Target Practice

The sun went down on an argument.

Major Hurt Sam – for Sendintheclowns, Supernaturalsammy67, Criminally Charmed, Darksupernatural and Sammygirl63

Set some time during Season One. AU in the sense that I've made some of my own assumptions about the boys. You'll see what I mean.

I also apologise for any discrepancies I might have made with regard to any historical facts mentioned in this fic. Not my intention to offend.

Disclaimer: Not mine. The lithium will kick in soon I hope.

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"ComeoncomeonCOMEON! Change!" Sam drummed his fingers nervously on the steering wheel. He wasn't entirely sure why he wanted the traffic lights to change so quickly because that would mean getting back to the motel room all the sooner, not to mention his brother. And right now Sam would rather be anywhere else.

Right now Sam would rather face down a Wendigo on Crack.

Whilst unarmed.

Naked in front of the school assembly.



That about summed it up. Sam was pretty certain that he stood a better chance of survival with that scenario than facing his older brother. Especially after he broke the news about what just happened to his precious car.

Sam cringed. His phone was ringing. He was pretty certain it was Dean, and he wasn't going to risk further injury to the car by driving and talking on his cell phone all at the same time.

It had been the usual morning coffee run except that it was Sam's turn seeing as he'd woken up first, and hence taken the first shower. So he'd left his hung-over brother grumbling about little brothers that used up all the hot water.

And that was the first strike against Sam.

It was all downhill after that. And he knew it the second he left the coffee house and heard the tell tale sign of childish voices screaming "he's here, RUN!", skateboards skimming relentlessly over the concrete sidewalk and sneaker-clad feet pounding the tarmac. They were gone before Sam could even look up, already darting round the block and ducking in to one of the many alleys.

Sam just stood there in a moment's quiet contemplation before he calmly opened the driver's door, carefully placed the Styrofoam cups inside on the dash and closed the door again.

He had the look of a man about to be marched to the gallows as he slowly, but again calmly, rounded the car, sharp blue-green eyes narrowed and examining every inch of the chrome and paintwork.

Until he came to the passenger side.



Sam stopped and stared, eyes wide as his body took on his celebrated 'little brother's really in the shit now' stance.

A deep, very deep, T-Cut-aint-gonna-solve-it-deep scratch ran jaggedly right from the rear passenger door to the front fender.

His eyes blinked rapidly and he chewed on his bottom lip as he tried to think of a way out of this that didn't involve explaining it to Dean or replacing the car with an exact replica. The last option was definitely out, because a) the car was a classic. Finding a replacement could prove tricky and b) the Impala wasn't a dead beloved pet hamster belonging to a four year old who could be easily fooled.

Sam was forced to admit that telling Dean was the only option.

Ok. It'll be ok. He'll understand. Once he's re-established his centre of gravity and finished pounding my face into the wall, he'll definitely understand….won't he?

Grimacing then taking a deep breath, he retraced his steps to the driver's side, got behind the wheel, and almost prayed the engine would break down long enough for him to get a head start, hotwire a car and break for the state line before Dean could find out what happened. Honestly. He would've left him a note.

Get a grip. You are not afraid of your brother…

Uh…where the car's concerned? OhyesIam!

Really? Huh. Dude, where're ya balls?

I'm sure I had them round here some place….



He took a calming breath that only served to make him feel nauseous with anxiety because he was breathing in the scent of gun oil, sweat, coffee and old socks, the last of which, and he was pretty certain about this, might have been Dean's half-hearted attempt at air-freshener.

The traffic lights changed and Sam reluctantly eased the car away.

Pretty soon the motel came into view and Sam nearly swallowed his tongue when he saw Dean poking his head out of their room, clearly wondering where the hell his morning coffee had got to.

Sam pulled up at the curb and fixed his face into a neutral grin, which faded when Dean headed over and made for the passenger side.

He leapt out of the car and stood in Dean's path. "I got your coffee right here dude." He knew it. His courage was failing him.

Dean frowned at him, crossing his arms. "I just wanted to get my MP3 player out the glove box…"

"I can get that…I mean, I need to get my wallet out so…" Sam stuttered a little before offering up a quick grin, then leaned in through the open driver's door grabbed the coffee and wrenched the player out of the glove compartment.

