Usual disclaimer applies including all my bumbling mistakes! Sorry I haven't had time to say my thanks for the last round of wonderful reviews but I do hope to play catch up soon! As this is the final chapter (yes!) it is long as brotherly moments that just kept spilling out – I just hope the conclusion isn't too disappointing.

Becoming too visible

Chapter 12: Silence is golden

The body of Hank Murdoch could wait a few more hours for it's ritual salt and burning decided Bobby as he walked back to the house. As it stood it was too dangerous moving the rusting hulks perched one on top of one another in the dark so morning would be as good a time to get the ugly runt's mortal remains sorted out once and for all.

After shooing Dean back to the house and to his brother he had cleaned up Rummy's leg satisfied that it was only a flesh wound and left him bandaged and tied to the back of the house. The last thing he needed was for the drug crazed dog to wander off and chew on anyone else if the mood took his fancy. The local police turning up with a dead body on the grounds was the last thing he needed right about now.

As he walked back into his home he gave a soft whistle as he finally took in the damage done to the ground floor, his eyes tracking the various sized bullet holes pock marking the walls to the ones that had torn up his furniture.

"Gonna need a new sofa," he thought to himself, just glad that through the hail of bullets that Dean had managed to walk away with a just a scratch to his forearm and that for once Sam was completely untouched. Perhaps now the Winchester luck was back on track again he dared to think. It was a premature thought as the sound of cursing from the kitchen caught his attention and he wandered quickly over to see Joshua tearing around in search of something.

"Just how can the man hide a stupid goddam freezer?" Joshua exclaimed in frustration opening another cupboard to come up empty handed again.

"You sniffing around for a cold beer dude?" queried Bobby with a knowing smirk on his face. He had moved the freezer to the alcove at the back of the kitchen a few months back when it sprung a leak and despite fixing it had never moved it back.

Joshua pinked slightly at the jibe, "No man. I need ice. The kid's burning up big time."

Brushing past him at the news Bobby grabbed up a bucket from under the sink and went to the freezer and started to fill it with ice. "Fool boy never did learn to do things my halves. He's gonna be the death of us all through worry if he keeps this up."

Joshua trailed after him as they went back up stairs biting his tongue. He had been around Bobby long enough to know when to keep his trap shut as the man looked pissed enough to spit bullets if one more thing went wrong.

Fear was the motivator that got Bobby up the stairs in record time and it was justified as he saw a desperate Dean wiping a cold flannel over his brother's flushed face whispering encouragements that fell on deaf ears. His frown deepened when he saw Sammy seem to shiver under the touch although his body glistened with sweat.

Whatever he had been exposed to was still having an unsettling affect on the youngest Winchester as his body tried desperately to expel the toxins out.

"When did this start up?" he asked of Joshua as he went over to the bed putting the bucket on the floor.

"Not long. When I moved him back up here he seemed fine at first, just really sleepy. A little hot but nothing crazy like this."

Dean turned his head suddenly aware of Bobby's presence, "This isn't exactly normal is it?"

Singer tested Sam's forehead with the palm of his hand and couldn't stopa wince from escaping at the heat radiating off him, "He's sweating out the drugs. We can try putting some ice in a sheet and wrap that round him to see if that cools him down any."

Sam groaned under Bobby's touch eyes fluttering open for the merest second before they closed again as he succumbed back to the fever.

It was sign to Dean that waiting was no longer the safest option and he shook his head emphatically, "No, he needs a hospital. Whatever that bastard Murdoch did to him its getting worse."

Bobby clicked his tongue and ran a worried hand through his hair, "Your right, I'll call in a favour over at County. You get him ready to go."

Letting out a shaky breath Dean couldn't hide his relief. "Thanks man."

Galvanised into action Joshua deftly pushed Dean aside intent on getting to the youngest Winchester but was met with resistance as Dean squared off to him, "Leave him be. I can manage this."

Joshua eyed the bandage around Dean's forearm and gave a small snort of disbelief, "Look you're in no shape to carry him and I'll be damned if I let you drop him head first down the stairs."

Standing tall Dean pushed back, ignoring the throb of the wound in his arm, "He's my responsibility. I can carry him just fine."

Choosing not to argue further the older hunter simply bent down and hefted Sam up over his shoulder in a fireman's carry and walked purposely past a fuming Dean and headed for the stairs.

