According to Lore

"You're gonna be okay, Dean."

Dean groaned, and Sam couldn't blame him. It was one hell of a bite, and Sam had no idea if skunk ape saliva was toxic. There was nothing about it in the lore he'd found on skunk apes, and Dean's leg just wouldn't stop bleeding.

They had all their regular supplies, but they'd packed for a day gig, not an all-nighter. Fortunately, at the last minute, Sam had thrown in a couple of extra water bottles, some fruit, and energy bars, even though Dean had griped that he wasn't gonna be the one stuck carrying them.

"Damn thing reeked," Dean gritted out between clenched teeth. "Man, how could something alive smell so dead?"

Dean shut his eyes tight as Sam worked at getting the last bits of grit and muck out from under the torn skin with the corner of a piece of gauze. The thing had dragged Dean for quite a ways before Sam had shot it in the back of the head.

Trying to distract him, Sam said, "According to lore, they spend most of their time underground snuggling with carrion. They eat them little by little."

"Remind me to stick to vanquishing Lucifer next time. At least he's clean."

It was a good sign that Dean was cracking jokes, but Sam winced anyway. He was already feeling like he couldn't win, but killing Lilith and releasing Lucifer had been his biggest fail yet.

It had been Sam's idea to take a break from fighting the apocalypse and take on this job for a change. They'd been working so hard for the past few months, saving people when they could, trying to roll back the hell that Sam had unleashed on earth. Sam felt like he could toss around a little bit of good here and there, but it was never enough.

Sam had wanted a fight he thought they could win, which was what had led him to hunting skunk apes in the Everglades. Dean had finally agreed to it but refused to tell Bobby where they were going.

Skunk apes…

Deadly attacks were par for the course in this part of the country, but this attack had been unusually vicious. The newspaper accounts kept coming back to the girlfriend's description of the attacking animal. She said the thing that killed her boyfriend had smelled like death.

Dean had been hoping for zombies, but Sam was sick and tired of the waking dead, what with the apocalypse and all. The angels were being dicks calling Sam unholy and Dean sacred, and every demon with a chip on its shoulder had been gunning for both of them.

Dean had been so tired, something Sam completely understood. It got old, being the savior of the world. Being the anti-Christ kid brother of the savior of the world kind of sucked too.

But then again, so did being chewed up by a skunk ape. They'd hiked out miles into the park to find the thing, way off the beaten path. Even though the creature had missed Dean's femoral artery, it was still a bad bite. Being mired in a subtropical stew wasn't exactly going to help with healing.

"You okay, Sam?" Dean asked suddenly, just as Sam finished getting out the last bit of dirt.

Sam looked at him in surprise. "Yeah, why?"

"You look funny."

It was just like Dean to notice something was up with Sam before Sam noticed it himself. It had always been that way. Once Sam thought about it, he did feel funny. His head was starting to ache. Not in the old a-vision's-coming-on way, but more like the way he used to feel when he had the flu as a kid.

According to Dad's lore, you were only sick if you were hooked up to an IV with a tube up your nose. Sam was a Winchester. Winchesters coped. They endured. They didn't get sick in the middle of the Everglades. Especially after their brother had been torn apart by a creature that nobody believed was real. Even the lore couldn't take the things seriously.

Sam shrugged it off. "Nah, I'm fine. Just feel like taking a shower for a week after hauling that thing off you. You look like hell. How about a couple of aspirin?"

"Got anything stronger?"

"Sorry, we're all out of the good stuff."

"Damn." Dean swallowed the aspirin dry, grimacing at the taste. "Stupid skunk ape… I'm telling you, Sam, Wikipedia's freakin worthless. 'No documented accounts of aggressive behavior' my ass."

Even Sam had to admit the information they'd had coming in had been deeply flawed. He really should have learned never to trust Wikipedia after last month's fiasco with the ecto-mist, but there was hardly any lore about skunk apes out there. He'd have to go in and revise the entry on skunk apes himself, even though he'd have to use a pseudonym. It wasn't like there were a lot of hunters who were going to take Sam Winchester at his word anymore.

Sam shrugged. "At least they're not bullet-proof like that one site claimed."

"Tell me about it. I've got skunk ape brains in my hair."

Dean took a swig of water and tried handing it to Sam, but he shook his head.

"Go ahead and finish it. Less for us to carry."