"Thanks," Dean took the coffee and sniffed at it. "What took you so damn long anyways? You fly out to Columbia for this shit or what?"

Sam shrugged innocently. "Heavy traffic."

Dean glared at him. "Better not be cold dude. Unlike my shower this morning!" he added accusingly, and Sam winced.



In a desperate attempt to change the subject, Sam brought up the current job. "So I figured we could go back to the Native American Museum tonight, find that relic and destroy it."

Dean turned just before he entered their motel room. "You know what it is?"

"Yeah." Sam dug his hands in his jean pockets, hoping against hope that his brother hadn't noticed the faint tremor. "I worked it out last night. Should be a simple salt and burn."

Dean nodded approvingly. "Ok. Coffee first, then talk," and headed into the room to slouch on his bed.

Sam, following, heaved a sigh of relief though he knew it was only temporary. Logic dictated that putting off the inevitable would only make matters worse, but Sam's logic gates had currently gone on strike and left him to face negotiations with the trade unionist from hell: his own conscience.

"So, hit me."

Sam tried not to wince at that; it was just a little too close to what he was expecting in his immediate future. But he struggled onwards.

"Ok, the Ghost Dance was a religious movement that reportedly played a role in The Wounded Knee massacre of 1890, which ended the lives of 153 Lakota Sioux.

In February 1890, the United States government broke a Lakota treaty by adjusting the Great Sioux Reservation of South Dakota into five smaller reservations. This accommodated white homesteaders from the Eastern United States and was in direct accordance with the government's "policy of breaking up tribal relationships" and "conforming Indians to the white man's ways, peaceably if they will, or forcibly if they must." Once on the smaller 

reservations, tribes were separated into family units on 320 acre plots, forced to raise livestock, farm, and send their children to boarding schools that forbade the teaching of Native American culture and language…."

"Yeah, yeah and I'm guessing it led to war, and then onto the massacre." Dean interrupted, already a little bored by all the detail. "So what's this Ghost Dance got to do with it all geek boy? I got images of people dancing round in white sheets with the eyes holes cut out, goin' Woogeywoogeywoogey!"

Sam glanced at him feeling a little annoyed. "Sorry if I'm boring you dude." He huffed when Dean rolled his eyes. "One interpretation of the Ghost Dance tradition may be seen in the so-called Ghost Shirts, which were special garments rumored to repel bullets through spiritual power. So the dance and the shirts conveyed strength and invincibility."

"Which clearly didn't work." Dean countered though with less humour and more sadness this time.

Sam nodded as he sipped the last of his coffee. "Nope. It's the Ghost Shirt at the museum that's responsible for the sightings of Native American Sioux warriors. So far they haven't killed anybody, just a few minor injuries here and then, usually people that are in direct contact with the shirt."

Dean frowned. "What makes you think that? Why would any spirit get upset over a piece of old laundry that's been sitting gathering dust in a museum for the last shit knows how long?"

Sam stood and paced to the table by the window, picked up a magazine and threw it to his brother. Dean caught it looking puzzled.

"Turn to page 27." Sam instructed.



"…due to lack of funding and withdrawal of the national heritage grant, the museum will be closing down next month. All relics will be relocated to various other heritage museums throughout the state, with the exception of the Lakota Sioux Ghost Shirt, which has been donated to the Natural History Museum in London…" Dean read aloud, before glancing up at Sam. "Ok I get it. The spirit's pissed as hell 'cos the shirt's going to one of the very countries that caused all their problems in the first place."

"That's my theory." Sam threw his empty coffee cup in the waste basket.

"Huh." Dean thought for a moment. "They haven't killed anyone yet, but they might do once someone tries to remove the shirt."

"Yep."

They were both silent for a moment, immersed in their own thoughts. Dean's on the hunt; Sam's, inevitably, on the damn car.

How the hell am I gonna tell 'im?

"Hey Sam. How come you know so much about this stuff? You haven't even been to the local library yet." Dean nodded towards to the table. "And you've not had time to start trawling the internet since we got here."

Sam sat down and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "I took an extra class at Stanford; Native American history has always been a fascination of mine." And immediately regretted it when his brother's face hardened a little.

"Uhuh. So college-boy does have his uses." He didn't even bother to disguise the contempt in his tone.



