K Hanna Korossy

There was a homing beacon buried inside Sam Winchester, one set to his brother. It didn't always work, often failing him when Dean was lost or missing or trapped somewhere and Sam would have needed it most. But it seemed to be working just fine now, which was a good thing because Sam was the lost one this time. He wasn't looking where he was going, eyes scrunched up in agony, fingers digging into his forehead, and half-afraid his brains would spill out onto the street at any moment. Sam stumbled on, unaware of the looks he was getting, aligned only toward Dean now, because then he'd be found.

He did sag briefly against a car after a while, and found the well-known lines of the Impala sliding under his palms. Sam breathed a silent prayer of relief and pushed off. Almost there now.

His brother was at the hospital. Staggering in clutching his head was bound to set off all kinds of questions and attempts to help, but not the kind of help Sam wanted. He remembered at least that much, and made the effort as he crossed the threshold to pry his hand away from his face and try to open his eyes. The bright lights of the lobby were lances of pain through his head, but Dean was close. Sam could stand it until he found his brother. Hopefully.

He swallowed nausea and pressed on.

Nurses station, records, God, let the room stop spinning. Sam slumped against a pillar, trying to look indecisive instead of extremely ill, and listened.

"…great, and thank you so much. You know, I'm off-duty at…"

The words were unimportant; the voice was everything. Sam lurched toward it, snatches of a nursery flashing through his brain: a ballerina light, a clock, a clown on a mobile. He hated clowns.

Dean's voice, guiding him those last few blind steps, suddenly cut off. Sam stopped short, adrift. And then familiar hands grabbed him by the arm and everything was okay again.

"Sam? What the…?"

He was reeled forward a few feet, pressed down into a chair. His legs were already buckling and he hit hard, but it was still a relief to be off his feet. Sam curled forward, fingers trying to dig the pain out of his head again. A hand rubbed his arm absently.

There was an unfamiliar voice in the background, and he could vaguely hear Dean's answer, something about being his partner. That almost made him smile. Yeah, and then Dad came along and…where does he fit again? He forgot as the nursery and Monica flared in his head once more, and Sam had to swallow a moan.

Dean's breath stirred his hair. "Are you hurt?"

Oh, yes. He managed to unfasten one hand from his forehead to drop right where he knew the leather-clad arm would be, and clutch wearily.

"Sam? Vision?" Dean asked more quietly.

Sam bunched more of the soft leather in his fist, until it squeaked in protest.

He felt Dean moving, more soft voices. The satchel was slid off his shoulder. Sam swallowed more nausea. The nursery finally seemed gone, the reel played out, leaving only the pain.

"Hey. Here. Take this." His other hand was carefully pulled from his forehead and uncurled.

Hard and smooth oblong shapes spilled into it. Pills—always pills to take away the pain. Sometimes he thought he ingested more pills than food, and still he hurt so much. But Sam obeyed, eyes still pressed shut, washing the pills down with water that made his stomach roil and pitch.

"You gonna puke?" Dean sounded wary, and it almost made Sam smile despite the agony. His shake of the head must have been less than convincing, though, because a hand settled on the back of his neck and gently pushed his head down until it rested on a hard leather-clad arm. That seemed to sum his brother up: leather and muscle, at least as far as outside appearances went. Few got to see the pink scars underneath, the worn t-shirts that sometimes ended up becoming bandages, the faded picture he carried inside his wallet. Dean kept all the softness hidden, but Sam saw.

One last gasp from the masochistic part of his brain that didn't think he'd had enough of Monica burning on the ceiling. Sam cringed, body bucking briefly against the flare of pain, and Dean's hand on his back as if he were afraid Sam would fall away. He always fell toward Dean, though, always.

"Sam? You think you can make it out to the car?"

In answer, he gathered his feet under him. Moving was not a pleasant thought, but Dean had asked.

He was hoisted to his feet by gentle inches, arm sliding out from under his throbbing head and going around his shoulders to take his weight. If Sam winced his eyes open, he could just barely see shapes around him, but Dean guided him with surety. Sam's legs moved willingly enough once he got started, and the worst of the pain already receding, he let Dean lead him out of this loud, bright place, into the sanctuary of the car. He almost sighed with relief at the creak of old hinges.

