Summary: John's AWOL and his boys are left struggling to cope with the fallout of a hunt gone wrong. Limp!Sam, Hurt!Dean, Hurt!Bobby, Protective!Dean and Worried!Bobby - Teenchesters fic.
Rating: PG/13 - for some bad language.
Disclaimer: I don't own a thing...I must have been a bad girl this year, right, Santa?
A/N: Vonnie836 this one is especially for you. Merry Christmas, I really hope you'll enjoy your present. Huge thanks to Gidgetgal9 & Sendintheclowns for reading this through for me.

I feel like I've been writing for much longer but this story marks the end of my first year as a fanfiction writer. Thanks so much to all the friends I've made along the way, you know who you are. I started doing this because I adore Supernatural but now I've come to realize that I keep writing because of you.

He Hung His Head And Lied

Dad's gone. He's far up north, somewhere close to Great Falls in the wilds of Montana and it's been a long time since either of his two boys last spoke to him. Dad knows to call when he goes off on a solo hunt, checks in as regular as ex-marine timed clockwork but there's been no phone call for the last four days and Dad's cell is going straight to his stern-toned plain-spoken voicemail. This is John Winchester, leave a message.

Dean doesn't tell Sam about this but over the last four days he's called Dad's voicemail several times just so he could listen to the message, lets his ear turn red from the phone being squashed so hard against it.

The worry is ever present, incessant fluttering butterflies doing loops in Sam's stomach. Dean feels it too, perhaps more acutely than Sam does but Dean hides it well. Protecting Sammy, always protecting Sammy. It makes Sam feel all at once painfully grateful, guilty and pissed off at Dean for treating him like a cosseted five-year-old.

Over the last two years Sam has changed from dutiful son to an ever-questioning one. It seems since he became a teenager, he's constantly butting heads with his dad and Dean and not just with them but with himself and his conflicting emotions too. He wants his family but he doesn't want their lifestyle. He wants school but feels lost and alone amidst a sea of happy smiles plastered to 'normal' teenaged faces. Kids his own age, kids who are so similar to him on the surface and yet so different underneath that Sam both envies and pities them.

Sam's fifteen and knows he's supposed to feel screwed-up, it comes with the territory of being a hormonal teenager, doesn't it? But lately it's been more difficult to endure the tide of ever changing emotions which ebb and flow on a daily basis. Dad's not been in touch for four days and Sam woke up feeling good this morning, happy to be with Dean and out from under his dad's stern gaze. He ended up leaning over the porcelain bowl of the toilet when he realized it, retching until it felt like he was ready to bring up his stomach lining. Happy because his dad's not around and Sam hated himself for it.

Home is a rented 3-bed apartment in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska. It has roaches and a thick mildew stink but it's not the worse place they've ever lived, in fact seeing as the boys have the sanctuary of their own rooms for a change and the shower has hot water which verges on steaming-hot if Dean twists the dial with enough brute force, it's a nice place by Winchester standards.

While Sam is seesawing between abject misery and happiness, Dean is just plain miserable. Being left behind to play baby-sitter to a grumpy fifteen-year-old who could easily KO someone twice his size and body-weight is frustrating. Especially when Dean's desire to gain as much valuable hunting experience as possible is becoming a sizeable itch.

Now that there hasn't been any word from his dad, Dean's angry with Sam. Dad was the one who wanted Sam to stay behind, felt his youngest wasn't ready to face a shape-shifter with a taste for picking out vulnerable victims. Victims that the shifter could take great pleasure in watching beg for their lives and cry and most likely piss themselves before they were brutally decapitated so the shifter could adopt their identity. That same sick and twisted shape-shifter would then reap havoc amongst its victim's family and friends, all for the pure adrenaline control kick.

Dean's anger at being left out of the hunt isn't meant for Sam but Sam's the only he has at the moment.

