Chapter 10

Notes: Wow guys, I'm totally speechless (which, if you know me, is almost an impossibility LOL). The response to this little fic has been absolutely phenomenal and I'm so humbled by your wonderful generosity. Thanks to every single one of you for your wonderful reviews, PM's, fav's and alerts. So here it finally is, chapter 10 - I hope it rounds off the story the way I imagined, and hopefully the way you imagined … and as always, please enjoy ;)

Once again, sorry for the heinous delay … I have been suffering from the worst case of writers block and if it weren't for my support team … this chapter may never have happened LOL ;) – so thanks to my wonderfully talented, cheerleading and generous beta's Phoebe, Amarintha and Kelly, who've been trying to keep me commonsensical. Extra thanks to SciFiRN for her amazing medical knowledge, Wendy and her infamous 'feather plucker' to threaten my muse with and Lizz, your awesome on-set photo's totally made my day!

(Just a small reminder for those who have asked, Sam is 17, Dean almost 22)

Warning: Language

Sammy's POV


Oh god … I have to get to him … have to be with him. He needs me.

My legs are cramping slightly as I watch the nurses unhook me from the monitors and equipment. I squint as they remove the leads on my chest; my head still throbbing mercilessly as I absently rub at my forehead. The right side of my face is tender, but at least now I can finally see through my swollen black eye.

Jim has a steadying hand on my shoulder, but his face is full of concern, which fills me with unimaginable dread. I suck air through my teeth, oxygen mask still covering my face, the panicky feeling becoming more intense as each second passes.

What the hell is taking so long?

"Hold on, Sam, we'll be with him shortly, kid, just take it easy."

I give Jim a shaky smile, hot tears starting to burn behind my eyes. I hurt all over and I feel sick with anxiety, and not for the first time I notice that my hands are fisted tightly in the sheets. I try to relax, a steady mantra playing in my head.

Don't let him die … please … please.

I take another shuddering breath. I'm the reason this happened … Dean wouldn't be here if it weren't for me. He sacrifices everything for me, everything … and I won't, I can't let saving me be his final sacrifice … I can't live with that … I need him too much.

I fight the frustration as I watch them unhook the IV bag. God, could they go any slower?

It seems stupid, but I have a strong feeling that being near Dean will somehow make things right, help him get better. We've been close our whole lives Dean has always been more than just a brother to me. He's been my teacher, my protector, and the father Dad never was. That's what makes this so hard, knowing that his sudden downhill turn is probably my fault, mine and Dad's. Damnit. Maybe if we hadn't been arguing again … maybe if Dad had been with Dean instead of with me … god, I remember that look on his face … the look of betrayal. I bite my lip, trying to stop the trembling. Why is it that every time Dad and I fight, Dean seems to be the one who gets the raw end of the deal?

My thoughts are interrupted as they thankfully start pushing the bed out, Jim's hand still resting on my arm as we make our way down the passage. It feels like an eternity, but they finally wheel me into Dean's room, my eyes immediately locking onto his shivering form, my throat tightening.

The doc is listening to Dean's lungs with a stethoscope and I'm finally able to see some of Dean's injuries. His darkly bruised chest is expanding weakly as he gasps in each labored breath. Doctor Webber is talking to Dad, but they both look up as I enter. Dad's eyes fix on mine for a brief second, and I can see the intense fear that he isn't even trying to hide from me anymore.

Oh god … is it that bad?

Doctor Webber is talking, and I try to listen while at the same time watching my brother for any signs of consciousness.

"Thankfully his lungs are still clear … we'll keep monitoring him, John … he's not out of the woods yet."

I'm getting more anxious and impatient as they move me closer to set my bed up next to my brother, my left arm stretching out to make contact, but he's still irritatingly out of my reach.

My eyes roam over his shivering form. Most of his body is still covered in bandages and dressings. His damaged knee is cushioned on a pillow, the brace encasing and stabilizing the break in his leg. Every bit of his body I can see is covered in a fine sheen of sweat - a blanket is loosely draped over his lower body, but I'm sure he's sweating under there too. I pull at the oxygen mask covering my face, letting it drop next to me as I wheeze.

