A/N: The avatar on my profile is a picture I drew based on a scene from this fic, so if you wanna look at it, have at it. I'd put it on DeviantArt or something, but last time I went there my computer got attacked by a virus. Proofed by Twilightrayne.

Follows Season one's the Benders, but also mentions stuff from Home, Asylum, Scarecrow, Faith, Route666, and Nightmare.

Sick!Sam and Protective,Bigbrother!Dean. (Guilt and pain all around, though, considering the episode that it's attached to.)

Disclaimer: Owned by Kripke (does Gamble own it now too?); no profits being made by me.

Thanks to K Hanna Korossy for pointing out the formatting mistake!


Heat billowed in puffy, white wisps throughout the cramped motel bathroom; the vapor swirled against the heavy shower curtain and weighed down the air, rendering the oxygen thick and difficult to swallow. Sam placed a hand on the slippery tile in front of him and leaned his weight into the appendage, the tilt in his stance allowing the scaling water to rush in a torrent down his back and over the muscles beneath his tanned skin. Despite the warmth encasing him, Sam shivered slightly when a chill crawled up his spine, rejecting the heated droplets of water beading over his body. Sam straightened when his eyes landed on his hand and the reddish-brown substance caked underneath his nail's surface.

Dean's blood.

Sam winced. As a hunter, Sam had long ago been accustomed to the sight of blood, but there was a deep and fundamental emotional difference between the spilt blood of a stranger and the wasted blood of a loved one: It was the sight of Dean's blood that would always make Sam's stomach churn sickeningly within his gut. "Must'a gotten there while I was bandaging him up," he thought quickly as he immediately coated his fingers with a thick layer of soapy lather and rinsed the digits clean.

The laceration torn across his older brother's forehead hadn't been too deep, and although he'd been thrown around like a rag doll while searching for a key to free his caged little brother, Dean had been able to walk away from the cannibalistic hunter's backwoods home bruised and abused, but not terribly broken.

Sam shook his head as he cut off the water from the shower nozzle and wondered, "Maybe Dean is right, maybe I am rusty." He paused, "At least with people." And wasn't that just soaked in irony: After the men had followed Missouri's lead in purifying their old house in Kansas, Sam had been able to sense the dark presence still lingering in the home; and while Sam was still haunted by the memory of being jumped by Sanford Ellicott at the Roosevelt Asylum, Sam was still able to get to Dean in time before his big brother had been sacrificed to the scarecrow god dwelling within the apple orchids of Burkesville, Indiana. The stint with the Faith Healer awhile back hadn't been perfect: Dean had been cured, but the price had been an innocent's life; either way, Sam was able to release the Reaper from Sue Ann's binding spell before it got to Dean. Sam, with Dean's help, had also been able to purify the monster truck terrorizing Cape Girardeau in general and Cassie's family in particular by guiding Dean to lead the vengeful truck to the hallowed remains of a church. Of course, Sam wasn't acting alone with his successes: Dean had been beside him the entire way, fighting and momentary departures between the men not withstanding.

But, as of late, Sam had not met the same streak of luck with people, starting with Max Miller: although he was able to save Dean from getting a bullet to the head, Sam wasn't able to rescue Max from himself. And now, Sam had let a bunch of psycho, hillbilly-rednecks get the jump on him at some biker bar in Hibbing, Minnesota. "And Dean's the one who paid the price," Sam internally chastised himself as he quickly dressed and exited the humid bathroom.

"Hey, Princess, I was beginning to think you drowned in there," Dean said tiredly as he zipped up his duffle.

"Dean, what are you doing?" Sam asked incredulously, ignoring his brother's playful jibe. "I just got finished patching you up: you need to take it easy for awhile before we hit the road."

"Look, Sam, you heard Kathleen: state police and the feds are gonna be swarming all over this town. After what happened in Saint Louis, here isn't the greatest place for us to be."

Sam's eyebrows creased. "For one, everyone thinks you died there, Dean, and two: Kathleen let us off the hook, so it's not like she's gonna blow our cover now," Sam explained as he pushed the duffle bag away from his brother's reach. The glare that Dean aimed at Sam was unsettling to say the least, but Sam could see straight through the mock-threat: his brother was tired and hurting. "You need to rest, Dean," Sam finished, placing a hand on his older brother's shoulder and applying enough gentle pressure to get him to sit on the side of his motel bed. The fact that Dean let Sam guide him down was enough to let Sam know how exhausted his brother was feeling.