-0-

It's early-November but as far as Sam and Dean are concerned it's still perfect weather for grilling burgers for lunch on the brick-built outside BBQ. Dean flips Sam's burger onto a bun, Sam likes his burgers charred until the meat is charcoal black and crispy. Dean's own burger he undercooks so rare it's practically bloody.

They eat without talking, Dean taking casual swigs from a beer bottle dangling loose between his fingers while Sam sips at a glass of lemonade. It's been another long day of radio silence from Dad and Dean can't find any words to use that won't automatically come out wrong. He's already bitten Sam's head off once today when the kid asked if they could go catch a movie.

The idea of sitting in a movie theater when Dad could be…dead, made Dean explode and he let Sam have it, in typical Winchester fashion, with both barrels. He unleashed the type of fury which involved cuss words and slammed doors and half an hour spent taking deep breaths in the bathroom before he could go back into the living room again without wanting to start smashing the furniture.

Dean's sucking a blob of ketchup from his thumb when the gate to their postage stamp sized backyard creaks open to reveal Bobby. Dean's dark mood instantly breaks at the sight of their friend, who had been called Uncle Bobby by both bothers only five short years ago.

Dean rang Bobby yesterday to talk to him about their dad. Bobby had been busily preparing for a hunt of his own when he had taken Dean's call. He'd picked up on some rather disturbing rumours on the hunting grapevine concerning a skin-walker that had made itself a lair in an abandoned logging factory in Wyoming.

"Fuck knows why," Bobby's gruff voice had echoed down the phone line, earning a snort from Dean since Bobby only uses swear words when he's seriously pissed off and whatever he's hunting isn't playing by the rules. "The factory is out in the middle of nowhere but there's got to be something keeping it hiding out there, why else would it choose to live like that? Like a friggin' hermit?"

Sam had been standing at Dean's shoulder, head tilted to one-side as he strained to listen in on the conversation. "If it isn't hurting anybody..." He had offered quietly from his place by Dean's side only to be quickly burnt when Dean threw him a heated pissed off look.

"I'll take you with me, we'll stop by and check this skin-walker out and then we'll head up to Montana, find that stubborn-ass old man of yours." Bobby had said and even though Bobby couldn't see him Dean had been so fast to nod in agreement that he was lucky he didn't snap his neck in two.

There could be lots of reasons behind Dad not getting in touch. Maybe he couldn't get a cell phone signal. Maybe his cell was broken or even worse, maybe the Impala had broken down somewhere but there were other reasons which Dean could think of, ones which involved fractured bones and blood-loss. Montana is just too damn far away if Dad is hurt or....fuck. Dean really doesn't want to dwell on it.

-0-

They pack their bags quickly and efficiently, their entire worldly possessions contained within three large duffels and two rucksacks. When Dean closes and bolts the door to what has been their home for the last three months he does so without regret. It was a good home but it's easy for him to cut his ties. He learned from his dad not to get attached to places or people. The only problem leaving raises for Dean, is his little brother. Sam might be good at schooling, excelling in damn near all of his lessons but Sam doesn't do so well in the lessons Dad tries to teach him.

Sam walks away from the apartment at a slow almost sluggish pace, hands tucked deep into his jean's pockets and if he had a storm cloud hovering over his head he'd be the perfect embodiment of disenchanted youth.

His head is hanging down, lost in thought about everything he's leaving behind. The paper on Hemingway which he was going to hand in to Mr. Leake on Monday. The same elderly English teacher with wire-rimmed glasses perched on the end of his long Roman nose who always gives him back his A+ graded term papers with a mixture of beaming approval and pride. Then there are the school soccer tryouts next week which Sam had been considering even though his dad would never let him take on something so time consuming, never in a million years.

Hardest of all is that Sam can't stop thinking about Emily Saunders, who had cornered him by his locker two weeks ago to ask if he wanted to share lunch with her in the lunchroom. Sam Winchester doesn't have friends. Not since he's barely in any one school long enough to form real friendships. The kind of friendships which the kids around him have maintained since they were in kindergarten, friendships which are filled with shared memories of secret tree-house hideouts and camp outs and pinkie swears.

