Ghosts of Christmas

A trip to the hospital, brings up bad memories and some unexpected Christmas spirits.

This was supposed to be a one shot for Christmas, but I'm afraid real life got in the way of me finishing it in time, so I thought I'd better put out what I've got before it really was pointless. I will finish it in short order though. Let me know what you think.

Disclaimer: Don't own them, just play with them.

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"Just kill me now it would be cheaper and less painful." Dean groaned and hunched over further trying to ease the pain in his stomach.

Sam laid a comforting hand on his brothers' back, offering what little support he could under the circumstances.

"You going to be sick again?" He questioned gently, rubbing his hand in small circles on his brothers back. The very fact that the elder boy didn't immediately shrug him off, a true measure of how truly terrible Dean must be feeling.

Sam grabbed the basin from the seat beside him just in time and held it as Dean heaved up what little moister was left too him, his body trembling with the effort.

When he had finished, Sam tried to coax a little water into him but Dean only pulled away from him groaning mutely, his head once more coming to rest in his hands as he fought off another wave of nausea.

Patting his brothers shoulder, he got up. "I'll see if I can hurry things up." It was all he could do.

Moving to the front desk, he tried without any real success too attract the dower looking receptionists attention.

Waiting he let his mind wander, they had been suffering from a string of bad luck to put it mildly, first the impala had twisted its rear axles during a truly impressive high speed chase involving the entire cast of deliverance and some guy who looked disturbingly like Pa Clampit, who seem intent on either killing Sam for dishonouring his daughter or making him marry her, after he had caught him in bed with her. Of course in his defence he had just fallen through the roof and daddies little girl had to be well over 200lb and more than a little pleased to see him. It was the type of thing that only happened in the movies or to Dean.

Thinking of his brother Sam glanced over to where Dean sat slumped in his hard backed hospital chair, looking greyer than he'd ever seen him and sighed. Getting the impala fixed had wiped out most of their cash and every single credit card they had, but they would have been fine, they where Winchesters after all and Winchesters where nothing if not resourceful. If Dean hadn't got food poisoning.

Yes ladies and Gentlemen, he silently announced to the world, rolling his eyes as he did so, Dean Winchester hunter extraordinaire, hater of all holidays had been taken out of the game by a truck stop Turkey and stuffing sandwich eaten in some misguided, and entirely uncharacteristic attempt at capturing the festive spirit. Oh yes and to cap it all off, Dean had discovered his little culinary mistake when he had thrown up all over the shoes of an exceptionally large trucker who he was trying to hustle at pool, so they had enough money for a night in a cheap hotel.

That was two days ago and they had been driving ever since, sleeping in the car when they needed too, just trying to find a place to hole up till his brother got better, and in all that time Dean hadn't been able to keep so much as a glass of water down.

So here they were sitting in the emergency room reception of the tiny Mayville community hospital, Mayville North Dakota two days before Christmas with no money and literally no place to call home.

Sam was about to give up his quest for attention, when a tired looking nurse tapped him on the shoulder. "Mr. Connor, the doctor can see your brother now."

Walking over to his brother Sam pulled Dean to his feet, smiling at him with distinctly false cheer. "Hey, they can see us now and it only took five hours, this must be a record." Dean just groaned as the world began to spin, he had no choice but too lean heavily on his brother as they followed they nurse into the examination area.

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The harassed looking Doctor pulled off her gloves and turned to Sam, giving Dean a moment to get comfortable. Not that the examination had gone that badly, he'd only thrown up twice and he'd missed the doctor both times, which considering how bad he had been was a definite improvement.

"What exactly did he eat?"

"A Turkey sandwich."

"Fowl, then."

"Yes it was." Dean commented from the bed, his humour somewhat restored by the prospect of medical intervention.

"At least it wasn't Salmon moose." The doctor smiled for the first time, a glint of humour lighting up her tired eyes. Of course, it was entirely lost on Sam.

"What?"

