A/N: Okay, here's the end of this fic. Now that Real life has stopped being a pain I've had time to give this what it deserves. I'm not saying all the medical stuff is right or the times or anything. This is fiction. Angst abounds in this chapter and there's a little twist I hope you all enjoy. Thanks for taking the time to read and I hope you'll all review one last time. Sammygirl, I hope you haven't been disappointed.
"Dad, I need to be closer to him." Dean said, his eyes searching frantically over his little brother's profile. Dean shifted on the bed, hissing in pain when it jarred his injuries. Dean coughed at the end of the indrawn breath, his throat tickling. Bobby moved in and gave him a sip of water.
"Dean, damnit!" John growled. "Do you want to be paralyzed? Last I checked it was hard to chase a Wendigo in a wheelchair!"
"John, you damn idjit!" Bobby cried.
"Don't." Dean growled, using John's tone on him with startling similarities. "I know how to handle this. I know what I want and if I have to hurt a little to help my brother then I will! You told me all those years ago to take him out of that house. You put him in my arms, Dad! You gave me that responsibility and I'm not dropping that. Not now, not EVER! Where were you when he was sick, every time he fell, huh? Sammy was right. You are obsessed. I took care of him! Hell, I practically raised him! Why don't you leave my little brother to me and go find yourself something to hunt? Why don't you actually find the thing that killed mom and butt heads with it instead of the people who really need you right about now?!"
"Dean." John said, instantly quieting.
"No. Not now. Just go." John turned and walked from the room. Bobby looked on after him, and then turned back to Dean, tears shining in his eyes as he watched Dean dash a shaky hand across his own eyes as he looked at his brother who never moved once through the last few minutes.
"Dean." Bobby started.
"Just keep him from doing something stupid Bobby. I can look after us. Been doin' it for years." Dean said quietly. Bobby pulled a small consecrated wrought iron knife from his boot and handed it to Dean, who gripped the blade in his fist before sliding it between the mattress and the frame of the bed. Bobby left the room, shaking his head sadly.
Dean hit the call button that was clipped to the rail of his bed, near his pillow. A nurse came in a few minutes later. "How are you feeling?" She asked him.
"Like I've been buried under rocks." Dean replied, not looking at her. "Look, can you move me closer to Sammy?"
"I'm sorry. I can't. If he needs something you'd be in the way."
"I can give him what he needs."
"You can't give him the medical care he needs. I can't move you closer. I'm sorry. Do you need anything else?"
"Yeah, you gone and the door shut." Dean said, leaning his head into the pillow to stare at the tiled ceiling, effectively dismissing her. The nurse left. Dean's face grew stormy. His fist reached out and smashed the call button clipped to the bed rail. The impact shattered the small box, sending bits of plastic and metal raining to his sheets and the floor. He shifted on the bed, trying to feel something, anything besides the heavy uncooperativeness of his legs. He felt the jab of pain again and embraced it as fire flared through the nerves running to his toes. He stopped when the fire scorched him, turning into a searing pain that left him panting, coughing slightly as his body fought the last of the dust he'd inhaled. He wondered why he hadn't had the trouble Sam had. Then memories came back to him, like the curtains being drawn back on an unbearably bright morning. Memories of shoving his brother as the wall came down, memories of pain and seeing nothing but brown and gray stone and then black as they covered him over. I didn't inhale as much as Sammy because I wasn't exposed to the air for as long. Damn it. He breathed it all in trying to dig me out. Sammy got worse helping me. He looked at his brother's still form. "Aw, Sammy. Why do you always let us hurt you?"
Dean stared at his brother and watched him sleep, eventually a restless slumber claimed him and he dropped off, still facing his brother.
A pair of hazel eyes slid open as Sam heard his brother's breathing finally even out. Tears leaked from the corners and trickled down his temples, moistening the gauze that covered his temple on one side and his hair on the other. "He's right. I'm sorry Dean." Sam barely managed to whisper. I hurt you and I'm so sorry. Hope you can forgive me someday. Sam's shining eyes slid closed.
"John, you dumb sonuva…. would you stop for a friggin' minute?!" Bobby yelled as he took off after John as the man made his way out the door of the small hospital. John refused to stop. Bobby stalked forward and grabbed his arm, spinning the man and plowing a fist into his jaw in the same second. John staggered back, his head whipping to the side from the punch that Bobby refused to pull.
"Ow, you bastard! What the holy hell was that for?!"
