Apparitions and Ailments

Chapter 6

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Disclaimer: See chapter 1.

A/N: Once again, we've come to the end of a journey and I want to thank everyone who has read this far. I appreciate all the feedback; it means more to me than you know. Sure, I could write stories for my own enjoyment, but it's very fulfilling to know that other people enjoy them as well. Until we meet again….

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Either I will find a way, or I will make one - Philip Sidney

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Sam woke up first, a nightmare on the edge of his memory. He looked toward his brother's bed and saw Dean sleeping, appearing to be peaceful and the chair Bobby had occupied earlier was empty. A little unsteady, Sam made his way out of the bedroom and found Bobby in the kitchen. He was sitting at the table with someone Sam didn't recognize.

"Sam, you're awake. Sort of. You okay?"

Sam nodded.

"Sit down, I'll get you some coffee. This is Rob Barrens, the person I called about the tattoo."

Sam shook the man's hand. It felt like a week had passed since he'd agreed to the tattoo. Sam muttered a thanks to Bobby as he put a cup of coffee on the table in front of him.

"Is Dean still asleep?"

"Yeah," Sam said. "I don't want to leave him for too long. He shouldn't wake up alone."

"Sam, Rob needs to get back home. How about that tattoo?"

The youngest Winchester looked uncertain for a moment, but then he nodded. "Let's do it."

The design was simple and didn't take long to apply. Rob took the necessary hygienic and supernatural precautions and the job was done very quickly. As Bobby walked the artist out, Sam returned to his brother.

Dean was still asleep in the same position as when Sam left, but he was muttering softly and there was a light sheen of sweat on his face. Sam got a bowl of cold water and a cloth from the kitchen and was patting Dean's face gently with the cloth when Bobby joined him.

"What is that?" Sam whispered as he watched Bobby prepare a syringe.

"An antibiotic; I hope that fever doesn't mean there's an infection already."

"I don't like that he's still asleep."

"I gave him something to help him sleep," Bobby explained. "He's barely gotten any rest in the last few days and, well, I figured with what happened earlier…."

Sam nodded.

Once Bobby had delivered the drug, he disposed of the needle and looked at Sam. "Speaking of what happened earlier; what's going on with you?"

Sam looked at him and smiled through the sudden tears. "Dad was here, Bobby."

"Yeah, he was. What about before that?"

Sam shrugged.

"Where did you go when you lost consciousness?"

Sam looked uneasy and stared at his brother.

"Did you go to the yellow-eyed demon?" Bobby pressed.

The young man nodded.

"Did it tell you anything?"

Sam nodded again and took the next few minutes to tell Bobby what he remembered.

"So your daddy was right. The demon is just messing with you and Dean."

"It just all seems so pointless."

"Not to the demon. We still don't know its real plan, but it makes sense it would want to wear you down. In part to amuse itself, but you and Dean off-balance are easier to handle."

Sam touched his brother's hair; a tender gesture Dean would never endure if he were awake. He didn't stir. "I think the demon wants to get rid of him."

"Probably so."

Sam looked at Bobby sharply. "The Colt! Dad gave us the Colt! Where is it?"

Bobby held up a hand. "Don't worry; it's in the safe."

Sam took a deep breath. "Thank you, Bobby. For everything."

Bobby smiled at him warmly. "I'll leave you with your brother."

Once Bobby was gone, Sam sat on the edge of Dean's bed and laid a hand on his arm. Dean moaned, but a few soft words from Sam calmed him.

When Dean woke up later, he was confused, but recognized the bedroom and was comforted by seeing Sam lying in the next bed. His ribs protested as he sat up and he remembered the struggle with the demon-possessed doctor. He rested on the side of the bed before standing up and when he did, the room started to spin. Trying to steady himself, Dean instead fell onto Sam's bed causing his brother to awaken immediately.

"Dean?" Sam asked anxiously.

"I'm sorry," Dean struggled into a more comfortable position. "You okay?"

"Am I okay? Dean, man –"

Dean held up a hand. "My ribs hurt like hell and my head hurts, but I'll be fine. What about you?"

