Title: Moving Through The Dark (With You In My Heart)
Author: Zubeneschamali
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Timeline: Early S2, between "The Usual Suspects" and "Croatoan"

Summary: "For you or Dad, the things I'm willing to do or kill, it scares me sometimes." Even after rescuing Dean, a hunt gone bad still isn't over for Sam.

A/N: This was written for the spn_summergen challenge for Mikiya2200. I took the prompt more as a point of departure than a strict guideline: "The unthinkable happens: The Impala runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere and the boys have to spend the night in/on/next to it." Many thanks to rinkle for beta reading. The title is from Bruce Springsteen's "Blood Brothers".

ooooooooooooooooooo

Sam crept forward, using the dim light of the gibbous moon to make out the twigs and gravel he needed to avoid to keep his footsteps silent. This was the fourth old barn he'd snuck up on tonight, but he had to treat it like it was the very first in terms of being alert and watchful. If the thing that had taken Dean was here, he needed to be careful.

And he really, really needed Dean to be here. Because this was the last possible location on his list, and then he didn't know what he would do.

He pulled out his phone to send yet another text message and hopefully hear Dean's phone ringing as it was delivered. But there were no bars visible, and he frowned before tucking the phone away and resuming his course.

As he got closer, he saw lantern light spilling out from a window on the far side of the barn, flickering over the thicket of brambles at the edge of the woods. Maybe this was the right place after all. He tightened his grip on this knife and slipped forward.

There were enough loose boards gaping open on the side of the structure that he was able to slip through without making a sound. Once inside, he peered past a stack of hay bales and silently shouted, Yes!

Dean was tied to a chair in the middle of the barn, a series of symbols drawn around him on the floor that Sam recognized from the other crime scenes they'd been to. Well, the police called them crime scenes, but the Winchesters knew they were the sites where a harpy had been feeding. The dirty brown feathers were a clear sign of the legendary creature, although Dean hadn't been convinced it wasn't a mythical beast.

Twenty-four hours ago, Sam had found a clump of the feathers on the ground next to the Impala and no sign of his brother. It was one of the rare times he hated to be right.

Sam waited and watched for a moment, taking in the situation. Dean's eyes were closed and blood was streaking his face, but there weren't any visible injuries. His amulet was rising and falling over his chest, and that was confirmation enough of life. There were no other sounds in the barn; the usual complement of mice had probably either been eaten or fled. Harpies weren't choosy about their food, although this one seemed to have fixated on humans for some reason.

Well, she wasn't getting Dean, that was for sure.

He hadn't gotten a chance to signal to Dean before he heard a rustling sound behind him that was way too big to be a rat. Sam ducked as he spun around, and the breeze whooshing over his head came with claws that snatched at his hair as they passed, a screech echoing through the barn. He automatically clamped one hand to the top of his head, relieved to feel that he hadn't been scalped.

"Sam!" Dean shouted in warning, obviously awakened by the noise, but Sam had already drawn his curved knife and was ready. The lore on harpies was vast, but most of the easy stuff to find came from role-playing games. He didn't have a surefire way to kill the creature that was dive-bombing him from the hayloft, but a silver blade was good for most things, especially when it was wickedly sharp from the hours he'd spent honing it while waiting for nightfall to find the creature's nest.

So he stood at his full height, arms down by his sides. The creature cackled as it flew, claws extended out in front of it, clearly planning to take down what it saw as an easy target.

"Hey, you!" Dean was shouting in the hardened tone he only used when he was trying to cover his fear. "Flying rat bitch! I'm the one who can't get away!"

But there was no deterring the harpy as it leveled its wings to gain greater speed, aiming for Sam's chest.

Sam waited until the last second, fingers clenched achingly tight around the handle. Then, when the claws were no more than a yard away, he threw himself backwards and thrust the curved weapon up into the air.

It caught the flying creature right in the center of its breast, its claws flailing in a useless attempt to stop its forward momentum as it gutted itself on the silver blade. Sam twisted away, feeling something rake across his rib cage as he threw his arm over his face to shield himself from the spray of blood. The guttural shriek of the harpy was furious but weak, followed shortly by a crashing sound from just beyond his head.

Sam rolled to his feet and turned around in time to see the harpy's death throes. He picked up a handful of straw from the floor to wipe his blade clean and made his way over to Dean. "You okay?" he asked as he started cutting him loose.

