AN: Here we are again! This is part of the CWESS fic exchange. This story is for tammitam. I apologize that I took longer getting it done than I had previously thought, but hopefully this story will be just what you asked for. The story prompt I will put at the end of the story.

A/N #2: Mild cursing - manly hugging. You know, same old for me.

Disclaimer: No I do not own the Winchester boys (or John Winchester) or any of the characters that appear in the CW show, Supernatural.

Dean flicked through the sparse number of channels on a TV that he figured was older than he was. The bed was lumpy and the blankets were thread bare. Dean could hear every squeak and whine as his brother shifted on the other bed, furiously trying to finish a book report before they skipped town after the hunt was over.

Speaking of Sam, Dean glanced over at his seventeen year old brother, taking in the tight jaw, gangly limbs and long dark brown hair that fell into his dark hazel-green eyes. His brother had been sitting there scribbling in stony silence since their father had dropped Sam off from school. Dean figured their father had told Sam they were going to book it and leave tomorrow or the day after, even though John had promised his brother they could stay till the end of the month.

They hadn't been in town for more than twelve days; no wonder Sam was pissed off and sullen.

Dean muted the TV with a sigh. "Hey," he said, canting his head in Sam's direction. "Sam."

"What?" Sam snapped, glancing up from his paper.

Dean ignored the bitchy response. "Look, I'm sorry we're leaving ahead of schedule. It sucks man, I get it - but just for tonight, can you please not take a swipe at the old man? Please? At least until the hunt is over."

Sam chewed on his pen lid and said nothing. Sam had already tossed some barbs with their father in the car on the way back from school earlier today when he'd been told that they were moving on to some small town in Missouri within the next day or two, something about a ghost that needed to be taken care of. Since the call had come from a friend of their father's, John had jumped at the offer and squandered his promise to his youngest.

Sam had ripped his dad a new one, throwing his father's past shortcomings in his face, getting just as many barbs in return about his past hunting mistakes and how he didn't match up to his brother in hunts and how his priorities were not in line with the family's best interest.

He had never been so glad to slam the car door on his father as he dashed inside their motel room and kicked the door shut, his brother giving him a wary glance from where he was perched at the kitchen table.

So there he sat, on his bed, stewing in anger and betrayal, trying fruitlessly to get his homework done. Another broken promise by his father stung like acid on skin. It wasn't only for himself that Sam wanted to stay. Though Dean wouldn't admit it, Sam knew his brother liked it here. Sam was also privy to the fact that Dean was seeing a girl that he had met while at the bar, and that he had planned to go on a date with her come next weekend. One he wouldn't be able to go on if their father uprooted them.


Sam sighed, dropping his pen on his notebook and caught his brother's eye. He didn't mean for his brother to be on the receiving end of his bad mood, but it was hard when Dean was the only one around and his brother's frequent glances in his direction were pulling on his last nerve.


Dean was suffering too, with the escalating fights with their father and Dean stuck in the middle of their constant family feuds. Sam owed Dean at least this much.

His younger brother stared at him for so long Dean squirmed under the intense look. "Geez Sam, say something – hell, try blinking."

His brother seemed to shake himself, eyes returning to his notebook as he absently picked up his pen. "Yeah, okay."

At this point, Dean would take what he could get. "That's a good little boy Sammy." Dean came up behind his brother and ruffled his hair and got a petulant, "its Sam," in return. "Come on," Dean asked as he stuffed the odd weapon into the duffel bag on the kitchen table, "move your ass and let's get the gear ready, we'll be leaving as soon as Dad gets here."

The silence was tense as the Impala drifted across the blacktop, the sun sinking down behind the mountains. Dean had already tried to push in a tape to listen to, just to get rid of the persistent silence, only to get a dark look from his father.

Yeah, fun times.

His father and brother seemed to work on a 'grunt' system – 'are you ready?' and Sam would grunt which their father took as a 'yes'. Then there was the 'can I bring my book with me for the ride there?' and his father grunted – which Sam took as a 'no'.

Ergo, it was a typical Winchester hunt – his brother pissy and petulant with his arms crossed in the backseat – and their father stonily silent and eye twitching occasionally in the front with Dean.

