A/N: Thank you for the reviews and to everyone who's followed this story. This is the much asked for epilogue.

Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or the characters …

Shared Burdens

Chapter 8 – Epilogue

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Three days later

Sam carefully eased himself off the firm hospital bed before grabbing his belongings and heading into the small adjacent bathroom. As quickly as he could in the confined space, he dressed himself in the clothes Dean had brought in for him just the day before. He was careful not to knock the gauze covering his small sutured scar, the only evidence of his recent surgery. He splashed some cold water across his face before running his damp hands through his messy hair, trying to bring some order to the tousled mop. Peering at his reflection in the mirror, he had to admit he still looked like crap.

Bundling his discarded hospital garb into a ball and tossing it into the corner, he slowly opened the door, peering through, before returning to sit on his bed. He sighed deeply, pleased that Dean hadn't returned while he'd been in the bathroom.

The doctor had already made his early morning rounds and pronounced that Sam was progressing well and finally allowing the nurse to remove his catheter. After hearing the doctor's prognosis, Dean had thankfully taken the opportunity to leave the room to grab some coffee, affording Sam at least a small measure of privacy. Except for one quick trip back to the motel to get Sam some clothes and toiletries, Dean had only briefly left the room a few times for coffee and snacks since Sam had been admitted.

He planned to be dressed and ready to go when Dean returned. The doctor had recommend that he stay for a few more days monitoring, just to be sure, but Sam was more than ready to leave. He felt much better, in fact, now it was more the sore muscles, tender ribs and healing bruises that were giving him the most pain. Although the scar from the operation was slightly tender, and itchy, he felt it was healing well.

He now sat on the narrow bed, meager possessions by his side, anticipating Dean's return. He vaguely considered going to find him, but didn't want to alarm Dean if he returned and found the room empty. Looking around the bland and sterile room, he could honestly say that he couldn't wait to ditch his current surroundings.

"Sam. What the… what do you think you're doing?" Dean interrupted Sam's daydreaming.

"What does it look like I'm doing Dean?" Sam made to get off the bed.

"Get back into bed …I mean it ….now Sam."

"No. We're leaving. I spoke to the doctor after you left." Sam smiled as he continued. "He said I'm right to go."

"That's not what I heard."

"Dean, I feel fine …anyway, how much longer do you think it's gonna be before someone starts asking questions about those phony insurance details you gave?"

"I don't care about that right now Sam."

"Dean I'm serious, the Doc said I can leave …said there'd be some paperwork for me at the nurses' station on my way out."

"Yeah well, don't move …I'm gonna go check." Dean moved towards the door before shooting a glare back at this brother. "I swear Sam, if you're lying to me…"

When Dean left the room Sam gingerly got off the bed. Making his way over to the door, possessions in hand, he confidently waited for Dean to return.

As he still remained waiting a few minutes later, he fervently hoped Dean would hurry. Although he felt a lot better, his inactivity over the past few days had left him feeling a bit weak and tired, and his disused muscles had started to protest at the sudden activity.

Sam lent against the door frame, watching as nurses moved from room to room, a few patients moved slowly down the corridor, and a couple of visitors came and went. Gratefully, a couple of minutes later he saw Dean striding purposely down the corridor back in his direction.

Dean gave his brother a critical look as he approached. Sam stood pale and motionless in the doorway, resting against the door frame slightly for support. He really didn't think his brother looked in any way fit enough to be discharged, but it was obviously what Sam wanted. The doctor had very reluctantly agreed to Sam's request, and Dean had grudgingly completed the required paperwork for Sam's discharge and collected written notes regarding his post operative care.

"I spoke to the doc Sam. He thinks it'd be better for you to stay, at least until the end of the week. ...You know, there's no rush …"

"Come on Dean. You know I hate hospitals …I'm going stir crazy here." Sam raised his pleading eyes to look at his brother. "I promise to take things easy for a few days."

Dean moved to grasp his brother's arm, offering support.

"Dean," he said, gently shaking off his hand. "God. I'm alright …I can walk." Sam slowly began his trek down the corridor, Dean close by his side.

"Oh, and Sam …you'll be taking it easy for more than just a few days."