By the time he reached the bottom step Dean was at his side muttering darkly, "Like hell would I have dropped him."

Joshua just grinned and carried on walking with his weighty burden wondering not for the first time tonight as just how much muscle the kid had packed on since last he saw him. He cast a look over his shoulder and asked, "We taking the Impala or Bobby's truck?"

"What do you think?" snapped back Dean as he snaked the car keys out of his pocket.

Bobby growled behind him. "We'll take both. I gotta hold of my friend Conrad and he'll meet us there."


Dr Conrad Hammond didn't do nights. Not any more. His long career in medicine had earned him the right to have that privilege but on hearing Bobby's worried voice down the line he would gladly give up a few hours of sleep to help out his old buddy. He may have given up hunting when he became a doctor but it didn't mean he wouldn't help his own when they needed it. And by the sounds of things Bobby's young charge needed it big time.

He made it to the hospital just in time to see a familiar black car screech to a halt by the ER entrance with Bobby's tow truck behind it. In a dash he raced over to the two vehicles, shouting at an intern taking a quick cigarette break to raise the alarm.

It was the panicked look on the driver's face as he jumped out of the car and pulled open the rear door that made his mouth go dry. He had seen that look many times before and it always sent a missed heartbeat or two to flutter in his chest. By the time he reached the car he could understand the panic as the boy lying prone on the back seat struggled just to draw in a breath.

"Its okay Sammy. We're gonna get you some help. Just hang in there," begged Dean fingers fisting into his brother's wet locks in desperation.

He had driven like a madman to get to the hospital all the time having to look through the rear view mirror as Joshua struggled with his ailing brother/

Bobby also hovered by the Impala his face grey with worry as he spied his friend's approach, "Conrad it's Johnny's boy, Sam."

Conrad already aware of who the car once belonged flew into full doctor mode and leant into the car to try and assess Sam further. He was thankful that by the time he had looked up he could see a familiar colleague racing over to him, "Jerry I have a patient that is crashing here. Pulse is tachycardic and breath sounds laboured."

"What the hell happened to him?" asked the ER doctor as Sam was hauled onto a gurney by many hands, all belonging to none of his team and he quickly stepped to the head of the gurney to try and assess his newest patient for himself.

Joshua's eyes were hollow as he gave a small despairing shrug, "He just kept getting hotter until finally a mile or so back he had some sort of seizure. I haven't been able to wake him since."

Dr Matthew's eyes widened in surprise as seeing the dressings to Sam's side and arm and wondered if that was the cause of his fever when Dr Hammond came back into his eye line. "Jerry, I believe he's ingested some sort of hallucinogenic compound."

The younger doctor's lip curled in distaste, "What is it with kids these days and drugs."

Dean angrily stepped in, his fists knuckling white, "Listen you idiot some bastard did this to him and if you want to see the light of day ever again I suggest you get your frigging head out of your butt and help my brother. Now."

Matthews drew away alarmed by the implied violence and threw a quick glance over to Dr Hammond, "Do I need security here?"

Conrad shook his head quickly and stepped into calm the situation before it got out of hand. Remembering how handy John Winchester had been with his fist when he felt his family threatened he could see the same steely determination in his eldest boy now. "Dean step back and let Dr Matthews do his job."

Surprised by the use of his name Dean threw Hammond a sharp look trying desperately to put a time and place to the man's familiar face but was left floundering.

Dr Matthews took that moment of distraction to take charge and snapped out," Come on team lets get this man properly triaged before he codes on us."

Like a well-oiled machine the ER trauma team took over and Sam was hurried away with a fretting Dean racing after them calling out his brother's name in support with Joshua trailing only a half a heartbeat behind him.

Conrad snaked out a hand to Bobby to stop him from following, "Look old friend you have any idea the type of drugs the boy was exposed to? Looks like he's had a severe adverse reaction to whatever it was."

Bobby shook his head but fished out a small canister out of his pocket. "This might help. I think it was put into the water. He drank it I guess and whatever it was it sent him near over the edge of my roof. Damn fool kid thought he could fly."

Taking the bottle he nodded his appreciation, "I'll get this to the lab and hopefully we can find out what we're dealing with here," Conrad paused before daring to ask, "You know if the lad has used drugs in the past?"

Shaking his head Bobby locked eyes with Conrad, "Hell no, that boy is squeaky clean. Gets drunk on beer number two if you get my drift."

