The Call

Summary: Sam's coping with being freed from Gadreel but he's worried about Dean as well since he regrets letting his brother walk away. A call from an unexpected source sends Sam and Castiel rushing to a hospital in Iowa after Dean's beaten by demons. Sitting beside his brother, Sam begins to understand the choices Dean made and why. *Worried/concerned/limp!Sam & hurt/limp!Dean with some Castiel* SPOILERS! See below!

Warnings: Language as always.

Spoilers: Yes, there are spoilers from 09x10-Road Trip and a few taken from promo shots and clips from 09x11-First Born so be aware of this before reading if you want to avoid anything.

Tags/Codas: Not really. It's set after 09x11-First Born with just a blank idea of how the boys might reunite in the perfect world of a sappy fan fiction writer.

Author Note: So, a friend on Facebook suggested the little gen bunny that created this one so thanks to Mzflea for this. Granted this won't be what we'll get but one can hope. I'm an eternal optimist when it comes to brother moments. Enjoy!


"You and Dean chose one another. Can you say if your situations were reversed that you wouldn't have made a similar choice?"

Sam Winchester felt bad enough without getting the guilt treatment from an Angel but he didn't snap at Castiel. He didn't snap because he wasn't positive that he didn't agree with him.

Years ago after Dean's heart had been damaged and he was dying Sam had been willing to try anything, do anything if it meant saving his older brother. It was the same during the year of Dean's deal when he'd tried to barter with another Crossroads demon, talked to witches, voodoo priestesses and more just to find a way to break that damn deal that ultimately sent his brother to Hell…and began the rocky road they'd been on since.

"Dean felt bad for tricking you into saying yes but he was trying to save your life and let himself believe what he was told…much like you believed Ruby's lies before and during Dean's time in the Pit," Castiel had been around the Winchesters for several years now and while he understood that he would probably never fully understand either man or the complexity of their bond he did understand Dean's guilt and why he'd left Sam to hunt Gadreel alone.

Sam still wasn't 100% healed from the trials and he was still weak from their attempt to draw out the last bit of Angel grace that would allow them to track the Angel in question that had lied to Dean to gain access to Sam's body and who had killed Kevin Tran.

Waking up after realizing what had been happening for the last few months had been startling and painful especially since Sam had all his memories again. He remembered being ready to die, to let all the pain and crap of his life go but in the end he'd stayed for his brother.

"He could've told me there, Cas. He could have been honest with me. He'd promised no more lies and then he turned around and tricked me then lied to me about it," Sam scrubbed a hand over his face.

He was tired, he still had moments of pain but more and more with each passing minute that his calls went straight to voicemail he was worrying about his older brother and kicking himself for letting Dean walk away the other night.

"I know you well enough to know that you would never have allowed any Angel to possess you, Sam. Dean knew that as well so while it is true that he tricked you into saying yes what he said to you was not a trick or a lie," the black haired Angel remarked as he stared longingly at the sandwich the mortal was trying to eat and recalling his brief time as a mortal and how different food tasted now. "It is true that Dean was desperate to save you but he meant when he said that he wouldn't exist without you because I honestly can't see Dean surviving long without you being there.

"Zachariah and others up in Heaven before the Apocalypse had talked about the unhealthy co-dependency the two of you had for one another but now I don't see it like that. I see it as Dean still protecting you in the only way he's ever known how," Castiel lifted his eyes. "You let him go. Does that mean you agree with his opinion that he's poison?"

"No!" Sam snapped, hitting speed dial on his phone again and cursing yet again when it went to voicemail. "I let him go that night because I was still too numb, too raw, too pissed and he was into his guilt too deep. We would have ended up fighting and those are the fights where one of us usually say something that can't be taken back. I didn't want that. I knew it was better to let him go for the moment," he explained, sighing.

"So many times he's let me walk off that in some way I felt it was only fair except…it never ends well when we're apart, Cas," the younger Winchester muttered, sliding the sandwich away to push unsteadily to his feet to begin to pace the library in the Men of Letters bunker. "So much of Dean has been built around the need to be this perfect hunter because a piece of him still hears Dad's voice in his head berating him if he messes up so he tries to take on the responsibility for everyone and when that backfires he takes on all the guilt…like he is now."

Castiel watched Sam pace but also noticed the few times he stumbled was when he came close to the spot where in his memories he knew Gadreel, using his body, had killed Kevin.