Sam was feeling more than a little ticked off by now. "Dean, you asked ok? But if you're gonna get pissed at me every time I even mention Stanford…"

Dean held out his hands in mock placation and kept his tone sarcastic. "Hey! Far be it from me to stomp on your toes man. But I'd been hunting on my own a long time before I dragged your ass outa that place and I did all right." They both knew that was only half true; they're dad had been along on a number of occasions before giving Dean total free reign.

Sam bristled with anger. "Yeah, and you might've done a damn sight better if you'd managed to finish high school!"

The loaded silence snapped with tension, each brother glaring at the other.

Sam broke it, immediately regretting the thoughtless comment.

"Dude, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that ok? I shouldn't have said it." Sam gazed at his brother morosely when Dean's eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

"Right." Sam flinched at the coldness in Dean's tone. Without a word, Dean was grabbing his coat and heading out. "I'm gonna get us some breakfast. Back in a bit." He closed the door quietly behind him. A few seconds later the Impala was roaring to life and thundering round the block.

Sam hadn't missed the hurt in Dean's eyes, which was immediately covered up with his Game Face, as he liked to call it. It was true that Dean hadn't finished high school, but not because he couldn't manage it. Sam knew better than anyone just how smart his brother was, probably knew better than Dean himself. It was just that Dean wasn't the academic type; he had smarts of a different nature. A sharp mind, sound logic and ability to retain facts and figures whenever he could be bothered, Dean left the fine details to others where research 

was concerned simply because it bored him. He was more than happy to let his brother seek out the information, and provided Sam didn't drone on too much, would sit patiently listening. Mostly.

Although Dean was more than capable of research, his true talents lay in tactics and weapons, escape and evade, explosives and fighting stances...the things that really made him tick.

And that was primarily why Dean had dropped out of high school, not even bothering to graduate. It just held no interest for him. Truth was he could've wiped the floor with most of the other kids in his class if he'd felt like it.

Sam had been the exact opposite. He loved knowledge and always had his nose buried in a book whilst growing up; it had been a constant source of frustration for his father that Sam was more interested in school than hunting. Then came the ultimate betrayal, at least in the eyes of Sam's family. Following a huge row with his father, Sam had taken off to university and never once looked back. At least, that was what he told himself. He'd missed Dean in those two years apart and if he was honest he'd secretly been pleased to see his big brother the night he showed up at Stanford asking for his help in finding their missing father. When his girlfriend burned alive on the ceiling as Sam came home from his first hunt in two years, Dean was there, pulling him from the flames, a silent comforting presence through every night and every nightmare since.

No. Dean deserved better than this and had every right to be a little tense whenever Sam's college years were brought up in conversation. Sam just had to learn to bite his tongue, and keep his big mouth shut.



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By the time Dean came through the door with two take-out bags of food it was nearly lunch time. Sam had been pacing and worrying, guilt eating at him all the while, and his brother had obviously been driving around trying to find his own equilibrium.

Sam had a small apologetic smile and equally apologetic speech at the ready. Which soon faded on seeing his brother's face.

Ok, maybe not equilibrium so much as toxic centre!

"Dean?"

Dean set the take out bags on the table and glared at him. The glare itself was so ferocious that Sam felt a little afraid.

Yep, putting an a.p.b. out on my balls right about now!

"When were ya gonna tell me Sam?" His voice was low and deadly dangerous as he stalked towards his little brother.

Sam frowned in confusion "What?"

"The fucking CAR, Sam!"

Sam's mouth dropped open briefly then closed shut with an audible snap.

Shit! I'd forgotten all about that!



"Dean…look man, I'm sorry. I was gonna tell ya. I just didn't know how to say it." Sam didn't back off when Dean invaded his personal space and poked a finger at his chest.

"Didn't know…..how about 'Dean I fucked the car!?"

Sam was starting to lose his patience and snapped back. "I didn't fuck the car as you so eloquently put it…

Dean sneered. "Oh eloquently right? That another fancy word off the back of your college education geek boy?"

"If you'll let me finish!" Sam exclaimed angrily. "I wasn't even in the damn car when it happened ok? I went inside the coffee house and when I came out again some kids…"

"Oh it was kids huh?" Dean sneered again. "What kinda neighbourhood were ya parked in Sam? Maybe you should've picked a better side of town!"

