"Don't move or I shoot!"

"Alright, alright - just calm down for a second-"

"I said don't move!"

"Hey man, I'm not gonna try anything okay? You're in charge here, but we both know you don't wanna shoot anybody, right?"

"Jus-just shutup an-and gimme your wallets!"

"Hey-hey, no problem, I'm just gonna reach into my pocket okay? To get my wallet for you, okay?"


Dean knew he'd messed up the moment he'd reached his hand past his pocket and toward his waistband. He could tell by the way the guy's flitting eyes widened and panicked, clearly a first-timer, not a killer or even a criminal; just a kid with a gun who'd been pushed too far. Everything seemed to quiet down and freeze as the bullet sped toward him.

It'd been an easy hunt, much too easy by Winchester standards; just a salt and burn at the usual late hour in an empty cemetery.

Well, not quite so empty.

Next thing either of the brothers knew, they were being held up by a shaky kid with spiky hair and a loaded gun, and now Dean was caught in between the second when he'd thought he could pretend to be reaching for his wallet while instead grabbing his own gun, and the second when he realized the kid had just tightened his finger around the trigger of the gun that was pointed right at him.

Dean didn't have time to brace himself for the feel of a bullet slicing through his chest. He barely managed to suck in a breath. When he was hit, his air whooshed out of him and he felt himself lifted off the ground and then slammed back down onto it.

He laid there, eyes shut, and wondered why he wasn't dead yet.

Thoughts were flying through his head, observations he'd made between the sound of the gunshot and the sound of his body thumping roughly onto the grass; observations he hadn't yet had time to analyze.

The impact had been from the wrong direction; he'd been hit from the side, not the front. It was too big, covering too big a surface area, not like the thin sharpness of a bullet piercing him should feel. And a bullet from a gun that small should not have been able to lift him into the air like that. He'd heard two shots, close together, but he'd only felt one impact before hitting the ground.

Dean could hear the sounds of frantic running fading into the distance. Something heavy was lying across his upper body. He shifted and the heaviness rolled over, away from him.

Dean opened his eyes, still confused. It was like the seconds had been rolling slowly by, and the gunshots were still echoing in the air when he turned his head to see the heavy thing next to him.

Time returned to its normal speed, along with the sound of his adrenalin quickened blood pumping through his ears and making his breathing short and rapid in his tense chest. Sam was there beside him, kneeling and facing the other way, his head slightly cocked and looking down at something. No...

Dean bolted upright, feeling his chest, his stomach, searching for bullet holes and finding nothing but a cold kind of fear creeping through him. No, please...


He got to his knees and reached to grab his brother's shoulder, turning him.

Sam kind of stumbled on his knees and swayed into a turn that ended with him facing Dean, his brown eyes wide and staring confusedly down at his chest, then up at Dean with something like an apology.

Two patches of deep, wet red were widening across his shirt. Sam started to fall.

* * *


Sam looked up from the map as his brother parked the car, taking in the familiar site of a lonely cemetery just ahead in the night. The air looked misty, damp. Cold, Sam thought grumpily, always cold.

They left the car with the usual gear in hand, found the grave, and started to dig. Sam took the first shift while Dean kept watch, shotgun in hand.

Nearly half an hour later, he was almost finished with his half of the digging. He didn't have much of a preference, but he knew Dean liked breaking the wood, so Sam took the top half most of the time anyway. He was working up a light sweat; his arms were beginning to burn after shoveling and shoveling and shoveling and shoveling. He never got used to it, probably never will. This cemetery smells funny. The least they could do is put some nice smelling flowers or something. Graves are depressing enough without smelling bad...

He felt more than heard Dean's feet shift position in the grass. He didn't look up or say anything - he knew the drill. Drop, arm, aim.

Sam dropped down to a crouch, pulling his Glock from the ground beside him and slowly easing up the shallow wall of the half-dug grave to peek at whatever it was Dean was staring at.

