Disclaimer: As always, I own nothing and never will as I am totally in Kripke's debt for the loan of his boys…

A/N: This was my very first attempt at fanfiction. It is complete, so I'll post as time allows. Why, you may well ask, am I posting this here and now? (As it was posted elsewhere, then)… This is in answer to Mad Server's query as to where I got a certain nickname… I leave it up to all of you to determine what I am Queen of by the time we get to the end of this little "bridge."

Spoilers for Asylum and Scarecrow acts as a bridge between Asylum and Faith…


You Can't Let it Fester

Dean heard the phone ring, but he was just too damn sore and tired to answer it or respond to Sam's demand that he do so. As soon as he realized that Sam was talking to Dad, though, Dean forced his aching body up. He had been lying uncharacteristically on his back because his chest was bruised and raw from the rock salt he'd taken when Sam shot him. He quickly dragged a t-shirt on as he sat up. He hadn't put one on to sleep in because he was pretty sure it would stick to the open sores and he'd wanted them to get some air to help with the healing. However, he didn't want to worry Sam or rub his nose in the injury – Sammy already felt guilty enough for hurting him.

Dean demanded the phone from Sam when it became clear that he and John were getting into yet another fight. God, couldn't they ever give it a rest? This was the first time they'd spoken in so long and they just got right down to it.

As Dean wrote down the names and dates that John gave him, Sam stormed into the bathroom, and Dean heard the shower come on. Dean didn't ask where his father was, he just accepted that it was safer for them to be apart right now. That didn't mean it didn't hurt, but Dean was an obedient soldier and did what he was told. And right now he had a job to do, and they needed to be on the road as quickly as they could be, so Dean decided he could be packing as Sam showered.

He hadn't noticed how stiff and sore his back was when he first sat up, but it came in loud and clear as soon as he tried to get out of the bed. Where the hell had that come from? Well, he had gone through a wooden door when he was shot… Yeah, that made sense. Dean was still surprised to see that there was blood on the sheets where he had been lying though. He quickly drew the sheets up to hide the spots. No need for Sam to see that. Before Sam got out of the shower, Dean gathered up the first aid supplies he figured that he would need, rolling them into his clothes so as not to alarm Sam.

Sam came huffing out of the shower, grabbing some clean clothes and starting to get dressed.

"Can you believe the gall of that man?"

"Huh?"

"Dean, he doesn't call us or answer our calls for months and then he calls to tell us he can't talk? What kind of bullshit is that? Did he ask you how you were? He told me that the thing that killed Jess is the thing that killed Mom. I have to be in on this fight, dude. We have to go after him."

"It's not safe right now. We don't even know where Dad is. Look Sam, I'm sure he'll call us again when he's closer or it's safe. For now, we just gotta do our job. Why don't you grab us some coffee while I shower, and then we can get on the road."

Sam's eyebrows knit together and he glowered at his brother.

Here we go, thought Dean. And then suddenly, Sam just shrugged.

"Fine. You're right. There's no point – we still don't know where Dad is because the bastard never told us. I'll go get your damn coffee." And with that he stormed out of the motel.

Dean sighed and made his way stiffly into the bathroom. There was no denying it now. He felt like shit. He'd expected that his chest would be sore today, but really, his back felt a lot worse. He was surprised that it hadn't hurt more before he went to sleep. He guessed he'd been distracted by the pain in his chest. Afterall, those wounds had rock salt embedded in them.

Pulling the tshirt back over his head hurt worse than slipping it on had. Twisting around and trying to see his back in the bathroom mirror was pretty pointless, but he could see some gashes and a lot of bruising. First, he poured holy water over his chest and his back. There wasn't anything inherently supernatural about the wounds, but you couldn't be too careful. Next came the hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. That hurt like a bitch!

Finally, Dean climbed stiffly into the shower. The hot water felt good and his muscles finally started to relax. After drying off, Dean put some antibiotic cream on the worst of the wounds on his chest and covered them with gauze. There really was no way, short of enlisting Sam's help, and there was no damn way he was doing that, to get anything on his back. Sulky Sam was enough to deal with right now; he just couldn't cope with guilty Sam too.

Dean dressed in the bathroom. When he finally emerged, Sam was working away on the computer with two steaming cups of coffee on the table beside him.

"Thanks Sam," Dean said gratefully taking one of the cups as he passed by to gather up his belongings. "Find anything on those names yet?"

"Huh? What names? Oh, those names. No. That's your gig – yours and Dad's…"

"Okaaaaay. So, let me get this straight, you're just not going to help?"

"Do you really need my help Dean?"

"Fine, then. You drive and I'll do the research, geek boy."