But Emily had chosen him, singled him out and she was his friend, maybe even something more than a friend. Emily, with her perfect smile and brilliant blue eyes, who would be waiting for him at lunch on Monday with four quarters of sliced rye bread filled with peanut butter and jelly spread out on greased paper in front of her. Only Sam would never turn up. What's more, he'd vanish from school altogether. Like so many times before, Sam Winchester would drop off the face of the earth and Emily would never find out why.

Sam's not new to this but it still hurts something fierce.

Dean wanders over and cuffs the back of his brother's head when he notices Sam dragging his feet. He does it without any real malice, it's the same with the way his voice will crack when he calls Sam a wuss for crying when Dad gives him stitches after a hunt.

-0-

Bobby drives them north in an off-white camper van which is one engine splutter away from the scrapheap but Dad took the Impala to Montana so beggars (Dean) can't be choosers. It still irks Dean when Bobby won't let him put his Metallica tape into the stereo.

Some guitar—and a freakin' fiddle—heavy folk music fills the van and Dean pulls a disgusted face, giving his best death glare out of the window at the innocent passing scenery while Bobby and Sam exchange matching smirks in the rear-view mirror.

Dean tries Dad's cell phone again and gets the same monotonous voicemail, again. He still speaks after the beep—Dad, it's Dean. We're with Bobby and we're coming to find you—mentally trying to calculate if it's his ninth or tenth message. Dad's phone must be getting pretty full of them by now.

A few hours into the drive, Dean twists his head to peer over his shoulder at his little brother spread out on the back bench seat, long legs curled up against his stomach, head cushioned by folded arms. Every now and again Dean finds himself staring at Sam, noticing more and more ways in which Sam is gradually leaving childhood behind and becoming a man.

Sam's soft features are growing leaner and what were once podgy arms and legs are now long limbs, defined in places with strong hard muscle. In a way, it makes Dean unhappy because the older Sam gets, the harder it will be to protect him. To try and shield him. There's going to come a time when Sam won't be satisfied with being told to wait in the Impala or being asked to follow Dean's lead.

Dean shifts uncomfortably and turns his attention back to staring out of the windshield. Trying not to think about Dad or Sam or a distant future without either of them in it, he eventually drops into a restless sleep.

They reach Wyoming by sunset. They could find a motel, get a decent night's sleep before going hunting but Bobby wants the skin-walker dead pronto and Dean wants to get to Montana to find Dad. Instead of stopping the van follows a long, winding and very bumpy dirt track towards the large and depressingly ominous shape of the disused logging factory which is sitting atop a hill in the distance.

Bobby pulls the van to a halt alongside a line of pine trees and they clamber out. All three gear up because Sam won't wait in the van. They have Bobby so it's not like Dean is even going to try suggesting Sam wait this one out. They have good back up with Bobby by their side after all.

It's only later that Dean will realize not making Sam stay in the van was his first big mistake. The second was underestimating the skin-walker.

-0-

Sam watches in horror as the skin-walker's mouth closes around his forearm, teeth piercing skin and then muscle so deeply it feels like her jagged incisors scrape against bone. The pain is instantaneous and excruciating.

Sam desperately wants to wrench his arm away but her jaw is locked tight and the only result trying to yank himself free will achieve is to tear out a sizeable chuck of his flesh. Instead Sam starts to kick out with his feet, booting his target with all of his strength before frantically stretching out his free hand towards her face.

Determined to try anything which will pry her loose he sticks his thumb straight into one of her cat-like eyes and pushes, hard. He feels the spongy squelch of her eyeball as it pops under the pressure and it immediately makes Sam think of the sensation of biting into a ripe grape. She thrashes, violently, but doesn't let go.

