A/N: Soncnica and Mish: Thanks for your amazing help and support, and for not throwing in the towel- yet! LOL ;) And again, special thanks to the wonderful SciFiRN! You three have been truly wonderful and I thank you.

A/N: Sorry guys for the delay. I've been hit with the worst thing imaginable called 'Writer's Block' and..well..life just got in the way. Really hope y'all forgive me :) Well, without much further ado, here's the third chapter! Enjoy! ;)

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em...only wished I did


Chapter 3

"T-t-this…s-sucks," Dean forced out through chattering teeth. Damn he was cold and the shivers running relentlessly up and down his frail body were making matters worse. His breath hitched more painfully with each inhale and his chest burnt agonizingly after each exhale. Thankfully though, the freezing temperatures had managed to bring most of his injuries down to a dull ache.

"I-I know man," Sam agreed, shivering just as badly

Their hopes of being found and getting out were soon diminished when they discovered their only way out was blocked off by the avalanche. It was unbelievably cold, freezing as hell, but Sam didn't want to renew the fire, there was no ventilation and he wasn't sure how much oxygen they had left, so they settled on their trusty flashlight. Their shivering had slowed greatly as each degree dipped lower, their bodies quickly succumbing to the cold, no longer fighting it. In fact, Sam wasn't sure if there was ever going to be a tomorrow for either one of them as he turned sorrow-filled blue green eyes on his dying brother.

As much as he didn't want to admit it, he knew he could no longer deny that Dean was surely dying. But for how long his brother could hold out, he didn't know. Each struggle for breath, each uncontrollable shiver wracking Dean's fragile body and bringing with it new bouts of agonized grunts and groans, each time his brother lost consciousness and woke up incoherent, the rattle he heard deep in his brother's chest…all signs pointed to his brother's early demise. He didn't want to think it – he didn't even want to believe it.

It was his brother's harsh hacking that snapped Sam out of his troubling thoughts, and it was the gagging sound that made him hurry to his brother's side. His heart clenched painfully as he watched the thick pool of crimson grow bigger. He flinched horribly when a snapping sound reverberated loudly across the cave, and realized that it was the same noise he had heard when Dean was slammed against the tree.

"Sammy…something's wrong," Dean said between coughs.

"What?!" Sam almost shouted, "What's wrong?"

Dean flinched, then groaned, "Dude, tone it down, why dontcha? And I don't know. It's just…my chest…feels funny…and...hurts…like a bitch…"

Swallowing hard, Sam gently rolled Dean back on his back and began inspecting the hunter's chest, poking and prodding with careful fingers, flinching whenever Dean hissed in pain at a particular spot. He finally let out the breath he didn't know he was holding and closed his eyes when he discovered his findings: a punctured lung. His eyes snapped open and grew wider as Dean inhaled, barely feeling the left side of his sibling's chest moving in, as the right side moved out under his hands. His panic rose, almost engulfed him as he let his eyes fall on his brother's chest and seeing the horrific movement the older man's chest was doing as it struggled for breath.

Ah shit! Sam's swore, not realizing he'd voiced it out loud.

"Sam?" Dean looked at him quizzically, noticing his baby brother staring at something on his chest with unabashed horror written all over his face.

Sam drank in small gulps of air through his mouth while his own chest hitched horribly, eyes shimmering with unshed tears, and forced a comforting smile, hoping to calm both his and his brother nerves when he felt Dean's concern gaze on him, "I-it's nothing."

"N-nothing, huh?" Dean said softly, knowing that was serious, "Listen Sam –"

"DON'T. Just don't, Dean," Sam commanded harshly. Taking off his heavy jacket, he pulled off a sweater, put his jacket back on, and rolled up the sweater, heedless of the blood on it. Gently pulling Dean into a sitting position, Sam settled himself behind him, back against the rock wall, pulled Dean's back to his chest, and mindful of the branch, held the compress on Dean's side, minimizing the movement to prevent further damage.

If Dean had his way, he would have grumbled about being manhandled, but seeing as his strength was leaving him, he settled on, "Care to t-tell me what's g-gotten you in full on M-Mother Hen m-mode?"

"It feels like you have a flail chest Dean...and I just don't want to take any chances."

