Down and Out

Incapacitated by a vicious head injury, Sam watches Dean take care of him and learns a thing or two about his brother.

Set during Season 1.

Disclaimer: Not mine in any way, shape or form.

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Sam stared out the motel room window morosely. Oh look, it's raining again. Now there's a shock.

Dean was still at the bar earning their keep though in truth Sam knew his brother just wanted to get away from him for a little while. The last hunt had been physically and emotionally draining for both boys and neither one was keen to talk about it. Dean had been particularly grumpy and snapped at Sam one too many times, until Sam's patience had finally been gnawed right the way through and gave his brother the opening he needed. He'd virtually drop-kicked Dean from the room and watched in anger-tinged sadness as his brother headed off towards the bar a little too eagerly in Sam's view. Since Sam had been kidnapped and held prisoner in a cage by a bunch of crazy hicks Dean's big brother protective mode had become insufferable during the weeks that followed. Until last night, that is, when Sam had dropped the ball on the hunt and nearly gotten his brother killed. Guilt ate at him like acid. He hadn't notice the spirit was so close until he turned back a split second before Dean went sailing out the window, ten stories up. To have survived the fall was one thing, but to walk away with no injuries was quite another, and that was the real source of the tension between the boys.

Sam had darted over to the window, heart pounding painfully in his chest, helpless despair unravelling his mind, and Dean just…..stopped falling.

His brother didn't hit the ground, just seemed to float above it for a second then was slowly lowered, unharmed, to his feet. The shock on Dean's face was almost comical, but when he looked up at the window, Sam realised he knew.

He knew.

And now his brother was afraid of him.

And it hurt.

It was definite evidence that Dean hadn't quite believed what Sam told him about what happened in Max's house.

Yet still neither would talk about it. Sam swiped furiously at the salt water tracks on his face. Things would never be the same between Dean and Sam again, and just when Sam thought they were closer than ever before, fighting by each other's side just as their father intended, wherever the hell he was. He couldn't blame Dean, not really, because if Sam were honest he was also pretty scared of himself. Ridiculous as that sounded.

Glancing at his watch, Sam frowned. His brother should've been back by now. Grabbing his jacket in one hand and swinging the motel door open with the other, Sam headed out to find Dean, hoping to Christ he wasn't too drunk to walk straight.

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Dean sat at the bar, grinning stupidly and knocking back another shot of vodka. It wasn't his usual brew but he needed a change, and besides, he'd drunk the bar clean out of Jack Daniel's hours ago. He'd won around a hundred and fifty bucks at pool, which was enough to cover at least the bar tab and the hotel room for the night, and pay for breakfast tomorrow. After all, it wasn't like Sam was a big eater….

His thoughts trailed off a little when his younger brother came to mind and the smile well and truly slipped. What was all this really costing him? Sam's visions obviously hurt like hell so this telekinesis crap had to be killing him, though he hadn't seen any sign of pain in his brother's eyes at the time, just fear and shock.

Someone was standing next to him at the bar and he raised his blurry eyes up, and up again until a concerned face swum into view.

"Saammm?"

"Come on Dean. Let's get you back to the room."

"Nuhuhhh….'nother drinnnk…"

"I think you've had enough, Dean." Without waiting for a reply Sam gently hauled his brother up off the bar stool and proceeded to drag him towards the door. Dean's violent reaction was completely unexpected and Sam was suddenly looking up at his brother from the floor, hurt written plainly across his face.

Dean swallowed back his guilt, feeling way too sober for this. He raised a finger, pointing at Sam.

"I will decide when I've had enough!" Shooting eye-daggers at his little brother and not really understanding why he fired out "Don't ever touch me again! Not with your hands or that freakish mind of yours!" Ok, not so sober. He hadn't meant to put it like that, hadn't meant it the way it sounded but it was too late to put things right, because the hurt on Sam's features suddenly reached his eyes and he was heaving in a shaky breath, up on his feet and striding out the bar without looking back.

Dean hung his head wearily. I'm so sorry Sammy.

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That was four days ago.

Four days.

Sam had been gone, missing for four days without a trace. He wasn't answering his cell phone. Pastor Jim hadn't seen or heard from him, though he threatened to pray for his safe return, and John Winchester was about as receptive as a brick wall where voice mail was concerned.

At first Dean assumed his brother had been so hurt that he'd just upped and left, but Sam's possessions were still back at the motel room as though he were due back any second. No, Sam had been taken against his will again and Dean had the terrifying notion that he was fast running out of time.

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Sam opened bleary eyes and blinked slowly. His eye lashes felt crusty, his mouth felt like a bird had crapped in it, and his head….oh God his head hurt like a bitch.

