Author's Note: I participated in an author auction at the first annual (hopefully!) KazCon; a Supernatural convention held in Lawrence, Kansas. In short, an author auction is where authors agree to write a story to the high bidder's specification. The proceeds of the auction at KazCon went to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.
My high bidder didn't have a huge list of criteria; mostly just some Sam whumping. This is the result and is posted with the high bidder's permission.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Supernatural except for some really cool merchandise.
"Sam! Look out!"
Even though the words were out of Dean's mouth almost at the same time as the danger appeared, the warning came too late. He came to a sudden halt and a mixture of emotions rushed through him as he watched his little brother hit the ground.
"No!" he yelled, spurred into action again and rushing toward Sam.
"I'm okay," Sam breathed, obviously not, as Dean examined him briefly. "Go after it."
"It's already gone, Sammy," Dean said as his hands expertly searched for his brother's injuries. "Just hold still and let me check you out."
"Was that a sword?" Sam asked, his tone disbelieving.
"Good thing you tripped over that tree root or you might have gotten it through the heart." Dean tried to keep his voice light.
Sam winced when Dean touched his left leg; Dean grimaced when his hand came away bloody.
"Sorry," he muttered, examining the leg more closely. "It's…."
Without another word, Dean pulled out his pocket knife and unfolded the blade. He cut a slit in Sam's pant leg, starting where it was already ripped and scowled at the large cut on his leg. The blood was still flowing.
"Oh, that does not look good," Sam said as the color drained from his face.
"Don't look at it," Dean advised. He slipped out of his jacket and then the plaid shirt he was wearing underneath. Using the knife, he cut a strip of material from the shirt and used it to clean the wound the best he could. He could feel Sam stiffen as he worked.
"I'm sorry," he said, glancing at his brother's ashen face. "Almost done."
"Hurry," Sam gritted his teeth.
Dean cut another strip from the shirt and tied it above the wound, hoping it would stop the bleeding.
"Think you can get up?" Dean asked when he was done.
"I don't really have a choice, do I?" Sam asked, his voice strained.
With Dean's help, Sam managed to get to his feet. Dean held him as he swayed a little unsteadily on one foot for a few moments. He put the other foot on the ground, slowly adding weight until he was almost able to stand unaided.
"You doing okay?" Dean asked several minutes later.
The mile-long walk was taking a lot longer than Dean felt comfortable with. He wanted to get Sam to the relative safety of the cabin where they were staying and really work on his injured leg. There wasn't a path for them to follow and it was getting harder for Sam to make his way through the dense vegetation. Things would be easier once they got back to the forestry service road where they'd left the Impala, but it was still a long way away.
"Yeah," Sam said, his breath coming in gasps.
Dean couldn't miss the sweat that had broken out on his brother's face despite the 30 degree temperature, or the fact that Sam was leaning more heavily on him.
"We can rest for a minute."
Sam shook his head.
"It'll be too hard to get started again."
Dean adjusted his grip on his brother and they continued through the woods. What seemed like hours later, they were at the forestry service road.
"Damn," Dean muttered, seeing they'd come out of the woods further away from the car than he expected. He felt Sam start to tremble and seconds later he jerked away and fell to the ground, on all fours. "Sammy…."
Dean crouched next to him, rubbing his back lightly as Sam began to vomit. It had been several hours since his last meal and he was soon reduced to dry heaves. Dean saw his arms start to shake and moved to offer him more support. Finally, Sam fell onto his side, gasping when his injured leg touched the road. He rolled onto his back, breathing hard, his eyes closed. Dean put a hand on his shoulder and Sam reached out for him; he found the bottom edge of his coat and grasped it tightly.
"It's okay, Sam. We're almost there."
"I can't, Dean."
"Yeah," Dean looked toward the car, then back at his brother. The pain he felt was obvious on his face. "I'll be right back, okay? I'm going to get the car –"
"Dean, I –"
Sam rolled away from him, his back arching as he began to retch again. Dean kept a hand on his shoulder until Sam had calmed. He moved closer to give his back some support, his eyes sweeping the woods and his ears listening for any danger.
They'd been hunting a vampire; one that had been violently attacking people who strayed too far from a small Montana town. He killed most of his victims, but others were left to die in agony. Word of the job had come from Bobby. One of his contacts had originally been working it, but he had been killed while trying to decapitate the vampire.
The thing was on the move; after killing the hunter it probably knew others would come. The brothers managed to track it to an area near the cabin. Going through the woods it was less than 20 miles from the area he had been terrorizing, but the only road belonged to the forestry service and it took an hour to get down the mountain and into the town.
The sun was starting to come up, which was going a long way to soothe Dean's nerves. Contrary to popular belief, sunlight didn't actually kill vampires, but the majority of them tended to avoid it and slept during the day. Dean was counting on that to be the case with this vampire.
After giving Sam a few minutes to recover, Dean patted his shoulder. "I need to get the car, Sammy. I'll be right back, okay? It's just right over there; you can see it from here."
Sam nodded, though his eyes were closed. He let go of Dean's coat and covered his eyes with one of his arms. Dean patted him again and took off in a run for the Impala, glancing over his shoulder several times to make sure Sam was safe.