There was a young guy, no older than seventeen or eighteen, standing about ten feet away from them. He had a bulgy backpack hanging off of one shoulder, and he was dirty, his spiky hair a bit scraggly, like he been running through bushes and trees. He was panting heavily, obviously panicked - his hand was shaking as he gripped the pistol he was nervously aiming at Dean. Small time crook, Sam automatically thought; a thief. Crap.

Sam couldn't shoot him. He was just a kid.

Dean was talking; Sam could tell the kid hadn't taken much notice of the mound of earth next to the hole in the ground or the very tall man hiding in side of it. The kid looked freaked that Dean wasn't cowering on the ground and tossing his wallet forward already.

"G-give me your money!" the kid shouted unnecessarily, and Sam tensed, preparing to spring if need be - this kid looked too shaky to have his finger on the trigger, much less the trigger of a gun pointed at his brother.

"Whoa, there's no need for the gun kid, I can play nice," Dean' voice was calm and smooth, his face the perfect mask. Sam could almost see the cogs turning in Dean's head; he was going to reach.

Don't try it, Dean.

"Shutup, just hand it over. I-I mean it!" the kid's voice cracked and his eyes were wide, flitting from Dean's face to Dean's hands to the street behind Dean. Sam could tell the kid was looking for a quick getaway. Alone then, probably a first-timer. Careful Dean.

"I know you do man, I got it. This is your show, I'm not gonna try anything." Dean took a step forward. The kid all but started shooting.

Dangit Dean, what are you doing...

"Don't move or I shoot!"

"Alright, alright - just calm down for a second-"


"I said don't move!"

"Hey man, I'm not gonna try anything okay? You're in charge here, but we both know you don't wanna shoot anybody, right?"

Dean it's not working. Don't, don't try to-

"Jus-just shutup an-and gimme your wallets!"

"Hey-hey, no problem, I'm just gonna reach into my pocket okay? To get my wallet for you, okay?"



Sam knew what was going to happen before it did. He knew Dean was going to try for his own gun, try to put the kid on the spot and make him run. He knew the kid was too panicked, too shaky; he would act reflexively.

Sam could tell this kid was going to shoot his brother.

He leaped before the shot was actually fired, but he seemed slow in the air. There was only feet between him and Dean, only feet keeping him from tackling his brother out of the way, but the bullet was exploding into the air, he could hear the report from the gun, two loud bursts, two bullets, and he wouldn't be able to tackle him fully, unless...

He gritted his teeth and smashed his eyes shut, knowing what would happen next.

He twisted, colliding with the back of his shoulder to his brother's chest and they lifted off of the ground together, but not before Sam felt two distinct football players crash into him, he was sure that was what they were, because it hurt, they hit so hard, and they had white hot helmets, and he could hear the oddly concentrated sound they made when they hit his chest in quick succession, taking his breath away.

The time he hadn't realized had slowed sped up into over time, and he was on his back, on top of Dean on the ground, the smell of grass strong and no sound and horrible, horrible pressure crushing his chest. He could feel Dean panting beneath him, and every time he did it was like the football players were tackling him again.

He didn't know how or when, but must have rolled off, because suddenly he was standing on his knees, and he could see the kid with the spiky hair running away, stumbling once and glancing anxiously back, then taking off, down the street until Sam couldn't see him anymore.

Sam suddenly realized that breathing was hurting him. Not just hurting him, but hurting him. He gaped once, feeling like his tongue had swollen, and then looked down to see what damage the football players had done; his head was feeling too heavy to hold up anyway.

His chest looked fine, normal. What... There; two spots, one at the lower part of the left side of his chest, the other to the right from the first, more center, but lower down. They were getting bigger, they looked wet, and Sam forced himself to suck in a short breath, not big enough, his ears were pulsing now, sound still gone, and then it clicked in his brain.


Sound came back awkwardly, not loudly or quietly, just normal, like he forgotten to acknowledge it until now, and he remembered that Dean was behind him, but he couldn't turn, his chest was tight, there was a taste like pennies in his mouth, his eyes were watering, his fingers were shaking, and the pressure was killing him...

Oh my god, it's actually killing me...

He felt Dean's hand on his shoulder, pulling him gently around, but it hurt like being shot all over again. He stumbled on his knees, feeling like his heart was about to fall out of him, turning to face Dean who looked confused and concerned.

