Disclaimer: Don't own them, more's the pity.
Once again I would like to thank sjd for lending me her ears when I needed to have a rant and for looking over this for me.
Thank you to everyone who's put this story on alert and a special thank you to those of you who dropped me a review, they are very much appreciated.
To Heather, as I can't reply to your reviews I would just like to say thank you, you always bring a smile to my face with your wonderful reviews.
This is the final chapter; I really hope you enjoy it.
"Sam! SAM!" Bobby raised his voice to bring Sam back from the brink of the panic that had flooded the young man on seeing his brother fall into unconsciousness "I could really use a hand here." Bobby was satisfied that Dean had simply passed out and nothing more, which he knew they could use to their advantage.
Pressing fingers to Dean's neck Sam didn't move until he felt the familiar and comforting beat of his brother's pulse beating out a thrum and although it was still a little weaker than it should have been he was satisfied that Dean wasn't in any immediate danger of it stopping altogether so turned his attention to Bobby.
"You know what we need." Bobby didn't look up from the task of peeling Dean's blood and sweat soaked shirt away from the motionless body.
"Yeah, yeah okay" Sam rushed from the room only to return seconds later, his eyes falling on Kelvin who was still sitting slumped in the chair beside the bed and although Sam knew it completely unreasonable he wanted the man out of the same room his brother was in, couldn't quite lose the image of him taunting and playing with Dean just a short time ago.
"Kelvin you should rest." Sam fought to keep his voice level as he placed a supporting arm around the man's shoulders and exerted just enough pressure to let him know that that meant he was to move.
"I can help, let me help." Kelvin whispered.
"No!" Sam was unable to prevent the sharp refusal.
Bobby glanced up and caught the look in Sam's eyes, knowing that the kid was struggling against simply dragging Kelvin from the room he intercepted "Kelvin, Sam's right, you should rest, this is no place for you right now so how bout you go downstairs, make us all some coffee and then put your feet up for a time, you need to rest."
"Bobby, Sam, I'm sorry, really I am, if I coulda prevented any a this I woulda, you know that right."
"It wasn't your fault Kelvin, there's nothin you coulda done but right now we need to help Dean." Bobby's eyes sought out Sam's, the message in them clear.
"Bobby's right, you couldn't help it so let me help you downstairs so's you can rest, we'll talk later."
Bobby and Sam worked side by side until they'd stitched, bathed and bandaged Dean's black and blue body, they tucked ice packs around him to bring down the burning fever and then waited, both jumping forward as Dean wavered in and out of consciousness, as he tried to wriggle his body away from the ice packs, as he peered at them through half open hazy eyes, as he tried to fight off all attempts to force water into his mouth and then slumped back in their respective bedside chairs as his exhausted body became still.
It was a full twelve hours later before Dean became even half way lucid, his groans shocking a drowsy Sam and Bobby to wakefulness as he tried to push himself to a sitting position, the pain flaring through his system forcing him to abandon all thoughts of doing anything other than lying completely still.
"Sam?" Dean only continued when his brother's face appeared in his line of vision. "You okay?"
"I'm fine Dean, how about you, how do you feel." Sam softly asked.
"M'kay." Came the less than convincing reply.
"Yeah, sure you are Dean." Sam shot back, not really surprised that his brother had given the answer he had, after all, that's what Dean always did; he always hid his own pain behind a wall of bravado.
Dean swivelled his eyes to the left "Bobby" and then a thought struck him "The preacher, what happened to him?"
"What do you remember?" Bobby spoke as he and Sam shared a worried look.
"I remember, I remember" Dean turned his eyes to Sam "You did it, you kicked his ass." Dean smiled a small smile.
"We did it Dean, Bobby, you and me, we all played a part." Sam smiled at the look of relief that crossed his brother's face, the deep lines of pain and worry seeming to smooth out a little right before his eyes.
"Well if you boys don't mind I'm gonna go get me some coffee." Bobby announced.
"That'd be great Bobby." Dean enthusiastically replied.
"Sorry kid, coffee's out fer you, at least fer a coupla days." The older hunter grinned as a pout replaced the small smile on the young hunters face.
With Bobby gone the two brothers sat in companionable silence for a time before Dean broke the quiet.
"Sam, help me up would ya, I'm sick of staring at the ceiling."
"You need to rest Dean."
"I just wanna sit up Sam."
Taking pity on his brother Sam complied with his wishes.
Dean braced himself "Yeah."
Sam placed his arms around his brother and gently slid him up amid muffled grunts of pain from Dean.
"Here, take these." Sam held out two small white pills in the palm of his hand, a bottle of Gatorade held in the other.
"S'okay Sammy, don't need em right now."
