Don't own the boys, don't own the show, do own the story.

Hi guys, thanks again for all the awesome reviews. Sorry it took me so long to post this. The last week has been so insane. Hope this suffices.

As foggy as his mind was when he awoke the next morning, Sam might as well have just stayed asleep. Opening his eyes, the room began to spin and fade in and out, and he finally just closed them again as a temporary fix. His head pounded terribly, and he wanted nothing more than to take a couple dozen of the precious pain killers if, for no other reason, than to lesson the insistent agony of the thousand machete's embedding themselves into his skull. And memories of what had happened the previous night were shaky at best. It took him a full quarter hour before he felt well enough to rise from the bed, and only then because he had finally remembered his brother.

"Oh God, Dean!" Sam shot from the bed, his mind quickly clearing up. Finding the older man awake, Sam sank beside him, calming immediately.

The sharp pain in his side had woken Dean early in the morning, and for the next several hours he'd made himself lay perfectly still, gritting his teeth as he tried desperately to ease the vicious stabbing feeling. That's how Sam found him when he finally decided to join the land of the conscious.

"Dean, how are you feeling?" Sam asked, his anxiety for his brother's well being written cleanly across his face.

Dean groaned, painfully propping himself up on his elbows. "I'm fine," he assured Sam, trying not to wince as he said it. "How are you?"

Sam shrugged, averting his eyes from his brother as had become habit. "Embarrassed," Sam admitted, some of the things he'd said and done that night returning to his memory. "Dean, about last night...I'm sor–"

Vigorously shaking his head and holding his hand up firmly, Dean managed to put a stop to Sam's apology. "I think we both have stuff we shouldn't have said or done last night. For the last several months for that matter. Why don't we just call it even and move on?"

More than anything, Sam wanted to protest. He'd gone so long without talking to Dean, without telling him some of the most important things in his life. Wasn't that what had gotten them to this point in the first place? And yet now, when he was finally ready to spill his guts, bare his soul, Dean was putting up the wall again. To him, sharing that past night was enough to explain everything. He didn't want more. He didn't need more. But Sam did.

"I think we should talk about this, Dean," Sam replied hesitantly.

Watching Dean shift uncomfortably on the bed, Sam winced, guilt once again rising inside as he reminded himself that he was the cause of all that pain. But Dean was having none of the guilt or the self-deprecation that Sam was subjecting himself to. "Look, Sam; you want to talk– fine, we'll talk. But not now. And not here. You're not thinking clearly right now, and I'm sure as hell not in the mood to get into a deep, heartfelt discussion."

"Dean, please," Sam begged, trying to force himself to look at his brother, despite the shame he felt. "I need to apologi–"

"Sam, did you stitch me up last night?" Dean interrupted again, studying the handiwork on his blood stained abdomen.

Sam hesitated, caught off guard by Dean's abrupt change in subject. His own eyes, now dramatically clearer than they had been the night before, now eyed the same stitches Dean was looking at and nodded sheepishly at the horrendous job he'd done. Every stitch was a different size than the last, a different spacing. There was no visible continuity. "I guess I've done better," he admitted apologetically.

But instead of being upset, Sam was shocked to see a smile on his brother's otherwise marred face. The pride came out again in Dean's voice, and Sam felt himself relax just a little bit more. "I remember everything that happened last night, at least until I passed out on the bed," Dean told Sam point blank. "I know you chose me over those blasted pills. And I know that had to be really hard for you." Dean choked on his words, swallowing his own pride as spat out the words he needed to say. "You did good, little brother."

Sam practically lost it at that, almost laughing as he searched the room for the rigged cameras. Dean didn't hand out compliments lightly. Hell, Sam couldn't actually remember a time when his brother had complimented him in a lucid moment. Sure, there were times of half-consciousness when Dean couldn't maintain that protective wall he worked so hard to keep around himself. Last night had been one of those times. But to be fully alert, to have complete knowledge of his faculties, and still throw out such an admission of pride was akin to insanity when it came to Dean.

So instead of taking the words at face value and then moving on, as Dean had hoped Sam would do, the younger man actually stretched a nervous hand out to his brother's forehead and felt for fever. His mouth hung open, and Dean didn't know whether to snap at the boy or make fun of him. So he did both.

Dean swatted angrily at the hand Sam held to his forehead. "Dammit Sam, I'm fine. And close your mouth, I think three flies just flew in there."

"But've never told me that you–"

"And I never will again," Dean assured his brother firmly. "Not if you're going to make a national issue about it every time I dare to say something to you."

"That's just it, though," Sam insisted on continuing. "I don't deserve your pride. I've done nothing but screw up my life. And yours." He looked back down at his feet, studying them intently.

Dean sighed in exasperation, realizing that they were going to have this conversation whether he liked it or not. "Sam you made a mistake," he assured his brother, wincing again as he attempted to pull himself higher in his sit; trying to make himself appear taller. "But we're working through it. And that's it. End of story."

"God, Dean, look at you!" Sam exclaimed, rising from the bed and beginning to pace. "Look at your face! Your arm; your leg. Shit, Dean, you just about bled to death last night because you were more worried about taking care of me than yourself!"

Pushing against the headboard, Dean attempted to rise from the bed in order to be at eye level with Sam, but he immediately collapsed back again. The pain was too much, and the effort just wasn't in him. It didn't help his argument. "Dammit, Sam!" He spat, hissing through his teeth at the pain resonating through his body. "When have you ever know me to put myself before you?"