He pulled the key from his pants pocket as he reached the car, but his hands were shaking so badly that he dropped it onto the dirt road. Cursing softly, Dean bent to retrieve it, nearly losing it again as he tried to insert it into the door lock. He looked toward Sam as he finally managed to open the door. Knowing he would be at his brother's side in a matter of moments didn't make him feel any better as he slammed the door and jammed the key into the ignition.
The car was facing in the right direction for a quick escape toward the cabin. The dirt road was too narrow and Dean's nerves too on edge to manage a turn, so he backed the car toward Sam. From the rearview mirror, he saw his brother struggle into a sitting position when the growl of the Impala's engine was closer.
As Dean drove toward the cabin, he kept one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on his brother. He could feel the slight trembling under his hand as it rested on Sam's arm and when he looked to the other side of the car, Dean saw that Sam was leaning against the passenger side door, his forehead resting against the cool glass of the window and his eyes closed.
"Stay with me, Sammy," Dean said, trying to sound comforting and authoritative at the same time. He knew that Sam was trying; he could feel his arm stiffen every time he tried to sit up.
"Dean…." Sam's voice was barely above a whisper.
"Right here, Sammy." Dean squeezed Sam's arm gently. "We're almost at the cabin."
Dean didn't even bother to pull over to the side of the road. He stopped the car and slammed it into park before rushing around to the passenger side door. There was no way to open it without Sam toppling out, so he did it quickly and tried to break his brother's fall. There was nothing left for Sam to throw up, but the dry heaves were violent and obviously painful. Dean kept physical contact and tried to soothe him, but he didn't think he was having any affect.
"Sorry," Sam muttered as he lay back against his brother, his head in Dean's lap.
"You've got nothing to be sorry for, okay?" Dean put his hand on Sam's forehead. "Do you think you can go the rest of the way?"
After getting Sam loaded back into the car, Dean closed the door gently and walked around to the driver's side. On the list of everything he was worried about, Sam's nausea was pretty close to the top. He was wounded by a blade; that shouldn't be making him throw up. Hospitals were always a last resort, though, and with the nearest one over two hours away, it hadn't even occurred to Dean to take his brother anywhere but the remote cabin.
The cabin was located near the top of a mountain in an especially remote area of Montana. It looked like any other hunting cabin, but was actually part of a network of safe houses used by supernatural hunters. It was small; there were only three rooms, including a small bathroom. Sam only got as far as the living room couch before he couldn't move anymore. Dean laid him out as comfortably as he could, then hurried back out to the car for the first aid kit and weapons.
"Hey, Sammy, how ya doin', huh?" Dean called as he got a bottle of water from the refrigerator. The kitchen and living room were separated only by a round wooden table. When Sam didn't answer, Dean tried again. "Sammy?"
He heard a soft grunt from the couch while he gathered the supplies he would need. "It's okay, Sammy, I'll be right there."
"Dean…."Sam whispered, one arm flailing, apparently in search of his brother.
Dean had just put the last of what he would need next to the couch and he knelt on the floor and took Sam's hand. "I'm here. I need to take a better look at that leg and clean it up."
"I'll be right back." Dean laid Sam's hand on his chest then went to the bedroom. He grabbed the blanket from the only bed and returned to the living room. After Dean laid it over his brother, Sam grasped it and pulled it up to his chin.
Dean opened a bottle of ibuprofen and shook two into his hand. He managed to get Sam to swallow them with a long sip of the bottled water.
"I got a bottle of tequila here. You want some?"
Sam grimaced and shook his head.
Dean touched his shoulder. "I'm gonna cut the rest of this pant leg away, okay?"
Tossing the material of Sam's pants and the tourniquet aside once he'd cut them, Dean dipped a clean wash cloth into the warm water and held it over Sam's wound. It was ragged and ugly looking, but at least the bleeding had stopped.
"Okay, soap and water first. Ready?"
"No," Sam said, looking at his brother. "Do it."
Sam tensed and held fast to the blanket as Dean cleaned the wound with soap and water. When he was finished, he blotted it dry with another clean cloth and pulled a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from the first aid kit. Sam's eyes were closed, but he must have smelled it when Dean removed the cap because he whimpered pitifully.
"I'm sorry, but this has to be cleaned."
Sam nodded. "Just do it, okay?"
"You sure you don't want a belt of something?"
"Please, Dean, just hurry."
"Okay. Here goes."
Sam cried out when the peroxide touched his open wound and tried to push away from the couch. Dean quickened his pace and finished cleaning the wound as fast as he could, giving Sam words of encouragement. Sweat poured off of Sam's face and when Dean was finished with his leg, he used another clean rag to try to cool him off.
Sam was shaking, his breath coming in gasps. He didn't open his eyes. "Dean?"
"I'll take that drink now."
Dean removed the cap from the tequila and held it the bottle to his brother's lips while helping to hold up his head. After a long swallow, Sam gagged.
"Take it easy," Dean said quietly. "We're almost done, okay?"
"Dean…." Sam's eyes finally opened his eyes and he looked at Dean, tears in his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Sam, but if this gets infected…."
