Notes: Many thanks for the wonderful reviews. I've given myself a slap across the back of my head for not returning a single one of them – thunderstorms forced me to unplug my computer last night as I didn't want to risk getting it fried (which would be just my luck). So, this morning I've instead been busy getting this next chapter up as promised!
Dean stood at the bottom of the porch steps, momentarily speechless as he watched his brother turn his back on him and enter the house.
He could have kicked himself. Again he'd let his emotions overrule his head. Worry over Sam's health causing him to verbally lash out when instead he should have been checking to see if his brother was okay. The thing was, it wasn't Sam he was angry at, it was himself. It was his fault Sam was sick. His fault that his brother was being dragged from one end of the country to the other instead of being able to put down roots.
He'd failed his brother big time.
Sam deserved better.
He climbed the steps to the porch, turning and surveying the vast wreckage yard.
"Hey Bobby!" Dean yelled, spying the older hunter across the wasteland of rusty cars.
"You find him?" Bobby yelled, already heading back towards the house.
"Yeah, he's inside."
Dean didn't wait for Bobby to reach him. He needed to go find Sam now. He wasn't sure when things between him and Sam had begun to spiral so out of control, but he knew it was up to him to fix things.
Entering the house he scanned the kitchen and living room, surprised not to see his brother in either room. Making his way upstairs he expected to find Sam in the bedroom and readied himself to apologise and mend a few bridges. Opening the door to the room Sam was currently using he looked around, disconcerted at finding it also empty of his brother.
"Sam?" He called, not really expecting an answer but feeling a little deflated when he didn't get one. Methodically he opened the door to each room looking for his brother, only to head back downstairs when he came up empty. Fear niggled at the back of his mind. Fear that maybe this time he'd driven Sam away. Fear that this time Sam had left for good.
"Sam okay?" Bobby asked from the bottom of the stairs.
"Not sure." Dean replied as he descended the last couple of steps.
Bobby tried to reign in his temper. "What do ya mean 'you're not sure'? Either he is or he isn't."
"He took off again before I could find out."
"God dammit Dean!" Bobby snapped.
"I know, okay, Bobby." Dean replied.
At the sound of the toilet flushing Dean spun on his feet and headed towards the rear of the house, Bobby hot on his heels.
"Sammy." Dean pounded his fist on the closed bathroom door.
He just wanted to curl up into a small ball and block out the outside world. The floor in front of the toilet mightn't be the most comfortable place, or the most hygienic, but right at this moment he didn't care. He didn't think he could move, even if he wanted to. His body had passed the point of complete exhaustion and he no longer had the will or desire to force it to move.
Dean's fist pounding on the bathroom door registered with him, but he tried to block it out, too tired to care. There was another bathroom upstairs, Dean could use that or just wait his own god damn turn.
"Sammy, open the door."
'Please Dean, leave me alone' he thought, not bothering to answer.
"You okay?" Dean pounded his fist on the door again. "Sammy! Please!"
The desperate pleading in Dean's voice took him by surprise and filled him with despair. He didn't want this for his brother – the constant need to be caring for him at the expense of his own happiness. Dean had been burdened with looking after his sorry ass for too long, and it was obviously only leading to unhappiness for his older brother.
"I'm fine," he croaked, the words little more than a whisper.
Pushing himself up off the floor with reluctance, he stood in front of the sink, bracing his hands on the cold porcelain to support himself.
"I'm fine," he replied again, a little louder this time, hoping his brother would take the hint and leave him in peace.
"Sure you are, now open the door."
"For God's sake Dean, can't you just use the bathroom upstairs?"
"Quit delaying and open the door! I mean it, Sam."
"Dean." Sam protested.
"I'm not kidding around here Sam; either you open up or I'll… Sam, you might as well open up now or so help me God." Dean leant his hands against the bathroom door, waiting for a response. Anything.
"Yeah, give me a minute." Sam gave up all hope that Dean would let him slink quietly away.
Turning on the cold water, he splashed it over his face and ran his wet fingers through his hair, pushing the damp tendrils off his face. After rinsing the taste of vomit from his mouth, he looked at himself in the mirror, not liking what he saw.
He really looked like crap. No amount of time behind the closed door was going to be sufficient to conceal the pallor of his skin or the faint tremor running through his body. Making it to the door and remaining upright was going to be challenge enough.
Dean leaned his forehead against the worn timber door, listening to the sounds on the other side. The whole situation was wrong on so many levels, but desperate times called for desperate measures. If Sam wasn't going to talk to him, then he'd take it upon himself to listen in.
Sam had asked for a minute, and he'd give it to him, but not a second more.
"Dean, you might wanna give him some space." Bobby leant against the wall opposite the bathroom, ready to give a hand if needed.
Dean turned and looked at the older hunter, shaking his head. "No, that's what landed us in this mess in the first place. I pushed him away, gave him too much space."
"It'd take a lot more than a little argument to push Sam away and you know it. Sam might take things a little to heart at times, but the boy's a Winchester through and through; stubborn as an ox and just as hard to budge when his mind's set on something."
Both hunters stilled at the sound of the bathroom door latch unlocking. Concern competed with guilt as Dean watched his brother emerge from the bathroom.
Sam braced himself in the open doorway, unsure of what sort of reception he was going to get from his brother. Whatever Dean had to say, he hoped he'd get it over and done with quickly. Thoughts of lying down in the comfort of his own bed held overwhelming appeal. He just needed to let Dean vent whatever was on his mind so that he could get to his room before his legs gave out and the threatening dizziness took him down. Being long overdue for the meds and rest his doctor had prescribed were really taking a toll.