"Take em Dean." Sam demanded in a no nonsense tone.
Dean's eyes travelled to his hands, one heavily bandaged and the other in a plaster cast.
"Sorry Dean, sorry. Open wide."
Dean glared at his brother even as he complied with the request, snapping his mouth closed as soon as the pills were deposited on his tongue.
"You'r e not dry swallowing them Dean." Sam waved the bottle of Gatorade in front of his brother's face.
"No way Sam, I'm not a friggin baby." Dean pressed his lips together.
Sam chuckled "Open up Dean or I'm gonna call Bobby to come up here and…"
"Okay, okay." Dean knew his brother would carry out his threat and decided that if he had to be fed then he'd rather it be his brother who did it.
"There, that wasn't so bad was it?" Sam spluttered as he fought to bury the bubbling chuckles.
Sam was unable to give the standard reply, his breath hitching as he continued to suppress spluttered laughter.
Dean refused to make eye contact with his brother but could see out of the corner of his eye that although the laughter had died Sam was still smiling and although he hated being dependent on anyone, even Sam, Dean was happy to see his brother relaxing a little.
Dean drifted in and out of sleep, his frustration at being unable to remain awake for longer than a couple of hours clearly obvious to Sam who tried everything to entertain his brother which was a job in itself, Dean being unable to sit still for longer than five minutes at a time before becoming fidgety, he'd always been the same Sam reflected, always had to be doing something, so Sam tried to entertain him with games of poker and black jack although Sam had to handle the cards for him due to his hands still being out of action which in turn led to Dean getting bored quickly, so Sam brought a tv into the room, Dean couldn't find anything that interested him so Sam fetched a radio, still Dean couldn't find anything to keep him occupied, as a last resort Sam suggested playing I-spy, the two of them laughing together until Dean's eyes slid closed and he fell into the most peaceful sleep Sam had seen him have since before the hunt for the preacher had begun
Sam slumped back in his chair, exhausted with trying to keep Dean entertained coupled with the fact that he'd yet to catch up on the sleep he'd missed out on since this whole thing began, preferring instead to sit by his brother's bed just in case Dean needed anything.
A hissed curse and a dull thud brought Sam out of his snatched slumber just in time to see Dean, who had somehow made it halfway to the door; fall to his knees, his upper body swaying as it seemingly prepared itself for the final descent to the rough, worn carpet.
"Dean! What the hell." Sam leapt from the chair and raced across the room, falling to his knees in front of his brother he wrapped strong arms around the trembling torso, a concerned frown creasing his forehead as he took in the beads of perspiration glistening on Dean's face. "C'mon, let's get you back to bed."
Happy now that his brother was once again safely tucked in bed and propped comfortably against the pillows Sam began the arduous task of trying to find out why Dean had taken it into his head to go walkabout.
"What were you thinkin Dean?"
Dean peered at Sam through his lashes but remained silent.
"Where did you think you were going Dean?" Sam persisted.
"It does matter."
"Drop it Sam."
"No, I won't drop it, d'you have any idea just how sick you've been?"
"Pretty much, is that it?"
"What d'you want me to say Sam, you want me to say that yeah, I know that freaky ass bastard nearly finished me, that what you want huh?" Dean paused "Okay, you got it, I know what he did to me, I know that he nearly killed me but he didn't Sam, I'm still here an I know that's down to you an Bobby, but I can't lay here much longer, I'm gonna go crazy if I have to spend another day staring at these four walls."
Sam swallowed the lump in his throat before broaching a subject he'd been dreading "What d'you remember?"
Dean raised his head and looked Sam in the eye before answering the question.
"Everything, I remember everything. I remember Meg, and Jess and Mom crying and Dad mad as hell and…"
"You remember what I did to you."
"Not you, not the real you, it wasn't your fault Sam, I know that, always knew that even whilst I was in the, the…"
"I'm sorry." Sam averted his eyes from his brother's.
"Sam look at me." Dean commanded.
Sam peeped through too long shaggy bangs at his brother, his eyes full.
"It's not your fault; there was nothing you coulda done."
Sam lowered his eyes.
"You know as well as I do Sam that sometimes hunts go wrong, if something gets the drop on us there's nothing we can do about it, hell we've both been there, remember the shapeshifter and the siren, then there was Ellicot. There was nothing you coulda done so let it go cuz in the end we're still here, together, alive." Dean watched as his kid brother's eyes slowly rose to meet his. "You okay with this?"
Sam slowly nodded, his eyes shining with gratitude and respect for his always there for him sibling.
"Good" Dean began "Cuz I gotta go."
Sam shook his head "What, where?"
Sam looked at him, puzzled.
