was awkwardly draped over the seat, his knee and ribs protesting wildly at every pothole on the road. And Ruby was finding them all.

Sam's face was just a pale blotch in the dark car but Dean immediately picked up the flicker of his eyelids.

“C'mon Sammy! Nap's over and your demon-bitch is driving my baby. I'm not forgiving you for this, dude!”

Sam's eyes opened to slits, pupils dancing under the lid.

“That's my Sammy,” Dean grinned and regretted his chick-flick moment when he heard Ruby snort sarcastically.

“Dude, you're ruining my rep here.” He put the syringe and the water-bottle on the seat and reached around it to wipe the spit and snot from his brother's face. “I'm so putting this on the ever growing you-owe-me tab. And stop drooling! Remember that awful bag Dad had me carrying around? In front of  - what was her name -  Meredith? That fugly thing with the diapers, water-bottles and rags?  I'm telling you, I wish I had it handy now coz' you're slobbering all over my baby, you big freak.”

Sam blinked and his eyes finally focused on Dean's.

“Aw, Winchester sweetness, just kill me now,” Ruby mocked and revved the engine. 


Sam was convinced he needed a few screws tightened when his vision finally cleared enough for him to see he was in the Impala. Crammed up in the back-seat, Dean watching him from the passenger side.  Ruby's voice had trickled in through the pounding in his head, but this? Ruby at the wheel of the Impala? Dean's shit-eating grin meeting him despite his baby being molested by a demon? Ruby, who last time they'd met up, Dean had tried to finish off permanently? This was wrong on so many accounts that he felt like the famous elevator stuck between floors.

How exactly did he get into the car? When did Ruby show up and how come Dean hadn't shot her on sight? And why was he so goddamned sore and tired? Who had stuck his arm into a meat-grinder and why was there a knife stuck into his side?

He tried to reposition himself to at least get some air but Dean's hands were there, holding him still.

“Whoa, Sam! Don't move!”

Damned if he was able to make out if Dean was kidding or not. Being cramped up like this was killing him. It wasn't like he was five and fit on the back-seat anymore.  And whatever was sitting on top of him and stabbing him with the knife needed to go.

“Take it away, Dean,” he tried to ask nicely but it came out like a muffled slur.  

“What?” Dean furrowed his brow, looking at him like he really was the chicken short a Sunday picnic.

Sam tried again to free his hand and get at what was pinning him down so hard he wasn't even able to breathe.  Dean's hand around his wrist wouldn't let go and not one muscle was obeying him.

“I think he's hallucinating. Would you step on it already?” Dean sounded pissed off when he shot a glare over his shoulder.

“Sure, because a car like this handles so beautifully on slippery dirt-roads. Ever hear of four-wheel drives? Things like traction control?” Ruby sounded her usual self, not able to help herself, she continued jabbing at Dean.  “That all you have to say to him? Your brother? You're so badly scrambled that eggs are more eloquent than you,” Ruby snorted derisively.

“Not half as badly scrambled as you'll be when I'm finished with you,” Dean promised venomously, turning his head back to Sam. “Look what you've stuck me with, dude! So getting you for this.”

“How about asking him how he is?”

Dean's hand tensed around his wrist when he moved away and lowered his voice. Sam tried to breathe through the pain

“The dude can barely breathe and is spitting blood and you want me to ask how he is? If you weren't so dense it'd be fairly obvious how he is.”

Sam closed his eyes.

“And you're too tight-assed to tell him you love him? Your own brother? What's wrong with you?”

They hit a pot-hole hard and what little air Sam had left in his lungs was pushed out. The world started spinning violently again and he tried to hold back the bile rising in his throat. The pain exploded in every cell of his body; throbbing in rhythm with his heartbeat, tearing at this flesh like it had claws.

Dean cursed out loud. “Would you fucking look where you're driving, woman?”

“Oh, so I'm upgraded from bitch?”

Dean's hand was back, gripping his chin. The warmth penetrated through the blinding pain, easing it off and allowing him to pull in some air.

 “Sammy, open your eyes, and please no more puking, Sammy? Don't clock out, I can see the main road. Not long now! Hey, you just can't ditch me here with this bossy bitch!”

“Good thing you told him, Dean. Kudos for spilling the beans and admitting you actually care for someone.” Ruby sounded far away but the genuine disgust was obvious.

Sam forced his eyes open and searched for Dean's. It was too dark to see and he cursed his own inadequacy. He needed to calm Dean down, get him out of the black hole he'd slipped into. Sam could tell from the tenor in his voice and the barked words. Dean needed to relax before he blew his fuses.

 “I know, Dean,” Sam tried to tell his brother but had no idea what actually came out because Dean's hand twitched and  he mumbled something Sam wasn't able to make out.

Sam watched the scratched up face, seeing only fractions at a time, like a puzzle. But he knew Dean  was in pain and that he was falling apart.  He wished he'd be able to mock his brother about cat-fights with demonic chicks. Wished he'd be able to conjure up enough of wits to say anything to alleviate the pained expression. But Dean's face kept fading out on him and the hand around the nape of his neck felt safe and strong enough for him to close his eyes. He'd rest, just for a while. 

Dean kept talking to him, he wanted to understand and reply but he was just too damned tired.


His brother was out again, jaw slackened and features more relaxed as he lost consciousness and with it the sense of pain. Dean was relieved and terrified at the same time. Relieved that Sammy wasn't hurting like hell and terrified he wouldn't open his eyes again, ever.  

“You're fucking killing me, Sammy!” he told his brother, wiping blood from the cold chin, yet again. “You gotta stop dying on me, my ticker can't take it.”

“He out?” Ruby asked.

“Yeah,” Dean exhaled  painfully.

“Good,” Ruby stated calmly and steered up on the asphalted road. “I'm gonna put the pedal to the metal now so you better hold onto that old ticker of yours. Wouldn't want to scare the shit out of you, I may need you yet.”

Few times in his life had he been dependent on someone he hated as much as the bitch that currently drove his car. She was blatantly using them for her own needs, and the smugness that oozed from her had his fingers itch to put them around her neck and squeeze the life out of her. He'd never hit a woman in his life, but this one? This one he'd gladly send back to hell with no return-to-sender address on her ass. 

“Which is the nearest hospital?” Dean asked, trying hard not to let the panic seep through the words. He went for Sam's cell-phone, ready to dial 911. Having an ambulance meet up with them was the best course of action because he feared Sam wouldn't make it much longer.

“Don't!” Ruby ordered curtly. “Put the phone away, no calling 911. You might as well shoot him yourself if you make that call.”

“You've been looking too deep into the paranoia-bottle, sweetheart?” He held the phone to his ear and waited for the operator to pick up. Ruby jerked the phone out of his hand and closed it.

“Look, the moment one of Lilith's goons see an ambulance they will put two and two together and have the grapevine sizzling. Sam will be dead within twenty-four hours, and you too. Ever think how easy it would be for one of them to possess a nurse or a Doc and take you out? And believe me, since they can't possess you, they're itching to put your carcass six feet under and that sorry excuse of a soul where it belongs.”

“Sam  will be six feet under if he doesn't get help now!” Dean growled. “Or did you forget that I have no soul left to bargain with and you probably never had one to begin with.”

Ruby threw him another glance. “Sam didn't tell you, did he?”

“Tell me what?” Oh, he knew Sam was keeping things from him, he'd sensed it for a while. Dean hoped it was because Sam was fretting over the deal and avoiding to burden anybody with his own problems. That was so fucking like him. He wiped the blood from Sam's face and shuddered at how cold he was. Almost like last time, when he laid on the bed, gone.

Ruby made a turn onto a highways and the streetlights illuminated Sam's pale face.

“Didn't you ever wonder why Jake, a trained Marine had to stab Sam twice and even turn the  knife before he went down? I'm telling you, one stab like that is instantly lethal. It went in through his -”.

“For fuck's sake Ruby, shut the hell up already. I was there, I know what happened!” Dean felt a wave of nausea run through him. 

“And it never bothered you that Sam stayed alive that long?” Her voice sounded genuinely surprised.

Dean closed his eyes and leaned his forehead on the back of the seat, not wanting to remember, never wanting to remember. “I wasn't exactly standing there, counting the seconds till Sammy died.”

“Dean, with the injuries he  has now, he should already be dead.”

Dean felt bile rise to his throat and he had to go for the water-bottle. Cold sweat ran down his spine, the throbbing in his head taking on another dimension, involving every fiber in his body. He'd seen things in Sam that he'd wondered about; the coldness at the killings and the emotionless resolve. The raw strength he'd witnessed when Gordon met his fate.

“What are you not telling me?” he finally asked, not entirely sure he really wanted to know.

“Not my place to tell,” Ruby replied. “I don't even know if Sam knows, but he should. He's sharp enough to have figured out that something is off.“

Dean looked back at his brother's pale face. What Ruby didn't know was that something had always been off with Sam. Dean wondered if he had known all along and that was why he ran off to Stanford, desperately wanting to be normal.  He had been an A student who moved from school to school, never having the home most kids had. Still he managed to ace every test. That had been the first alarm clock that went off for Dean, long before their father ever told him that Sam was different.  Sure, the kid always had his nose in a book and seemed to pick up intel like he breathed air but still, it shouldn't have been possible. Even as a little geek he had startled Dean with what he found out all on his own. The deductions he made, even if Dean tried to shield him from knowing anything at all.  He'd wanted Sam to have what he'd had until that fateful night; a childhood.  And maybe his brother had known all along that he was different? Was it Dean's wish for Sam to be the normal kid that had forced Sam to seek a normalcy he'd never be able to have?

“Didn't mean to mess you up, kiddo,” he moved the silly girly bangs away from his brother's closed eyes, just in case the hair was irritating him. They had so much to do still, and so much luggage that needed sorting out.

 Ruby called his name, needing his attention. “The ER is about half a mile from here. I'll try and get you fake, out of state, IDs with excellent medical insurance, so let me do the talking now. I'll clue you in when it's arranged. You're shocked because you were attacked by a bear. You don't remember anything. Gimme half-an-hour to sort things out. I'm suspecting they're gonna want to operate on our knee, looks pretty banged up to me, so you just zip it until I have things under control.”

“And you're supposed to be?”

