Armor of Righteousness

Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Author's Note: This has my standard warning: There will be angst and sap. I began writing this because I needed some H/C after "Head of the Pin". It's just wrong to have Dean in the hospital without it. And honestly, I wasn't sure if I was going to post it…guess the vote's in since I'm writing this note. If I don't get it all posted before Thursday's new episode, this will go AU. And I promise, I'm still working on my other two stories…this one I had to write for my own sanity.

Summary:Multi-chapter tag for OTHOAP. No one man wins or loses a war. Now Sam just has to prove that to Dean. No Slash.

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He was sitting by Dean's side, wasn't going anywhere, ever again. "And neither are you, Dean," Sam hoarsely ordered, hand sliding forward to grasp onto Dean's forearm, to give it a squeeze. How many times had Dean been hurt and he had stoically stood over his brother's immobile form, not daring to touch him, unwilling to forfeit his mask of indifference, to show Dean, to show the world that he loved his brother, needed him? But that time was past, that foolish pride gone, that erroneous belief that Dean couldn't die, wouldn't leave him proven wrong a thousand times over in four months time..in the months since Dean had been miraculously returned to him. His brother was weak….wasn't the juggernaut he wanted him to be, needed him to be. Was just a man…the strongest man Sam knew but still…a man that could die, could not hold off Hell and its minions forever, could not even be protected by God's own soldiers.

Shifting to the edge of his chair, he gripped tighter to Dean's arm, raked his eyes over Dean's bruised face, over the breathing tube, felt his own breathing match the machine's rhythm that ensured his brother continued to breathe, to live. He had nearly been too late…was too late to protect Dean from Alistair's cruel strength. A shudder coursed through him as he remembered running into the room, seeing that Alistair was free, that he was capable of defeating an Angel. And then he had seen Dean. His brother was on the floor, bleeding, his eyes were closed, he wasn't moving.

He didn't attack Alistair to save Castiel. He surprised himself that he even bothered to demand answers about the dead Angels. But the delay didn't change his goal, Alistair still died by his hands, paid for what he had done to Dean, in Hell and out. For what he had made Dean become in Hell and out of it. When Alistair's essence shivered under his assault and faded away like ash on the wind, Sam met Castiel's eyes for a brief moment, willing the Angel to not send him to Hell, not right then, not until he knew Dean was alright. Castiel gave him a bewildered look but stayed his hand of wrath, of judgment.

Not wasting any more time, Sam had turned around, ran to Dean's side, dropped to his knees beside his brother's still body. "Dean!" he shouted, trembling hands settling on his brother's face and chest. When his call, his touch garnered no reaction, he gently rolled Dean onto his back, felt his breath leave him when Dean's head lolled limply with the motion, when his hand fell onto the floor like he was without life again, was gone like he was in New Harmony. Maybe it was his startled sob that slipped from his throat that caused Castiel to do what he did, maybe it was for Heaven's own interests. All Sam knew was that one instant he knelt upon a cold concrete floor and the next on the cool grass of a lawn in front of a hospital, Dean still under his hands, still with him.

Sliding his hands under Dean's back and knees, he stood up, greedily gripped his brother in his arms and strode for the hospital, knowing without looking that they were alone, that Castiel was gone as quickly as he usually came. It wasn't far to the ER entrance but Sam's fear grew with each moment Dean didn't stir, with the way Dean's head lolled against his arm, with the knowledge that Dean could die, that no one was guarding him from crossing that threshold. "Dean, stay with me, alright. Please Dean don't go again. God don't let him go again," he prayed, needed to believe in God in that moment, to believe that there was someone watching out for them again, that somehow they had found favor in God's eyes, well that Dean had. His own soul he was willing to forfeit, probably already had.

Stalking into the ER, bearing the most important, precious thing he had in this life in his arms, he called out, "My brother needs help! Someone help my brother," even as he thought 'Someone help my brother because I couldn't. Because I wasn't fast enough, because his friggin' guardian Angel wasn't strong enough.' Found out a minute later that getting help for Dean called for another sacrifice from him…forced him to put his brother's life into someone else's hands, a mere human's hands, to be separated from Dean.