"Didn't take after his old man in that department then," smiled back Conrad sadly, remembering the times Bobby and John had drank each other under the table and he had to drag their sorry butts home.

"Oh believe me his brother manages to keep the Winchester name going in a wide variety of bars across the USA."

Dr Hammond let out a soft whistle as they walked into the brightly lit ER, "You realise the last time I saw those boys was when Dean must have been all of eleven years old threatening to break my nose if I went anywhere near his baby brother with a booster tetanus shot. John had to literally frog march him out of the examination room before I could get that needle anywhere near little Sammy."

Bobby gave a wry smile, "Believe me nothing has changed there. Dean is still the same. He will do anything to protect his brother. Anything."


The waiting was driving Dean slowly insane. It had been little over an hour but it felt like one long day had crept by as he prowled the waiting area, desperate to hear any news on his brother. Joshua and Bobby watched him pace restlessly keeping their silence as nothing they said would help ease the worry from his shoulders.

When Conrad reappeared, this time with a white coat on exuding an air of authority Dean immediately stopped in his tracks all his attention now focused on him. "Its about time, how's my brother?"

Studying the young man in front of him he could see reminders of the defiant eleven year old still on his face and Conrad broke into a soft smile glad to be giving him some good news, "Well Sam is holding his own. He's had no further seizures and his temperature has stopped going skywards."

Dean wavered unsteadily at the news and for a moment Conrad thought he might topple over and quickly indicated to a spare chair by Bobby, "Sit down Dean, you look ready to kiss the floor."

Bobby tugged at Dean's sleeve and he slumped down into the adjacent chair, cradling his head in his hands as relief flooded over him before he dared to ask, "So he's going to be okay?"

Conrad bent down and patted his shoulder, "Look your brother was given something that completely threw his body clock out of sync. He went from doing nothing more substantial than caffeine to doing something akin to hard core LSD in seconds and his body didn't like it, not one little bit. Just let him sleep this off and I'm sure in a day or two he will be fine. "

Dean shifted his head up to look the doctor in the eye. "He shouldn't have to sleep off nothing."

Conrad gave a thin smile in return remembering the eleven year old all too well as Dean pouted belligerently before him, "I know Dean. Just lets get him through this crisis and we can talk about his future management later."

Dean merely nodded as Bobby stood up and shook his friend's hand in relief. "Thanks Conrad."

"Nothing to it old man. Just glad you got John's little boy to me when you did…"

The hidden meaning wasn't lost on Bobby and his chin ducked down to his chest as the guilt tore at him again, "So despite everything the big galoot is going to be okay?"

Hammond didn't look at Dean as he admitted, "Yes though as is standard practice they had to intubate him to take the strain off his lungs and other organs. They've also started him on an IV to pump some fluids back into him being severely dehydrated when he arrived. It will also help flush out the last of the toxins he ingested"

Dean gasped at the implications, "Woah back up there sparky. Intubate him? You put a freaking tube down his throat and tell me that he's doing okay?"

Picking up on the desperate quality now in Dean's voice Hammond quickly added, "It was necessary. Your brother had a seizure en-route to the ER and if he had another his airways could have been seriously compromised. As his temperature returns to normal and he has no further events he will be taken off the ventilator."

Dean glowered back at him still not liking the implications of a machine breathing for his brother. "I want to see him."

Dr Hammond knew better to argue with him on this request and nodded over to a waiting nurse, "Betty can you take Mr Connelly to see his brother."

"Sure Dr Hammond. Mr Connelly if you follow me…"

Bobby watched as Dean literally raced after the nurse with Joshua in tow like his permanent shadow he gave out a tired sigh and turned back to his old friend. "You get the results back then?"

"The lab is still working on a definitive analysis it but what I can tell you it was a manufactured drug. Close to Lysergic acid diethylamide and MDMA but it was obviously tailored to be more potent. The end result was hallucinations as you said and the destabilising effects it had on Sam's body."

"The kid's luck just couldn't get any worse," muttered Bobby tiredly.

"Sounds like one hell of a story you have to tell me, as from the looks of things Johnny's baby boy has been in the wars lately. The busted arm and the wounds to his side look pretty nasty. Now this too?"

"A hunt went bad and he had a nasty run in with a spirit a week ago. But I swear I had him under wraps at my place and he was healing just nicely."