"Yeah, good thing she keeps late dinner hours." Dean shook his wrists free and watched as Sam slashed the ropes around his ankles. "She didn't cut you, did she?"

"No, not bad," Sam responded as he straightened up.

Dean's eyebrows lowered. "But she did cut you."

He lifted up his shirts, ready to allow Dean a cursory inspection of the thin line across his lower ribs. "Just a slash."

"That's so not the point." Dean barely glanced at the cut before striding to a rickety table under the hayloft and picking up an old, scratched glass bottle with an elaborate stopper. "Besides the usual nastiness, she stuck her claws in this."

Sam wrinkled up his nose, taking the bottle and looking at the pale yellow liquid. "What is it?" he asked hesitantly.

"Beats me." Dean shrugged and took the bottle back, unstopping it and bringing it under his nose. He sniffed cautiously and quirked an eyebrow. "Hey."

Sam cocked his head to the side. "Hey what?"

"No, hay. Straw." Dean gestured to the bales around them. "It smells like fresh-cut hay."

Sam wracked his brains, trying to think of a poison or potion that had that scent. Finally he shrugged and said, "Better take that with us."

"You feeling okay?" Dean was eyeing him warily. "No hot flashes or chills or anything?" He reached out to lift up Sam's shirt.

"Dude, I'm fine," he said, stepping back and batting Dean's hand away. "It was just a scratch. Maybe that's, like, harpy perfume or something."

"Well, she obviously needed a lot of it." Dean looked at him for a moment longer before tucking the bottle carefully into his jacket pocket.

Sam sighed, knowing that he was going to be watched like a hawk for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Not that he wouldn't be doing the same thing in Dean's position, but it was still going to be a pain.

They were making their way back to Impala when it struck Sam. "Hey, how did she tie you up with those claws?"

Dean reached up and scratched the back of his neck. "So the silver worked because she was a were, not because she was a harpy."

Sam puzzled that over. "A were-harpy? But the moon's not even full."

Dean shrugged unhappily. "Next time a chick with nails that long wants to take me back to her place, she's gonna have to get a manicure first."

He failed to hold back a snort, but by the time he felt Dean's glare on him, he had managed to press his lips together tightly enough that they weren't twitching. Much.

He was going to enjoy holding this over his brother's head for a long time.

Five minutes later, they were climbing into the Impala and ready to put this godforsaken corner of Wisconsin behind them. Sam settled in and leaned his head back against the window, glad for once to turn the driving over to his brother. Not that being tied up in a chair for a day was a picnic, but he hadn't slept since finding the feathers outside the Impala last night, and the yellow centerline had been blurring a little on the frantic drive here.

He got about fifteen minutes of half-dozing in before Dean's quiet curses broke out. "Shit. What the—no, please, no. Sam, tell me you didn't…aw, fuck!"

The Impala was coasting to a stop at the side of the road, Dean continuing to mutter as he steered onto the wide gravel shoulder. "Whassup?" Sam muttered sleepily.

The hand that grabbed his shirt front was completely unexpected. That and the sharp punch of Dean's voice woke him like a slap. "Did you, or did you not, let my car run out of gas?"

Sam knew he must look like a deer in headlights. He couldn't remember looking at the gas gauge any time during the miles and miles he'd driven from one side of the damn county to the other, following paper-thin leads and praying that Dean was still alive to be found. Still, the best defense was a good offense, so he opened his mouth and started, "Do you have any idea how far I had to go to—"

"Oh God, you did." Dean sat back against his seat with a huff. "Sam, that's, like, rule number one. I have never let my baby run out of gas. Never."

Sam was pretty sure he remembered a long walk along the highway in western Pennsylvania, and there had been more than one time when fumes had barely sufficed to get them to a service station. But he was also pretty sure that bringing either of those up would get him in even more trouble, so he folded his arms over his chest and said, "If I'd taken ten more minutes to get to you, that thing would be nibbling on your thighbone right about now."

"Yeah, and who knows what might come nibbling on us, stuck out here in the middle of nowhere. Hell, this isn't even the middle of nowhere. It's the outskirts. You can see nowhere from here if you squint, but we're not even in it. And we fucking ran out of gas."

Sam was going to chalk that little outburst up to Dean having been tied up for hours and expecting to be harpy chow. "What's wrong with the gas can in the trunk?"

"Used it up on that crazy old broad's bones in Kankakee." Dean slammed a hand against the steering wheel. "And you were so keen to get on to somewhere that gas was cheaper, you never remembered to refill it."