"Huh, n-no wonder you're a-acting like s-such a g-girl."

Smiling sadly, Sam moved even closer to Dean, needing the contact. Dean couldn't help but lean into him, also needing the contact and what little warmth the embrace provided. For a moment, both brothers didn't say a word, using their connection to convey nonverbal sentences of affection to each other.

"Sam," Dean said suddenly, shaking, breaking the silence, "f-first aid k-kit."

"Dean?" Sam asked worriedly, "Y-you hurt a-anywhere e-else? You want s-some m-m-morphine?"

Dean closed his eyes and weakly shook his head but stopped, grimacing, "N-n-not m-me…y-y-you."

"What?"

Dean opened his glassy hazel green eyes, "B-blood."

"Dean, I t-told you t-the head w-wound's f-fine –"

Shaking his head more vigorously but holding the grimace back this time, Dean spoke through clenched teeth as he tried valiantly to stave off shivers. "Sssiiddee."

Looking down at the growing red spot staining his own sweaters, Sam briefly wondered about the pain that was supposed to come with it and why he hadn't felt it at all, but decided that it was all due to the coldness. In fact, because of his constant fear and worry over his big brother, he had neglected his head wound and now the one on his side. Every time he felt unconsciousness tugging at his concussed mind, he always tried to keep himself busy, knowing that if he surrendered to it, they would die quicker and without a fight, "It's f-fine Dea-"

"F-fix it."

"Dean –"

"O-or I-I w-w-will."

Looking down at the determined glint that still shone brightly in his brother's cloudy eyes, Sam huffed in annoyance, maneuvered around Dean and reached for the kit. Carefully pulling his sweaters up, Sam groaned at seeing an inch of bone protruding from his side.

Dean's breath hitched at the sight of his brother's new wound, and caused another bad coughing fit. Clinging desperately to his brother as he rode out the excruciating pain that jarred deeply into this soul, he continued to cough viciously, bringing up more blood. Just when he thought he would pass out, it stopped, leaving him exhausted beyond belief. It took a moment longer to bring his short gasps to a somewhat normal level as it was trying to keep up with his rapidly beating heart.

Sam held on to Dean like his life depended on it, wincing, cringing, and flinching whenever the hunter's rough coughing turned more fierce. Sam worried that Dean's attack would cause him to suffocate as each gulp of air had hitched and started a new fit. Quickly feeling his brother's pulse, he was amazed at how it had gone from rapid to thready in just a few short seconds. I'm losing him, Sam thought, as fresh new tears appeared.

"Ssm," Dean breathed, barely any force behind his voice.

"Yeah, D-Dean?" Sam choked.

"W-wound," Dean whispered before closing his eyes and letting his head drop back.

Hearing Dean's tortured, laborious breaths even in slumber, Sam rocked him rhythmically as he cried softly, trying hard not to imagine a life without his brother by his side. A couple of minutes passed before Sam went to work on his own injury. Opening the kit, he took out several pieces of gauze and placed them all around the wound. Using one hand, he managed to secure it with tape. Feeling that that was all he could do at the moment, he decided to wake up his sibling, not liking the eerie silence accompanying Dean's difficult breathing.

"Dean?"

"No, no, no, no, no, no," Dean mumbled suddenly, turning his head from side to side, eyes roaming frantically about under lids scrunched tight and weakly pushing away from Sam, his breaths coming in short fearful gasps, "ppleese Ssaammyy, nnot tthis…I'll do aaanythiingg…ppleese ddon shoot…ppleese ddon sstay maad aat mmee…"

Sam couldn't take anymore as he was beginning to feel nauseous and started shaking his brother, "Hey man, w-wake up." My God, was he dreaming about what I did to him in Illinois?

Dean's eyes snapped open and his terrified gaze roamed around the cave before remembering where they were. Sighing in relief, he tiredly settled himself back against Sam.

"Hey, b-bro," Sam started, unsure if it would work, "you wanna t-talk about it?"

"T-talk about what?" Dean feigned ignorance.

Hugging his brother tightly and making Dean roll his eyes, Sam said, "You had a n-nightmare. You weren't d-dreaming about that time in Illinois, w-were you?"