But when Sam sat up slowly, nothing hurt. Not a damn thing. He felt weird.

"Huh." Why did his voice sound so strange, as though it were coming from the bottom of a tomb? And why did he have a memory of leaving the bar after a fight with Dean, only to hear glass shattering and feel a terrible pain on the side of his head? A terrifying suspicion formed at the back of his mind as he stood up, and slowly turned round.

Oh God!

Sam was staring at himself, sprawled out on his back, blood crusting the entire left side of his head and face.

"Uh…" Sam stumbled backwards in shock, and it was then that his surroundings caught up with him. He, or rather his body was lying in what appeared to be some kind of storm drain. Dead, rotten leaves and other detritus Sam didn't want to think about covered the floor and gave off the sort of smell that would normally be associated with a cesspit.

So does that mean I'm dead? How did I get here? Where's Dean? A host of other questions lined up demanding attention, but the first one was more insistent than the rest.

Sam crept closer to his body and studied his own face. Reaching out a hand he almost cried out when it passed straight through. Snatching his hand back as though burned, he watched with some relief as his chest rose and fell unhindered.

"Guess that answers that question." Now on to the next one. He vaguely remembered a storm drain outside the bar, so little wonder the smell was so familiar.

And where was his brother? That led onto another memory and a painful one at that. Sam dropped his gaze back to his body. After what Dean said to him that night he wondered if his big brother would even bother looking for him.

"No. He would, and he will. He'll find me and he'll fix this. I know he will."

Sam didn't want to stray too far from his body, not fully understanding how this stuff really worked; if he were to climb out of the drain and go to Dean would it sever the link from his body forever? He didn't want to risk it.

His frantic thoughts were rudely interrupted by a ringing noise and he recognised it as his cell phone.

"Please let it be Dean, please let it be Dean…" But there was no way of knowing and Sam couldn't just reach into his pocket and check the caller ID, and he certainly couldn't answer the call. "Damnit!"

Although his body was clearly alive, Sam had no idea how long for or how badly injured he was. Frustration ripped through him and he wanted to kick something, except his foot would've passed straight through it and that wouldn't have helped to abate Sam's steadily growing panic.

"It can't end like this, it can't!"

The cell phone fell silent and Sam sank down, drew his knees to his chest and rested his head on his arms, miserably rocking to and fro. The cell phone rang every few minutes after that, and each time Sam felt his hopes wither and die just a little more.

He had no idea how much time had passed but the phone's incessant ring tone was starting to irritate him. He ranted and raged at it to just. Shut. The. Fuck. Up!

Worst of all, his tantrum nearly caused him to miss the voice coming from the world above.

"Have you seen my brother? He was here with me a few nights ago; you might remember us. Uh…we kinda got into an argument and I pushed him to the floor."

Another voice answered. "Sorry, I haven't seen him. Have you tried the diner across the street?"

"Yeah, thanks I will." Sam could picture the grim smile on Dean's face, the features pinched tight with worry.

"Dean! I'm right here!" He had no idea why because it wasn't going to do him any good, but he was jumping up and down in the storm drain, silently screaming his brother's name. His heart sank when it seemed as though his brother was moving on.

Then a miracle happened.

Sam's cell phone rang again.

"Sammy? You there kiddo? Answer me! Are you hurt?"

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Dean decided to try the bar one last time. It was the last place anyone remembered seeing Sam; someone had to know something. Trudging dejectedly along the sidewalk he caught sight of the barman from a few nights ago, sweeping up broken glass that appeared to be covered in blood. Dean winced. Whatever had happened it sure must've hurt.

A brief conversation later and Dean was about to consider the barman's suggestion of trying the diner, when he sighed deeply. He was tired and out of ideas, but he couldn't just give up. Sam could be lying somewhere, hurt and alone or worse…don't go there.

He shivered suddenly; he'd heard the phrase 'someone walked over my grave' many times in his life, even had plenty of experience of the creepy sensations, but not like this. It felt as though someone was trying to talk to him but it was too faint to make out the voice let alone the words. Despair rolled over him in waves as he pulled his cell phone out and made one last desperate attempt to contact Sam.

When he heard his brother's ring tone rising up from below Dean nearly dropped his phone in shock.

What the hell?

"Sammy? You there kiddo? Answer me! Are you hurt?"

Keeping his own cell close to his ear in case Sam answered, Dean followed the noise to the edge of the road. Right to a storm drain. There was just enough of a gap for a fully grown adult to slide their body through, and Dean could hear the ringing loud and clear by now.