"Hard to imagine you in full Nurse Bobby mode," laughed Conrad softly.

Bobby eyed his old friend and sniffed, "The ungrateful brat started to call me Gestapo Bob. Go figure!"

"Well actually…." Conrad stopped his teasing at seeing the hurt in his old friend's eyes. "Bob?"

"I screwed up bad. Sam was doing real good but because of me he ends up here." Scrubbing a calloused hand over his face he added bleakly, "I promised Dean that I'd look after him but I left him Conrad. Left him alone to go get some stupid freaking spare parts. That boy almost died because of me …"

Conrad for his part snorted his disbelief, "You didn't put the damn drugs in the water. By the sounds of things you all could have ended up just like Sam. Stop beating yourself up like this Bobby. The boy is going to be okay." He threw him a wide grin, " Trust me, I am a doctor after all."

For a short moment Bobby stared at Conrad and then a sharp laugh escaped. "You barely scraped through med school as I remember."

"That's because half the time I was too busy hauling your stupid ass out of the frying pan. You and that idiot John Winchester could attract trouble by just sneezing dodgy if I remember correctly. I think I learnt most of my suturing skills on your two sorry behinds than any bonafide patient that came into the ER."

Rubbing his whiskered chin Bobby snorted at the memory. "Still got a mighty strange pattern on my left butt that you left me with yer bodged stitching."

Admiring his fingers Conrad chuckled, "You were graced with the work of a true artisan dude. These fingers have been blessed with genius."


Dean felt his back protest as he shifted in the plastic bucket seat and slowly he tried to ease the tension from his stiffening frame with a long stretch.

For the first time since his admission he was alone with Sam and in the silence that followed he felt scared and more than a little useless as he watched the ventilator do the work of breathing for his brother.

Snaking trembling fingers into his Sam's lax hand he squeezed gently, "Come on little brother, you gonna carry on with the Sleeping Beauty routine? You're missing out on some pretty hot nurses just dying to give you a sponge bath here."

When there was no response he let go of his brother's hand and drew his fingers across the tangled mess of hair that covered his brother's forehead. It was grimy from dried sweat and he brushed it off his face letting out an anxious sigh when there was no response.

Cupping his chin with his hands he knelt by his bedside studying his face for any hint of pain but saw none and was thankful of that small mercy. After studying him in utter silence for ten minutes the battle scars of a week earlier couldn't be ignored and he traced gingerly the line of healing wounds down his brother's lightly bandaged arm.

As he felt the ripple underneath each point of impact his emotional armour dissolved till he was no longer able to stop the tears from falling as he confessed, "I messed up Sammy. Messed up big time. Anderson and Murdoch were all my mistakes and I let you get hurt because of them. Some big brother I turned out to be when I'm supposed to keep you safe…."

There was a dry cough behind him and he straightened up instantaneously his head twisting around to find the owner. Joshua stood there mutely holding out a coffee for him to take. Dean scrubbed the tears from his face and nodded his thanks at the older hunter who sank into a chair on the opposite side of the bed.

"You know shit happens," remarked Joshua finally breaking the awkward silence in the room. "Your brother won't be placing any blame on you Dean so stop dumping it on yourself like this."

Dean angrily shook his head, "Really Oh-Fucking-Wise-One is that your explanation for my brother ending up in this bed? Shit happens?" He stabbed an angry finger over at him and added "No, what happened is that I forget Winchester rule number one."

"What's that then?" asked Joshua softly knowing that Dean really did need to off load here.

"To keep him safe. I threw him into the lions den and didn't care if he got mauled. Sammy nearly got killed. Twice Joshua. And each time I should have stopped it from happening. If dad was still here he would be tearing strips off me right now…."

Joshua couldn't keep the touch of anger from his voice, "Your dad always did put too much weight on your shoulders."

Dean's voice broke slightly as he confessed, "It's my job. Dad always knew that…"

"Your dad at times knew diddlysquat when it came to what was right for you, for your brother."

Dean slammed down the coffee his anger burning hot inside as he spat back, "You don't have the right to say anything about my dad."

Sucking back his own anger Joshua tried to keep his voice calm as he responded, "I ain't gonna get into one about John with you. I loved the man like a brother but he was sure was hard to like at times so lets just put our focus here on Sam. You know he is gonna be confused as hell when he wakes up. You've got to be ready for that."