Ruby smiled a devilish little smile. “I'll have to be Sam's wife, no? All those documents to sign and all.”

“I knew you wanted to jump his bones. All you demons have an itch to get your hands on him.”
He turned back to Sam, the pulse under his fingertips suddenly vanishing. His own heart sped up, thundering away in his chest when he leaned in closer, listening for breaths and hearing none.

“Shit Sammy, not now! We're almost there!”

Dean got up on his good knee, placed his hands on Sam ribcage and pressed twice before he pulled Sam's head back, closed his nose between his fingers and breathed for him.

The Impala's tires screamed when Ruby made a turn to the left and cursed out loud before another left turn almost threw Dean off balance. He barely had time to glare at her before he pushed at Sam's ribcage again, hearing himself self babble incoherently.

All his concentration was focused on Sam and the CPR. He counted the pushes to the heart silently,  meticulously keeping the rhythm and watched for movements of the chest every time he blew air into Sam's lungs.  When a horde of green and white-clad  people clinched his arms and pulled him out of the car, he screamed Sam's name, fighting whomever was holding him back.  He watched with absolute horror how Sam was pulled out of the car and  laid on a stretcher just as he was wrestled down onto one himself. Strong hands held him down, lights were shone in his eyes and he just tried to roll to his side, wanting to see what was happening to Sam. 

He heard Ruby's voice at his side, asking them questions, but nobody seemed to have answers.

Clothes were being pulled off him, fabric cut and he felt a sharp sting on the top of his hand. He tried to jerk it away and move enough to catch what was happening to his brother.

“It's his brother,” Ruby spoke. “He's all he's got left.”

When Dean heard someone say she got a pulse and that the sat was rising with 0-neg going in with a rapid infuser just before the rattle of the gurney indicated that it was being taken away, he stopped struggling.  

A blond knock-out chick leaned in over him, smiling. “We'll take care of your brother. Just lay still, the anxiolytics will probably put you to sleep in a while and you're in good hands. We're just going to roll you in and have a look at your injuries.”

They took him though a corridor with blinding white lights, people all around him, someone taking his boots off while they were still rolling, the sound of scissors cutting up his favorite jeans didn't even bother him. Normally he'd be up and protesting but now all he could think about was looking for his brother.

Someone held his head up and a glass of water was pushed to his lips.

“Just rinse, I have to see where all this blood is coming from?”  

That's when he tasted the salty iron and realized he had Sam's blood in his mouth. It all come rushing; the nausea, the fear and panic. He gagged into the silly bowl  under his nose. Was this all he'd have left of Sam? The taste of his blood in his mouth?

He worked to swing his legs over the bed, he wouldn't lay here while his brother may be dying on him.

“Push another two of Diazepam!” The blond chick ordered while more hands held him down. His body got heavy and uncooperative. Spotting Ruby at the end of the gurney, he growled at her to get to Sam.

When she looked at him, he realized it was the first time he'd seen pure fear in the blue-greens.

Maybe there was some humanity left in her after all was his last thought before everything went black around him.   


White light exploded under Sam's eyelids when his body cramped. Voices barked orders around him and something seemed stuck in his throat, pushing cold air into his lungs. Searing lights dug first into one eye then  the other and it hurt like the dickens. God, he wanted away from all this, he just wanted to sleep. Check that Dean was okay and then he wanted to sink into oblivion. The world was going crazier and crazier on him, he had no control over anything right now, not even his own body. How was he supposed to get Dean off the deal like this? Last time he died it hadn't gone on for this long, and it didn't hurt this much. He should have stayed dead, he should have spared Dean.  

There was probing in his mid sector and he wanted to scream.   

He had stood by Dean twice, watching him fight for his life. It was something he didn't wish on anybody. He'd seen him die over and over, unable to stop it. Fucking Trickster to make his life hell. Still, managing to die in your brother's arms should be legislated against. If someone was stupid enough to let that happen, someone should put you out of your misery.  Someone should put him out of his misery. He'd never really know what it had done to Dean, he just knew what Dean dying had done to him. It was hell, and he was probably putting Dean there all over. He was such a shit of a little brother, just fucking worthless.

His heartbeat dwindled down and he was floating, a sense of peace trickling in and relieving the pain. He remembered that sensation. 

Someone screamed about more epi and to defribrillate before his body cramped, throwing him into a black void.


A strange lethargic sensation kept Dean captive, it felt like he had been knocked out and stripped of sensations.  If the world would go under now, he wouldn't give a shit. Not even the nurses coming in and checking on him gained his interest. His knee had been surgically fixed, or so he was told, damned if he remembered. Every time he'd open his mouth to ask about Sam, some evil bitch stuck a needle into him and he was gone. 

But the picture of Sam in the back of the Impala wouldn't leave him alone. He was still able to feel it; Sam still under his pressing hands, not responding, not breathing, not moving, not fucking alive. It was the only thing occupying his mind; that freakish picture of Sam dying. What he needed to do was get out of the bed, hunt Sam down and save him. He really didn't trust anybody else to take care of his brother.  Sam would probably pout the life out of anybody trying to, or do what he was best at, leaving things out. Because apparently, according to Sam, that was not actually lying. That kind of passive resistance, applied with puppy-eyes of doom, was liable to land Sam in even more trouble. The stubbornness that was Sam had always been the reason for the head-on collision course with Dad, and it had made Dean so pissed it had occasionally made him make the wrong decision when trying to handle his brother.  You had to know Sam to read him, and nobody knew Sam like he did.

Sometimes it felt like he knew Sam better than he knew himself and now it seemed he didn't know Sam at all. His brother keeping secrets was nothing new, but if something had fundamentally changed him, like Ruby seemed to insinuate,  Dean didn't even know where to start to get Sam to open up.

The door opened and he turned his head, hoping there'd be news about Sam. He'd have to learn how to stay calm and collected when asking, or he'd be drugged up again. 

It was Ruby sauntering in, and he'd never seen a demon look that beaten before. Dean didn't have it in his heart to even slug her  verbally. And then the horrid thought crossed his mind.

“Sam?” He was up sitting, ready to leap out of bed when Ruby groaned and rolled her eyes at him.

“You must be liking the drugs they keep you on. Another freak-out and you'll be on your way to the psych-ward, trust me. I saw your last flip and it wasn't pretty.”
Dean growled. “Your bedside manners stink, I wouldn't have to freak out if somebody told me how Sam is- I don't even know if he's still alive and you're all just -.”

Ruby raised her hand to stop him. “Still hanging in there. In ICU on a vent and I can't go there because I had to mix holy water in the air-conditioning of the ward. There was no other way to keep possible demons out.  I've spent the last days putting out false leads. But it won't hold for long, we need to get you out of here. You're like sitting ducks in here – just waiting to be offed.” She dragged the chair from the corner behind her during her speech and sank down on it by his bedside.

“I told a nurse four hours ago that I wanted the paperwork to sign out. Haven't seen her since and they keep drugging me up and trying to feed me food for toddlers. I seriously need to get out of here, but not in this fucking gown! Find my clothes, steal me some if you have to and I won't kill you the first thing I do.”  Dean tried to keep his voice non-committal and blank, because damned, he was starting to like the girl. Something about the tiredness, the slump of her shoulders and the way she obviously cared for Sam, to the extent that she actually stuck her neck out to save him, was enough for Dean not to off her immediately. It was probably for her own agenda, still Dean couldn't help but feel for her.  If she got him some clothes; she'd be off his hit list.

“Can't do,” Ruby shook her head, reaching over him to snatch the Jello off his tray. “Doc had a long chat with me, told me she thinks you're emotionally drained. Wants to keep an eye on you.” She smiled, dipping the spoon in the flowery plastic bowl and shoveling the Jello into her mouth. The superior glint was back in her eyes. “Emotionally drained, huh? Dean Winchester, that's so cute!”

Dean's eyes narrowed; Ruby was back on his most hated list, right on top, knocking Bela down a peg. “You're too kind, Ruby. It's nice with such maturity. What is it you celebrate this year, your three hundred fiftieth?”

“I'll be sure to send you an invitation if you get out of this alive.” Ruby replied soberly, scooping out the last in the bowl and licking the spoon clean. “I've called Bobby, he's gonna be here soon, picked up Ellen on the way. I'm running out of holy water and with that gone – goodbye Sam.”

“Shut up!” Dean groaned. “You get off on jinxing him, don't you?” He rested his face in his palms, trying to form a plan to get them out of this and keep Sammy alive. Then it dawned on him.

“Hey, you ditched your plan to be married to Sam, did you?”

“You said his name!” Ruby pointed the spoon accusingly at him. “You should have kept your trap shut until I had the paperwork. It would have been so much easier to look for anybody matching your age and family status but you had to go and blabber? Took me forever to find a dork with decent health-care and a brother named Sam. By the way, your name is Rufus Atwater, just so you know.“

“You did that on purpose! Rufus? What the hell?” He glared as Ruby shrugged and placed the bowl back in its place. People named dogs Rufus, not their children. What was wrong with people?

“Well, he's married to a registered nurse and there was some discussion about the IV in Sam's arm to begin with. I cleared everything up, that cereal doctorate worked wonders, in case you wondered.”

It hit him, clear as a day, he saw their escape. “Well, Dr. Cap n' Crunch, I know how to get out of here.”

“Huh?” Ruby looked at him suspiciously.

“Easy when you're awesome like me. We do a Hannibal Lecter, we steal a rig!”  

“We what? Talk about dumb and crazy! County vehicles can be traced and private ambulances come with alarms that'll take you forever to disengage. You've been watching too many movies.” Ruby shook her head dismissively.

“Ambulances have all Sam needs, right? Even a ventilator if he's not out of it when hell breaks loose. You just work your mojo and make it look like the insurance company wants him moved.  We switch plates, destroy the tracers and take Sammy to Bobby's.” Dean held his eyes steadily on Ruby, watching how she was slowly caving.

“You think he's gonna die if he stays here, what grand plan do you have to save him? Or is it just that Dr. Cap 'n Crunch is not all she's cracked herself up to be?” Adding a heavy dose of sarcasm to his words had the effect he'd hoped for. Ruby turned to him, the calm demeanor she usually sported momentarily gone when they had a silent war of wills.