"Sam!" Dean lay on the road and grunted as he pushed himself through, rolled and landed on his feet in the darkness. The only light came from above at road level but Dean could still make out his brother's unmoving form. He flipped his phone closed, ending the call.

"Sammy?" No answer. Sam lay on his back, head rolled to one side and covered in blood. Dean dropped to his knees, checking his brother's pulse and breathing, horrified at the wound on Sam's head. He shook him gently. "Come on Sam, wake up for me, and let me know you're ok." Still no response. Sam was well and truly out, his skin icy cold probably from lying out here all this time.

A slight pressure on his shoulder stilled his actions and his gaze shot round the drain in confusion. Oddly enough, he didn't feel afraid. The touch or whatever it was hadn't felt threatening; in fact it was more of a comfort.

Weird.

He decided to let it go for now. Sam needed help and Dean was just wasting time.

"Ok buddy, let's getcha outta here." Dean slid a hand under Sam's back and cradled him against his chest, his worry increasing tenfold when the only answering movement was Sam's arms falling limply to his sides, his head lolling onto Dean's shoulder.

Dean swallowed back a sob at Sam's lifeless body and hooked his other arm under his little brother's knees. Judging by the state of him he'd been lying down here for a while, possibly since he went missing four days ago.

Shit. Four days.

Hoisting Sam up more securely in his arms, Dean rose unsteadily to his feet under his brother's weight and headed off into the darkness to find an exit. "You're gonna be ok Sammy. I'll get you back to the motel, clean you up, get you warm again, and then we're gonna have a talk about little brothers who keep disappearin' on me."

He didn't spot the forlorn looking almost-shadow that followed silently.

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"Oh thank God you're here. You found me!"Sam watched his big brother checking him over with a tenderness that surprised him. Shifting round, Sam tried to lay a hand on Dean's shoulder and smiled sadly when Dean stared straight through him. "I'm still here Dean, I just don't know how to get back to you. Please don't give up on me."

The look on Dean's face astounded Sam. He'd expected concern and maybe even a little anger, but the utter desolation and fear was heartbreaking. The last time Sam had seen that on his big brother's face was ten years ago, when Sam had been knocked down by a car right in front of him. Barely conscious and badly injured, twelve year old Sam had groggily stared into Dean's eyes wondering why he was crying and begging him to stay awake.

It was like that now, only Dean wasn't crying. He was busy picking up Sam's body and holding him close, whispering gentle encouragement, telling him it was going to be all right.

Sam really wanted to believe him. And when Dean set off Sam followed. He always followed his big brother.

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Dean sat listening to the quiet but steady breathing as he bathed Sam's head wound, gently scraping away the layers of dried blood and dirt. Finding an exit from the drain had proved tricky and Dean had resorted to finding a place where the drain wasn't so deep, then pushing his brother out ahead of him on to the road. A young mother stared at him in shock as Dean poked his head out of the gap and grinned at her toddler. The woman snatched up her daughter and backed away before turning and virtually running back into the grocery store.

He couldn't really blame her. Not only must it have come as a surprise to find a strange man climbing out of the storm drain, but in full daylight Sam was quite a sight; the blood stood out against his pale flesh, crusted in his hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, and stained the collar of his jacket.

"Jesus Sammy, what the hell did they hit you with?"

Dean was certain this was no accidental trip down a storm drain. Someone had attacked his little brother. Once he got him back to the motel room he'd checked Sam's pockets and realised his wallet was missing. They hadn't taken Sam's phone, obviously only interested in pure hard cash.

As for what they'd hit Sam over the head with, Dean was about to find that out. Once the wound was cleaned up enough for an examination, Dean's hand gently carded through Sam's hair, fingers brushing over something hard, sharp and brittle.

Oh Christ please don't let that be Sam's skull.

It wasn't, he quickly realised as he leaned in for a closer look. His eyes tracked the deep cut and soon spotted the edge of an evil looking shard of green glass.

A beer bottle.

An image of the barman sweeping up the bloodstained glass on the sidewalk came to mind.

Sam had been hit over the head by a beer bottle hard enough for a large piece to become deeply embedded. And it had to come out.

Dean got to work sterilising forceps, disinfecting the wound, and talking to Sam the whole time.

"You gotta start wearing a hard hat whenever you go out, Sam. This getting whacked over the head has got to stop before you really get hurt." He spoke softly, tenderly to his unconscious brother, muttering on in a soothing voice as he worked, stopping occasionally to stroke Sam's hair or to study his face for any sign of coming round. He talked about when they were kids, the prank wars, their father, some of the hunts they'd been on, anything just so Sam could hear his voice and know he was safe.