"You deserve it ya jackass! What the hell do you think you were doin in there?" Bobby said irate, even as he flung his arm in the general direction of the boys' room.
"Dean is playing with fire. He doesn't know when to quit. If he hurts himself again every demon out there is going to come down on us to get to him! I can't watch that. I can't watch him lose the use of his legs because he's too damn bullheaded to stop…"
"Listen to yourself John! You damn dumb ass, just who the hell does he sound like when you talk about him like that? Y'know, I should drag your ass out back and pump ya full of rock salt! He sounds just like you! Hell, they both act just like ya. Don't give a damn about themselves if someone else is sufferin'. You taught those boys good. They're just as stupid as you are!"
"I am done with this Bobby! Don't you tell me how to deal with my boys! You're not a father, you don't know…"
"No, I don't know, John. I don't know what it's like to have boys of my own, but I know what it's like to love a couple stubborn young-uns like they are mine. I know too what it's like to watch someone who should know piss it all away because he can't look past himself and what drives him. I swear to god John, one of these days you're gonna lose them both. And when you do it's not gonna be anyone's damn fault but your own!"
"I'm goin' with you and you're gonna cool your damn head John Winchester. We're not comin' back 'till you got it screwed on right and realize just what's important that you're missin' by stayin' outta that room."
Dean startled awake, involuntarily flinching as something jarred him from the slumber and brought him fully alert nearly instantly. Then he heard it. A fast, shrill beep coming from the other bed in the room. His head snapped to the side. "Sammy!" Sam's back was arched on the bed; his head flung back as he gasped for breath even with the oxygen mask fitted snuggly over his nose and mouth. Sam began wheezing harshly, his body striving to get the oxygen that it needed desperately. The hair on the back of Dean's neck stood up and the air in the room grew chilly. Dean's panicked gaze shifted from his brother to a dark shape that appeared in the room.
"What the hell do you want?" The shadow raised a hand, buried in the folds of a translucent black cloak. A pale, barely human hand folded to a fist and one finger extended to point at his brother. "SCREW YOU!" Dean screamed. "There's no freakin' way I'm lettin you take him! Those docs are gonna hear that alarm. They're gonna come in here and you won't get him!" The shadow turned to Dean and red eyes glared at him from beneath the folds of a hood. The eyes glowed for a split second and the alarms died to silence. Sam's monitors smoked and went black. Sam continued to gasp, now drawing useless, rasping breaths, stuck under a mask that was no longer giving him what he needed.
"He's mine." A grating, dead voice rang in Dean's ears making him cringe.
"NEVER!" Dean pushed himself upright; ignoring the pain that coursed through him like someone was pounding nails into his back. Ripping the knife from it's hiding place, he pulled his heavy legs over the edge of the bed with a shaking hand and stood. Pain flared through the soles of his feet, up his legs to turn them to quaking jell-o. He pushed the agony, the feeling of walking over a bed of searing red coals, to the back of his mind and forced himself forward. One step-stagger, another steadier step, another, and Dean launched himself at the shadow. He arced the knife through the air, slicing through the shadowy figure. It screeched, repelled by the blessed metal, and faded away, the chill in the room dissipating with it. Dean barely stopped himself from face planting on the hard tile floor when his nerves caught fire as surely as if he were bodily in hell itself. He turned and staggered to the foot of Sam's bed, his shrieking legs falling from beneath him, the only thing holding him up was his strong arms lying heavily on his brother's legs. "Sammy." Dean groaned, using his upper body to pull his leaden legs with him as he strived to reach the baby brother that so badly needed him.
He reached the side of the bed and again used his upper body to hold himself up as he pulled Sam's mask away from his face. Sam was gasping harshly, a wet gurgling sound coming from his chest and issuing out his open mouth. Dean flopped onto the bed, his legs hanging uselessly over the edge, and jerked Sam into a sitting position. His back protested the lifting and cracked, sending pain rocketing through him and calling in black spots to cloud his vision. "Sam-my, breathe." Dean cried desperately, weakness slurring his words. Sam gave a gasp and began coughing, gray laced mucus spewing from his mouth. Dean reached out and grabbed Sam's water pitcher. He hurled it at the door to the room and it hit with a loud thud, the plastic breaking against the solid wood door. A nurse hurried in the room to find Dean holding Sam in a sitting position and the color draining from his face. She turned back to the open door and screamed. Bobby came down the corridor towards the room, John right behind him, both men breaking into a sprint when they realized that the nurse was screaming from Sam and Dean's room.