"Dean? Dean?"

I try to push myself up again, leaning over, but Jim still has a firm hand on me, hampering my progress.

"Easy, Sam … let them work."

Dad has moved out of the way with Webber as they set up the equipment around my bed. But my attention is completely focused on Dean, who still isn't responding to my desperate pleas.

"Please, Dean … open your eyes."

Fear is making me reckless as I stretch over, trying to reach his arm, I need that solid connection, hissing as pain flares up my back. Dad moves to the foot of my bed, his hand settling on my leg, his voice gentle but stern.

"Sam, you need to calm down, son. I don't think he can hear you."

"Why, Dad? What's wrong with him, why isn't he waking up?"

Dad looks at me nervously, almost like he doesn't want to answer.

"He's very sick, kiddo, the high fever is draining him, making him weaker and they're still trying to get his blood pressure back up."

I shake my head in confusion, my voice breaking as I look at my brother, god, he looks awful. He looks like he's … no … no, I won't accept that.

"I thought he was getting better! Did getting out of bed do this to him?"

The orderly shifts our beds closer and I instantly reach over to grip my brother's wrist, feeling the fluttering pulse beneath my fingers. His skin is so warm, too warm.

"It's not uncommon for patients to suddenly deteriorate postoperatively, Sam, but Dean is strong, he'll pull through this."

I look at Webber, swallowing painfully while still gently squeezing Dean's wrist, trying to relay some of my own strength to him with that touch. The haunting memories of the unmarked grave are still flashing through my mind.

"He's going to be okay though, right?"

The sad looks I'm getting from everyone make me want to scream in frustration and denial. I choose to ignore them, instead returning my full attention to Dean. I won't give up on him.

"You need to fight … please, Dean … I know you're tired, but you can do this."

The doc moves quietly out into the passage with Dad, talking in muted tones, probably so I won't hear. I'm getting seriously pissed. I have a right to know what's wrong with my brother, so I strain to listen in on their conversation.

"… effects of the Amyl Nitrate … out of his system … supportive treatment …"

My eyes move to Jim, he's also watching the exchange, listening in.

"… nurse … reprimanded … launching a formal inquiry ..."

My brow furrows. Nurse? Formal inquiry? What the hell is he talking about? I grunt as I try to shift myself into a more comfortable position, my back spasming from the awkward angle I'm lying in. My legs aren't co-operating either, they still feel slightly numb. Jim meets my gaze, he knows I've heard, glancing uncertainly towards Dad again.

"What's going on, Jim, what happened, what aren't they telling me?"

He sighs, his hand coming to rest on my forehead.

"Damnit, kiddo, your Dad is probably going to tear me a new one for doing this, still I think it's best you know … just promise to stay calm, okay?"

I nod. I'm so far from calm right now, swallowing nervously as he continues.

"Both you and your brother's injuries are very serious. Dean also had a first rib fracture which was severe … in fact, the trauma you boys suffered was extensive. We nearly lost you both."

I nod my head again, he's not revealing anything new to me. I've been harassing the medical staff and Dad on Dean's condition ever since I woke up. I know exactly what injuries we've both sustained.

"Well Dean also had a bit of a reaction to some medication he was given after he collapsed in your room."

My heart nearly stops … god, it wasn't penicillin, I told them … oh shit, at least I think I did … was I dreaming it? Did I dream telling them about Dean's reaction? But the doc mentioned Amyl-something-or-other, they said it was out of his system. My throat is suddenly dry.

"What they gave him aggravated his symptoms, messed with his blood pressure … but that's not the only reason for your brother's condition now."

I take a steadying breath, my thumb has automatically started making circles over the top surface of Dean's hand.

"Sam … it's almost as if Dean has lost his will to live. He's not fighting."

I look at Jim stupidly for a moment, blinking.

"What? Dean would never, ever give up. He's a fighter – his whole life, Jim. He's a fighter!"

But Jim's voice is eerily calm, and I know … I know what he's saying must be true. But why? How could things possibly have become so bad in such a short time?

"He's tired, Sam … and his body's weak … that combination … it's why …"

He stops, looking at me nervously, not sure if he should continue.