I'm sorry, Dean, but I'm not sorry...

Dean's face changed drastically, his eyebrows went from sort of furrowed to high on his forehead, his lips went from pursed to wide and turned down at the ends, his eyes went from regular to saucer shaped, horrified and shocked. His face blanched, his arms lifted up and the tendons in his neck visibly tightened.

"Sam-Sammy! Oh my god, Sam?!"

Sam could feel himself falling, and he was glad. He was glad for the way things were swirling before his eyes, how he felt muddled and things seemed to be slipping, because he didn't want to be awake anymore, it was hurting too much, he couldn't breathe right, his mouth was flooding with something warm and coppery tasting, and he didn't really want to be conscious anymore.

He closed his eyes as Dean closed his arms around him.

* * *


Sam started to fall.

And Dean could have sworn his own heart started to fail.

"Sam," Dean reached swiftly for him, wrapping his arms around Sam's tense shoulders and lowering him to the ground, "Sammy," he said again, not really expecting a response or even wanting one, but not knowing what else to say. He glanced toward the holes in Sam's chest. "Oh god, Sam?!" This time Dean wanted Sam to speak, to say something, to give him something to hold on to, to go off of, to keep him from losing it.

Sam's eyes were fluttering closed. Dean could tell he wasn't breathing.

"No, Sam! Sammy, please," Dean pulled his jacket off and fumbled with his over shirt, pulling it over his head and pressing it to the bullet holes.

Sam arched slightly against the pressure, his eyes blinking eratically, coughing once and blowing out the barest moan.

"It's okay Sam, you're gonna be okay, just stay with me. No Sam, keep your eyes open! Keep 'em open man, don't go to sleep-"

"De-ean," Sam's voice hitched in a wet sounding way, and Dean saw blood spatter over his lips when he started to cough again. He's gonna choke. Dean tried to keep his hands steady as he grasped Sam's shoulders and placed a hand behind him, pulling him up off the ground. Sam struggled, just feebly, crying out.

"I know it hurts man, but you gotta sit up, you're not gonna be able to breathe-"

"Hu...," Sam coughed, only it souded like a gurgle, "hurts..." his eyes were scrunched, and Dean could see him trying to pant, but unable to.

"C'mon Sam, sit up with me, that's it," Dean could see the blood in Sam's mouth dribbling down his chin, but at least he could wheeze in some air. Dean wiped the blood off with a thumb, "Okay I'm pulling your arms up, Sam. SAM. Eyes open. Okay, look at me, look." Dean grabbed Sam's hands and raised them to his shoulders, where Sam immediately made fists against his jacket, "Keep these here, you can breathe easier, I'm gonna getcha to the car, alright?" Sam grunted, Dean could see his jacket wasn't helping enough, Sam was losing alot of blood way too fast, his entire front was red, and his face was pasty.

Dean lifted Sam as best he could, keeping him in an awkward bear hug, and all but dragged him across the cemetery as fast as possible. His jacket fell away, and Dean left it. Sam was bleeding freely, Dean could feel his brother's hands starting to loose their grip, relaxing.

"No Sam! Stay with me, stay with me!" Dean all but yelled, finally reaching the car and opening the driver's side, sliding Sam in and across the bench, climbing haphazardly in after him.

He fumbled in his pockets for the keys, and had to forcibly suppress the panic that escalated when he couldn't find them. My jacket. Dean cursed furiously and continuously, running back to grab his jacket where it had fallen. He skidded next to it and dug through the pockets while he bolted back to the car. The leather was slick with Sam's blood.

I hate this jacket, it hate it I hate it I hate it I-

"Sam?!" By the time he'd closed the driver's door and smashed the key into the ignition, Dean wasn't bothering to fake it anymore. He was flipping out; Sam was slumping, bleeding everywhere, and the Impala's tank was almost on empty, Dean didn't know where the nearest hospital was, they'd only just driven in hours ago, and "Sam stop it, you take a breath right friggin' now or I swear to GOD!" Dean gritted his teeth, hating himself, and hit Sam roughly in his wounded chest with the hand that was holding him upright, making Sam lurch in shock and cough wetly, but it was a breath. Dean passed a whirring and speeding ambulance and u-turned without slowing, skidding and clipping a pubic mailbox, but following the van and eventually beating it once he saw the hospital.