"Yeah, fine," Dean conceded a few long seconds later. "But we leave at dawn, and that's all I'm giving you. Take it or leave it."

Sam nodded as the corner of his lips curled at his victory, but the slight smile disappeared quickly when Dean brought one arm up to cradle his abused side, eyebrows furrowing. Sam was reaching for their first aid kit instantly. "You need more painkillers?"

Dean leaned his head against the bed's backboard and shook his head carefully. "What? Naw, man: I take anymore of that crap and I'll land in a drug-induced coma. That happens? We'll never be outta here by dawn."

At that, Sam sat at the foot of Dean's bed and held out the medicine bottle to his brother. "If you need it you should take it."

Dean's gaze went from the small bottle to his kid brother's face. "Dude: nothing's broken, chill out. If you feel like taking care of someone, put some ice on that bruise you got going on there," Dean stated, motioning to the side of Sam's face with one hand, while the other hand tossed Sam a fluffy rag filled with ice. "You were taking so long in the bathroom I was startin' to think it'd melt and I'd have to make another trip to the ice machine."

Sam's eyebrows instantly shot up and his hands fell to his lap; a frown pulled at the muscles in his face. "Another trip? Damn it, Dean. I told you take it easy before I went to take a shower."

Dean gave his brother a purposely lame look. "So?"

Sam's mouth dropped, "So? So what?"

Dean used his socked foot to nudge the hand Sam was using to hold the makeshift ice pack and responded, "So, I'm older: I don't have to do what you say. Now put that on your face. You look like you're gonna swell into a balloon." Dean looked away once The Bitch Face was aimed, full force, at his direction. "Come on, Sam, don't be like that. I told you I was going to get ice."

A confused look planted itself across Sam's face as he gently placed the icepack against the tender flesh underneath his eye. "What? No you didn't."

"Yes, I did. Right when you were walking into the bathroom just a few minutes ago." Dean's eyes did a head-to-toe sweep of his kid brother and added, concerned, "Man, you must'a been more outta it than I thought. You sure you're okay?"

"Must be getting' a little rusty, there, kiddo."

Sam turned from his brother as guilt pounded in his chest. "Yeah, I'm fine," was the quiet answer, but when he caught Dean rubbing the bare skin just below the bandaged burn mark, Sam added, "Look, Dean. I'm sorry about all this-."

"Whoa," Dean cut his brother off quick. The back of his head was throbbing; his forehead stung, and his collar bone still felt like it was on fire, not to mention his sides were almost as stiff as a tree branch: he didn't have the patience for a chick flick right now. "You didn't do anything."

"Dean, that's sort of the point-," Sam tried, but was cut off again.

"Hey," Dean said as he threw his brother the TV remote, "If you wanna fill the silence, then turn on the news. I wanna see what they're saying about what happened."

"So, first you wanna get out of here to avoid the feds, now you wanna watch the feds on the news?" Sam asked as he glared at his brother.

Rolling his eyes, Dean let out, "Am I speaking a foreign language to ya, Sammy?"

This time, Dean didn't even bother trying to dodge The Bitch Face, and he and Sam had a stare down that lasted less than it took for Sam to give up fighting his older brother and turn on the TV.

"You're such a jerk, Dean," Sam spit out, causing a smile to cross Dean's face.

"C'mon, I'm a joy to be around and you know it. Bitch," Dean tossed back; when Sam didn't grace him with a comeback, Dean settled against the headboard and glanced at the TV. Or, rather, he tried to: Sam's broad shoulders happened to be blocking his view. "You're doing that on purpose!" he thought. "Hey! You're in the way of the TV, Sasquatch: I can't see over your big-ass-self," Dean half-complained, half-joked with Sam, but when he pushed his foot against his brother's back to get him to move, Sam bowed and let out a curse between clenched teeth.

"Dude?" Dean started, surprised. "What the hell was that?" he asked as he sat upright, wincing as the movement pulled at his burnt skin and bruised side. Sam's hand shot out and landed on Dean's shoulder, halting his big brother's forward momentum.