"The kind of…what?" Sam glared in astonishment, then shook his head. "Forget it. I'm going to the library. I'll meet you at the museum after dark. You're not even gonna listen so I might as well go do something constructive." He strode over to the door but didn't miss the sullenly muttered.

"That'll be a first."

Fighting back the anger, Sam didn't bother to conceal his own hurt, and slammed the door loudly.

Dean sighed. He knew he'd gone too far, but the subject of Stanford was still a little raw for him right now. One day he'd be ok with it, but at the moment he preferred to steer clear. 

Then to find his car had been vandalised. And his little brother hadn't even bothered to tell him about it.

Ok, Dean knew that Sam wasn't exactly a car fanatic, but did he not care about the Impala even a little? It was their only real home growing up, and Dean had thought Sam at least respected that.

Obviously I was wrong.

One other thing he was wrong about. The last comment he'd thrown at his little brother was both hurtful and unfair. He'd never wanted Sam to leave the hunt and go off to college and was damn glad to finally have him back, even if the circumstances did suck on the highest level.

Dean thought about tracking Sam down at the library to apologise, but changed his mind. They both needed a little space to cool off. Grabbing one of the take out bags and making a mental note to pack the other one in the car for Sam – he'll be hungry later – Dean ate his lunch and settled back to watch some TV, maybe get some shuteye.

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Sam spent a few hours in the library but truth be told he just couldn't get his head into it. He managed just enough to confirm his suspicions about the Ghost Shirt, then headed out to grab a bite to eat. Sitting alone in a grotty diner eating a turkey salad sandwich gave him to time to reflect on a few things.



Dean was angry about the car and he'd soon calm down and realise it wasn't Sam's fault. But the part that hurt…

I'm might as well go do something constructive.

That'll be a first.

It just sounded too much like their father when they were growing up; Sam had always felt utterly useless and got sick of being compared to Dean. He never came off favourably. Dean had tried to encourage him, instil the self-esteem stolen from him by their dad. But to hear those words from the one person he'd thought, in spite of everything, was on his side…

Sam dropped his sandwich back on the plate, suddenly losing his appetite. Placing a few bills on the counter, he headed for the restroom. Locating an empty cubicle he locked himself in and promptly threw up what little he'd eaten.

Once he'd finished, he unlocked the door and went to the sink to splash some water on his face and wash out his mouth. Then he made the mistake of glancing up at his all too pale face in the mirror.

Even after all these years, it still hurt. He wasn't good enough and never would be.

Swearing viciously under his breath he strode quickly out of the restroom and diner, out into the street and headed for the nearby park. He didn't leave there until the sun was sliding down the sky.



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Dean pulled up a few blocks away from the museum, grabbed the duffle bag of weapons, salt and gasoline from the trunk, and started walking. Dean had no problem with salting and burning precious historical artefacts if it meant keeping people safe and he knew Sam felt the same way, but it still elicited a sense of guilt from his little brother that a treasured piece of heritage would be lost forever.

Still, it was worth it.

He glanced around, wondering where his brother was, but as he approached the gates there was still no sign of him.

Dean scrambled effortlessly over the high iron fence and dropped soundlessly to the ground on the other side. Immediately his senses went on high alert.

"Sam?" He called softly.

"Over here," was the equally soft answer and a tall figure stepped out of the shadows.

Dean couldn't see his brother's face but could sense a subdued Sammy at fifty paces.

Still feeling guilty 'bout the car, huh little bro? Good!

Dean wasn't quite prepared to let him off the hook just yet, so he stood and walked straight passed him, jerking his head towards the main building. "Come on, let's get this over with."



He heard Sam take a shaky breath, and couldn't help but wonder about that.

They didn't get as far as breaking and entering before the trouble started and then it was over so quickly Dean barely had a chance to understand what had happened.

Sam had been right behind his brother as they cautiously sidled along the outer wall when he saw it.

The Native American, in warrior dress, silently held his bow at the ready, and when Sam realised where, or rather who it was aimed at, he leapt forward pushing Dean roughly against the wall just as the spirit fired.

Dean's head collided with the stone masonry with a loud crack and he saw stars for a few seconds. As he fell he didn't hear the soft whumph, followed by a thud and a small gasp of pain. But once he got his senses back he stood and whirled round angrily.