Sam pressed his lips together, unwilling to point out that Dean also could have remembered to refill the gas can at some point in the last three days. "Okay, so we'll wait for a car to come along and hitch a ride to town. It's probably about…" He squinted out the windshield, trying to remember where they were, the bleariness of sleep still dragging him down. "Fifteen miles?"

"Nothing's gonna be open this time of night. You wanna start hitchhiking with the nonexistent traffic to a gas station that's closed, be my guest." Dean put his hand on the door handle and said, "If you wanna stay the night here and walk out in the morning, loser gets the front seat, and you're definitely the loser. I'm stretching out in back."

"Dean," Sam started to protest, twisting towards the driver's seat. He stopped when he felt something heavy and wet across his stomach. "What the—"

He looked down to see that his t-shirt and flannel shirt were entirely soaked through with blood over an area the span of his hand. "Dude!" he exclaimed.

The dome light came on as Dean opened the car door, and he looked over to see the red soaking through Sam's shirt front. "Jesus, Sam! What the hell? Why didn't you say something?"

"It wasn't that bad," Sam said, bewildered. He lifted the sopping shirts to see the same thin red line across his ribs, now blurred with blood on his skin around it. "It's not that deep. It should have healed up by now."

"Lemme see that. Stay right there." Dean bounded out of the car and raced around the hood, yanking Sam's door open. "Lay back," he ordered.

"Dean, I'm not—" Sam started.

"Lay back!" Dean snapped, his best withering glare on in full force.

Sam grudgingly gave in, twisting to put his back against the lower part of the seat. The cut didn't pull like it was deep; it wasn't like he'd misjudged how much he'd been wounded. He found part of his shirt that was still clean and mopped the blood away.

Dean bent over, his hands fluttering over Sam's torso before settling on either side of Sam's rib cage, holding him in place. They both watched as a slow trickle of blood continued to ooze out of the wound, no matter how many times Sam soaked it up.

"It's like it's not coagulating," Sam finally said. He tried to sound curious at how his body was malfunctioning, rather than freaked out at the implications of that malfunctioning.

"Yeah, it definitely should have clotted by now." Dean shot him a look. "I told you there was something on her claws."

"You have the bottle, right?" Sam nodded at Dean's front jacket pocket, swinging forward from the weight of the glass bottle.

"Yeah, let me just haul the portable chem lab out of the trunk and figure out what it is," Dean retorted. He stood up and looked over his hands to make sure they were clean before running one over his face. "All right, how far do you think it is back to town?"

"The map's in the backseat, but I'd say at least fifteen miles." Sam raised himself up on an elbow. "But the town's not big enough to have a hospital. Waupaca is at least thirty miles away."

"Son of a bitch!" Dean kicked at the ground, sending gravel flying, but only in a direction away from the Impala. "Of all the freakin' times to run out of gas."

"Sorry," Sam muttered.

"You better be sorry," came the grumbled reply with an undercurrent of worry. "It's your ass we're talking about." Dean reached into his pocket for his phone and flipped it open, throwing out a string of curse words. "How much do we pay a month for this crap coverage?"

"Guess next time John Bonham should sign up for the 'middle of nowhere' plan." Sam struggled to sit up and flung one arm over the seat, reaching for the leatherbound journal in the backseat. "Dad had a section on poisons in here, right?"

"Gimme that." Dean snatched the book from his hand and flipped towards the back. "It's not a poison, it's an anticoagulant." He looked up sharply at Sam. "Unless there's any other symptoms you're not telling me about."

Sam thought about it for a moment. No blurry vision, no shortness of breath, and no sharp shooting pain anywhere. "No, 'm just tired," he said, leaning back against the headrest and closing his eyes.

The sound of snapping fingers directly in front of his face had him jerking upright again. "Dude," he said reproachfully, looking over to see Dean's I'm-not-worried face on in its full glory.

"You gotta keep awake, Sammy," Dean was saying. "No fainting on me like a girl, okay?"

"I'm not fainting, I'm tired." Sam leaned back again with a huff, keeping his eyes open this time. "It's not like I slept last night."

Dean ignored the comment, running his finger down a page of the journal. "Hah, here we go. An old case in the Dakotas, before Dad's time; musta gotten it from Caleb or Bobby. A bunch of cows dropped dead, internal bleeding, no signs of injury, yadda yadda yadda. Hunters thought it was worth checking out, but it turned out to be the clover they were eating had gone bad, producing benzo…benzop…" He squinted and frowned.