"Sam, you haven't been drinking. All we need is for you to faceplant cause you're dehydrated."

"I'm fine," Sam insisted, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "Really. I had enough."

"Sammy…drink some freakin water before I shove it down your throat."

Dean was getting pissed, but Sam wasn't backing down on this. There was only so much water to go around, and he'd already used his own share trying to wash the spit out of Dean's wound.

"I'm fine, Dean. Here, take this. I think it's leftover Amoxicillin from when you got shot. There's four of them, so that should hold you until we can get you to an ER."

"Crap. I don't even want to think about where its mouth's been," Dean muttered, swallowing the pill with the last of the water.

They were down to their last gallon, so Sam opened it and carefully soaked several strips of gauze. Even with the antibiotics, the last thing he needed was the bite getting infected. Sam had been trying to stay up to date with the latest research in field care. Ironically, he'd just read the best way to wet pack a wound and had restocked their first aid kit accordingly. Dean only wanted to do things the way Dad had taught them, but Sam knew there'd been a lot of advances since they were kids.

Sure enough, Dean demanded, "What the hell are you doing with that?"

"Hold still. I know what I'm doing."

"You mean taping a tampon onto my leg? I don't think so!"

"Dude, it's not a tampon. It's a feminine napkin. It's the best way to wet pack an open wound."

"No way, Sam."

"Will you please trust me?"

"Yeah, I trust you to get that thing off my leg."

"Dean. Chill. I promise not to laugh at you when this is over, okay? I know what I'm doing."

Dean leaned back against his pack, looking impossibly miserable. "I hate the freakin Everglades."

Sam finished taping the pad to the wet gauze, and he carefully wrapped the whole thing up. The skunk ape had ripped the hell out of Dean's jeans, but they were still intact enough to protect him from the cloud of insects that were swarming all around them.

Maybe Dean was right. Maybe he was coming down with something. Everything felt off. It was probably the humidity but Sam swore he felt a buzzing behind his eyes. Rationally he knew it was about a thousand degrees outside and it felt like they were covered with a wet blanket, but it was almost like he was starting to feel…cold.

Sam shook it off. He was going to see this through, hold it together for Dean. The world might be falling apart, but they were going to come through this. Sam was sure of it. Dean was going to be fine.

Dean hated this. His leg hurt like hell, but more than that, he felt like an idiot for letting that overgrown chimpanzee take a chunk out of him. Honest to God, Dean hadn't believed the things even existed. Sure, Sam had tried to convince him why it was their kind of case, but Dean hadn't really believed him.

Skunk apes…? Come on. Most of the skunk ape websites featured frat boys dressed in gorilla suits wearing tee shirts saying, Welcome To Florida.

If they lived through this, Bobby was never going to let them hear the end of it.

He'd only gone along with the hunt because he thought it would be good for them to get away. After everything they'd been through, a trip to Florida was kind of like a vacation. Club Med for hunters, that sort of thing. Dean figured they would slog through a couple of swamps, find some idiot tormenting gullible tourists for kicks, and get their picture taken with an alligator.

There was also Disney World, even though Dean would never admit to wanting to go. But he knew that Sammy had never been, and it was something he'd always wanted to do with his brother before the world came to an end.

Once upon a time, Dean had found a photograph in his dad's bag. There he was in front of some Disney castle – a tiny, grinning kid wearing mouse ears, standing between Dad and Mom. The picture was as far removed from Dean's life as if he'd been sent a postcard from outer space. But his mother was pregnant, and they were all smiling like they had something to look forward to.

He held onto that picture for a long time but never showed Sam. Somehow, knowing that Sam was there, but not really there, made it worse because Sam never knew what he was missing.

Maybe they could find a way to fit it in… there had to be something that needed killing at Disney World.

"You okay, Dean? We can sit down for a while."

Dean didn't realize he'd been slowing down. He'd been trying to keep up, he really had, and Sam wasn't even going all that fast. The truth was that he had no idea how much longer they had to go, but he wasn't at all sure he was going to make it.

"I'm good. Hard to make much progress when you're weaving all over the place."

Actually, Sam was doing a pretty good job supporting Dean's weight on the uneven trail, but Dean knew Sam would worry if Dean didn't give him a hard time about it.

Then something occurred to him. "Do you want to stop?"

"Nah, I'm good."

And just like that, Dean knew Sam was lying.