"D-dude, you're such a girl," Dean smirked feebly, eyes casting somewhere out in the distance.

Sam could see the life leaving those eyes, eyes that had once belonged to a much stronger, much spirited Dean Winchester, not the fragile, broken one lying in his brother's arms as he waited to die, "Dean, t-talk to me."

"T-there's nothing to t-talk abou-"

"Dammit Dean, yes there is!" Sam almost shouted and shook his brother as he did so, causing both to hiss out of pain. Speaking more quietly, Sam said, "I've said my apologies for what happened back there in that asylum. I've said things that I can't take back…but dude, it wasn't me. I didn't say –"

"Stop it, Sam," Dean growled, adding force behind his words, "I knew some of it wasn't you…that you were possessed…but I also knew that some of it was you. What you said…it had to have come from somewhere…maybe some repressed feelings that needed to come out –"

"Repressed fee-? C'mon man! You can't have seriously thought that?" One look at Dean's downward gaze confirmed it, "Look man…maybe you're right. It was repressed feelings. I was angry. I was angry at Dad…at him for leaving you, leaving us…I was angry at him for not being there when we needed him the most, for making us live this life…and for treating you like an obedient soldier instead of a son."

Seeing the look of protest coming from Dean, Sam rushed on, "Listen, I was angry, no, pissed at what we went through. You and I have sacrificed too much already so that Dad could go on his little crusade…but where has that gotten us? Knocking on death's door too many times, man…I grew sick and tired of seeing you get hurt over and over…I grew sick and tired of playing the deadly game of who-can-get-to-the-other-side-and-back. Do you even know how many times we've cheated death in the last ten years? And for what? I just grew sick and tired of hunting…and I wanted something more…that's why I-I left," tears misted his eyes, "…but even then, I knew I was leaving you…with Dad," Sam scowled, "I don't think I can ever forgive the man…but don't you ever think I hate you, because I don't. You're my big brother, annoying as hell, but that's what big, awesome brothers are for, right?"

"Dean?" Sam asked worriedly when he didn't answer. His worry went up a notch when he saw his brother biting his lip like if he was straining against something.

Dean couldn't help it. When Sam began talking, he listened to the tone of his brother's voice more than the words, hoping against hope that he was wrong about his baby brother despising him. As he listened, heart hammering fiercely, feelings of dread, fear, sorrow, denial, anger, surprise, and hopefulness clashed against each other with each faint beat of his heart. But in the end, Dean couldn't help it.

Grinning widely, corners of his eyes crinkled in mirth, Dean said, "Feeling better now, Princess? Now that you've gotten all that off of your chest? Y'know, I'm betting you'll win an Oscar for that 'cause that was beautiful."

Sam rolled his eyes, "Shut up jerk."

"Bitch," Dean spat weakly.

*~*~*

Caleb felt like throwing something or more likely, punching someone…preferably John, as the guilt ate away at his soul. He was damn sure it was a black dog he sent the boys after – he did the research himself after Jefferson contacted him to ask him if he could take care of it, but when a poltergeist warranted attention, he passed the black dog case onto the boys. But now it wasn't a black dog? Damn it!

Sitting on a chair with papers of the black dog case strewn about on the small table in a run-down motel somewhere in Idaho, Caleb debated whether or not he should include John Winchester in it. He was, after all, their father, Caleb thought grimly as he ran his large calloused hand through his short dark blond hair. After getting the call from the youngest Winchester, he quickly called Pastor Jim for aid and thanked whoever was listening that Bobby was there too. Both quickly agreed to help, and Caleb could only trust that they're already heading that way.

I should get going too, he thought as he glanced at the cold, darkened sky through the motel's grimy windows. As he was gathering his research, his eye caught on the small protective charm hanging around his neck that Dean gave him for Christmas eight years ago. He smiled at the memory. John was beyond pissed when Dean spent his entire poker and pool earnings on Christmas presents for Sammy, John, Bobby, Jim, and himself. Just remembering John made those other memories fresh again. They were memories of the look on John's face whenever his boys got hurt or sick: unadulterated and unabashed worry and fear…feelings belonging to a father. Ah hell…

Speed dialing his friend, he waited apprehensively for the sound of John Winchester's gruff voice. Caleb was almost bouncing off the walls when the older hunter's voicemail picked up. Cursing the older man, he angrily tossed his cell on the bed and began packing for the long road ahead of him. After he made sure everything was packed and ready to go, he stomped back into the room and grabbed his cell, already deciding to leave the oldest Winchester a friendly message.

