A/N: Wow! It's finally finished. Thanks to Tidia I have had the chance to enjoy redoing this work. I think it rings true to the AU now and hopefully has improved technically also. I also appreciate the reviews and comments and the readers who allowed me to share this. Thank you!
What makes us heroic?—Confronting simultaneously our supreme suffering and our supreme hope.-Nietzsche
Two days later found Sam entering his brother's new room on the pediatrics level. Much to his thirteen-year-old's delight, the hospital had been hit with a sudden influx of late season flu victims and Dean had been bumped down to the kiddy floor-Princess suite, to beat it all.
"Hey, Cinderellie," Sam said cheerfully in his best mouse voice as he pushed the door open.
Dean glared at him from over one of the car magazines Caleb had brought by yesterday. The gesture would have been nice if said magazines hadn't come in a pink bag adorned with several bubble-gum colored balloons with ballet slippers on them and a tag that read to my favorite niece, Deana. Sam laughed a little longer and louder than he should have.
"Go away, traitor." The older teen grumbled, returning to his reading. He was in bed, his leg back in the brace and propped up.
"Come on, man." Sam sighed, sitting on the bed, trying not to laugh at the Snow White lamp. "I brought you something." He held up the brown bag Shelton had sent him and shook it.
His brother dropped the magazine and looked longingly at the sack. "Sammy, if there is a cheeseburger in there, all trespasses will be forgotten and I might have to kiss you."
"Yuck." Sam feigned disgust. "Glad that never crossed my mind."
"Hot chocolate? Coffee?" Dean inquired. "I'm still freakin' cold, and Mac won't give me any freakin' thing but broth."
"Nope." Sam shrugged. "Sorry. But you'll like it. Just open it and see."
Dean took the bag and peaked inside, his face twisting into one of his patented half-assed grins. "Dude, I hate to tell you this, but I prefer boxers. And I'm really sick of this princess shit…"
Sam rolled his eyes, grabbed the bag and dumped the contents onto his brother's chest. "They're from the panty raid you helped us plan, you idiot."
Dean smiled as he finally understood. He picked up one pink, cotton brief. "You didn't? My little brother? No way. Tell me the truth-you were just the lookout."
Sam shook his head indignantly. "That was Cody. Shelton and I actually got in the girls' drawers." The teen's face reddened at Dean's surprised and amused look. "I mean…"
"You got in some girl's drawers while you were at camp? Maybe I was wrong about this place. It's sounding more and more like Disneyland."
Sam stumbled over his words. "No. I mean…not actually the girls' drawers…but their chests…I mean…"
"You got some chest action too?" Dean raised his brow, and let out a low whistle. "With that cute little thing, Kelly. Right? That's my boy. Tell big brother, Dean, all about it." He glanced around the room, and punched Sam in the shoulder. "Although this isn't exactly the setting I imagined we'd be having this talk in. Damien took me to a bar, but hey, we have to work with what we've got."
Sam groaned. "No! Not their chests …but the chest of drawers where they kept their…unmentionables." He sighed. "We took all of them. Shelton even ran some up the flag pole."
"Unmentionables?" Dean laughed at the completely mortified and flustered look on his brother's face. "You're going on fourteen, Sammy. Not forty. You can say the P-word."
"Give me a break, Dean." Sam leaned against the head of the bed, bumping his shoulder against his brother's. He shoved some of his long hair out of his eyes. "I just wanted you to know that I listened to you-that I was thinking of you while I was gone-even if I was a huge jerk before I left."
Dean looked at the younger teen. "So…you don't think having me as a big brother is all that bad now?"
Sam bit his lip. "No. You have your moments."
"And you don't hate me?"
Sam swallowed hard. "No. I could never hate you, Dean. I never meant…"
Dean held up his hand, effectively letting his little brother off the hook. "Then how about the next time you get all pissy, you just tell me to fuck off instead of throwing a tantrum like a girl."