It was probably nothing. Sam was probably just worried or stuck in some dumbass guilt-trip for talking Dean into the trip in the first place. Sam had lost so much of his confidence since Lilith. Dean had asked Cas what to do about it, but Cas had just said something cryptic and irritating like "natural consequences", which pissed Dean off because it was the angels who had nudged Sam into doing it in the first place.

No, that wasn't right either.

Dean forced himself to backtrack. Sam had made a mistake. A really bad, really big mistake, but it was a mistake. It drove Sam crazy when Dean tried to blame it on anyone else.

Dean was trying hard to break out of the old patterns he'd followed since they were kids. Sam wasn't trying to make excuses for what he'd done. Bobby kept saying that Sam would have to work out some of it for himself, and Dean had been trying to let him. But it was hard – damn hard – for Dean to stand back and watch Sam feel bad all the time.

Fortunately, his brother was still fairly easy to distract. Sam was still Sam. If he was getting bogged down with something, there was nothing like a little trivia to pull him out of it.

"Hey Sam, do you know there are mosquitoes in the Everglades that train themselves to smell people fifty miles away?"

"Says who?"

"Says Manny, the guy who sold me the bag of oranges."

"Mosquitoes can't train themselves, Dean. It's not like they're organized. How would you even prove something like that?"

Dean grinned. Tool of Lucifer or not, Sammy was still a geek.

Sam lectured him for about ten minutes on how difficult it was to set up any kind of study without a control group. Dean's leg was on fire, so he didn't even bother trying to piss him off by arguing. They'd fallen into a rhythm, but after a while, Dean realized that Sam had fallen silent again.

Sam said suddenly, "I think I need to sit down."

It was one of those moments when Dean really, really wished he'd been wrong.

They found a spot out of the sun that wasn't pure swamp. Dean was definitely having one of those "water, water everywhere" Hallmark moments, feeling thirsty as hell, but the water around them smelled like yeast and mushrooms. If they got desperate, they could try using the purification tablets they always kept with them, but they'd be better off trying to make it back to the car. They couldn't be all that far away. It hadn't seemed like more than a few miles going in.

Sam handed over the water. But Dean wasn't going to drink unless Sam had some too, and he handed it back without comment.

"Dean, you need to drink. You can't fight off infection if you're dehydrated."

"You first."

"I'm good."

"Like hell you're good. Sam. Drink the freakin water."

Sam took a tiny sip and handed it back.

Dean swore under his breath. "You are so stubborn, as in 'Dad was a pansy-ass compared to you' stubborn."

"I'll take that as a compliment," Sam said and stretched out beside Dean.

Dean shot him a dark look. There was nobody who could piss him off more than Sam, but Sam really didn't look good. His face was pale under all that sweat, and weirdly, he almost seemed like he was cold, hugging his arms against his chest.

"Are you cold?" Dean asked incredulously. "You're shivering."

"Of course not. I feel like I'm being steamed out here."

"Then what's wrong with you?" Dean demanded, reaching to put his hand against Sam's forehead. It felt hot and clammy at the same time, but that could just be the weather.

Sam pushed Dean's hand away, giving him the same exasperated look he'd mastered as a kid. "Nothing is wrong. I'm just tired and uncomfortable, same as you. But I don't have a bite taken out of my leg."

"You better be telling me the truth, Sammy."

Sam rolled his eyes.

Dean settled back, feeling the ground squish underneath him. He just needed to close his eyes for a while. The skunk ape was dead, case closed, so as soon as they got back to the car, they were done. They could find a motel, clean off the muck and gore, get something to eat, and then sleep for a few days. That was as much vacation as he or Sammy ever needed.

"Go to sleep, Dean. I'll keep watch."

Dean knew he shouldn't sleep. Something was up with Sam, and it was still his job to know what it was, even with everything that had passed between them. It just felt good to let someone else take the wheel for a change.

Sam hadn't meant to fall asleep, but when he woke up, it was night with a full moon overhead. The headache had crept into his dream, and there was no question at all now that he'd gotten himself sick, damn sick, and he had no idea what he was going to do about it. His head hurt, his body felt like it had been tossed down a flight of stairs, and he could feel his stomach cramping up already.

"Dean? Dean, wake up. Dean?"

Dean was groaning next to him. "What's going on? What the hell am I lying on? Oh terrific. I think I killed a lizard…"

"We fell asleep, I don't know what happened. Dean, you need to take more antibiotics. I think you missed a dose."

