Originally appeared in Brotherhood 4.

Swarmed

Sam never even saw them coming. In hindsight, he probably should have. However, when he'd stopped to help the old woman put her groceries into the back of her car, he didn't know about the swarm.

But he did know one thing as he twisted away from a jacked-up local with a crowbar, dodged a high kick meant to crush his chest, then drove a fist into the nose of another guy—geez, just how many of them are there, anyway?

Dean was going to kill him.

That was if that other guy—or was it a girl?—with the baseball bat didn't first…

*****

Sam was late. Sam was never late. Not without a really good reason, anyway, so Dean was hoping for a very good reason right now, 'cause Sam was late. And even worse, the increasingly agitated warrior tried to convince himself, was that Sam had his car.

His beloved Impala. His sweet ride. So help his brother, if Sam put so much as a dent in her…

Ah, screw that, who was he trying to fool? He didn't give a rat's ass about the car right now.

The sound of his cell phone ringing had Dean diving across the motel room.

"Sam?" he barked without even checking the call display because, really, who else would be calling him? "Where the hell are you?"

It wasn't his brother who responded. "Dean?" a nasal voice laughed in his ear. "Your friend sure bleeds pretty."

Coldness severed his spinal cord and Dean couldn't move. His grip tightened on the phone, and his voice dropped deadly. "Who. Is. This?"

The voice bragged gleefully, "The man with his boot on your buddy's throat." And then he hung up.

*****

Sam couldn't breathe. There was somebody's dirty boot in the way, and for a moment he couldn't remember why. Then it came back to him like a flurry of punches, kicks…a damn bat. He'd been…swarmed? Yeah, that was the term for it. A gang of kids, guys and girls, had jumped him. He knew two or three of them were hurting bad—Sam wasn't a pussy when it came to hand-to-hand, no matter how Dean might tease him—but the other five or six of them didn't seem to be too bothered at all. Oh, but they were pissed he'd fought back.

Stupid hoods shouldn't have mistaken a hunter for prey.

Sam was pleased to remember anything as his thoughts swam and the world slid in and out of focus. Nausea crept up his throat. He tried to shove the boot away, but his hands were grabbed… His fingers crushed…

DEAN!

*****

Dean tore out of the motel room and then just stood there. Where the hell did Sam go, anyway? It was the younger man's turn to pick up something to eat, so all Dean had to do was figure out where Sam would have gone for food.

Great. And the city boasted such a wide variety of eating choices.

*****

"We called yer boyfriend," an ugly-sounding voice sneered as the boot was removed from his throat. Sam gasped and tried to curl in on himself—oh, God, my hands—but the boot firmly pressed into his chest and stopped him. The faces above him shifted in and out of focus. At least they'd stopped kicking him."Told him how pretty you bleed."

"Idiots," Sam heaved out painfully, the word a bubble of blood. You like poking tigers with sticks, don't you?

That got the boot in his face.

*****

Dean paced in front of his motel room. Where did Sam go? Chinese? No, Sam hated watching Dean wrestle with chopsticks. Steak? Not in their price range. Burgers? Probably not after Dean's little "let's gross Sammy out with beef'" exhibition the night before…

Shit! Where would Sam go?

Dean stopped mid-pace. He knew exactly where.

Glancing around the almost empty parking lot, the hunter found what he was looking for and minutes later peeled out of the parking lot in a freshly commandeered Jeep. It was either that or the minivan, and Dean hated minivans almost as much as he hated creeps calling him on his brother's cell phone.

*****

"Let's call him again." A girl's voice tickled Sam back to consciousness. He tried to force his eyes open to see her, to see any of them. He could hear them shifting around him, but he only got one eye open and it made him dizzy. Oh, please, God, don't let me puke…

"I dunno," another voice considered. "Maybe." It was the "Bootman." Sam tried to roll away. Dean. They're talking about Dean. I have to get up!

Another series of kicks kept him in place. Six-to-one sucked. Pain screamed through his ribs, his stomach rebelled…

He threw up. On Bootman's boots.

Sam missed the rest of the conversation.

*****

Dean's cell phone rang again just as he pulled up outside the sub place. They'd been hearing nothing but commercials for the restaurant since they'd arrived two days before, and Sam had even admitted a sub sounded like a nice change. Dean was confident his little brother had fallen victim to the commercialization when he finally got the chance. Or at least Dean hoped so…and not just because he wanted to try one of their "famed" two-footers.