"Dean, calm down, my back just sort of aches, I guess. It's no big deal."

Dean stared at his brother, "No big deal? All I did was push at you and you acted like I broke your spine!"

A burst of pink panned out across Sam's face. "Dean, you're overreacting," Sam shot back, but Dean ignored him: he swiped his kid brother's hand from his shoulder and reached out, lifting the back of Sam's shirt.

"Did those freaks throw you around, too, Sammy?" Dean asked as he inspected his brother's back, looking for bruises.

"Dean, I spent a couple of days locked in an iron cage that was half my size: what do you expect?" he asked seriously.

"Well, that answers that," Dean thought as he let Sam's shirt drop. Picking up the painkiller bottle that had been lost in the throes of the bed's comforter, he tossed it at Sam. "Take some of that; you need to rest your back. 'Would suck if it seized up in the Impala."

Sam cringed, having been stuck in the Impala with a bad back more than a few times during his short life time. "Dude, it's not that bad; 'should be better in the morning."

"Uh-huh," was the only response Dean gave him, and when Sam settled on the end of Dean's bed to watch the news unfold, Dean leaned his weary body against the motels' thick pillows and, instead of settling his gaze on the flickering lights emanating from the small, glass screen, kept his eyes on his baby brother.

It was cold.

A shiver rain up Dean's spine as he stood in the damp, dilapidated barn; dust floated in the cool breeze that crept through the cracks in the wooden walls, and the rancid smell of human waste and sweat hung heavily in the air. Goosebumps peppered his freckled skin, but not because of the cold atmosphere and moisture ridden surroundings: two large metal cages loomed in front of him, each large enough to confine a large, wild animal.

Or a human.

"Sammy!" Sweat gathered on Dean's forehead and his heart pounded in his chest. There was no doubt about it; Sam had been taken here, the only problem: the iron prisons were empty. Blood pooling in small droplets atop the cage's flooring sent Dean's nerves into overdrive, and the adrenaline pumping fast into his system had him out of the barn and sliding up to the old country house so fast he could have sworn the earth rippled like waves beneath his feet.

Lurking along the brush and plastering himself against the shadows hugging the corners of the dilapidated residence, Dean picked up on the sound of movement within the house. Mind racing, his brain kept a running catalog of supernatural beasts that could have up and taken his brother. Sam had been thinking that a phantom attacker had been responsible for the town's long list of missing person reports, but a farm house in the middle of the country wasn't exactly a phantom attacker's M.O. All thoughts of the supernatural fell from Dean's mind when he saw the very human form of a shadow ghost behind the house's curtained windows. "You've got to be kidding me," Dean whispered to himself. The fact that his tough as nails little brother could be caught off-guard by a bunch of country folk baffled Dean; it didn't help matters that Dean was able to decipher the patterns of the supernatural baddies, but the human ones? He was in the dark in that department. And wasn't that ironic. A frustrated growl escaped from Dean's chest and he thought, "Well, if I can handle demons I can for damn sure handle a few rednecks." After all, it wasn't like Dean had never beaten the crap out of anyone who'd been ballsy enough to mess with his Sammy. And with that thought in mind, Dean crept along the house's foundation and breeched the premises through one of the basement's dirt-stained windows.

As soon as Dean's muddied and well-worn boots connected with the cement floor, the smell hit him; the odor was different from the smell lingering in the barn-turned-prison: formaldehyde invaded Dean's lungs and the stench of death hung ominously in the air. Something on top of a rickety, wooden shelf glittered in the darkness when Dean ran his flashlight across the jet-black cellar; curiosity peaked, Dean headed over to investigate, but stopped dead in his tracks once the beam from the flashlight chased way the darkness draped in front of him.

"Yikes."

Brains.

Intestines.

Even a lung.

All stared back at Dean from clear glass containers filled with the repugnant liquid preservative. Dean's hands began to shake slightly when he remembered that the cages in the barn had been empty. "Sammy...!" Dean almost dropped the flashlight when he stumbled back from the disturbing display of human remains, and the movement caused his eyes to catch on the pictures hanging on the iron screening sheeted in front of him. The color drained from Dean's face as he gazed at the trophy pictures. Men camouflaged and posing with the blood and dirt stained corpses of their fellow man, each hunter donning haunting smiles that screamed of psychopathology and a therapy bill that would take centuries to pay off.