"It is neither your or Dean's fault that Kevin died," he spoke seriously, wishing he could understand human empathy or knew the right words to say that would stop earning him those looks that both Winchester seemed fond of giving at times. "You weren't in control and Dean had tried to do what he could to help that night without knowing it was too late," he paused to consider his next question. "If you would have been given the choice to live or die now…if you knew that by dying it would leave Dean alone to face both Heaven and Hell would you take the choice?"

"I want to go one day without wondering who in the hell will try to kill us next," Sam muttered, knowing the answer even if he hated it. "Nearly ten years ago I was worrying about getting into Law school now my biggest worry is why Heaven a bigger pain in my ass than Hell. No, I wouldn't die. I just wish for once he'd let me have a say in my own damn life and stop treating me like I was sixteen."

"He's not built like that," Castiel smiled a little. "Even before I pulled him out of Hell, the Angels watched over you both and can you honestly tell me of a time that Dean wasn't looking out for you? Even when you were in school, your brother was close to you, Sam. Do you fault him for that love? Protecting you, looking out for you is the way Dean can show you that he loves you."

Sam had never thought of it like that before but it did make sense to him even if he might never admit it. He was about to snarl at his phone when he nearly dropped the damn thing as it rang with a tone that had him instantly hitting the call button.

"Dean? Where the hell have you been? Cas and I've been calling you for three days, dude," he declared quickly, feeling relief that his brother was calling back…until the voice spoke from the other end of line.

"Hello, Moose."

Sam's whole body language switched from relaxed to rigid the moment he heard the familiar accent of the once and trying to be yet again King of Hell speaking from his brother's phone. "Crowley," he gritted through clenched teeth, hating that accent, hating the demon but more so right then. "What're you on my brother's phone for? Where's Dean?" he demanded, a thousand possible scenarios flashing through his mind and none of them good.

"Yeah, about that…you wouldn't happen to know Squirrel's blood type would you?" Crowley asked off handedly while stepping back out of the way of the rushing hospital staff, wincing as the cursing that was aimed his way. "Hey, they want to know. I couldn't care less but I thought since you're his damn bloody brother that you'd know these types of things."

"What? Who wants to know Dean's blood type and…Crowley, where is my brother?" Sam was fighting not to lose his temper since he was only too aware of the games the former Crossroads demon/ former King of Hell liked to play with them.

"Oh, the white suits here in this fancy little hospital I brought your big brother to when I went back after some misguided crisis of conscience for leaving him in the middle of 20 demons or so," Crowley tapped the phone when all he heard was hard breathing and Castiel's voice demanding to know why Sam was breathing funny. "Moose? Calm down and come back to the phone, Sam."

Sam had made it back to the table to slump into a chair, fingers tight on his phone while he heart was pounding. "Where are you?" he demanded tightly, not even asking why the demon was around his brother much less why Dean had been in a situation with 20 demons.

"Some little place in Iowa," Crowley replied, nodding to an elderly woman who was sitting in the waiting room. "He…was sort of helping me find a blade to kill Abbadon and Cain had a bit more minions than I counted on," he explained calmly, texting while he was talking. "I've sent you the coordinates. You'll understand why I won't be here when you and the owner of the pimp-mobile get here. Ta-ta, Moose."

"Crowley! Crowley, you damn well better not be…sonuvabitch!" Sam snapped, not even noticing how much like his brother he sounded on the last word; jerking to his feet while finding the text to see where the hell he was going and how long it would take him. "I don't suppose you can teleport right now?" he asked.

Castiel wasn't sure what was happening but could tell by the tone, the worry on Sam's face and the fact that Crowley had been the one to call that something was not good. "No, while it appears that Angels on Earth still maintain their powers we can't teleport like we're used to," he didn't care for that, especially now.

"Then it looks like we're driving to Iowa," Sam grabbed his jacket and the keys to the older model car Castiel had found while managing not to comment on how he agreed with the demon's opinion of it. "Dean's in a hospital there after being attacked by 20 demons and I really don't want to know why he was with Crowley to begin with or why'd he would help him try to find a blade to kill Abbadon with or who Cain is or…I just want my brother."

All of that just spelled bad news. "Since Abbadon is a Knight of Hell she can't be slain by normal weapons, not even the demon killing knife you took from Ruby," Castiel explained while they drove as fast as the beige late model car could travel. "There is a blade that can kill a Knight but…it is rumored to be owned by the original murderer…Cain."