"What?" he barked into the receiver, already knowing the deadman wouldn't tell him where Sam was if he asked.

"You want your boyfriend back, you get one chance."

The muscle in Dean's jaw twitched. He didn't bother to correct, he just growled, "Where?"

*****

Sam hurt.

He drifted somewhere just less than consciousness. And it hurt. Blood bubbled from his nose with every breath. His lips were split. Both eyes were swollen shut. His hands, his chest… Oh, God.

Around him it was quiet. Deceptively quiet. But he knew they were still there. He could smell Bootman's aftershave. He could hear the faint clicking of the girls' high-heeled shoes as they squirmed nearby, excited, hopped up on adrenaline and who knew what else.

"D'n…" Dean. The word slipped out as a groan. Plea? Warning? Habit? It didn't matter. Dean would know what it meant. If Dean were there.

Consciousness slipped further away.

*****

The kids were stupid. Did they honestly think Dean wouldn't expect a trap? And what the hell kind of place lets gangs of juvies roam the streets packing mayhem and madness in their lunchboxes, anyway?

In the long run, it really didn't matter to the hunter beyond the mocking realization that he and Sam had been wrong in their initial assessment of this "job." It wasn't some supernatural reckoning that had been brought down on this town, no siree. It was the spawn of the townsfolk stalking poor unfortunates, while the city itself turned a blind eye and claimed everything was unexplained.

"Another local found brutally beaten to death this morning, in what has been the sixth unexplained murder in a month…"

"Unexplained," my ghostbusting ass, Dean mentally raged he sidled through the shadows and into the alley. Furious it had cost Sam for them to figure this out. That was a price Dean was never willing to pay.

Soundlessly, the hunter pressed himself against the side of a building, his eyes dark and shrewd, livid with bridled anger and lethal intent as he honed in on his prey. The stupid idiots had told him where to find Sam. Had gloated about where they'd dragged Dean's little brother to finish beating the shit out of him…

And Dean had listened, bit his tongue against forewarning, and lied to them. He'd told them he'd been farther away because he'd needed the time. This time…because payback was a bitch, and he was her keeper.

No one messed with his brother. No one.

Sam's attackers thought they were smart, hidden behind dumpsters and in unused doorways—predictable—making it that much easier for the real hunter. That and the fact they were expecting him to be coming from the other direction…

They didn't know Dean. Obviously, or else they would have never chosen Dean's little brother as an easy mark.

The hardest part was deciding whether or not to kill them. After all, they were human. Well…barely—than it did to cut their numbers down.

There were six. Two girls—what the hell?—and four guys. One of the guys, big and burly, obviously the leader, stood away from the others, the faint end of his cigarette brightening with each puff as he gazed dispassionately at a slumped form further along the alley.

Oh, God. Sam.

Dean's face hardened as his chest tightened, his jaw clenching so tightly it hurt. Don't be dead…don't be dead… He willed his brother to hang on for just a little longer.

"Bootman," he'd save for last. But the others, they were his. Now.

With a firm grip on a rock salt-loaded shotgun, the hunter moved with feral fluidity into the badly lit alley. The girls were hunkered down together behind a garbage bin, along with a guy, a pock-faced kid with a messed-up nose. Dean hoped it hurt like hell. Don't kids play video games anymore?

He moved behind the brunette, tapped her on the shoulder, and smiled when she turned.

She had Sam's blood on her shoes.

Dean hit hard.

She went down.

The other girl turned. She looked about sixteen. The crowbar she was holding looked older. Dean smelled his brother's blood on it .

Her mouth opened in a scream.

The predator shut her up.

Dean grabbed the metal bar before it could hit the ground, and finished off the guy with the busted face.

Good, boy, Sammy, he mentally congratulated, knowing his kid brother wouldn't have gone down without a fight. Two more unmoving figures lay farther down the alley. A hell of a fight, too.

Glowering, the hunter smacked the weapon against his leg, mindful that he didn't have time—Sam didn't have time—for this to be a drawn out.

Only two more guys stood between the hunter and Bootman. Bootman stood between him and Sam. That was a dangerous place to stand.