All the anger drained from him as Dean turned to watch his brother again and he finally admitted his deepest fear, "Don't you see he's going to hate me Josh when he finds out about all those goddam lies I fed him."

Appalled at the level of pain radiating from the man Joshua took a steadying breath before responding, "Your wrong. The Sam Winchester I know could never hate his big brother. Might want to slap some sense into you at times but then who doesn't after being with you for a short while?"

"Thanks!" answered Dean dryly his mood lightening slightly under the gentle ribbing. Picking up his coffee again he took a deep sip enjoying the warmth on his tongue. "It still doesn't help with the mess I made of things here."

"How does that old saying go 'What you don't know can't hurt yer'. Sammy doesn't need to know the whole picture in all its gory detail. Tell him just what will make sense to him and let the rest go as a lesson learnt. Just keep him away from whacked out hunters from now on."

Dean threw him a dark look, "Like you perhaps? Tell me, just why did Sam take a swing at you back in the house? He clocked you good and proper."

Joshua grinned wide, his fingers absently rubbing at the bruise forming on his chin. "Look your brother had his reasons. When he was around fifteen I broke a confidence and Sam and your dad got into one because of it. I deserved that punch."

"You going to let me into this little secret then?" queried Dean his mind racing back to a moody fifteen year old Sam and not making any connection with Joshua.

Standing now by the foot of Sam's bed Joshua wasn't willing to offer any more insight and shook his head, "Nope. I've learnt to keep my mouth shut. If you want to know anything more you'll have to ask Sam."

"Well that's a little difficult at the moment," snapped back Dean hating to be out of the loop when it came to anything concerning his brother. "The way it's going I'll be lucky if ever speaks to me again when he finds out about the whole world of crap I led him into."

Joshua squatted down besides Dean and put a firm hand on his knee, "You really can't blame yourself for being duped by that slime ball Anderson. Or even for what those bastard Murdochs did. Let go of the guilt before it eats you up and causes even more damage. To you and to your brother."

The conversation abruptly came to an end as Sam stirred in his bed. Dean hovered over him anxiously silently giving up a prayer of thanks as green-blue eyes blinked lazily open. "Hey Sam."

Focusing on the blurry image slowly Dean's face came into view and Sam tried to smile a greeting in return but something snagged on his lips. Instead of a smile a frown formed and his hand went up instinctively to tug at the apparatus covering his mouth.

Dean leant forward and gently prised Sam's long fingers away from the ventilator tube. "Its okay kiddo. Listen Joshua has gone to get a doctor and they'll take this out. Just stay calm. Okay?"

Sam gripped his brother's hand confused as to why he was stuck in a hospital bed but trusted his brother enough to nod his head and let the panic that had torn away at his chest recede. His brother was here. That's all he had ever needed to feel safe.


When he had woken earlier he thought he might have just dreamed the experience but it wasn't until Dean told him exactly what had happened that it started to sink in. "Me high as a kite?"

"Yeah dude, and believe me it wasn't a pretty sight."

Sam suddenly chuckled at a memory that pinged into his head and voice came out a dry whisper post intubation, "I thought Rummy had been turned into a hell hound and wanted to eat me."

"Yeah well let's not also forget that you also thought you were superman. Almost gave poor Bobby a heart attack," snorted back Dean tiredly. He had managed to give up enough of the truth of what had happened without dragging the whole sordid mess of Anderson's betrayal into the mix and his brother seemed happy to accept it, half lies and all.

Just thankful to have his brother back at his side Sam tried to piece back together all that he had been told but it still felt like he was swimming in a sea of treacle. Every time he tried to join the dots together the picture just ended up looking too distorted to be real.

Propping himself up on his elbows he looked directly at Dean his eyes still reflecting his confusion, "I can't really believe this all happened because of some stupid vendetta over a bar fight four years back."

Dean couldn't match his brother's earnest stare and looked away out of the window and when he spoke next his voice was deliberately flat as he continued to spin out the half truths, "Well the Murdochs were always a little unhinged. Trust them to go so over the freaking top and pull a stunt like this. How was I too know that beating the crap out of Adrian back in Texas would come back to bite us on the ass like this."

Sam gave a bitter laugh, "Over the top is a bit of an understatement here Dean. They freaking doped up the water supply. Bobby must be as mad as hell after the week I put him through and now having to deal with all this he's gonna hate the name of Winchester before we're through with him."