"Sam what the hell man?" He stalked towards his brother noting how he leaned heavily against the wall on his right side; head bowed in what he thought was an apology.

"Sorry." The breathless reply confirmed it.

"What? You trip over your god damn clown feet? What the hell's wrong with you today?" He grabbed Sam's upper arms and gave him a hard shake.

Sam cried out in pain and gasped for breath, but still didn't raise his head, his long hair keeping his entire face in shadow.

"Sammy?" Dean frowned worriedly, "Sam you ok?"



All that earned him was a small choking sound. In fact, it sounded suspiciously like an aborted attempt to breathe. Suddenly Sam's legs buckled and he slid down the wall, taking Dean with him until they were kneeling awkwardly, still leaning against the wall.

Dean reached out a hand and gently tilted Sam's chin up.

"Jesus Sam! What the hell happened?"

A thin stream of blood trickled from the corner of his little brother's mouth as Sam tried to answer him, but all that came out was garbled nonsense as he struggled to breathe. Sam was staring at him, blinking rapidly as if trying to understand what was happening to him.

But when Dean dropped his gaze his blood ran cold. He could just about see the angular tip of an arrow head, sticking out of Sam's chest over his right lung and the surrounding material of his shirt was turning a dark crimson.

Oh shit this is bad. Oh god Sammy!

"No talking." Dean ordered softly when Sam's tried once again to speak. "Just hold still Sam." Then he tilted Sam's head forward to rest in the crook of his neck, feeling the jerky movements and ragged irregular breathing. Dean reached round Sam's neck and downwards until his fingertips brushed the solid wood protruding from Sam's upper back. Even that small touch caused Sam no end of pain; Dean closed his eyes and held him still as his brother whimpered loudly and tried to flinch away.

"It's ok Sam." No it's not! "Just stay awake and don't move."

Sam had no intention of moving ever again; his body felt paralysed by the pain as it seemed to build in its intensity.



Sam was going into shock, and Dean could feel his body trembling as the cold seeped in through his body, into his very bones.

He had to think quickly. The poor kid had to be in outrageous agony with every breath he took.

As Sam started to sag against him Dean panicked.

"No you don't!" He pulled Sam back away from him, stared hard into eyes that were struggling to stay open let alone focus, and kept his voice sharp and authoritative. "You stay awake ya hear me? Stay the hell awake!"

Sam blinked at him as silent tears rolled down his face.

The hurt in Sam's eyes nearly crippled Dean; he'd yelled at his baby brother enough for one day. For one life time.

Forcing a smile to take the heat out of his words, Dean gently brushed Sam's hair out of his eyes "I'm gonna pick the lock on the gates and bring the car round ok?" He reached out, unzipped the duffle and pulled out the berretta. "Take this. It's loaded with rock salt. You shoot anything that moves, right?" Dean's smile turned weak when he added "so long as it's not me!" He placed the weapon in Sam's hand wrapping his long fingers round the trigger guard. He doubted Sam even had the strength lift the gun let alone shoot. He was losing too much blood.

Sam carried on blinking lazily, his head now leaning against the wall along with the rest of the right side his body, and Dean wasn't sure his brother had any clue what was going on right now.



"Whatever you do don't lie down, Sam. You hear me?" Dean raised his eyebrows hoping for a response, and after a while Sam gave a slight nod. Dean patted his cheek gently. "That's my boy. I'm gonna get you outa here Sammy, I promise." He shrugged out of his jacket and draped it over Sam's chest, tying the arms round his waist to keep him warm. Leaning in close to Sam's ear Dean whispered "Just keep breathing for me, stay alive."

Dean stood and ran towards the gates, his own tears finally sliding down his face as he left Sam slumped awkwardly against the museum wall.

He didn't know what the hell had gone wrong tonight but he wasn't losing his baby brother.

No way!

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Sam heard his brother's footsteps recede and his eyes swivelled downwards to stare at the berretta. His thoughts were jumbled and he tried to make sense of what was happening.

Dean…gave me a gun…don't lie down…stay awake…

That seemed logical to Sam. His brother wouldn't leave him defenceless.

Dean's coming back, he promised. I heard him say it.

Sam managed a small smile which lasted until the words his brother had thrown at him earlier that day decided to re-emerge.



I might as well go do something constructive…

That'll be a first.