"Monty python sketch, they all die." Supplied Dean. "You're a Brit then?"

"How did you guess? The woman smirked, her ascent was a bit of a give away.

"How did you end up here?"

"Married a Marine, his family are local." Worry and regret bled through the statement and Sam tensed, glancing at his brother only to see his own expression mirrored there.

"He's in Iraq."

"I'm sorry."

She nodded at the words and the understanding that underlined them.

"So am I'"

Pulling herself together she returned to business. "I'll see about running some tests but I'm pretty confident that you've just got food poisoning caused by salmonella. I'll give you something to help with the vomiting and see if we can't get some fluids into you, as you're a bit dehydrated."

The doctor made swift work of setting up an I.V and administering a shot of Composene. Then giving Deans leg a sympathetic pat, she gestured Sam outside.

"I see you didn't give any insurance details on your brothers form, I was wondering how you wanted to proceed."

Sam just looked down at his shoes and blushed, he hated this part of their lives, he hated the way it made him feel and the way people looked at them.

"We don't have any insurance right now……. or money." Sam trailed off.

Dr. March pinched the bridge of her nose; her headache had suddenly got a whole lot worse. "Look Sam I can stabilise your brother, that's no problem but once he's rehydrated I can't make the case for keeping him in, not without being assured of some kind of payment. I'm sorry."

Sam looked up and met the womans eyes, seeing genuine regret there. "We'll be alright." They would have to be.

"I know you will." She reached out and patted his arm sympathetically. "I'll see about getting your brother some pills to help with the vomiting. Now go sit with him, it'll take a while for the I.V to run through, so I'll see you later."

Sam returned to the cubical to find his brother laying on his side, his head pressed up against the cool metal railing.

"Watch your I.V" he instructed.

Dean only grunted in response, moving the arm with the I.V in it to hang off the bed.

Sam moved to sit on the edge of Deans bed, his back was killing him from trying to sleep in the car last night and the cold he had been nursing for the last couple of days was once more making itself known. "That bad, hu? The meds helping at all?"

"Yeah, some. At least the vomitings stopped." Dean glanced up at his brother. "They're kicking us out aren't they? He sounded so warn down.

"Yeah, once the I.Vs gone through." Sam sighed, lying down on his side so his back coming to rest up against his brothers; he was too exhausted to do anything else. Sleeping in the back of the Impala was uncomfortable at the best of times for somebody his size; add in the fact that he was sharing the cramped space with his constantly vomiting brother and he hadn't been doing much sleeping in the last couple of days. "We might be able to scrape up enough for a room." He offered.

Dean snorted. "Not and eat."

"With the amount you've been eating lately we may be O.K." Sam smiled.

Dean managed a faint chuckle at that. "We should just keep driving, try and get somewhere warmer. We've got enough for a couple of tanks of gas. Do you think Bobby would take us in for a bit?"

"Yeah Dean, Yeah he would." Bobby maybe a crotchety old bastard some times but he would never turn them away. Except there was no way two tanks of gas would get them there and the way he was feeling right now he doubts he'll be any more successful than Dean at hustling.

"We've had worse Christmases you know." Even 17 years on he still couldn't remember what had happened without feeling a rising sense of panic.

Sam reached behind himself to pat Deans arm, understanding the meaning behind those words all to well. He could still hear the blind panic in his brothers voice, screaming his name as Child Protective Services had pulled them apart. Thank God for Jim, if the priest hadn't gotten to them in time Sam had no doubt he would have grown up without either his father or brother, and that just wasn't expectable, not anymore.

"No not our worst. Our first without Dad though." He nearly kicked himself for saying it out load, even though they had both been thinking it.

"Yes. Yes it is." Sam winced at the raw loss in his brothers voice. "Get some sleep, Sammy. We'll be on the road soon enough."

The bed shifted as they both moved to try and get comfortable, each silently wondering how many times, they'd slept like this growing up.