Turning back to look at his brother Dean's expression softened, inwardly marvelling at how even now Sam could be worrying about others when he was lying in a hospital bed. "Bobby always been more growl than bite when it comes to you. You've been able to wrap him around your little fingers since the moment you could say his name."

Sam blushed at the notion and shook his head, "Me wrap him around my finger – you've got to be kidding me. You didn't have to live with him the last week. He watched me like a hawk after nurse Hatchett's vitriolic mouthing off about cleanliness. Turned him into some sort of germ phobic prison guard."

"So trying to steal his truck was your way of escaping from Fort Singer was it?"

Sam glanced down a blush on his cheeks at the reminder. "I think I just went a little stir crazy is all. You were gone for so long and I thought…."

Dean stilled waiting for his brother to finish his sentence dreading to hear what came next but he was only met with an awkward silence as Sam continued to stare down into his lap.

As if aware of his scrutiny Sam glanced up to lock eyes with his brother, "Listen, about Ben, I'm really sorry. The dude didn't deserve to go out like that. I know he was your friend and losing him like this has to hurt."

Dean shook his head his voice gritty with emotion, "Anderson was a sorry assed drunk who almost got my dorky little brother killed because I trusted him. So don't you dare be sorry about anything Sam as you did nothing wrong."

Sam laughed weakly, "Can I get that in writing?"

"Dude I can get it tattooed on your ass if it makes you feel any better."

The sound of his brother's high pitched giggle made Dean laugh easily in return. They both stopped a second later and eyed each other both a little self conscious of the fact that they hadn't sparked off against each like that in the longest of times. For the briefest of moments it had felt so natural so normal that Dean was left to wonder just when he had given up on sharing with his brother like that.


At some point Sam had drifted back off to sleep because when next he woke he was alone in his room. On noticing the sun dipping in the sky he realised it was now late afternoon and then the dread spiked through him that his brother had taken off again.

Fingering his throat that still felt a little raw he swallowed sourly his face setting hard in determination as no way was he going to be left behind or sidelined because he had gotten hurt again. He was sick of it, sick of being thought weak and needing a nursemaid. All he wanted now was to find his clothes, find his brother and finally get back on the road with him.

With fresh determination he swung his legs over the side of the bed toes curling at the cold floor underneath and tentatively he stood up pleased at finding that his legs supported his weight and a huge grin creased his face. "Yes," he whispered out loud punching the air in victory.

It was a victory cut short as an angry voice barked out, "Just where the hell do you think your going?"

Swivelling round a little too fast Sam found himself toppling back onto the bed with a soft exhale of surprise. "Dean?"

Dean put down the two coffees cups in his hands on the bedside table and glared at his brother. "You planning to go where exactly?"

"May be the bathroom?" answered Sam a little sheepishly cringing at how awful his lie sounded to his own ears.

"Let me make this clear, you're not going anywhere till I know that you are one hundred percent better. You hear me?"

Blanching slightly at the forceful tone Sam still had enough fight left in him to answer back, "I'm fine dude, just stop being such a freaking mother hen about everything and help me get out of here."

Fist clenched tightly Dean shook his head remembering all too clearly the reason why his brother was back in hospital, "Sam, what part of almost dying don't you understand here?"

Wincing at the reminder Sam's voice was low, "But I didn't."

Dean ducked his head down and took in a steadying breath. The Murdochs and Andersons of this world were now permanently removed from his brother to worry about any further harm but it didn't lift the burden of guilt of his shoulders.

Sam for his part studied his brother disturbed by his sudden silence. He had had a whole week on his own with Bobby to fret about things and guessed Dean must have been feeling the same whilst chasing after Anderson.

Throat too dry again Sam sipped at his water again eyes desperate to breach his brother's prickly shell as he finally he admitted. "I don't want you taking off again leaving my stupid butt behind."

The colour drained from Dean's face and he shook his head, "I know I shouldn't have taken off last time out but I promise that won't ever happen again. Besides it was kind of boring not having you ride shotgun bitching away like usual. Breaks up the tedium factor no end…"

Sam slowly grinned back at him. "You missed me? Imagine that, my bitching and all…"

"Afternoon boys," Hammond interrupted the brothers with a warm smile on his face.

Dean response to his brother's statement was cut short as he instantly reverted to big brother mode and demanded a progress report, "How's my idiot brother really doing?"