Sam's arm is a red-hot ball of fiery agony. It's so bad that he thinks he might pass out but he knows he can't afford the luxury of pain-free darkness however sweet the lure of it might seem. Then, unexpectedly, the pain starts to diminish. His arm is tingling and he can feel the acute pulse of his veins as they throb in time with his heartbeat but the pain is definitely lessening. He kicks out at her again, driving the toe of his boot hard into her stomach and this time her mouth opens releasing her hold and she rolls onto her back, clawed hands scrabbling weakly at her ruined eye.

Sam pulls his injured arm close to his body and reaches for his knife. He stabs her over and over again until he's panting, blood splattering and covering them both. She flails on the floor, lashing out with her sharp claws but she's in too much mind-numbing pain to make a decent attempt at escaping. Around the fourth or fifth time Sam sinks the knife into her chest, he pierces her heart and she stops howling…stops moving altogether.

Her jaw goes slack, mouth hanging open, teeth stained red with Sam's blood. Sam stares at her for a long while, transfixed. He's seen skin-walkers before, in the flesh and in the pages of Dad's journal but he's never seen one stuck in a state of half-transformation.

Her corpse is a strange sight and pretty damn disturbing. On the Winchester scale of fucked up weird shit, she'd score a well deserving nine out of ten. Half woman and half cougar and Sam doesn't have the first clue why. Skin-walkers are meant to be powerful creatures with the ability to transform into anything they desire. The malformed body strewn out in front of him doesn't make a lick of sense.

Sam sits back on his heels, wipes his hands on his jeans until they are as close to dry as they are going to get and lifts his head, eyes seeking out his brother. Dean and Bobby are still out for the count, bleeding from head wounds and slumped on the floor like puppets with their strings cut.

Sam feels the tension dissolve from his body when he sees that both men are still breathing, chests moving up and down in a comfortingly steady rhythm.

Boy, the skin-walker really got the jump on them. Dean and Bobby had sprung into action quickly, experience and an instinct to try and protect the youngest hunter propelling them forward. She'd made short work of smashing both their skulls into the floor before lunging at Sam and sinking her teeth down into his arm.

Sam fumbles in his back pocket as he pulls out a folded bandanna. He shakes it out and then ties it tightly around the bite, the skin surrounding the wound is seven shades of purple but he's not bleeding too badly anymore. Shivering a little, he reaches into the duffel Dean had dropped and digs out his jacket. He quickly slips it on, huddling into the warm folds as he zips the front right up to his neck.

His arm is barely tingling now but he feels light-headed, blood loss coupled with an adrenaline crash can be a bitch Sam thinks to himself. He can sleep later, a few hours sleep and he'll be fine, with luck he might be able to convince Dean to let the inevitably painful stitches wait until morning…shit, Dean. Dean and Bobby need help.

Sam shakes his head, trying to focus his thoughts to the task at hand and he staggers as he gets to his feet. He more stumbles than walks over to Dean and frowns as his flashlight reveals blood dripping from a gash half-hidden by his brother's short hair. Shaking Dean's shoulder earns him nothing but a groggy unintelligible murmur.

It's late, the sky outside the factory is cloudy and with barely any moonlight penetrating the thick cloud it's practically pitch black. There's no way he's going to be able to carry Dean and Bobby back to the car. Sam huffs out a frustrated breath. They're just going to have to settle in for the night.

-0-

There's a decent amount of supplies packed inside the duffel and by the time Sam has dressed the bloodied and bruised lump which looks like a rainbow colored golf-ball on Bobby's forehead, Dean is blinking unfocused green eyes at him and lifting a hand to poke at the thick bandage wrapped around his head.

"Dean, no, don't touch it." Sam hisses and Dean instantly drops his hand away. "How you feeling?"

"Like fucking Cat-woman broke my skull."

"Yeah, that sounds about right. She's...she's dead, Dean."

