A/N: I own nothing from the world of Supernatural though I wish I did.
The chiming bell echoed through the empty store as the door opened. Grabbing a hand-basket, Dean prowled the aisles looking for microwavable food that didn't require a fridge. A distant memory of one of Pastor Jim's first aid tricks surfaced, and Dean read the aisle placards until he found what he wanted. He dropped several bags of rice on top of the cans of soup, tea, aspirin, honey, and cold medicine already in the basket.
"What's the forecast?" he asked the freckle-faced kid manning the checkout lane.
"A big storm is moving in. We're probably going to be snowed in for several days. Is that all for you?"
"Yeah." Dean gathered his bags together and headed back to Sam. The wind seemed determined to keep Dean from reaching his brother. The cold bit deep into his bones and his wound. It soon became a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. Only the thought of Sam waiting for him kept him moving.
Shivering, his left arm was throbbing by the time he set the groceries down to pull out the room key. A gust of warm air escaped before he shut the door behind him. Sam didn't seem to have moved.
Dean eased the bags onto the kitchen table and put a cup of water in the microwave. While it was heating, Dean went to check on his brother. Sam's face was too cool. The microwave pinged, Dean opened up the box of tea, plopped a tea bag into the hot water, squeezed a large dollop of honey into it, and took it to his brother's bedside. Then, he unpacked the rest of the groceries, struggling to open the aspirin one-handed. Man, he hated childproof tops. He downed a few himself before taking some to Sam. He gently shook his brother awake and helped him sit up. "Take these. Drink this. You need to get something warm into you."
Sam obeyed his brother and then fell back down into the depths of sleep.
Dean pulled out two clean socks and partially filled them with rice and tied them shut. He microwaved them so they were warm but not too hot and placed them on Sam's chest. Dean dragged his bedspread off his bed, lay down next to Sam, and covered them both. He knew his body heat would help raise Sam's core temperature slowly, while the tea would help too.
Dean followed Sam into unconsciousness.
Dean jerked awake, not knowing what had startled him at first. The wind rivaled a banshee outside the motel door. A pool of light from the lamp was the only illumination in the room.
Dean inched up until his back was against the headboard. He felt Sam's forehead; it was warm to the touch. Checking his watch, Dean determined both Winchesters could have more aspirin. Tucking the bedspread around Sam, Dean made tea for Sam and coffee for himself. His body craved more sleep, but he needed to make sure Sam was all right and out of danger. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Dean gently shook his brother's shoulder.
Sam's eyes flickered several times before finally staying open. "Why?" He obviously didn't want to wake up. He tried to roll over, but Dean forced him upright and handed him the mug of tea and the aspirins.
"You need to get warm. This should help."
Sam obediently drank the tea without question. Dean figured he thought that would make his brother leave him alone. He could tell that all Sam wanted was to escape into sleep and never wake up, solving all their problems. Once the tea was gone, Sam burrowed back into the covers.
"I need you to wake up." Dean was insistent. He needed to hear Sam talk to determine if he was improving or if Dean should risk driving to Killdeer. He pulled at his brother's shoulder again. "Sam."
"Whaaat?" Sam flailed at the direction of his voice.
Dean pulled Sam's body upright until he opened his eyes and squinted in the subdued lamplight. Sam's head fell back with a crack as it hit the headboard. He glared at Dean with a wounded expression.
"Sorry. Muscle spasm." Dean felt guilty. A concussion was not what Sam needed now.
" 'salright. Howze your arm?"
Sam's slurring worried Dean. "Sam. I need you to focus and give me a real sentence."
"I wish we hadn't needed to destroy that utburd."
"What?" Dean was both relieved and shocked. Sam was speaking, but where did he get this from? "What are you talking about? That thing killed people."
"Yeah, but it never got a chance at life. Its own parents killed it."
Where was Sam going with this? "Angry spirits are people who were killed. We deal with them all the time. This one just never really had a chance to live."
"I wish I'd never really lived. Things would have been better for everyone."
Sam's voice was so soft that Dean wasn't sure what he'd just heard. "Sam. What are you saying?" Dean became afraid for a whole new reason. Sam had to stop being scared of himself. They would deal with their problem head on.
He reached out and gave Sam a small shake. "You're crazy. I need you here, with me. I don't regret having you as my brother, so stop thinking that."
Sam's eyes were fever bright; his face flushed. He was definitely going to get sick. How sick, Dean had no idea. "Promise me you'll stay with me."