"YOU LISTEN AND YOU LISTEN GOOD ASSHOLE. SOMETHING CAME UP AND YOUR BOYS NEED YOU NOW. THEY'RE HURT AND ALONE, AND THEY NEED THEIR FATHER. IF THERE WAS EVER A TIME TO PULL YOUR STUBBORN HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS, NOW'S THE TIME. YOU KNOW WHO TO CALL," Caleb ended threateningly, sapphire blue eyes glinting dangerously.

Usually, he was never a short-tempered man – always making jokes about everything in life – but under the current circumstances, especially when it involved John abandoning his boys for a demon, his tolerance of John was shortly coming to an abrupt end.

Stomping back outside as the bitter, chilly wind began to bite at his exposed skin, he barely climbed inside his truck and started it when his cell vibrated furiously. He waited until he was on the road before answering it, somehow knowing who was on the other line.

"WHAT THE HELL, CALEB?!" John's booming voice shouted, sounding his usual pissed-off self, "WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TO TALK TO ME LIKE THAT?"

Caleb didn't have time for this, "Shut it John! Listen, I got a call from Sammy – you do remember him, don't you? – he said that he and Dean are holed up in a cave somewhere in Montana –"

"I'm sure they're fine," John said infuriatingly.

"Goddammit John, no they're not!" Caleb shouted, "Sam's hurt and Dean's hurt, not to mention it's like below zero degrees out there! Jim, Bobby and myself are on our way, and if we find them dead, I'm gonna be the one to come after you, you sonofabitch, because you failed to show up when your boys needed you the most," he finished viciously, spit flying from his mouth. He threw his cell on the seat beside him and slammed his fist on the steering wheel in frustration. Those boys better be alive when we find them, Caleb thought as he pressed the accelerator a little harder.

*~*~*

What the hell? John thought as he looked at his phone like it was some foreign object from outer space. Shaking his head in amazement as he placed his cell on the table before him, he wearily got up off his chair and strode over to the small refrigerator for a beer. Opening the can and taking a swig, he replayed the conversation that took place not minutes ago.

Caleb sounded pissed. What made it hard to wrap his mind around was that Caleb was never one to resort to any kind of violence among friends and family – only with the supernatural. True, Caleb could sure be as ruthless as the rest of them, but he could display softer emotions as well.

Guess maybe it's because of the boys, John thought as he sagged back in his chair. He had been dumbfounded and blessed at the strong bond Jim, Bobby, and Caleb had with his boys the first time they were introduced when Dean and Sammy were little. All three grew to be Daddies as well as great friends to his boys.

Dean and Sammy…No! No, they're okay, they have to be, John told himself firmly. John loved his boys and would do anything for them…but with him being so close to finding the demon, he wouldn't endanger his sons' lives. It was his fight and his fight alone. But I'm the one who brought them into the supernatural world in the first place…what makes me think it'll end with the evil yellow-eyed piece of shit?

He balled his hand into a tight, angry fist at the mere mention of the evil entity that cruelly murdered his wife, but he forced the tense muscles to ease up as his hand opened. Taking another gulp and letting the cold soothing liquid ran down his throat and entered his empty stomach, he let his mind wander back to his boys. What if Caleb's right and they're hurt?

No, they have to be alright. If they're not…if something happens to them…I can't...I don't think I'll have the strength to go on, John thought forlornly, but decided to shrug it off, completely without a doubt sure his sons were definitely alright. Scratching the two day old stubble on his chin, he returned to his research.

According to the police reports, autopsy reports, and countless eyewitnesses, and putting all these facts together, he knew they all had been in contact with a thing called a Tsi-noo, a soul-sucking, deadly creature with a heart made of ice, preying on the innocents in Montana. Hunting it was going to be a bitch, but putting it down for good was going to be the easy part. The creature's Achilles heel was both fire and silver, but John knew that silver could only wound it whereas fire was the sure way to destroy it for good. Wait a minute. Didn't Caleb say that the boys were somewhere in Montana?