Dean dropped the tire iron, swung up the shotgun.

Two shots. Chest, dead center.

They dropped; comical shock caricatured their collapse.

And now there was only man who'd gloated about the beating.

A slurred moan carried to Dean's sensitive hearing—"D'n"—and he fought every impulse not to respond. Hang on, Sammy… just a few more minutes…

Dean leveled the shotgun at Bootman. The rock salt wouldn't kill him, but it sure would hurt like hell. The two guys writhing on the cold ground attested to that.

But it wasn't enough. Not for Dean. Not with that horrible keening noise coming from his brother.

Sammy…

Dean dropped the gun, this one was personal.

Bootman smirked.

He really shouldn't have…

*****

Dean.

Dean was there. Sam knew it. He felt it. His brother was near.

And his brother was pissed.

The injured young man tried to shift. To tell Dean he was there. To warn him about the swarm, but the effort was too much and left him moaning and gasping, writhing weakly, feeling cold, bloody, and sick.

He wanted to stop hurting. He wanted to go home. He wanted his brother…

He wanted a lot of things. All I tried to do was help an old woman with her groceries.

The sound of flesh hitting flesh lulled him but he didn't know why. Someone was hurting… He heard a male voice. Apologizing? Begging? It was too hard to figure out. His head spun. The cold alley was vicious.

And then he heard a shot.

He flinched. It wasn't the shotgun.

And then Dean was there.

"Sammy," he heard his brother whisper. He could feel Dean's hands as they ghosted over his body. Triaging. He tried to tell him it was simple: everything hurt. Everything was broken. But Dean wasn't listening. Or he couldn't hear.

It didn't really matter because Dean was there. And that was enough.

His brother babbled something, but Sam couldn't pick out the words. Dean did that when he worried and, oddly enough, hearing it now made Sam feel better.

"D'n," the beaten man slurred the word past his bloody mouth.

His brother shushed him with a finger gently placed over his broken lips. "Sam. Shuddup." The voice sounded harsh, in contrast to the gentle touch. "Just… Shit, Sammy… You're a mess. Just. Crap. Just… it's okay. You're going to be okay."

And, strangely enough, Sam believed him.

*****

Dean was terrified. He'd seen some bad beatings and had even been on the receiving end of one or two in his lifetime, but this? This was bad. As he waited for the ambulance, because this was way past what he could deal with, he tried to remind that these things always looked worse than they were, but then he wondered whom he was trying to fool. It was bad.

Sam moaned, and Dean pressed a hand against his shoulder, gently trying to keep him from moving too much. He had no idea if there was any internal damage, but his brother's battered ribcage and bruised torso didn't look too promising.

Shit, Sammy…

Behind him, the hunter heard some of Sam's attackers rousing. He did a quick over-the-shoulder check to make sure they wouldn't be a threat, confident the police would be there before he had to give them any further consideration. Dean just hoped his fake ID held up to scrutiny, as he refused to leave his brother like this. Of course, if he got arrested, Sam would be pretty pissed… However, a pissed Sam was something Dean could deal with. Running out on Sam to save his own ass was a completely different story.

The sound of sirens had never been so welcome, and it was only when the paramedics gently elbowed him out of the way that Dean finally let himself breathe. Sam would be all right. He had to be, because Dean wouldn't accept anything less.

"You stupid idiot," he murmured as the medics tried to start an IV on his brother, "I hope that sub place was worth it." Mentally, he kicked himself for letting his brother leave by himself to get food in a place where people were being beaten to death. It wasn't that Sam couldn't look after himself; it was about unnecessarily making him a target. It definitely wasn't one of their smarter moves. If John Winchester had been around to see this…

Dean sighed and ran a hand through his hair. He winced as his bruised knuckles protested the movement, but taking his "pound of flesh" out of Bootman had been worth every bit of discomfort.

And he'd take to his grave the look of absolute terror on the punk's face when Dean had pulled out a handgun and "shot" him. Just because he'd dropped the shotgun didn't mean the hunter was unarmed. The teen had actually pissed his pants. He was just damn lucky Dean had loaded that gun with blanks before he'd gone to the alley and gotten a look at Sam.

"Excuse me, Sir," a cop finally honed in on him. "We'd like to have a word with you."

