Happy Birthday, TraSan! A thousand thank yous to Gemingrl11 for the lightning fast beta and fantastic commentary!

-o-o-o-

"Dude! Ponderosa! I haven't seen one of those since I was a kid!"

Dean angled the car across the highway, dodging several cars and speeding towards the broken down parking lot, weaving through the obstacle course of pot-holes and spent soda cups, finding a spot away from the dumpsters and any other cars.

Feeling his brother's eyes upon him, Dean said, "Can't be too careful in a parking lot, Sammy. Don't want to hit any flotsam and jetsam coming near my baby." He side-glanced at Sam, checking for the smirk that he was sure was growing on the dimpled face. Sam was always impressed when Dean used unusual words.

Keying the car off, the dual creak of the Impala's doors scared off the parking lot wildlife, crescendoing to the impending slam. The lumbering bodies headed for the restaurant, intent to get their fill of the stellar buffet.

Dean pushed his way through the door past his brother as his stomach took the lead. His mouth watered as he looked at the pictures of steak and steak with a side of steak. When Kelly, the hostess, asked if she could help him he barked out "Steak!" before he even realized what he was doing.

Beside him, Sam chuckled, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Easy, big fella, we'll get ya fed." Dean felt the familiar pat of calm as his brother stepped to the counter. "It's been a long time since we've been here and he's just a little excited to be back."

Kelly smiled, glancing down at the register. "Well, that's what we like to hear! So, what can I get for you while he's deciding which steak he'd like?"

Dean growled at being cut off but then noticed the glint in the young girl's eyes as she spoke to Sam. Putting his hunger in check, Dean tried a different approach. "How about your phone number…Kelly. We'll be in town overnight. What time do you get off?"

Sam coughed uncomfortably, plastering on a fake smile to the hostess as he turned to look at Dean, eyes popping and brow furrowing. If it were possible, Sam seemed to grow in size as he took a slight hedge towards Dean, throwing daggers and a very clear "knock it off" in his direction.

To his credit, Dean shrugged off the threat; he'd aced Sammy 101 years ago. "Ribeye steak, medium-well, French fries, and oh yes, I'd like the unlimited salad bar. Please." He wiggled his eyebrows in excitement at the onslaught of food that would be coming his way.

Kelly took his order, punctuating each beep with her long painted fingernails. She looked up again, finding Sam's eyes, more cautious this time around. "And for you?"

Sam stepped forward, his face filled with apology for Dean's behavior. "Grilled chicken, baked potato, salad bar and a Pepsi."

"Oh, I need a Pepsi, too," Dean chimed in, hand reaching for his wallet and handing Kelly the credit card from within.

"$28.75." She finished the last steps of the order and handed Dean the receipts. "Sit wherever you'd like. Your server will come find you." She reached under the counter and pulled out two smoke-colored glasses, giving one to each of the brothers. "Thank you."

"Thanks," Sam replied with a dimpled smile. "I'm…sorry for him. He doesn't get out much."

"Hey! I'm right here!"

Sam's hand pushed him in the direction of the drinks, taking away a chance of rebuttal with the hostess.

o-o-o-o

Sam held the table as he let his famished brother make his way to the salad bar. It took a matter of seconds before Dean had piled everything imaginable onto the radius of his plate: chicken wings, mashed potatoes with tons of brown gravy, mac and cheese, Swedish meatballs. Sam was impressed that the mini tower of Pisa hadn't splatted to floor. Looking up, a large, buttered roll was stuffed in Dean's mouth, the unchewed part ready to fall to the table.

"'ude, ou haf to try 'his.." Dean grumbled out, barely intelligible. Fortunately for Sam, he'd mastered Dean 101 early on as well, and any time that food was involved, Sam knew to take a step back.

"Ah, yeah. I'll get there but I think I'll go the salad route." With that, Sam rose and made his way to the island, picking up the forest green plate and piling the quartered lettuce onto his dish. He found carrots, mushrooms and his favorite - green peppers - along with a few other garnishes of black olives and croutons. The hot stuff looked good but he was more interested in the salad at the moment. They hadn't been eating very well since the apocalypse and all, so taking a few moments to nourish his body seemed alright. He did, however, grab a chicken wing and a roll to add a little sustenance to his plate and stave off Dean's criticism of his food choices.

In the short time Sam was away, Dean had eaten three quarters of his plate, including all the chicken wings. He wanted to yell at Dean for eating too fast, but the lopsided smile on his brother's face was worth it all. It was times like these that Sam loved Dean best; the simple things making him happy. He had his own personal love affair with food and Sam would never stand in the way of Dean and a plate.

"Well, I guess you were hungry. Do you even know what any of that tasted like?" Sam asked, forking into the greenery on his own plate.

Grabbing the chicken wing from Sam's plate and shoving it into his mouth, he smiled, chewing away at the meat. "Nope. Don't care. But I am getting my fill. And as my date, I expect you to do that same!"

A scowl formed on Sam's face but he knew it was a losing battle. It was just nice to see Dean acting normal. Eating. Giving Sam shit. It had been way too long since that had been on any menu in the Winchester Café. He shook his head and grabbed another stack of lettuce.

"Really? Lettuce? You can't even get a mouthful of that stuff," Dean started, clearly enjoying the taunting. "You could have at least gotten the tacos."

"I will, Dean. I promise. I just wanted something…good for me first." Sam looked down at the plate coating the greens with his chosen dressing. "My stomach can't eat burgers all the time."

"Sammy, you're such a girl! You have to eat some of the good stuff on the menu. That doesn't even make a mouthful. It's like eating air," Dean continued his speech about his own good eating habits. "I mean, you could put that whole plate in your mouth and you still could swallow it whole. That is not food. That is supermodel fodder."