I was going the wrong way, oh god I spent almost forty seconds going the wrong way-

"Help! HELP!" He didn't care, he was screaming like a child and it didn't matter, someone came out the front doors of the Maple Grove Medical Center and then they were yelling too, and then there were more people there, half of them pulling Sam out of the car and onto a gurney that had magically appeared out of nowhere, and the other half were pulling at Dean, and he didn't know why.

His mouth seemed to know though, because it was explaining, even though he couldn't remember asking it to.

"It's not mine, no it-stop, no IT'S NOT MY BLOOD!!"

They stopped pulling at him, and things got very quiet very fast, and suddenly it was all very calm, falsely so, and Dean waited with the two orderlies and one passerby for the explosion that they all knew would inevitably follow.

Dean realized the Impala was still running. He pulled the key out. Belatedly, he put on the parking brake.

The Impala was diagonal in the lane before the hospital's emergency entrance. The front right tire was on the curb.

There was an oddly shaped splotch on the gray cement.

A small splash of Sam's blood.

It occurred to Dean that Sam was already inside, and that he was still outside, and that nobody had spoken for almost a whole minute.

Dean looked down at his still self. His front was covered in red.

His hands started to shake, and while one of the orderlies stepped to him and led him inside by the arm, Dean felt the rest of him shaking, and he thought his vision was beginning to shake too, because it was blurring and perhaps his insides were shaking, because he was breathing funny, unevenly.

By the time he got to the waiting room, it finally clicked that he was just crying. I don't cry.

But no one was really watching him after he sat down in the waiting room, so he figured it was okay if he didn't stop.

* * *


Words were floating around him.

Which was strange.

Did words usually float? Maybe it was numbers that did...no that sounded wrong.


All he could sense was sound, and it was hard to separate the separate sounds that sounded like they should be separate...from...other...sounds...

Okay, the floating words weren't making much sense.

Maybe the words floated because they were in water, like he was. That must be why it's cold in here.

And suddenly, he realized that he felt cold.

Sound, feeling. Two out of five, not bad.

One sound was better than the others....warm....rough but not unpleasant....

Sam liked the sound, and he decided he didn't care if words could float or not, because that sound was a good one, so it seemed okay to go back all-the-way asleep again.

Sam?...who's Sam....oh yeah, me...

Just before the sound and cold and everything else he couldn't separate faded away, he sensed another word float, and he somehow knew it was connected to the sound that was wonderfully comforting...


* * *


There no words this time.

Only feeling.

Tense, tight, pressure. And heat. Terrible, sweltering heat.

But the pressure was worse.

It was somewhere in his center, and he was frustrated and somewhat frightened when he couldn't place is specifically, because he felt unnaturally numb, but if he was numb then why was there so much horrible painful feeling?

No, not painful. But bad. He felt bad.

Maybe the numbness took away the pain, but not the bad; the wrongness.

He could feel the pressure tighten sporadically, and suddenly there was an odd feeling like the center of him had burst, or maybe collapsed, but either way, he wasn't sure what happened next, because suddenly there was no sensation whatsoever, and no consciousness to react to the absence.

* * *


Where am I?

Sam was surprised by the sudden awareness he found himself in.

Ugh...did I get hit by a truck? Holy crap...

He moaned lightly. Awkward and annoying blips sounded to his left. Blip. Blip. Blip. Bli...shutup for the love of-

"Sammy?" A voice he didn't recognize.

Well, at least they know my name.

Sam tried to...well, anything, but it wasn't working out too well. He was in the process of remembering where his arms were, and forcing his voice to work.

What came out was between a mumble and a whimper. Pathetic. I suck.

"Sam, can you hear me?"

A light buzz sounded that was as annoying as the blips that were still blipping. Did I not tell you to shutup you stupid blipping thing....?