Sam reached out and turned the journal towards him. He squinted at the page, feeling the familiar pang of loss when he saw Dad's handwriting, somehow managing to be sprawling and neat at the same time. "Benzopyrone," he read. "Also known as coumarin. A powerful anticoagulant that can be identified by the smell of fresh-cut hay."

"Thanks, Einstein," Dean said, jerking the book back towards him. "And the treatment is…" He was silent for a moment. Then he flipped through a few more pages. "Damn it," he growled.

"What?" Sam asked, his stomach sinking.

"I guess the point of writing it down was in case he ever came across any weird cattle deaths, not in case someone got coumarin poisoning. There's nothing about an antidote." Dean pressed his lips together and sent more gravel flying. "Damn it!"

"It's okay, Dean." Sam quickly looked down and rearranged his shirt so another clean patch was lying over the oozing cut, pressing down hard on the off chance that would make a difference. "We'll just stop a car and ask for a ride into town. Once I've got my laptop, we can look this up."

"Like anyone's gonna give you a ride, lookin' like you stepped out of a slasher flick." Dean shook his head. "There's tubing in the trunk we can use for a siphon. We'll just ask the next car for gas."

"Ask who?" Sam muttered as Dean started for the trunk. They'd been on this road or pulled over for a least half an hour, and there hadn't been another car in either direction in all that time. Most people thought Wisconsin was full of cows and lakes, not this dreary, empty forest that went on for miles.

The fabric under his fingers was growing damp, and he winced. It wasn't going to stop. He looked down and estimated how much blood was soaking his shirt, did some quick calculations concerning rate and volume and duration, and blanched.

Dean came back a moment later and asked, "How ya doin'?", the gruffness barely thick enough to cover the concern.

Sam gave him a wan smile. "I'm okay right now," he said. Then he swallowed hard. "You got any smaller tubing in the trunk? 'Cause at the rate it's going, I'm gonna need a transfusion before daylight."

"Sam," Dean said, helplessness and reproach and fear all tied up in that one word.

Sam gave a tiny shrug. "Sorry," he said softly.

"Son of a bitch," Dean said under his breath, his fists clenching at his sides. Then he stomped away to stand by the side of the road.

ooooooooooooooooooo

Fifty minutes passed before the first vehicle came by, fifty minutes of pacing and waiting and trying not to watch as Sam worked his way through the three layers of shirts he was wearing, trying to find a clean spot to press against his bleeding side.

The first vehicle was a semi-truck heading north towards even more God-forsaken country, and it didn't so much as slow down for Dean's frantic arm-waving from the middle of the road. He dashed towards the shoulder when it became apparent it was either that or get pancaked, Sam's frantic shouts barely audible over the roar of the truck as it sped by.

It took another nerve-wracking thirty minutes after that for a rusty old pickup to come doddering over the hill and pull off on the shoulder in front of the Impala. Dean muttered, "Thank God," as he walked up to the driver's side. "Hey, man, thanks for pulling over," he said.

"What'cha need?" came the reply. It was a man about Bobby's age, with a Packers knit cap and a hunk of tobacco in his cheek. Country music was crooning from the scratchy radio, and the passenger seat was occupied by a cooler with what Dean presumed was the day's catch.

"My brother and I kind of ran out of gas, and I was hoping I could borrow enough to get us to town," Dean said, putting on his best winning smile and holding up the gas can and clear tubing he'd had his hands clutched around for the past hour.

"Well, I'd love to help ya out, but I only got enough to get home myself." One stained finger pointed at the gas gauge, where the needle was dipping into the red.

Dean bit his lip. "Please. My brother's been hurt, and we left our first-aid kit in the motel room."

The man's eyes narrowed. "Hurt, huh? Hunting out here by yourselves?" He hawked and spit out the window, narrowly missing Dean's foot.

"Yeah, something like that."

"Huh." The man looked at him for another moment, and Dean bit back his urge to throttle the guy and just take his stupid truck. Finally, Tobacco Guy jerked his thumb towards the bed of the pickup. "You can ride in the back. I go through town on my way home."

