Sam was there in four hours. It was nighttime now, though, and for the life of him he couldn't find the sign he'd seen to determine exactly where he had left Dean. He tried calling out to him, physically and telepathically, but there was no answer. One more step inside his head couldn't hurt…

Sitting at the desk in front of the dimming laptop, Sam coaxed the unconscious body to its feet. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder.

He turned. It was Dean.

"Get out."

Sam was so startled at his appearance that he agreed immediately. Thank God he was still here. "Um. Okay. Okay, yeah." Sam stood up, knocking the chair over. "I just—I just need you to stand up. I'm out there waiting for you. I just need to see—"

"I'll do it. Get out."

"Just wait until—I want to make sure you can—"

"I can do it, Sam. Get out."

Dean looked like hell. He was blue-white pale, with sunken eyes. Even in here the representation of him was covered in his own blood, and hunched over almost double. If he hadn't been standing before Sam just then, Sam couldn't have believed he was capable of standing up.


"Sam. Out." Dean closed his eyes, struggling with pain or tears or both. When he spoke, it wasn't Dean: "Please."

Sam was gone without another word. But it turned out he didn't need Dean to get to his feet: he saw where Dean was before he had even had a chance.

Rather, he saw himself. Exiting Dean. When Sam glanced in the rearview mirror, a cloud of black smoke jetted forth from Dean's mouth before replacing itself in his own body. Like an actual possession. Like a demonic possession. For the first time, really, since this whole twisted venture began, guilt gripped Sam.

But he had to ignore that, because Dean was struggling to get up, and he didn't need to. Sam fell out of the car and sprinted to the patch of brush, practically pouncing on his brother as he struggled to his knees. Dean flinched to be so accosted and attempted a pathetic self defense, but Sam held him fast.

"Dean, it's me. I'm here, I've got you."

"Sammy?" Dean coughed, teetered, gripped Sam's jacket. "Real Sammy? The one who's not gonna hurt me no more?"

"Dean…" Sam began, exhausted, threateningly close to tears.

"I'm just kidding, man. Sorry." Dean whispered distantly.

Sam gulped. "No, Dean, actually—I—I'm sorry…"

"Sammy, I can't see," Dean groaned: he might have sounded scared if he had been any stronger. Sam felt a cold sweat of panic flash through his brother's body before it went suddenly limp.

"It's all right, Dean. We'll take care of it. I'll take care of it. It's no problem. Easy." Dean's head had fallen against his chest where he struggled to hold him upright. Sam was strong, but Dean was built like a tank, and getting him to the car was a feat. Dean lost consciousness trying to help move himself, but woke upon being deposited in the front seat. Sam checked to make sure nothing was still bleeding—"Nothing left to bleed," Dean joked—"Not funny," Sam snapped back—and gave him a bit of water before buckling him in and sliding into the driver's seat beside him.

"All right. We're heading out. I think there's a motel about an hour back. Can you last me that long?"

Dean nodded, like he was a hundred miles away. "Zeppelin?" he whispered.

"What? Oh, uh, yeah. Sure." Sam fumbled with the cassettes until he found II: easily Dean's favorite. As Dean tapped his fingers—the only part of him he could still move—to Whole Lotta Love and drifted into unconsciousness, Sam pulled out of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Camping Ground and drove as gently as he could down Route 5.

Dean was—unfortunately and fortunately—conscious when they pulled into the motel. It was first floor and not ten feet from the car, but he naturally insisted he be allowed to half-walk himself inside. Sam allowed this only because he was himself so physically exhausted, and he was feeling guilty enough to grant Dean anything. But once inside the door of the motel, Dean's legs turned unexpectedly into jelly and didn't solidify again. Sam was only just able to drag him to the nearest bed. Sam ducked back out for the bags, but was back in an instant, locking the door behind him.

Sam wasn't sure he would ever forgive himself. Dean looked beyond hellish. And more than half of it was his fault: the corners of his mouth and nose and eyes and ears all trickled blood, sure sign of possession. That was before he took stock of all of the wounds given to him by the demons, which themselves were aggravated by Sam's actions.

He was safe again, though, now. Was that worth it?

"Sam?" Dean called when he woke with a start, reaching a twitchy hand out in the wrong direction.

Sam took the hand firmly in both of his. "I'm here, Dean. Easy."

Dean was blinking furiously and trying to lift his head. "I can't see a damn thing, Sammy."

"I know, Dean. It's all right, I'm gonna fix it," Sam said, trying to comfort him. "But I gotta take care of your shoulder and other stuff first. Just take it easy." He set to removing Dean's heavy jacket, lifting, supporting, manipulating, pulling as gently as he could.

"S-Sam," Dean continued after a moment of weary silence, as Sam settled him back to the pillow, "I—I am so freaking dizzy right now. Everything's sp-spinning. God—" For being so faint and weak, there was urgency in the voice.

"Okay, just relax," Sam encouraged, laying a hand heavily on his brother's head. "It'll pass, just relax."

Dean gulped. "I think I'm gonna throw up."

Sam wasted no time. Before a full second had passed, the vase on the bedside table was missing its flora and Sam had pulled Dean into a sitting position. The next second saw Dean puking his brains out, though it appeared that only blood and bile were coming up. He retched long after everything was gone, and before his body stopped going through the motions there were tears in his eyes. With his last bit of strength he pressed his still-swimming brainpan into Sam's chest, willing the dizziness to stop as he gasped for air. Sam did his best to help, stroking his hair and holding the head closer to him. The vomit, being comprised of so much blood, luckily didn't smell too bad. After the fit passed and Dean let his body go limp again, Sam helped him rinse his mouth and had him drink a little water.