Dean rolled his eyes before slowly spelling it out to his brother "I. Gotta. Go.
Realising what his brother meant Sam stuttered "Oh, you mean…"
"Yeah Sherlock, now help me outta here will ya." Dean kicked the bedclothes back.
"Uhuh Dean, no need." Sam gently pressed Dean back against the pillows before crouching low and reaching under the bed, a triumphant grin on his face as he straightened up to full height, long fingers clasped around a bottle.
"No way, no friggin way, now help me up or I swear to god I'm gonna do it myself even if I havta crawl to the bathroom." Dean growled.
Sam made to walk towards the door.
"Where're you goin?"
"Gonna call Bobby, he said to fetch him if you gave me any trouble." Sam moved slowly until he was standing in the doorway, a grin forming on his face as his brother called him back.
"No, wait" The last thing Dean wanted was Bobby AND Sam around whilst he took care of business. "This aint friggin funny Sam, first you force me to drink gallons of that crap" Dean nodded toward the bedside table, the top of which was littered with some empty and some full bottles of Gatorade "and then you tell me I gotta pee in a bottle."
"Don't worry Dean, I won't look." Sam chuckled.
"Good job, wouldn't want you to get jealous." Dean shot back with a smirk.
As soon as Sam could be certain that Dean was asleep and not putting on a show for him in order to be able to make another bid for freedom he crept out of the room and ran downstairs, finally finding Bobby working on a car out back.
"Hey Sam." Bobby greeted the young man.
"Bobby, what d'you think about moving Dean downstairs onto the couch, he's gettin pretty restless, I've already had to threaten him with you a coupla times." Sam finished with a grin.
Bobby wiped the oil from his hands on an old rag he had tucked into his waistband before straightening up and turning to face the kid, his eyes taking in the slumped shoulders, colourless skin, dull eyes with huge bags underneath and shaking hands, all in all the kid exuded an air of complete exhaustion and Bobby worried how much longer Sam'd be able to keep going without crashing.
"Sam, you are gettin some rest yerself aren't yer? Bobby pinned searching eyes on Sam.
"What, yeah, I'm okay" Sam chewed on his lower lip as tears involuntarily filled his eyes.
"C'mon kid." Bobby placed an arm around Sam's back and slowly guided him to the rickety old porch where he pushed him down into one of the tattered wicker chairs before pulling the matching one close and sitting down himself. "Sam, you ain't gonna do yer brother no good if yer burn yerself out, Dean's gettin better but he's gonna need you to be strong, I've heard the nightmares Sam, he's gonna need you to be there fer him. Bobby patted Sam's knee "Don't move, I'll be back in a minute."
In reality Sam was exhausted beyond anything he'd ever felt before, his body ached and his head spun when he stood, but he also wanted to be there for his brother, wanted to make sure that whenever Dean needed him he'd be there, after all, that was what Dean'd done his whole life for him and Sam considered it only fair that he took his turn, paid back in some small way the love, care, understanding and shelter he'd been showered with for most of his life.
"Here, get this down yer." Bobby handed Sam a bottle of Gatorade.
Sam looked questioningly at the older hunter.
"If I'm not very much mistaken, and I'm pretty sure I'm not, you're on the verge of crashing Sam, this'll help a little but you've gotta start lookin after yerself as well as yer brother, you didn't exactly have an easy ride of it in them woods, it all takes it's toll Sam, so I'll tell yer what we're gonna do.
Sam unscrewed the top off the bottle and took a long pull as he listened to Bobby.
"We're gonna get Dean moved downstairs, see if he can keep a little food down, check his wounds, redress those that need it, a'course, his hands're gonna need more help than either me or you can give him but I'm pretty certain I can sort that when the time comes, and then I'm gonna switch on the tv and you are both gonna do nothing more'n sit in front of the damn thing." What Bobby really wanted was banish Sam to the bedroom upstairs but knew without a doubt that he'd have a fight on his hands, a fight he knew he didn't have a hope in hell of winning right now with Sam's need to be near to his brother, his need to keep him in his sights which Bobby could understand to a certain extent, he knew that Dean had very nearly not made it out of this hunt, that it was too close a call for Sam to be able to just shake off and carry on as normal. Bobby shook thoughts of the time Dean had been torn apart by the hell hounds, the image of Sam, heartbroken and sobbing uncontrollably as he cradled his dead brother in his arms from his mind, it being a time Bobby himself had trouble coming to terms with. "So whaddya say?" Bobby pulled himself back to the present.
"Yeah, good, that's good; I'll just go check on Dean before we start gettin everything ready."
Bobby shook his head as he watched Sam disappear before pulling himself to his feet and going inside himself.