Just this once, Dean was secretly pleased not to have to drive. It would be much easier not to have his extremely sore back pressed into the driver's seat. As researcher extraordinaire, he could slump unobtrusively in the passenger seat.

He still wasn't quite sure how it had happened but one minute he was explaining the case to Sam and the next he was driving as fast as he could down a dark road without Sam. He knew he was being stupid, but he hurt and that never helped him to think straight. Deep down, Dean knew that it wasn't just the physical pain he was in right now. It was bad enough when Dad ditched him the first time. It all added up: Dad just felt that Dean was a liability. On another level, Dean knew that even if Sam found their Dad, the two of them wouldn't last two hours before they got in a fight and one stormed off, regardless of how much Sam thought they shared a common purpose.

Dean sighed. And then cursed. Since when did breathing hurt? Somehow or another he was going to have to do something about his back. His chest had settled down to a dull and manageable throb, but his back was really starting to take up the slack. Must be sitting behind the wheel…

Damn you, Sammy! So much for getting help cleaning out the wounds on his back or with the driving. Well, at least this time he'd beaten Sam to the punch. Dean had left before Sam could leave him.

Shit! What the hell had he done? He'd left his brother in the dark, on the side of some god-forsaken highway. Well, damn it, Sam said himself that that's what he wanted, so he could just suck it up.

By the time Dean got to Burkitsville, he was not feeling at the top of his game. He'd managed to change the bandages on his chest and pour some more of what he'd come to regard as his own special concoction of alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and holy water, down his back. It really felt like something was embedded in his back.

"Too bad, sucks out loud, suck it up," Dean tried to pull himself together to meet the lovely folks of this quaint little town (quaint? Who the hell uses the word quaint?).

By the time they threw him into that god-forsaken cellar, Dean really was feeling under the weather. Landing heavily on his right side, Dean was sure he heard a couple of unhealthy cracks before he was plunged back into oblivion.

Dean was cold, sore, and just plain generally uncomfortable. His head was pounding. The left side from where the rifle butt knocked him out the first time and the right side from landing pretty much on his head coming into his lovely new "digs". He groaned as he tried to roll over to get up at least into a sitting position so that he could assess his situation. When he moved his head though, he was overwhelmed by nausea.

Dean impressed even himself with the speed at which he got to his knees to avoid throwing up on himself. He was less that impressed with the results, however. How could someone throw up so much when he hadn't even really had anything to eat? The heaving was definitely not helping anything: his head pounded harder, his chest and ribs screamed against this additional abuse, and his back was almost causing him to lose consciousness again.

Finally, it seemed to be over. Dean coughed (lightly) and spit to clear his mouth and throat. Okie dokey, time for inventory. Tossing his cookies probably meant a concussion – note to self – DON'T get knocked out multiple times in ONE day. Ribs? Probably not broken but definitely deeply bruised and quite possibly cracked. Chest? Still seemed to be on the mend. That should make Sam happy. The wound he inflicted was the only one healing. Legs? Cautiously optimistically, fine. Arms? Again, seemed ok, unless, they need to be moved or used 'cuz of that whole attached to the back and chest thing…. Back? Oh yeah. There was a reason he had been leaving that one to the end. Nasty. And hurt like a bitch.

Well, too bad. Time to get up, escape, and kill that fugly bastard.

Well, he was on his feet and suddenly, he had company.

He thought his ribs, back, and chest hurt before he'd had his wrists tied to a tree over his head….

"I thought you said that you had a plan?" Emily's voice was beginning to sound a little strained.

He could hardly blame her. They'd been tied up for an hour or so now and it was pretty much dark. His natural instinct to protect everyone but himself was in full force.

"Don't worry sweetheart. I've got it covered."

The bitch of it was that he should have been able to get himself and Emily out of this. But, and this was a big but at the moment, he couldn't get up enough strength to break the ropes that held him. His ribs and chest were just too damn sore and had left him about as weak as a damn teddy bear. On top of that his back, which was really sore at this point, was now pushed up against a very rough damn tree. So, after all this time, all he'd really managed to do was burst open some of the sores on his back and bloody his wrists from the friction of the rope. Yeah. This was turning into a fricken' great couple of days…

And then, Sammy arrived!

Emily was safely on the bus. Sam had said he wanted to stay. They were what was left of their family. Dean closed the door to the Impala and pulled out of the bus terminal parking lot.

"Uh Sam?"

"Dean?"

"Want me to find a room?"

"Sure. I could use a decent night's sleep…" Sam looked at his brother. Really looked. Dean didn't often suggest they take it easy and hole up for the day even if they'd been up all night.

