Dean had to resist the urge to keep from giving his brother sidelong glances as he drove. Normally he hated all that sappy, silly, chick-flick crap Sam was more prone to initiate but right now he was just so happy to have his brother by his side again.
Sam was sitting in the Impala's passenger's seat and clearly was not feeling all warm and fuzzy inside as Dean was. The older sibling knew it was nothing against him; Sam was mulling over Zachariah's vision of the future and Lucifer's late-night visit in the guise of poor Jessica Moore.
Dean could see it written all over his brother's face.
"I'd never agree to that!" Sam had snarled vehemently when Dean had told him that in the future Zach had shown him, he'd eventually said 'yes' to Lucifer, "That's never gonna happen!"
"I know, Sammy, I know," Dean had soothed, knowing that his brother wasn't actually angry with him but that pompous son of a bitch who thought he could torture them into becoming angel condoms.
Sam had looked up at Dean and the older sibling didn't see so much anger in his brother's hazel eyes as fear, fear that Zachariah knew more than they did and that, for once he wasn't just fucking with them.
"You're not going to say 'yes,'" Dean had said, "And I'm not going to say 'yes'. Those assholes can duke it out with some other meat suits if they're so hot to tear each other apart."
Sam had looked placated by Dean's confidence and Dean hoped he wasn't just giving his brother a false sense of security.
Dean pulled off the dark, deserted highway and into the parking lot of a lonely gas station labeled as 'Gus's Gas N' Snax'.
"Wanna come in with me?" he asked Sam as he turned off the Impala's engine.
Sam shrugged and decided that he might as well use the short break to stretch his legs.
Sam still couldn't believe that Dean had so readily forgiven him for the revelation that he was Lucifer's intended vessel. The last time he had spoken to Dean, it seemed as though it would be the last time.
His older brother, however, appeared contrite and ashamed of his previous behaviour, actually going so far as to apologize for the things he'd said to Sam on the phone, just hours before Zachariah found him and showed him their future.
Sam couldn't help but shiver as he waited beside the Impala for Dean to fill the Chevy with gas. The thought of giving in and becoming Lucifer's meat suit made his stomach churn with nausea.
The younger man had told Dean about the Devil's unexpected visit, pretending to be his late girlfriend before finally revealing his true form and true intentions. Sam had told Dean about how he was really supposed to be Lucifer's vessel and how the fallen angel was so certain that he'd eventually agree to him but what he didn't tell his brother was the promise he'd made to both the Devil and himself that he'd die before he said 'yes', even if that meant suicide. Telling Dean that would only upset him.
But… what unsettled Sam the most about his unwanted conversation with Lucifer, was the fallen angel's claim that if he was on death's door, that the Devil would bring him back.
"Hey!" Dean's voice startled Sam out of his morbid thoughts and he glanced over at his brother.
"You okay, Sammy?"
The young man didn't know how long his brother had been trying to get his attention but Dean had already replaced the gas pump and shut the lid to the Impala's tank.
"Uh… Fine," Sam assured him, "I'm just tired."
Dean nodded, looking like he actually believed him and started off towards the gas station's snack bar to pay for the petrol and grab something to eat.
Sam followed his sibling, sighing silently and wiping a hand across his face as though attempting to dash his dark thoughts away.
A small, rusted bell above the door tinkled dully as the Winchesters stepped inside.
Dean parted ways with his brother and headed towards the back of the store where a long row of glass doors showed the variety of cold beverages for sale.
Quietly singing Kiss's 'Cold Gin' under his breath, Dean opened one of the cool glass doors and grabbed a twelve-pack of beer. It would be nice to have a drink once they stopped for the night- and Sam sure as Hell looked like he could use one as well- Dean decided, before he turned into one of the aisles and began browsing the snack foods offered.
Glancing up and around the tiny store- a habit ingrained in him from John's training- Dean spied his brother standing by the cash register, making small-talk with the young lady at the till.
Dean smiled, the girl- who looked as though she might die of boredom working the graveyard shift at this lonesome gas station- perked up the instant Sam showed interest in her. She had long, dark brown hair drawn up in a ponytail and an open, oval face. She was wearing a minimum of makeup and when she spoke, Dean saw the silver flash of braces on her teeth.
That's adorable, the older Winchester thought and returned to his browsing.
Dean grabbed a couple of bags of potato chips- barbeque and dill pickle- a handful of candy bars and a baggie of salt and vinegar flavoured shelled peanuts.