"Ya know whenever you lost a tooth and placed it under your pillow, hoping to get a dollar from the tooth fairy?" Dean chuckled lightly. "That was me, my allowance. Yeah, sure am glad you're unconscious Sammy, 'cos I just know you wouldn't let me live that one down. Your big brother, the tooth fairy."

He started in on the hard part. Removing the glass.

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Sam stared at Dean, sadness and love filling him.

"You did that for me? Every time?" He was pretty sure if he had physical tear ducts they'd be full about now. "Dean, I don't know what to say…"

Sam continued gaping but moved closer. He'd spent the first few minutes sitting on the floor by the window, just watching and listening, but now he wanted to be nearer to his brother.

Dean went silent as he concentrated on using the forceps, and Sam winced at the phantom pain that spiked through him. He heard Dean swear anxiously and peered over his shoulder.

"Damnit Sam, there's too much blood here. Can't see what I'm doin'!" Dean reached over to the nightstand and ripped open a sterile package, using the contents to wipe up the excess blood. "Ok. I'm gonna give this one shot only and if it won't come out, then off it's to the ER for you kiddo." He glanced at Sam's pale face. "But then at least you'll be at home huh? Spent half your goddamn life in one." Dean went back to his unenviable task. He hissed in sympathy when he felt the shard move, "Sorry Sammy, I know this must hurt. Always did hate seein' ya in pain little bro."

"Can't feel much Dean not where I am right now, so quit worrying about me. You're here, I'm here. That's all that matters."

It wasn't easy but Dean eventually worked the glass free with a small sickening squelch, and blood ran freely once again. Dean hastily mopped it up, bathed the cut in peroxide solution, and once the bleeding was under control started stitching.

When the job was finished Dean started cleaning up, wiping the blood from Sam's neck and bandaging his head. The next step was to get Sam rehydrated. It was becoming more and more likely to Dean that Sam had been lying unconscious in that storm drain for the full four days and probably needed some fluids inside him, so he had a good rummage through the cooler and found some bottled water. Twisting off the cap he tipped some into Sam's mouth then massaged his throat. To Dean's utter relief Sam's natural swallowing reflex came to the forefront, and pretty soon the bottle was empty.

"Attaboy Sammy." Dean whispered softly in his ear.

Sam smiled to himself as he watched Dean handle his body with such care, especially when he reached out and ran a thumb gently over Sam's bottom lip, wiping away a small droplet of water. Dean hadn't behaved this way since they were kids.

"I really should wait for you to wake up before saying this but what I said in the bar that night," Dean paused as if checking to see if Sam would awaken mid sentence. "I never meant….uh….shit…I'm scared for you, all right? I've seen the agony you're in when you have a vision, I just don't wanna be the one to cause you anymore pain." Dean scratched his head. "I never thanked you though, for saving my life. Whatever freaky stuff your mind can do, I'll always be grateful for that."

"The pain doesn't matter to me, so long as you're ok. And you're welcome bro. Always."

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Waking up from a brief doze, Dean leaned into Sam's ear once more. "Time to wake up now Sam. Please kiddo, don't scare me anymore tonight."

"I want to Dean, but I don't know what's wrong. I don't know how to get back in my body." Sam had attempted it a few times over the hours since Dean brought him back to their room. He'd tried leaping in, like he'd seen in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, and all he'd managed to do was fall straight through the bed. He might've laughed if it weren't for the dust bunnies, dead spiders and mouse droppings he found down there; it was the one and only time he was damn glad not to be corporeal. Pushing it from his mind he'd tried again with about as much success.

The thought occurred that he hadn't slept since he came out of the bar, maybe he could try that. Surely spirits needed to rest, didn't they? And Sam was pretty sure that's what he was. 

Yeah, some emotional time out perhaps. He just knew he had to try anything to get back in his body before Dean dragged him to the nearest hospital, whereupon he would be separated from his brother for lengthy tests and examinations and right now Sam couldn't think of anything worse; he needed his big brother with him because Sam was terrified of what was happening.

Dean was soon snoozing away again, head resting on Sam's bed, shoulders tense and hunched even in sleep as if a part of him was always awake, waiting for Sam.

"Oh God Dean, supposing this is it. What if I'm in a coma and I'm not going to wake up?" Sam wanted to cry, to panic, but instead got himself under control, stretched out on the grimy carpet, and thanked whatever rules governed the ethereal planes that he didn't sink right through the floor. Closing his 'eyes' and clearing his 'mind' Sam managed to relax for the first time in four days.

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Sam moaned softly as pain shot through his head. He tried to open his eyes but they refused to budge, even though someone was gripping his hand and talking at him incessantly, urging him to wake up. It took him a few seconds to realise it was Dean, and even longer to realise that Dean was talking to him. To Sam. Not a body on the bed.