Dean thought for a moment. Their motel was just off the main road, and even if they needed supplies, there was a grocery/pharmacy only a few blocks away. Of course, it wouldn't be open in the middle of the night, but that wasn't really a problem for the Winchesters. He'd have to hitch back out here to get the car, but as long as Sam was all right, he could live with that. "That'd be awesome, man. Thank you so much. Let me get my brother." He patted the side of the truck and turned away.

"Hey Sammy!" he called as he approached the Impala.

Sam's head lifted sluggishly. "Yeah," he replied.

Dean ignored the slowness of the response and flung open the door, tossing the tubing and gas can in the backseat. "C'mon, we're getting out of here."

"Dude, we can't leave the car," Sam protested weakly.

"We'll lock it up and come back for it. Now grab the journal and let's go."

"Dean, you really want to—"

"You can't wait, Sam." Dean cut him off, keeping his voice level but firm, deliberately not looking down at his brother's blood-soaked front. "We gotta go."

Sam was either too weak to argue or realized how scared Dean must have been to voluntarily abandon the Impala, for he reached up and grabbed onto Dean's forearm. Dean hauled his little brother out of the car, propping him up against the side while he reached back in for their most precious possession. Tucking the journal into his coat and putting Sam's arm over his shoulders, he said, "Okay, let's go."

The Bobby look-alike was folding back the tarp in the back of his pickup, clearing off space for them to sit. As Dean approached, Sam half-draped over his side, he said fervently, "Thanks, man, we really appreciate this."

"Well, it can be awful lonely out here when you're stranded," the man said, turning around. Then his eyes grew huge, and he took a step back. "Holy shit!"

Dean stopped moving and looked around for a threat, going so far as to move his hand to his Colt. When he realized the man was staring at Sam, he huffed out the closest thing to a half-laugh he could manage. "Looks worse than it is," he said, aware that the blood-soaked clothing looked pretty damn bad, not to mention the dried splashes of harpy blood streaking Sam's face.

Tobacco Guy was shaking his head and backing up, his hands out in front of him. "That ain't from hunting," he said. His eyes flickered sideways, and Dean realized that the handle of his Colt was reflecting off the taillights. "I don't know what you boys are doing out here, but it's not deer hunting."

"Please," Dean said, holding out the hand that wasn't supporting Sam, unable to keep a little of his fear from creeping into his voice. "Please, it's not what you think. We really need—"

"I don't care what you need," the man said, one hand already on the driver's door. "I don't want no part of it." Then before Dean could do anything, he leapt back in the truck and pulled away, gravel spraying in his wake.

"Hey!" Dean shouted uselessly. "Friggin' jerk!"

"It's okay, Dean," Sam said from beside him.

"No, it's not okay. You need help, and that asshole should have given it to you." He started to steer Sam back to the Impala. When he'd deposited Sam back on the passenger seat, his face noticeably paler than the last time he looked, Dean headed for the trunk, swearing under his breath. He yanked out what he needed and brought it back to his brother. "Can you put one of these on?" he asked, holding out a black t-shirt. "It won't show the blood so much."

"Good idea," Sam said faintly. He started to pull his jacket off but had to pause before pulling even one arm out of its sleeve.

"Shit." Dean leaned forward and gently removed the jacket before carefully pulling the shirt over Sam's head. Then he pushed Sam back until he was lying on the front seat, feet still planted on the ground outside. "Lemme see," he said, pulling at the blood-soaked clothing.

"Hasn't changed," Sam replied, feebly trying to bat his hand away. "'M still leakin'."

"Yeah, you're leaking, all right." Dean chewed on his lower lip for a moment, wondering if they had the right equipment in the trunk to rig up an IV. He might be able to manage a transfusion of his blood into Sam's body as a seriously last resort.

Then a sound caught his attention, and he looked up. They were parked off the edge of a curve at the beginning of a straightaway of a mile or more, and in the distance he could see headlights coming their way. "Yes!" he said, reaching behind him for the Colt he'd pulled out of the trunk and tucked in his waistband.

"Dean, what are you doing?" Sam asked, lifting his head, alarm written all over his pale face.

"They're gonna stop for us, Sammy," he said with determination, checking to make sure the gun was loaded. "And I don't care how much gas they have in their tank, they're gonna give it to us."

"You can't do that!" Sam's voice was feeble, but his protest was clear.

"Why not?" he snapped back. The sound of the approaching car was getting louder. "If some random hick has to spend the night stranded out here, that's their tough luck. I won't hurt them, you know that."

