Disclaimer: Don't own anything:(

Warnings: Nothing as far…just a fair bit of cussing!

oOoOoOo

The strong smell of anti-bacterial wash reached his nostrils and he breathed it in, welcoming anything that signalled another few years of life. His eyes glued shut with sleep, he tried to make do with his sludgy hearing, trying to determine what that beeping noise was and who or what was shrieking ridiculously in the not-too-far-away background.

Lips parting slightly, he heard a scuffle as he groaned softly, his arm moving sluggishly to lie protectively over his chest, where a throbbing sensation was annoying him to no ends. His other arm felt heavy, so he let it lie by him.

"Dean?"

His lips met each other again as he pondered this word and more importantly, pondered the voice that had reached to him.

Dean? Yes, that was him, wasn't it? It was either that or he had been calling himself the wrong name for the past twenty-six years and that would be embarrassing. But the voice was just so troubling. It was still distorted, even as it replayed over and over in his head, but despite all that, he would never forget that voice. It was a voice that pulled him back from the darkness multiple times, pulled him from despair and desperation, just because it could.

"S…Sam…my?" Dean knew he sounded pathetic, he sounded dead, yet alive at the same time. But he needed to know if he was right.

There was a sigh that was warm and calming to Dean's ears and Dean so desperately wanted to open his eyes, just so he could see the wisps of breath escape Sam's lips, to know that the youngest Winchester was still with him, that this wasn't some wonderful dream.

"Yeah, Dean."

To Dean, the response that came to him sounded suspiciously like a strangled sob, but nevertheless, he was glad to hear it.

"Sammy…"

It was the only word he could muster at the moment, but all be damned, he'd use it again and again if necessary.

He felt a hand tighten around his arm that was resting by his side. "Open your eyes Dean," Sam said softly.

Dean growled loudly. "No," he said defiantly, amazed that he had managed a word other than 'Sammy'.

"Come on Dean. Please."

Damn him, Dean thought bitterly, but instantly began the tiring task of trying to pry his eyes open. Dean surmised that it must have taken a good twenty minutes before his greens were moaning to the world, but when they were, Dean never wanted them closed again.

Happy tears welled in Sam's eyes as he looked down at his big brother in the hospital bed. Grinning widely, in what Dean knew to be the first in such a long time, Sam gripped Dean's arm even harder. Dean had to admit to himself that if Sam looked the way he did, Dean himself must look a whole lot worse. Sam's head was wrapped in a thick bandage, his brown hair peeking above and straying around it. There was a large cut with obvious stitching going down the right side of his face and his stature was poor. His face was drawn and pale and his eyes were red and swollen as though he had been crying.

"Thank god," he breathed. "Thank god."

Dean blinked several times before he was sure his vision was back to twenty-twenty. "Y…you know h…ow mu…much I…I don't like that k…ind of lang…uage, Sammy." Dean joked, coughing slightly.

Sam only smiled broadly. "I need to call the doctor," he ran a hand through his hair as best he could and letting go of Dean and stepping back. "He needs to check you out."

Dean groaned and closed his eyes briefly before reopening them. "W…Where's dad?" he asked, feeling his body twinge uncomfortably all of a sudden as he noticed for the first time that Sam was leaning heavily on a walking cane. What's going on? "What hap…happened?"

"You don't remember?" Sam asked slowly, cocking an eyebrow, any trace of glee gone from his face.

Dean concentrated, glimpses of what happened resurfacing. "I…I remember the de…mon and…and dad and get…ting into the c…car…"

Dean stopped; his eyes glaring up at the ceiling as he remembered the demon mock him in his father's body. Tell him he wasn't needed…he wasn't loved. But he was interrupted from his thoughts as he heard Sam ramble off.

"There was a truck…hit us on dad's side," Sam hurried. "I was the first to wake…didn't know if you were going to make it. Bleeding all over the place…"

"Sam," Dean interrupted harshly, his eyes set on his younger brother fiercely. "How's dad?"