The war was interrupted by a nurse knocking on the door and stepping in.  “Good afternoon Mr and Mrs. Atwater,” she saluted. “I've come to change the bandages. You seem to be doing fine, though. Won't take long.”

“Oh, I'm off anyhow, need to call Bobby. You take care sweetie.” Ruby  leaned in to feign a peck to Dean's cheek, never touching his skin while the green-blues shot him a dose of venom.  He had to refrain himself from rubbing his chin and perform an exorcism on the spot.

“Thank you, Honey Puff.” He even mastered a half-smile before Ruby disappeared and he turned to the nurse. 

“I need my clothes and personal items right now.  I did ask for the release form several hours ago, I haven't seen it yet. If I don't have the requested items in half an hour, I will contact my lawyer.” He used his Sam-meaning-business-voice, that was exactly what stuck-up Sam would have sounded like.

The nurse hesitated. “It would be against medical advice to -.”

“I am not asking here, I am telling you to arrange it. You have no right to keep me here against my will.”

“Yes Sir, I will get the Doctor.” The nurse nearly curtsied before she turned and hurried out of the room. 

If Sam were here Dean would have made a point to tell him how awesome a brother he had. But Sam wasn't, and Dean hadn't seen him in two days and demons had an ugly habit of lying. What if Sam was already gone? What if that was the reason he was being kept here? No! He stood, gown and all and walked over to the window, leaning on the crutch he had been given. The sun was shining outside, early spring light showered the buildings, glinting off the windows. No, he'd feel if Sam was dead, he'd know.  Just like that night when he was too late to save his little, pain in the ass, brother. The night that he watched Sam's face contorted with unfathomable pain, the awful sound he had made when he fell to his knees and keeled over, right into Dean's arms. The sickly sweet smell of blood, the unfocused eyes, the last breath and the absolute horror that Dean felt in the moment Sam's head lolled onto his shoulder and Dean just knew.  And maybe, just maybe if things got real bad, he would end up killing him all over. He felt cornered, a prisoner of war, a traitor to all that was holy. You just don't pull your injured brother out of hospital, not when Sam was still on a vent and desperately needing medical care. But you just don't leave him there for the demons to take either.   

He looked at his trembling hand, wondering if he had made the right decision? Would fate slap his face a good one this time? His hand had been all bloodied after holding Sam and begging him not to let go. Sometimes he could still see it; his palm smeared with rusty red. The fingers that he'd dug into Sam's coat with desperation, trying to keep his brother with him, had been covered in rapidly crusting red. Would they remain sticky with guilt?

Would his hands forever be stained with his brother's blood?

He didn't hear the door open, the sunshine had become watery before his eyes. Not until someone repeated the ridiculous name did he remember that it was him they were calling for. Blinking away the tears, he turned and reached for his clothes.

The young doctor opened her mouth to speak but Dean's ardent stare had her think otherwise.

When he was done, he had only one thing left to say: “Take me to my brother.”  


There was black, mostly black and almost black and then there was that searing light that cut though him. He was  floating between confusion and insecurity, bedded with throbbing pain and clicking, wheezing and beeping sounds. Sometimes he thought he heard his brother's voice, but it sounded so different in the mist. Dean seemed defeated and lost, an edge to his voice that Sam didn't recognize. Questions were shot over his head, answers mumbled and Dean's hand came to lay on his chest. He tried to turn his head in the direction of his brother's voice but he was captive in his own body, his own unmoving body. When Dean told him to look at him, he tried, he tried so hard that his eyes teared up and still he was incapable of even shifting his eyes slightly to the left and catch Dean's. It occurred to him that he might be in hell, and this was his penitence; reliving his inability. It would be fitting after all.

“Sammy, you girl,” his brother told him with the non-Dean voice. The pad of Dean's thumb sliding over the skin under his eyes. He blinked, that's all he was able to do. And it was mostly involuntary.  Yes, his hell held inability and lack of control. After all that was where he had failed in life too, it was really such a hellishly, beautiful poetic justice. 

“He's in pain,” Dean stated, like he really was able to feel the throbbing, stabbing and aching in Sam. Was that part of hell? Would his pain be Dean's too? This was all so fricken wrong. 

“He shouldn't be in pain. We're keeping him under full anesthetic to control it. He just got a boost thirty minutes ago that will keep him under for another two hours. We check on him constantly.” The man speaking sounded  confident and  pedagogic.

“You get your degree off a cereal-box too? Did I miss the day had them for half-price at Wal-Mart  or something? Sam is in pain!”

Dean's fingers were back, wiping away his tears. Sam hated crying more than anything.

There were mumbles when the  light seared though him again, having his body scream in protest. Then Dean's hand disappeared, and with it his grasp on what was his current reality. The surface he was fighting to break through  floated to the edge of his consciousness, dimming all sounds and muting the pain. He really wanted to let go forever this time, wanted to leave all this and just vanish.

But he couldn't let go, not as long as Dean was waiting for him. Dean's time was limited, Sam was aware of that. He needed to get out of this place and find the solution. Needed to break through the surface and take control. It was the hardest fight he'd encountered until now; the darkness so thick it felt suffocating as it gripped him and dragged him deeper. He wanted to claw at it, rip it open and let it well out of him. Dean was right there, wherever they were and San had to somehow reach his brother. Had to save him.  But his body was useless; it drifted relentlessly into the dark, dragging his mind along.  

He hated himself for leaving like this.



Dean had felt a pang of pure pain when he'd first laid eyes on his brother.  The white  linen competed with the pallor of Sam's face, and Sam was winning. The hissing sound when air was pushed into his lungs through the tube sounded like a menacing animal just waiting to grab Sam and take him away from Dean.  And it was all so real, so utterly devastatingly real. All his earlier optimism about getting Sam out of here and saving him had vanished and he felt light-headed from the onslaught of the bitter reality he was witnessing. He'd leaned up against the bed-frame, his fingers aching from the hard grip around the plastic.  

He had to steel himself in order to look at Sam again, grit his teeth and consciously lift his eyes to take in Sam's scratched up face. The stillness was the worst; Sam might as well be dead, he wasn't even breathing on his own at the moment. Dean loosened his hand around the bed-frame and moved it to lay on his brother's chest, desperate to feel the heartbeats. But Sam's left side was covered in a  thick bandages, covering his shoulder and ribcage. Dean had to let his hand lay on the bare skin to the right, a long way from Sam's heart.

At least Sam had still been  warm under the touch. Not as cold as he remembered from that horrid night last spring.

And then the tears. Those had almost killed him. They had assured him that Sam wasn't in pain, anesthetized to keep him that way.  But the tears told Dean a different story and the fucking doctor should be glad he still had his jewels intact. Dean had been so close to ripping them off and feeding them to the smug bastard. 

And now he was sitting here, on a plastic chair in the waiting area. Forbidden to stay with Sam, prevented from watching over his brother. Anyone could get to Sam like this and the way he was looking, it wouldn't take much to finish the job.

By the time he'd been whisked out of the room, his knee and ribs were aching so much that he had to cave and take one of the pain-killers the nurse had offered him. Then he must have fallen asleep because he had been woken when the day had faded into night.

Then he had stood by the window to Sam's room, watching his brother. Only the changing numbers and lines on the monitors told him that Sam was still alive. When his injured leg started shaking so hard  that his teeth rattled in sync, he had to give in and plant his ass on a chair.
He must have fallen asleep, because when he woke up it was light outside and he had been offered a coffee and a sandwich before he was allowed back inside to see Sam for ten minutes. There was no change. 

Now he had been sitting here for hours, his ass getting numb and he was no closer to a solution on how to save Sam. He had walked over to the nurses' station half a dozen times already, asking and prodding for updates. Sam would be out of the vent when his situation allowed it, Whatever the fuck that meant, he had no idea. Sam could be dead five times over by then. Cell-phones were not allowed and he had no idea where Bobby was at the moment, he was all alone with this. And damned, he missed Dad; Dad would have had a solution.  Even Sam may have had an idea about what to do to get out of this but not him, he was too tired to even think right now.

Then someone by the main door asked for Sam Atwater and he looked up. A strict nurse was standing by the door, conferring with someone at the nurses' station. When she stepped in, her eyes widened slightly and she gasped for air. 

Dean was up on his feet in an instance.

The nurse staggered backwards, hands flown up to her throat, scratching as if she were trying to rid herself from unseen, choking hands. She coughed violently when she went down. The sudden commotion in the nurses' station impeded him from seeing what really happened. But he did see the black cloud rising to the ceiling and filing out of the ward.

He went cold when his eyes followed the escape of the demon.  The elevator door opened  behind him and a hand settled on his shoulder.


He swayed on his feet. Ellen, clad in a nurse's uniform stood by his side, Bobby behind her, steering an empty gurney. Then Dean's eyes nearly poppet out of their sockets; the doctor he'd encountered before stepped out of the elevator. His face was grim and serious and Missouri Mosley walked right by his side, her face set and determined. The uniform, a girly pink, clashing against her innate authority.

“We're here to get Sam,” Ellen spoke, all confident and assured. Lowering her voice she spoke to Dean, like if she were able to read his thoughts. “They're coming Dean, no turning back now.”

Dean looked through the windows into Sam's room. The lines and numbers on the monitors changing constantly. For a moment he doubted everything, then he pushed all emotions aside and nodded in Ellen's direction.

Inside of him something was screaming that it was wrong, so wrong. But he had his game-face on and whatever it took, he'd get Sam through this, alive.



He woke with a start. Somebody was holding his jaw, telling him to open his eyes. The voice was familiar but he didn't believe his ears at this point. When he finally got his eyes to open his jaw literally dropped. Missouri Mosley was bent over him, berating him softly.

“That's right Sammy, you need to wake up now, you're all dressed and set to go. We gave you an anti-dote already. Don't have me pinch you.” She looked at him, with sternness. He didn't even  protest at her calling him Sammy. You just didn't mess with Missouri.

“That's right, Sammy,” she smiled. “Don't wanna mess with me. Doc, he's awake we need to get the tube out!”

That so didn't sound good and Sam winced when a very pissed off MD appeared at the side of his bed.

“Don't be a baby, Sammy,” Missouri admonished. “Do as the Doc tells you and you're gonna be fine.”  Her warm hand curled around his good one.