He was bundled inside. Dean had had to load him up more times than either of them could count, and Sam knew it by heart: hand on top of his head to keep it from bumping the frame, legs lifted and swung in after, a hand gently propping his shoulder until the last possible moment, the door shut as quietly as possible. Sam was tempted to lean his head against the cool glass, but he knew from experience the vibrations of the moving vehicle would just churn the headache up. Instead, he slid down into the seat, his head cradled in one hand.

Dean's door squealed open, the car rocking as he slid inside.

"Is it getting better?"

He took a small breath. "Yeah."

"You haven't had one in a while—maybe this thing is getting close."

"Dean." Sam cracked his eyes open, seeing his brother for the first time. He needn't have bothered; he knew exactly what position Dean would be in, what his face would show, how his eyes wouldn't even bother to hide his worry. "I know who it's going after."

Dean's mouth was a hard line. "You saw it?"

Not a vision now, just a memory: Monica sliding up the wall to the ceiling, starting to bleed. Calling, choked, for Rosie. Sam swallowed and nodded minutely.

"Okay." Dean reached for the ignition, still eyeing him. "Hang in there, Sam—we gotta get back to Dad."

Dad. The realization seemed to hit Dean the same time it did him, and his brother's hand faltered on the keys. Just for a moment, but Sam had seen, and said quietly, "Dean."

His brother's jaw worked even as he turned the motor over. "We have to tell him. We should've told him before."

Yeah, hey, Dad, by the way, your son's a freak just like those you hunt. Just wanted you to know. Sam sank a little further into the seat.

Dean hesitated again, not pulling out into traffic. "It's gonna be okay. He'll understand." Except even Dean didn't sound positive about that one. Somewhere along the way, he'd stopped believing their father was perfect, and Sam wondered sometimes if it was because of him. The rest of the time, he knew it was. Dean nodded suddenly as if he'd decided. "It's gonna be okay, Sammy," he repeated more firmly. "We'll tell him together."

The knot in his chest loosened a little at that, at least. Dean had chosen recently between Sam and their father. Sam would never have asked it from him, but the knowledge had settled into the deep places inside him like cement, filling in cracks, something solid to rest on. It would get him through this now, too.

He dozed during the trip, still aware of Dean's gaze swinging back to him every minute. Tuning out the phone call asking John to meet them back at the room. Gathering his strength, because he had a feeling this little discussion would put the going-to-Stanford one to shame.

By the time they reached the motel, the pain had receded enough to let him walk without looking like he was drunk, although Dean's hand stayed on his arm just in case. Dean was the one who unlocked the door, steered him to a chair, got him a cold, wet washcloth. Then he hovered there at the counter behind Sam, close enough for him to smell Dean's aftershave and to hear the soft sounds of his shedding his jacket and making some coffee.

There was a rattle at the door: John's arrival. Dean's hand rested on Sam's shoulder a moment before he stepped away to greet their dad.

In the end, Dean did the explaning, leaving Sam only to stumble out what he'd witnessed. He didn't look up at John as he talked, not wanting to see his father's expression, nor Dean over on that side of the room. John Winchester at his best could make his sons feel like children, but Sam had never lost this much ground, become quite so small. He tapered off with the realization that this could be it, the schism that would sunder them for good, that they would never be able to get past. John's flat questions didn't settle the new queasiness in Sam's stomach.

Dean rose from behind their father, and walked back over to Sam, stopping at the counter to fix himself another cup. Then he stayed there, moving only between Sam and their dad when John's voice started to rise in accusation.

Choosing his side again.

Sam's fear stuttered to a stop. Before John contritely backed off.

Suddenly, it didn't seem to matter much. His dad's acceptance, his rejection: Sam had survived them both. He still hoped, and longed, and as their father veered off into planning and never said it, it's okay,nothing to be scared of, it doesn't change anything, it hurt. But Dean didn't cross back to their dad's side of the room again, leaning against the counter by Sam, loose-limbed and casual as if he weren't staking out a claim. Sam knew better. John did, too.

And even as Meg called and things started to fall apart, Sam leaned on his brother and found strength for the fight ahead.

The End