Sam sighed. "He's fine, Dean. His leg healed right up, better then mine," he said resentfully. "Went to get a coffee. I doubt he would have left if he knew you were going to wake."

Dean breathed a sigh of relief, clutching his chest more fiercely when that particular breath set out a course of spasms.

Sam hurried forward as best he could. "Are you alright?" he asked, worry etched into his tone. "I should get the doctor."

"It's fine Sammy," Dean said, patting his chest to demonstrate his point. "I don't need no doctor. As soon as I can lift this hand," he indicated with his eyes to the immobile arm lying by his side, "I'm checking myself out of here."

"I think you should listen to your brother Dean," a gruff, tired voice spoke from the doorway.

Lifting his head slightly so that he could see over his toes, Dean's breath hitched in his throat as he watched his father limp slightly through the hospital room door, carrying two Styrofoam cups of steaming coffee. Handing one over to Sam, John turned to face his eldest, giving him a once over as best he could with Dean covered in hospital sheets. It was as good a time as any for Dean to do the same.

John Winchester was looking as haggard as Dean has ever seen him. His eyes had sunken in and he had lost a considerable amount of weight. His right arm was in a sling and his head, too, was bandaged.

"It's good to see you son," John breathed and Dean was as shocked as ever to witness the tears that began to fill his father's eyes.

"Oh, shucks, dad," Dean grinned, hoping to spare his father the humiliation.

John nodded, as though understanding Dean's intentions and turned to Sam. "Sammy, go get the doctor, would you?" he asked.

Sam raised both eyebrows. "Hello?" he said, pointing to his cane with one hand. "You see this cane? This means I can't move. You get the doctor."

John frowned as he took a seat by Dean's bedside. "You were all ready to go get one before I entered, you go," he smiled up at his youngest growling face. "And besides, I took your seat."

Grumbling, Sam took one last look at Dean before turning his back on them both and limping from the room in search of a doctor.

John turned back to Dean, watching the way his chest moved up and down in rhythm, taking comfort in knowing that the physical damage he had caused his son was nearly over, it was the emotional scarring that scared John the most. How much damage had he really done? But it was apparent that he would find the answer to that question later, as Dean's eyes started to drift slowly back down. It was understandable of course, but John wished he could have some time to talk with his son alone.

"Hey Dean," John said softly, putting a hand on his son's leg and shaking it gently. "Come on, son, you need to stay awake for the doctor."

John could tell that Dean was struggling to obey his apparent order, but his eyes refused to cooperate, so John shook a bit harder.

"Dean, wake up son."

Dean's eyelids fluttered and his head turned so that he was facing his father.

"Hmm?"

"Dean, I need you to stay awake for me," John said loudly, hoping to startle Dean awake.

"You…you don't need me," Dean's mutter was just enough to startle John.

Letting go of his eldest, John jumped from his chair and took an anxious step away from his drifting son. He knew as soon as the demon entered his body, that it was just going to bite him in the ass before the end. But John was interrupted from his thoughts as Dean, eyes half closed, licked his dry lips and spoke again.

"You don't….don't n…need me to stay aw…ake."

John watched silently, his breath hitched in his throat and his legs trembling slightly, as Dean smiled softly, his eyes shutting altogether.

"Dad? You let him fall asleep?" John turned with wide eyes as Sam limped towards him, followed by a surly looking doctor.

"Well, how do you expect me to read his mental state now, Mr. Patterson?" the doctor asked shrewdly, placing his index and middle fingers on Dean's neck.

John took a deep breath and tried to steady his legs. "I…I tried to keep him awake, but you know Dean. All he does is sleep," John glanced at the doctor hopefully.

"Well I'd have hoped he's be energised enough after a five week coma," the doctor snapped, letting go of Dean's neck and striding past Sam and John towards the door. "Call me straight away when he wakes. And keep him awake for longer than five minutes, please."

Sam cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Thanks Dr. Arden," Sam replied quickly as the doctor left the room hastily.