"Cain as in Cain and Abel?" Sam groaned, wondering how many other things he'd grown up thinking were fables or myths would turn out to be real. "Would he still be alive? I mean, I thought he was dead or something after he killed his brother."

"Not all things happened like it was told in your Bible," the Angel replied grimly. "Things were added, changed on a need to know basis."

"A need to know basis?" Sam just shook his head, leaving the rest of it alone while he tried not to worry too much.

People asking for Dean's blood type scared him because if his brother needed blood then he was hurt bad and despite being in his 30's it scared Sam to think of his older brother, the hero he'd grown up trying to be just like, hurt bad enough to need a transfusion.

The distance between their base in Kansas and the hospital in Iowa wasn't much. However even three hours seemed like a lifetime to Sam by the time he pulled into the lot to park, leaving Castiel to follow him as he bolted into the hospital.

"May I help you?" a matronly looking nurse at the front desk asked upon looking up. "Do you need a wheelchair, son?" she asked with some concern as she took in the pale faced young man with long dark hair that was leaning on her desk.

"No, I need my brother," Sam replied and then tried to realign his thoughts. "I mean, I think my brother was brought here earlier by…someone. His name's Dean?"

The woman knew the patient this young man was referring to, noticing the other man who had followed him in but was staying back. "You're Sam Winchester?" she asked after taking a look at her notes. "A Mr. Crowley brought your brother in saying that he'd been jumped by a gang of…and I quote stinking rotten hoodlums with no more manners than a barn cat," she stood up to leave the desk, taking a hold of a shaking arm. "He said he'd called Mr. Winchester's brother and that Sam would be coming so can I assume that's you?"

"Yeah, I'm his brother," Sam tried to think when he added at a low cough. "This is our friend, Cas. Can you tell me how my brother is?" he asked, hating hospitals on a given day and really hating them when Dean was in one because those were never good times.

"Well, when he was first brought in it didn't look too good and I think the doctor didn't have much hope he'd survive the night," the replied grimly, squeezing the arm she still had her hand on in reassurance. "Now, don't you worry because that is one stubborn man and he's a fighter for sure because he's off all the machines and breathing on his own.

"Dr. Palmer, this is Dean Winchester's brother Sam and a friend of theirs," she informed a tall middle aged man with thinning hair who was standing outside a private room looking over a chart. "Can you bring them up to speed?"

Palmer glanced up to meet Sam's eyes before offering a calm smile while extending his hand. "Sam, I'm Dean's doctor. Can we talk in private a moment?" he inquired while glancing toward Castiel.

"Oh, you can talk in front of Cas. Dean wouldn't mind and he's…like family," Sam replied, on edge and really just wanting to see his brother but he understand the rules that he had to play by. "How is he?"

"Better than he was fourteen hours ago," Palmer remarked, shuffling papers. "Your brother was brought in with multiple broken ribs, a serious concussion that still has me a little worried about some swelling on the brain but so far it's looking good. He also had several stab wounds that caused a severe loss of blood so we were able to type him and give him a few units to bring his volume back up. Do you happen to know why he was at an abandoned farm house in the middle of nowhere or why he'd be jumped by anyone?" he asked curiously, explaining. "The police were asking and the man who brought him in didn't say much except to… 'fix the bloody squirrel so moose won't come after me'."

Castiel could be heard muttering under his breath but Sam ignored it, shaking his head. "Dean was on his way back…home so I don't really know what he was doing but…he was having trouble with someone from his past so it might have caught up with him," he shrugged, wondering when the hell he'd learned to lie off the top of his head and knowing he'd learned it from his brother. "Will…will he be alright?"

"If you would have asked me that hours ago I would have told you to call a priest and say your goodbyes but now he seems to be more stable even though he's unconscious. His vitals are coming back up, his pupils are reactive to light and we were able to stop all the small internal bleeders so…I'd say if he stays like this for the next few hours that your brother stands a good chance of recovering," Palmer assured him, nodding to the door.

"You can go in but I will warn you that he does still look pretty banged up."

"Trust me, Doctor, I've seen worse," Sam knew his brother couldn't look worse than he did after the semi slammed into the Impala or so he thought until he opened the door to feel his heart jump into his throat. "Dean."