"We'll help him, alright?" a male doctor assured him, his hands wrapping around his hand that that held his brother. "You can put him down on the bed and we'll help him." And he believed the man, wanted to. Wanted to believe anyone that would tell him Dean would be alright, that he wasn't leaving again. Stepping forward, Sam leaned over, settled Dean gently on the bed, slid his hand up to cup his head and position it tenderly on the thin mattress of the examination table. His eyes did not leave his brother's face as he still searched for a sign that Dean was waking, was coming back to him, that Dean would not welcome the first Reaper that came knocking with open arms.

"Sir, we need room to work on your brother. You'll have to take a seat in the waiting room," a woman nurse calmly insisted, as if he didn't know the routine, hadn't been forced from his hurt brother's side a hundred times before, mostly by Dean himself. Nodding, he shuffled back a step, was glad he towered over the nurses who took his place at Dean's side so he could still see his brother's face, could still hope to see Dean regain consciousness, to see a flicker of life in Dean's eyes. "Sir you need to leave the examination room," the nurse insisted, hands reaching for him as if she could force her will on him. He stumbled backwards, not wanting her touch, not wanting compassion or sympathy, not when Dean was lying there, not moving, not when the doctor was rattling off medical jargon, his face intense, the nurses reactions hurried, desperate.

Backing out of the room, he retreated until his back hit the far wall. But he could still see through the small window in the room, saw the hurried motion of the medical personnel. This wasn't Dean playing possum, wasn't Dean just knocked out for a few hours, gonna be fine recovering in a crappy motel tomorrow. This was Dean fighting to stay alive. Again. "Don't go, Dean. Fight, you jerk, Fight," he roughly whispered, unaware that tears were slipping free of his eyes.

Now hours later, Dean was still there, hadn't gone. Yet. The doctor had held that solemn look in his eyes as he catalogued Dean's injuries, quoted Dean's odds of coming out of this with no brain damage, of his throat making a full recovery, of him not dying. Sam wasn't sure if he was going to unleash some force of rage upon the doctor…or burst into tears. Did neither because Dean wouldn't want him to, wouldn't want him to hurt others…or to be hurt himself…to be broken.

'But I am broken Dean, just like you are,' he thought wincing with the sight of Dean lying in another hospital bed, hooked up to another breathing machine. 'But I can deal with that if you're here, if you stay.' He barely registered the nurse that entered, knew it took a few tries before she got his attention, and even then it took most of his willpower to look away from his brother, to look to the nurse.

"I'm sorry but visiting hours are over. Make sure the nurses station has your phone number and we'll call you if anything changes," her words standard, clipped, spoken a hundred times to a hundred different people. Those people weren't him, weren't Dean. Those people hadn't watched their brother die…be shredded apart, held their brother's corpse in their hands…and got him back.

"I'm not leaving," he lowly stated, eyes on her, almost daring her to try and make him leave Dean's side, wanting a fight, wanting to rage at someone.

Though the man had looked so vulnerable a moment before, the nurse found herself afraid of him now, could read the desperation, the despair in his eyes. Contrary to popular belief, she had only encountered this type of devotion a few times in her career. Most people wanted to escape, to not be there if their loved ones slipped away, wanted to get off the hook, to have an excuse, to remember their loved ones as they once were: healthy, invincible, alive. "He's your brother, isn't he?" she quietly asked, somehow drawn in by the fierce love that was evident between the brothers, enthralled by it as much as she was worried at the young man's reaction if the worst should happen.

Unprepared for the change in conversation, for the compassion that replaced the nurse's frank boredom, Sam croaked, "Yeah, he is. How is he doing?"

Treating the question with the seriousness it demanded, the nurse opened Dean's chart, read it a moment before she sat it down and moved to Dean's side. With gentle, well practiced touch, she ran her fingers across Dean's darkly bruised throat, looked up to the readout of the machines attached to Dean before her eyes landed on Sam. "There hasn't been any improvement in his condition yet," she truthfully answered because she knew, as much as the young man wanted a safe lie, he needed the unvarnished facts. Couldn't survive false hope, might not survive even without that illusion of it if he lost his brother.