“I strongly advice against this transferral. Mr. Atwater has pneumonia and it would be preferable to keep the tube in and ventilate him at intervals. Even though he does breathe on his own, the injuries are making his breath shallow and combined with the pneumonia the risk of pulmonary oedema is imminent. Not to mention that he needs another MRI.”

Sam blinked up at the man, wondering who he was talking about. Dean? Sam body tensed and Missouri squeezed his hand comfortingly. “No sweetie, Dean is just fine. Come over here, boy, and let your brother see you!“

“Mr. Atwater, I'm going to take out the tube from your throat now. Just exhale forcefully. Now!”   

He had time to see Dean's pale face behind Missouri's shoulder before he had to cough his lungs out. He tried to roll in on himself to alleviate the pain but Missouri just pulled his head to rest against her bosom and held on to him, keeping him together while he spit and gasped for air. Just like a baby. Dean would never let him live through this. 

“Dean, hand me the oxygen mask, gotta get some air into this big boy,” Missouri spoke soberly. “Get the stretcher over here, side by side to this bed. Dean, open the oxygen tank up, do I have to spell everything out? And don't faint on me, boy! You can faint in the rig, just not right now. That's right, now take those bags and hold them while we move Sam over.”

Sam closed his eyes, idly noting that humiliation was part of his hell too.  

“Talk about dumb and crazy,” Dean muttered somewhere to his left.

Sam tried to look for him but Missouri had him flat on his back and the sheet raised, blocking his view.

“Ellen, you take the head and let Bobby handle the feet. We turn him on two and drag him over on three. Remember to watch the IV-line, Dean!” 

Sam was trying to put all the intel he had been served into some kind of understanding of what was happening, he failed sorely at the task and blinked to clear his eyes. Ellen and Bobby were here? Where ever here was?  And he was being shuffled around like a piece of meat. And he was cold, dammit!

He gasped for air when the pain exploded as they pulled him from the bed onto the gurney. His left side ached like it was on fire, his breath hitched when he landed on his side, losing what little air he'd managed to inhale.  Tears sprang to his eyes and he caught Dean's drawn face when his brother put the oxygen mask on him. Sam tried to catch his brother's eyes but Dean's face was the one he always had when he was scared shitless. Sam just didn't get what this was all about? He needed somebody to tell him what was going on, where he was and why they were  pulling him in every direction known to man?

“Hold on Sammy, I'll tell you everything as soon as we're out of here.” Missouri promised with a friendly pat on his knee.  “You cold, huh? Ellen, got the extra blanket? Have the copies of the chart, Dean? And stop worrying, your frettin' won't help Sam right now! You're thinking so hard you make my head ache!”

Dean mumbled indignantly and miraculously enough; Sam managed to get a grip on the skirt of his brother's shirt. He twined his fingers around the fabric and closed his eyes from the harsh lights in the winding corridors and held on. 

He knew he was going to be all right as long as Dean was around.


Ruby met them in the Ambulance Bay, standing by the back door of the rig, arms folded across her chest. To Dean's delight she looked haggard, despite the usual cocky smirk. She didn't say anything, just opened the door when they approached. Bobby introduced them and Missouri wrinkled her brow.

“You a demon?”

Ruby looked taken aback for a fraction of a second, then her eyes swept over Sam to Dean, eyes casting daggers in his direction. “Can we get Sam in and get the hell out of Dodge already?”

“I can read you like a book, girl,“ Missouri bestowed her a side-looped smile. “And no, Dean didn't tell on you. No love lost between the two of you, I guess?”

Dean couldn't help smirking in the divested demon's direction. Ruby had finally lost the superior smirk. “Don't mess with Missouri,” he quipped while he pried Sam's fingers loose.

Sam's eyes were closed and he shivered under the quilts.

Bobby muttered for them to stay focused but Ellen didn't need instructions, she had the gurney on the metal rails like she'd ever done anything else in her life. Bobby huffed only once when he had to lean all his weight to get the gurney to slide in place and secure it.

“Take a seat, Dean, you look beat.” Ellen nodded to the gurney on the other side of the rig.

“But -.”

Missouri grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him inside. “Bobby's taking care of you car. He's gonna be driving a mile or two ahead, just in case there's trouble. Sit! Ellen, can you please take care of this one, I need to tend to Sam. No, you can't take care of yourself, Dean, now hush!”

Dean had forgotten that dear old Missouri read thoughts from a mile away and realized it was going to be a hell of a trip, whichever way you looked at it.

The fact was confirmed when he noticed rain drumming against the windshield as Ruby pulled out of the building. A girl behind the wheel, a big-ass rig and slippery roads. His brother on a gurney and no fricken food in sight.

“I'll give you old! Stop complaining; Ruby picked up food for you. You've got a reputation, son.” Missouri growled and leaned in over Sam. “I know it hurts, I'm gonna give you something to take the boo-boos away as soon as I've listened to your lungs. Why? Because you can't mix all meds with all kinds of ailments. I gotta check that your lungs are still clean and not clogging up. No sweetie, Dean is fine, his knee got banged up but they fixed it, he just has to go easy on it for a couple of weeks. You go to sleep now sweetie, you're just not thinking clearly. I'll tell you everything when you can put two and two together.”

Dean smirked; this was priceless! Sam being babied would give him mocking ammunition or a life-time.

Ellen draped an ugly orange blanket around his shoulders and stuck a takeout bag in his hand. It promised greasy heaven. He smiled gratefully at her and dove in. French fries, and tacos with a helping of extra fried onions. He didn't bother with the plastic fork, this was what fingers were meant for anyhow.

Missouri looked at him while she retracted the syringe from the IV-port. “Like he's never seen food before in his life,” she told Sam in a commiserating tone. “Never have I seen a taco vanish that fast. And I've seen plenty. That one can't be easy to keep fed and happy.”

Dean tried to swallow what he had in his mouth to protest at the constant jibes about him and food.

Sam turned his head and Dean was sure there was a beginning of a leer behind the oxygen mask.

“What?” Missouri looked at Sam, stunned for a moment before she let out a pearly laugh.

Dean blinked rapidly and Missouri reached over to ruffle his hair. “Aw, sweetheart! Sammy will be just fine. Dont'cha worry about a thing. I used to be a nurse a long time ago, got tired of the Docs pinching my butt. Don't you laugh, Dean Winchester, I too was young once.”

“Hmph,” Dean replied around the last of his onions.

“No, not a century ago and yes, they had modern equipment at the time. Now take your meds and get some sleep or I'll just have to spank yah!“

Ellen laughed out loud and Dean bristled at always ending up the butt of the joke around Missouri. The woman sure had it in for him. He downed the pills with a swig from the offered bottle. He had to remember not to think too much and tick Missouri off.

“Now look ladies, and I'm using the term loosely, I get it that you like to boss -.”

Missouri rose, swaying with the constant movements of the rig and glared at him. “Take off your shoes before you lie down, young man.”

“I'm not gonna -.” Dean was cut short when Missouri simply wrestled him down, pulled off his boots and and draped the blanket around him. Muttering about smart-asses needing to wash their mouths with soap.

Dean curled up on the hard stretcher, not quite catching himself before he silently cussed her out.

“What was that?” The woman towering over him asked.

“Nothing.” He peered up at her and politely added, “Ma'am.”

Missouri chuckled happily when she swayed over to the chair placed at the head-end of Sam's gurney and dimmed the blazing light into a mellower, orange glow.

Dean looked over at his brother and caught what definitely was something of a smile. Sam looked calmer now, more at ease. His brow was still creased with pain but his eyes didn't hold that black despair any longer. He wasn't quite able to meet with Dean's gaze, it was obvious that he had to strain himself to keep his eyes open. But he definitely was more aware, more Sam than he had been just a few hours ago. Enough of a pain in the ass little brother to fucking grin while Missouri tormented his awesome big brother. Oh, he was so going to get Sam yet. As soon as the jerk was back on his freakishly big feet, he'd get him.

He didn't want to stare at Sam's face, just in case Missouri found out, and gave him hell for not trusting her. So he kept his eyes on the one monitor Sam was connected to. It gave a soft beeping sound with every breath Sammy took. Orange numbers showing what Dean assumed were Sam's pulse and the level of oxygen in his blood. The beeps were safely regular and the numbers never strayed far. His brother was hanging in there, like the trooper he'd always been. This time he'd let the geek bitch, pout and whine all he wanted, as long as he came through this. He'd even let Sam drive for an entire week.

Dean's eyes started burning, the numbers swam in and out of focus in the semi-darkness. The lids of his eyes got incredibly heavy and he decided to give them a rest.

Just for a while.

Sam woke from a ringing sound close to his ear. He was all wet from sweat, and someone was definitely trying to choke him. The feeling of lacking air had him strain to get up and away from the thing on his face. The movement had him gagging.

Dean was in his face, looking wild-eyedly at him, pulling him up to a half-sitting position. “What the fuck, Sam?”

And Sam started coughing, eyes watering when his windpipes convulsed and liquid rose up in his nose and throat, blocking the air totally.

Dean looked at him, and there was that fear that Sam hated again. He tried to stop the ridiculous gasping for air and wheezing, tried to get away from Dean and not scare him.

“Lay him on his side, Dean.” A female voice ordered and Sam felt himself being pushed down, his head hanging over the edge, Dean's hand on his forehead, keeping his face from crashing into the metal bars under the gurney.

“Ellen, get the Salbutamol, 5 ml and 3 of Epi, push it before this poor baby coughs his lungs out. It's gonna be okay Dean, just hold him like that and don't let him fall on his face. Now that would be a pity. Hold this in case he throws up.”

A sickly yellowish container was stuck under his face and he could clearly see Dean's hand trembling even through the tears made everything swim around him. Someone patted his back and he winced and heaved, wishing he'd hit the basin and not Dean's socked feet.

“Dude!” Dean was trembling all over when Sam finally got air back into his lungs. He was lying limp, like a dead fish, wishing the ground would swallow him up.

Something was draped over his nose and mouth and air flooded his lungs, making him breathe easier.

“S'okay Sammy, you needed to get that from your lungs. All's gonna be better now. We'll get the fever down and Dean here can stop sweating bullets. We better get the nasal-canula on you, Sam. Much more comfortable now that you've coughed it all up, sweetie. I just ventilated you to get your breathing back to normal. Dean, put it on him when I get him up, will you, hon?”