Dean Winchester was laying in the hospital bed looking paler and more bruised than he had after the semi or after he'd fried himself with a taser but at least he wasn't on life support and was breathing on his own.

The loss of blood made his brother looked even paler than he would normally so Sam could very literally count the freckles on his brother's face that Dean hated so much. The stabs wounds could be seen as could the cast on his brother's right arm to support the broken bones.

He was bruised and battered and looked bad but as Sam took a cautious step closer he felt a little better to see the steady rise and fall of his brother's chest with each breath he took.

"Dean?" he whispered, voice soft but still sounded so loud in the quiet room.

Castiel stayed back to just watch the brothers. This wasn't the first time he'd seen either hurt as he recalled how bad Dean had been hurt after Alastair attacked him the night Uriel betrayed them by releasing the demon. "Sam?"

"Can you tell how bad he's still hurt?" Sam asked from where he stood, fingers wanting to reach out to touch but holding back out of a fear of possibly hurting his brother more.

A look closer gave the Angel the answers. "He's not dying but he is still hurt," he began slowly, looking closer. "His brain isn't bleeding but he may be seeing two of things for a few days as he is concussed. His arm is broken in several places so he won't be driving or shooting since that is his right hand but I don't see anything to prevent him from waking up. I can try to heal him more but if I do it would leave me too weak to continue healing you and…I think Dean would prefer I do that."

"Yeah, he'd rather go through the pain and injury than let me be hurt," Sam looked back with a sad smile. "How many times since meeting him has he let you heal him, Cas?" he asked curiously.

"Maybe…three times that I can recall off hand," Castiel replied after trying to think, getting the younger hunter's point. "He's asked me to heal you more. You understand why?"

Sam did and he also had begun to understand more about why his brother had done what he had with the other angel. "If he was hurt more, if he was dying…you wouldn't have the strength to heal him," he slowly sat in a chair closest to the bed to keep his eyes on his brother's still face. "I'd be sitting here watching him die with no viable way to save him…just like he sat with me."

"Yes," Castiel nodded, taking a step closer but stopped at the way Sam's shoulders tensed and understood that no matter what neither hunter would trust someone with the other.

Though the Angel was also aware that he still had a lot to make up for to both Winchesters after some decisions he'd made turned out to not be so good. "What do you think you would do in this situation, Sam?"

Sam would love to say that he wouldn't do anything rash like making a deal with angels or demons or looking for another faith healer or something more drastic since he'd learned in the past ten years how those kinds of choices always played out for them.

He would love to be able to say that he'd be able to let his big brother go. Sam, more than anyone else, understood the life of pain and death that Dean had lived through from the night he was four years old to now so he wanted to believe that he could let him go to find the same peace that Sam had nearly had but as he sat there now watching his brother, the man who had raised him, taught him, and loved him in the only way that perhaps Dean could love anyone Sam closed his eyes.

"I'd do the same damn thing or something worse if it meant saving him," he whispered in acceptance, wishing it could be different but knowing that it never will be because as Dean had said… "There is no me without him," Sam looked back. "Can I be alone with him, Cas?"

Nodding, the Angel stepped outside the door to wait and to make certain no other demons might be paying a call on the hospital.

Waiting until the door swung closed fully Sam worked through the range of emotions that were threatening to swamp him. This wasn't the first time he'd sat in a hospital beside his brother, it wasn't even the worst time Dean had been hurt but whenever it happened it was like Sam was ten years old again and he hated that memory.

He hated remembering the day his fourteen year old brother had been hunting with their Dad and an enraged spirit had thrown him into a tree only to have a sharp branch pierce his side to cause him to nearly bleed out before John Winchester could get his son to a hospital.

Sam could still see the blood on his hands if he thought about sitting in the backseat of the Impala with his bleeding, in pain, scared older brother but what he also remembered clearly about that time is that regardless of how scared Dean was he put on a brave front for him because he didn't want Sam to be scared.

There were very few times in his life that he could remember his father being worried enough to act like a father but that time after Dean had been taken away from them he'd sat in the waiting and let Sam sit on his lap while telling him that it would be fine.

It hadn't been fine since the damn branch had done more damage than anyone first thought so Dean was unconscious for days while the doctors tried to find the last bleeder inside his stomach.