"Well maybe you should start!" Sam argued. "Because I'm not worth your trouble. I don't deserve it."

Dean shook his head sadly. "Sam, I can't talk to you when you're like this."

"I'm serious!" Sam insisted, continuing to wear a track into the carpet as he paced the floor. Their conversation was taking its toll on his emotions, and he quickly found himself thinking about the emotional release still waiting for him out in the car. As he continued to beat himself up over Dean's injuries, the Codeine began calling to him again. "Everything that happened with that Warlock. You getting hurt. That was all because of me!"

Dean laughed sourly, again trying to climb from the bed and this time succeeding, although still using the headboard to keep himself upright. "You sure do have a major God complex, don't you Sam. So you're telling me that you somehow managed to conjure up that Warlock? And that you somehow made him draw up that force field that threw me all over the room? Because I didn't realize you had those powers."

"You know what I mean!" Shaking hands cupped Sam's head as he finally sank to the opposite bed, elbows propped on his knees. "I was more concerned with getting the pain killers into my system than helping you. If I'd just gotten into the room sooner, you wouldn't have gotten hurt."

"Yeah, well, what's done is done," Dean spat back, annoyed at the need to comfort Sam. He didn't have the energy, and his own guilt was still largely consuming his mind. "Besides, if I had noticed something going on with you sooner, you wouldn't have been so preoccupied with the pills in the first place. This reliance on medication lasted far too long. I should have put a stop to it months ago."

It was Sam's turn to become aggravated, and he eyed Dean with incredulity. "How can you even think this was your fault? You had absolutely no idea anything was going on."

"And if you believe that, your delusional," Dean argued. "I knew more than either one of us would actually think. It was just this nagging little feeling that's been following me around for the last several months, but I just kept ignoring it. What scares me the most, Sam, is that I ignored it because I liked things better the way they were." Dean sank back to the bed, the exertion of standing too much for him. He smeared his hands down his face, using the act of exasperation as an excuse to discreetly wipe away the moisture plaguing his eyes.

"Come on, Dean," Sam rationalized. "You couldn't have known. Even if you did realize something was different, there's no way you would have been able to figure out what. I didn't want you to know...and that was enough to keep you in the dark."

"Yeah, well, I found out, didn't I," Dean snapped, angrily glaring at his kid brother for the matter-of-fact revelation that Sam had just thrown in his face.

Sam was quick to respond. "Only because of those damn nosy doctors."

Dean glowered. "Those damn nosy doctors may very well have saved your life," he rebutted.

Sighing, Sam shrank back further on the bed, the fight lost in him. He didn't know where it had come from in the first place. He didn't want to argue with Dean. He didn't want to argue period. The drugs had made him testy, but withdrawal made it worse, and that was the only thing he could come up with as an explanation to why this had gone so far. "You're right," he answered in hushed tones, fingering the bedspread in his clammy fingers. "And I'm glad they said something to you. I don't think I could live with myself if you ever got killed because of me. It was bad enough seeing you hurt."

Opening his mouth, Dean was about to protest again, and reassure his brother that he was not the cause of his injuries. But then he thought better of it. If that's what it will take to keep Sammy from going back to those drugs then he can keep a little guilt on his conscience. It can only help. Instead, Dean pried himself off the bed again and held out an unsteady hand to his brother. "Come on, Sam. I think there's something you need to do for yourself."

Sam looked up at Dean's outstretched hand, and grasped it tightly, wiping his own set of tears from his face. He knew what Dean meant, and he nodded with conviction. Sam stood, casually sliding his shoulders underneath his brother's arms. The older man would stubbornly deny it, but he was still weak, and there was no way he would make it to the car and back without help.

The Tylenol bottle lay innocently on the floor of the Impala, waiting to be retrieved by its rightful owner. Sam grabbed the bottle hesitantly, his fingers gripping it loosely, uncertainly. He stood back up and faced Dean, tightening his lips into a nervous smile. And Dean nodded, a hint of a smile, a hint of pride. His brother's reassurance was all Sam needed to know things would be OK.

Sliding back under Dean's arm, Sam assisted the man back into the room and to the bathroom. He hovered over the gaping hole of the toilet, hands still shaking slightly. Another assured nod from Dean had Sam opening the top of the bottle, and he slowly tipped it as he sucked in a deep breath of air.

Dean patted his brother on the shoulder as the last of the Codeine disappeared into the toilet, squeezing tighter as Sam leaned over and pressed the handle, the last of the ritual complete. No words were needed as the brothers reflected on what had transpired. The physical scars would fade, and eventually disappear all together. But the emotional scars would remain for life; a permanent reminder of the power a tiny little object could have on the lives of two young men. For the rest of his life, Sam would have to identify himself as an addict, using caution when medicating himself for his injuries. And Dean would forever question any unusual behavior he noted in Sam. But the experience also brought them closer together, allowing a sharing of emotions that would never have occurred otherwise. As though saying goodbye to an old friend, the two watched the white capsules swirl in the water and disappear down the drain as they said a silent goodbye to that painful chapter of their lives.

The End

Hey guys, I hope this ending is satisfactory. I'm always one of these people who will write things to death instead of finishing them, so when this sort of wound itself into an end I ran with it. Hope you agree that it works and I hope you enjoyed the full story. Thanks so much for reading! Keep on the lookout for future stories. I've already got one in my head that I've been working on for a couple weeks, so I'll put in on the comp very soon. See you soon!