Sam bit his bottom lip at the jibe and threw his brother an unreadable look and Conrad chuckled at Dean "Well by the looks of thing readying to deck you."

"I'm the one that should be smacking him. Found the brat trying to make his escape." snapped back Dean in explanation.

Conrad lifted an eyebrow in surprise and turned back to Sam. "Give it another day young man and if your stats continue to improve I'll gladly sign your discharge papers myself."

Sam went to protest but was interrupted with a small smack to the back of his head. "Ow," he exclaimed in surprise up at his brother. "Why'd you do that?"

Ignoring the miserable look thrown his way Dean huffed out, "To stop you wingeing even more. You forget the reason why you're in that bed?"

Sam's voice was husky as he snapped back, "Not as if you're going to let me forget anytime soon. God your worse than Bobby…"

"Well that's what big brothers are for. To stop their pain-in-the-ass little brothers from doing anything stupid."

Dr Hammond quickly stepped in fearing that it would turn ugly between the two brothers as Sam's scowl deepened. "Well the good news is that Sam is ready for a new cast. We can put that on today."

Dean grinned broadly back and punched his brother gently in the shoulder. "Way to go tiger and this time round I'll make sure you keep the damn thing on."

"Wasn't exactly my fault that the other one came off," snorted back Sam before letting a small smile creep back onto his face at the prospect of getting the use back of his hand. The uncomfortable throb of his broken arm had been a continuous drag all week long, not that he would have admitted to Bobby and sure as hell not to his brother fussing by his bedside now.

Choosing to ignore that last comment and the uncomfortable memories that came with it Dean turned back to Hammond. "So no lasting damage from the drugs either? My brother is as moronically gifted as before?"

Conrad swallowed back a chuckle trying to keep a professional air about him as Sam tossed a pillow at his brother's head, "God you are such a frigging jerk."

Bending down to pick up the pillow by his feet Dean grinned back. "I was wondering how long it would take Princess Samantha to make her reappearance." With an exaggerated flourish he plumped up the pillow, "Look - all nice an fluffy again, just how you like it."

Sam allowed his brother to place the pillow behind him and then slumped back onto the bed in defeat suddenly too tired to argue any further, "Yeah. Whatever."

The stark realisation had hit home that no way was he going to get out of the hospital today, not with Dean on guard duty and he hadn't the energy to fight it any more.

Sensing his capitulation Dean lost his smile and a small frown puckered his forehead. "I know man its hard but just give it one more night and I'll be happy to spring you out of here myself." He paused before he admitted. "You scared the crap out of me last night Sam. I don't think I could deal with a repeat performance any time soon…"

Sam turned his head round to look at his brother and saw the concern there and couldn't punish him any further. Taking a long sigh he nodded his head, "Okay I'll stay but you've got to get me some real food. Bobby has been stuffing all this organic stuff down my throat all week and have you seen the crap they serve here. It really sucks."

A broad smile split Dean's face at his brother's easily filled request, "It's a deal. I supply you with a couple of big fat juicy hamburgers and you stop doing your impression of Steve McQueen."

"One night Dean then we're out of here."

Dr Hammond chose to ignore the mention of food being smuggled in against hospital policy and cleared his throat, "Well now that Sam's sleeping arrangements for tonight have been sorted out perhaps we can get on with getting that new cast put on."

Sam turned a soft happy grin back up to his brother glad that he was with him this time round, remembering just how badly he had gotten it wrong with the first. Sighing he confessed, "At this rate I'll be wearing one till Christmas."

Dean smirked knowingly in return, "Perhaps we can get it in nice shade of pink this time out. You know to match the type of ladies that you attracted last time out of the gate."

"That's not fair," muttered Sam with a blush on his cheeks recalling his disastrous meeting up with a girl called Candy and her nemesis Shandy who had ended up battling it out to see who would get to first base and beyond with him. "I got a little tipsy is all and those girls got way too scary so I left."

"Tipsy? You were as drunk as a skunk as I recall and those girls would have eaten you alive if you hadn't ducked and run when you did."

The blush on Sam's cheeks darkened further as he tried to laugh off the memory. "Those girls are one set of images I would gladly erase."

Dean sighed his own regrets under his breath, "I have a whole bag full of my own that I'd like to exorcise too kiddo."