Making his way towards the front of the store, Dean nudged his sibling out of the way and lay his items on the counter for the girl to ring through.
"And gas at Pump 3," he told the cashier as he pulled out his wallet.
"You want anything, Sammy?" Dean asked as the young lady began ringing the items through and placing them in a plastic bag, "My treat."
"I'm okay, Dean," Sam assured him.
As the last of the items were going into the bag and Dean's money was changing hands, the door to the store opened, the rusty bell chiming weakly.
From the corner of his eye, the older Winchester caught sight of the person who had just stepped into the gas station and instantly the hairs on the back of his neck stood up.
The new arrival was wearing an oversized, nondescript black sweater with the hood pulled up, saggy blue jeans and dirty Nike shoes. The kid had his hands shoved into the pocket of his sweater and his eyes rolled in their sockets as he took in the gas station.
The guy couldn't have been more than sixteen or seventeen-years old, greasy blonde hair poking out from beneath the sweater's hood, mud-brown eyes coming to a rest on the cash register sitting on the counter. His skin was sallow and oily, cheeks pockmarked with achne scars and his brow home to a dozen new pimples that looked like miniature volcanoes about to erupt at any moment.
Dean tensed as the teen drew one hand from his pocket and produced a black handgun, rapidly approaching them as he did so.
"Nobody move!" the kid snarled threateningly, "Hands where I can see 'em!"
Dean raised his hands automatically in the universal gesture of surrender, all the while feeling his own gun burning the skin at the small of his back where he had it hidden in the waistband of his jeans.
"Anybody moves and I'll shoot! Got it?" the teen warned, waving his gun in front of Dean's nose.
"Okay, okay, just calm down," the hunter said as diplomatically as possible.
"Don't you fucking tell me to calm down!" the teen shouted and the cashier gave a strangled sob.
As though he'd only just remembered she was there, the robber twisted at the waist and grabbed the front of the girl's shirt with his free hand.
"Open the register! Give me all the money! Put it in that bag!" the boy demanded, pointing with his gun at the bag containing Dean's purchases.
The girl nodded tearfully, knowing better than to argue with the robber.
Dean's fingers were itching to grab his gun and give the son of a bitch a taste of his own medicine but he was afraid that if he moved, the punk would start shooting.
The hunter could sense Sam behind him; almost feel the heat coming off his brother's body and silently prayed that his sibling would not do anything stupid.
The girl used her key to open the register and grabbed handfuls of bills, shoving them in the plastic bag, her breathing short and rapid from fear.
Once all the money was transferred to the bag, the girl picked it up with shaking hands to give it to the robber.
Dean almost jumped out of his skin when he felt the hem of his shirt lift up and the cold feeling of metal sliding against his skin as Sam pulled his gun from its hiding spot.
The hunter heard the unmistakable sound of the hammer being thumbed back and so did the youthful robber, because he turned to look at Sam.
The gunshot was so loud that Dean had to put his hands over his ears, crouching down automatically. A cry of pain sounded before a second shot rang out, followed by the thud of a body.
A third gunshot broke the silence in the gas station before the sound of pounding footsteps began, receding as the teen raced from the store, one hand wrapped around the bag of money and the other clutching the side of his bloody face.
Dean looked up sharply, terrified that the second two gunshots had found their marks and cried out his brother's name as he caught sight of Sam sitting against a shelf of snacks facing the cashier's counter, a circle of blood turning his shirt red.
The younger Winchester looked up at him, his face already pale.
"T-The girl," Sam muttered weakly.
Dean ignored him and pulled his flannel shirt open, buttons popping and rolling across the tile floor.
A large red stain was growing low on Sam's abdomen, indicating a gunshot wound to the gut.
"Shit," Dean swore and pulled his jacket off, crumpling it into a ball and pressing it down hard on his brother's abdomen.
Sam groaned in pain and closed his eyes.
Dean found his brother's hand, pried the gun from his fingers and placed the hand on the jacket.
"Keep pressing down, Sammy," the older brother instructed thickly, trying not to think about the blood starting to pool on the floor beneath his sibling.
Turning around, Dean heard his brother call his name.
"I'm going to check the girl," the older Winchester told him, "I'll be right back."
Not bothering to stand up, Dean crawled across the floor on his hands and knees- he didn't recall hearing a vehicle when the kid had arrived and he wasn't sure if the bastard was really gone or not- and peered around the counter.