"… it's why a reaper has latched onto him …"

My eyes widen in shock at his confession.

"A reaper?"

Oh shit … the implications hit home with full force. How am I supposed to fix this? How do I fight death? I suddenly find I can't breathe. I try desperately to pull oxygen into my lungs, panic setting in as I feel my throat and chest tighten. I hear Jim calling for the doctor, urging me to calm down. But I can't calm down … there's a reaper and it's after my brother … god, what do I do? I watch as Dad and Doctor Webber rush to my side, my chest cramping as I struggle to regain control, eyes scrunching shut as I huff in each desperate breath.

"Goddamnit, Jim, what the hell did you tell him?"

"Everything … he needs to know, John … he may be the only one who can get through to Dean now."

"Sonnavabitch …"

Dad pushes past Jim, sitting on the bed next to me, his hand instantly on my chest, making soothing circles … circles that still have a calming effect on me.

"Sammy, take it easy, OK? Breathe easy … that's it."

"It's okay … I'm okay."

I groan, my lungs aching, as Doctor Webber injects something into my IV. God, I hope it's not something to knock me out … I need to be awake, need to keep an eye on Dean … protect him.

"You okay there, kiddo?"

I nod my head tiredly as I catch my breath, glancing at Dean. Tears start clouding my vision as I watch one of the nurses come in to wipe him down with a cool cloth before adjusting a few gel packs against his heated skin.

"Sam, are you sure you're okay? Are you in any pain?"

I shake my head as the doc checks me over worriedly.

"Okay … I know this is a lot for you to handle right now, but I don't want you over exerting yourself or getting upset … I'll sedate you if I have to. You're still healing and I don't want anything else jeopardizing your recovery … understand?"

I give him a slight nod. The doc has a no nonsense attitude that reminds me a lot of Dad. He moves over to check on Dean again, a stern look on his face. When he's satisfied that we're both stable, he leaves to order more test results from the lab. I finally have a few moments alone to talk to Jim and Dad. My throat is aching as I try to find my voice.

"There must be something we can do … how do we help Dean fight this?"

Jim is standing by the window, ignoring the dirty looks Dad keeps throwing his way.

"There's no answer to your question Sam … I've been through this with your Dad already, there isn't much we can do. The only person who can defeat this thing is Dean, and he needs to make a choice. He has to want to live and find the will to return to us."

Dad is pacing near the foot of my bed, but he stops to glare at Jim again.

"Jim … so help me …"

I can see Dad is on the verge of blowing a fuse, I know that look, so I try to contain the situation.

"It's okay, Dad, I'm okay ... I just need to know the truth."

My words are full of conviction but I'm still in serious denial, I don't want to believe that Dean would leave me, not on purpose. But having a life sucking force like a reaper in the room certainly isn't helping, and there's no denying the fact that I'm watching my big brother deteriorate before my eyes.

From what I know of reapers, they can't be killed … you can't kill death. The only way to help Dean is to give him a reason to live, to fight ... and there's only one thing that I know with a certainty Dean will fight for, one thing that he is the most afraid of losing … me.

Dad and Jim have started a heated debate on how to deal with this situation, hissing at each other as they try to keep their voices low and their tempers in check. I turn my head carefully to look at Dean's profile, watching silently as sweat pools at the base of his throat, his erratic pulse fluttering wildly in his neck. He suddenly starts moaning softly, eyes darting restlessly behind closed lids. I squeeze his wrist in encouragement, watching with surprised relief as his eyelids flutter, and then slowly open.


My voice is so soft that even I barely hear it. I'm watching his every movement, hoping he'll turn his head and look at me. I squeeze his wrist again, trying to get his attention, but his glassy gaze is staring at some point above him. His lips are moving soundlessly, like he's trying to speak, his brow furrowed in confusion. Something feels terribly wrong.


He doesn't answer, the argument with Jim is becoming more heated, Jim insisting that Dad is a hot-headed-sonnavabitch and Dad insisting Jim is a holier-than-thou-moron, so I turn my head to look at him, his eyes are blazing, face red. I try again.