Sam nodded. "I can do that."
"Is there anything else I can do?"
"Yeah, you can bring me a freakin' cheeseburger."
"Thanks for taking care of me, Dean. Even though I still don't remember everything that happened…I know you saved me and…"
Dean groaned and glared at the goofy smile on Sam's face. "How did me asking for a cheeseburger turn this into yet another princess moment?"
"I'm guessing the altar of panties there on your chest help set the mood." Caleb said, having slipped into the room unnoticed and now came to stand beside the bed. "You'll evoke the estrogen gods if you're not careful there, Deuce. Are you sure you're recovered enough for that?"
"Funny." Dean smirked. "Almost as funny as your little gift yesterday. But these happen to be tokens from a very important hunting exercise."
Caleb frowned. "And you thought I was sick for keeping those werewolf paws?"
"You don't see Sammy wearing them on cord around his neck, do ya?"
The older hunter turned to look at the youngest boy. "Those belong to you, Runt?"
The thirteen-year-old boy's face reddened again. "No…they're…I mean…"
"You pay somebody for them?"
"What?" Sam gulped, his eyes widening indignantly.
"Yeah," Caleb leaned against the mattress and crossed his arms over his chest. "Like on that movie-the geek kid bribes the girl for her undies to impress his friends."
Dean frowned. "Dude, he's a Winchester. He doesn't have to pay to see a girl's underwear."
"Really, because I remember that time when you went with me to that little border town and…"
"And what?" John now entered the room, along with Mac and Jim. He pinned Caleb with a hard look.
The younger hunter raked a hand through his hair. "And it happened a long time ago." One year ago to be exact.
"Uh huh." John moved his eyes from Caleb to his two sons. "Do I want to know why there is girl's underwear all over your bed, Dean?"
Dean smiled. "Get well gifts from all my female admirers."
"Yeah, Mr. Taylor brought them from school." Sam chimed in, enjoying the look on the older hunters' faces. "He brought a card, too."
"Whatever happened to flowers or magazines? What's going on with our youth these days, Johnathan? And do educators actually encourage this kind of brazen behavior?"
"I'm just glad there is only one week left of school." John replied.
"I came to say goodbye and that I expect you to come recuperate on the farm." Jim smiled. "We'll do lots of fishing and sitting on the porch."
"You have to leave so soon?" Sam asked from his perch on Dean's bed.
"Deacon Benjamin is talking of a takeover again, isn't he Jim?" Mackland grinned over the pastor's head to John.
"You know I know that as The Knight I'm not supposed to get involved with personal matters, but . . ." John laughed.
"I will deal with Deacon Benjamin as I have for the last ten years." Jim crossed his arms, refusing to play along.
"You coming, Damien?" Dean asked Caleb. Time on Jim's farm was more entertaining with the psychic.
"Some of us have to work. Tri-Corp has a project to finish." Caleb picked up one of the panties and twirled it on his finger.
"Do I still have a job?" John tilted his head. He had been working at the job site.
Caleb nodded. "With health insurance benefits, because I have an in with the owner."
"I have an in with the doctor." Sam added, and everyone's attention went to him. "Mr. Taylor is Dr. White's brother."
"Little brother," Ryan corrected as he entered the already crowded room.
"Your brother brought those to Samuel." Jim stated, his mouth in a thin line as he addressed the young doctor. "Do you wish to explain this?"
Mackland enjoyed his colleague's discomfiture, but decided to intervene. "I think it's because there are no good role models. Kids don't have heroes these days."
"Don't look at me." John shook his head at his old friend. "The Duke was my hero."
"Which one?" Caleb asked around a cocky grin. "Bo or Luke? Because I definitely saw you as more of a Cooter type."
"Funny. And who was your hero, tough guy? Rambo?"
"Are you kidding? Chuck Norris, of course."