Dean's face brightens considerably. "Way to go, Sammy. Didn't know you had it in you...Well, I kinda did seeing as I'm the one who spends all of their spare time training you."

"Bullshit, you do not."

"Do too, if it wasn't for me you wouldn't have any ninja moves at all because you'd be too busy tripping over those giant clown feet of yours."

"Asshole."

"Cock breath."

"Numb nuts."

"Boys!" Bobby growls, one hand pressed against the pad of square gauze stuck to his forehead. "If you don't mind, I kinda have a headache."

Sam grins and digs out a small hipflask, handing it over to Bobby with a couple of chalk white pills. "If this isn't whisky..." Bobby grumbles taking a mouthful before screwing his face up in a grimace.

"Holy water." Sam provides helpfully as Bobby knocks back the pills. "Get some sleep I'll take first watch, we can burn the body and hit the road come first light."

Dean shrugs and then lies back down with his fingers locked together behind his head. It's relatively warm inside the factory, sheltered from the cold wind and the room they're in used to be part of the factory's offices but it's empty—four bare walls and hard floor—stripped of any furniture and furnishings a long time ago. And yet all the men in the room know there are far worse places to spend a night.

Barely any time passes before Dean can hear Bobby's soft snores and he lifts his head to see Bobby sitting with his back against the wall, head tipped forward, chin resting against his chest. "Sleeping like a baby." Dean points out with a slow grin. "Bobby can sleep just about anywhere, Dad once told me he found Bobby fast asleep standing up. Then again, Dad does like to yank our chains sometimes." Dean glances at Sam from his place on the floor. "You okay? You're not hurt or anything?" Dean asks suddenly, eyes narrowing. He's trying for nonchalance but he's clearly angry with himself for not checking Sam over for injuries sooner.

Sam flexes his arm once, testing it. There's no pain of any kind now, just soft warmth spreading throughout the limb but it doesn't hurt and Sam doesn't want to cause a fuss. Dean would only start flapping, trying to get up to look at the bite and Dean's face still looks too pale from the blow to the head he's received tonight. Dean might be the big brother but that doesn't mean that Sam doesn't try to take care of him too sometimes. "I'm fine, Dean. Just tired."

"Then sleep, I'll keep watch..." Dean raises a hand when Sam's mouth opens ready to argue. "Hey, I've done enough sleeping tonight already after landing on my head. I'm going to need to wake Bobby in an hour anyway to check he's still got all his marbles. I'm serious Sam, sleep."

The last is said in the tone of voice Dad uses when he's giving an order and Sam ducks his head, eyes wandering to the rolled up blanket on the floor which is practically calling his name. His gives Dean a begrudging nod and settles himself down, head resting on the blanket. It's itchy and the floor beneath him is hard but Sam's weary eyes fall closed almost immediately and sleep comes all too quickly.

Sam wakes up barely two hours after first falling asleep, his back aches from lying on the unforgiving concrete and his arm feels strange, uncomfortably hot and oddly numb, a sensation like pins and needles throbbing through it. Sam squints in the darkness and he can see his brother sitting cross-legged on the floor with his cell phone pressed to his ear. Dean frowns when he notices that Sam's awake and lets the hand clutching the phone drop down so that it lands in his lap, resting against his knee.

"Dad's still not answering." Dean says softly, keeping his voice low as Bobby is still sawing logs.

Sam sits up slowly, bending his knees and drawing them close to his chest so that he can rest his chin upon them. "I'm sorry Dean. I'm sorry, Dad's missing. If you could have gone to Montana with him. If you hadn't have had to stay with me…we might not have lost him." Sam's fingers are tracing shapes in the thick dust on the floor, eyes focused on the frayed hole in one knee of his denim jeans, avoiding his brother's gaze.

"Sammy, we've not lost Dad. We'll find him."

"What if he's dead? What if he's dead and it's all my fault?"