Fire bubbled in the pit of Dean's intestines, angered that these people—and Dean used the term generously—had captured his brother to hunt him, but the anger fell away to terror when the blatantly obvious stuck him: the cages were meant to hold the "game" until the time was right for the hunters to begin the sport; Sam had been captured to be a victim of the chase, but both cages in the barn had been empty.

Empty.

Ice flowed through Dean's veins and in an instant each trophy picture had been torn down and examined as Dean searched for one of his baby brother. The image of the blood staining the bottom of one of the cages bit behind Dean's eyes; and, after going through each sickening Polaroid and finding none featuring his kid brother, Dean swept through jars containing bits and pieces of human remains, looking for anything that even resembled his kid brother: his hair, or even his jewelry. Anxiety mounted as his search produced no results. Sam may not have been pickled in a jar in some psycho's basement, but there was also an empty cage polka-dotted with blood. Sam's blood. Frustration and worry consumed him, and fear gripped the very fiber of his being. And, before his brain could register that his muscles were moving, Dean had cleared the shelf in one violent and fell swoop of his well toned arm. Thick glass shattered and formaldehyde spilled out into the room as brains slid beneath Dean's feet, littering the already dirty floor beneath him.

"SAMMY!" Dean's voice boomed through the underground room and exploded into the house above, but he didn't care: Screw stealth mode; when the state of Sam's life itself was in question, Dean would always go in with guns blazing.

Always.

Crashing into the house's main floor he bellowed, "If you hurt my brother I will kill you all!" But he stopped cold when he realized that the house was empty: no shadows sliding across the walls, no whispering, and no creaking floor boards. No hillbilly psycho bursting out of the wood work to mount his head on a wall. Confusion buzzed within his skull like a thousand annoying mosquitoes, and dizziness hounded him as if each bug were sucking the blood from his brain. "This doesn't make any sense," Dean said aloud to the vacant dwelling, "….'could have sworn I saw someone in here." Taking a step forward, Dean's boots glided into something wet, causing his form to slip. Looking down to catch his bearings, Dean immediately stopped breathing. Blood pooled against the wooden floor, each droplet collectively streaking a bright red trail to what appeared to be the kitchen.

The flashlight hit the planked floor with a loud thunk.

Swallowing, Dean felt something large lodge into his throat as a numb sensation began to climb from his toes to the rest of his body. Time stopped as he slowly put one foot in front of the other, following the path the blood set before him. Each step felt heavy, as if held back by a ball and chain. "Sammy?" Dean called out in a shaky voice as he passed the threshold into the kitchen, but his voice box seized up as soon as his eyes landed on the mass of red and purple gore slopped in the kitchen's sink. Every pore in Dean's body buzzed with what felt like electricity and the mosquitoes swarming inside of his skull began to nest in his shriveled brain. "There's no way…" was the only coherent, yet desperate, thought Dean's boiled brain could muster. But when he spotted a lock of wavy brown hair stuck within the blood and intestines, every protective fiber in Dean's being screamed and then burst.

"As long as I'm around, nothing bad's gonna happen to you."

"When we were young, I pretty much pulled him from a fire. And ever since then I've felt responsible for him, like it's my job to keep him safe."

"Sam's my responsibility and he's coming back. I'm bringing him back."

But Sammy wasn't coming back, Dean couldn't bring him back. "I didn't bring him back," he whispered to himself. The world whirled around him, blurring his vision and throwing his stance off-balance. Dean's heart pounded relentlessly in his chest, threatening to crack his rib cage, and when his trembling hands landed on the slick surface of a Polaroid, Dean could have sworn his stomach fell to his feet. His baby brother, bruised and blooded, trussed up like a trophy and surrounded by his captors. Despite his deadened nerves, Dean could feel the tears born from overwhelming rage and suffocating despair slip down his pale face. Emptiness ate out his insides like a bloated parasite as the eldest Winchester sibling stared at the lifeless face of his brother, the man that he had sworn to protect. The child that he had raised. A devastating need to touch his brother chased at the emptiness consuming Dean's core, and Dean found himself sinking his hands into the slop of Sam's remains, willing himself to feel the warmth that defined his brother, but the only sensation to grace Dean's nerve endings was a cold and sick, soupy sensation of slick tissue and thick blood.