"I need help in here!" She raced in and seconds later several others followed. The nurse and another, a male, took Sam from Dean while two more, a male nurse and a doctor stabilized the older Winchester. He fought, albeit weakly, not wanting to let go of Sam.
"What the hell?!" He cried.
"Bobby…" Dean moaned out. "Don' let 'im alone…." Dean slurred as he gave into the pain and darkness, the two males catching him and trying to still his body as he slumped in their arms.
"Get him to X-ray, stat!" The doctor said as another nurse stepped up to immobilize Dean's back again. Once he was secured they wheeled him out of the room and to an emergency X-ray.
Three hours later the doctor came back in to find Bobby sitting with a still unconscious Sam. He'd just left John waiting for word on Dean. The older hunter looked at him and took in the expression on his face.
"What's wrong with my nephews?" Bobby asked the man.
The doctor pulled an empty chair closer to the older hunter and sat wearily. "Dean was taken to surgery after we got the x-ray back. The crack widened and a piece of the vertebra chipped and nicked his spinal cord. We've called in a specialist to repair the damage. It'll take time but the specialist is hopeful that he'll regain most of his mobility."
"Dean saved his life. The monitors and Sam's oxygen supply suffered from a power surge. The equipment is fried. Sam was literally suffocating to death on mucus until Dean pulled him upright. He expelled it and with it came a lot of dust. He's breathing easier and responding to the antibiotics now. I expect him to be up and about, fully recovered, in a couple weeks. Dean will take longer.
"Somehow I don't think he'll mind having to take it easy. His brother is alive because of him." Bobby said.
Bobby glanced at Sam as he spoke and saw the boy's eyelids fluttering behind the new, working oxygen mask he now wore. The old hunter moved closer to Sam. "Hey kid. Can ya wake up for me? Sam?" Sam's eyelids lifted to half mast and he looked at Bobby. He smiled wanly from beneath the mask.
"mmnnn…. Bobby?" Sam's muffled voice came to his ears and brought a smile to his face.
Bobby reached out and stroked the hair back from his forehead. "Hey, Sam. How you feelin'?"
"Little better." A shaky hand reached towards the mask and Bobby stilled it.
"Easy Sammy, you gotta let it there for a bit."
"I'll look him over and if it's a go we'll take him off the mask and put him on a nasal cannula. If you'll just give me a moment?"
"I'll find out for ya. You just do what the doc wants okay?"
Sam nodded and Bobby left.
A while later Bobby and John came back into the room to find Sam sitting upright, reclined against two fluffy pillows with a nasal oxygen tube in place.
"How's Dean?" Sam asked.
"He's gonna be okay in a few weeks. The docs repaired the damage. It'll take time but Dean's gonna be fine." Bobby said.
John moved forward and perched hesitantly on the bed next to Sam. "What about you Sammy? How ya feelin'?"
"I'm sorry Sammy."
Sam looked at his dad, recent memories clouding his mind. He didn't speak.
"I'm sorry that I hurt you. That I put you boys in danger to hunt something without knowing my ass from a hole in the ground first. I was stupid and you both almost paid for that stupidity. I… love you Sammy." John choked, blinking back unwelcome moisture.
"I love you too dad."
Epilogue: Seven weeks later.
John and Sam returned to the hospital, walking the now familiar hallways down to the physical therapy rooms. Sam pushed open the double doors and locked his eyes on his brother. Dean was walking between two waist high bars that ran the length of the room. Over the last three weeks Dean had gone from leaning heavily on them, his knuckles white as he gripped, to just skimming his hands over the smooth steel surface.
Dean glanced up to see Sam standing just inside the doors beaming at him. "Sammy!" Dean said, pulling his hands from the rail to lift them above his head in a gesture of happiness. Sam grinned at his brother and walked over to lean against the rails. Dean put his hands back on the smooth surface as he met his brother's eyes. When Sam got closer to Dean he saw the beads of sweat on his forehead and upper lip. He handed Dean the small towel that hung on the end of the rail. John walked up to Dean then to stand near his sons.
"You ready to go home dude?"
"Damn straight." Dean said, standing tall again. He gestured at Mike, the physical therapist. "Damn guy enjoys cracking the whip way too much!" Dean grinned at Mike and then his family as he laughed.