A/N: Just a one-shot that I couldn't get out of my head. It was written pretty fast, so I apologize for any blatant (and not-so-blatant) mistakes.

To those of you who might be reading some of my other (unfinished) fic, I need to apologize. I've had major (MAJOR) computer issues during the past couple of months and have not been able to update. This little fic was done quickly on a computer that I begged a friend to use. I'm hoping to get a laptop soon, but it's been back ordered, so it could be a while before I'm able to update any of the other fics. SORRY! But I haven't given up on them!

Hope you like this. As I said, it was done fast, and since this is my first foray into the Supernatural fandom, I'm hoping it's okay.

Thanks for reading.

Emrys

P.S. I didn't make up the thing about the Lokha. It's a Native American mythical creature. There's limited information about it on the Internet…and I may have used artistic license to make it work for this fic.

Disclaimer: Supernatural and anything else related to it are not mine and never will be (now isn't that a depressing thought?). Please do not archive without permission.

Knowing Better

A chicken. A fucking chicken was responsible for all of this.

Okay, so it was a heart-eating sidekick of a long dead, but spiritually present Seminole witch, but a chicken nonetheless.

Sam anxiously paced the confines of their small motel room and tried to ignore the awful sounds of retching that were coming from behind the closed bathroom door. Visions of the evening's events flashed unwillingly through his brain, and he lengthened his strides in an effort to further distract himself.

The job was supposed to have been a simple salt and burn. Just a little sodium chloride and kerosene, and the ghost of the witch who had been haunting half of the population of Atwood, Oklahoma would simply go away.

They had thought that the hardest part would be finding the bones, but a few well-placed questions and intelligent research had made that part of the hunt relatively easy. Hell, even Dean's moonlight tussling with the ghost had seemed like child's play to Sam who had watched in between fumbling around with the salt and matches.

But the chicken. Now, the damn chicken, well, that had just been unexpected.

As Sam had been about to light the witch's bones, the chicken had come squawking near the gravesite. It had moved fast, but Sam hadn't given it much thought, because it was, after all, just a chicken.

It had been Dean who noticed something wrong with the bird. And it had been Dean who, just as Sam dropped the lit match into the witch's too shallow grave, had attacked the creature by diving at it and dropping its feathered ass away from his little brother. The sight of a grown man tackling a chicken and then rolling around with it in the grass was one that had made Sam want to laugh. And as the bones ignited, and the witch's ghost suddenly disappeared, and Dean still struggled with the chicken, Sam had gleefully thought of the fodder he now had for mentally torturing his older brother.

It wasn't until Dean had cried out that Sam had become concerned.

After that, when Sam had run to his brother's side, they had managed to dispatch the unnaturally strong animal with a quick twist of its neck accompanied by a healthy dousing with holy water, all of which was followed by another, smaller, salt and burn. On the walk back to the car, Dean had explained to Sam that the chicken hadn't been a chicken at all, but a Lokha. Incredulous of this unexpected display of knowledge, Sam had stared at his older brother until Dean had sheepishly explained that he and their father had encountered one of the creatures once on another hunt.

"Nasty things," Dean had muttered. "Nasty bite." And then he had stumbled and fallen to his knees.

That's when Sam had searched his brother's body for injuries and found what looked to be a bite low on the front of Dean's neck.

"Dean?" Sam had asked, unsure of what the wound meant or even how to deal with it.

"They inject poison when they…when they bite," Dean had muttered. He had then somehow managed to regain his footing and had reassuringly patted Sam's shoulder. "Don't worry, it's…it's okay."

"Dean, how can this be okay?" Sam had asked.

"Won't kill me. Dad got bit. It ju…just made him sick."

And then, as if to prove his point, Dean had thrown up all over Sam's favorite sneakers.

888

Sam stopped pacing when he heard the muffled thump of something heavy falling somewhere behind the still-closed bathroom door.