Suddenly it was too bright, sharp and painful. Ok, so maybe I'll stop trying to open my eyes now. Dark is better, we like the dark.

"Sam? C'mon Sammy, that's it..."

What's it? What's going on? And who the heck told you you could call me Sammy...?

And then it hit him. Dean.

Where's Dean?! Dean? Where is my brother?!! The blips started to sound more frequent.

"Dnnn..." Ugh, is that my voice? Man...

"Yeah, I'm here," Sam stilled, which was weird, apparently he'd been moving, "I'm right here Sam, it's okay."

Dean? That can't be Dean...

Sam tried for the eye-opening thing again. Okay, ow ow ow ow ow....

It was bright, and he didn't like it, but he managed to blink at least one eye open, the other only halfway. And there was Dean.

Holy crap it is him. He sounds terrible....

"D..." Sam's voice fell away. He tried again, and it turns out having your eyes open makes it a lot easier to tell where your body is, so moving was working now, "Dean? Wh-wha..."

"God Sam..." Somehow it sounded like Dean was saying thank you.

None of this made sense. Dean didn't act like this. He was flippin' laying his head on Sam's arm, his hand gripping Sam's shoulder, and his voice sounded awful, like someone had run a cheese grater over his voice box what the heck, gross image, gross gross image, Sam, and there was a full on beard growing there, at least a few days worth of stubble-gone-crazy. It prickled on Sam's arm, and once Dean sat up again, Sam could see his eyes looked weirdly swollen, almost bloodshot...

"Dnnn," Sam managed, thoroughly confused, "you 'kay?" Why do I sound friggin' four? His brother stared at him.

And then Dean did the strangest thing. He laughed. Full on, hysterical half-choking, joyless and shaky laughing.

"I...ah, I'm awesome Sammy...." Dean looked ready to sleep for a month, and Sam had a vague feeling there was something he should be remembering. Dean shook his head, and Sam felt himself falling back to sleep, while Dean kept speaking, his voice a good sound,"I'm friggin fantastic..."

Oh...am I in a hospital?...

* * *


Five days.

Dean had been going half out of his mind for five whole days.

Sam had come out of surgery still critical. Touch and go for 42 hours before he was stable enough for Dean to be allowed to stay in his room with him.

Then the infection hit. Out of the blue, and suddenly Sam was crashing, and Dean couldn't take it, Sam couldn't be flatlining, there was no way, he hadn't even had a fever two hours ago, and now he was dying in front of him.

And then he was there again, asleep and still like nothing insane had happened.

Dean hadn't left since. He thought he could remember eating.....something. But he couldn't be sure.

Well, he knew he hadn't slept.

And it sucked, because the nurses kept pestering him about getting some rest, contacting family, keep up hope blah blah blah, and the police hadn't found that stupid kid who had done this, and the spirit that they'd come to take care of had killed someone else yesterday, and Sam had taken not one, but two bullets for Dean why why why, god why, and Sam had all but died like three times in the last five days don't you do it Sam, don't you dare die, and Dean couldn't do anything about anything, except sit here and not cry, because he had that night, fine, but he sure as heck wasn't gonna again you shouldn't have done it, Sam.


And then Sam was awake.

It was like Dean was waking up from a coma, too. Never again, Sammy, you hear me?

"Dnnn...you 'kay?"

And it was the most hilarious thing he'd ever heard, because Sam is the double-gunshot victim who'd leapt in front of Dean and nearly died for it oh god, and Dean had driven the wrong way, and Dean had brought in the germs that gave Sam the killer-fever infection, and Sam looked like crap, and Dean didn't even have the energy to lay into him like he'd planned verbally of course, and Sam was actually concerned about Dean.

And you know what, Dean could tell he was gonna have to find someplace secret and solitary after this, because he was gonna have to stinkin' cry again, dangit. I don't cry.

"I..." Dean didn't even have the right words, "I'm awesome, Sammy. I'm friggin' fantastic."

And kinda, he was.

Maybe. I don't cry.

Either way, Dean was gonna have to have a talk with his little brother...eventually.

Sam was just not allowed to take the bullet like this ever again.