It's not like Dean didn't get it – their father broke a promise to his brother – again – and Sam was getting tired of false promises. The kid was seventeen now and growing more and more bull headed as he got older – clashing virtually everyday with their old man over even the most mundane things. Dean didn't know if it was just teenage rebellion or if Sam just had a stick shoved so far up his ass that he was set in a permanent scowl for the rest of his life, Dean wasn't sure, but he missed his brother being… well happy.

Dean frowned into the window, watching the shadows outside gain ground – now that he thought about it, Sam hadn't smiled – never mind being happy - in a long time. He wasn't sure when exactly Sam became so disenchanted with their nomadic lifestyle, but he would guess it became a more pressing matter after their stint in Truman High. He didn't know what exactly happened, besides a fight Sam was in – and won, much to Dean's amusement and pride – but couldn't pinpoint what exactly had triggered his brother's increasing rebellion.

Dean almost jumped out of his seat when his father's deep, rumbling voice broke the silence. "Sam, can you give us the rundown on the history of the attacks?"

Dean didn't dare breathe – his father and brother's relationship this week was tedious at best.

His brother seemed to sigh, and then there was a rustling of papers in the backseat. "Three hikers have gone missing in the last two months – all in the same general location of woods – two were found mutilated, about two weeks after they disappeared. The other hiker was never found." More rustling, as papers were shifted around. "The police are writing this off as a 'bear' attack, even though they found strange tracks and quills near the body."

"Quills?" Dean glanced back at his brother who shook his head.

"Yeah, quills. Also called spines." At his brother's blank look, Sam rolled his eyes. "Like what a porcupine's skin is covered in, Dean."

"Oh. Oh, yeah okay."

Sam huffed an irritated breath. His idea to jokingly give his brother a dictionary for his birthday was sounding more and more like a solid plan. "The police have done nothing more than close down the trails that joggers and hikers use in the area for the next week while they 'tie off loose ends'." He closed the folder and tossed it on the seat next to him, crossing his arms against his chest. "There's nothing definitive that I could find on anything with 'spines' – ghost, spirit, monster – it could be anything. Though, if I had to guess, I'd say it would be something of Native American culture – possibly an animal spirit. The Cherokee population is higher in this area than in the rest of the state."

John glanced at his youngest in the rear-view mirror before his eyes settled back on the highway. "Guessing gets you killed, Sam. It could just as easily be something that was brought over by settlers in the sixteen to seventeen hundreds." He watched his youngest son's lips pucker in defiance, his face set in a tight scowl. "For the record, I don't think it's Native American in origin. There were two eye witness accounts – they claimed that they saw a creature that was bipedal, had dark red eyes and was about seven feet tall and covered in spines." His father paused, rubbing a rough hand across his face. "One witness said he shot at the creature and injured it, before it took off deeper into the woods." John paused. "If this thing can be weakened by regular bullets, then we'll go in with iron and silver rounds, just to cover the bases…."

Sam tuned his father out, like he did on most occasions as of late. It's not like his father had a better idea as to what exactly this thing was anymore than Sam did, but at least Sam had tossed in a plausible explanation for it. He didn't see his Dad giving out an opinion, besides shooting down Sam's.

He could read the excitement on his brother's face, see the animated way he moved as he conversed with their father on blessed weapons and gun maintenance. The same easy relationship that his brother and father had always had.

Sam turned his glare to the window, wondering when he'd turned into the noose around his family's neck.

Dean kept himself between his father and brother as they trudged deeper into the woods.

True to his promise, Sam had not further engaged in a verbal tirade with his father, but the silence wasn't really any better. Sam had kept his eyes on the ground, gun at his side, and stayed silent as he brought up the rear of their little hunting party, studiously ignoring both Dean and their dad.

Dean silently sighed, wishing he knew how to bridge that gap that seemed to widen within his family with each fight. He could see how tired his father was, fighting with Sam and hunting without a break for so long was draining his Dad's last reserves.

Sam wasn't doing that much better – listless at times, powder keg the next, the way Sam threw himself at his homework and tried his best to avoid their father at all costs. This constant tension was eating at all of them, without a sole person to blame. Everyone was at fault here.