John pondered that and almost shrugged it off, if it wasn't for the persistent nagging in the back of his mind. Snatching his phone up off the table, he was about to call Caleb when he thought better of it. Instead, he called Bobby.

"Singer speaking."

"Hey Bobby, its John."

"Huh, well I sure as hell didn't think you were gonna call."

"Yeah well…" John started, clearing his throat, "where the hell are they?"

Bobby wasn't fooled when John was trying to sound nonchalant about the serious situation, when in fact he sounded scared shitless.

After Bobby relayed the info Caleb told him, John said his thanks and hung up. It only took a second in the silent confines of his motel room to realize the horror. Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit! The father's mind screamed as he grabbed his heavy jacket and stormed out of the room in a frenzy. Getting to his black truck, John called 911 as he backed up and pressed the accelerator hard, making the tires squeal as it left the lot.

"911, state your emergency," an almost bored female voice answered.

"My b-boys," John choked, stopped himself, and began again, "My boys…they're in a cave…somewhere in the mountains…possibly hurt…"

"Okay sir," the cool voice sounded off and brisk, trying to calm the worried father once the seriousness of the situation demanded attention, "calm down and tell me where they are."

The oldest Winchester stuttered as he passed along the info, first time in a long time feeling that something was finally going right when he needed it to.

But his heart sank to the ground at the woman's next words.

"I'm sorry sir. Due to the snowstorm, help cannot be dispatched there right now, but will soon, once the storm settles down into a more acceptable –"

Frustrated, John snapped his phone closed and tossed it onto the empty seat beside him.

All through the ride, he couldn't help but blame himself for what was happening, thinking that it was his fault his boys unknowingly ended up face-to-face with that evil, ugly piece of shit. He kept wondering if the Man upstairs was laughing his Holy butt off at the irony that the Winchesters were even in the same small town – one knowing what he was hunting and two thinking they were hunting something else.

Forty-five minutes later and John could see the Impala up ahead as he turned down the road and parked right alongside it. Jumping down from his vehicle, he grabbed his pack that he had prepared earlier for the Tsi-noo and ran like his life depended on it to where his boys were at. I'm coming boys, just hold on…

*~*~*

Sam woke with a start by a noise that sounded like it came from somewhere above them, and momentarily wondered when on earth he had succumbed to the darkness that his abused, exhausted body wanted. Looking down at his sleeping brother, he chastised himself for not staying awake and alert before checking the older hunter's vitals. When he found that nothing had changed, he moved himself into a somewhat more comfortable position without moving his brother.

Listening to the ominous nothingness coming from the cave and the shallow bursts of breath coming from each other, bodies trying to shiver like mad in the last steps of survival against the cold, Sam finally allowed time to fully assess his own injuries – injuries that had no doubt gotten worst from taking care of Dean.

The excruciating pounding in his head redoubled its efforts once he woke up, almost making him groan out as he tried breathing through the pain. Besides the white-hot pain shooting up and down his side due to the bone, he had figured that that was the least of his problems. He had hoped he wasn't bleeding internally, but the feeling of tenderness around his abdomen and the cool and clammy feel of his own skin had him guessing otherwise.

Feeling the all too familiar allure of sleep begging him to allow oblivion to claim him, he pushed the oh-so real temptation aside as he listened more attentively to a sound he never wanted to hear, fear almost escalating to a blinding point. His brother's rattles were now noisier than they had been before he fell asleep, and had now gained his utmost attention. Feeling his brother's pulse for what seemed like the millionth time and finding it unsteady and much weaker, his foreboding of his brother's end was looming ever closer. Oh God…

"D-Dean?" Sam asked, waking his brother and desperately wanting to talk. The fear that his brother likely wouldn't survive another hour almost made his breathing near impossible.

"Hmmm?" the faintest of sounds erupted the too quietness of the cave.

Oh God, he already sounds breathless, Sam dreaded. Swallowing hard and blinking back tears, he held his cold brother closer and asked, "D-Do you r-remember the t-time you s-spent all your hard e-earned savings on C-Christmas p-presents?"

Dean huffed ever so softly, "D-Dad nearly r-ripped my head o-off."