Sam nodded sadly, holding his brother's gaze. Dean brushed the always too long bangs away from Sam's eyes. Normally Sam handled pain well. Like Dean, he'd been trained by their father to work through anything that wasn't truly debilitating. Sam's reaction told Dean that the pain was more than extreme.
After applying an antibiotic cream, Dean laid out the supplies he would need to stitch up the wound. Their father had insisted they both learn more than basic first aid and though Sam was better at suturing than Dean, this was far from the first time Dean had to use the skill.
Sam was exhausted by the time Dean had loosely bandaged his leg and he fell into a fitful sleep. Keeping an eye on him, Dean cleaned up and put the supplies away.
The adrenaline that had been powering Dean was finally wearing off and he stifled a yawn. He took a beer from the refrigerator and sat on the recliner across from Sam, watching him closely. Sam's face looked a little more relaxed than it had a few minutes ago, but he was still very pale and there were already dark circles forming under his eyes.
Dean lit a fire in the fireplace and secured the cabin as best as he could before settling in the chair, but despite the fatigue, he hadn't been able to fall asleep. He was almost lying in the outstretched recliner, but every time his eyes closed, Sam shifted in his sleep or made some noise and he would be immediately alert again.
He realized they would probably not be safe in the cabin after nightfall. Contrary to popular belief, a vampire did not need to be invited in and Dean was pretty sure the one they'd been hunting would come back to finish the job he'd started. He was also worried about Sam's fever and the nausea, though that, at least, appeared to have passed.
He couldn't make Sam move now; he needed to rest. Dean decided he would try to sleep, but no matter whether he did or not, in three hours he would load Sam into the car. It would still only be 10:00; well before the vampire should be awake.
It was times like this that Dean missed his father the most. Since his death nearly a year before, a day hadn't gone by that something didn't remind Dean of him. He didn't think he would ever get to the point where he didn't wish he could talk to his father, but most of the time, the pain was at least manageable. Particularly complicated hunts made him miss his dad more; Dean missed being able to bounce ideas off him. And when Sam was in danger, like now, he wished he could call his father either for help or for advice.
As he watched his brother, Dean wiped away a stray tear. He'd cried for his father many times in the last year. He'd cried for him a few times during the year he was missing, too, but never in front of Sam. Never with Sam. Dean let out a low, frustrated sound. He knew he was tired, but he hadn't realized he'd hit the point where the melodrama would win out.
Shifting into a more comfortable position and with one more glance to his brother, Dean was finally able to fall asleep.
Sam's eyes opened and he was immediately aware of pain. His head hurt, his leg hurt, and he was afraid to move his head for fear the dizziness would come back. At least, for now anyway, there was no nausea. He could hear Dean's soft snoring and knew he was close by. After a moment, Sam turned his eyes toward the noise and could barely see Dean in the recliner across the room. Slowly, he moved his head and was grateful that the room didn't begin to spin.
He needed to go to the bathroom, but knew he couldn't get there on his own and he didn't want to wake Dean. He pulled the blanket up more securely around his chin and wondered how Dean could be sleeping in the cold room. He could hear the fire behind him, but couldn't feel any of its heat.
After a little shuffling, he was sweating again, but still shivering under the blanket. The pain he felt in his leg was intense enough to make him forget the pressure on his bladder. He could see the ibuprofen bottle on the coffee table and even when he stretched his arm as far as he could it was just out of reach. He grunted with the effort of pushing himself up off the couch; he was just able to touch the bottle, but couldn't wrap his fingers around it.
Hearing his brother's voice, Sam fell back against the couch and Dean was by his side almost immediately.
"How ya doing?" Dean touched his forehead and Sam saw his scowl as he burrowed back under the blanket.
"I'm all right."
"Liar." Dean sat down on the coffee table. "You want something stronger than the ibuprofen?"
Sam wanted to say yes. He wanted something strong enough to knock him out, but he didn't want to appear weak and he didn't want to be more of a burden than he already was. Seemingly reading his mind, Dean reached for the first aid kit and pulled out a bottle of Vicodin he'd managed to pilfer from a house they'd searched in a recent hunt.
He handed one of the pills to Sam who nodded at him gratefully. He was able to reach the water and finished almost all of it while Dean checked the wound. Sam saw the worried expression on his face, but didn't ask how it looked.
"Can you help me to the bathroom?"
It was only a few steps to the bathroom, but it took several minutes and most of Sam's strength. Having spent nearly 24 hours a day together for most of their lives, the brothers were long past feeling self-conscious over just about everything. Sam needed help and Dean was there to give it to him, no words needed to be spoken.
Back on the couch, Sam breathed hard from the exertion of moving. Dean rinsed a cloth in cold water and wiped the sweat from his face as Sam nestled under the blanket, his teeth chattering from the cold.
"I've never felt like this before," Sam said, closing his eyes. "This doesn't feel like a normal fever. My head…."
"Yeah, well, you shouldn't even have a fever. It doesn't make sense."
"How does the wound look?"
"Dean?" Sam looked at him.
"It doesn't look good. That doesn't make sense either."
"Unless the blade had something on it."
"Aw, geez, Sammy," Dean rubbed his face.
"You can't say you've not thought the same thing," Sam said, his voice low and sounding weak.
"We need to get out of here," Dean said. "It won't be safe after dark and, as much as I hate to admit it, you need a doctor."