Dean began waking just as his brother walked into the room but instead of letting him know he was awake he quickly closed his eyes, listening as the younger man paced back and forth beside the bed and had to call on every ounce of restraint when he felt his brothers unmistakeably large hand rest against the skin of his forehead, the "hmm" quickly followed by Sam creeping from the room and lightly running down the stairs.
Dean lay in the quiet room, eyes still closed as he mulled over something that'd been worrying him from the time he managed to see his brother clearly for the first time since leaving the woods. The floorboards creaking brought his eyes snapping open to see Bobby standing looking down at him.
"How you feelin?"
"Better. Where's Sam?"
"Sam's downstairs gettin everythin ready to move you."
"Oh thank god, I finally get to leave this godforsaken room." Raising sheepish eyes to the older man he finished "No offence Bobby."
"Non taken son."
Almost before Bobby had finished speaking Dean raised the subject of his brother "Bobby, is Sam okay?"
"Why d'you ask?"
"Exhausted Dean, yer brother is runnin himself into the ground lookin out fer you, has done ever since we got yer back here, I don't think he's slept more'n five minutes the whole time."
Dean pushed the bedclothes aside with his casted arm and made to get out of bed before being stopped by Bobby.
"What d'you think you're doin?
"I'm gonna go an knock some sense into Sam's thick skull, I mean what's he thinking, he's gonna make himself ill."
"An you wouldn't a done the same?" Bobby's raised his eyebrows as he spoke.
"Why is it different?"
Dean floundered for a minute "Cuz it just is, I look out for him, always have, always will."
"What, an you think he don't feel the same."
Deflated Dean sank back against the pillows "Okay Einstein, how do we get around this."
"Funny you should say that" Bobby began "Cuz I have a plan and cut the sarcasm."
"Sorry Bobby. So what's this plan?"
A good hour later and Dean was safely ensconced on the comfortable over stuffed sofa after having been able to make it down the stairs practically unaided apart from a slight stumble as he reached the last step, his legs suddenly turning to jelly but Dean was happy, this being the furthest he'd been allowed to walk since before all this had begun, the most he'd been allowed to do prior had been when Sam, in his role as physio, had helped Dean take one or two steps away from the bed and then the return one or two steps back to the bed where he was forced to sit on the edge and endure his brothers twice daily massage of his thighs and calves, something that Dean insisted wasn't necessary as his legs were just about the one place on his body where no serious injury had been inflicted, just minor cuts and bruises, but Sam insisted so he had had to simply grin and bear it.
"Hey Bobby, if I promise to be good can I have that coffee now." Dean asked with a smirk.
Walking to stand in front of the sofa, hands on hips Bobby levelled a glare on the young man "If yer not careful yer gonna find yerself back in the bed you just left."
Sam peered over Bobby's shoulder, a small chuckle escaping as he grinned.
Bobby spun on his heel until his face was inches from the youngest Winchester and growled "I don't know what you find so damn funny cos if you don't get your ass in that chair you'll be in the room next door." Bobby's eyes rose to look at the ceiling.
This time it was Dean's turn to chuckle at his brother's expense as Sam dutifully threw himself into the voluminous, inviting softness of the enormous armchair, but the minute Bobby made to leave Sam leapt to his feet and chased after him, catching him just as he was about to exit the room. "Bobby" he asked in a whisper, his eyes travelling across the room to his brother to make sure Dean couldn't hear "Where'd Kelvin go?"
"He left, said he needed to get away, sort his head out." Bobby explained.
"Good." Was Sam's only reply, he knew none of what had happened was Kelvin's fault but he just didn't want the man around his brother.
"It wasn't his fault Sam."
"I know Bobby, I just can't help being glad he's not around anymore."
Bobby searched the young hunter's eyes and was satisfied that Sam meant no harm in his feelings toward Kelvin, he was simply looking out for his brother.
Patting Sam on the shoulder Bobby simply said "I know son, now go rest, I'll see about getting us some coffee."
When Bobby returned Dean was happily watching a tv show about how to take apart and rebuild the engine of a Ford Mustang. His face breaking out in a wide grin he nodded in his brother's direction "Worked like a dream Bobby."
Bobby came further into the room, his grin matching Dean's as he looked down on Sam curled into the chair, softly snoring as he slept.
Within twenty minutes, just as the presenter of the tv show was about to begin rebuilding the engine Bobby watched as Dean's eyes drooped until he too was sound asleep.
Pulling the blanket which was draped over the back of the sofa Bobby threw it over the sleeping hunter before moving across the room and doing the same for Sam.
"Sleep tight boys, you deserve it." Bobby whispered as he turned off the tv and made to leave the room.
Thanks for reading.