Rummy panted by Sam's legs as they both enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine walking in happy silence down a long line of rusting vehicles. Since finally getting out of County a day back he had been confined once again to close quarters at Bobby's. For a small house it felt cramped at times with four men duking it out for space. That coupled with three sets of beady eyes on him at any given time he had been left feeling more than a little claustrophobic.

It had felt good liberating himself from the confines of the house as he climbed out of the bedroom window. Finding his feet once again on terra firma he hunted out his usual companion and took off with Rummy with just the simple aim of getting an hour of uninterrupted peace and quiet.

Supping slowly at the nicely chilled beer that he had snuck out from under Bobby Singer's radar he couldn't keep a silly grin off his face. The noise and attention of three men bickering over him was gone, locked inside the house where they were supposedly playing a game of friendly poker.

Sam snorted softly at the misnomer of the term friendly as the tension vibrating through the house as the game escalated to an all out testosterone fuelled competition of wills that could be felt even as he pretended to sleep upstairs.

The dog's sudden barking made him grimace and he called out, in a loud whisper, "Keep it down for heaven's sake."

The watchdog didn't even turn to his voice as he quickly disappeared into the warren of metal in chase of rabbit he had no chance in ever catching. With the dog gone Sam parked himself on top of a hood of a burnt out car content to wile away his hour of freedom, drinking in the warmth of the sun on his skin.

Closing his eyes he sat still trying to clear his head of a whirlpool of thoughts and emotions trying to resurface. Only the binding voice of his brother whispering up an exclamation in his head offered up any reality behind them. Not that he really wanted any ownership of a time that left him so crazy that flying solo off a roof had seemed like a good option.

Taking another slow sip of his beer he let out a long sigh. As much he appreciated Bobby and all that he had done the need to reassert his independence burnt deep inside him. It really was time to convince Dean that this is what they needed to do next. Find them their next hunt to take them back on the road again.

A nudge to his leg drew him out of his inner thoughts and he caught Rummy looking expectantly up at him and he knew what he was after. Dimples flashed briefly before he cupped his left hand and poured some of the beer into to let the dog slurp it up.

When the beer was all gone he wiped the sticky palm of his hand down his leg and winked conspiratorially at the dog, "You know we are both going to be so busted if they ever find out."

Rummy wuffed hopefully back at him for more beer but Sam shook his head, draining the last of the beer with a long gulp. Disposing of the evidence he dropped the empty bottle inside the burnt out wreck and stood up again noting how the sun was starting to dip in the sky. "We should head back before the search party comes a-hunting."

By the time he climbed back up to the bedroom window dusk was falling. As he looped a leg over the window sill and stepped back into the dimly lit room he paused sensing someone else in the room with him. "Dean?" he asked certain of the presence as his skin tingled in recognition.

"The one and only," growled back Dean flicking on the light and watching Sam blink owlishly at the sudden illumination. To say that he had wanted to go into rant mode at finding his brother gone a few minutes back would have been an understatement but with his reappearance and Sam's bright smile that followed all his fears instantly dispersed.

Sam for his part dissolved into a fit of giggles onto the opposite bed, "Oh man your face. I think I just got busted!"

Trying to fight down his own wide grin of delight Dean mustered back a scowl, his voice deliberately gruff. "Well it looks like your ready to get out of here on a more permanent basis. Think you up to handling a job Ellen has sniffed out for us?"

"What do you think?" sniggered back Sam, his dimples flashing long and deep.

Dean caved in and grinned back waving a bundle of dollar notes at him, his spoils from the 'friendly' poker game that had left the two other men with empty pockets, "Good cos' I don't think we're exactly welcome at Casa Singer at the moment. You best be packed and ready to go in five."

A soft chuckle came from Sam as he pulled his duffle bag from under his bed already packed, "I've been ready to go since I got back from County. The only thing I need to grab is my toothbrush. I'll go down and smooth the path for your retreat with the boys…."

Watching Sam fling his duffle over his shoulder Dean's stomach did a little flip-flop of anxiety. No matter what had come their way this past year his brother still had an air of innocence that kept him apart from the dark world they hunted in and he wondered just for how much longer he could keep that, before someone or something came and stripped it off him.

Dad's final words rung hollow in his ears and again he refused to believe them or give them voice. Like Joshua had said what you didn't know couldn't hurt you. And the last thing he wanted to do on this earth was hurt his brother again. Silence sometimes was truly golden.

The End.