"Relax, Sam. I took it while you were sleeping."

"Why the hell did you let me sleep?"

"I tried to wake you up, but it seemed like you needed it. Dude, are you still cold?"

Come to think of it, Sam was shivering. It didn't make any sense. There was a part of his brain that was very much aware that it was hot still, even at night. But he was shaking with a deep spreading chill that felt like it was coming from the marrow of his bones. Sam rolled his shoulders, trying to work out the ache, but that made him even more nauseous.

"I'm fine." Sam's voice sounded raspy already, his throat chiming in on his growing list of symptoms.

"Fine?"

Sam willed himself to snap out of this. His dad had made it a mantra. If you whine about being sick, you'd better damn well be dying. Sam was not dying.

Stiffly, he reached for the pack and pulled out one of the remaining energy bars. He knew Dean would never eat the whole thing himself, so he split it unevenly, taking the smaller third. It was dark enough; Dean wouldn't notice.

They ate together quietly before Sam asked, "Does your leg feel any worse?"

"I think it's better."

Sam took a deep breath, relieved beyond measure. "Good, that's good. Not that I was worried or anything."

"You know, skunk apes are probably extinct now. You probably killed the last one."

"Let PETA come after me," Sam grumbled, but he actually did care about the way he'd handled the job.

Despite everything he'd messed up over the past few months, Sam still took pride in his ability as a hunter. But he'd gotten sloppy, hadn't taken enough precautions, hadn't assumed the worst case scenario, and most damning of all, had let the thing get the drop on them. He'd let the thing have a shot at Dean.

"Hey Sam?"

Sam blinked, trying to clear his blurry vision. He could hardly keep his thoughts together. He had to concentrate, stay focused.

"Sam!"

Sam forced himself to answer. "Yeah, what is it?"

"Grab me some water."

That was good. Dean needed to drink, and Sam was reaching for it, when something inside Sam's gut twisted into a cramp so painful, he could hardly hold it in. He drew his knees up to his chest and tried to breathe through it.

"Sammy, what's wrong?"

Another spasm rolled through his gut, and Sam knew he was in trouble. He was glad it was dark. If he could just wait it out, then Dean wouldn't even have to know until morning."

"Sam…" There was a warning in Dean's voice. Then the water bottle was being pressed against his own lips.

Sam tried to push it away. "I'm not thirsty."

"Bullshit."

"Shut up, Dean," Sam said took a sip of water just to make his brother happy, even though it made his gut hurt even worse. Dehydration was the danger, of course, but he'd rather die than drink more than his share.

"Have more."

"I drank, and I'm probably going to puke it up. Will you get off my case?"

Dean sighed in the dark. "Get some sleep, dumbass."

He'd been dreaming of being chased by skunk-apes wearing Florida tee-shirts with glowing red eyes that were actually less freaky than the real thing. Then his leg started hurting more than the dream, and slowly, he started waking up.

The leg reminded him a little of his time in hell, but it seemed to be easing up. It probably meant the antibiotics and Sam's laughable attempts at first aid were working. Following habit developed over a lifetime, Dean reached automatically for his brother.

Sam was gone. His pack was there, right next to Dean's, and his Colt was lying where his head had been. It was careless, not at all like Sam to leave his gun.

"Sam!" he shouted, but he couldn't hear anything, just the godawful buzz of the jungle and the constant sound of dripping. Everything was so friggin wet, stinking of mold and decay. "Sammy!"

He struggled to his feet, and fortunately, the leg held on the slippery ground. It was hard to see in the moonlight, but Dean pushed through a tangle of grass that was taller than he was, and there was Sam behind it, hunched over and retching miserably. Dean didn't even bother reaming his ass for not waking him up.

It took a while, but Sam finally seemed to notice him. "Dean, go back, I'm okay…"

Dean shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. He'd taken care of his brother though every childhood illnesses that a little kid could get. Dean hardly ever got sick, but Sam came down with everything…from the common cold to some virus that had damaged Sam's pancreas when he was eleven. They'd had to stop at a hospital every six months for two years after that to make sure Sam's enzyme levels were back to normal.

There were some things you never forgot when you raised a kid.

"I know you're sick. Just shut up, so I can think about what we're gonna do."

They were so screwed it wasn't funny.