Sam's muddled brain was trying to figure things out, but what it was coming up with had him scared. Real scared.

Does he even want me around anymore?

Did I hurt his car?

Fresh tears formed and the shivering got worse as his desolation grew.

He left me here…

Sam couldn't believe how much it hurt; he'd never experience such intense agony. Breathing was becoming harder, his body weaker, and he slumped down even further.

He stared at the gun until his vision blurred.

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Dean struggled to pick the lock, but it was taking too damn long and his brother was dying…

Shit!



Dean stopped for a second, leaning his forehead against the gate, and fought for composure. He wasn't helping Sam, not like this, but it was the first time he'd allowed himself to acknowledge what could be happening a hundred yards behind him.

His brother dying all alone on the ground outside of some museum that was so shitty no one wanted it anymore.

Come on! Get it together!

Dean inserted the lock pick once more and this time heard a small click. Heaving a sigh of relief he pulled open the gates, silently thanking his lucky stars that someone had seen fit to oil them. The last thing he needed was loud squeaking and squealing attracting someone's attention.

He sprinted down the road and round the block like an Olympian then round the next one until he found the Impala, wrenched open the door and burned rubber.

The Impala sped onto the grounds of the museum and screeched to halt, causing Dean to wince momentarily and hoped to Christ no one heard that. Leaping out, he raced round, opened the rear passenger door, then over to Sam whose eyes seemed trained on the berretta until Dean sank down in front of him, then he blinked and raised his unfocussed gaze to his brother and to Dean's amazement he spoke.

"Th…thought…" More blood leaked from his mouth as he tried to get the words out. "y…you'd…gone." The last word was breathed rather than spoken.

Sam's head felt as though it weighed a thousand tons and the only thing holding it up was the wall….and now Dean's hand on the side of his neck.



Dean's here…he promised…

Dean felt utterly shocked. His brother really thought he'd leave him here?

There wasn't any time for this, but he squirreled that piece of information away for later consideration.

"Ok Sam listen up. This is what we're gonna do." Dean felt a little relieved when Sam showed some sign of keeping track, his eyes never leaving Dean's. "I'm gonna lay you in the rear seat with you facing the seat back, but you can't move ok?"

Dean peered into Sam's face. "Ok Sammy?"

Another slight nod and Dean smiled at him, then got a firm grip on him under his arms.

"Ok on three let's get you up. One…Two…Three!" And hauled Sam to his feet, keeping his back as straight as possible.

Sam cried out.

"No…please …stop…please!...Just pull it out!" He whispered over and over again.

Dean struggled to keep his gargantuan brother upright without hurting him any further. "Can't do that Sam. It'll kill you."

Fresh tears tracked down Sam's face as Dean guided him slowly to the rear of the car. It took longer than Dean was happy with to get Sam settled in the back, but he daren't go any faster.



Sam lay on his side as Dean packed him in tight with blankets from the boot, pressing them around the arrow head at his chest to soak up the blood, and around the arrow itself sticking out of his back. Then he covered him with the last one.

Dean knew he'd have to be real careful not jolt the car too much on the way to the hospital, but he couldn't afford to drive too slow either. He hated that he couldn't see Sam's face, and wouldn't be able to at least check on his breathing. Sam could die on route and Dean wouldn't even know about it.

As he slid behind the wheel, Dean reached a hand over and behind his seat, and patted it along Sam's left arm.

"Sammy? Can you hear me? Take my hand, ok?"

Hesitantly he felt Sam's hand weakly grasp his.

"Atta boy. Now don't let go. I'm gonna be asking questions and you have to answer by squeezing my hand once for yes and twice for no. Understand me?"

One faint squeeze and Dean started the engine.

It was the longest drive of his life and he had absolutely no idea how he managed it, yet the hospital was only a few miles away.

He played games, asking questions always with yes or no answers and Sam kept up with him until they reached the hospital entrance, then nothing.

"Sam?" Dean twisted frantically in his seat. "Sam!"



Easing the car gently to a halt, Dean jumped out and charged like a raging bull at full speed into the ER, yelling for help.

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Dean stared hard at his brother, anger warring with heart break.

"What the hell were you doing huh?" He heard the waver in his voice but no longer cared. Tears dripped down his face and he swiped at them angrily.