The mask was removed and Missouri pulled him up and draped him over her shoulder, talking to him like he were a helpless infant. And the ground still refused to swallow him up.

“Take a napkin and wipe his nose, Dean.”

Sam felt his face go red-hot when Dean looked at him, eyes still crazy and hands shaking when he ineffectively smeared the snot over his face. Sam glared at his brother, promising him a gruesome comeback when this was all over.

“Oops,” Dean let out with a half-assed grin. “Sam, you're getting too old to pull these pranks. You fishin' for sympathy?” He looked at the tube that Ellen handed him, studying the item like it was a tool of mass destruction before he taped the canula under Sam's nose. “You nearly killed me, you sonuvabitch! Don't fucking ever do that again, jerk!”

“Watch your language,” Missouri warned.

Sam coughed only once when he started laughing, draped over Missouri's shoulder like a beached whale, half hysterical and mortally embarrassed. Ellen's cool hand cupping the back of his neck, twitching just a little.

“Man, what is wrong with you?” Dean asked fretfully, squatting to catch his eyes. Dean looked at him like he had reached a whole new level of weird.

Sam felt Missouri pat his back and chuckle. “Sam's right you know, your onions do stink up the place enough to make people sick.”

He lifted his head to look at Dean and grinned at the dumbfounded look.

Dean sank to sit on the gurney, hiding his face in his palms. Shoulders still shaking. “You're such a fudgin' ass, Sammy!”

Sam reached out with his good hand and punched his brother's shoulder amicably.

When dawn finally broke and they neared the state border; Dean was still feeling nauseous from what he had witnessed. Having been medicated and babied, Sam had finally fallen back asleep, the wheezing sounds having calmed considerably. Dean didn't think he'd ever be able to sleep in peace again. Ellen sat down by his side, serving him coffee out of the thermos, but he was in no mood to chat. His head ached, his knee throbbed and his heart was constantly flip-flopping in his chest at every little sound Sam made. He doubted Sam could take three days of traveling, he doubted he'd sustain it himself.

“Dean,” Ellen started, her voice suddenly stern. “You did the right thing, you know that! Leaving Sam in that hospital was not an option. He's safer here.”

Dean turned his head to look at the woman beside him. “If that was Jo lying there, would you be as stoic about all this? Sam almost choked, Ellen! He has a fever that won't break and we're out in the middle of fuckin' nowhere with demons, and probably the State Police, hunting our sorry asses. Chances are that we'll be arrested for Grand Larson and Sam'll get shooed off to another hospital with us ending up in the slammer. What you going to tell the nurses, to salt Sam's room while we get indicted?”

“You're painting the devil on the wall here, Dean,” Ellen watched him intently. “Ruby took care of the ambulance theft, she's good. She got genuine plates and all the paperwork we need. There's no way for anybody to track us.”

Dean snorted. “She told you that?”

Ellen nodded and poured some coffee for herself just as her cell-phone beeped.

“Well demons lie, you of all should know that.” Dean replied, watching how Ellen's face fell.

She shoved the filled mug in Dean's hand and rose, making her way to the front of the rig.

Dean followed, swaying when Ruby hit the brakes hard. Coffee spilled over his hand and he cursed until the rig came to a standstill. Ruby looked over at him, her face suddenly drawn as Ellen quietly conferred what she was hearing over the phone. Judging by the tension in the air, it was not about candy being handed out for free.

“What?” Dean repeated, his irritation growing.

“There's a slight problem up ahead,” Ellen admitted, avoiding to look at Dean. “Bobby picked up on the police-scanner that they are looking for us. And apparently there's a unit catching speeders a couple of miles from here. Bobby just got fined.”

“You said you took care of everything,” Dean closed in on Ruby, his fists clenching.

“I did,” Ruby stated calmly. “You didn't. No-one signed Sam's release papers and obviously, the private clinic he's going to doesn't exists. So they're still legally responsible for his well-being. They kind of want him back since they can't find anybody to dump the responsibility on. Meaning that they don't have anybody to bill if things go south. Sam would have known this. You Dean, messed up.”

Dean felt cold shivers run down his spine. He'd never even thought about it, and he should have.

“Ruby,” Ellen warned. “Ease up on Dean. He wasn't in the best of shape when it all went down. I should have thought of it, but I didn't and now it's too late to go back and fix it. What we need to do is decide if it's worth the risk to stay on the interstate or get off and around the cops?”

Dean nodded in agreement. “We can't risk Sam getting holed up somewhere without protection.” He looked out the windshield, trying to figure out where they we're at, if escape was even possible? It wasn't like they could ditch the rig and drag Sam over the fields. “We need to get off this road, have to find something less trafficked and keep under the radar.”

“I know this place west of here, hundred miles or so. It's a couple of hunting cottages, fully equipped and probably empty this time of year. We can always squat. But the road up there is one long stretch of potholes, and how Sam's gonna sustain that trip -.” Ruby shrugged and let her voice trail off.

“Tell Bobby to bunker up with food for at least a week,” Dean ordered and turned to get to Sam. This was so not what they needed. Hanging out in unknown terrain, like sitting ducks, was still preferable to anyone taking Sam away.

“You're not serving him up to someone for your own benefit, are you?”

Ellen's paranoia had obviously kicked in.

“Oh, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Ruby snarled, giving Ellen her best, 'die and whiter' glare.

Dean seated himself at the edge of Sam's gurney, looking forward for a scratchy, hair-pulling cat-fight. He'd put a fair amount on Ellen whipping Ruby's ass. At least he hoped it would end that way.

“So how come you conveniently enough know of a place nearby?” Ellen insisted.

Missouri reached over and whacked Dean over the head. “Ellen, she's been around for centuries, I guess you stash a lotta knowledge like that when you roam around the country that long. And you, young man, need to get your head outta the gutter!”

“Ouch!” Dean rubbed his head and muttered well chosen words in Missouri's direction. The two ladies in the front of the rig both glared daggers at him and he took a swig out of the now half-empty and lukewarm coffee in the cup. How come he always ended up the bad guy? If Missouri found out he'd splashed coffee on the floor, she'd have him clean the whole rig with a toothbrush.

“Get back to you on that, “ Missouri told him, on cue.

Sam moved and he turned to look at him. Bleary eyed and sniffling, his sibling tried to get up. Dean put a hand on his chest and kept him down. Sam huffed indignantly, reaching out with his hand for leverage. The stubborn ass did struggle until he was up on his elbow and Dean sighed and bent to rise the head-end of gurney. Then Sam detected the coffee cup in Dean's hand and damned if he didn't apply the puppy eyes from hell.

Dean shook his head in a determined 'no'. Sam's lower lip trembled and he let his eyes wander from the cup to Dean's face and back again, in full begging mode.

“No,” Dean snarled, casting warning glances in Missouri's direction.

“Dean, please,” Sam mumbled, snot running from his nose, eyes peering from under the mussed bangs.

“Oh, for fuck's sake,” Dean sighed and handed the cup over. “Just one sip or I'll fudgin' tell on you and let Missouri have her way with you.”

Sam coughed and spit out the coffee on Dean's shirt. Dean looked dejectedly at his sibling and wiped his pain in the ass brother's nose and mouth with his already soiled sleeve.

Looking duly chastised, Sam handed the empty cup back. Dean looked into it and furrowed his brow. “Which part of 'one sip' did you miss, you dumb-ass?”

Sam's face scrunched up in, what Dean supposed, was a smile.

He reached out to adjust the canula under Sam's nose, watching him, relieved at how much better he seemed. Sam was still hot to the touch but he'd regained his bitch-face awfully fast. But thinking about what a bumpy road might do this his fresh incisions and broken bones gave Dean cold chills. He'd read the chart and knowing the extent of Sam's injuries nearly sealed the deal and just about sent him to the funny-house. Watching his brother was enough for him to second-guess his decision every time Sam inhaled raggedly. Having read the medical charts had him nauseous at the thought of what he was putting Sam through.

“Dean? Wha's wrong?” Sam's feverish eyes were trained on his, investigative as ever.

The cardboard cup got squashed in his hand, reduced to a wrinkled memory of its old self. “You're asking me? I'm not the one with tubes stuck into me.”


He'd ever been able to fool Sam, not really. There was something about his brother that always made Dean tell the truth. Even if he tried to avoid it, Sam would just look at him and he'd have to cave. “There's been a change of plan,” he started cautiously, hoping Sam would be too wiped out to nag him into going into details.

“Don't make me beat it outta you!”

The words may have sounded threatening without the wheezes. He turned to look at the silly geek and the moment their eyes met, Dean new he'd lost. Sam's eyes were dark, and the fear lurking was not for himself but for everyone else. And it would get worse and worse if he didn't have the intel.

So Dean told him, watching from the corner of his eyes, how his brother's eyes darkened with resolve. When he finally had laid it all out, he was glad that Sam wasn't exactly fit to go a twelve rounder with demons of any kind. Still Dean knew he would, because it was back; the blank gaze that killed without hesitation.

And it scared him to see Sam like that. “Go to sleep you freak,” he ordered, watching how Sam valiantly fought to stay awake but finally had to cave.

Dean lowered the head rest back to horizontal before he rose to get more coffee from the thermos. If there wasn't any left, he'd be seriously pissed.

It was still raining outside when Sam woke. This time there was no question where he was at. No clawing though blackness or cobwebs to reach the surface. The pounding in his head had him alert at once.

Sam listened to Missouri's and Ellen's voices in the front of the rig. Missouri's haven gotten a new edge, higher pitched, when she struggled to keep up a light conversation about the scenic views they passed. Missouri Mosley was scared, doing her best to hide it and Sam wondered what she was sensing.

They had reached the dirt-road and Sam felt it in his bones. He tried to stay quiet and steel himself from the pain even if it felt like every dip of a wheel was a stab and a tear. He had been an ass, growling at the very people wanting to help him. But in order to protect them, he had to distance them. If Dean would just stop watching his every move. It was damned near impossible to keep anything from his brother, and now he needed to make a plan and execute it in order to control the situation. He'd let his guard slip in the woods and Dean had the marks to prove it, as had he. It was an inexcusable mistake, and he wouldn't let that happen again. Then again, how many times had he promised himself exactly that and still he kept failing?