"Dean?" he called, but received no recognition for his efforts. He moved quickly to the door and knocked on it hard, but that action also elicited no response from his brother. Despite his climbing fear, Sam hesitated to enter the bathroom unannounced. The bathroom was the only area of their lives that offered even a modicum of privacy, and it was an unspoken rule between the two brothers that the secluding sanctity of the room should never be broken.

Considering the extenuating circumstances; however, Sam chose to ignore the prevailing rule.

"God damn it, Dean. You'd better not be naked," he muttered as he made the decision to open the door.

He found his brother awkwardly sprawled in the small space between the toilet and the shower. The wall at Dean's back supported most of his upper body, but his slouched posture seemed to suggest that he had tried to stand up and had failed miserably. Shocked as he was by the sight before him, Sam couldn't seem to find the strength to walk any further into the room. It wasn't until Dean weakly rolled his head up and stared blankly at him that Sam felt free to move.

He rushed to his brother and tried to find room to position himself in a spot where he could better gauge Dean's condition. He settled on kneeling in front of Dean's extended legs before reaching out and placing an assessing hand on the ailing Winchester's sweat-laden brow.

"Oh God, Dean. You're burning up," Sam whispered.

Dean's eyes rolled in their sockets, but he seemed calmed by Sam's gentle touch on his face. Given Dean's state, Sam was happy to be able to offer even that small comfort. As he struggled with the decision of what to do next, Dean startled him again.

"Mu…Mu…Mom?"

Dean's stuttered word was breathy and weak, but there was no mistaking the longing that was lodged there. Sam had the abrupt vision of a four-year old Dean being tested for fever by their mother's pursed lips on his brow, and he couldn't help but struggle against a sudden onslaught of grief.

"No, Dean. It's me. It's Sammy."

"S…S…Sammy?" Dean asked and struggled to focus his eyes. He seemed both satisfied and confused when he finally brought Sam's image together. Blinking wildly, Dean weakly brought a hand up to Sam's face, almost as if he were testing the truth of what his eyes were telling him. "Wh…when ya…get…s.s.so big?"

"Dean, you're sick. I need to get you into bed."

"Where's…Mom?"

The words were even weaker now, and Sam wondered if Dean was on the verge of passing out. Dean didn't seem entirely conscious of his surroundings anymore, and his head was supported only by Sam's hand, which had remained on his face throughout the conversation.

"Dean—"

"I miss…her. Miss…her. Sammy, where'd she…go?"

Frightened by Dean's words, Sam stood up and hurriedly saturated a white, hotel washcloth with cold water. Afterwards, he crouched down beside Dean again, and wiped his brother's face down. He was dismayed to feel the heat from Dean's brow seep too quickly into the cloth, but the cold water seemed to bring Dean a little ways out of his stupor.

"Sammy?"

"Dean, you're sick. Remember? You were bitten by a crazy chicken."

"Lokha. Thing's…called…lokha."

"Whatever," Sam said. Later he would wonder about this momentary role reversal, and would suspect, despite the evidence to the contrary, that Dean was almost as much a stickler for detail as he, himself, was. Later, he would realize that the only reason why Dean diminished the importance of research was to drive Sam up a wall. But now, Sam could only think about his brother and of how sick he was.

"Dean, c'mon. I'm going to help you stand up," Sam said as he leaned forward and gathered his brother in his arms.

Dean tried to help his brother, he really did. But his legs slid across the slick tile of the bathroom floor when he tried to draw them together to support his weight, and he was forced to subject himself to his little brother's strength. The room spun sickeningly when Sam managed to lift him halfway off the floor, and he didn't have the strength to gag back the nausea that caught hold of his stomach and clenched it tightly. Luckily, Sam seemed to be in more control than Dean was and managed to position Dean so that he was hovering over the toilet instead of the floor when the vomiting began again.