Sam was beginning to get a little agitated with Dean and his judgment of food selection. To shut him up, he pushed one mouthful after another between his lips chomping quickly as the fork existed his mouth. "See? I can 'o it with let-us."

"But there's no chicken. No meatloaf." Dean stopped and plunged his fork into the Swedish delicacy sitting on the edge of his dish. "Hell, where are your balls?"

Sam looked at his brother and started to laugh at the force the statement came out, inhaling deeply at the joke. Suddenly, though, it wasn't so funny when a crouton got stuck in his windpipe. He tried to dislodge it carefully by chewing the rest of the garden in his mouth but he found breathing to be a tad difficult.

Dean was still listing off items from the unending buffet, cheating by looking at the island as he continued the litany, not looking at Sam as he tried to make a point. When Sam was able to get his attention again, his airway was definitely a problem.

"Sammy?"

Sam spit out the food in his mouth, trying to push out the crouton from his throat by pounding on his chest but nothing seemed to be working. Before he realized it, he was being dragged from the seat by strong arms, fists in his abdomen thrusting upward.

His vision started to blur and the words of Lucifer echoed in his fading mind, torturing him further.

I'll just bring you back.

Sam could feel the upward motion of his body as his limbs felt dull and limp. No air was making its way through and he could feel the crouton firmly lodged in his throat.

From far away, he could hear the fear in Dean's voice, begging him to stay, to hang on. Calling him Sammy.

And that meant everything.

Sorry, Dean.

And everything went black.

-o-o-o-

His breath was hot and uncomfortable, tumbling around in a confined space. That was the first realization Sam had as he tried to pry his eyes open. From there, it all went to Hell.

Sam was against something hard and his body was cold. He was aware of an oncoming headache and his muscles were stiff. There was an oxygen mask on his face and bright, blue eyes hovered in his spotty vision.

"Sam? Hi. Are you awake? Can you hear me?" the voice questioned as hands started to feel around his neck and chest, brushing long locks from his forehead. "I'm Sheila, we're here to help you. Do you remember what happened?"

In his still-blurred peripheral vision, a frantic Dean stood along with a female who looked vaguely familiar. He blinked a few times, turning his head to take in his surroundings, catching a glimpse of a buffet in the distance.

"Dean…food 'eaven," he managed before he coughed into the casing over his mouth. He licked at his lips, feeling the dryness the oxygen had created, suppressing a cough that wanted out.

"That's right. You'll be sore for a little while but Dean was able to get the crouton out of your throat," the medic informed, listening to his heart with her stethoscope. The sound of his name prompted Dean to get on the casino-like carpeting next to his brother, pangs of guilt in his eyes.

"Sorry, Sammy. I never thought your big mouth couldn't handle all that food." The joke didn't reach his eyes as Sam watched the concern radiate from Dean. He blinked a few times trying to get a handle on all the commotion around him.

Another medic, taller and broader, came into view. He crouched next to Sheila, adjusting the IV that had been inserted into Sam's arm with a slight tug.

"Just relax, Sam. You were out for a few minutes so we just want to make sure that everything's alright," he stated, checking the levels on the bag and tweaking a knob for flow. "You're in good hands with Sheila but I think you're a little too heavy for her to lift, so me and the boys will get you onto the stretcher for your trip to Belleville."

"Belle'ille?...crazy place?"

"No, Sammy, that's Belleview," Dean added, relief on his face at his brother making sense as he came closer. "Collinsville doesn't have a hospital, so we have to take you there."

Sam's face scrunched, eyes blinking a few times trying to wipe out the remaining cobwebs. "Near Cahokia?" he squeezed out, unable to stop a coughing fit, reaching upward with his back only to have the shooting pain from his abdomen stop him cold.

"You know about the Mounds, huh? They're pretty fascinating. You guys ever been?" The medic was waving over his buddy with the stretcher, getting ready for transport. "I grew up in this area. Sure is a lot of mystery surrounding those Mounds. That whole population just disappeared a thousand years ago. Cool stuff."

"Alright, Tom. Sam doesn't need to know about your obsession with the place," Sheila interrupted easily. "He needs to worry about getting himself better and ready for the board under his back."

But Sam was lost in thought. Somewhere in his memory, he knew about the Mounds. Something was prickling at him. And this Tom guy was vaguely familiar; although it was clear he didn't recognize either Sam or Dean. When he was up for it, a trip to Cahokia would be in order.

The woman that'd been standing next to Dean came rushing over to Sam; he now recognized her as the hostess. "I'm so sorry this happened. If there's anything we can do, please let us know."

In the far background, their waitress, whom Sam had never met, had packaged their meals to go. Handing the bag to Dean, Sam watched as his brother lit up at the additional food. Sam rolled his eyes, wondering what it would take to stop his brother's stomach.

"I can get you a doggy bag for the salad bar if you'd like, Sir," she added, looking at Dean like a deer in headlights.

"No thanks, ma'am. That stuff'll kill ya!"

THE END

When I found out it was TraSan's birthday, I had to do a little something. Of course, I had to stress about it, so this is what came out. Not my typical fare but hopefully you all enjoyed it! I just wanted to bring a little brotherly fun and some very quick limp for her birthday!

I visited the Cahokia Mounds this past weekend just outside of St. Louis. For those of you not familiar with them, look 'em up. Fascinating place. I was devastated to learn that my favorite restaurant, Ponderosa, was closed in Fairview Heights, Illinois. After some research, I discovered the one in Collinsville – where Cahokia is located – IS still open, but we'd already eaten. Very sad. So I had Dean go eat there for me. :D

Thanks for reading!

:D

Caroline