He turned to his side, trying to relieve the pressure in his chest, not exactly sure if it really was from his injuries or from the guilt. Either way, it was choking him and the whine that escaped him didn't pass Dean.

His brother watched him from the other side of the rig, the crease on his brow deepening. “Hang in there Sam, another couple of miles only. Or at least that's what the bitch behind the wheel claims.”

Sam threw a tired glance in his direction. Dean's regard for Ruby was not exactly growing as they rolled forward. Instead it seemed to escalate with every mile and Sam was sure it would end up with some kind of monumental blow-up between the two of them.

“You two really should work this thing out. I think you'll run short of insults soon. You're already kinda repetitive if you ask me.”

Dean glared at him. “Oh, excuse me for lacking in the creative rudeness compartment. I'm sure you have a couple up your sleeve to help me out. Oh no, I forgot, she's your new best bud.”

Sam just let that slide, having long since learned not to pick certain fights with Dean. This was one better left alone. He eased himself up into a sitting position, aiming for the plastic bag at the end of the gurney. Wondering how out of it he had really been not to have spotted his clothes before now? How much else was he missing? He didn't even remember how he'd gotten into the sweatpants he was earing, obviously someone had put them on him at some point. But damned if he remembered. And the blank spots in his recent memory bothered him.

“What the hell do you think you're doing?” Dean asked.

Sam finally found something that looked like one of his old shirts and pulled it out and slanted a glance at Dean.

“Your fever up?” Dean was at his side, trying to do his best impression ever, of not worrying.

“Nah,” Sam shook his head, trying to sort out the garment with one hand only. Which proved to be an endeavor. “Just need to get ready.”

“Ready for what, Sam?” Dean's voice had gotten that edge again, the tone dancing between anger and exasperation, sliding from a grumble to a sigh in four mere words.

Sam didn't have anything to say; he'd had no explanation when it came to this particular state of mind. It didn't hold words, it held nothing but the basics for survival. He looked at his brother, met his gaze but had to look away at the intensity of Dean's prying eyes. “I'm not sure,” he admitted quietly.

“You don't need to always be on red alert, Sammy. You're fucking starting to scare the crap outta me with this shit you're pulling!” Dean rose to his feet, grabbing the shirt and pulling it out of Sam's hand.

“What? Nothing wrong with being decent. Dean, please, chill.” Sam replied, looking at his brother who was rapidly nearing the boiling point. Sam knew he was putting Dean through too much for anybody to handle right now. This was probably the stupidest thing he had done, ever. Right now he needed to be on his feet, finding solutions and not laid up like this, another burden on Dean's shoulders.

“Chill? You're telling me to chill?” Dean finally exploded. “You have a nail in your collarbone keeping it in place, multiple ribs broken, one of which poked a hole in your lung causing some fricken hemopneumopleuro-shit that is lethal!”

“Dean, I'm fine! You're gonna hyperventi-,” Sam interjected fretfully.

“Shut up! You shoulder was dislocated, several bones in your hand had to be surgically set and you have a concussion and you tell me to chill?”

“Dean, please!” Sam watched how Ellen and Missouri lined up to watch the show.

“You stopped breathing in the car, Sam. Your heart stopped! You fucking died on me, all over! The whole shebang. You just don't do that, not ever again, you copy that? You went blue on me, dead, you get what that means? You collage educated dumbass?”

Sam gripped Dean's arm, trying to pull him down to sit before he'd keeled over as the rig slowed down.

“You almost coughed a lung up last night and now you wanna get dressed and take on demons? Right now a demon just has to sneeze in your direction and you'll go down. And if you go down now, you're not going to rise again, I can tell you that much, even without the cereal MD! What the fuck is wrong with you? You need to rest and recuperate, you need to trust me, Sammy. You're not alone in this!”

Dean yelled the words and Sam caught his brother's eyes, wondering how deep the denial reached? Had he really pushed what was about to happen so far back that it wasn't even registering? Sam winced at the words. In a couple of months, Dean would be gone if Sam didn't find a solution. He had to swallow thickly, the nausea back at the mere thought.

It was Dean who had to look away this time.

Without a word he slipped the IV-bag through the sleeve before he eased the shirt up Sam's arm.

There were no more words spoken between them while Dean helped Sam get into the shirt. Sam felt the familiar pain in his chest return and this time he knew it wasn't a physical pain, but something deeper and darker.

There was commotion in the front of the rig; Ruby had joined the other two, watching them with a mixture of surprise and interest. Ellen and Missouri looked more concerned, glancing at each other for clues. Missouri let her gaze rest on Dean before she spoke: “Bobby's bringing lunch.”

Dean sank to sit at Sam's side, deflated. “Yippee,” he let out with a derisive snort.

“You okay Dean?” Sam asked cautiously, hoping not to provoke another meltdown.

“Shut up.” Dean's voice was low and trembling as he spoke; his hands resting on the knees, face turned to the floor. The curved back tensed.

And Sam didn't know what to do to help his brother. He was at a loss as usual and he hated it with every fiber of his being. Looking at the women still watching them, he met with Missouri's concerned gaze. It was apparent that even she saw that Dean was falling apart but had no aid to offer.

Sam leaned back to rest against the metallic wall, chest feeling painfully tight again and cold sweat running down his temples, burning in his eyes when he watched his brother.


Dean was all but sure when he finally stood on the cabin's veranda. It was set in the middle of pines rising high above it and thick evergreens circling it, making the cabin seem embraced by nature, like a fucking postcard. The front consisted of two large windows, too large for his liking and a door which lock it would take forever to pick. The graveled path, leading up to the veranda, continued around the corner and vanished into darkness. Dean cocked his eyebrows in Bobby's direction.

“Safest of them all,” Bobby replied to the unspoken question. “And the generator actually works and the tank is full. Even has indoor plumbing so I wouldn't complain too much, considerin'.”

“Yeah? I'd take demon-free over indoor plumbing any day,” Dean remarked dryly.

“Ruby says we've lost them. But we gotta get rid of the rig or they'll pick up the scent soon enough. There's no alternative, Dean. Sam can't ride in the car back to my place, he needs rest or we'll kill him. Missouri explained that diffuse axonal lesion thing, if he has it, another hit to the head probably will kill him. What he needs is another MRI but can we risk taking him to another hospital? We would have to leave him there because the rig is too dangerous now that they are looking for us. Sooner or later someone will spot us.”

“I know,” Dean steeled his stance. He wanted to drive Sammy to another hospital, admit him and have him there to be properly taken care of. But there would always be questions asked and he had no idea what stealing a patient would get you. Either way he turned, he was risking Sam's life.

“Dean, let's get him out of the rig and get settled for the night. We all need a good nights sleep and if things look worse in the morning, I'll take him to the hospital. You'll have to keep a low profile but the girls can watch out for Sam if need be.” Bobby tried to sound confident but he wasn't really pulling it off.

Dean nodded and turned back to watch the rig that was parked on the narrow road, all lights shut off except the dim orange glow inside and it struck Dean that it worked as a perfect beacon in the night. Far to conspicuous to keep around.

“Let's just keep the rig for another couple of days,” he said, keeping his eyes away from Bobby's, not to reveal the odd feeling he had about all this. “We'll just have to conceal it in the woods or something.”

“You know that the longer we keep it around the longer we'll have Ruby,” Bobby muttered while passing Dean on his way to the rig. “I'll go help the girls. You get inside and take a load off. Lock is picked and the place is all salted and ready.”

“Like a can of soup,” Dean muttered and shouldered the door open. It screeched in protest before it opened into a rectangular room. Dean let the flashlight run along the walls and noted a kitchenette to the left, cramped in between the door and a wall that seemed newer than the rest. Stepping inside he noted that the wall formed a small square that held the bathroom. There were no windows on the opposite wall, only two homebuilt bunks that seemed at least a century old. In the middle of the floor there was a whitewashed fireplace with two moldy chairs placed in front of the opening. On the other side of the cabin, right under the windows to the west, was a table with sturdy benches around it, a kerosene lamp on top of it. He could spot only two electrical outlets in the room, and wondered how powerful the compressor in the cellar was? Would it even have enough juice to jump-start Sam's heart all over if needed?

He turned to the door at the sound of dear Missouri Mosley reading Sam the riot act. Finally Sammy too had gotten himself into the doghouse. The funny thing about the conversation was that it seemed totally one-sided and still so very clear.

“No you can't walk on your own, not even gonna let you try it. You have still have a fever, you fool! You haven't been on your feet for five days, and now you wanna wobble around on unsteady terrain? Right, why not take on a marathon while you're at it? We'll have Dean run behind on that knees of his, holding the oxygen tank. And the more you blabber, the more certain I am that you really do have something loose in that head of yours. Now hush and don't you dare glare at me, boy!”

The gravel crunched under footsteps and wheels.

“You're just as bad as that brother of yours, ain't yah? Stop complaining or I'll leave that neck-brace on for a week. An' I don't care that it itches, I'm kinda itching to get a spoon and spank you as is. And dont'cha worry boy, I will spank you if you don't do exactly what I tell you to do. And yes, it was necessary to put that thing on you, you do have a head-injury, you just proved it with this foolishness of wanting to take a walk. Now hush before you give me one too!”

“Welcome to life with the Winchesters,” Bobby huffed, flicking on the dim ceiling lamp. “Stubborn bastards the lot 'o them!”

Dean wanted to protest but the gurney rolled inside the room and he looked at his brother instead. Grinning at the flushed and mortified geek; he shone the flashlight on Sam's face that was scrunched up in the most majestic of bitchy faces. “Look what the ladies dragged in, one ugly dude this one.”

“Men,” Ruby huffed. “Should have heard him in the car on our way to the hospital. He almost made my heart break with his bitching but was he able to tell Sam he was scared? Oh no, not Dean Winchester, royally screwed up hard-ass.”

Dean awkwardly patted Sam's good shoulder. “How cute, your girlfriend's defending you, Sammy.”

Sam narrowed his eyes and glared.

Missouri opened the clips and freed him of the neck-brace. “Such a good boy,” she crooned and Dean made mocking faces behind her back.