"What?" Sam's eyes were once more drooping closed as he sank once again into darkness. Dean hoped his brother heard him calling his name, but was terrified Sam might chose to ignore it.
Sam was unconscious. Dean tried to wake him up to no avail.
He settled his brother's lanky body back under the covers, then opened the door to look outside. He couldn't even see the Impala parked right in front of him through the thick snowfall. He'd have to deal with this himself. Nothing new there. Closing the door, Dean made more coffee for himself.
Dean had dozed off without intending to. Sam's thrashing and muttering woke him up. His younger brother's face was still flushed and his breathing harsh.
Dean went to search their medical supplies for something he could give his brother. The hot liquid cold medicine seemed his best bet. He still wasn't sure if Sam was over the hypothermia and just suffering from a cold now. "Wake up, Sammy."
Sam was never compliant when ill. Dean braced for a battle.
"Because I need you to drink this."
"It will make you get better."
"Because it's medicine."
"No. Why do I need to get better?"
Dean was stunned by the question and at a loss for words. Lately, there had been a rift between them created by his silence about Sam's supposed destiny. Sam had alternated between anger and despair. It seemed despair had the upper hand now. "Sammy. I need you here, with me. We can fight this."
"I'm so tired of losing people I love. We know it's my fault. We know what I'm expected to do."
"Since when did you ever do what was expected of you?" Dean was trying for a smile, some acknowledgment from his brother.
Sam ignored the light humor. He scrunched down in the bed and turned his face into the pillow.
"Sam. Drink this."
"Why bother? Dean, I… how can you stick around? You're scared. Of me. Just let me… sleep. Things will be better. You can go on and just worry about hunting things, saving lives. I kill everyone around me. I…." Sam's voice trailed away as if he couldn't say what he needed to. But Dean could guess his brother's thoughts—if Dean stayed, he would get hurt or killed. The demon. Another hunter. Someone or something would find them, and Dean would try to save him, as always, and maybe die instead.
As if unaware that Dean had a pretty good idea what was going on in his mind, Sam continued, "I've wondered. If Dad hadn't made the deal… if it had been just me and him, would he have told me? Did he choose to leave so he wouldn't have to face what's coming? Wouldn't have to face me? Wouldn't have to deal with all this? Or would he have just . . " Sam's face showed what he was thinking. Would John have killed his youngest?
Sam's voice became more strident. Flailing, he sat up and scooted back against the headboard. Dean tried to help but was pushed away roughly. Fever sweat made Sam's bangs cling to his brow and his shirt cling to his torso. Dean realized Sam was becoming incoherent again. He had to reach him before his fever dreams became his reality. He had to convince him how much he needed him.
Dean rarely pleaded for anything, but now he was begging with all his heart. "Don't you leave me, Sam!"
"My leaving you will save your life."
"My life won't be worth saving if you leave."
The two brothers stared at each other. Both were terrified of losing the other. They'd lost so much in their hard lives that the thought of more loss was crippling them.
"You once pointed out that we were raised to be warriors. We have to fight this, all of this, together. I am not going to abandon you! Not now, not ever." Dean's vehement argument seemed to break through Sam's wall.
"Why not? Then you could live your own life."
Dean wanted to slam his fist into the wall with frustration. He didn't. He grasped Sam's shoulder instead. "You are my life." He waited to see how Sam would respond.
Dean saw Sam look up at him as he had through the years. A look of trust, of relief, of… a brother's love.
"You'll stay with me, Sammy?" The question was about more than the moment and so was the answer.
"I guess I will stick around." The corners of his mouth turned up in a slight smile, and Sam scrunched down into the covers.
Dean realized that Sam might question his choice today or in the future, but, right now, he couldn't abandon his brother… his family. It might have been the easier choice, but the Winchesters never took the easy path anywhere.
As Sam drifted off to sleep, Dean began to relax. He turned off the light and lay down on his own bed. His eyes were drifting closed when he remembered another promise.
Not thinking, Dean tried to use his left arm to propel himself upright. After he could see again, he picked up his phone and dialed. "Hey, Bobby. The spell worked. We were able to destroy the spirit Sam sent us after. We'll give you all the gory details later.
"Ummm. It'll be a few days. We're kinda snowed in here. We're a little banged up, but, yeah, I think we're gonna be okay. Talk to you later. Thanks again, for everything."
Dean hung up and whispered in the darkened room. "We're gonna be okay Sammy; we'll be okay."
Thus ends this story. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed this story. I really appreciate all your kind words. And thanks again to Blackfly Press who first published it in Chinook #7.