He felt a snag at his jacket and paused. "What?"

Sam merely aimed his flashlight to his right, highlighting the broken branches and weird tracks in the dirt. Dean knelt next to the fresh trail, fingering the odd footprints. "Huh. I think you rolled a Yatzee here, Sam."

His brother rolled his eyes.

John came back to them a few seconds later. "What's the hold up boys? We stick together on this one."

Dean piped up before Sam could open his mouth – probably to argue, promise or not. "I think Sam found the creature's trail – it looks fresh."

John took a look at the tracks with a sharp eye. "Alright. We'll follow this in no more than half a kilometer. It's getting dark and this thing has been attacking on the trails, not deep in the bush. Let's go."

They trudged deeper into the foliage, moving low hanging branches out of the way and stepping over small bushes and over logs. "I hate the forest." Dean whined, stubbing his toe on a hidden tree root.

Sam caught up to him, helping his brother up. "And what's wrong with it?" He raised an eyebrow.

Dean shrugged out of Sam's grasp. "The fact that it's harboring a man eating monster? Yeah, not wining any brownie points here."

Sam shook his head, exasperated. "Yeah, because that's the forests' fault."

They lapsed into silence again, trailing after their Dad. Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes and there was nothing. They switched on their headlamps when it got too dark, increasing the amount of light that they had in which to see with.

There had been nothing for closing on thirty minutes and Dean was wondering when his father was going to march them back to the main trails. Perhaps because he was waiting for that order, he was surprised when his father yelled at them to duck.

The boys hit the dirt and heard something swing through the space where they had just been standing.

Dean was the first one back on his feet, just catching a hint of red eyes behind a large tree before it disappeared. "What the hell was that?"

They didn't have long to guess.

The thing was huge. A large barrel-like creature on all fours, red piercing eyes, and a tail that looked more like a morning star medieval torture device.

It screeched at them, loud and shrill.

"It looks like an Ankylosarus." Sam yelled over the noise, hands clasped over his ears.

The noise cut off and Dean pushed his brother ahead of them as they started to run back towards the trails. "A what?"

There father was right behind him, the creature following him. They needed more room to maneuver in than the goat trail they were running on.

Sam puffed out a breath next to him. "Do you remember that book you got me when I was twelve? About Dinosaurs?"

Dean choked out a laugh even as he felt the ground shake as the thing ran after them. "I gave it to you to read, not to memorize. Besides, we're not hunting a dinosaur."

"I know that. I'm just saying." Sam poured on a little more speed, matching his brother step for step.

"A geek through and through." Dean gritted out, pushing his brother to run faster. "Less talking, more running."

They managed to reach the main trail before the creature sprung, jumping over the hunters and landing with a jarring thud in front of them.

Sam ducked and felt the whoosh of a tail sailing over the top of his head and smacking into the tree next to his head. He had to duck again as the creature yanked its tail out of the sapling and that battering ram of a tail whipped overhead.

He heard his father shout, heard the shotgun firing and Dean's berretta discharging as he crashed through the underbrush and bee lined it towards his brother, swinging his own gun up and taking aim over his shoulder as the thing trampled after him.

The thing snarled and hissed, razorblade teeth snapping just passed Sam's left arm.

His heart was pounding so fast, the trees and bushes a dark blur, that he barely heard his brother's shout. "Sam! Move!"

He nodded even though he knew his brother probably didn't see it. He turned sharply, changing direction at the last second, giving his brother a clear shot at the creature's head even as it tried to slam on the breaks.

Sam sucked in a few deep breaths, feeling the pull of his abdominal muscles as he tried to re-oxygenate himself, and watched with satisfaction as his brother unloaded the shotgun in the monster's head.

The creature took the full impact, crashing onto the forest floor with a vibrating jolt, screeching so sharply that every hair on Sam's bare arms stood on end.

All three Winchesters approached the creature with weapons raised, the two younger boys waiting on their father for the go ahead. "Dean, check it."

His elder son nodded, bending down so that he could train his light on the creature's face. The eyes appeared blank and there was no apparent movement when Dean tapped its face with the butt of his shotgun. "And another one bites the dust." Dean murmured, pushing himself up off the ground and towards his father who was the last to lower his weapon.