"Sam…" Dean started, hovering within arms length of his brother.
"Can't this wait Dean?" Sam looked at the obstinate expression on his brother's face and didn't think he could do it – remain standing for long enough to hear Dean out. His brother wavered in and out of focus and it was only his firm grip on the doorframe that kept him upright.
Dean felt his temper rise at the brush off. "I thought I could trust you Sam. Thought we weren't keeping secrets from each other. So why do I have to find out from Bobby that you had to go to the clinic in town this morning? Didn't it even cross your mind that maybe this was something you should've told me?"
Sam swallowed down his nausea.
"What? Nothing to say for yourself?" Dean cringed as the words left his mouth realising that he was once again losing control of his mouth and the situation before him.
"I --ah… God." Sam felt the blood rush away from his head and the world tilted sharply in front of him. His legs buckled and he fell into the waiting blackness with a small groan.
It was instinctive, reaching his arms out to catch his brother. The sudden weight always came as a shock but he held on tight despite the strain on his muscles. This was his brother - he wouldn't let him fall.
"Help me, Bobby." Dean beseeched, the older hunter already moving to his side, helping to shift some of Sam's weight between them both.
"Couch?" Bobby questioned as he secured one of Sam's arms over his shoulder and hung on tight to the youngest Winchester.
"Yeah …not gonna be able to get him up the stairs." Dean moved forward, Sam hanging limply between himself and Bobby, Sam's extra height causing his feet to drag on the floor behind them.
As the trio reached the couch Sam raised his head and struggled weakly against his confining position between the two older men.
"Take it easy Sam." Dean eased Sam out of their supporting embrace and lowered him to sit down on the couch.
"I'm okay." Sam rasped out; his voice dry and hoarse.
"Well, you look like crap." Dean propped himself on the arm of the couch and looked keenly at his younger brother, trying to visibly assess his condition.
"Nice Dean." Sam rested his head back against the edge of the couch, still feeling light headed and a little disorientated.
Bobby twisted the oil stained cap on his head in exasperation, wondering if it wouldn't be easier to just bang his head on a brick wall rather that deal with the Winchester brothers.
"Sam, I was mindin' my own business before …didn't want to pry or anythin', but maybe you better tell your brother exactly what the doc at the clinic had to say."
"I'm okay. I just overdid things a bit." Sam answered softly.
"That's not what the man asked you Sammy." Dean barked.
"The 'man' has a name." Bobby growled.
Dean kept his eyes trained on Sam, waiting for an explanation. "Sam?"
Sam let his head drop forward, chin resting on his chest, and took a deep breath. "Got an infection." Sam mumbled.
"Say again?" Dean tried to make out Sam's garbled words.
Sam raised his eyes to look at his brother. "Got an infection," Sam stated in slow precise words.
"When were you gonna tell me?" Dean fought to keep the anger out of his voice.
"I'm telling you now." Sam answered.
"Only 'cause I caught you out. You weren't gonna tell me were you?" Dean accused.
"I'm telling you now Dean." Sam looked at his brother and then at Bobby.
"Answer the God damn question Sam!" Dean gritted his teeth as angry words again slipped from his mouth.
Sam averted his eyes and shook his head. "I know okay, you don't have to say it. I know I'm slowing you down, that you've had enough of looking after me. Dean, I get it okay. You were left to practically raise me, Dad was never around, and now, now …you know I'm not your responsibility anymore Dean…"
"God Sam, is that what you think?" Dean looked at Sam with surprise.
"You deserve more than this Dean." Sam stated despondently.
"I deserve a lot of things, and most of it isn't good. But this -you and me - it's not a 'responsibility' Sam, we're in this together – you're my brother." Dean's words were steady and passionate as he kept his eyes locked on Sam.
Sam looked at his brother, seeing sincerity in his eyes and felt his owns eyes glisten with unshed tears.
"I'm not hugging, dude." Dean broke the emotional silence.
Dean opened the container and shook out two of the small white pills into the palm of his hand. Collecting the glass of cool water, he carried the items into the bedroom he was sharing with his brother.
Sam lay tangled under the sheets, drifting between sleep and wakefulness and Dean perched himself on the edge of the bed.
"Hey Sam, time to take your meds." Dean shook his brother's shoulder gently, watching as bleary eyes opened to look back at him.
"Morning." Sam muttered, taking the pills Dean held out and popping them into his mouth before washing them down with the water.
"Dude, morning's come and gone." Dean replied; taking in Sam's dishevelled appearance. He looked like an overgrown toddler waking from a mid morning nap, all warm and sleepy.
"Huh?" Sam rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.
"You're like sleeping beauty – you know, without the 'beauty' part. Afraid you skipped breakfast," Dean licked his lips. "Mmmm and Bobby made pancakes …remember when we were kids and he'd get up early and have a big stack waiting in the kitchen?"
"Yeah." Sam smiled at the memory, suddenly noticing his hunger.
"You were asleep so I ate your share." Dean grinned.
"Could've woken me."
"Dude, it was pancakes."
Note: So, that's the story I got all the criticism for months ago and was never going to post (I was actually never going to write again). However, after some more help on it, a little tweaking and lots of nagging it feels good to have it finally posted – like a weight off my shoulders! Thanks for reading.