"Better?" Sam asked, still holding him.

Dean snorted into his chest. "Yeah. Did I get ya?"

"No, you're fine. You didn't get anything on me."

"Damn, I missed."

"You're such a jerk."

"Well, you're a bitch."

Sam held onto Dean a moment longer to make sure the dizziness was gone before gently lowering him back to the bed. Although Dean's muscles strained briefly for pain, he went down quietly. Too quietly.

But Dean just wouldn't let himself pass out—or couldn't. His eyelids fluttered open often, and he would try to help Sam with whatever he was doing to him. He tried to sit up, tried to shift himself, and was helpful getting himself out of his blood- and sweat-soaked clothes.

"Sorry, dude" Sam murmured as he gingerly, awkwardly unbuttoned Dean's bloody jeans and slid them down his legs, but Dean only laughed.

"You seen me as naked as I'll ever be in front of anybody. No sense making a fuss now."

"Yeah. I'm, uh, sorry about that, too."

Dean didn't reply.

The shoulder wound was actually relatively clean, and looked high enough to not have gone through the lung. It had been ripped open and aggravated, and was swollen bad, but was cleaned up without much trouble. As Sam inspected the leg—which was broken—in two places—and tried to determine what he could use to set it, his eyes lighted on the radio: he flipped it on, guessing and hoping that Dean was still enough of himself to still want to listen to music. Sam took the groan and half-smile at a lucky Fade to Black which crackled in over the radio as affirmation.

"Okay, how you doing, Dean? You cold? Hot? Hungry?"

Dean stirred. Speaking clearly took a great deal of effort.

"…Or tired, that's fine, you go back to sleep…"

"Cold," he whispered, although sweat stood out on his chest, and his brow was warm to the touch.

"Okay," Sam said, stripping the blankets from the opposite bed to lay over him. Dean nodded his thanks and gave a small cough followed by a grimace.

"Dean—do you think you could drink something for me? And keep it down?"

"You gonna drug me?" As a rule, Dean hated taking any painkillers stronger than Tylenol—something about ideologically detesting the helpless unconsciousness of drugged sleep. Not that waking him from normal sleep was any easier than waking the dead, but he was usually adamant about this stupid little thing.

So, "No," Sam lied, a bit too quickly, feeling like the biggest douchebag in the history of brothers as he said it. "No, just antibiotics." That wasn't a lie. It would have those, too. "And some sugar. When did you last eat?"

"Dunno," Dean said, "but…" he nodded distantly. "I'll keep it down."

Leery that Dean agreed so readily, Sam mixed the drink quickly. It started with grapefruit Sobe, mint leaves and other herbs (some of them of negotiable legality), including gin, antibiotics, and an unhealthy dose of morphine. As he knew Dean wouldn't let himself relax on his own, Sam didn't actually feel too evil for trickling the drink down his brother's throat. And Dean, though he recognized the taste, drank, and didn't puke it back up.

"You totally just lied to me," Dean said.

"Yeah. I'm sorry. I didn't want to set your leg while you're awake." Sam sat close to him, the warmth from his body firm against Dean's cold chest. He let his hand rest gently on Dean's arm, so that he would be assured that he was there.

"Good call." Dean went quiet for a moment, so that Sam thought he had gone to sleep, but Dean kept himself awake long enough to lift his head from the pillow and ask, "You'll st-stay? Here?" No matter how crappy he felt, he couldn't quite bring himself to tell Sam to stay here with me because I'm fucking terrified to fall asleep in case she comes back for me and I couldn't move even if I could stay awake, and Jesus Christ I'm fucking blind, but Sam got the idea:

"Yeah, Dean. Of course." Sam squeezed Dean's arm.

"I-in case she comes back?"

"Yeah. I got your back."

Dean nodded, satisfied. Sam shuddered. His brother was actually counting on him—relying on him—entirely—to defend him. He was always the heavy sleeper, sure, and had trusted his life to him in countless ways before, but this was incredibly different. This was total. Even after what Sam had done to him. Especially after that.

After setting the leg and calling Bobby for a spell that would reverse the damage done to Dean's eyes, Sam caught a few hours rest lying curled up in the bed beside his brother. He shared the bed mainly because he had given Dean all of the blankets already, but also because he couldn't stand to be any distance from him while he was like this.

"Dude. The whole two-queens thing is just a front, now?"

Sam jolted awake, briefly confused, before catching the sight of Dean's eyes at half-mast, sparkling with amusement. Daylight filtered in through the drawn curtains.

"I had to give you all the blankets!" Sam protested.

Dean grinned, "Sure, Florence. I know you get in these chick flick moods whenever I get hurt, dude."

Rolling his eyes and deciding to ignore that comment, Sam sat up and crawled on his elbows closer to Dean. "How you feeling, man?" he said, feeling his brother's forehead and moving the dressing aside to check on the shoulder wound.

Dean gave an experimental groan but didn't make even a token effort to dodge the mother-henning: "I'm fine, Sam."

Sam rolled his eyes—he was never going to believe the "I'm fine" line from his brother ever again—but didn't push the issue. Instead he gave Dean his signature pout. "Well, you look like shit."

"Yeah, well, so do you."

Sam blinked, realizing. Then he laughed. That was the nicest thing Dean could have said to him.