"Don't we have any antibiotics?" Sam's eyes fell closed.
"No. We need to add that to the shopping list." Dean looked at his brother. "Besides, we don't know what's wrong; I'm not even really sure the Vicodin was a great idea. You need a doctor."
Sam didn't answer. After a moment, Dean touched Sam's shoulder. "I'm gonna get our stuff into the car."
His eyes still closed, Sam reached for the bottom of his brother's plaid over shirt. That was generally his reaction when he was feeling particularly vulnerable and he felt his brother squeeze his shoulder and promise, "It's gonna be okay."
Sam nodded, his face contorted in pain.
"I won't be far away."
"Be careful outside. Just because vampires don't normally come out in the daytime doesn't mean it won't."
It didn't take long for Dean to get the car packed. He tried to convince Sam to eat something, especially having taken the Vicodin, but his brother refused. He had only slept for just over two hours and Dean wanted coffee, but there wasn't any in the cabin so he made do with a soda.
"Okay. Ready?" Dean asked as he stood next to the couch.
"No." He sounded drowsy.
"I put a pillow in the back seat. You won't be able to stretch out much, but it should be more comfortable than the front."
"Let's go," Sam said. He pushed himself up to a sitting position, obviously in pain, and Dean helped him the rest of the way. He swayed uncertainly, even though he was in Dean's grasp.
"How's it going, Sasquatch? Wanna go to the bathroom before we leave?"
Sam shook his head, then leaned heavily on his brother. "Remind me not to do that again."
"Don't do that again," Dean said lightly as they began the slow trek to the Impala.
The trip to the car was considerably more difficult than the one to the bathroom. Despite having parked as close to the front door as possible, there were four stairs to traverse. Sam was nearly unconscious from the effort and the Vicodin by the time he was settled in the back seat. Dean watched him for a moment before slipping behind the wheel. He adjusted the rearview mirror so that he could see Sam's face.
Sam had taken Vicodin before and Dean knew what to expect. He would sleep for a while, but the drowsiness would stick with him for several hours. Dean intended to take him to the nearest hospital, which was an hour away from the small town they'd been trying to protect. It would take at least an hour to get to the highway from the cabin and it wouldn't be a smooth ride on the dirt road.
Glancing at his brother in the rearview mirror, Dean was glad to see that he already appeared to be sleeping. He was clutching the blanket in both hands and his face was contorted in pain; his was obviously not a restful sleep.
Nearly 40 minutes later, Dean was startled when Sam started to mumble. At first he couldn't understand his brother's words, but then one rang out clearly. Dad. He gritted his teeth and gripped the steering wheel tighter as he continued to listen.
Sam saw the wound in his leg, but he felt no pain. He recognized the pair of sweats he was wearing, but didn't remember putting them on. He figured Dean must have managed it while he was asleep.
He looked around the room; it was the cabin where they'd escaped to after the vampire attacked them. He still couldn't believe the bastard had had an actual sword. He knew a lot about weapons, but not swords in particular and had no idea what kind it was.
He couldn't see Dean and when he called out for him, he heard only silence. It had been a long time since the quiet had been so complete. He glanced at the refrigerator in the kitchen and wondered why it wasn't making any noise. Then he realized that he couldn't hear the generator either, and assumed it had run out of fuel.
Slowly, Sam sat up. He expected the room to start spinning as it had earlier, but the headache he'd experienced before was gone and the room remained steady. He didn't like not knowing where Dean was and he was afraid the vampire had come back. But if it had, why take Dean and not just kill them both? He decided that his brother must be outside and he slowly made his way to the door.
He stopped, his hand on the door knob. It couldn't be.
"Dad?" Sam asked after he turned around and saw his father standing next to the fireplace. He'd not been there when Sam got off the couch. "How…?"
"I'm not sure, Sammy. But I don't think I can stay long."
Sam walked across the room in a few long steps and pulled his father into a bear hug. He felt his dad's arms wrap around him and for the first time in a long time, he felt completely warm and at ease.
"God, Dad. Where are you? Are you all right?"
"Don't worry about me, son. I'm all right." John held his boy by the shoulders. "It looks like you've got yourself quite an injury."
Sam nodded. "It doesn't hurt right now. Dean and I were hunting a vampire. He's been killing people in a town not too far away. When he killed a hunter, Bobby called us in. Dad, where's Dean?"
"He's around," John answered vaguely.
"Is he all right?"
"He's worried about you, but he's all right."
Sam looked around the room and moved to one of the two chairs. "Dad, I…."
John sat across from him. "What, Sammy?"
"I miss you," he said as tears formed in his eyes. "I'm sorry for all the fights and –"
John waved his hand. "Don't apologize, Sammy. Those fights were as much my fault as yours. More so, probably. I miss you, too. You and your brother….are you doing all right?"
Sam shrugged, the tears still threatening to fall. "It's hard, Dad. Dean's better now, but he was having a really hard time. We're gonna get that demon, Dad. For you, Mom, Jessica….we're gonna do it."
John smiled with obvious pride on his face. "I know you will. So, did your brother tell you –"
"Your secret? Yeah." He didn't feel any anger toward his father for keeping the truth from him. "Hell of a thing to tell Dean."