Sam sat up. "I'm okay. You still have a fever?" Dean, uncharacteristically compliant, let Sam feel his forehead.

"How long have we been out? Where's Bobby?" Dean asked a moment later.

"You've been asleep for about three hours. Bobby is taking Dr. Sharp to the bus station."

"You know she was here?"

Sam nodded. "I was up before and Bobby told me what happened when I passed out."

"What's your side of the story?"

Sam told Dean the same thing he'd told Bobby earlier.

They sat quietly, shoulders touching, for several minutes.

"Dad was here," Dean whispered.

"Yeah. And he left us the Colt."

"Where is it?" Dean asked.

"Bobby put it in the safe."

"What did he tell Dr. Sharp?"

"He didn't have to tell her anything. He used some kind of memory mojo on her."

"He what?"

Sam shook his head. "I don't know, man. I didn't ask for details."

"Hey, Dean?" Sam asked after several minutes of a comfortable silence.

"Yeah?" he asked, trying to maneuver into a more comfortable position.

"What Dad said, about why he made the deal with the demon, are you –"

"I'm okay."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. I mean, I still think there had to be another way, but…" he shrugged. "I'm hungry."

Sam realized he was, too, and he couldn't remember the last real meal he ate. He hadn't felt well for a while, but now it occurred to him that the nausea and headache were gone. He stood, holding out a hand for Dean. As he did, the sleeve of his shirt rode up, revealing part of the tattoo. Dean pulled the sleeve up further.

"You did it."

Sam nodded, "Yeah."

"Good."

"We'll see."

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Normally restless and unwilling to stay anywhere for very long, Dean was quite content at Bobby's until his ribs were healed, reluctant to leave even then. It wasn't often that he felt safe, or even the need to feel safe, but being at Bobby's provided him with a tranquility he hadn't even realized he craved.

He missed his father and he knew that Sam did, too. They talked about it and, while they were grateful for the extra moments with him, neither thought it had been enough.

Even weeks after what happened, it was still hard for Dean to leave Sam alone because of the constant fear that the yellow-eyed demon would surface from where ever John had sent it and come for Sam again. Dean hoped the tattoo would be enough to keep Sam safe; he knew all too well now that he couldn't do it himself. Ever since the shtriga tried to take Sam when they were children, Dean feared losing his brother. If their father hadn't barreled through the door when he did, Sam would have been lost forever.

Yes, Dean was afraid of being alone, but it was more than that. He could be alone if it meant Sam was safe and happy somewhere else, but if his being alone meant that Sam was dead or worse, that was something Dean could not accept.

As for Sam, he didn't like Dean's constant hovering, but he understood that was how it had to be for now. He accepted it for how it was intended, but knew it couldn't last forever or it would drive both of them crazy. But for now, if it was what Dean needed to do, Sam could live with it. And in truth, Dean's concern made him feel safe.

Despite how he grew up, the lack of a stable home and the constant supernatural threats, Sam realized recently that he always felt safe and that was due to Dean. Even though only four years separated them, his brother always seemed so much older and wiser, able to handle anything that came his way. Sam recognized some of that as a false bravado Dean wore for his benefit, but that wasn't all it was.

Sam knew the demon would come for him again. He knew that, somehow, the demon intended for him to become evil. Sometimes he was afraid of that potential fate; afraid of what he might do and of who he might hurt. He'd made Dean promise to kill him if it came to that and, even though Dean refused when he was possessed, Sam didn't doubt his brother would do whatever necessary to protect him and keep him safe. He knew Dean would kill him if he had to. But maybe, with the Colt that they'd left in the safety of Bobby's house, Dean would never be pushed that far.

As Dean sat in the driver's seat, content to listen to music playing on the radio, Sam glanced at him. He'd run from this life before, but it was where Sam needed to be; at least for now. And when it was over, however it turned out, he would always know he was lucky enough to have at least one person who loved him and put him first.

Sam stretched out as much as he could in the passenger seat and smiled to himself. Sometimes life really wasn't so bad.

Fin