"But—" Sam's eyes fixed on the gun. "Dean, you just got back on the radar screen for St. Louis, and we don't know what the final outcome was in Baltimore. You can't carjack someone!"

"It's not carjacking, it's taking their gas. It's completely different."

"Dean—"

"You listen to me, Sam." He looked down at his little brother, slowly spilling his life's blood across the front seat of the Impala, and something hard and cold snapped into place inside him. "Dad told me to watch out for you. It's the last thing he said to me." Dean swallowed hard, pushing aside the memory of what else he'd been told, and lowered his voice. "And that's what I'm gonna do."

He jammed the gun into the back of his jeans and strode out towards the road, holding out both hands and waving frantically at the approaching headlights. A second later, the sound of screeching brakes filled the air as the car came sliding to a halt across the road from the Impala. Dean lowered his hands and walked up to the driver's side, grateful to see that the Civic was at least a decade old and wouldn't have any fancy anti-siphoning equipment on its tank.

The window rolled down a crack. "What's going on?" said a guy in a nervous voice.

Dean put on the friendliest smile he could manage. "Sorry to bother you, but my car ran out of gas and my brother's hurt; we could really use a few gallons. I'll pay you whatever you think is fair." He held his breath, hoping to God that the driver would go along with it before Dean had to resort to more drastic action.

"I—I'm not sure," the man replied. All Dean could see was a shock of red hair and glasses that were reflecting the moonlight; the glass was too darkly tinted for anything else.

"Please." Dean wasn't too proud to beg if it was for Sammy. The weight of the gun dragged at his waistband, reminding him that there wasn't really anything he wouldn't do if it was for his little brother. "Look, I really need your help; we've been out here for hours and there hasn't been anyone else. Please."

"Honey, we don't have much in the tank." It was a woman's voice coming from the backseat, and as Dean listened, he heard the faint gurgle of a baby, followed by shushing sounds.

Oh, this is just great. It couldn't be another yahoo like the guy in the pickup, it had to be a family that he was thinking of pulling a gun on. He cleared his throat. "I only need a couple of gallons. Please, man, you gotta help." Dean held up the gas can with his left hand while his right started to snake around behind him. Last chance, buddy…

"I'm sorry, but I don't think—"

"Then I'm sorry, too." Dean swiftly raised the Colt before he could change his mind, pointing it through the glass at the driver, whom he still couldn't see. "Get out of the car."

"Oh, my God!" the driver shouted. His head turned towards the windshield, and Dean knew his foot was about to punch the accelerator. So Dean swiftly brought the gun down and fired into the front tire, the pop of the exploding tire a twin to the sound of the gun firing.

The woman started screaming, and Sam was shouting something from the front seat of the Impala, but his voice was too weak for Dean to make out the words, and that only hardened his resolve. Dean moved his aim back to the window. "I'm not asking again," he said, steel in his voice.

"Oh God, please don't hurt me," the man said, shifting the car into park. "Please, my wife and daughter—"

"They'll be fine. You'll be fine. Just turn off the damn car and fill this up." Dean shook the empty gas can with his left hand.

"Oh God, oh God…" The driver kept muttering as he turned off the ignition and shakily climbed out. When Dean got a good look at him, he let out a huff of breath. Kid couldn't be much older than twenty, and he was willing to bet it was a brand-new baby in the backseat.

"Look," Dean said more softly, "I don't want to hurt you. I just want to get out of here." He held out the gas can and plastic tubing. "You know how to do this?"

The young man shook his head frantically.

"Damn it." Dean motioned with the gun towards the gravel shoulder behind the Impala. "Then have a seat."

"Please don't—"

"Shut up and sit down!" Dean shouted. The guy did as he was told, visibly trembling. From the car, the cry of a baby split the air. "Great," he muttered, putting the gas can on the ground and opening the gas cap, keeping the Colt in his right hand aimed at the man on the ground. "This is just great."

He slid one end of the tubing into the gas tank and blew into the other end, listening for a bubbling sound. Then he sucked on the tubing, wincing at the plastic taste, until he could see liquid flowing out of the car's tank. Realizing he was going to have to have both hands free, he shot a warning glance at the redhead before stuffing the pistol back in its impromptu holster and grabbing the empty gas can. Squatting next to the rear of the car, he lowered the end of the tubing until it was below the level of the gas tank and neatly twisted it into the empty can.