"I know. Something else I probably handled badly."
"He's going to look out for me. He always does. I just hope he recognizes when it's time…."
"We both know we can depend on your brother to do the right thing. But the right thing may not be what you think it is."
Sam nodded. "Thank you."
John looked at him, the confusion clear on his face. "For what?"
"Giving my brother back to me."
John smiled. "I couldn't let Dean die. I had a way to stop it and I did. Besides, you and I….I have always loved you, son, but I know you needed your brother more than you needed me."
"Dad…." Finally the tears began to roll down his cheeks.
John leaned forward and put a hand on Sam's uninjured leg. "It's okay, Sammy."
"It's not that I didn't, don't, love you."
"I know that. You and me….we would have been at each other's throats more often than not."
Sam nodded, unable to speak.
They sat in a comfortable silence for a few moments.
"Are you here because….am I dead?"
John smiled. "No, you're not dead. I think, maybe, you might have a choice to make soon, though."
"I'm not leaving Dean."
John nodded, saying nothing.
"Dad?" Sam began after a brief hesitation. "Do you know what's wrong with me?"
His father looked thoughtful, then surprised. "I don't know how, but yeah, I do. The vampire's blade had a pesticide on it; organophosphate insecticide. You have to tell your brother so he can tell the doctor. There's an antidote; you just have to get it in time."
Sam glanced away for a moment. When he looked back, his father seemed to have faded a little. He was a little less there
"Looks like it's time for me to go back." John stood up and put a firm but loving hand on his son's shoulder. He looked into Sam's eyes. "Remember, Sammy, no matter what, I have always loved you. I never blamed you for anything – and that means your mother's death. None of this is your fault, Sammy."
Sam felt the sting of tears again. His father reached out to wipe his cheek and Sam looked up into his eyes. Words could never convey what the look in his dad's eyes was saying. Sam laid a hand on his father's and then stood up to hug him.
Dean glanced into the rearview mirror. Sam had been speaking for the last several minutes, but most of it was too garbled for Dean to understand.
"Right here, Sammy."
He saw his brother's hand move to the top of the back seat and he reached around to touch it. "I'm here."
He felt Sam grip his hand for a moment, before it dropped back to his chest.
"What?" Dean asked, confused. He glanced into the rearview mirror again. Sam's eyes were still closed. "Sammy?"
"Dad says to tell the doctor that an organophosphate insecticide was on the sword."
"How the fuck does he know that?" Dean mumbled to himself.
Dean hated how slow he was being forced to drive on the dirt road. He was frustrated any time he had to drive slowly, but with his brother's life in the balance, it was especially infuriating. Sam had stopped talking and appeared to be resting comfortably and that was going a long way to keeping Dean from completely losing his mind.
He wanted to believe Sam's ramblings had been due to the fever, but he knew that anything was possible and maybe Sam had been talking to their father. Organophosphate insecticide….What the hell was that, anyway? Was it something that Sam called up from his subconscious? Something he'd read about? Or, was it something their father told him?
Dean ran a nervous hand over his short hair. They were almost at the bottom of the mountain and he'd be able to open the car up on a paved road. He preferred driving at night; it seemed more anonymous somehow. Hiding, keeping under the radar was important. They were wanted by law enforcement; the FBI, no less. There were murder charges against them, not to mention credit card fraud and grave desecration. He didn't even know what all the charges were, but he knew there were a lot of them. If they got caught, it would take a miracle to save them.
Dean Winchester didn't believe in miracles. Usually.
"Dad," Dean muttered. "If that was you with Sammy...thank you."
Dean didn't want to make any stops, but the Impala was running low on gas and he had no choice. Sam was still asleep, but it had become fitful and he was muttering again. Dean thought this time it really was caused by delirium and not a meeting with their father.
After putting the nozzle into the gas tank to fill, Dean opened the back door of the car and leaned in to feel Sam's forehead. His skin was frighteningly hot; Dean could feel the heat coming from him without touching him.
"Sammy, it's okay," he said during a lull in the muttering. "We'll be at the hospital soon."
Sam's face contorted into a grimace of pain and he let out a low mewling sound. Dean stroked his hair. "Sammy…."
As if he'd heard his brother, Sam opened his eyes. They were glassy and didn't appear to focus on anything.
"Right here, Sam."
"Hold on." Dean opened the front door and leaned in to grab one of the bottles of water he'd thrown onto the seat. Moving back to Sam's feet, he leaned into the car and took his brother's wrist, putting the bottle into his hand. "Got it?"
Sam nodded and slowly moved the bottle to his lips. He took a long drink, then sank back into the pillow and held the bottle out for Dean.
"Where are we?" Sam asked shakily.
"About thirty minutes out from the hospital. I had to stop for gas."
"I saw Dad, Dean."
"I know," he said, still not sure he believed it. "You told me what he said."
Sam seemed to relax a little. Dean heard the gas pump shut off and touched his brother's warm skin again. "I'll be right back. Do you want any food?"
"No," Sam said quietly. "Sick."
"Okay. I have to pay for the gas. I won't be gone long."