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Dr. Kate March lent her head back against the wall and closed her eyes, she hadn't meant to listen but now she had she didn't know what to do, neither of those boys were in any condition to be driving anywhere. Sighing she pushed off the wall, whatever she was going to do it was it was it going to have to be soon and it was going to have to be creative.

"Liz, I need a favour." The nurses head shot up as her friend walked to her desk, already sensing trouble. "Have you sent the Connor samples down to the lab yet?"

"Yes. They went about 10 minutes ago."

"Good. Can you call down and tell him to put a code 4 on them."

Lizs' eyebrows pulled together, she didn't exactly know what a code 4 was but whenever she heard Kate us it their normally efficient little lab suddenly started producing a lot of inconclusive results and losing reports. "Kate." She warned.

"Come on Liz, it's Christmas."

Liz gave her a flat look. "I'm Jewish."

"Well think of it as a mitzvah then."

Liz let out an explosive breath, giving in. "Fine, I'll set up the side room. There's a chance Old Scrooge won't notice them there, but if we get caught I'm blaming it all on you."

"O.k" Kate smiled feeling better than she had all day. "Thanks Liz."

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Sam woke to the sound of the curtain being pulled back, looking up at the smiling doctor he reached over to shake his brother awake, it was time to get moving.

"I'm sorry gentleman, but I'm afraid we're going to have to keep you a while longer."

Sam got to his feet instantly worried, but the doctor just continued to smile.

"Nothing to serious but it could be contagious, and in the case of communicable diseases we have to take extra precautions to avoid an epidemic, if we're not careful it could be as bad as the British Lurgi outbreak."

Dean snorted, trying to suppress a laugh.

"Yes mam, that would be very bad."

"Yes it would." The doctor agreed, her face was deadly serious but her eyes were dancing with amusement. "I'm having Nurse Dawson, move you both up to the wards for observation, the tests shouldn't take more than a couple of days." With that she left, leaving behind a stunned Sam and Dean smirking.

"So this Lurgi's bad then."

"Yep, it nearly wiped out Britain, they had questions in parliament." Dean smirked. His brother wasn't usually this slow, he really must be sick.

"But they did cure it?" Sam was beginning to get worried.

"No need." The elder Winchester paused, thinking. "They did form a pretty good band though."

Sam was completely confused now. Dean just patted him on the leg sympathetically.

"Cheer up Francis we've got a bed for the night."

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Dean woke up from a deep sleep to the feeling he was being watched, sitting up he stared slack jawed at the small child with a crutch standing in his doorway.

"Great now I'm hallucinating the ghost of tiny Tim."

"Andy. Andy." A voice called from down the corridor, getting closer which each call, till a boy about 8 years old appeared at the door. "Andy what are you doing here? You aren't supposed to leave the ward, it could be dangerous." The boy was eyeing him suspiciously.

Dean snorted derisively, his head was spinning and it felt like the temperature in the room had suddenly dropped about ten degrees. "Believe me kid I'm having trouble staying up right, I aint no danger."

Andy, half his hand stuck in his mouth slipped out of his brothers protective grasp and hobbled over to Deans bed, sticking his hands out with a silent demand of up. The gesture had so much of Sam at that age in it that Dean responded to it without thinking, settling the child by his side.

"He your little brother then? A bit quite isn't he? The elder Winchester commented to the older boy who had come over to hover protectively at his brothers side.

"He doesn't talk, not since Mum and Dad died." He stuck his chin out as if challenging Dean to comment.

"Yeah, I didn't feel much like talking after my Mum died either." The boys face softened, a look of understanding passing between them. "He'll get over it?"

"Will he?" The child seemed genuinely surprised by the certainty behind the statement.

"He's got you hasn't he?" Dean looked the boy straight in the eye, staring him down till he finally nodded. "And big brothers always look after little brothers. Right?" This time the child answered. "Yes."

"So he'll be fine." Dean smiled and this time the boy smiled back, coming to sit on the side of the bed. The room began to thaw in more ways than one.