Dean didn't ask for permission but reached over and kept his hand on Sam's forehead long enough to get a good reading.

"How long?"

"Dean-"

"How long have you been sick, Sam?"

Sam sighed, and hugged his arms to his chest like he was trying to keep warm.

"Since yesterday. I wasn't sure at first. I didn't want you to worry."

"Yeah, good job with that."

Sam said, "I'm sorry," but Dean held up his hand.

"Don't be an idiot. I've cleaned up your puke in my sleep about a hundred times. Seriously, Sam, what were you thinking?"

"It's my turn."

"Your turn for what?"

"My turn to save you. No matter how hard I try, Dean…I try and try, but I just can't save you."

Damn. He couldn't just shrug this off. It was important. Since he'd found out that he was preordained to be the demon world's boy king, Sam had been on a self-sacrificial quest to save as many people as possible. More importantly, he'd tried to save Dean. Sam's hard fall had been a screwed up way of making amends, and it was doomed to fail. Change had to come from somewhere.

Dean took hold of Sam's arm. "All right, dude, look at me. You're just spinning in circles right now, and it's not doing anyone any good. You're sick, Sam, simple as that. You and me got through Lilith and Lucifer and a host of freakin archangels. This is nothing. Besides, I'm feeling a whole lot better."

"Really?"

Dean shrugged. "Yeah, really. So let's stop competing over who gets to play martyr and get the hell out of here."

There was a flash of light so violent and startling that Dean thought Lucifer was coming back for them, until he heard thunder a second later. He reached for Sam's hand and pulled him to his feet. They had to find some kind of shelter.

Sam asked, "What do you think? Are the good guys or the bad guys coming to get us?"

Dean smiled that Sam had been thinking the same thing. "Hell, I think I'd even be okay with Zachariah right about now, if he could zap us out of here."

"I think I'd take Lucifer over Zachariah," Sam said, before doubling over in pain. "Any time you feel like killing me, go right ahead."

"You wish. I'm not letting you off that easy."

The rain should have been a reprieve from the heat, but it was just one more thing adding to Sam's overall misery. The racket of the jungle was a cacophony of shrieks and hums and whistles, clashing with the echo of the demon blood he could still hear pounding through his veins. Sam wondered if this was a tiny glimpse of what hell had felt like for Dean. He couldn't stop shivering.

Sam knew that Dean was going out of his mind with worry. Kept asking what Sam needed. Wanted him to eat a mangled banana from the bottom of his pack. Did he want some water? Did he need to take a break?

But Sam knew if he stopped, he might not get back up again. There was pain behind his eyes that kept giving off light in fantastic colors. He was really, really, really sick. Normally, he would've crawled into bed and climbed out a week later. Here, in the middle of the jungle, Sam knew it was possible that he wasn't going to make it out of this one.

What mattered now was Dean. There had to be a way for Dean to make it through this. They were already hanging on to each other for support as it was, but Sam took a hold of Dean's sleeve and tugged.

Sam told his brother. "You need to go ahead. Get help. I'll wait for you."

Dean swore under his breath. "You'd be alligator bait if I left you right now. C'mon, Sammy, man-up and do this. We can't be far."

"I think I'm sick, Dean."

"No shit, Captain Obvious, thanks for pointing that out. There's no way I'm leaving you alone out here."

"You're just being stubborn."

"Pot kettle, bitch."

"Jerk," he muttered, irritated by Dean's smile.

There wasn't any point in arguing about it. Dean wasn't about to leave Sam behind any more than Sam would leave Dean. But Dean was taking too much of Sam's weight, and they were both listing heavily, trying to keep their footing on the slick path. Sam started counting his steps, willing himself to keep going, one foot at a time.

Dean was telling him, "We're gonna get through this, Sammy. Remember, the angels still need me to gank Lucifer once they've had their fun wiping out the planet. And the demons are never gonna let you check out like this. It would hurt their reputation. Can't you see it? Chosen ones killed by skunk ape in the Everglades."

"Dad would be so pissed."

"Dad would haunt us something awful, dude. I can just hear the two of you going at it for all eternity. He'd be blaming you for not paying attention, and you'd be blaming him for not getting you vaccinated."

Sam stopped short. "I didn't get my vaccinations?"

"Of course you did. I took you to free clinics every other year. Don't you remember?"