The girl lay on her back on the tile floor, a red wound in her chest.
Grinding his teeth together, Dean reached out and laid a hand against the girl's throat but found what he'd already suspected, she was dead.
Hurrying back to his brother, Dean jammed his hand into the pocket of his jeans and found his cell phone, calling for help.
Once he had confirmed that an ambulance and the police were on their way, Dean sat back against the shelf beside his brother, laying his hand atop Sam's, pressing as hard as he dared.
"Hur's," the younger man muttered, head bowed.
"I know, Sammy," Dean murmured, "But it'll be okay. We'll get you to a hospital and you'll be alright."
The elder Winchester felt a lump form painfully in his throat as he spoke, knowing that the help may not come in time, and reached out to grip his brother's free hand in his own.
The minutes that passed seemed to drag on as Dean kept one hand firmly against his jacket, the leather quickly growing damp with Sam's blood. The older sibling squeezed his brother's hand tightly and spoke quietly.
"You stay awake," Dean muttered fiercely, "You stay with me, Sammy. The ambulance is coming."
The younger man did not respond and when Dean glanced down at Sam, he was alarmed to see his brother's chin resting against his chest, his breathing slow and shallow.
"Sam? Sammy, c'mon, wake up, man!"
Dean reached out and eased his sibling back, gripping the younger hunter's shoulder tightly.
Sam's head lolled for a moment before he seemed to gather the strength to lift it. Dean felt his heart clench like a fist in his chest; Sam's face was an unhealthy shade of grey and there was a smear of blood at the corner of his mouth.
"Damn it," Dean swore and used his free hand to squeeze the back of his sibling's neck gently.
"Where the fuck is the ambulance?" the older Winchester thought to himself, resisting the urge to get up and peer out the gas station's glass door; he could not leave his brother.
One tense minute passed, then another, and another- checking his cell phone, Dean saw that over ten minutes had passed since he'd called for help- and he was beginning to feel as though that help would never arrive.
Then, faint and distant, Dean heard the distinct wail of an ambulance siren.
The hunter grinned, baring teeth, and released his grip on the back of Sam's neck to take his free hand again instead.
"Didn't I tell you, Sammy? Help's coming; just hold on a little bit longer."
Sam didn't respond but Dean told himself that was okay; his sibling needed his strength.
Sitting up a little taller, Dean's hawk-like gaze was drawn to the glass door of the gas station as the sirens became louder and louder, rapidly drowning out the sound of the hunter's own heartbeat.
Red and blue lights flashed into the tiny gas station, painting the crime scene in stained-glass colours. Dean climbed to his knees, keeping one hand clenched in his brother's, as a fire truck and two ambulances pulled into the parking lot.
Seconds later a half-dozen police cruisers followed the First Responders' vehicles and a cadre of men and women whose job it was to protect and serve, entered the small gas station.
Before Dean could even stand, two paramedics- a young man who looked fresh out of high school and a middle-aged lady- approached him and Sam.
"Are you hurt?" the kid asked Dean and he shook his head, "I'm fine. Sammy's hurt bad though."
The woman, who had curly brown-and-grey hair and kind, brown eyes, crouched down beside Sam and spoke to her younger companion, instructing him to get the other paramedics who had arrived in the second ambulance.
Within moments the younger Winchester was surrounded by paramedics all talking medical jargon to one another while Dean hovered behind, helpless and anxious.
"…single gunshot wound to the abdomen…"
"….signs of severe blood loss…"
"…possible intestinal injuries…"
And on and on and on. Dean jumped when a hand fell on his shoulder and he turned to look at a mustachioed police officer.
"He's my brother," Dean told the cop without prompting.
The man nodded solemnly.
"Can you tell us what happened here?" the officer asked Dean and the hunter opened his mouth to speak when he saw one of the paramedics break away from the group and head towards the doors at a jog.
Dean turned his head to peer at his brother and he felt his heart leap into his throat. Someone had taken the jacket away from Sam's belly and the result was a horrible dark blood stain that pooled around his body; that Dean hadn't notice as he sat right beside him.
"I need that stretcher!" the middle-aged female paramedic snapped and Dean's heart skipped a beat.
Maybe they were losing Sam, he thought fearfully, maybe he was already gone.