"Dad, I think he's awake."

He finally hears me, his eyes quickly following mine to Dean, and he instantly moves over to his side. Dean doesn't seem to notice though, his gaze tracking something, something only he can see. Jim seems to understand what is happening before we do.

"Oh god … I think he can see it …"

Dad's eyes widen, he knows as well as I do what Jim means. He desperately clamps his hand behind Dean's neck, leaning forward.

"Dean … look at me, son … you keep your eyes on me … there's nothing there, you hear … it's just me and Sammy, kiddo … look at me, Dean."

He doesn't respond to Dad's voice, lost to his own fevered visions and I can feel it, actually feel him losing his tentative grip on life, but I won't let him.

Dad has gently clamped his fingers on Dean's stubbled jaw, turning his head slightly to try and get his attention, but Dean doesn't see him, sightless eyes staring straight ahead, a deep frown on his face, uneven breaths wisping past his dry lips.

Dad turns to Jim for help, their argument forgotten.

"Damnit, what do I do?"

Jim is rubbing his forehead as he tries to think, but we all know that there isn't anything we can do. As much as I hate admitting it, this is Dean's battle … and even though I'd do anything to fight it for him … knowing that I can't leaves me feeling helpless and frustrated. Dad looks around the room challengingly, almost like he's hoping to somehow see the invisible force that is threatening to take Dean away from us.


Dad's sudden loss of control makes me jerk in surprise, staring at him in wide eyed shock. He pulls Dean closer into a half embrace, burying Dean's face against his chest, seeming to breathe in the scent of him. He holds onto my brother in silent desperation, like he can somehow keep him rooted to life. He's crying softly, his voice strained and I bite my trembling lip, my hand holding onto Dean's with the same desperation.

"You hear me? You sonnavabitch … you can't have him … you can't have him!"

Dad wraps his arms carefully behind and around Dean, his eyelids fluttering as tremors continue to run through his feverish body. Dad holds onto him like a lifeline, his choked sobs bringing tears to my own eyes. I don't think I've ever seen Dad cry like this. Dean says that when Mom died, he remembers Dad weeping, when he thought Dean was asleep and couldn't hear. I don't remember Mom, so losing her was never as painful to me as it was for Dad and Dean … but if I lose my brother now … I can already feel the hollowness that grief evokes deep inside my soul. I've never lost someone I love … the heart broken feelings from my vision suddenly bombarding me … I can't lose Dean.

I blink, letting my tears fall next to me on my pillow. Jim has started moving around the room, placing religious and ancient sigils at each corner, incanting something under his breath which I assume is a blessing, trying in his own unique way to ward off the reaper.

After a few minutes, he finally moves over to put his hand on Dad's shoulder. Dad lifts his head wearily, eyes red and puffy, but he's already pulled himself together, that ever present determined look back on his face.

"I don't feel it in the room anymore, John, but it will return. Those sigils won't keep it away forever, but at least for now it will give Dean some time. I hope he's strong enough to fight, find his way back."

Jim always has a calming effect on the people around him … on Dean, too, apparently, because he seems to settle when Jim's hand rests on his forehead, his eyes finally closing as he slips back into unconsciousness.

"Thanks, Jim …"

Dad's voice is rough with emotion, a silent look passes between them as he scrubs at his face, letting his hand trail to his chin. He's shaking slightly, and for the first time I realize how tired he must be. The obvious stress he is under evident in the deep lines on his forehead and the dark smudges under his eyes.

"Sammy, Jim's gonna stay with you for a while. I need to do some research, find Doctor Webber … try and get some answers … you just rest, son, you look tired. Jim will keep an eye on you and Dean while you sleep."

"I don't want to sleep, Dad."

My stifled yawn betrays my words, and Dad grins down at me as he stands up to leave.

"I know, kiddo … but if you want to close your eyes for a few minutes, you can. Jim will be here … he'll protect you both."

I nod, exhaustion finally catching up with me. I watch Dad leave, wanting him to stay, wanting him to give me some much needed reassurances … but knowing he won't. Jim pulls up a chair to sit next me. My heavy eyes lock on Dean's face again, watching the sweat trickle down his fevered brow, short breaths racing in rhythm with his heart monitor, too fast. I lose the battle to keep my eyes open, a soft whisper on my lips as I'm pulled into weary sleep.

