a/n: As I've worked on this fic, I have tried doing research on the subject of kidney transplants in children, and other information having to do with it, but I wasn't able to find all the info I wanted. Please bear with me and forgive me for inaccurate facts I have included here, or anything glossed over. This chapter, plus the epilogue, will wrap it up. Thanks to all my readers for hanging in with me during the extremely long period(s) of inactivity, and for all your amazing reviews. I love you all!
Sam was finally able to see Lili the next morning, but only briefly. Dean walked with him to the PICU wing, where Lana met them just outside her daughter's room.
"Hey, Sam. Dean." Lana looked exhausted to Sam's eyes, with bruised eyes and lack-luster hair. When Sam pulled her into his arms for a hug, she sighed loudly into his chest.
"What is it, Lana?" Sam asked, worried. "Has something happened?" He looked over at Dean and saw his brother's equal measure of worry.
Nodding, Lana took a step backward to look into his eyes. "Overnight, Lili started to do a lot of coughing. Wet, croupy coughing, the kind filled with that nasty, sticky phlegm that won't come up, you know?" The brothers nodded, knowing what she meant. "My baby's so weak, she just can't cough it up. Dr. Greer has started giving her a wide spectrum of antibiotics, hoping to nip any infection in the bud, but so far, she's no better. She's so exhausted."
Nodding, Sam asked, his heart heavy, "Can we see her?"
Lana sighed again as she ran a hand through her hair, sweeping it back off her face. "Just for a few minutes, and only one of you. Dr. Greer left orders."
Dean gripped Sam's shoulder supportively, and said, his voice soft and low, "Go ahead, Sammy. I'll take Lana downstairs for some coffee." When Lana looked ready to argue, Dean added, "Doc's not the only one who's giving orders. Come with me. I insist. Let's get some caffeine in you. Lili will be fine with Sam."
As Dean led Lana away, Sam stepped inside Lili's room and made his way silently to her bedside. He studied her as she slept fitfully, raspy coughs wracking her frail body. After a couple minutes, he pulled a chair up to the bed and sat, then taking the little girl's hand in his, began to stroke it as he started whispering softly to her.
"Hey, Princess. It's Sam. Can you hear me, baby girl?" Raising her hand to his lips, he kissed the back of it, his words muffled against her skin. "I know you're feeling tough, and it hurts to cough. Just keep fighting, ok? Your mama, Deanie,and I are all here. I'm not leaving you, sweetheart. I'm not…"
Throughout the rest of the day, both Sam and Dean spent whatever few minutes at a time with Lili as they were allowed. For every five minutes he was given with the child, Dean stepped back, giving Sam half an hour or more. More often than not, Dean took it upon himself to make sure Lana was fed and took her own breaks, even though she usually fussed about it.
Sam refused to go far from the PICU ward. When he couldn't be with his precious child, he was just down the hall in the family waiting room. Dean kept him company most of the time, deck of cards at the ready; though at some point Dean gave up trying to keep his brother's mind off the child down the hall. His last several attempts at conversation went completely ignored.
Sam sat and brooded, waiting for the next time he could visit with Lili, if only for a couple minutes.
This became the pattern for the next several days – long days spent waiting for the five minutes here and there when they could see Lili and talk to her; and for Dean, tell her stories he would make up on the spot, whether Lili was awake and aware enough to hear them or not.
More often than not, she wasn't.
As the days passed and Lili didn't respond to the antibiotics, pneumonia set in. Dr. Greer pulled Lana and the brothers aside, and with a weary sigh, shook his head and admitted, "I hate like hell to say this, but it doesn't look good. We're doing all we can, but…"
When Lana choked out a sob, Sam put his arms around her and held her tight, his own hazel eyes clouding with tears. He felt Dean's hand on his back, a gentle rub of support.
Dr. Greer studied the threesome a moment before sighing again then said, "I'm leaving orders that the three of you may spend what time you like with her. I'm sorry. I wish I could have done more."
"You've done everything, Doctor," Lana turned her tear-stained face his way. "Thank you."
Dr. Greer rested a hand on her shoulder, then nodding, stepped away.
Lana pulled out of Sam's arms, and drying her face, said, "I need some time alone with my baby. Do you mind?"
Sam couldn't speak, his throat too clogged with emotions to let any words out. He just nodded and looked on as Lana turned her back to them and went into Lili's room.
"No, Dean. No. I—I can't. I just can't." Sam turned and walked away.