When it was finished, and both of them were almost completely wrung out and out of breath, Sam made a go of getting Dean out of the bathroom. Dean was better prepared this time and closed his eyes against the dizzying effects Sam's maneuvering had on him. Still, it took a ridiculous amount of time and more trouble than was expected to move Dean from the bathroom floor to a place under the covers of his bed. And when he was finally tucked in with the blankets drawn excessively high under his chin, Dean was again too weak to truly understand where or when he was.

"Sammy, where's…Mom?"

Dean's eyes were closed when he asked the question, so he didn't see Sam's look of devastation. Needing time to collect himself, Sam slowly drew the washcloth over Dean's face again before he answered.

"She's not here right now, Dean."

"Dad? He…here?"

"No, Dean. Not right now."

"Miss 'em. Miss 'em both. So much, S..S..Sam."

"I know, Dean. It's okay," Sam said, soothingly, and couldn't help but turn his face away from the pain that was no longer concealed but instead crawled freely all over Dean's features. He wondered, with no little anxiousness, just how bad this would get before it was over.

"Sam?"

Furiously wiping at unbidden tears, Sam turned back to his brother and forced himself to stare at the train wreck of emotions that wandered through those unfocused eyes.

"Yes, Dean?"

"Sam…Sammy, can it be…over…n..n..now? Can th..they be back? I w..w..ant it over. Let me…wake..up now, and I'll be cr..crazy…or d..dying or anything I need to b..be to make this end, but please…can this dream end now?"

The unexpected questions came out as a deluge of sound, and although Sam had no doubts about what Dean was asking, he was still torn apart by the shock of the words. Dean enjoyed hunting to the point where he had an almost irrational obsession with it. To hear how much his brother was willing to withstand just to end the hunt and have both his parents back was disturbing and humanizing at the same time. It was the wish of a four-year old child, and one that Dean had apparently never outgrown.

"Dean—"

But instead of listening for a response from his brother, Dean only shivered with fever and settled further into the warmth of the surrounding blankets.

"Don't leave, Sammy," he muttered so low that Sam almost missed the words.

And then he was asleep.

888

They stayed in the small motel room for three days while Dean suffered through delirium and Sam suffered with him. On the fourth day, when Sam was seriously considering taking his brother to the hospital, Dean was clear-headed when he woke up.

"Dean? Dean, are you okay?"

"S…Sammy?" Dean still spoke the name weakly, but the look in his eyes was lucid and calm.

"How're you feeling?" Sam asked as he allowed a little bit of relief to seep in.

"What h..happened?"

"You were bitten by a lokha. You've been pretty out of it for the past few days."

Dean was understandably disturbed by the news. He didn't remember much past being bitten but could tell by the haggard look on Sam's face that things had gotten pretty bad.

"I didn't say anything stupid, did I?" Dean asked as he was hit with the realization of all the embarrassing things that he could have said to Sam during his delirious state.

"Nah. Unless you find confessing your undying love to some woman named Carmen embarrassing."

"Funny, Sammy, real funny. I don't even know a chick named Carmen."

"Oh really. You seemed pretty adamant about your affection for this person."

"You're so full of shit, little brother," Dean said with a growl.

Sam laughed as he got the response he had been seeking.

"Don't worry Dean," he lied easily. "Your closed off, walled up, unemotional masculinity is intact. You didn't say a word throughout this whole ordeal. It was sort of freaky considering how much of a loud mouth you usually are."

"Sam!"

Sam laughed again, but it took some effort this time. He studied Dean's pale and strained features for a moment and wondered how his brother still managed to find the strength to hide all of that pain.

"How do you feel now, Dean?" Sam asked, needing to know and wondering what would be said.

Dean suddenly looked uncertain and scrutinized Sam's face for a long time before answering. Sam had a moment to hope that Dean would tell the truth, that he would willingly disclose what had been involuntarily given. And yet he wasn't surprised to be disappointed.

"F..fine. I'm fine now. It'll all be fine," Dean insisted.

Sam smiled and nodded, but he knew better anyway.

Finis