Speaking of little brothers where the hell was his.

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It was amazing much better something as simple as a shower could make you feel, sure his head still felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool and Dean wasn't helping. It had taken his brother over half an hour to admit that the Lurgi was a fictitious disease from an old British comedy show called the Goon show. Which confused the hell out of Sam, since when did Dean even get British humour?

Heading back to their room, he was more than a little surprised to find Dean sitting on his bed with two small boys playing cards.

Dean looked up, smiling. "Andy, Nathan meet my little brother Sam."

Both boys stared at Sam, gawking.

"He's not very little is he?" Whispered the eldest a bit uncertainly, making Dean laugh.

The four of them played cards for about an hour before the other children turned up, not that they're was many of them, just a little girl in pink Barbie pyjamas and a pale boy about Nathans age with no hair.

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Dr Williams stormed down the corridor a picture of righteous indignation. How dare she! That woman had pulled some stunts in the past but this really took the biscuit, passing off a simple case of food poisoning as a communicable disease to get not one but two vagrants beds for the night. He would have her job for this.

He was pulled up short by the sound of laughter coming from the hospitals isolation room; a tiny two bedded room located between the hospitals two small wards. Peering cautiously into the room he spotted a young man with dark blond hair sitting with his back against the walk, the youngest of the two Cartright boys nestled in his lap sucking his fingers, both staring intently at cards in the young mans hands.

"Read them and weep Sammy boy." The man lay the cards in front of him, grinning before reaching down to tickle the sides of the little boy in his arm, the childs infectious giggling soon causing the rooms other occupants laughing too. The lights flickered slightly seemingly in response to the laughter and the young man looked up with strange expressions on their face, but then he shrugged and the moment passed.

Dear God they were playing poker, shock completely robbed Williams of the ability to act, all he could do was stare at the scene before him.

Another man with dark brown hair man lay on the floor opposite the first, his long body taking up most of the rooms limited space, a bald pyjama clad child sprawled across his back reading the mans cards over his shoulder, while another rested with his back up against his side staring forlornly at his own cards, which where already lain on the ground in defeat .A pink clad girl who seemed more interested in eating her winnings and pick at the frayed edge of the pillow she sat on than the actual game finished off the group.

"Not so fast, Dean." 'Sammy' slapped 'Deans' hand away as he reached out to snag the pile of peanut M & Ms that were obviously the pot, before placing his own cards on the floor, laughing at his brothers shocked face. It was a rare thing for Sam to beat his brother at poker.

Still laughing he reached over his shoulder to give Gary his half of the winnings, but the child pushed his hand away. "I'm not allowed."

"Why? You're not allergic are you?" Dean could think of no other reason for resisting the chocolate covered goodness.

"No, Mum only lets me eat totally organic food and no sugar. She thinks if I eat right and don't do anything she can stop me dieing. She's wrong." He spoke as if what he was saying was a simple statement of fact but they could all hear the underlying bitterness in his words.

Dr. Williams was still watching the little scene play out from the shadowed corridor, so he saw the muscles twitch in the older mans jaw but whatever emotions he was feeling were quickly suppressed, leaving behind a mask of calm.

"Man dieing and no sugar, that's got to suck. Sugar is like one of the two main food groups."

Picking up fast, the younger chimed in "Of course Dean thinks the other is caffeine. Why he isn't constantly bouncing off the walls I'll never know. Mind you, Dad did have to lock him in the bathroom once after he ate an entire pound of jelly beans and a litre of Coke in under 15 minutes."

"Dude he did not lock me in. I just couldn't leave, and anyway I would never have done it if you hadn't bet me I couldn't. It was a complete waste of perfectly good candy."

"Dean you where 20, I didn't think you would actually do it."

The kids roared with laughter and Gary reached out to snag a couple of pieces of candy meeting Deans eyes as he did so.