"Dean … don't you dare … don't you dare leave us!"

It's a soft droning voice that wakes me. I blink owlishly as I try to focus, trying to find Dad, but it's Jim who is standing next to Dean's bed, head bowed, open bible in his one hand.

I watch him mutely for a second, trying to connect what my eyes are seeing with reality, fear instantly gripping my heart when I realize what he's doing. He's anointing Dean's forehead with blessed oil, praying, "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit."

He moves to Dean's hands, the prayer still on his lips, "May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up".

Sick awareness dawns on me. It's the Extreme Unction, the final anointing. He's giving Dean last rites.

"No …" My voice is a strained whisper.

"Through this holy unction and His own most tender mercy may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed by sight, by hearing …"

"NO! NO! What are you doing … stop, Jim … don't!"

"Sam …"

I'm leaning up on one shaky elbow, I'm too tired to fight, my body feels heavy and weak, but I won't let him give Dean last rites … we're not giving up on him … ever.

"Please, Jim … just don't …"

My arm collapses and I fall back, huffing from the effort. He looks at me wordlessly, nodding in understanding, his hand gently squeezing my shoulder. I know he's doing this as a precaution, trying to protect Dean's soul, it's part of his job being a pastor, so I'm not mad at him. But Dean's not going to die, I won't let him. I fight to stay awake, I try really hard, but everything, the last few hours of worry, my own injuries, it's all caught up with me, taken its toll and I can feel the tears running down my cheeks unbidden as I fall back into medicated sleep.

I dream of beautiful woods with tall grass and fields of white crosses … loneliness and heartbreak settling heavily in my aching chest.

When I eventually open my eyes again, it's to look straight into Dean's lifeless gaze.

The world stops.

"Dean … oh god …"

In that millisecond, I nearly lose myself forever … I failed him … but then he blinks, and my heart suddenly starts again. Shit! … I would chuckle if I weren't scared out of my wits right now. I look around the room, we're alone … the laminated numbers from the wall clock say 3am.

I move, turning slowly and carefully to face Dean, shifting to try and get more comfortable. I notice just how flushed his skin is, he's still fighting off the fever, every breath a tentative link to life. But at least he's looking at me … recognition in his dull eyes … and something else … something that immediately fills me with intense dread. I'm looking into his soul … I know … I can feel it, and it feels like a part of me is dying. He's giving up.

His lips move then, his speech slightly slurred.

"Smm … can't …"

Apprehension flows through me like adrenalin and suddenly I don't want to hear his voice … don't want to hear his next words.

"… can't … hold on."

And there it is, the manifestation of all my worst fears … and god … I'll be damned if he isn't looking to me for forgiveness. My heart rips inside my chest.

"Don't you say that … please Dean … you can hold on … I know you can …"

"Sammy … s' okay …"

I shake my head, almost unable to speak … angry, hot tears trailing down my face.

"No … no, it's not … it will never be okay … you hear me Dean … NEVER."

"Sammy … please …"

It's a final plea, and I realize sickly that he's also asking for my permission.

"… please, let me … go."

He's so tired, I know it, can see it in every line on his face … but I can't, I can't give him this. I can't give him the peace he's longing for now … cause if he leaves me, if he dies … he'll take me with him.


Unshed tears are brimming in his eyes and I can almost hear those words he said to me and Dad a few hours ago:

"Don't want to fight anymore … so tired … just want to rest …"

And a perverse part of me understands the choice he's trying to make. I'm also tired of this soul destroying life we lead, tired of chasing after things that go bump in the night, chasing after phantom leads that might eventually point us to mom's killer. If I've had enough, how much worse must it be for Dean? Trying to take care of me and Dad, giving and giving, only to hear us … me … talking about him like he's some kind of robot …

For the last year, I've been planning a way out. I want a normal life, I want more than anything to know how that feels. So yes, I understand, I understand more than he'll ever know … and god, if there's anyone who deserves rest and peace, it's Dean … but I also realize something else about myself … I'm selfish … and I need my big brother to be there for me, when I need him. I need him more than he needs me.