Much like he was now Sam could vividly remember being allowed to finally sit with his brother. He remembered slipping his smaller hand into his idol's bigger one to just hold it while begging Dean to wake up because he needed him to be there with him.

"Dean?" wiping his sweating hands off on his jeans, Sam carefully reached out to let his larger hand close over his older brother's limp hand while reaching into his jacket pocket to remove a single item that he'd been holding onto for nearly five years.

His brother's hand felt small and cold in his but Sam refused to dwell on that as he slipped what he'd removed into the hand he was holding before squeezing limp fingers gingerly. "Dean, I don't know if you can hear me but I hope you can. It's Sam…it's Sammy," he paused to smile since his brother was still the only living man allowed to call him that. "Crowley called me, Dean. I'm not sure if that means he's the lesser of the evil floating around these days or what but…I suppose I won't punch him if I see him again since he did bring you to the ER. Even though why the hell you were helping Crowley get a blade from Cain to kill Abbadon is still beyond me but you can explain that when you wake up.

"The doctor says you'll wake up but you may still be hurt for a little bit but considering you went head to head to over 20 demons I guess we should just be lucky you're not dead," Sam sighed, squeezing his brother's hand again and wishing for any type of response. "I've been trying to call you for days, Dean. Alright, I lost a day after I let Cas stick a needle in my neck but I guess I shouldn't mention that but I've been calling to ask you to come home."

Sam's eyes were blurry from his own weakness and the burning tears he didn't want to fall so he was rubbing them with his free hand and missed the slightest twitch on his brother's jaw muscle right then.

"I know you think I let you go because of what you said but I meant what I said that it wasn't the reason. I let you go that night because I knew if I didn't one of us would have said something bad like we normally do when we're both upset," Sam looked back up to settle his gaze on Dean's rugged face to think back on how many times he'd sat here like this with his brother. "I had just gotten all my memories back, I was raw over seeing what that bastard did to Kevin in my body…what you could have done to you, I was still hurt over it all but I know how you get when you're fueled by guilt so I was the one who let you walk away this time.

"That didn't mean I'd let you stay away or alone for long because I accepted I'd made a mistake the first time I woke up in the bunker. I woke up in pain, confused, and went looking for you only to remember when I got to your room that you weren't there and I was eighteen again," he heard his soft voice shake but shoved past it to try to get out what he could only hope Dean might hear pieces of. "The first time I woke up on the bus going to Stanford after I left you and Dad it took me a couple minutes to remember where I was and why and that was the first time that I had to face my life without my big brother being there to watch my back. That scared me then and it scares me now.

"Yes, I said I was ready to die and maybe I was because of all the damn pain I'd been through from the trials or maybe I thought if I wasn't around it would be easier on you since all I seem to do to make it harder on you but now that it's me sitting here in this chair watching you in that bed…I know what you felt and maybe even understand why you did what you did now," Sam lifted the hand in his so he could hold it tightly in both of his, worry clear as he swallowed the lump in the throat as he glanced up to see what he thought was a flutter of lashes and movement behind closed lids.

"Please wake up, De'n," he whispered, not paying attention that he'd started to drop a letter in his brother's name like he often would when upset. "I need you to wake up because…no matter what I say or the things I may do to say otherwise I still need my big brother so please…just wake up."

Sam closed his eyes when there was no change and letting himself get lost in his own memories of the good and not so good times he and his older brother had shared over the years.

Castiel had poked his head into the room a few times to check on them but remained outside the door while nurses came and went to check various vital signs or Dean's reaction to stimuli to make certain he was just unconscious and not in a coma.

Sam drifted in and out of an uneasy sleep since the small chair was hardly comfortable but he'd flat out refused Dr. Palmer's suggestion of going into one of the waiting rooms to sleep.

"I stay with my brother," he'd declared firmly, fingers still locked tight around Dean's hand as if fearing if he let go he'd lose his brother.

There was only one tense moment that Castiel felt he might have to step in and that came sometime the next afternoon when a new floor nurse decided that Sam had to leave the room while she changed a few of the dressings that covered the stitches along Dean's side and the Angel thought for the briefest of moments that the exhausted, worried young hunter might pull on the man.

Castiel had started to open his mouth to urge restraint when he stopped at the same moment that Sam's focus was jerked from the nurse back to the hand that had just moved to weakly squeeze his.