The bitter truth of the situation is that Sam could be right, Dad could be dead and the reality of it hits Dean like a sharp slap to the face. "Christ, Sam. Not everything is about you." Dean snaps out irately.

Sam pulls himself to his feet and starts stalking away from Dean as though making to leave the room. "Sam, where are you going? Don't start acting like a brat, okay?" Dean fumes because man, he's exhausted and starving for some food and his fucking head hurts and he really doesn't want to sit through another performance of Sam's emo bitch routine right now.

When there's no answer, Dean looks up. It's still too dark to see clearly but he can faintly make out the shadowy outline of his brother standing half-way across the room with one arm outstretched, leaning heavily against the wall. "Sammy?" Dean asks. Concern spiking in his gut he pushes the blanket away from his legs and stands up.

Sam's practically slumped against the wall by the time Dean reaches his side and Dean can see Sam's legs are shaking, shaking like they're not strong enough to hold him upright. Sam turns to face him, skin bleached a shocking white as he licks a tongue across dry chapped lips. "Dean…I—I don't feel so good."

It's the last thing Sam says before he collapses.

-0-

Sam's unconscious. Laid on a blanket with another spread out over the top of him, tucked in around his body. His long legs are elevated, feet resting on the duffel bag. He's got some color back in his cheeks but it's the lingering unconsciousness that is really starting to freak Dean the fuck out.

Bobby puts a callused palm to Sam's forehead. It's hot, too hot. Bobby pulls Sam's blanket away and even while unconscious Sam curls himself into a foetal position, visibly shivering from head to toe. Dean starts forward, wanting to protest but Bobby stops him in his tracks with one raised hand. "We need to strip him down, Dean. He's burning up like a furnace."

Dean's well trained and has enough experience with first aid to know that a temperature that stays up too high for too long can be dangerous, seizure dangerous…brain damage dangerous. He nods, one sharp jerk of his head and then he's unzipping Sam's jacket. Struggling to slide Sam's limp arms out through the sleeves. "Son of a bitch." Dean holds Sam's right forearm between both hands, staring at the blood soaked bandanna fastened around it. "Oh, you stupid bastard. Christ, Sammy."

Bobby leans forward, his face drawn and pinched as he reaches to untie the thin material. The bite has stopped bleeding but there's blood crusted to the wound causing the bandanna to stick to it. Bobby peels it away carefully and hisses out through clenched teeth when he sees the skin around the injury is black. "She bit him."

Dean swallows noisily, "Okay." Dean says trying to think fast even though his brain is stuck on, Sammy's hurt, Sammy's not waking up…"Okay." Dean says again, lips quivering as his eyes flick from the bite to Sam's slack face and back to the bite again. "Okay…A skin-walker's bite isn't poisonous. Is it, Bobby?"

Bobby pauses, the desperately hopefully look on Dean's face cutting him to the core. "No, not that I know of but that doesn't mean it isn't possible." He replies, telling the truth because the kid doesn't need lies right now, even if lies would be comforting. "Get Sam out of his clothes and cooled down. I need to go take a look at the skin-walker's body."

Bobby shuffles away and Dean waits until he's out of sight before putting a hand to Sam's cheek. Sam's face is flushed red, glistening with a thin sheen of sweat. "Don't die on me Sammy. Don't you fucking dare." Dean whispers and fails miserably when he tries to swallow around the lump in his throat.

-0-

When Bobby comes back his eyes are dark. He looks different, older and so stern Dean doesn't want to meet his eyes, doesn't want to see the bad news written across Bobby's features. "She was only half transformed into a wild cat when Sam killed her. That doesn't happen often with skin-walkers, I've never seen it before but I have at least heard about it."

Dean edges closer on his knees, one hand still touching Sam's head, maintaining contact like losing it could hurt them both. "And?" Dean presses.

"Well, sometimes, the reason a skin-walker can't transform properly is because they're sick…because they're dying, Dean."

"She came here to die?"