"I won't let you go, Dean … not in a million years! I need you … I need you to fight, I need you to be your stubborn ass self and fight for as long as it takes, for as long as I'm alive … 'cause I can't live without you … you hear me? … I can't!"

I know Dean would never give up on me, he didn't on that mountain, so how am I supposed to just give up on him now? What he's asking of me … it's more than I can ever give. And it hits me, finally, it hits me. I understand how he felt when I tried to give up, tried to let go.

I blink through the tears clouding my vision, watching in horror as Dean's eyes start to roll back, his breath hitching sporadically, the sound of his heartbeat faltering, and my words are filled with panicked rage.

"Don't you do this to me, you selfish bastard … don't!"

I look around desperately; I need to do something, save him somehow. He's giving up … there's only one thing, I need to play dirty … so I pull out my trump card. If Dean won't fight for himself, I know without a doubt that he'll fight for me. Guilt eats at me for even trying … but I have to do this … I have to find a way to pull him back from the edge. I can't let him die.

"If you give up on me, Dean … if you die … so help me god, I'll go out there on my own … I'll leave Dad … do you hear me … I. Will. Leave. Him."

The effects of my words are immediate. Dean starts blinking rapidly as he fights to stay conscious, his breaths becoming more shallow and harsh. It's working. It spurs me on.

"I'll be out there all by myself, Dean … and I won't care about the consequences. If something evil wants a piece of me, it can have me."


Panicked, unfocused eyes finally manage to settle on me again.

"No … no, Smmy … need to stay …"

I can see the anguish in each line of his face … his words breaking my heart … but I won't give in.

"What for, Dean? You tell me, what for? If you're gone, it won't matter either way … I won't need protection … that's your job, it's always been your job … and if you're not here to do it, then nobody will."

My words are hitting home, because I see the torment they're causing him, I'm forcing his hand, but I don't care … I'm scared … I'm angry … I'm fucking furious.

"Sam … 'm begging you … don't leave … Dad'll protect you. Promise me."

"No Dean, it doesn't work that way … you don't get to tell me what to do, not if you leave me!"

He's scared … breathing harshly through his nose. I lay down my ultimatum.

"I'll only stay if you promise me … promise me that you'll fight."

He nods then, watching me in panic, like I'm going to get up and leave this instant, and I feel my heart break, because I'm lying to his face, guilt tearing at me. But if my lie ensures that Dean fights to stay alive … then I'll live with the consequences.

His face suddenly scrunches in agony.


Oh shit … he's hurting … he pants as he rides out the waves assaulting his body. Goddamnit, maybe I've pushed too hard. The instruments next to his bed have started beeping in alarm. Shit, shit, shit! I didn't mean to upset him this badly … he needs to calm down. I grip his wrist and he looks at me through misty, tear filled eyes.

"It's okay, Dean, I've got you … I'm not leaving if you are going to fight …"

"Don't … don't leave me, Sammy…"

"I swear to you, Dean, I won't leave, nothing will make me leave … nothing. Just take even breaths, you're okay, you're going to be okay."

The alarms have alerted the night staff, and the Dr DeMarco comes rushing in, followed by Dad and Jim. Dad watches the staff worriedly, moving to the side of my bed.

"What happened?"

I open my mouth, not sure what to say, how to explain … but Dean's pained whisper answers Dad's question.

"… dn …leave … don't leave me, Smy …"

Dad gives Jim a strange look before his disbelieving eyes fall on me.

"What did you do? What did you say to him, Sam?"

I don't get a chance to defend myself.

"Did you just threaten your brother with leaving?"

I nod slowly, feeling ashamed under Dad's dark scrutiny. I watch his Adam's apple bobbing in irritation, before he swallows, his voice steady but stern.

"Don't you ever … ever … do that again. Understand?"

He's leaving no room for argument, only stating a fact, but it's the look of disappointment on his face that wedges its way firmly into my heart.