"As long as I'm around, nothing bad's gonna happen to you."

"No," Dean's trembling voice squeaked out as he fisted his brother's innards within his large hands. The hands that used to hold his brother, used to playfully jibe his brother in the shoulder when he was feeling down. The hands that had carried his baby brother from the fire in his nursery were now the hands that held the dismembered intestines of that baby.

Failure.

"SAMMY!"

Dean's eyes shot open.

Dean immediately turned his head to the bed furthest from the door in search of his brother, and when he found it empty his heart jumped.

"Sammy?" he called aloud as he tried to sit up, but pain flared in his side and the burn on his chest stung, causing him to slump back down into the pillows. The frustrated growl brewing in his chest was quickly swallowed when he felt something warm shift at his feet. A sigh of relief automatically escaped Dean's lips: Sam. Planting both hands on the mattress, Dean gingerly lifted himself up, breathing through the discomfort blossoming in his abused muscles. Even though it was a dream, the need to make sure Sam was safe itched at Dean's nerves. Once upright, Dean cocked an eyebrow at his brother: The younger sibling had fallen asleep on the end of the bed, his cheek resting on his older brother's ankle. "Alright, that's weird. He must'a been tired," Dean thought as he gently rotated his ankle side to side. The motion tilted his brother's head back and forth slightly, Sam's wavy hair brushing against Dean's foot. "Well, aren't you just a giant puppy?" Dean whispered tiredly but affectionately, but he frowned when he felt heat from his brother's cheek radiate through his thin socks, warming his feet. When the men had returned from the police station with the Impala, both had been soaked with rainwater and chilled to the bone. Dean had turned up the motel room's heat as soon as he had walked through the door so both of them would be warmer when Sam patched him up; shivering hands aren't the best to use when applying stitches, especially when said laceration was located above an eye. But now with Sam's warmth leaking into his skin, the temperature within the room had gone from toasty and satisfying to bordering on sweaty and uncomfortable. Still, Dean would not move his brother. For one, with his aching muscles, Dean would be unable to carry him; more than that, Dean left his brother at the foot of his bed, using his leg as a pillow, because Sam's weight was comforting to him: The gentle pressure of Sam's face to his skin was a reminder that his brother was safe. Sam wasn't in the middle of B-F nowhere, rotting in a cold, dark cage waiting to be hunted and mounted on a wall; Sam's intestines were not fermenting in a sink in some rundown backwoods cabin. Remembering the nightmare that had assaulted him but a few minutes ago sent a shiver rippling through Dean's muscles and an unsettling feeling wormed its way into his gut: It was disturbing that Sam, in the short amount of time it took Dean to take a leak, had been stolen from his older brother. Having listened to the patriarch of the family that had taken his brother describe how the art of human hunting had been passed down their family for generations, Dean figured it wasn't all that surprising that they'd acquire excellent stealth and hand to hand combat skills. Even the youngest child of the family, Missy, had been quick and vicious when she had confronted him, so much so that he and Sam had to lock her in the closet in order to subdue her.

"As long as I'm around, nothing bad's gonna happen to you."

Dean sighed; picking up the ice pack that had slipped from his brother's grasp, he tucked it gently against Sam's swollen cheek and said to his sleeping brother, "Guess you aren't the one who's getting rusty after all." Leaning back against the headboard Dean thought, "We really should have passed this place and gone to Vegas instead."


A/N: I want to mention that if the piece where I mention stuff from Asylum and Scarecrow seems a bit one-sided, that's because it's coming from Sam's own viewpoint and he's used it to describe the decline he's imagined he's experienced. I realize I didn't put it in thought italics since he wasn't saying it to himself. I know that Dean had a hand in those episodes' successes and I like both men equally; that's why both are having a guilt trip. And that was weird to say.

Twilightrayne is doing an awesome Supernatural fic called Outlet, so check it out. I've been pestering him about doing a fic for this fandom for awhile and am pushing him in the hurt!Sam direction ;). So give him some love (and I guess help me coax him more into the hurt!Sam thing).

This fic is basically complete. I'm working on the last chapter, but due to my damn class that's eating up all my time, I figured I might as well go ahead and start posting while I have time.

Constructive reviews welcome.