Dean took a step towards his brother, only to be jostled to one side as the other paramedic arrived with the stretcher.
The hunter didn't even notice that the police officer had left him.
He watched as a team, the First Responders carefully lifted Sam onto the stretcher and picked it up, moving as one past him and towards the doors with their heavy burden.
"Sam!" Dean called, hurrying after the group, "Is he going to be okay?"
No one answered him. Instead, the portable stretcher was slid into the back of a waiting ambulance and first two paramedics Dean had seen climbed in after their charge.
"Hey!" the hunter cried as the woman reached out to close the ambulance's rear doors.
"There's no room," she said brusquely and slammed the doors shut. Almost instantaneously the ambulance was pulling away from its parking spot, lights flashing and sirens wailing mournfully.
Dean stood dumbfounded for a moment.
"Is this yours?" a familiar voice spoke from behind him and Dean turned to see the mustachioed police officer holding his blood-soaked jacket.
"Yeah," the hunter muttered numbly and took the garment.
"Where are they going?" Dean asked, giving himself a mental kick.
"Came from Arva," the cop told him, "So they'd be going to the General Hospital. I can take you there if-"
Dean interrupted the police officer, "I'll find it."
The cop nodded, "We'll send someone to the hospital to get your statement later."
Dean was already turning away, eyes on his beloved Impala, when he heard the police officer speak again.
"Good luck, son."
Luck, huh. The Winchesters didn't have luck, especially in the times when they needed it most, it seemed.
As Dean ran to the Chevy, he saw the paramedics from the second ambulance carrying a stretcher out of the gas station, a stretcher with a blanket-shrouded body sitting atop it.
Dean broke the posted speed limit in order to catch up to the ambulance. He was glad that there was only one main road that led to the next town, as he would be screwed if he had to search all over God's green earth for the vehicle. As soon as he caught sight of the flashing lights and square ass-end, he sped up even more. He felt that if he didn't drive almost directly on top of the ambulance, it would vanish, and Sam along with it.
Arva was a small town that practically sprang up suddenly out of the farmers' fields and copses of trees along the highway. It seemed though that it was big enough to have it own hospital though, which Dean was grateful for. He knew that the paramedics could only do so much for Sam in the back of an ambulance.
Driving through the deserted streets without noticing anything but the white rear of the ambulance, Dean pulled the Impala to a stop at the doors of the hospital's emergency entrance.
Dashing inside, Dean explained that his brother had just arrived and after the nurse at the front desk spent several agonizing minutes typing on the computer and talking with someone- another nurse, Dean assumed- on the phone, she told him that Sam was on his way to surgery and would he please fill out these forms.
With nothing to do but wait, the elder Winchester took the clipboard from the nurse and made his way into the waiting room, feeling drained.
He sat down on a chair covered in purple fabric, its cushioning long flattened by thousands of patients' and family members' rear ends.
Slouching forward, Dean scrawled in Sam's information, giving an alias in case- and it seemed like a long shot but it was better to be safe than sorry- any of Zachariah's buddies were hanging around and caught wind of the name Winchester.
Once he'd filled out the paperwork and returned it to the nurse, Dean shuffled his way over to the old coffee maker sitting at the far end of the waiting room and poured himself a cup of the lukewarm liquid.
Remaining standing, Dean let his eyes wander around the room. Besides the purple chairs, the waiting room also boasted, two faux pine coffee tables scattered with old issues of National Geographic and People magazines. The tile floor was scuffed and grey, the walls a light mauve. A television secured to a bracket screwed into the ninety-degree angle where two walls met was playing a state news station silently.
Dean wasn't the only person in the waiting room. Besides the nurse, there was a tired-looking woman with puffy eyes and frizzy hair with her arm around a little girl whose face was a rather alarming shade of red.
Sighing, the hunter returned to his original seat and sipped at the bitter, almost cold coffee and waited for news on his brother's condition.
Dean looked up, unsurprised when two police officers stepped into the waiting room from the emergency entrance about three hours after he'd arrived.
Standing up, the hunter went to meet the two men and shook hands with them. After they'd offered their condolences and wishes for Sam's recovery, they asked Dean to describe everything that had happened since he and his brother had entered 'Gus's Gas N' Snax' earlier that evening.
Dean was too tired to lie so he told the truth, even the part where Sam grabbed his gun and shot the young robber.
"Do you own that gun?" one of the officers asked and Dean nodded.