"Dean?" no longer interested in the evil nurse that had suggested he leave his brother's side, Sam's eyes shot to were Dean's eyes were moving more behind his closed lids before long lashes fluttered a couple times until slowly blurry green eyes opened to look up. "Dean? Can you hear me? Can you squeeze my fingers again if you can…oh, God," he sat down on the edge of the bed before his weak knees gave out on him at the feel of those fingers giving a slightly stronger squeeze this time.

The nurse had gone to retrieve Dr. Palmer who hurried in to begin flashing a tiny penlight into each of the now fully open green eyes before nodding, pleased. "Dean? I'm Dr. Palmer and I've been your physician since you were brought in several days ago. I understand that you'll be disoriented due to the pain killers we have you on as well as the concussion you've suffered but I need you to tell me your name and date of birth."

Dean shot the older man a sour look but stayed silent while his hand seemed to flex until Sam readjusted his grip but didn't release it.

"He won't tell you those things," Castiel spoke up from the door, knowing he was probably the only one who had caught the silent looks exchanged between the brothers. "Ask him about his brother if you want a reply."

"That's a little unorthodox but alright," Palmer considered how to phrase his question. "Dean, can you tell me your brother's name and date of birth?"

Rolling his eyes as if that was one of the stupidest questions he'd ever heard, Dean had to swallow a couple times to wet his mouth until the doctor handed Sam a small cup of ice water with a straw to hold so he could drink from it slowly before eyeing the man. "…Sam," he whispered, voice ragged from being dry and not using it for days. "May 2, 1983."

Sam nodded to let the doctor know the date was right but remained tense until those green eyes moved back to him as if seeking something. "What, Dean?" he asked, still concerned as he started to let go to move so the doctor could check only to frown when his hand was held tighter. "Dean?"

"Sammy," Dean whispered this time in a stronger voice, ignoring the doctor as his attention was locked on his brother's face to instantly pick up the shadows under his eyes and the slight scruff that meant he hadn't slept or shaved. "Look like…hell, dude."

Palmer seemed to blink at that and also at Sam's watery laugh but began to understand that it was how the brother's communicated. "I think he's on the mend," he told the man in the trench coat since he quickly realized Sam wasn't going to listen to him as he concentrated on his older brother. "I'd like to keep him another night to be sure but then I think he can be released."

Dean hadn't been paying attention to the doctor as he tried to decide how long he'd been out and how long Sam had been awake when that comment hit him. "What? No, I feel…"

"Please don't say fine because you're not fine," Sam cut in, tired enough and worried enough that he didn't even have to work at pulling out his secret weapon to convince his brother to stay one more night. "You're still hurt, Dean. If they think you should stay another night then please stay. Then we can go home."

He hated hospitals, especially when he was the one in them, but Dean hated the dreaded puppy dog eyes of doom even more. That was the one weapon in his little brother's arsenal of things to use to get his way that Dean had never learned to counter and he hated the moment he'd taught Sam to use the damn thing.

"Fine, one more night," he grudgingly conceded but kept Sam's hand tight until he felt the object pressing into his palm and shot his brother a look of confusion.

"Do you think you could convince Sam to go lay down and sleep?" Palmer asked curiously, scribbling on the chart when he got two low snorts at that question while Castiel merely shook his head.

"I told you so long as my brother's in here I'm staying beside him," Sam knew he was tired so that might have come out sounding more than a little cranky but right then he didn't care.

Dean allowed the rest of the brief exam, answering questions when he had to as it quickly dawned on him that his normally quiet and polite little brother was to the side of exhaustion that was one step away from being a brat.

Catching Castiel's eye once to lift an eyebrow, Dean could have groaned after figuring out that Sam had probably been awake more than 48 hours and that on top of his own weakness was going to make a very crabby little brother.

"He'll sleep before the morning, Doc," Dean assured the doctor when he was finished poking and prodding him and was satisfied. "Now that I'm awake…Sammy'll fall to sleep."

"No, I won't," Sam muttered, missing the doctor's smile and his brother's eyeroll since he was yawning. "Dean, I…"

"I think I'll go see if I can find Sam some of that coffee stuff he's been drinking," Castiel knew without being told when it was time for him to leave the brothers alone without even getting Dean's nod at that door.

"Get him decaf," Dean called, coughing but finally letting go of Sam's hand to hold the glass of water when he caught sight of what was also in his hand and feeling his chest tighten as he took in the small bronze amulet that he'd thrown away nearly five years earlier in a fit of despair and loss. "Huh."