Sam opened his mouth with a small involuntary sigh. "Deeaann…"

"I'm here Sammy. Open your eyes for me little bro." Dean coaxed him gently; his voice kept soft and low for Sam's sake. "You scared the crap outta me but you're gonna be ok."

Sam desperately gathered enough strength for the final push and wrenched open his eyelids to half mast. His brother's green eyes watched him worriedly but at the same time a smile was slowly forming.

Sam rolled his head to the side to get a better look at his sibling and winced, tears spilling over his lashes from the pain. He scrunched his eyes shut and tried to breathe through it, whimpering softly.

"Easy Sammy. You've been out for a long while so just take it nice and slow." Dean softened his voice even further and reached out to stroke his hair, calming him like he used to when Sam was a baby. "Do you remember what happened to you?"

"No." Sam whispered sluggishly, eyes still only half open. "Just pain…in my head."

"Found you in a storm drain outside the bar," Dean's eyes filled with anguish. "You'd been missing for days since we….since we argued. I think you were mugged. Someone glassed you with a beer bottle, left a chunk of it in your head. They must've robbed you then just stuffed you in the drain. I only found you 'cos I heard your cell phone ringing."

Sam blinked and nodded slowly. He was remembering a damn site more than he let on, but he didn't want to freak his brother out. It seemed that the impact of the bottle had knocked him out of his body, but the removal of the glass from his head had allowed him back in after a fashion, and now that he was no longer faced with talking to a brother that couldn't hear him, or attempting to re-enter his body by jumping from the headboard only to sink through the mattress, he felt fresh tears forming. Only this time they were from relief and exhaustion.

Dean misinterpreted his sudden breakdown. "Hey kiddo, it's all right ya know? As for that night in the bar, look…I shouldn't have said that ok? I didn't mean…"

Sam weakly held out a hand to halt him. "You don't have to explain, I understand. I should have realised it then. You're just worried about me, but Dean, you don't have to ok? Yeah sure it hurts when I get a vision, but I don't think I'm actually being harmed. As for the TK stuff, there's no pain at all. It just…happens."

Dean stayed silent for a long moment, just staring at Sam as if trying to gauge his honesty.

He wouldn't put it passed his little brother to lie his ass off just to keep big brother from worrying. Newsflash Sammy, I'm always gonna worry 'boucha.

Something occurred to Dean. "You reading my mind now Sam? All that stuff about the visions and pain…" His eyes narrowed a little. "Were you awake at all over the last few hours?"

Sam smiled gently. "Nah, I just know how you're mind works. You're like an open book sometimes."

Dean snorted "Yeah, right. That's how you knew about the itching powder I poured into your boxers. Dude, you totally had no idea what that was about until I spoke up!"

"I knew you had something to do with, I mean Jesus! It felt like I had an ant farm in my underwear!" Sam grimaced again and lowered his voice. "Had your name written all over it."

"What the prank? Or your underwear?" Dean grinned a little smugly at the memory of Sam's squirming, and he straightened his kid brother's blankets, pulling them up to his chin to keep him warm.

"Man, I'm not even gonna dignify it." Sam muttered, feeling his eyes sliding closed against his will. He wanted to stay awake so badly to carrying on talking to Dean, afraid that he wouldn't wake up again.

"Go to sleep Sammy," Dean whispered, eyebrows pulled down into a frown on seeing Sam's struggle. "I'll wake ya in a couple hours."

"Uhhuuhhh!" Sam slurred out, then opened one eye to glare at him. "Jus' stay outtttaaa mmmmyy boxxxerss…Jerk!"

Dean looked horrified at the thought. "I don't wanna go anywhere near your boxers, bitch! Aint nothin' in them I wanna know about!"

Eyes fully closed now, Sam nevertheless grinned happily and slipped his hand into Dean's, gave a quick squeeze then let go, falling into a deep but normal sleep.

Dean grabbed a beer from the cooler, turned on the TV, volume low, and relaxed. Every now and then he leaned over his little brother to check he was still there, still breathing.

Dean never wanted to let Sam out of his sight again; somehow this disappearance was worse than when Sam had been kidnapped by the Benders. Sure the kid hadn't been hurt unlike this time round, but that family were a bunch of sick, twisted psychos and anything could've happened.

But this?

A beer bottle and a storm drain.

Who'd have thought it?



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Author's notes:

Pure unmitigated Limp Sam and brotherly love. Oh dear. There's really no excuse for my behaviour...

Let me know if you like! If not, do me a favour and stay quiet: none of us want our fantasy spoiled.

Kind regards,

ST.xxx.