No!, Dean wanted to scream as he watched the paramedics ready Sam to leave. "Sure," he said instead, not bothering to mask his worry about his brother, "but can this be quick? I need to make sure he's going to be okay."

The cop glanced at Sam, his own face immediately sympathetic. He nodded. "This won't take any time at all." He turned back to Dean. "We've been looking for this gang for a long time…"

Inwardly, Dean exhaled in relief. Good. That would make things much easier in the long run. Heroes don't go to jail…do they?

And speaking of going anywhere, where the hell is the Impala?

*****

Broken hands, broken ribs, severe concussion, ruptured appendix, dislocated jaw… Dean mentally ran through the list as he watched his brother sleep. Extensive abdominal bruising, lacerated kidney… His anger simmered just as hotly now as it had when Bootman had first called to taunt him about hurting Sam.

The police had known. They had freakin' known there was a gang of kids "swarming" and beating to death anyone who showed interracial tolerance, yet they had chosen not to warn the general public.

What the hell kind of place is this?

Sam had been attacked because he'd helped an old black woman with her groceries. That was the reason. The only reason. And the police had known. Dean was absolutely furious.

Of course, he wasn't stupid and did understand the city officials were afraid of widespread public panic and racial discord if this came out, but it also put people at risk. People like Sam.

If the Winchesters had known about the gang of delinquents, they never would have come here. Solving "people" problems wasn't their job, although, in the end, that was exactly what they'd done. Sam had been the bait and Dean the backup. Too bad they hadn't known that in the beginning. Then maybe the attack could have been stopped before his brother's body was painfully tattooed in boot prints.

Just thinking about it made Dean so angry, he stalked back and forth at the foot of his brother's hospital bed to try to calm down. He didn't want Sam thinking Dean was upset with him, as that was the furthest thing from the truth. It could have just as easily been Dean who'd been attacked. If he'd have gone out for food… And if not then, maybe later that night when he went to a bar and chatted it up with someone. Someone not white. That was just how their father had raised them: skin meant nothing to a Winchester. Not the color of it, anyway. But in this town?

Oh, yeah, it could have very easily been Dean.

A soft shifting on the bed refocused the hunter, and he stopped by his brother's side and waited. Sam would be okay. It was going to take some time, but he'd be just fine…physically, that was. Emotionally, Dean wasn't so sure. But he'd do his damnedest to try to help, which was why he'd already called Bobby Singer. The boys considered the man a second father, and he'd insisted even before he'd heard all the details that they "haul ass" to his place as soon as Sam was fit to travel, offering to come meet them until Dean assured him that wasn't necessary. Although, as he watched his brother slowly awakening from a drugged sleep, Dean wondered if maybe he'd made a mistake. It would be easier on Sam if there were two of them helping…

"D'n?" The slurred whisper of his name made Dean smile. Sam was awake. His brother couldn't open his eyes yet, they were still too swollen, but he was awake and that was enough for now.

"Hey, Lazybones." Fondness roughened his voice as Dean reached out and gently squeezed his brother's arm. "About time you woke up."

"D'I sleep 'n?"

A lump formed in Dean's throat, and he had to clear it before he could answer. "Naw, no more than usual."

"M'sorry."

"For what?" Surely Sam wasn't apologizing for getting attacked?

"D'nt know," came the weary response, and Dean could tell his brother was having a hard time staying awake.

He gave Sam's arm a soft pat. "Go back to sleep, Sammy. We'll talk when your eggs are a little less scrambled."

"Eggs?" The voice was fading now. "'M not hungry."

Dean gave a soft chuckle. "Good. Now go to sleep," he lightly commanded, then watched the tension bleed out of his brother's body as Sam gave in. Dean shook his head, then sighed loudly. "I think the trip to Bobby's is going to be a very long drive… "

Especially since the first thing he was going to have to do was break the Impala out of the city impound. Apparently, the parking meter Sam had been parked at expired sometime during his beating. And then they'd have to see about getting Sam out of this place.

"You want to know something, little brother?" Dean asked as he used his foot to hook a leg on the visitor's chair and pulled it forward so he could sit down. "I really hate this town." His stomach growled, and he looked down in surprise. "But you know what's even worse?"

Sam didn't respond.

"Now I really want a sub!"

The end