John sighed. "That doctor is foul," he said, frowning deeply after the doctor.

Sam nodded his agreement before turning back to his sleeping brother and laying a hand gently on his forehead. John watched his youngest carefully as tears brimmed to the surface and travelled carefully down those slightly flushed cheeks. John heard Sam take in a shuddering breath and a deep sigh. John witnessed as Sam's hand travelled from Dean's forehead into his unruly hair, combing it through. Sam took in another shuddering breath before he collapsed into John's discarded chair, now gripping Dean's forearm, his ragged breathing becoming heavier as his cane clattered to the floor.

"Sammy?" John tested, stepping forwards carefully, his broken arm swinging uselessly on his chest. "You okay son?"

There was a sniffle and suddenly, without quite knowing how it had come to it, John had Sam in a fierce one armed hug, Sam's face buried in his chest. As John felt the tears leak through his shirt, he couldn't help but wonder if what the demon had said held any truth to it. Was Sam really his favourite son? Did Dean need him more than John, himself, needed Dean? Was the hunt worth more to John than his own son? The answer to all three, with no doubt, was no. How could John favour one son over the other when he loved both of them so much? How could he not need Dean when Dean was the one that kept him sane and whole? That kept the family together so steady and consistent? How could the hunt be worth more than his boys when it was his boys that he was fighting for? For the innocent four year old whose mother was cruelly taken from him and for the precious infant that didn't get a chance at knowing the blonde beauty?

Sam's choking sobs brought John from his thoughts and he tightened his arm around his youngest, feeling his own tears leak through the corners of his eyes, needing the comfort almost as much as Sam.

oOoOoOo

The next time Dean awoke, he stayed awake for two minutes before drifting back off to sleep. Dr. Arden was in such a fuss that he hurried both Sam and John out of Dean's room and set a nurse to watch over Dean. It had become apparent to both Sam and John that Dean was not in his right state and that became even more evident when they were called to Dr. Arden's office.

John remembered stepping into the office, Sam by his side, and examining the slightly claustrophobic room. Bookshelves lined the walls, leaving only enough space for Dr. Arden to fashionably showcase his awards and certificates. John remembered the man that stood by Dr. Arden, giving them both the once over, then smiling gently, sympathetically. Dr. Arden wore a sombre expression, but once John and Sam entered the office, he stood up and made them welcome, shaking both their hands and offering them a seat each.

"I've had time to examine Dean," was Dr. Arden's opening line.

"He's awake?" Sam asked instantly.

Dr. Arden cleared his throat and took a sideways glance over to the man standing by him.

"This is Dr. Knowles," Arden introduced, carefully avoiding Sam's question. "He is a psychiatrist that works in this hospital."

John glanced worryingly at the psychiatrist before bringing his attention back on Arden. "My boy doesn't need a shrink," John said firmly, glaring at Arden as though challenging him to disagree.

Arden nodded understandingly. "I'm afraid that your son does, Mr. Patterson," he replied gently. "Your son is extremely fatigued at the moment, but he has had plenty of rest. His muscles are aching; he could barely concentrate on what I was saying and didn't recall ever speaking to either of you just yesterday," Arden sighed deeply. "His axillary lymph nodes are tender and he reported a very sore throat."

John ran a hand through his hair, obviously confused. "That could mean anything…absolutely anything."

Dr. Knowles stepped forward and nodded his agreement. "Yes, that could mean anything," he approved. "But the most troubling thing for us is that he is fatigued terribly. He found it extremely hard to sit up in bed let alone get out of bed."

Sam cleared his throat. "Yeah, but if you hadn't realised, a damn mugger slashed his chest," John winced slightly at the anger in Sam's voice. "And we were hit by a fucking truck. What? Did you expect him to do cartwheels or something?"

"I'm sorry to have upset you, Mr. Patterson," Knowles apologised, sincerity embedded there. "But you have to understand that this amount of fatigue shouldn't be warranted in a person, no matter what they have been hit by or how long they have slept. The fact of the matter is, he has been diagnosed."