Dean replaced the nozzle and rushed into the store, his wallet already in his hand. He smelled brewing coffee as soon as he opened the door and was immediately drawn to it. He paid for the gas and a large cup of coffee while his eyes quickly took in the rest of the store. Deciding there was nothing else he needed, Dean rushed back to the car. He checked on Sam once more, then got behind the wheel and sped off.
The rest of the trip was without incident. Dean periodically spoke to Sam, but he didn't wake up enough to respond. Dean parked outside of the emergency room entrance and ran inside; he knew it would be too hard to get Sam out of the car by himself and he would only waste more time.
"I have to talk to the doctor," Dean said after he filled out the paperwork an admitting nurse had insisted on. "I know….I think I know what the problem is."
"The doctor will be right with you."
"He's been sick for hours. I –"
"Mr. Emmett, the doctor is examining your cousin. She –"
"You don't understand!" Dean was frustrated. "His leg isn't causing the fever. It's….I think it's an organophosphate insecticide."
The nurse looked at him, but he couldn't read her expression.
"Look, we….we were spending some time up in the woods; we were going to do some hunting. We ran into this guy, a survivalist or something, and he thought we were after him. He went after my cousin with a blade and….I went after the guy. He told me he had something on the blade and….I forced it out of him."
The nurse nodded. "All right. I'll be right back."
Dean paced in front of the nurses' station nervously, his eyes glued to the door his brother was behind. He wanted to be with Sam, but it was against the hospital's rules. While he waited, Dean called Bobby to tell him what had been going on. As always, the older hunter was sympathetic and expressed concern for the brothers. He gave Dean words of encouragement and was willing to stay on the line for as long as Dean needed.
"Mr. Emmett?" a woman wearing a lab coat approached Dean a few minutes after he'd gotten off the phone. He looked at her expectantly. "I'm Dr. Radcliffe. The nurse told me what you said about the insecticide and I ordered a blood test to confirm. You were right."
"Can you help him?"
She smiled encouragingly. In another place, Dean would have noticed that her smile was warm and beautiful, but now all he was concerned with was his brother's health.
"Yes. I've already started him on a combination of drugs that will relieve the symptoms and start the recovery. Fever isn't associated with an overdose of organophosphate insecticides. Did you stitch up your cousin's leg?"
"You did a very good job, but it looks like there must have been something else on that blade; a bacterium of some kind that got into your cousin's blood stream and caused an infection. He's been started on a broad spectrum antibiotic that should take care of it."
"Is he awake?"
She shook her head. "No, but that's probably due to the Vicodin that you said you gave him. He's being moved to a room and you can sit with him once he's been settled. A nurse will come for you; it should be just a few minutes."
Dean was encouraged by the doctor's words and he nodded gratefully. "Thank you."
She smiled again and touched his arm. "Don't worry, Mr. Emmett. He's going to be fine."
Dean was dozing in a chair near Sam's hospital bed when he woke up. He shifted a little to get more comfortable and that small movement was enough to wake his brother.
"Dean, what happened?"
His voice sounded just a little afraid to Dean's ears. He moved to the edge of the bed and laid a gentle hand on Sam's uninjured leg.
"What do you remember?"
Sam shrugged. "The attack….Going to the cabin….I woke up….I don't know."
"It's okay," Dean said quickly. "I took you out of the cabin and brought you here. The fever and other symptoms; you needed a doctor. And it wasn't going to be safe in the cabin after dark. I didn't think I could protect you against the vampire."
"Am I going to be okay?"
Sam looked at him questioningly.
"You are," Dean insisted. "There was something on the blade, just like we thought."
"The doctor figured out what?"
Dean nodded, his eyes darting away for a moment.
"What, Dean?" Sam asked, again sounding afraid.
"We'll talk about it later. How are you feeling?"
Sam looked at his brother for a moment and Dean didn't think he'd let it go.
"I feel better, but still not great. How long have we been here?"
"Almost five hours."
"Are you okay? Have you had anything to eat?"
"Don't worry about me. I'm not the one in a hospital bed."
"You said I was going to be okay."
"How long do I have to stay?"
"I don't know. It depends on how you respond to the medication, I guess."
"When I'm feeling better I'll just sign myself out and we'll go back after that vampire."
"No." Dean's tone was more forceful than he intended and Sam looked at him questioningly. He patted his brother's leg. "I just….I want to make sure you're okay before you leave here. And I don't know if I want to go after that thing again. He's probably moved on, anyway."
Sam looked at his brother, the curiosity clear on his face.
"I called Bobby and told him what happened. He's already putting some other hunters on his trail."
"You don't usually give up a hunt."
"I do when you almost die."
Sam had no response for his brother's blunt comment.
The next day, Sam was feeling much better and was even able to eat. He sipped at a mug of bland broth while his brother sat on the chair next to his bed. He'd gotten a hold of the television remote and was moving through the channels trying to find something to watch.
Sam knew he wasn't really interested in daytime television, Dean was just trying to avoid the question Sam asked him the day before. He'd tried to bring it up again when his brother first arrived that morning, but Dean wasn't willing to talk.
His brother glanced toward him.
"Turn the television off."
"You okay? Are you tired or something?" Dean asked, flipping off the television and tossing the remote onto the foot of Sam's bed.