No. He didn't remember, but somehow, he knew that Dean would've taken care of it.

Then all of a sudden, he was feeling worse. Bile rose in the back of his throat, his stomach turned, and he dropped to his hands and knees, throwing up before he'd even hit the ground.

Dean's hand was on his back, rubbing gentle circles. "Sammy," he said quietly. "I think we're going to have to stop."

Dean watched his brother sleep. Sam had been falling in and out of fever dreams ever since they'd finally collapsed. At least they'd made it back to the main trail. Someone would have to come around eventually. The big question was whether they would be found in time.

Dean's leg was going to get bad if he didn't get it looked at, and Sam was as sick as Dean had ever seen him, with the exception of the hellblood DTs. And yes, there was a part of him that wondered if this was some sort of relapse, but he didn't think so. Sammy was feverish, puking, and as achy as an arthritic old man. He was just sick, and it was just like his pain in the ass little brother to have such spectacularly bad timing.

Dean was sure that they'd probably used up all their miracles. But Sam was human and whole and sleeping next to him. Dean's leg wasn't bubbling, and he hadn't turned into a skunk ape. The lore had been so filled with errors, he'd just been waiting for that to happen. Things could be a whole lot worse. They had each other.

It had been the worst torture in hell… the betrayal of longing for his little brother, when he'd already given his soul to keep Sam out of there. But he'd missed Sam. He'd missed him so damn much. And then when he'd come back and Sam was so broken and hard to understand, Dean had missed him even more.

He couldn't help it. Softly, he told Sam, "I never stopped calling for you. For thirty years in hell, I screamed your name."

"Why…why did you stop?"

Crap. Sam was blinking sleepily, and Dean hadn't counted on him choosing that moment to become coherent.

"Go back to sleep. You're dreaming."

"No, I'm not. Tell me."

Dean sighed heavily. "I gave up, Sammy, I gave you up. It's what Alistair was waiting for."

Sam's pupils were blown. He was so out of it, but he nodded very seriously. "Demons suck."

Dean fought off the urge to ruffle his brother's hair. He hadn't wanted to say it, but he'd come this far. He had to go ahead and say what had been on his mind.

"Sam, listen up. You and me, we fail at dying alone. I figure we've been there, done that already. When it's our turn to check out, we're going together."

"So, it's okay if we die here?"

"Hell no. That would really suck. No Winchester's gonna be ended by a skunk ape or by the flu."

"Then what?"

"We'll go out in style, Sammy. Blaze of glory."

"Blaze of glory usually means body parts in the air."

Dean grinned triumphantly. "Yeah but we won't have to clean up. That would be awesome, Sammy."

Sam smiled a little at that, but his eyes were already closing, and Dean was glad to see his brother resting a little easier than before. Even death by skunk ape wouldn't be so bad, not as long as they had each other.

Sam sputtered and choked like he was drowning. Chest heaving, he surfaced from sleep and found himself in the bewildering presence of Bobby who was simultaneously cussing him out and forcing water down his throat.

"Damn sorry excuse for the saviors of the world…"

There was a cool, wet cloth over his forehead and eyes, and his throat didn't feel like he'd swallowed glass. The whole thing was kind of an awesome hallucination, and he was tempted to just give into it for a while, but then he heard his brother's voice.

"How'd you find us?" Dean rasped.

"Wasn't easy. Do you two realize you're not carrying your phones? GPS led me to the Impala, but then I had no idea where the hell you were. You might've left word you were heading to Florida."

"Sam's phone's in the car cause it hasn't been working right since Lilith. I think his superpowers fried the thing."

"What the hell happened to yours then?"

"Stupid skunk ape ate it. God, that's hard to say. It's like a tongue twister or something."

"Damnit boy. Why the hell are you wasting your time on skunk apes when Lucifer's kicking the world's ass?"

"Um, we needed a vacation?"

"Unbelievable."

"According to Sam's lore, skunk apes-"

"There's no reliable lore on skunk apes, you idiot! I know Sam doesn't have his head in the game, but he should know that."

"Is Sam going to be okay?" Sam could hear every layer of worry in his brother's voice.

"He's fine. At least, I think he's gonna be fine if he can keep down any of the water I've been giving him. And that's another thing. I'd really like to know why you two were about to kick it from dehydration when you still had a gallon of water left. Why the hell weren't you drinking?"

"We were saving it."