His father and brother waited for him until he caught up, all three of them glancing at the creature not four feet from them.

"This is going to be one hell of a salt and burn." His father said, sighing as he rubbed his face.

Dean snorted. "You're telling me. This thing is going to take the whole freaking gas can to light up."

The youngest Winchester jabbed his brother in the ribs, taking pleasure in hearing his sibling's breath come out in a wheeze. "Always about the fire, huh Dean? You're such a closet pyromaniac."

He was met with a sly grin. "Hey, when doing a salt n' burn, fire is your best friend."

The hunters were too busy collecting their dropped weapons and gear that they failed to notice the twitch of the creature's spiky clubbed tail.

John was tired. This hunt, though successful, had drained the last of his reserves. He'd been on hunt after hunt for a solid eight months without a break and the lack of an actual rest period was sucking the life out of his reserves. Perhaps… perhaps he could give Sam those few weeks that he wanted so badly, let Dean continue working at the garage that he would refuse to admit that he loved, but that John could easily read on his son's face. While Dean wouldn't balk or fight against leaving town for his own sake, he would fight for Sam.

John could also concede that Sam would fight just as fiercely for his own reasons for staying as much as for Dean's.

He was so lost in his thoughts as he hefted the shotgun to rest over his shoulder that he was caught off guard when his youngest yelled and charged passed him, reaching for his brother who also was similarly stunned by the outburst before Sam roughly pushed Dean to the ground.

That's when John saw the creature's tail out of his peripheral vision come whistling through the air and ram straight into his youngest son's side – right where his eldest had been standing not two seconds before. John watched in horror as his son went flying into a tree, bouncing off of it like one of those cartoon characters on TV that his sons used to watch when they were younger.

Dean cried out to his brother just as John made a similar cry – only his was for vengeance – and his heart sang for it. "Check on your brother!" He yelled over his shoulder as he took aim on the creature that attacked his son. "Come and get it you ugly sonofabitch."

Don't turn your back on your enemy, son.

Sam would have laughed at his father's lecture from years past if he could get his lungs to inflate long enough to draw breath. As it was, he was fighting unconsciousness while trying to breathe at the same time. Both without much success.

The camping headlamp had shattered when he'd hit the tree, his face and shoulder taking the brunt of the hit. He felt blood welling from a cut near his temple that trickled down the side of his face in rivets, his face feeling hot from the impact. His left shoulder was dislocated by the feel of it. It burned at the joint and his hand and arm were numb.

Breathing hurt. He wasn't sure if his ribs were broken on his right side or not, but they were at the very least, bruised. The hit felt like the something had dug into his chest and stayed there, and Sam took a chance at passing out to get a visual look at his injuries.

Sam blinked once, twice. Could barely feel his brother's hands as they touched him gingerly on his shoulder, didn't hear his brother calling his name – all his attention was focused on the five ivory spines embedded into his side. By the brief illumination of his brother's headlamp, he could see blood seeping from around the spines that pierced his jacket and into his flesh. Even as his brother tried to get his attention, Sam was drawn to the sharp spines, feeling heat spread from the wound.

"Sam?" Dean shook Sam's shoulder, waiting for his brother's gaze to stop wandering. He could hear his father battle with the creature, not sure who was winning and at this point, could only hope his father had the upper hand. "Hey, come on buddy, say something." He shook his brother harder. "Sam!"

His brother seemed to blanch, teeth clenched together – but his eyes finally found his brother's.

Dean smile was tight, his hand curled around the knob of Sam's shoulder. "Hey – looks like you got yourself into a bit of a mess, huh?" He glanced at the spines sticking out of Sam's side and winced. "Now I know you weren't trying to make a fashion statement with these," he motioned towards the spines and his brother scowled. "but honestly? They're a little too sharp on the wardrobe, dude."

Sam grimaced, one hand reaching for his brother and grabbing hold of his sleeve. "Go… help Dad. I'll be fine." He sucked in a breath; his side was really beginning to burn.