"We'll have to see the registration," the cop told Dean.
"I can get it now," the hunter said, "It's just in the car."
Holding a hand up, the police officer stopped him, "Don't worry about that now. Bring it in to the station in a day or so."
"Okay," Dean agreed, knowing he and Sam would be long gone in a day or so.
"Is there anything else I can help you with?" he asked because he knew from experience it was always a good thing to do.
The other cop shook his head, "We have an APB out for the teen who robbed the station and shot your brother and the girl, and with his injury he shouldn't be that hard to recognize."
Dean nodded and the two officers thanked him for his time, letting him know that they might be back to ask his sibling some questions- if Sam recovered, that was- before leaving the hospital.
Raking a hand through his short-cropped hair, the hunter returned to the coffee maker and poured himself another cup, guzzling it down with a grimace of distaste.
"Family of Samuel Morrison?"
Dean jumped up from his chair as though it was electrified and caught the attention of the elderly doctor who had spoken.
"Here," Dean said, one hand raised as though he was back in elementary school, "I'm Dean. Sam's brother. Is he going to be okay?"
The doctor, who had a head of fluffy white hair and a lined, shriveled face, smiled, "Your brother made it through surgery."
Dean sagged with relief. If he hadn't been tired before, now he was exhausted. Outside, the first orange tendrils of sunrise were colouring the pre-dawn sky.
"When can I see him?" the hunter asked anxiously.
"He's still recovering from the anesthesia but once he's awake, he'll be moved out of post-op. You can see him then."
Dean nodded, feeling almost giddy with relief.
He recalled, however, the amount of blood that had seemed to pour out of his brother and he once again felt fear grip him in icy claws.
"How bad is it, Doc?"
For a moment the doctor simply frowned at him before appearing to understand what Dean meant.
"The bullet did puncture your brother's intestines," the elderly doctor said slowly, "And although he lost a great deal of blood, very little waste had actually leaked into his abdomen. The bullet also came within centimeters of hitting his spine but I do not believe there will be any lasting damage from the gunshot. I want to keep him at least twenty-four hours, however, to ensure that everything is working as it should and the sutures are tight and there is no leakage."
Dean nodded; they could stay for a day.
The doctor smiled and clapped him on the shoulder, "You brother is one lucky fellow. Maybe he should buy a lottery ticket when he gets out of here."
Dean grunted a laugh in response and thanked the doctor.
Now a little less frightened and anxious for his brother's future, Dean sat back down and breathed a long sigh.
Sam woke slowly, reluctantly. A deep, searing pain centered in his midsection radiated outward to all his limbs, forcing him closer and closer to the brink of consciousness.
The young man tried to burrow deeper into the comforting, painless darkness but it was too late, wakefulness had its hooks in him now and was not about to let him go.
Sam peeled his gummy eyes open and stared through blurry vision upwards. He was laying on his back on a soft, yet slightly unyielding surface.
Blinking the fog away from his eyes, the younger Winchester found himself staring up at a ceiling of off-white fiberglass ceiling tiles interspersed with rows of fluorescent lights. Moving the fingers of his right hand, Sam felt soft, starchy cloth beneath his skin. The dull murmur of noise- voices, footsteps, an incessant beeping- came to the young man next. Frowning, Sam struggled to focus on any of these sounds and only succeeded in making the beep…beep…beep…beep all the more sharp against his eardrums. The bitter smell of bleach invaded Sam's nose and made his eyes water slightly.
A hospital, Sam realized slowly, I'm in a hospital.
"Glad to see your finally awake, Sammy," a familiar voice cut through the young man's thoughts and he turned his head to the left and saw Dean sitting on a visitor's chair, leaning forward and smiling.
"H-Hey," Sam whispered, his mouth feeling as though it was made of cotton.
"W-What h-happened?" he asked, trying and failing to recall why he was in such pain.
"You had to be the hero," Dean told him, "You pulled my gun on that punk-ass kid who was trying to rob the gas station."
Sam frowned, continuing to remember the chain of events his brother was describing.
"He shot you in the gut," Dean informed Sam, his tone suggesting that if he had been in his younger sibling's position, he wouldn't have been shot.
"I'm gonna be okay?" Sam asked in a tiny voice.
Dean nodded in a distracted way before smiling at him again, "Lucky I was there, Sammy. Who knows what would have happened if I wasn't."