"Yeah, whatever." Despite his outward bravo, Sam was actually more than happy to take some time off to rest and recover.

The trek to the Impala was slow, but steady. Dean never moved far from his side, almost as if he was afraid that Sam would fall, and needing to be there to catch him.

Sam realized that he must have given his brother a real scare for him to be acting like he was.

Reaching the car, Dean quickly stepped ahead of him, opening the door and waiting for him to get in.

Sam smiled. "Thanks Dean."

"Stay there Sam, I'll be back in a sec." Dean told him sternly, before closing the car door and hurrying away.

Dean jogged quickly to the drug store, just a couple of minutes away. He wanted to pick up Sam's pain meds before they left so that he didn't have to leave Sam alone in the motel room. He waited impatiently for the medication.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, the pharmacist handed over the small plastic container. He threw a few bills on the counter, mumbling a few insults and choice swear words under his breath. He didn't bother waiting for his change.

Dean sprinted back to the car, worry gnawing at him for having left Sam alone. Alone and vulnerable. Reaching the car, he saw his brother's head resting at an uncomfortable angle, propped in the small space between the door and the back of the seat. Overcome with concern, he wrenched open the driver's side door – to be met with the sound of snoring. Guttural snoring.

Dean breathed a sigh of relief as he got in the car as quietly as he could; surprised he hadn't already woken his brother. Sam didn't wake as Dean started the car, or during the ten minute drive to the motel. He parked at the motel and went and got them a room for the next week. He put their bags and gear in the room before returning to the car to wake Sam.

"Sam …Sam …Sammy …time to wake up." Dean's voice rose as he crouched next to the open car door, one hand on Sam's shoulder, gently shaking him.

"Uh …nuh …tired." Sam mumbled, trying to settle more comfortably in the seat.

"Come on Sam …time to move." Dean shook Sam a little more vigorously.

Sam opened his heavy eyes. The walk from the hospital room to the car had worn him out more than he had expected. He really wanted to sleep, just for a little while longer.

"Dean …where are we?" Sam looked around the unfamiliar surroundings.

"What, didn't think we were going back to that puke room did you? I was lucky to get out of there without paying extra for cleaning." Dean shivered in exaggeration. "And God, that smell …ughh …dude, you puked all over the carpet."

Sam grimaced in memory.

"Nah, thought we'd try a new motel for a few days." Dean said, hauling Sam out of the car and to his feet. Sam didn't shake off Dean's support as he helped him into the motel and onto the bed.

Sam took the couple of pain pills Dean held out to him before lying back against the pillows.

"Thanks Dean."

"Yeah well, make yourself comfortable …that's where you're staying for the next week …minimum."

"Whatever." Sam was really too weary to argue.

"No Sam, I'm serious. Doc said you have to take it real easy. No lifting or strenuous activities for a while, plenty of bed rest. …Looks like we're gonna be having a little vacation."

"Yeah, without the beach and sunshine." Sam replied sleepily, closing his eyes.

Dean settled in the chair at the table to read the post operative notes given to him by the doctor.

"Hey Sam, says here that you shouldn't lift any more than ten pounds at time."

"mmm …'kay Dean."

"Presence of pain should be the guide to limiting your activities." Dean read out a passage from the notes.

"Uhhh ha."

"Call your doctor right away if you see any bright red blood in the urine, fever greater than 100.5 degrees, or belly pain and tenderness." Dean quoted.

"Mmmmm"

"Sam, you listening to me?" Dean stared intently at his brother.

"Yeah Dean, I heard you …can I go to sleep now?"

Dean put down the notes and moved over to his brother's bedside, placing a hand on his forehead. Sam's temperature seemed normal.

Sam swiped at Dean's hand. "Dude …I'm fine."

"Any pain or …"

"Dean …I'd tell you okay. I'm fine …just a little tired." Sam pulled the pillow in closer and closed his eyes.

"Okay, you sleep. …I'll be here when you wake up." Dean smiled, already hearing the deep breathing and soft snores coming from his brother.

Dean sat back down to read the rest of the notes, listening to the sounds of his brother sleeping.

The End.

A/N: Hope you all enjoyed the story – many thanks for reading.

Please, I'd love a final review. Criticism (constructive) always welcome.