Sam had taken in the new bruising on Dean's face when he'd rescued him and Emily from the orchard. Well, at least, he'd seen it when the three of them stopped for something to eat at the first all night truck stop they found. As per usual, Dean insisted he was fine. He had been shivering a bit, but that could easily be attributed to being tied up in an orchard for the better part of the night. Emily was shaking a bit too. When Sam thought about, he couldn't really remember whether Dean had eaten anything. He'd ordered some soup… Also not Dean-like.

Sam looked at Dean. Damn it! He looked like crap. Now what?

"Dean!"

"WHAT!" Dean jumped about a foot at Sammy's bark and inwardly cringed at the pain to his back, chest and side.

"Dude, are you alright? You seriously look like crap. You're sweating. Do you have a fever or something?"

"Look, just 'cuz I let you have a little chick-flick moment, doesn't mean I want to have them every five minutes. I'm good, dude. Just a little tired. Look, there's a motel up ahead. Let's call it a night, er, day?"

Sam sighed. He wasn't buying it, but whatever was bothering Dean, a good night's sleep would do them both a world of good.

For once, Dean let Sam check them in while he sat in the car. If the truth be known, he did feel like crap. Actually, feeling like crap would be an improvement at this point. So much so, that Sam was checking them in because Dean was pretty sure that he had one trip left in him to get him from the car to one destination – and he'd prefer that destination to be a bed.

"Dean!"

"What?"

"God! How many times are we going to have this conversation? I said we are in room 7, like three times. It's a good thing that you aren't trying to drive any further. Are you sure your head's ok? You sure act like you have a hell of a concussion."
"Yeah, okay, so maybe I've got a bit of a headache…"

Dean pulled up outside the room. He grabbed his duffle on the way by the trunk and snagging the key from Sam, left Sam to get his own bag and the bag of weapons they always kept with them – just in case. Dean let himself in. He briefly considered hitting the shower, but his knees started to betray him, so he opted for a face plant on the nearest bed.

"Dean?" Sam's voice was insistent.

"Wha?" Dean mumbled into his pillow.

"Don't you want the shower? Maybe take your jacket off?"

"Later. Tired now. Sleep."

"Whatever, dude." Sam just shook his head and grabbing some clean clothes disappeared into the shower.

Dean seemed to be sleeping when Sam came back out. He had to admit, he was pretty wiped out. It had been a long couple of days. He couldn't help but smile when he looked at Dean's sleeping form. Now that it was really his decision to stay, he felt a lot better about it. Before climbing into his own bed, he stopped to take Dean's boots off and throw a blanket over him. Sam had drawn the curtains and turned out the lights, so he couldn't see the sheen of sweat that covered Dean's face or the way the bruising stood out in stark contrast to the pallor of Dean's face.

Dean woke with a start not long after Sam finally fell asleep. Crap! He hurt like hell, but he totally needed a bathroom break. Shit! Even before he moved, he knew it was the last thing he wanted to do. How could he even have to go? It's not like there should be anything in him.

When they were at the diner, he had unwisely ordered something to eat. Not that he would usually put soup in that category, but he'd been so cold when they got there that he thought it and a cup or six of coffee would help to warm him up. He'd made it most of the way through the soup before excusing himself. He's just made it into the bathroom when he was sick – again. Getting to be a really bad habit. Given what it was doing to his back, chest, and ribs. That was going to be the new chorus for the new Dean Winchester smash hit – back, chest, and ribs… after splashing water on his face, Dean had sauntered back to Sam and Emily who seemed to have hit it off.

Back to the present, and he really couldn't deny that he needed to get to the bathroom. Biting his lower lip to keep from screaming, groaning, or any other loud, dead giveaway noises, Dean managed to get to his feet. He swayed precariously until the room stopped playing tiltawhirl.

If he'd had anything in his stomach, he was pretty sure that he would be decorating the walls with it right about now. Moving like a ninety year old man, Dean managed to totter – damn! He just didn't totter – into the bathroom. He tried to avoid the mirror, but he had to go right past it.

Shit! He looked like he felt – maybe worse. The left side of his face was a mass of bruising and it stood out starkly because the rest of his face was ghostly white. Sweat was streaming down his face. His mouth was open slightly as he gasped and wheezed shallowly for breath.

Dean managed to do what he'd come for and do his fly back up. He didn't see his face in the mirror again, however, because he'd only just turned to the door when his body finally said "Dude! Enough is enough!" and he went down for the count.


A/N: I think this has stood up pretty well – I've made some very minor corrections to plot holes that jumped out and swatted me on the back of the head – otherwise this is pretty much exactly as it first appeared…. So? Likey? More?