"It's a remote location, I doubt anyone's set foot inside this building in the last few years. She probably thought she wouldn't be disturbed."

Sam twitches under Dean's hand and Dean instantly starts stroking a line across Sam's forehead with the pad of his thumb, an automatic reaction to his brother's suffering. "Easy, Sammy." He lets his hand move through Sam's tousled hair before turning his attention back to Bobby. "We should take him to the hospital. Get them to fix him up."

"Dean."

"We can get in the van and go, Bobby. We can get Sammy there in no time if we set off now."

"Dean, don't."

"We—we just need to get him to a hospital."

"The skin-walker was sick, infected and now..." Bobby's words stick in his throat. He rubs a hand across his bearded chin knowing he's trying to delay the inevitable. Goddamn Winchesters.

Bobby used to be a loner; he honest to God preferred working alone and liked the simplicity of having nobody else to worry about but himself and then the Winchesters come along. Years ago, when John Winchester and his two unruly rugrats first showed up on his doorstep, Bobby should have slammed his front door in their faces but he didn't, of course. He let them in, into his home and into his heart and now it feels like that same heart is breaking in two. Bobby steels himself and finishes talking, "Now, I think she's infected your brother. We can't take the boy to a hospital; they'll take him away, Dean."

"No. No they wouldn't, Bobby."

"It's a skin-walker bite. If we take Sam to the hospital, he'll end up shut away on some isolation ward where you'll be separated from him and they won't have the first clue how to treat him."

Dean's face drops as he looks down at his brother. Dressed only in a pair of boxer briefs, Sam appears too young, thin and painfully frail to Dean's eyes. His skin is so white it's almost transparent and he hasn't stopped shivering since he first fell unconscious.

He's fifteen, only a kid, Dean thinks to himself but Death doesn't have a problem with taking children and Dean knows that all too well. You're not having him. He's mine, mine to protect and mine to keep. Dean shakes his head slowly and wonders if he's going crazy. Almost fifteen years of hunting horrors ghastly enough to give Freddy Kruger nightmares and losing Sam could be the one thing to break him.

The silence in the room is disturbed by the sound of a soft muffled thud which is quickly followed by a second thud and then a third. It takes Dean several seconds of stunned perplexity to absorb what his eyes are trying to tell him, that the sounds are being made by the back of his brother's head thumping against the floor. Dean curses as he swiftly scuttles forward on his knees and clutches both sides of Sam's face with his hands, stabilising his brother's head and neck.

Sam's body trembles and his back arches off the ground one more time as he goes into a full on fit. "Oh shit, kid." Bobby mutters under his breath, a hand clamped over his mouth. He stands motionless, helpless, for a moment, simply watching Dean kneeling at the top of Sam's head, bent forward and whispering frantically into his brother's ear.

Bobby can only make out faint snatches of Dean's words, "hold on," "please stop, Sammy," as Dean tries to talk his brother through the worst of the convulsions but Sam's eyes are screwed tightly shut. Sam's whole body is painfully rigid, limbs taut as bow strings and Bobby doubts he can hear Dean.

Not knowing what else to do, Bobby crouches down and puts a hand on Sam's chest, he knows better than to try and restrain someone having a fit but he wants Sam to feel the contact, wants him to know he's not alone.

Eventually, after what seems like hours of waiting, the fit ends with Sam falling silent and still once more. His hair is drenched with sweat, damp dark strands are stuck to his forehead and flushed cheeks. Bobby stands up and hurries to get outside to the van, hoping to find something useful in the books piled up high in the back. Dean doesn't move from his place by Sam's side, he barely raises his head to acknowledge Bobby's exit from the room. His sole focus remains, where it always has been, on Sam.

-0-

"Dad, it's Dean. Sam's…I think I'm going to lose him Dad. I don't know where you are, if you're alive or...I can't do this. I can't watch Sam die, Dad. I just can't. Please, please get here, I have co-ordinates, we're at 39-118."