"I call bullshit on that one." Dean piped in, only to receive a scowl from the pastor. "Yeah, yeah…language." The teen rolled his eyes. "But I know exactly who Caleb's hero was." He glanced conspiratorially to his younger brother. "Remember when he wore nothing but pastel t-shirts and those deck shoes."
"Sonny Crockett." Sam laughed with a nod.
"No, I didn't." Caleb defended, heatedly. "I have never worn pink or yellow in my life."
"It was aqua." Mac nodded, a finger pressed thoughtfully to his chin. "That t-shirt you wore all the time with the white jacket over it. I remember it quite clearly."
"And those shoes without socks as I recall," Jim added.
John laughed. "Oh, please tell me you have a picture."
"Mac." Caleb growled.
"My hero was Hulk Hogan." Dr. White spoke up, determined not to be left out. "I wanted to be a professional wrestler the whole time I was in high school."
"That would explain your unusual approach to patient care." Ames told the young man. "If you had been one of my residents I would have suggested that you take up that crusade instead of clothes-lining sick people left and right."
"And here I was about to say that after I reached med school you became my hero, Dr. Ames."
Mackland scoffed. "I am still not recommending you for residency at John's Hopkins."
Dean spoke next. "Don't feel too bad, Doc. I'll let you be my hero, if you just say I can get out of this palace."
Sam looked at his brother and grinned. "You're going to hurt Dad's feelings."
"Shut up, Samantha," Dean replied. His face flushed a little at his brother's insinuation their father was Dean's hero.
"Well, you're free to go as soon as your father can come down and sign the last few forms. Besides, I have a six-year-old girl coming in for a tonsillectomy, who might actually appreciate this room."
"I can do that." John shot both his boys a look. "Before I leave here with two girls instead of my big, brave sons."
"And I believe Nurse Myers wants to speak with you." Ryan pointed at Caleb. "Something about causing an epidemic of sedition and a breakdown of morale in her nursing ranks."
"Damn." Caleb shook his head. "That woman scares me."
"Want to take her a peace offering?" Dean smirked and held up a pair of the panties. "Conjure some estrogen, seeing as how all of hers has dried up, leaving her immune to your charm."
"Boys." Jim shook his head.
Caleb smirked. "I'm so glad you're feeling better, Deuce." Caleb turned to his father. "You going to help me out here, Dad? She thinks you're some kind of cross between God and Hippocrates himself."
"Oh, I don't think so," Mac said as he followed the other men out. "There comes a time when a parent must cut those ties, you know."
"Yeah, funny how it's never a convenient time for the child."
"You think Atilla will nail him?" Sam asked his brother once they were alone.
Dean smiled, and bobbed his eyebrows. "Depends on how many of her nurses he managed to nail."
Sam shook his head. "You're hopeless. Is that all you think about?"
"I also occasionally think of food, which reminds me…"
The younger boy groaned. "Alright, I'll get you the stupid cheeseburger."
"Make it quick while Nurse Hun is busy killing Caleb."
"Fine." Sam started off the bed, but Dean caught his arm and stopped him. "By the way, you never got around to saying who your hero was."
Sam held his brother's gaze for a moment, trying to decide if the other teen was looking for a real answer or just something else to torment him. He meant to say Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, or even Pastor Jim, because all of those sounded plausible. But then an image of his brother broken, bleeding and chained to wall flashed before his eyes, followed by one of him shielding Sam with his own body as a fire raged around them, and yet another of Dean's shiver wracked body strapped to a hospital bed, and the desperate truth slipped out.
"You." The teen swallowed, glancing down at the floor before looking once more at his big brother. "You're my hero, Dean."
The older boy tightened his grip on Sam's arm, smiling slightly, his eyes brightening just a little before he let Sam go with an exaggerated groan. "God, get rid of these underwear before you break out in song." He shook his head. "What are we going to do with you the first time you see a bra, kiddo?"
"Fuck off, Dean."
Dean feigned shock, but then laughed. "See, was that so hard?"
July 2006 re-edited in 2007