The younger Winchester felt his eyes water again, this time not as a result of the sharp-scented cleaner the custodial staff used.
"I told you I wouldn't let you die," Dean said now, reaching out to pat Sam's hand where it sat above the hospital blanket, "And I wasn't lying."
Sam frowned, Dean's words sending a chill down his spine.
"What-" he began, eyes searching his brother's face for an answer when the truth revealed itself.
Dean's visage melted away, just as Jessica's had, to betray the true identity of who was sitting with Sam.
Nick's blue eyes met Sam's and the hunter flinched away from his visitor, groaning in pain as the rapid movement tugged on the fresh stitches in his abdomen. Sam pulled his hand out from under Lucifer's and struggled towards the far end of the hospital bed.
Sam felt the Devil's eyes on him as he thrashed weakly, trying in vain to sit up, to roll over onto the floor, to get away. Draining the minimal store of energy, the younger Winchester sank into the hard mattress, panting.
Reluctantly, Sam's eyes slid towards Nick's, seeming to be drawn into their icy depths as though by a magnet.
"You almost died, Sam," Lucifer said, in a soft tone, "Would have died if I hadn't intervened."
"I didn't ask you to do anything for me," Sam ground out, trying to muster anger and only sounding weak and tired.
"I know," the Devil agreed, "But you are my vessel. I can't let anything happen to you."
Sam's mouth twisted, "The answer's still no and that's all you're ever going to hear from me!"
Lucifer sighed, "I saved your life when you were at death's door, does that amount for nothing?"
Sam shook his head, "Dean. Dean was there. He wouldn't have let me die. He would have made sure I was okay until help came!"
The Devil looked up at him, blue eyes suddenly swimming.
"What if Dean couldn't? What if Dean was unable to help you?"
Sam stared at the fallen angel, trepidation descending over him.
"Dean's fine," he insisted, "He's okay. I know he is."
Lucifer said nothing and Sam grew nervous. What if he wasn't lying? What if Dean was in trouble? Hurt or, God forbid, killed?
But Dean was Michael's vessel, Sam remembered, and if Lucifer was willing to exert his power to save him, wouldn't the archangel do the same for his brother?
"You're a liar," Sam snarled vehemently.
Aware that the young man had seen through him, the fallen angel's demeanor changed. Lucifer stood up and stared icily down at Sam. For a moment the young man was afraid he was about to be hurt.
Then, the cold blue eyes softened, "I'm not going to harm you. I could never harm you, Sam."
The young man cringed as Lucifer raised a hand and laid it against his cheek.
"Sam… Sam… SAM… SAM!"
Dean reached out and grabbed his brother's wrists as Sam thrashed in the hospital bed.
"Sam!" Dean cried, trying to keep his brother from pulling out the IV lines giving his sibling much-needed fluids, "Sammy! Hey, you're okay! Calm down!"
The young man's eyes snapped open but Dean could see that he wasn't truly awake.
"SAM!" Dean bellowed and finally his brother ceased writhing, slumping limply against the unforgiving hospital mattress.
Slowly, Dean released his hold on his brother's wrists and sat back in the visitor's chair as Sam blinked owlishly against the fluorescent lights shining down on him.
A half-hour after Sam's doctor had given Dean the good news, his brother had recovered enough from the anesthesia to be moved into a different room. The older Winchester had followed the elderly doctor into his brother's new room and remained at Sam's side as he waited for him to wake up.
At first Sam had appeared to be sleeping peacefully, seemingly unaware of his surroundings or the pain that would surely greet him upon gaining consciousness.
Then, Sam frowned in his sleep, his brow furrowed and he groaned weakly. His head moved from side to side for a moment before moaning again and suddenly he began to thrash as though he were having a fit.
Dean had instantly jumped into action, grabbing his struggling sibling's arms and calling his name; terrified Sam was going to hurt himself.
A nightmare, Dean realized, he's having a bad nightmare.
The eldest Winchester though, had never seen his brother react like that to a bad dream. Even when he had nightmares about Jessica, shortly after her fiery death, Sam would move jerkily in bed for a few moments, mutter her name before consciousness would hit him like a ton of bricks and he'd sit up in bed, calling out his late girlfriend's name before he'd realized what he was doing.
Now, Sam laid on his back in the hospital bed, breathing gasping in his lungs, eyes open and staring at the ceiling but not really seeing it.