Whilst Sam had been in surgery Dean had been going over and over it in his mind, trying to figure out what happened. He'd told the doctors that there'd been an accident whilst on the archery range but thankfully they didn't ask him to go into details and no one thought to question what they were doing there at night.

He'd had plenty of time to think it through and there was only one logical explanation.

Sam lay motionless on the bed, some god awful looking tube snaking out of his mouth, attached some equally god awful looking machine. The surgeons told Dean that once they managed to cut the arrow from Sam's lung, leaving two jagged wounds the size of the Grand Canyon, he'd crashed twice on the table.

Though they'd managed to fix most of the damage, Sam couldn't breathe without assistance, and blood loss and shock had been severe; it wasn't certain if he'd survive.



"That damned arrow was meant for me you stupid bastard!" Dean yelled suddenly, finally unable to deal with it anymore. He got up and strode to the window, trying to control his temper before someone heard him and tossed him out on his ear.

He'd known it even at the time, deep down where it counts. Sam must have seen something and acted quickly, pushing Dean out of the way. Because when he'd turned to yell at Sam, his little brother was leaning against the wall in the exact same spot Dean had been standing only a split second before.

And he'd yelled at him!

Sam was badly hurt and Dean had raged at him; the events of the day, the words exchanged, had piled up and spilled over and he'd shaken Sam literally to within an inch of his life!

Dean turned from the window to stare at his silent brother again. Sam looked so pale it was frightening, with dark smudges under his eyes. He'd been transfused with what seemed like half the state's supply of blood, but he still looked close to death.

Feeling utterly helpless in a way he'd never felt before, Dean went back to sit at Sam's beside. But this time he kept his temper.

There was nothing more he could do until Sam woke up.

Maybe.

There was always a maybe.



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Whenever they kicked him out so they could run more tests on Sam, Dean had been back to the museum during the day light hours as a visitor. He scoped the place out, checked all the main entrances and fire exits, and eyed the Ghost Shirt from behind its glass display case with a malevolence that would've surprised Sam.

There were rarely any visitors to the place, which was one of the reasons the grants had been withdrawn and the place was shutting down.

Mind made up, on the final visit Dean, complete with his duffel bag, managed to sneak in and hide up. Waiting until the museum curator locked up and went home, Dean wandered on over to the display case again. Taking out a small glass cutter from his pocket, he made a reasonable sized hole in the glass and began pulling the old fabric through.

He'd been expecting it and ducked sharply. An arrow went straight through the display case shattering the glass and spraying it in all directions.

Dean grinned to himself as he yanked the Ghost Shirt free, rolled and leapt to his feet in one smooth move. Sawn-off pulled from inside his jacket he waved the old material at the warrior. The spirit stared at him, neither angry nor scared.

"Look man, I know why you came after us that night; you knew what we were planning." Dean got the weird impression the guy could understand him. "But this aint the way. You don't want this" he waved the shirt again "going to Britain, but killing anyone that gets in your way? Not gonna work. Others like me will come after you."



The warrior carried on staring, then raised a hand as if asking him to explain. Dean opened the duffel bag and grabbed the salt and gasoline.

"But this will work." He held out the items, "And this time it gets to be your choice when and where."

The warrior tilted his head to one side as if wondering if Dean was trustworthy. Dean met his gaze steadily, shoulders back, head high.

One warrior's silent word to another.

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He ended up salting and burning the Ghost Shirt on the grounds of the museum itself, and as the flames had eaten away at the cloth, Dean felt the presence of the spirit warrior slowly fade.

It was nothing he could put his finger on, but there'd been a connection there. Or more accurately, an understanding, and for some reason he couldn't quite fathom he felt incredibly sad. Which was kind of weird; the guy had shot his little brother!

"My god." He whispered to himself. "Is this what Sam feels like after every case we work? Geeze, no wonder the kid's got issues!"



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Dean was in for a bit of a surprise when he got back to the hospital. Not only had Sam been taken off the ventilator but he was also awake for a spell.

Dean swore silently; he'd hoped to be there when that happened. He owed his little brother a thousand apologies and then some.

For a start the digs about Stanford had to stop. It wasn't fair to Sam; that place had been a major part of his life and Dean realised he should have felt flattered that Sam had wanted to share those memories with him.

He also had to let Sam explain about the car, though Dean had examined the damage himself and had a pretty good idea what happened. It looked like someone had keyed it.