Dean stood back up, one eye on his reluctant gas donor and one on the gas flowing into the can. He couldn't help but think of the blood slowly trickling out of Sam's veins, and he wished there was a way to make this go faster. He paced back and forth, calculating what the minimum amount was they needed to get back to the motel and then away to somewhere safe. The cops would be on their tail as soon as this family got within range of a cell tower; not that he could blame them. Of course, the shot-out front tire would slow them down, but still…

When he estimated that he'd collected over two gallons of gas, he pulled out the end of the tubing from the can and held it up into the air. The remaining gas slid back into the tank, and he capped it off and backed away, grabbing the gas can. "You're free to go," he said.

The man stood up shakily. "That's it?"

Dean refrained from rolling his eyes. "No, wait." He reached behind his back, and the man's hands flew up. Dean slowly pulled out his wallet and took out a couple of twenties. "Here," he said, slipping them through the open driver's window. "Thanks. Sorry for, you know."

"Yeah, right." The redhead edged past him, eyes wild. He climbed into the car and started it up, driving away despite the thumping of the flat tire as it tried to roll along.

Dean let out a breath. Thank God they were going in the other direction. "Almost there, Sammy," he called, hurriedly pouring his hard-won gas into the Impala's tank and shoving the supplies back in the trunk.

It might have been fifteen miles back to the motel, but it only took ten minutes for Dean to get there. He was pretty damn sure there weren't any cops on the road, and the way Sam's responses to his demands to say something kept growing weaker and quieter only made his foot press down harder on the pedal. It had been three hours since what should have been a simple first aid patch-up had turned into the nightmare of Sam bleeding out before his eyes, and right now every minute counted.

He pulled into the parking lot with a screech, slamming the brakes and shifting into park in a manner that would have had him screaming at Sam if he was the one mistreating his baby like that. But given the circumstances, he figured she'd understand.

Sam was fumbling for the door handle, and Dean reached over to stop him. "You sit tight, Sammy," he said. "I gotta pack up our stuff and get us out of here before that guy sends the cops after us."

"Gotta look up…poison," Sam insisted, his voice weak but insistent. "Bring out th' laptop."

"You're gonna get it all bloody," Dean grumbled, but he knew that this was a task that couldn't wait.

So he brought out the laptop and set it on the middle of the front bench seat, taking one of the towels he'd swiped from the bathroom and trading it for the blood-soaked t-shirt Sam was trying to hold to his midriff. By the time he'd reassembled their duffels and grabbed the rest of the towels and sheets for good measure, although there was no way Sam could bleed through them all and still be breathing at the end of it, his geek brother was sitting back against the headrest, looking exhausted but relieved.

"Whaddya got?" Dean asked as he swung behind the wheel and started the car up again.

"Vitamin K," Sam replied, carefully adjusting the towel so that a new patch started to turn from dingy white to blood-red. "Intr'venous, then pills."

"Right, and we're going to get that where?" Dean consulted his mental map, always updated with the closest medical facilities whenever they arrived in a new location, and was dismayed to realize it was at least an hour's drive to a hospital. "Do clinics carry that kind of stuff?"

"Health food store." Sam slowly jerked his thumb over his left shoulder, his eyes closing. "Main Street. Improvise."

"Yeah, we're good at that." Dean peeled out of the parking lot, trying not to think about the ever fainter pallor of Sam's face. "Hang in there, Sammy."

When he got no response, he pressed the accelerator down harder.

ooooooooooooooooooo

It took a couple of tries for Sam to open his eyes, but he finally cracked his lids enough to see harvest gold curtains, a faded avocado bedspread, and Dean asleep in a chair tipped back against the wall next to the head of the bed. Dean's okay, he thought, followed by, I'm okay.

He promptly slid back into sleep.

The second time he woke up, it was because of the hazy orange rays of the setting sun shooting in through the crack between the curtains. Blinking, he started to sit up until something tugged at his arm. He looked down to see a needle and a thin plastic tube taped to his forearm, connected to a Ziploc bag attached to the dusty orange lampshade next to the bed. The bag was empty, but there were dark red stains inside of it. On the nightstand was a hypodermic needle and syringe with remnants of a thick yellowish fluid inside.

"How're you feeling, little brother?"

Sam turned his head to see Dean standing up from the small table across the room, weariness all over his face but unmistakable relief in his eyes. There was a small square of gauze taped to the inside of Dean's elbow, and the purpose of the Ziploc bag suddenly became clear. "Did you rig up a blood transfusion for me?" Sam asked incredulously.