"No. I want to talk to you."
Dean rolled his eyes. "You're not well enough for a heart to heart."
"I want you to tell me what happened," Sam said, ignoring his brother's barb. "How did the doctor figure out what was on the sword?"
Dean sighed and leaned back in the chair. "Sammy…."
"Don't Sammy me. Talk to me, Dean. What happened?"
After a moment of fidgeting, Dean moved to the edge of the bed. His eyes darted around the room nervously for several moments.
"Dean?" Sam called his name gently and when his brother looked back at him he was surprised by the mixture of sadness and hope on his face. "What is it?"
"You….You started talking in the car. I couldn't understand most of it and figured it was the fever anyway, but I heard you say Dad. Then you sort of woke up a few minutes later and you said that Dad told you what was on the blade."
Sam looked at him, wide-eyed.
"I think you were really with Dad, man."
"Did I say anything else?"
"You don't remember at all?"
"No," Sam's voice was barely above a whisper. "How?"
Dean shook his head. "I don't know. But Dad always said anything was possible."
"You think he'll come back again?"
Dean didn't want to have this conversation. The pain of losing their father was still too fresh and he'd give anything to be able to talk to him just once more. He looked at his brother. Sometimes Sam seemed so young; so much like the little boy he used to be and it always tugged at Dean's heart to see him that way.
"I don't know, Sammy." Dean's voice matched Sam's in volume.
After a moment, Sam cleared his throat. "I don't want to give up on that vampire. If those other hunters haven't found him by the time I get out of here…."
"We'll see, Sam."
The youngest Winchester let it go for the time being.
Sam wanted to check himself out of the hospital the next day, but Dean talked him into staying one more day, when the doctor said she'd release him anyway. He was completely over the insecticide poisoning, but his leg was going to still require some special care, especially until the stitches could come out.
Dean's plan was to head to Bobby's house. Sam's leg could finish healing there and they'd have a front row seat to the vampire hunt that was still going on. He knew that Sam wanted more than that; Sam wanted to be in the hunt. Dean didn't blame him and he understood that it was personal now. But he'd come too close to losing his brother and he wasn't ready to let him get back into the game quite yet.
"Are you comfortable enough?" Dean asked once Sam was settled in the car.
"As good as it's going to get, I guess."
"The back seat might be better."
"No, this is good for now."
"You didn't eat much of your breakfast. Do you want to stop on the way out of town?"
"Not unless you're hungry."
"I can wait."
Dean glanced at Sam as he navigated onto the highway. "Yeah?"
Dean gripped the steering wheel.
"I'm sorry I don't remember the conversation."
"Sorry? It's not your fault. You had a 103 degree temperature."
"Yeah, but still. I know you miss him, man. I do, too, but I'm not…."
"What? The perfect little soldier?"
"No," Sam whispered. "The one who was with him the whole time. The one he counted on. I know how you felt about him, Dean. I mean, I loved him, too, but not like you did."
"Don't do that," Dean said quietly.
"Rate on us how much we loved our father." Dean glanced at him. "We both loved him and we both miss him. That's all there is to it."
Sam nodded, but said nothing.
They'd been at Bobby's for almost a week and Sam was getting antsy. He was tired of Dean keeping a constant eye on him and barely letting him do anything for himself. He appreciated his brother's concern, but it was starting to get annoying.
Sam was reading in the living room. Bobby had gone to bed hours before and Dean had fallen asleep on the couch, having pretended to be interested in some movie on television. Dean shifted on the couch and Sam glanced up briefly. He'd just gone back to his book when he heard a noise outside. He glanced at Dean again, but he appeared not to have heard anything.
Sam laid his book aside and walked to the window. The house was situated within the salvage yard that Bobby owned and there were lights throughout.. Sam didn't see anything out of the ordinary and decided the noise had either been his imagination for maybe one of the rats that lived among the old cars. He settled back in the chair where he'd been before and picked up his book again.
He heard another noise a few minutes later. He couldn't describe it, really, it didn't sound like something banging, but closer to something being drug along the outside wall of the house. This time, Bobby's year old rottweiler, Helsing, came trotting down the stairs and sat expectantly at the front door. Bobby was only a few steps behind him, carrying a rifle.
"You heard it?" Sam whispered, joining him at the bottom of the stairs.
Bobby nodded. "Helsing woke me up."
A moment later they heard a crash from the back of the house and then Dean's voice calling out for Sam.
"I'm here," Sam answered, realizing the noise must have caused his brother to wake up. Dean joined them a moment later, having to sidestep Helsing, who was on his way to the back door.
They heard another crash and then a yelp from Helsing. The three men exchanged a look. Bobby headed toward the back door; Sam and Dean grabbed their guns before following him. The back door was still closed, but Helsing was sitting in front of it and growling ferociously. Bobby called him off and the dog went to his bed set in a corner of the kitchen; he seemed almost reluctant and looked at his master expectantly.
"Sam," Dean whispered. "You should hang back."
"That's crap, Dean. I'm fine."
"Sam, please –"
"Dean." Sam gave his brother the look that meant he wouldn't listen to anything more he had to say.
"Fine," Dean grunted. "But be careful."