An awkward silence falls over us as we watch DeMarco checking Dean's vitals. I can feel Dad's anger, and I don't even know why he's so mad at me. The staff are rushing around as the doc calls for more urgent tests, demanding quicker lab results, adjusting Dean's medication, but when he finally looks up at us thirty minutes later, he has a tired smile on his face.

"I don't know what to tell you, but Dean seems to have taken a good turn, his stats have improved remarkably. His temperature has come down, his pulse is stronger … and let me tell you I'm surprised to be saying it … but if he carries on like this, he's going to be just fine."

The shock of his statement is reflected on all of our faces. Dean's going to be fine?

"Thank god … oh thank god."

I look at Dad, my mouth still gaping open. It worked? My threats actually worked? He's fighting?

Jim chuckles nervously, shaking his head in amazement. "Just goes to show, we turn to God for help when our foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them."

Dad swats Jim on the arm, but his face lights up as he starts grinning broadly, probably for the first time in days.

"I swear Jim, one more 'Confucius says' out of you and I'll kick your holy ass."

"Yeah, you and which demon army, old man?"

They chuckle, relief written on both their faces as they clap each other on the backs. Dad finally looks at me, and I can't help but grin with uncontrolled joy. We did it, Dean did it … he's going to be okay. I turn to smile at my unconscious brother, he's finally settled, pulled into drug induced sleep. He still looks like shit, but he's getting better, and that's all that matters to me.

An hour later Dad has fallen asleep in the chair next to my bed, Jim in the chair near the window, but I stay awake. I watch the night staff move in and out of the room, I watch Dean, watch him breathe, watch his chest rise and fall … I have my brother back. And I find peace in the knowledge that he's fighting, fighting for me, if not for himself. My hand is still firmly clamped in his, I'm not letting go.

A few minutes later I watch happily as his eyelids flutter, opening to reveal clear hazel orbs. His temperature is nearly back to normal, but he's on heavy meds. He looks around confused, a sigh evident on his lips when he locks gazes with me.

"Thank god."

He seems strangely relieved to see me.

"Sammy … promise me … you won't ever leave …"

My guilty conscious is going to be the death of me.

"I promise."

He sighs tiredly.

"You ... scared me."

"I know … I'm sorry."

My hand is resting on top of Dean's, fingers threaded through his. He doesn't say anything, doesn't try to pull away, and I'm grateful. I need this connection between us.

He still tries to look at me through heavily lidded eyes, groaning tiredly, but a cheeky smirk starts pulling at his lips as he whispers, "Uh, consciousness … that annoying time … between naps."

I grin, shaking my head. He's been at death's door for the last day and a half, putting me through absolute hell, the jerk. Trust him to be making jokes. But it's a good sign, and I can't help but smile broadly. He raises an eyebrow as he squints to get a better look at me, his eyes full of concern.

"How ya … doing?"

I'm not surprised by the question, he's just being typical Dean, always falling into his role as my guardian with unintentional ease.

"Fine, Dean … I wasn't the one flirting with a reaper."

He looks at me in confusion.

"A reaper. Really?"

I nod, knowing I'll explain what happened when he gets some more of his strength back.

"Yeah, but in answer to your question … I've never been better."

The words are truer than he'll ever know, but he just snorts softly in response.

"Yeah right, Sammy … go wipe your mouth, dude … there's still a tiny bit … of bullshit left … around your lips."

I chuckle, it hurts damnit.

He smiles at me tiredly, his eye's closing, even though he's fighting it, tightening his hold on my hand. His voice barely a whisper, but filled with pure conviction.

"I didn't let go, Sammy …"

I smile back, love and pride and joy swelling in my chest. He pauses for a second, his words becoming a faint sigh.

"… never will."

I watch as my brother, best friend, protector, slips into restful, healing sleep. And I hate myself for the lie I told him, the lie I'm living. Because I am going to leave. My dreams of going to Stanford are becoming more real … my grades are good, I can get a full scholarship … and I'm going to take it, I'm going to live that dream no matter what … even if it means leaving and hurting my selfless brother. I gently squeeze his hand back, guilt and shame still eating away at my soul.

"I know, Dean … I know."