“Just kill me now.” Sam muttered and pulled the blanket over his head.

Petulant as ever, Dean noted, and suddenly felt much calmer. Of course it might be because Ellen had fired up the stove and there was the sound of eggs being whipped. Ruby sank down in one of the chairs and groaned while Bobby closed the salted line at the door before stepping out again. Missouri hooked Sam up and the beeps that had become Dean's link to sanity started their calming rhythm. It was like some sick travesty of family life and it was right up Dean's alley. All he had ever known was this whacked up reality.

Missouri's berating of Sam continued when the sharp stench of sterilizing liquid filled the air and Dean turned back to look at the two of them. Missouri tucked Sam's feet in under a second blanket because the first one had proven too short, stubbornly pulled up over Satchquatch's head as it was.

Dean was amazed that Sam managed to literally pout with his entire body while covered with blankets.

He'd never admit to the surging of his heart when he looked at the bundle on the gurney. If things had gone the other way, he might not be looking at his pain in the ass brother but at the remains of the stubborn, geeky ass. The quilts around Sam suddenly woke memories that had his chest hurt. Having to torch Sam, like they had their father, was a thing Dean knew was a possible outcome of the life they lived. He'd had plenty of nightmares doing just that; putting Sam to his last rest. The trained soldier in him told him it was not only possible but even likely. He'd already clasped the saggy body of his dead brother in his arms once. He would probably have to leave Sam in a couple of months but that meant nothing as long as Sam didn't leave him. Too many people had left him already and hell would be a breeze compared to having to torch Sam's body.

Missouri's hand around his elbow startled him.

“Sit down for a while, Dean. You look about ready to drop. I'll dress that knee of yours and get you a cup of Chamomile.”

She walked him over to the chair and he sank into it, straightening out his aching leg.

“Sweetie, I know you're hurtin'. You just gotta believe me; everythin's gonna be fine in the end. I can feel it.”

Her hand came up to caress his chin and Dean was taken aback from the comfort the gesture brought him. Her hand was warm against his skin, her eyes calm, with the wisdom of a thousand years they rested on his, smiling with conviction before she left him for the kitchenette.

Sam freed the blanket from the his face and grinned. “Hunney-pie being babied?”

“Shut up bitch,” he growled at the pain in the ass leering at him.

“I heard that boys! Plenty of spoons around to sort the two of you out with,” Missouri let them know.

“Just kill me now” Dean groaned.

The shift in Sam's eyes was instant. A darkness shadowed them briefly, like an omen, before Sam's face settled and he smiled at the wise-crack, as expected.

Something in the glazed, dark eyes, sent the skin on Dean's back into goosebumps.

Sam felt the chill sweeping over him before he managed to open his eyes. Groggily he rolled to his side before he was truly awake and knowledge settled. His heartbeat rose to drum in his temples. The fire cast a cold blue light into the room. The odd coloring had him on full alert. He pulled his legs over the edge, his body screaming in protest and let his eyes scan the room. A window was cracked, a large rock lying under it, the salt line broken. Ruby was pinned up on the wall. Her face was frozen in a silent scream. His eyes scanned the room for Dean just as a figure crept into the room through the window. He yelled his brother's name in desperation but no sound was heard.

He was off the gurney, legs shaking while making his way to the demon holding the sound captive and efficiently stopping his only weapon. In the corner of his eyes he saw Dean being dragged over the floor by unseen forces. The anger that flared up in him held no boundaries. He snapped the bottle of holy water from the counter before he lunged at the demon in the middle of the floor. Everything was a blur and he had no idea why he was doing what he was doing. Something from deep inside took over and led the way, and he followed without hesitation.

His hand curled around the demon's sturdy neck, forcing the jaw open enough for him to fill the open mouth with water from the bottle. The demon's eyes flashed with icy blue and Sam pressed harder, feeling the vertebrae neatly in the palm of his hand. With a snap, the neck broke, sending the human to the floor, convulsing with its possessor's battle. Ruby fell to the floor with a thud and went for the knife, slicing the throats of two in the blink of an eye . Sam briefly met with her eyes just as one of the demons growled and escaped through the window and Ruby followed suit, the knife glinting with red in the amber light. Sam turned to get to Dean. His brother's pained breaths had his chest ache and the rage stripped him of all humanity. This demon had possessed a young girl; face contorted with sadistic lust and animal hunger, she held her hand around his brother's neck, forcing life out of him. Sam folded his hand, soaked with holy water and blood, around her neck and squeezed. This one would not go easy, this one had laid its hand on his brother. This one would suffer.

He pulled the innocent body to his, lowering his head enough to lean his cheek against the possessed girl's temple. Quietly he whispered into the ear, partly covered with golden-blond, wavy hair. “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus omnis satanica potestas, omnis incursio infernalis adversarii, omnis legio, omnis congregatio et secta diabolica.”

The demon battled inside the frail body, twisting the tendons and muscles in a wild, morbid dance of death. In the background he heard the wail of the demon being shipped back to hell, drench Bobby's reciting voice.

Dean slid down the wall, gasping for air and not until Ellen was by his side did Sam continue his whispering. “Vade, Satana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciae, hostis humanae salutis. Humiliare sub potenti manu dei, contremisce et effuge, invocato a nobis sancto et terribili nomine, quem inferi tremunt. “

The black of the eyes flickered; human hazel seared through the darkness and Sam's resolve wavered in the presence of what he had set out to save a long time ago. Such a long time that it was hard to remember all he had promised himself. He'd probably broken every promise a hundred times already.

The demon within had not given up entirely, it sent the girl into convulsions, trying to conjure strength to break free. The girl's arms flailed, her nails digging into Sam's flesh. He looked over at Dean, his brother's eyes widened in shock and disgust. Ellen's arms draped around him, faces ghastly white in the dim light. Missouri standing by their side, tears trickling down her cheeks, an empty bag of salt in her hand. Sam closed his eyes and pulled the girl to him, softer now, not wanting to hurt what had already been soiled by possession. He leaned his head against the girl's, lips touching the earlobe in effort to give some relief and in wanton need to offer some solace. “Ab insidiis diaboli, libera nos, Domine. Ut Ecclesiam tuam secura tibi facias libertate servire, te rogamus, audi nos. Ut inimicos sanctae Ecclesiae humiliare digneris, te rogamus, audi nos.”

The blackness from inside the weakened body finally relented its hold, a thundering sound deafening Sam as he was engulfed in the back sulfuric cloud and flung forward. His hand, still around the girl's neck, tightened reflexively and snapped the spine like a dry twig.

Sam was relieved when darkness swallowed him.

Dean's entire body ached and his throat felt raw. He must have blacked out for a while because when he came to, he was no longer nailed to the wall. The color in the room had changed into a warm amber tone from the fire and sound was back. The remains of two possessed were lying in pools of blood on the floor. They were the signs left behind by a much more ruthless huntress than Bobby, who had a steady grip on his wailing, possessed victim, reciting the last words for the demon inside.

Ellen was silent at Dean's side, but he was able to hear her breaths and feel her arms tightening around him. Missouri ducked for the freed smoke of the last demon and salted the door and the window. Stopping further intrusion before she hurried to their side.

It would have been a successful hunt if it weren't for Sam.

What was unfolding before Dean's eyes ripped his heart out. The possessed girl could have been Jessica. The same height, the same wavy hair and slim figure. But the eyes were black and dead. And the way Sam was exorcising her told Dean that he knew. His grip on the girl was almost tender, his lips close to her ear whispered quietly, like it was a private moment between the two of them. Sam didn't even move when the girl's nails dug into his skin, scratching red welts on his forearm. He only looked up once, when the demon was losing its grip and the girl's frightful eyes showed through the black veil of evil. Sam's pain was evident in that instance; dejected and desolate he closed his eyes and pulled the girl closer.

And that picture would never leave Dean; the way Sam held the girl. The closeness of their bodies, the way the tendons and muscles rippled on Sam's scratched forearm, yet he never physically damaged the girl. There was not a sign on her skin, despite the violent opposition of the demon inside. When Sam lowered his cheek to rest on hers, his thumb ran over the delicate skin on her neck, like a calming caress.

Dean's breath hitched.

The back cloud that emerged had enough force to push the air out of Dean's chest as it momentarily pulled all light out of the room.

When the dark cloud rose to the ceiling, thundering back to hell and leaving the devastation behind, Dean crawled over to his fallen brother. Sam was sprawled out over the floor, his damaged body still as in death. And for a moment Dean believed it was the case. That this had been Sam's last fight. The dead girl lay over his legs, staring with open, spent eyes into a void. Dean's fingers shivered when he searched for a pulse and the second he touched the burning skin, Sam made a coughing sound and Missouri was by their side, pushing the dead girl away.

“He alive?” She asked incredulously, gripping Sam's bloodied wrist.“Why's his hand bleeding like this? He ripped the IV out?”

Dean's hand was around the back of Sam's neck, the pulse throbbing fast against his fingertips. “Sure he is, just likes to scare the crap outta me, the sonuvabitch!” His voice was a trembling, raw mess.

He noticed Missouri on her knees at their side, inserting a new IV port in the vein at Sam's elbow, muttering under her breath. Bobby appeared, visibly shaken as he looked at them. Ellen walked up to his side, face still ghastly white when she extended the bag of fluids to Missouri. A knock on the door had Bobby walk over and open it, breaking the salt line momentarily to let Ruby inside.

“Got it?” he asked in a low voice and Ruby nodded when she walked inside, her eyes instantly on Sam.

Not a word was uttered while Missouri shone a light into Sam's eyes and exhaled. “Pupils reactive, that's at least some good news. Pulse's all over the place though. Let's hope it's because of the strain.” She paused for a second, composing herself. “But damned, he's all scratched and banged up again. That hand's gonna require stitches and god nows what this did to his incisions,” she said, voice set in professional mode. Then her voice cracked. “What the hell was that? Sam's army? ”

Dean looked up at her, pissed that she didn't keep her mouth shut about the mind-reading she sported. Surely there was some code about what you could blabber about?

“Yeah,” Ruby answered. “At least part of it. Never seen anybody so willing to kill off his disciples before.”