An hour later, Dean stepped inside the hospital's small chapel. It hadn't taken much thought to realize where his brother would be. He'd known Sam wouldn't go far. He let the door shut behind him with a soft thud as he walked slowly down the carpeted aisle. Sam was sitting in the second pew on the right side, his broad shoulders slumped and his head hanging forward.
Twisting around rapidly to face his brother, Sam asked, "Lili?"
"No change," Dean said as he slipped inside the pew and sat beside Sam, their shoulders and thighs meeting. Leaning in a moment, Dean let his body weight bump against his brother's as he asked, "How're you doing, Sammy?"
His voice terse, Sam responded, "How do you think I'm doing, Dean? The doctor just told us that Lili – my daughter – isn't going to make it. How—how am I supposed…?" His voice broke, and his shoulders began to shake with his sobs.
Dean usually found it hard to show his caring and concern for others with open affection, but now, with his brother falling apart, he couldn't just sit there and do nothing. How own heart was heavy with sadness, and he knew Sam had to be feeling so much more.
Turning to face his weeping brother, he said, "C'mere," and opened his arms. Immediately, he found his arms filled with Sam's trembling body.
When the brothers returned to Lili's room, they found Lana sitting beside the bed, softly murmuring to the little girl. At their approach, she looked up and gave them a soft smile. "She's awake!"
Sam moved swiftly toward the other side of the bed and gazed down at his little Princess. When she looked up at him, her eyes at half-mast, Sam was thrilled to see her little lips curve up into the slightest hint of a smile.
"Hey, sleepyhead! You finally decided to grace us with your attention?" Leaning down, he pressed a long kiss to her forehead, which felt much too cool to suit him. "How're you feeling, baby girl?"
"S'mmy," she whispered almost too softly for him to hear her.
"I'm here, baby. Me and Mama and Deanie."
At the word, Dean sidled up beside Sam. Reaching for her other hand, Dean smiled down at her. "Hey, darlin'."
"N't d'rln. Pr'nc'ss."
All three adults chuckled at her insistence on being a Princess.
Sam lowered his face to just above her head. Drawing a strand of hair away from her ear, he whispered, "You're MY Princess. Always and forever."
With a small nod, Lili's eyes slipped closed once more.
The day was gray and overcast, intermittent rain falling in heavy drops, plopping loudly upon the leather coat Dean wore as he stood beside his brother. His hands thrust inside his pockets, he waited silently, patiently, as Sam knelt in front of the large granite marker.
Reaching his large hand out, Sam ran a finger over the name chiseled into the stone –
LILIANE MARIE MONROE
Our Darling Princess
"This is so wrong."
Sam's hand trembled as he wiped a muddy smudge off the embedded photo of Lili on the center of the stone. "She shouldn't be here. She should be alive, laughing happily, playing. Not here. Not this soon. We barely even—" His voice cracked then, and hanging his head, Sam couldn't hold back the tears that filled his throat and ran in rivulets down his face, mixing with the rain that already had him wet.
Dean knelt beside him, and lifting a hand, rested it on his brother's shoulder. "I know, Sam. It sucks ass. It does, and I miss her too. But there's something you – WE – will always have."
"What?" Sam asked as he turned to look over at Dean, his eyes red and already swollen with tears.
"Memories, Sammy. Good, no – AMAZING – memories. We'll never forget her smile, her laughter—"
"—her insistences on being a Princess-"
Dean chuckled. "Yeah, that too. "
Sam nodded as he ran a thumb over her image, trying to recall how the softness of her skin felt to his touch. It scared him that even after the short time that had passed since he'd touched her last, he was beginning to forget the sensation. "I don't want to forget."
"You won't, Sammy. She was your daughter."
Sam nodded. "She was a Winchester. Maybe not in name—"
"It's blood that counts, Sam. She was family." Dean patted Sam's shoulder as he rose to his feet, the loud crinkle of his leather jacket filling the space where words were moments before.
Giving the portrait of his daughter one more caress, Sam pulled himself to his feet. Pressing fingertips to his lips, he kissed them, and then put them on the edge of the stone. "See you later, Princess. Daddy loves you."
Turning, he followed Dean across the grass toward the Impala where she awaited them.
a/n: I'm sorry if this didn't end as you may have wanted it to, but I knew even before I began writing this story how it would end. I felt there was only one way it could end. This is Sam and Dean Winchester. They don't get happily-ever-afters. I appreciate all the reviews asking me to make Lili better. I didn't want to spoil it for you by putting the warning of Death-fic in the beginning, so I didn't do that. I hope those of you who have stuck with me all this time will forgive me. After all, there's always other fanfic where we can give the guys happiness. Thanks for reading!