"For what?"

"For each other."

"Have you forgotten everything your dad ever taught you? John's turning in his grave right now…or wherever he is," Bobby grumbled. "Pack of stubborn fools. Anyway, we gotta keep pushing water on Sam. Chopper's gonna be here any minute."

"You called us in?"

"What did you think I was gonna do? It's not like I can haul both of you out of the jungle myself. Took me all day just to find you and then I couldn't get either of you to wake up. Your brother's burning up, and that bite on your leg's gonna go septic if we don't take care of it soon. And why the hell is there a tampon taped to your leg?"

Not caring if he was hallucinating or not, Sam took the cloth off his eyes. "It's a friggin pad, not a tampon …it's like nobody but me's ever spent time with a woman before."

Bobby and Dean turned and stared. Sam tried pushing himself up onto his elbows, but a nauseating wave of dizziness reminded him why horizontal was a much better idea. When he stayed very still, the misery was almost bearable.

"Damnit boy," Bobby said and crouched by his side. "It's about time you decided to wake up."

With his bad leg outstretched, Dean scooted closer. "Hey, Sammy. Didn't I tell you everything was going to be fine?"

Bobby grumbled at him, "When you're feeling better, boy, I'm gonna beat the crap out of you. You know you gotta drink when you've got a fever."

"Give him more water," Dean ordered, and Sam didn't have a chance to protest before Bobby's canteen was being pressed against his lips.

It tasted good, but he felt his stomach cramping, and he wasn't sure how long he could last before puking it up again.

"That's enough, you'll never keep it down," Bobby said, a little more gently. "I think I hear the chopper. I'm gonna make sure it has a clear space to land.

As Bobby walked off, Dean said, "They're gonna fly us out of here. That'll be cool, huh. I've had about enough of Florida…hey, what are you grinning at?"

Sam didn't know that he was, but he shrugged. "I did it. I saved you."

As soon as Sam said it, he knew it was true. It wasn't exactly saving the world, but it was a damn good start.

Dean punched him on the arm. "Like hell you did. I saved you."

Sam took a better look at his brother. Dean had that whole unhinged thing going on, like he was coming out of his own skin. Sam knew right away that Bobby had broken out his own personal stash of painkillers, which packed a bigger kick than anything the two of them kept on hand.

Dean started jiggling Sam's shoulder, which made Sam's head hurt. "Hey, I got an idea. How bout we take us a real vacation after they fill us up with fluid and blood and crap?"

"You're stoned, dude." Sam wanted to be stoned. He really, really did.

"C'mon, Sam. Think about it. We could go to Disney World."

Dean was staring at him with such loopy sincerity that Sam started to laugh. It hurt, but he never could resist his brother like that.

"No really. I heard there was something going on at Small World." He leaned in confidentially. "They say the place is riddled with possessed dolls. And we know how you feel about dolls, Sammy."

"Jerk," Sam muttered. But he was still smiling.

"Hell, it's better than skunk apes," Dean insisted and then started talking about Disney World and some trip he took with Mom and Dad. It wasn't real clear, and after a couple minutes of it, Sam started to lose track of what Dean was saying.

Sam was fading, his thoughts fever-drifting all over the place. They veered from feral skunk apes to the disease-ridden mosquitoes of the swamp to the screech the Impala had been making lately whenever Dean slammed on the brakes. They'd have to stay with Bobby until Dean could get it checked out… then Sam thought about how nice Bobby's dogs were and about how loud a chopper could be when it was directly overhead.

Then he started thinking about what they were up against. What difference did any of it make while Lucifer prowled the earth like the dark matter scientists used to explain anything they didn't understand?

It was a little like having one eye closed and the other staring down the barrel of a gun, but sometimes, you had to take a chance like you took a bullet. Sam took a deep breath, even though his lungs hurt like a bitch. Something like surety came over him.

He and Dean might be cannon fodder for the armies of angels and demons, but they had each other. Maybe Sam could live with that.

"Sam! Cover your eyes, you idiot!" Bobby bellowed from the landing spot. The downdraft from the chopper had blown off his cap, and his hair was standing on end like some kind of NASCAR mad scientist.

Sam rolled over to check on Dean first, but his brother was out cold next to him, even snoring a little. As long as Sam was safe, Dean could sleep through anything.

Sam closed his eyes and waited for someone else to rescue them for a change.

The End