"Hey I'm not your Mother, just leave enough for the pot." Gary smiled at the compassion and simple acceptance he found in the elder Winchesters eyes. He was thoroughly sick of being pitied.

Williams almost smiled at the two young mens antics, he new experienced doctors who wouldn't have dealt with the situation as well as these boys and they were right a little chocolate wouldn't make any difference to the child now, nothing short of a miracle would. He should be allowed to have a life while he still could.

Making a decision, he slipped away.

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"Come on children time for bed." They looked up to see Margaret the night sister standing in the doorway ready to usher the groaning children off to bed.

The children went with out to much complaint, although they each insisted on saying goodnight to Sam and Dean first, causing Dean to blush when Susie the little girl insisted on giving him a kiss.

"Right." Margaret was well into her sixties and feisty. "I'll be back to tuck you boys in, in a minute."

Dean groaned and rested his head back against the wall, his eyes closing.

"Come on man, lets get you up off the floor."

Sam reached down and pulled his brother to his feet, steadying him when he began to wobble. "I thought you were feeling better."

"Dude, this is better." Dean settled back on his bed, just as Margaret re-entered the room a tray in her hands.

"I brought you boys some soup."

Dean groaned again, still not sure he could keep anything down.

"Doctors orders." She smiled. "If you eat your soup, I'll see about getting you some ice cream."

"Margaret what happened to Andy and Nathans parents?" The womans cheerful face fell at Sam question and she teared up slightly.

"Oh, those poor boys." She closed her eyes briefly. "It was a car accident, a drunk driver. The whole family was in the car, their father was killed instantly but their mother managed to hang on for a while, but she stilled died at the scene though. The boys were lucky though, Andy broke his leg but Nathan only had some bruises." She paused, paling slightly. "Still it took them over an hour to cut them out. I can't imagine what it would be like watching your parents die like that."

Both boys nodded, feeling a little sick, before Sam asked curiously. "If they're both O.K why are they still here?"

"There's no one to take them in, no family and this close to Christmas child protective services is really backed up. They wanted to split them up to make them easier to place." She saw the way both boys paled at this and tried to clarify what she was saying, as it was very clear to her that the two boys in front of her had had some bad experiences with CPS and weren't likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. "They're not bad people, at least not most of them but this isn't a big town, they have hardly anything to work with. They do the best they can."

Dean snorted derisively, but Sam was the one to speak. "So you're trying to give them time to figure something out?"

"Hopefully." She sighed, but didn't sound very confident. "Mostly we didn't want the boys separated for Christmas, they've been through so much already. Doctor March sorted it out" she winked and smiled the boys. "she has a soft spot for waifs and strays."

They both smiled back.

"Thanks, Margaret."

She just smiled in acknowledgement.

"You boys eat up and get some sleep." She moved to leave, but then turned back. "I'm glad you two are here, I haven't seen either of those children smile before today."

They sat in silence for a while lost in their own thoughts, Dean picking at his soup before turning in. It had been a long day.

As they drifted off a cool breeze caressed each of their cheeks, lulling them into a dreamless sleep.

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Sam wasn't sure what woke him up other than the fact that the room was suddenly colder. Deciding to take a quick trip to the bathroom, he swung his legs over the side of the bed.

Once in the corridor he was a little surprised to find the lights off but a gentle glow coming from around the corner allowed him to see, so he didn't think to much of it. To be honest he wasn't capable of doing much in the way of thinking right now, his cold seemed to have decided to step things up a notch and all he wanted to do was get back to bed.

He headed around the corner only to find the glow gone. The suddenly freezing tiles under his bare feet, causing his hunter instincts to kick in. Something was definitely off. Tensing he just had time to push himself up against the wall, when a sudden wind rushed past him dropping the world into darkness.

It only lasted a second, then the lights kicked in leaving him standing in a perfectly normal corridor, feeling very confused. His confusion increased when he looked up to see, little Andy Cartwright staring at him sucking his fingers.