Dean looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "You think I'm just going to ditch you here while you can barely move? Dude, what kind of brother do you think I am?"

His little brother just shook his head, bottom lip caught between his teeth as he sucked in a moan. "You can help me by helping dad. The sooner that thing is killed, the sooner we can get out of here." At his brother's dark look, Sam added, "Please?"

They both heard their father curse, the creature howling – John had lured the thing away a good forty feet. In the dark, they could just make out the shape of the creature circling what they presumed was their father, John's headlamp making whiplash movements against the heavy darkness of the surrounding bush as he dodged an unseen attack.

Dean was torn. He didn't want to leave his brother defenseless, but he didn't want his dad to fight this creature on his own either. He looked down when he felt a tug at his sleeve.

His brother was looking past him at the forest, then back to him. "Go."

Dean sniffed and then nodded, grasping his brother's arm and giving it a tight squeeze. "I'll be back, okay?"

Sam swallowed and then closed his eyes, too dizzy to keep them open. "I know." He finally said, because he knew Dean didn't want to leave him there alone. "Go."

He traced his brother's footsteps by sound, hearing leaves and bushes snapping and breaking in Dean's wake. He hoped his family would be able to kill it soon, because he was starting to get nervous.

He hadn't told Dean, but his hips were starting to go numb. Heat was spreading down to his lower extremities from his right side where the spines met flesh..

Sam started a silent mantra of please hurry back while he listened to the yelling and sounds of gunfire.

Dean dodged a clawed hand, feeling snapping jaws at the back of his neck as he rolled on the ground, firing off a shot as he found his feet again. "Sonofabitch, this thing won't die." He spat as he reloaded the shotgun.

His father hadn't exactly been thrilled to see him back and Sam not in tow, but after saving his father from the same assault that Sam had received, his father started barking orders, coordinating their efforts.

It took way too long to finally bring that spiky giant of a monster down, taking two rounds of the shotgun to the head for a second time before it finally fell and stayed down.

John kept his shotgun on the creature, his eyes not leaving the creature. "Dean, go back and check on your brother – I'll take care of this."

Dean didn't need to be told twice. He took off in what he hoped was the right direction – it was dark and dodging hits and strikes from the overgrown dinosaur had screwed with his sense of direction. "Sam?" He called out as he dodged foliage. "Sam! Where are you?"

Silence greeted him – not even the animals stirred.

Dean moved a little faster. They hadn't gone that far away, Sam should have been –

Right there, still under the tree that he'd been thrown into. "Damnit Sam, answer me when I'm calling you!" He said breathlessly, already dropping next to his brother – who he realized a second later when he got a better look at him was terrified. "Sam, hey, what's wrong?" Dean tried to swallow his own panic, even while watching Sam's increase with each hitched breath.

Sam's head twitched every once in a while, just as his shoulder did the same – spastic movements Dean didn't understand. "Sam, talk to me."

Sam looked like he was trying, taking a few stuttering breaths to get enough air behind his words for them to carry. "Can't… feeeeeeel…."

Dean could have sworn someone had just slammed a bat into his chest – his own breath hitched like his brother's. "Sam, what can't you feel?" A quick inventory revealed Sam's side and head were still bleeding, but he was afraid to touch Sam, afraid now that what he had thought of as a non life-threatening injury was turning out to be just that.

Sam sputtered through another set of uncontrolled muscle twitching. "S-spines. Spread – spreading…" Whatever Sam was about to say was cut off as his brother seemed to grind the back of his head into the rough dirt, a strangled cry caught in his throat.

That did it. "DAD!"

He could hear his father's sharp movements off in the distance, but his eyes stayed on his brother. "You'll be okay Sammy – just take a deep breath." He rubbed Sam's sternum, trying to coax his brother to calm down. He could feel stuttering breaths and quivering muscle under his fingertips, could hear Sam's strangled moan. "Dad's going to fix you up and we can go watch Buffy kick vampire ass, okay?"

Sam's head sagged to one side, his chest heaving as he drew breath, pupils blown and eyes wild as he cast his gaze around in a panic. His vision was starting to darken.

Dean swallowed hard. He gently touched his brother's cold face, tilting his head up. "Sam, you're hyperventilating. You have to calm down, or you're going to black out. You hear me? Sam?"

