A/N: This was written as a birthday fic for crystalchain, a fantastic friend and a hell of a graphic artist.

"You all right, dude?"

Dean groaned and pushed himself up, still blinking from the bright light in the basement. Corbett had come through, taking out Dagget. Which meant somebody upstairs had been paying attention during their brief 101 on trapped spirits.

"You all right?" Spruce asked again, and Dean hauled himself all the way up when he saw Sam. His brother was very carefully pulling himself to standing, using the dirty old sink as a brace. The dirty old sink that looked like it had fresh blood on the rim, and Dean winced.

Sam managed to stand, though, and Dean came over, tilting his flashlight up to get a better look at his brother. His brother was having a hard time breathing and walking, but managed to limp to meet Dean halfway. Dean parted his lips to speak, but Spruce beat him to it. "My god," he breathed when he saw the both of them. Sam turned the same time Dean did, giving the Ghostfacer incredulous stares as Spruce continued filming.

Unbelievable. Dean reached out and covered the lens with his hand, then gripped the edge and twisted hard. The camera jerked in Spruce's grasp, before the lens popped off and tumbled to the ground. "Oh man!" Spruce said, glaring at Dean. "You're a dick, dude."

Dean ignored him and turned back to Sam. The kid was a mess: his left eye was heavily swollen and the swollen skin underneath the eye was cut and bleeding. His nose was bleeding a copious amount of blood, and he was wavering on his feet with each passing second. His shoulders were dropped, leaving him hunched over himself, a stark contrast to the straight way he'd held himself when the camera had been rolling. "You all right?" Dean asked softly.

Sam licked his lips to speak, wincing slightly when the tiny movement pulled on tender skin. "Not really," he said quietly. "Can we get out of here?"

The ghost was gone, which meant they could all leave. Though, when Sam asked him with that pleading gaze that was all a five year old Sammy's, no ghost would've kept Dean from getting Sam out. "Yeah; we'll get you back to the hotel," Dean assured, reaching up to gently cup Sam's face for a better look.

"It's not scratched or broken," Spruce declared, holding the lens up triumphantly. "So...I might not kill you."

Dean slowly swung his head around and gave his best glare. Spruce's defiant stare faltered, and he quickly turned his attention to fixing his camera. Great; more filming.

Sam seemed to be thinking the same thing and, just like Dean had feared, began pulling himself up straight. Never show a sign of weakness filtered through Dean's mind in his dad's voice, and Dean wanted for just one moment to slap his dad.

"C'mon Sammy," Dean said softly. "Let's get you out of here."

The camera was fixed, and Spruce filmed their ascent up to the next level. Dean wanted to knock the entire camera out of his hands this time, but refrained.

Out of sight of the camera, though, Sam had Dean's wrist clutched in his hand as they went slowly but surely up the stairs. So Dean focused on twisting his hand around to reach out and grip Sam's hand with his fingers, keeping the connection strong between them. They were a little more touchy-feely these days, more time ticking down to the end of the year, but Dean didn't really care. And Sam obviously sure as hell didn't.

Still, when they reached the top of the stairs and opened the door, Dean felt Sam begin to pull away. The less of them captured on film by these idiots, the better things would be.

And the less of the tenderness they filmed, the gentleness, those 'weaknesses' that were only for Sam, the better Dean would feel.

Sam managed to hold himself up until they got out of the house and away from the cameras that were still filming. He held himself up until theyreached the hotel. Then he held himself all the way up until the hotel door.

Two steps in, and Dean was more than ready for the stumble. "I gotcha," Dean said softly, closing the door behind him with the tip of his boot. His arms and hands he kept wrapped around Sam's waist, and as soon as the door was shut, Dean pulled his brother back against him to take more of his weight. "Bed," Dean instructed, "and then I'll get a better look at you."

"Be fine," Sam mumbled, and Dean rolled his eyes. He'd been waiting for that one.

Once Sam was seated (well, more slumped than anything) on the edge of the bed, Dean crouched in front of his brother and gently took Sam's chin and lifted his head to look Sam in the eyes. They looked glassy from pain, but they focused on Dean when Dean looked at him.

Dean turned Sam's face left, then right, pursing his lips at the damage. "He hurt you anywhere else?" Dean asked. Sam shook his head then stopped, frowning slightly in thought.

Dean waited semi-patiently until Sam answered quietly, "The, um, back of my neck. I don't know what he was going to do, but when you came in, he was trying to..." He swallowed hard and hung his head. "Trying to kill me like he'd killed Corbett."

Without hesitation Dean took Sam's shoulders in his hands and carefully twisted his brother around. Sam braced his hands on the comforter of the bed and bent his head forward. A few moments later, his hair was swept aside, and Dean stood up a little to get a better look. A nice round red spot marked the back of his brother's neck. A little dried blood near the center, but nothing terrible.

Because Dean had gotten there in time. And in a few months, he wasn't going to be there to save Sam at the last minute. His chest tightened, and he pulled away to give Sam a small smile. "We'll wash it up, but you should be okay."

Sam nodded, his head still hung low. Dean frowned and bent lower to look up at his brother. "You okay?"

Sam's eyes darted his way briefly. "I couldn't...I had to look Corbett in the eye and tell him it was going to be okay," he said, his voice hoarse. "I watched Dagget kill him. And I knew he was going to do the same thing to me."

Dean glared at him and pushed at his shoulder slightly. "Thanks for the faith. What do you think I was doing?"

"That's my point," Sam said, and the kid looked even more miserable. "You won't be there. I couldn't get myself out; I needed you to save me. And that's not going to be a viable option in the future."

Sam had figured it out, too, and Dean winced. "Well, I was there," Dean insisted stubbornly, pushing his own thoughts aside. "And trust me, it wasn't all that fun." Sam finally raised his head, and Dean gave him a weak smile. "You scared the crap out of me," he admitted. "I had to try and figure out the puzzle by myself, had to do the research type of thinking you usually do. I was on my own, too, and I knew if I couldn't figure it out in time..." That wasn't an avenue Dean was even going to consider at this point. Sam was out, and that was all Dean was focusing on.

Well, that, and all the blood and swelling still on his brother's face. "I'll get ice," Dean said, pushing himself to full standing. They never stayed at a hotel that didn't have an ice machine within a few step's distance from their room. They used it multiple times during their visit, more often than not.


Dean paused at the door and glanced back. Even beneath the grime and the blood and the pain, Sam still managed to smile. "We work better together, huh?"

Dean snorted and grinned. "You'd think we'd have figured that out already, wouldn't you?"

This time, Sam's smile looked a little more real. "Lay down; I'll be right back," Dean said as he opened the door. He had a few months more to be there for Sam.

They'd be all right. Sam would be all right. Dean would make sure of it.

And they'd be better still after they dealt with that stupid film from the Ghostfacers. Electromagnet, maybe, would get the job done...