-0-

"Sammy, can you hear me?" Don't die, please God don't die. Dean takes hold of Sam's limp wrist and checks his brother's pulse. He glances at his watch, timing the too slow beats as the small red digital numbers flick from 3:34am to 3:35am. He waits, but whether he's waiting for a miracle or for Sam's heart to stop beating, Dean truly doesn't know.

-0-

"Dean, you awake?"

Dean wakes up gradually, one fist rubbing at the dried sleep crust causing his eyelids to glue together. He doesn't even remember falling asleep but when he finally blinks his bleary eyes open and sits up, the very first thing he sees is the empty space by his side. Sam's gone. Sam's gone, Sam's….

"WherethehellisSam?" Dean manages to splutter the words out in a garbled mess. Before Bobby can say anything in response, Dean is on his feet and fisting his hands in Bobby's shirt. He's quickly pushing the older man against the nearest wall screaming in his face, spittle landing on Bobby's cheek. "WHERETHEHELLISMYBROTHER?"

"Dean?"

Bobby's lips haven't moved. Someone else, then? Not Bobby. Not Sammy.

Dean turns around to see his Dad standing in the doorway. Sam, limp and lifeless, clutched against his broad chest. Sam's arms are dangling down. They swing ever so slightly as Dad shifts his hands, readjusting his grip so that Sam's neck is better supported.

Dean's eyes—focused until now on Sam's still face—shift upward to meet his Dad's gaze. "Dad?" It's one small word but it leaves Dean's mouth like a jagged shard of glass and Dean feels so sick to the stomach with fear that he can't say more. Can't say what he wants, needs, to say.

"He's going to be okay. Just...it'll take a few days for him to get his strength back. Damn close call, damn close." John says and he's still standing there in the doorway, like he's a stranger waiting to be granted permission to enter.

"How?" Dean manages; pretty sure he's in shock and vaguely wondering if he's ever going to be able to handle more than one-word responses. Out of the corner of his eye he can see Bobby scrubbing at his eyes with the heel of his hand, he turns away not wanting to witness Bobby temporarily losing his cool. Bobby thought Sam was going to die. God. Fuck.

"Camphor wood and rose-hips, burn them together and let the victim breathe in the smoke. Providing they're not too far gone it nearly always works."

"Jesus." Dean mumbles lamely, suddenly weak at the knees and yeah, that whole sentence-forming thing really isn't working for him. "Where?"

John's eyes drop to the body in his arms. "I got side-tracked. Dean, I meant to call, I did. But once I killed the shape-shifter I found out about a vampire nest nearby and I…"

Dean listens carefully while his dad talks and notes the hesitation, the way Dad hasn't entered the room and how his jaded red-rimmed brown eyes are struggling to hold Dean's gaze for longer than a few seconds. And Dean wonders how much of his story is true and how much of it actually involves a bottle of dirt-cheap whiskey and a few November days of blissful oblivion in Montana, away from hunting and away from his boys who remind him so much of Mary. Dean wonders all of this but Dad's back, Dad saved Sam and nothing else matters. Not now Sam's going to live.

John lifts Sam a little higher, closer, buries his mouth in Sam's thick chestnut hair as he stares at his eldest over the top of Sam's head and the silence which passes between them is laden with forgiveness and even stronger than that, with relief.

-end-

Thanks so much for reading, as always reviews are much loved.

Original prompt: The boys are with Bobby on a hunt for some supernatural monster. They find the thing and all Dean and Bobby get injured. Sam kills the beast (my hero!), but not before he gets injured himself. They are too far from civilization to make it back on foot injured and Sam takes care of the other two. He hides his injuries from them, because for some reason he thinks he has no right to live (something that happened before the hunt). And as the others get better, he gets worse by the time they realize it, we have a very limp Sammy and an upset Dean. Conveniently there has to be an empty house or something around for them to camp out, maybe some supplies. (Can be TeenChester).