Sam continued to stare at him, body limp under Dean's touch. Even his neck couldn't support his head, sagging back to one side as Dean gingerly let him go. It was like Sam was made of cooked spaghetti instead of muscle and bone.

His father came up behind him and nudged Dean gently out of the way. "Sammy? Son? Look at me. Hey," he caught his distraught son's eye while he triaged, "I need you to calm down, alright? I know it's hard, but we'll fix this, okay? Sam?"

Sam didn't answer him, and John was suspecting it wasn't out of teenage angst. He turned to his oldest. "Dean? What happened?"

Dean turned anguished eyes on his brother, studiously avoiding his father's gaze. "He said he couldn't feel… and then something about spines, I don't know…."

John turned a sharp gaze on the creature's spines that were literally sticking out of his son's flesh. His brow puckered as he gently palpated the site, hearing the guttural groan from his youngest. "Shh, it's okay. I'm just taking a look." Even with his headlamp, John could only make out a dark stain on his son's jacket. "Sam," he grasped his son's chin in one hand, staring hard into wide hazel eyes. "I need to know if your lungs are compromised. Do you feel like there's a weight sitting on your chest? Hard to breathe?"

At his son's pained look, John amended his question. "One blink yes, two blinks no."

It took a moment, but Sam blinked twice.

John let out a long sigh. Thank God for that. Now, he had to figure out what injury had caused his son's apparent paralysis. Dean had said Sam had mention spines. It could be the creature's spikes, or Sam's own spine… he really hoped it wasn't the latter.

He swallowed hard, blinking away his own panic. He gaze slid around the area looking for something….

He found it, embedded in a tree. John pulled off his jacket and then his outermost shirt, wrapping it around his hand.


He ignored his eldest and reached up, prying the sharp spine from the bark with a harsh tug. Manipulating the shirt with his fingers, he pinched and pushed on the end of the spine.

A dribble of clear liquid oozed out of the top, dripping onto his shirt covered fingers. "Sonofabitch." It was a curse and a relief.


John tossed the spine away with disgust, answering Dean's inquiry. "The spines have some kind of poison in it – probably a paralytic, going by Sam's symptoms."

John ran a frustrated hand through his increasingly graying hair. "Alright." He turned to his eldest. "Dean, we need to make a quick stretcher. I need two tree limbs about six and a half to seven feet in length, and I need your jacket and your outer shirt."

Dean was already stripping out of his jacket and was pulling his outer shirt off over his head. "Dad?" The sound was muffled as the shirt finally came off. "What about Sammy's lungs? Or his heart?"

His father was quiet a moment. "The poison spread throughout his whole body in about twenty minutes." He glanced sharply at Dean before pulling out his pocket knife and cutting his t-shirt into strips. "If it would have affected his heart or lungs, it would have done so by now." At Dean's dubious look, John amended, "We'll keep an eye on him, okay? I just want Sam back at the motel so I can take a look at the wounds, see how deep the punctures are."

His eldest boy nodded numbly and headed out back into the forest, searching for a tree limb or branch to use for their stretcher.

Carefully, John knelt next to Sam, keeping himself within his son's narrow field of vision. "We'll get you out of here and fixed up soon kiddo. You just have to give your old man a few minutes, okay?"

Sam didn't respond verbally, but his breathing was beginning to slow down – calmer, quieter.

John couldn't help but reach out and move his son's unruly bangs away from his face. It didn't help – his bangs just flopped back into place. "You'll be okay Sammy." He repeated, because his son wasn't the only one who needed reassurance.

Within fifteen minutes, John and Dean tied the last knot on their makeshift stretcher and briefly admired their work. "It should hold Sam long enough for us to get out of here."

Dean nodded his agreement, stepping away from the assortment of logs and jackets and to his brother. "Okay, so how do you want to move him?"

His father frowned, rubbing his chin. "I'll grab his shoulders if you grab his legs. Remember, he's dead weight," Dean gave him an dark look of which John ignored, "so don't drop him. I don't want those spines to shift any. We don't know how deep they are."