Sam chuckled, but stopped, wincing and groaning as his breath hitched painfully in his chest. Something's wrong…oh shit…

"S-s-sammy, y-you o-okay?"

Ignoring the cold sweat trickling down his brow and biting down hard on his bottom lip as his body rode out wave after wave of seemingly endless pain, he nonetheless forced a smile as he tried to alleviate his brother's concerns, knowing somewhere in the back of his mind that Dean had done the exact same thing to him so many times in the past, "M'fine Dean –"

"No, y-y-you're n-not."

Sam rolled his eyes, trying to figure out how the hell Dean had done it so successfully in the past, making him believe his older brother was always fine, "It's n-nothing. I j-just…p-p-probably p-pulled a m-m-muscle…or o-overexerted m-myself."

"B-bullshit. T-the hell you d-did," Dean grumbled as he tried to turn around to check on his baby brother himself, barely biting back a cry of pain in doing so.

"Dean, j-just r-relax m-man. I'm f-fine. R-really, I-I am," Sam comforted him as he gently, but firmly restrained the dying hunter.

For a few precious minutes, the sound of their matched shallow breathing, one weak but steady and the other barely gasping, once again filled the cold, dark cave. Refusing to pay attention to the black dots creeping up into his vision, Sam began rocking his brother, all the while keeping count of the breaths Dean took, and slightly shaking him whenever he skipped one. He hated seeing the awful shade of blue tingeing his brother's lips turn more vivid and the glassy orbs turn glassier, but at least he made sure Dean stayed awake this time around.

Sam jostled his brother when he saw his eyes closed, "D-Dean, do you k-know what d-day it is?"

Dean gradually opened his eyes as his hazy mind began working slowly, ineffectively swallowing blood, too weak to cough, "T-the twenty-f-fifth?"

Sam smiled, tears glistening in his eyes and planted a kiss on the top of his brother's head. Positioning his lips over Dean's ear, he said softly, "M-Merry Christmas big b-brother."

Dean closed his eyes and slowly opened them, too weak to reply back, but the corners of his mouth feebly twitched upwards in a smile as he squeezed his brother's arm weakly as if to say 'Merry Christmas to you too, little brother'.

A noise echoed off into the distance – the same noise if Sam guessed right – but this time it sounded much closer, stealing his attention away from his brother. Earlier when he had heard the noise the first time, he had thought it was Caleb and the others who had finally found them, but when the noise ended as suddenly as it began, he then chunked it to the idea that it was just his imagination. But listening to a chorus of sound string together in a fast, furious tempo had his heart beat just as fast and just as furious, desperately hoping that this time it was not all in his head.

Holding his breath and making the black dots dance more furiously before his eyes, he forcefully trained them to catch any glimpse of fallen snow. He almost cried with relief when tiny tidbits of snow fell as the racket became louder. Letting his head fall back as his eyes stared unseeingly up at the cave's ceiling, he sent a quick prayer of 'Thanks' to the Man Upstairs. They were saved!

"D-Dean? Hey Dean, guess w-what?" Sam asked, almost beside himself and jostled the precious bundle in his arms.

"Dean?" Sam asked worriedly when he didn't answer. Placing his hand on Dean's neck and feeling the carotid artery to check his heart beat, Sam soon felt sick and dizzy with fear at his cold discovery. Not feeling the thrum of life that meant his brother still had a fighting chance, Sam pressed harder as he moved Dean's mouth up to his ear.

No, no, no, no, no, his mind lamented when he didn't find a puff of air or his brother's heartbeat, "Dean!"

Looking into the dull, lifeless eyes of his older brother, he immediately felt himself break into a million pieces as his mind short-circuited, breaths coming short gasps, and causing an awful coughing fit. He vaguely registered the blood he coughed up as he quickly recovered and moved out from behind Dean. The sudden movement painfully jarred something in his already abused body, sending the strong protest into a much greater crescendo and blocking everything else out.

Crying out in pain, Sam crumpled in a boneless heap to the ground, next to his brother, and not hearing the familiar deep voice cry out, "SAMMY?!"

TBC...


I truly hope this one has satisfied all the Dean and Sammy fans...and there's one more chapter to go! Please let me know what you think! ;)