"Sammy," Dean murmured and reached out to brush his sibling's bangs away from his brow.
Sam's eyes grew even wider and he batted Dean's hands away.
"Hey!" the older brother cried, indignantly before his voice softened, "It's okay, Sammy."
The younger Winchester turned his head so that he was facing Dean and he saw Sam's hazel eyes narrow suspiciously.
"Sam? Sammy, what's wrong?"
"You're not fooling me again," Sam snarled, startling his brother.
Dean's mouth opened in shock, "What are you talking about?"
"I'm not going to let you in so you can forget it," Sam growled and Dean stared, taken aback.
What the Hell? He thought, confused for a long moment until it dawned on him.
"It's me, Sam, Dean," he said, "The real Dean. You were having a nightmare."
The younger hunter continued to peer at him through narrowed eyes for a moment or two before his face twisted with pain and he hissed through his teeth.
"Sammy?" Dean said, concerned and reached for the nurses' call button.
The younger man groaned with pain and older brother, unable to stop himself, moved to sit on the edge of the bed.
"Hey," Dean murmured and laid a hand gently on Sam's shoulder.
His brother tilted his head up and peered at him, nervously.
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean continued, "A nurse will be coming in a minute."
"Dean?" the younger hunter whispered and Dean nodded, trying hard not to smile too widely.
"Yeah, it's me, Sam," he confirmed, "The real deal, the one and only."
The sound of approaching footsteps alerted Dean that the called-for nurse was heading their way.
"I thought… I thought…" Sam muttered but Dean held a hand up, "It's okay, Sammy."
A short, plump, redheaded nurse entered the room and Dean asked for something to ease his sibling's pain. The nurse nodded and obliged, filling a hypodermic needle and inserted the tip into the IV line.
"Thanks, Sweetheart," the elder Winchester smiled at the nurse and made her blush almost as red as her hair.
Once Sam and Dean were alone, the older squeezed the younger's shoulder.
"Doctor said you were damn lucky," Dean murmured, "And I don't think he was just trying to get into my good graces. I thought you were going to bleed out right there on that dirty gas station floor."
The younger brother's shoulders tensed beneath Dean's hand and the older sibling glanced down worriedly.
"Isn't that stuff the nurse gave you working yet?" Dean asked.
"It's not that," Sam said quietly, head lowered.
"I'm not lucky at all," Sam muttered, lifting his head and Dean saw tears in his eyes.
"What are you talking about?" the older hunter asked, his nerves tingling.
"You remember what I told you about Lucifer, what he told me?"
"Yeah, that you were supposed to be his meatsuit," Dean offered and Sam nodded.
"But… he said something else," Sam began and hesitated, looking away from him.
"What? Sam, what did he say?"
"Wh-When he told me that I was his v-vessel," the younger brother continued haltingly, "I told him that I would… that I would kill myself before that happened."
Sam grew silent for a moment, cautiously peering at Dean again, hazel eyes wide and round.
Dean didn't trust himself to speak so he simply nodded that Sam could continue.
"He… he told me he'd just bring me back if I tried to… to…" Sam stammered before stopping, then, "He wasn't lying."
The older Winchester took a moment for this new information to sink in. No wonder Sam's doctor had thought he was one lucky fellow; his brother had a fallen angel on his shoulder.
"Sam…" Dean said, not sure exactly what he could say.
"I'm sorry, Dean," his brother muttered, sounding guilty and ashamed.
"Sammy," Dean said, "No, why are you apologizing? You didn't do anything? You didn't ask for this. This isn't your fault."
Sam's eyes overflowed and Dean kept talking, "It was an accident. You didn't know killing Lilith would release Lilith. Ruby lied. I… I know you were just trying to do the right thing."
Dean felt a great sense of relief, an odd sense of relief to be telling his brother that he didn't blame Sam for letting Lucifer out. He was tired of dumping all the guilt on his sibling; it was exhausting always holding Sam's mistakes over his head. Dean had made mistakes too; he wasn't a saint, so why would he expect Sam to be perfect?
Dean reached out and wrapped both arms around his brother, drawing Sam close to him so that his sibling's head rested against his chest.
"It'll be okay, Sammy," the eldest Winchester whispered, "It'll all be okay in the end."
Written for AlxM's birthday! Hope you have a great day! Thanks for being such a fantastic friend and supporter! Love and hugs
Fanfic title comes from a Black Sabbath song of the same name.
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