Dean shrugged one shoulder. "You remember that one summer Bobby taught us how to do it? Dad was off with Caleb, werewolves or something, and Bobby decided if he was gonna be stuck with our lazy asses for a month, he might as well teach us something useful that didn't involve you messing with his books. I've always wanted to try it out."

"I was that bad, huh?" Sam asked, leveling a steady look at his brother.

Dean dropped his eyes. "Didn't know how long the antidote was gonna take to work." He cleared his throat. "'Sides, you could use something to dilute all that geek blood in you."

Sam looked down at his arm, feeling warm and a little bit strange at the thought of having Dean's blood running through his veins. He lifted up the sheet over his torso and saw a line of gauze pads taped over his stomach, with no sign of red seeping through. "What happened?" he asked. "Last thing I remember is leaving the motel."

"Yeah." Dean reached back and scratched the nape of his neck. "The owners of that health food store must be wondering if Vitamin K is the new ingredient in meth production or something. I, uh, took their whole supply, got the liquid out of the gel caps and into you." He jerked his chin towards the empty syringe on the nightstand, and Sam suddenly pictured Dean squeezing dozens of little gel capsules into the syringe while Sam continued to bleed onto the bed. "There's tablets for you to take, too, for the next four weeks."

"Four weeks?" Sam frowned.

"Yeah, guess you're gonna have to watch yourself shaving for the next month," Dean nervously chuckled. "Takes a while for all of the coumarin to flush itself out."

"I would have thought most of it would have already bled out," Sam muttered.

He looked up to see Dean's face turning a sickly shade of white. "Yeah, an awful lot of it did," he said, his voice rough.

"Dean, I—" Sam broke off at the tight-lipped expression on his brother's face. Okay, no chick flick moments. Instead he asked, "Where are we?"

"Upper Peninsula of Michigan, around Escanaba. Out of range of the Wisconsin State Police."

Sam pressed his lips together. "Damn it, Dean, you didn't need anything else added to your rap sheet."

"There isn't anything else." Dean ducked his head to the side. "No record of any incidents reported on State Route 22 last night. Guess the guy figured I paid him enough for the gas and emotional damages."

"Dean—"

"Come on, Sam, what was I supposed to do?" Dean lifted his hands in a small, unusually helpless gesture before letting them fall to his sides.

He didn't say anything else, but Sam could read it on his face. No matter what trouble it put him in with the law, or with anyone or anything else for that matter, Dean wouldn't hold back when it came to saving his little brother. He'd known that for years, but every time it happened, it was a bit of a shock.

It always made him wonder if there was literally anything Dean wouldn't do to save him.

So he took a deep breath and said by way of apology, "It was my fault anyway. For running out of gas."

"Damn straight," Dean said gruffly. "You lost your driving privileges for the next month, Sparky."

Sam's eyebrows shot up. What am I, sixteen? "Okay, so the next time I think the chick you scored is really a supernatural creature who took you for its prey, I'll just keep on watching the Discovery Channel."

"The chick I scored?" The corners of Dean's eyes creased in amusement. "Sounds like my blood's already having an influence on you, Sammy."

He snorted. "Well, I don't feel any uncontrollable urges to pick a fight with a guy bigger than me or eat my body weight in deep-fried foods."

"Eh, give it time," Dean replied with a sly grin.

Sam rolled his eyes like he was expected to. "One of you in this world is enough, man."

"I am one of a kind," Dean agreed, his expression what could only be described as preening.

"Thank God for that," Sam muttered, knowing his brother would see right through the exasperated façade he put on.

"See if I donate blood to you again, bitch," Dean shot back.

Sam smiled fondly at him. "Yeah, you would."

Dean held his eyes for a moment, his expression softening, before turning away toward the bathroom. "Whatever," he threw over his shoulder. "There's OJ and donuts on the table; you need the sugar and the fluids."

Sam threw off the sheet and blankets and tested the strength of his wobbly legs. Another day, another recovery from injury. They'd be on the road within a few hours, whether or not there was a new case to track down, another brush with death behind them, another tally marked on the endless score sheet of lives saved and laws broken.

He pulled the tape and plastic tubing off of his arm and rubbed a finger over the blue tracing of veins at his wrist, a faint smile curling his lips. No, Sam thought, this time is a little different.

Now a little piece of Dean would always be under his skin.

ooooooooooooooooooo

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