“That's why what they did didn't affect him? He just walked over and killed the first one off, like he knew what to do.” Missouri looked over Dean's shoulder at Ellen, pointing at something by the gurney. It took awhile before Ellen moved and Ruby's eyes followed her with puzzled concern before she spoke.

“Nice trick with the look-alike, thou. But you're right, they just came to get him. I think they didn't even suspect him to put up such a fight. They reacted too late and too slow, Sam already had them when they finally got that he wasn't coming along. And I thought it was Lilith behind it all. Damned, Sam's another five soldiers short.”

“I need some holy water,” Missouri asked when Ellen re-appeared with the portable oxygen-tank. I better wash these scratches, just in case. So some demons want Sam to lead them in what? I don't get this?”

“A war,” Ellen said. “A war to end the world as we know it.”

“Sam's our reluctant leader,” Ruby said. “What you just witnessed, and what only surfaces when Dean is in danger is the Sam we are waiting for. The one to help us win this war.”

“You make it sound like some heroic act! Sam will become a killer, no doubt about it.” Ellen remarked.

Dean looked up when Ellen spoke, hearing the fear in the voice. “It's not Sam's goddamned fault, now is it?” he wheezed, his knee screaming at him to get his weight off it. He slumped down to sit up against the wall, his hand grabbing the fabric of Sam's shirt, feeling the intense heat radiate off Sam's body. “Sam never asked for this crap, never wanted to go Gung-ho and lead some fucking twisted demon-army.”

“I know,” Ellen said, sinking to her knees and wetting a pad with holy water before she opened the buttons of Sam's shirt to reach the gashes on his chest. “I just wished somebody had told me all this.”

“”Why? To alert America's most wanted?”

“Dean!” Missouri warned, reaching for the bottle after having paced the canula under Sam's nose.

“Not that simple Ellen, I don't think even Sam knows all he's -.” Bobby started but trailed off as Sam coughed again.

“That's right Sammy,” Dean urged, leaning in closer. “Time to stop napping, told you so! C'mon dude, rise and shine!”

Sam's eyelids flickered before they opened to a crack.

“You lazy bastard,” Dean let out with a rush of air. “What you think this is? The remake of Sleeping Beauty? You expect me to fucking kiss you awake?”

Sam's eyes finally opened fully and he groaned when he tried to move.

Ruby stifled a giggle and Ellen cast Dean a reprimanding glance. Dean so didn't care about anything but Sam right now. “Woah, the freak is finally awake,” Dean grinned, tugging at Sam's shirt.

Missouri sighed. “All the soap in the world won't fix this smart-assery, now will it? Now, Sam, I'm gonna give you something to ease the pain. Couldn't do it before you were alert. We need to lower that fever too, it's at a hundred and two. I'm putting you on a second antibiotic, sweetie. We're gonna beat this thing but you're gonna be awfully groggy from the meds Sam, you alright with that?”

“Yeah,” Sam croaked, voice so low it was barely audible. “Just help me up, Dean, please!”

Dean noted that the puppy eyes were back, looking at him, glazed with fever.

“No way in hell, dude.” Dean gruffed and tightened his hold on the shirt while Missouri emptied the syringe in the IV-port. “You take the juice and shut up.”

“I killed her, Dean, didn't I?” Sam's hot hand came up to grip his arm.

Dean blinked twice at the unexpected question, watching Sam fight for composure with his face white and signed by pain .

Missouri took the hint immediately. She rose to her feet and nudged Ruby's arm. “We better drag the, eh, remains out and pile them up. Long night ahead. C'mon Bobby, let's leave the boys alone for a while. The meds need to take effect before we can move Sam anyhow.”

Ruby took a step forward, her eyes on Sam. Something soft and close to veneration in them and Dean glowered.

“Now!” Missouri barked.

There was instant movement following her words. Ruby turned and gripped the ankles of the dead girl and dragged her out through the door. Ellen and Missouri took the first of the heaps in the middle of the floor and Bobby dragged the second out. Dean watched with detachment, all his attention on Sam even without looking at him. He was not good at this talking stuff through, dammit. But the look in Sam's eyes when he asked about the girl didn't leave him alone. There was no way to push this under a rug and step over it.

“Meds working yet?” he asked looking at Sam's strained face and closed eyes.
“Yeah,” Sam answered, face crunching up with pain when he let go off Dean's arm.

“Sure,” Dean snorted and diverted his eyes back to the doorway when Ruby re-appeared, followed by the rest of the impromptu undertakers.

When the last corpse was on its way out, and Bobby had taped cardboard over the broken window, Missouri took one last long look at them and closed the door behind her.

“Sammy, you asleep?” Dean moved closer, stretching out his leg, letting it rest up against Sam's side. He was still burning with fever.

Sam didn't say anything and Dean did what he hadn't done since Sammy was a wee little wee pain in the ass. Shivers and snot and blood and all that was Sam in pain. He draped his arms around the shoulders and pulled Sam up to sit while he slid to sit behind him, pulling his freakishly big little brother to lean on him. The tube from the oxygen-tank got tangled up around his left leg, ripping the tape off Sam's face and falling to the floor. He cursed it when he closed the tank and untangled it from around his foot. Right now he didn't want to fight technology, he just needed to hold onto his brother. Sam's head rested against Dean's shoulder, body limp and heavy. Nothing mattered but the fact that Sam was still breathing.

“I'm gonna get you for this, you bitch,” Dean told him. “Because damn, this time I'm really gonna have a Hallmark moment with you, right here. Because I'm an awesome brother and you're a stubborn ass. I'm fucking hugging you, dude! And you're so gonna talk about this, bro. No piling it all up inside, Sammy. Talk to me. She was possessed Sammy, she'da ripped your eyes out if you let her. You did what you had to do.”

“I appreciate you pulling up the girl in you, Dean. But I have nothing to say. 'Cept that I'm sorry, Dean, I really am.” Sam was out of breath and moved uneasily in his hold, but was too exhausted to do anything but sink back into Dean's hold.

“Sammy, the girl would have died any which way you turned.”

“You don't know that! An' I'm sorry for getting you hurt, sorry for failing you, sorry 'bout a lotta things.” Sam spoke raggedly, trembling in Dean's hold.

“Yeah, I do. And I know she looked like Jess but that was their intention. They wanted you to lose it, they picked her out just because they knew she'd get to you. Sam, I watched you, you did everything you could to save her.”

The trembling increased to full-body shivers when Sam finally spoke. “I broke her neck, Dean. No way around that. I killed her, end of story. I seem to kill everyone around me.”

His brother's voice was so defeated that Dean closed his eyes to escape the pained expression on Sam's face. “She was possessed, Sammy,” he repeated, hoping to get through the darkness that seemed to have his brother in its hold.

“I don't think I can go on doing this, Dean.” Sam whispered in a voice rasp with fatigue. “It's like we're prisoners of this unholy war.“ Sam tilted his head back and Dean opened his eyes. The expression of bottomless despair and exhaustion in the dark gaze had Dean scared. His brother was so broken, shattered for a million reasons and Dean had no idea how to fix it.

“I can't save you, the one person I need to save, but killing is getting easier and easier. Dean, I think I've become that thing Dad told you to kill.”

Sam's voice was void of hope and it kicked Dean right in his guts.

“That's it dude, chick moment over. This is how far I go. Of course you can do this. Don't be such a girl and cry all over me, Sam. Didn't you learn anything from your awesome brother? You never cry or quit.”

“Remember that time when we were kids and watched Bambi?”


“You cried, Dean.”

“The fuck I did. I told you I got something in my eyes.” He just couldn't believe that Sammy remembered that, he'd been like five years old at the time.

“Right.” Sam moved awkwardly to get up into a sitting position, his breathing pained a d labored.

“You're a pain in the ass, Sammy, you know that dont'cha?” Dean went for the canula to aid Sam with his breathing but Sam pushed his hand away.

“Just help me up, Dean, please. This floor is hard!”

Puppy eyes begged him and Dean rose to his feet to aid Sam up, against his better judgment. “I should really go get Missouri, she loves to baby you. Can't wait for the day you're off the protein drinks and she'll start spoon feeding you.” He draped his arm around Sam's middle and held on while his brother fought to get to his feet, never minding his throbbing knee. Somehow he instinctively knew that Sam needed to do this. Needed to walk to the gurney and prove himself capable to start fixing what was broken inside of him.

When Sam finally stood swaying at his side, Dean grabbed the IV-stand for support and they made their way to the gurney, very slowly, while Dean kept up a monologue to keep Sam's mind off all the killing, and what Sam feared the most; having to do it all alone. When they reached the gurney, Dean was almost carrying Sam and he simply let Sam slide onto the stretcher. Sam was wet with sweat, too wiped out to move and Dean had to lift up his legs and pull the orange quilts over him.

Then he went for the oxygen-tank and hooked Sam up.

He waited until Sam's breath had settled and the shivering had eased off.

“Sam, I so did not cry!” He reached out to lay his hand on Sam's good shoulder.

“So did,” Sam mumbled in reply, his eyes already closing.

“Tell anybody and I'll smack you a good one, bitch!”

“Get some sleep, jerk.”

Dean smiled, heart aching in his chest when he watched Sam bury his head in the pillow like he did when he was a kid. Some things never changed, and Sam was still Sam deep under that hardened shell.

How was he supposed to leave him all alone in this?

The door opened behind him and he turned around, his game-face back on while something inside tore his heart to pieces.

Missouri came up to him, folded her arm around his middle, steadying him. Then she reached to put the oximeter's sensor on Sam's middle finger. Accompanied by the soft beeps, she dragged Dean to the bunk to sit down. She didn't say anything, just held onto him with calm presence and Dean was too tired to fight any longer. He felt hot tears run down his cheeks.

He cried soundlessly. Sam was the one who was easily moved to tears, he seemed to have lost that along the way. Dean shed the tears Sam had learned to deny and suppress. Released all the pain that Sam had started to harbor inside to spare his hell-bound brother, cried over the changes in his little brother, the desperation and defeat he could read in the eyes when Sammy let his guard down. The pain he'd sensed coursing through Sam's body when he'd touched him. And the fact that he'd be leaving his brother alone in all this. Dean hated himself for being so weak that he had to bring Sam back, only to leave him alone; the ultimate betrayal.

He cried for Sammy; prisoner of war.

The End