Sam sat back in the chair to hold his breath while waiting to see how his brother would handle this. "Um, I know what you said back then and I know you still might feel like that but…I was hoping if you meant what you said back in that church that you'd want that back."

The bronze horned amulet had been a Christmas gift the year Dean had been twelve, the last Christmas his brother had been innocent over what killed their mother and what their father really did for a living.

He'd kept it around his neck every day except for the time he'd been in Hell and when Castiel had asked to borrow it to find God. It had been a symbol of their bond as brothers and it had been when Heaven had finally pushed Dean to the breaking point that he'd foolishly allowed it to drop into a motel trashcan.

Dean had regretted the move an hour after he'd done it but believed the amulet lost forever when a call back to the motel revealed that either someone had picked it up or it had been tossed out already.

Now as he ran it through the fingers of his left hand Dean felt the same weight as he had the first time he'd held it in his hand. He could also feel Sam's eyes watching him. "You…had it since then?" he asked, coughing to try to cover the drop in his voice.

"I picked it up. I was going to give it to you before Detroit but…I wasn't sure if you would have accepted it from me then," Sam shrugged, fighting not to fidget but the longer Dean just stared at the amulet the more on edge he was becoming. "I…I put it in my duffel but you never went through my stuff after Stull so…when we started hunting together again when I was soulless I took it back out to just have it in my pocket because…" he trailed off to think for a minute before continuing.

"It was weird. I was soulless, I knew there was something wrong with me but…yet that meant something to me. I think the time you were in Purgatory it nearly wore a hole in my hand because I would keep it clenched in my fingers whenever I was upset or hurt," he took a chance to lift his eyes and saw Dean's gaze on him. "I know I said I was pissed and I was but…I'm not now. I know why you did it because I realize if sitting here with you these past few days was hard on me then I can't imagine how it must have been for you knowing they said I was dying.

"You're not poison, Dean. You never were. You care so much and try so hard to keep people safe but in our line of work it's just not always possible," he started to reach out to touch his brother's wrist but held back since emotional touchy-feely chick flick moments were not Dean's specialty. "I don't think you'd be you if you weren't like that."

Considering that, Dean let the amulet cord fall to hold it out. "Help me put this back on?" he asked, motioning with his broken arm. "Kinda hard with only one hand."

Sam didn't realize he'd been holding his breath until he helped to slip the black cord over his brother's head to see it fall back into place against his chest, smiling a little. "Okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay," Dean knew there were still issues to sort out because he knew Sam never forgave this easily but right then he was willing to let it slide, taking the hand that was just sort of hanging there to hold it tightly while tugging until his younger brother was sitting beside him. "How're you feeling?" he wanted to know.

"Tired and still a little weak from that but Cas did his healing thing a couple more times since the other night and says I'm getting better," Sam replied, refusing to admit how much he really wanted to sleep right then. "Do I get to punch Crowley sometime for getting you in over your head?" he asked through another yawn.

"I'd normally say yeah but he's got his hands full running some kind of screwy election for the throne of Hell so that's probably punishment enough," Dean told him, watching his brother's eyes battling not to close and chose the moment to ask his next question. "Do I get to punch Cas for sticking a damn needle in my little brother's neck?"

Sam went still except for his eyes which shot to his brother to see a tired smirk on Dean's face. "You…you heard me?" he asked, stunned.

"I heard your voice so I knew you were here but it was mostly faint until you mentioned how Cas stuck a needle in your neck to pull some leftover Angel crap out of you to use a tracking device. Sammy? Should I have you brain scanned while we're here?" Dean was very strongly going to point out to the Angel that when he left him with Sam it was to watch over him and heal him…not to stick needles in him. "Show me."

Opening his mouth to object, Sam only sighed at the heated green eyes that usually meant his brother, sick or hurt, could still stare him down. "He says we can use it to track Gadreel," he mumbled, wincing when a gentle finger touched the spot on his neck that still showed the bruise of the long needle. "I didn't want you tracking the asshole by yourself so I let him draw it out. It hurt and made me weaker but I'll be…okay."