The three of them fanned out, each taking a window facing in a different direction, but none of them saw anything unusual.
"I'm going out there," Dean said. He looked to Bobby. "Cover me."
"If you're going outside, I'm covering you," Sam insisted.
"You two gonna do this all night?" Bobby demanded, his tone indicating he had already lost patience with them.
"Let's go," Sam grumbled.
Outside, Dean slunk along the wall of the house with Sam on his heels. They'd gone out the front door hoping to sneak up on whatever was in the back. Bobby was watching from the window in the back door, ready to lend assistance.
They heard something clatter ahead of them. The brothers continued forward and as Dean reached the corner of the house, a hand reached out suddenly and pulled him forward. Sam yelled for him and reached the corner in only two long strides.
The vampire they'd been hunting held Dean from behind with a knife positioned at his throat. Sam glared at the creature as it smiled at him.
"We meet again, young Winchester. How's the leg?"
Sam didn't respond; his eyes were on his brother.
"That's a nice gun, but it won't do a thing for you," the vampire sneered.
"Let him go."
"And what if I don't?"
Sam's eyes turned to the creature.
"You know how that blade I cut you with had a little something on it? Yeah, well, this one might very well, too. And don't think it will be the same thing."
Sam glanced over the vampire's shoulder and saw Bobby creeping toward them, a machete in his hands. Sam then shared a look with Dean, knowing his brother understood when he blinked his eyes slowly. The young hunter knew the gunshot wouldn't hurt the vampire very much, but hoped it would surprise him enough to give Dean a chance to get out of his grasp while Bobby went after the creature with the machete. It almost worked.
Sam shot the vampire in the head. It was a perfect hit that would have killed anything else instantly, but it barely had any affect on him. Even with Dean's elbow to the creature's mid-section, he didn't even loosen his grip enough for Dean to get free.
Dean wasn't out of harm's way, but Bobby didn't waste any time,. He swung the blade toward the vampire's neck and Sam fired again. Just before the machete made contact, Sam lunged forward to push his brother out of the way and the vampire's head landed in front of them. The three hunters watched the body fall to the ground in what seemed like slow motion and stared at it as it lay next to the head.
"That is so gross," Dean commented as Sam rolled off of him and onto his back. "You okay, Sam?"
"Yeah," he grunted as he sat up. "You?"
"Considering Sasquatch landed on me, I'm okay." Dean stood up.
"Very funny, Dean. A simple thank you would have sufficed."
Dean looked at him and held out a hand. "Thank you."
Sam let his brother help him up.
"Now what?" Dean asked.
"We burn the body and then go back to bed," Bobby said nonchalantly.
Sam opened his eyes, only slightly surprised to see his father standing in the doorway of the room he and Dean were sharing at Bobby's house. His arms were crossed over his chest and there was a smile on his face.
"Hi, Dad." Sam sat up and glanced at his brother in the next bed. It was almost like Dean wasn't really there; Sam could almost see through him.
"How's the leg?"
"Better. Thank you for your help."
"I'm glad I could do it."
"I didn't remember our conversation before. Will I remember this one?"
"I think so, because you're not sick this time."
"Will you ever be able to talk to Dean?"
John's smile faded and he pushed away from the door frame. "I don't know. I'm not even sure exactly how I've been able to talk to you. I can't do it all the time and I've not been able to do it when I wanted to."
"You're being sent here?"
"Something like that. I can't say as I really understand it yet." John sat down on the edge of Sam's bed. He looked toward Dean and Sam couldn't miss the sad look on his face.
"He's getting better, Dad," Sam said quietly. "I've had to pull him back from the edge a couple of times, but he's better. Besides, with that big brother complex of his, there's no way he's going to self-destruct when he doesn't know what's going to happen to me."
"You too are good for each other."
Sam felt a pang of disappointment when he saw his father begin to fade.
"I have to go, Sammy. Take care of yourself."
"Yes, sir. You too."
John smiled and hugged Sam tightly. A moment later he stood up and moved closer to Dean's bed. He laid a gentle hand on his older son's shoulder and leaned close to his ear.
"I love you, son," he whispered just before disappearing from the room.
The next morning Sam remembered his conversation with his father and told Dean about it over breakfast.
"He said he loves you, Dean."
The older brother glanced away, but not before Sam saw the tears spring into his eyes.
"So, uh, you find us a new gig yet?" Dean asked a few moments later.
Sam looked at him, surprised. "You've barely let me take a step out of your sight since we got here and now you want me to find us a gig?"
"You went after that vamp last night….your leg is better, right?"
"Yeah, Dean, it's better. I'll start looking after we eat. Maybe Bobby has something." Sam looked at his brother with understanding. He knew Dean wasn't good at showing his emotions; he didn't like what he called chick flick moments. But that didn't mean Dean didn't feel things; he felt more deeply than anyone Sam had ever met. Sam knew that Dean trusted him and would eventually open up to him. Most likely it would be soon, late at night after they'd turned the lights out. It was easier for his brother to be completely honest when Sam couldn't see his face.
In the meantime, Sam would find them a job; something Dean could sink his teeth into and forget about his feelings for a while. A job where he could concentrate on killing the bad guy and keeping his little brother safe because Sam knew that's what was most important to Dean.