At the news, Sam let his hand slip from his brother's arm and slumped back in his seat. Nodding at the nurse, he numbly watched her reset the monitors, check the IV. He didn't react at her promise to bring him a pillow and some water or even to her departure. Hands gripped in his lap, his eyes swung up to the monitors above Dean's head before he looked back to Dean's face, wishing that some trace of Dean's strength was evident, that he would look less vulnerable, less likely to slip away from him.

As if he sensed a presence, his head swiveled right to see Castiel in the doorway. Felt a thousand emotions flare in him at the sight of the Angel. He couldn't read the Angel's expression, but he never could. And then Castiel walked by the door, out of sight. Turning back to face Dean, Sam whispered, "I'll be right back, Dean," reached his hand out to squeeze Dean's hand before he forced himself to let go, to stalk out the door, to maybe get someone to stop this nightmare, to make things alright again.

"Sam," Castiel began but Sam demanded, "Get in there and heal him! Miracle now!" his shouted, his hands itching to latch onto Castiel's coat lapels and drag him to Dean's bedside. To beat a healing from the Angel if he had to.

"I can't!" Castiel shouted back and Sam believed him, thought with sick disappointment that the Angel wasn't denying his order, was instead incapable of healing Dean. It only increased his fury, made him lash out with words, hurl righteous accusations at Castiel, at Uriel, at their inability to keep his brother safe. At the fact that they had almost lost the one person he couldn't lose again, not now, not ever. And it had all been for a snipe hunt, a mis-lead. Dean was hurt, might die because someone didn't know who to blame…or who to trust.

Certain that Castiel couldn't help Dean, Sam turned away, hurried back to the room, back to Dean, back to the thing that mattered the most to him in this apocalyptic war. As he walked back into the room, the sight of Dean, it struck him anew how close he was to losing his brother. That there wasn't going to be any miraculous healing, miraculous recovery. Dean would have to fight this, would have to fight to live, to stay with him. Would have to fight the battle to overcome his body's trauma..and whatever emotional scars Alistair had scored across him this time.

Reclaiming his chair, he put his hand gently onto Dean's chest, rested it there, sought reassurance by the thump of his brother's heart under his hand. Closing his hand, he fisted his brother's shirt in his grip like he wanted to fist Dean's soul into his keeping, wanted to claim it, to hold onto it and not let it go for any cause on earth… for forces above or below. "I'm back, Dean. Your neighborhood Angel just visited," and he couldn't keep the bitterness out of his tone. "I'm so pissed at him. He let this happen to you. I thought he was suppose to protect you, make sure you stuck around to do whatever task they want you to do. Not let Alistair slip his reigns…do this to you," his voice cracked on the last words and he shook his head, felt the tears come again. "I'm not going to stop until I'm strong enough to protect you, Dean. You can be as pissed and disappointed as you want but you're not leaving me again, Dean. You hear me," he growled, leaning over Dean, breath hitting his brother's face. "You're not leaving me again. I'm not going to let you." Raising his hand, he laid it on Dean's check, swallowed down his sob. "So stop screwing around, stop trying to die on me again. I won't survive that, Dean. I won't. So you get that through your head. You die and you're going to be taking me with you. We're brothers, Dean. We're family and our family has lost enough, we're not losing again. You hear me, we aren't losing again, Dean. I'm not losing you and you're not pushing me away."

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TBC

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So I didn't lie about the angst or the sap. That's what happens when the show puts me into an emotional tailspin! I have to do something to get myself to fly straight. And that's sitting down at my computer and "fixing things" well…trying to fix things as best as I can for the cruel situations those beautiful boys always find themselves in.

Hope you found some merit to my ramblings. This story will most likely be 4 chapters..or 5. I'm almost done writing this. But like I warned, if I don't get it all posted before Thursday's episode, I'll have to slap an AU on this babe.

Have a great evening!

Cheryl W.