But the major issue, the one that had really been bugging him was the implication he'd made that Sam wasn't pulling his weight and he was pretty sure it's what led Sam to thinking Dean was going to just going to leave him at the museum. Sure, Sam had been out of it, in shock, blood loss, etc. so he could probably be excused. But Dean couldn't help feeling guilty; he'd been responsible for Sam feeling that way.

When he arrived at the room he watched from the doorway for a little while. Sam appeared to sleeping peacefully and already looked much healthier than the last time Dean had seen him…which had only been last night!

What?



Dean crept further into the room until he was standing over the bed, studying Sam's features. His complexion, whilst still a little pale, was much improved with the signs of his natural tan coming back, and the dark shadows under his eyes had shrunk.

Sam's right arm had been tightly secured across his chest in a sling to keep him immobile, and the small plastic tube running under his nose and hooked over his ears was a definite improvement on the vent.

Obviously, Sam was in for a long recovery period, needing physical therapy, as well breathing therapy, but things looked more hopeful than they had in days. Dean wondered if the spirit warrior had anything to do with it….

As Dean watched, Sam stirred lightly, eyes moving under the lids until they finally opened and stared up at him.

"Hey there! Heard you were awake. 'Bout damn time!"

"Yeah." Sam looked a little worried, "Car ok?" He croaked out tiredly.

Ah shit!

He really thought Dean cared more about the car than his own brother?

Time to put the record straight on a few things.

"Sam, first off. I know that wasn't your fault. I could see that from the scratch; it wasn't another vehicle. Someone scraped a key or a sharp piece of metal along it." Dean sat down and leaned forward. "I'm sorry I didn't let you explain, man."



He glanced down nervously at his hands for a second. "And if you ever mention Stanford again…" He felt Sam tense up "My ears are open, ok? Seriously, I don't want you to feel like you can't tell me anything."

"Dean…"

"I'm not finished." Dean looked him straight in the eye. "What I said before you left that morning…it was totally out of order bro. Everything you do is constructive, and I couldn't do this job without you. Wouldn't want to."

Sam looked shocked, but before he could reply Dean carried on.

"So don't ever do that again Sam! Don't you ever put yourself at risk for me, all right?" Dean clenched and unclenched his jaw a few times, "'Cos I'm just not worth it."

There was a stunned silence, before Sam exploded.

"WHAT? What the HELL are you talkin' about Dean?" To say that Sam looked angry was an understatement. Dean didn't think he'd ever seen him so furious. "What are you sayin'? That I AM worth it? All those times you saved my life by putting yourself a risk was all because you felt I was WORTH more than YOU? WHAT THE HELL DUDE?"

"Sam calm down you just had surgery…"

"DON'T YOU TELL ME…TO CALM DOWN!..." Sam was getting out of breath with pain spiking through his chest and had to stop, which meant that Dean could leap in.

"Sam, I've never been seriously injured to the point where I've nearly died…"

And that set Sam off all over again. "The point is you COULD'VE been…"



"I think you're the one who got the point when Tonto shot you in the back with an arrow, which by the way is weird; I mean the guy was a spirit so how could the bow and arrow be real, or at least real enough to…"

"DON'T change the subject…"

"Aw come on Sammy! 'Got the point'? That was a good one!"

"Yeah well the next time you find yourself used as a giant dart board I'll just bet YOU won't be laughin'!"

"That depends, what kind of sweep stake would you be runnin'?"

"The kind that says 'knock my stupid ass big brother out of the way again'."

What should have been a deadly serious conversation had degenerated into corny jokes and one liners that would've made even the most patient comedian groan in pain.

One thing was quite clear to them and came as a sort of comfort: they both had self-esteem issues, which meant they had something in common.

Sam had a good laugh at that one.

And it seemed to bring them back in full circle to a slightly more serious note, though not for long.



"Sam..."

"Yeah, I know. Me too."

"You didn't even know what I was gonna say bitch!"

"Wanna bet on that Jerk?"

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Author's notes:

Had this little one hopping around in my brain for a few days begging for a carrot, and it just refused to let go. So in order to ensure a decent night's sleep (after being on call again) I just had to get it out.

Hope you enjoyed it. Please R&R.

Kind regards,

ST.xxx.