"Okay, so the new rule is we don't let Castiel stick needles in your neck," Dean told him with a shake of his head and then let his fingers card back through his brother's still too long hair. "Y'know I wanted to tell you so many times but there was always a reason not to. I meant when I said that I'd put no one over you. I just wish I would've seen the risk before it cost Kevin his life."

"We'll make both Gadreel and Metatron pay for Kevin but you have to let me help," Sam knew that would be a fight, grasping Dean's hand tightly. "You said that if there was no me there'd be no you well that works both ways, Dean. Why is it alright for you to take all the risks?" he asked. "Why can't you see that I'd do the same for you?"

"Because I'm the older brother and I think there's an unwritten rule somewhere about that," Dean returned with his usual snark but sighed when he was given one of his little brother's milder bitch faces. "Alright, how about we try one of those rare things people call a compromise? I'll try to back off protecting you so much and I'll let you do the same for me…if you swear to me that you won't scare me like you did this last time cause dude, when you crashed at the church I about lost it. Deal?"

Sam glanced at the hand before taking it again. "Deal," he agreed, tightening his grip while holding his brother's gaze for a long moment before going with the tug that took forward into one of the hard hugs his brother would offer infrequently. "I'm glad Crowley called me," he whispered, careful when he held on so to not hurt his brother. "And I'm glad you woke up."

"I think we need to check Crowley for a split personality since he's been acting weird since the trials and I'll always be there when you need me, little brother," Dean replied, fighting not to hiss in pain as he slowly shifted more to the side without seeming to. "So, I'm stuck here for another night…you going to sleep for me willingly or should I have Cas punch you since he owes me one for sticking a needle in your body?"

"Not…tired," Sam argued but knew he wasn't even fooling himself on that line. "I'll…sleep soon, De'n."

The second he heard the dropped letter Dean knew his brother was crashing, nudging Sam until he slowly went with the touch to rest his head against his shoulder after Dean worked the bed remote to lift it a little more so he wasn't lying flat.

"I can't drive yet, Cas is not touching my car so unless you want to drive back in the Pimp-mobile you'd better get some sleep so you can drive the Impala back home," Dean remarked simply, feeling his brother relaxing now that he was awake and more alert. "Close your eyes and sleep, Sammy. You watched over me now it's my turn…or Cas can watch over us both except that would be creepy."

Sam laughed but gave up fighting to sleep since he felt safe enough to sleep now that his brother was awake and talking. "Dean? Can we lose that car?" he asked around another yawn.

"I'd like to crunch it like that stupid Dodge Robo-you drove but since we can't I saw we just drop it in a ditch or give it back to whoever Cas…borrowed it from," Dean smirked, wishing his right arm wasn't in the cast since it was easier to keep Sam asleep if he could keep a hand on his neck but grinned when he felt fingers curling around his amulet and knew his brother would sleep until he woke him tomorrow. "G'night, Sammy."

"De'n?" half asleep, Sam forced one eye open to look up at his brother with a smile. "You're still pretty jacked on pain meds, right?"

"I might be," Dean hedged since he suspected what would be coming but would give his little brother the chick flick moment. "I know I don't say it enough but…despite you being an annoying pain in my ass who will give me a stroke one of these days…I love you too, Sammy."

Sam's smile was happy as he began to fall into exhaustion. "Thanks, De'n," he mumbled, adding the 'Iloveyou' in a rushed mumble before he was out like a light.

Dean stayed still to let his brother sleep, preparing the speech he'd use when the doctor tried to move Sam when he lifted an eye at the sound of the door opening. "So…you, me, words."

Castiel knew what those words would be over and simply stepped inside the room to accept the lecture that he'd known he's get as soon as his friend learned of the needle deal. "I believe this is where I say that I had a perfectly good reason for it."

"There is never a good reason to stick a needle in my brother, Cas," Dean snapped, using his casted arm to point to a spot in front of the bed. "Start talking and maybe if I'm asleep by the time you're done I won't bash you with this cast but I wouldn't hold my breath on it."

The Angel explained in exacting detail about his plan to use the extracted remaining grace to track Gadreel and by the time he was done speaking he merely watched for several seconds to see that Dean had, in fact, fallen to sleep.

Sitting in a chair by the window so he could watch over the Winchesters but not be too close that Dean would feel Sam might be threatened; Castiel picked up a magazine and began to read, another habit he'd learned from working in the grocery store and just waited for his friends to wake up.

"Sleep well, my friends," he murmured.

The End