John forced his legs to stop shaking but could not stop the pounding of his heart or the wave of nausea that suddenly overwhelmed him. "Diagnosed?" he queried. "Diagnosed with what?"

Arden fixed John with a sympathetic look, his jaw working. "Dean has what is known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This kind of illness cannot be treated."

The room fell into a state of shock as both Sam and John put a hand to their mouth, trying to process this new information. John pushed back his chair fiercely and leaned heavily on the desk, barely an inch away from Arden.

"What will it do to my son?" he asked dangerously. "What will it do?"

"Your son has only a mild case, but it will wear him out if he doesn't maintain a healthy and somewhat energetic lifestyle," Arden started, sounding as if he had swallowed a textbook. "He will be fatigued; I say that with no doubt. He will have difficulties with memory and concentration; headaches are more than likely, as is dizziness and muscle pain. Dean may experience bowel troubles, night sweats and allergies." Arden paused, glancing worriedly, from around John, at Sam's watering eyes and hesitantly stated the worst of it. "But I am more concerned with his psychological state."

Arden turned his head towards Knowles, silently begging him to intervene.

"People with CFS are more emotionally vulnerable than others," Knowles supplied, glancing at John who had not taken his eyes off Arden. "Because of their state they may become depressed, may experience panic attacks or even become suicidal. It depends on how severe the case is and how strong the person is."

Sam drew in a shaky breath. "Dean…Dean is strong," he assured. "He's the strongest person I know."

Knowles nodded, but otherwise remained silent, his eyes fixed on John who still leant heavily over the table, glaring dangerously at Arden.

"Don't tell me there's no fucking treatment," John said softly, his eyes sparkling and his mouth twisted into a grimace. "Don't tell me there's no cure for my boy. Maybe there's none for that goddamn punk down the hall that's breathing through a ventilator, but there's something for my boy."

"Mr. Patterson," Arden spoke gently, a hand suddenly resting on John's broad shoulder. "I'm sorry-"

John grabbed Arden by the collar before Arden could speak another word and brought him out of his seat. "Don't tell me your fucking sorry," John growled. "When you're telling me that my son is going to live out of a fucking bed from now on, don't tell me your sorry."

"Dad!" Sam jumped forwards, forgetting his walking cane and seized his father around his chest, pulling backwards so that they both slammed against the back wall.

"I…I can give him medication for muscle ache," Arden stammered, regaining his stature and positioning himself comfortably in his seat, eyeing John warily.

John threw both doctors dirty looks before storming out of the office, slamming the door angrily after him. He hurried, nearly ran, towards Dean's room, startling people as he raced by. He received many jeers and insults but he didn't mind, he had to see his son. He had to know if his son did have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or if the doctors had mixed up the files. He just had to know.

Reaching the doorway and standing just inside John couldn't help but give a strangled gasp as he suddenly noticed what he hadn't noticed before, a fatigued son. Dean was sleeping in his hospital room bed, his head tilted to one side. His hair was slightly ruffled but looked somewhat flat at the same time. Heavy, dark circles encircled his eyes and his mouth was set in a thin line. John could tell Dean was in a restless sleep as his legs kept kicking his covers uncomfortably.

John heard footsteps behind him, but didn't bother to turn around. He felt a hand on his shoulder, but didn't bother to acknowledge the owner.

"He doesn't know yet," Sam whispered from behind John. "I volunteered to tell him."

"Brilliant," John sneered. "He's going to love being told he can't get out of bed."

John couldn't see it, but he knew Sam had frowned. "He only has mild CFS according to Arden," he said. "He can get out of bed, dad. He'll just be very tired. His case isn't severe, he'll manage."

John snorted. "Shall we tell him then?" he asked, and without waiting for an answer, he strode forwards and shook Dean slightly by the shoulders.

"Dean?"

TBC

oOoOoOo

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