Dean shook his head, exasperated. "He was already dropped on his head as a baby; I don't want to damage the kid further."

Sam groaned behind him. Dean had to fight a smile.

Both Winchesters moved the youngest as quickly and as safely as they could, but both cringed at the choked gurgle of the teenager they were holding between them.

With Sam safely in the stretcher, John led the way out of the forest, Dean bringing up the rear – both carrying and trying their best not to rock the youngest Winchester who lay helplessly between them.

Dean sat in the back of the car with Sam, whose head was propped on Dean's knee as their father drove them back to the motel.

He had tried to comfort his brother – tossing one of their traveling blankets on him to fight off the chill Sam's body responded to even if Sam couldn't feel it. One hand absently ran fingers through Sam's hair, offering comfort, offering distraction. He bent over Sam's head, whispering in his ear. "I guess you'll want pancakes after all of this, huh? Well, at least when you can actually hold a utensil, but we'll work on that."

Dean didn't actually know how long the paralysis would last – he had no idea. He suspected his father didn't either, but Dean was all about denial – was more than willing to buy stock in it at this point.

He grinned as another thought came to him. "I guess this means you can't bitch about my TV choices tonight either."

He thought he saw Sam roll his eyes – the only part of his body he seemed to have any control over.

They pulled into the motel parking lot about an hour after they had killed the creature and started the arduous task of getting Sam out of the thick foliage and dense trees.

They never did salt and burn the body – they had their priorities and that creature wasn't it.

Getting Sam out of the car was tricky. Dead weight at the best of times was difficult to carry and maneuver, but with Sam's injuries, it was especially hard.

They were all sweating by the time they managed to lie Sam down on the closest bed, Sam making a mewling sound as they lowered him down onto the soft surface.

A moment to catch their breath was all they allowed themselves before they were in motion again. The first aid kit was tossed onto the night stand; both John and Dean went into the bathroom to scrub their hands clean and were next to Sam between breaths.

John carefully cut away Sam's jacket and t-shirt while Dean laid down next to his brother and kept Sam's attention on anything but their father's ministrations.

John applied a topical anesthetic around the puncture sites, afraid to give his child anything more - unsure what the venom or poison would react to.

Dean's job in their little motel surgical procedure was deflect and distract. When Sam had been younger, it was an ice cream cone and candy while Dean cleaned and disinfected scraped knees.

Now that Sam was older, it was talking about cars and girls – the first topic Sam studiously tried to ignore while the second one made him blush or scowl. Different methods but same tactic.

John gave him a look, and Dean knew his father was about to start on the spines that were still embedded in his Sam's side. "Hey Sammy? Did I ever tell you about this sweet ride Alicia Creston drove back in Illinois? Man, that thing was a thing of beauty."

Sam hiccuped as John removed the first spine, the muscles around the site contracting and twitching. "Easy son."

Dean went on, talking about the Impala's latest tune up, all the uses of various tools to fix a transmission and why California had hotter chicks than New York did.

Every groan, choke and cry from his sibling Dean tempered with a touch – forehead, shoulder, along his side just above the wound – all gentle and offering comfort in the only way Dean knew how to give.

It was something their mother would have done for Sam if she had been here.

It took a while before John got to suturing the wound, but he kept his focus on what he could see, his ears listening to Dean drone on about… The Karate Kid?

"When Mr. Miyagi catches that fly with his chop sticks? Dude. That was awesome."

John shook his head, smiling.

John finally taped the last of the dressings in place an hour and a half after he started and sat back with a sigh.

Sam was fitfully dozing, muscles that he couldn't feel still twitching of their own accord around the puncture sites. John figured the venom had something to do with that.

His youngest had had a tear or two slip out when John had popped his shoulder back in, of which Dean surreptitiously wiped away with a thumb. He had no broken ribs upon inspection, of which John was grateful. There was a spectacular smattering of bruises all over, but nothing broken. The cut on his head took three stitches, with a combined total of fifteen stitches to close up the wounds on his side – three for each puncture mark.

His eldest was still on the bed next to his brother; methodically rubbing circles on Sam's shoulder of what John could see was twitching muscles.

By wordless agreement, John and Dean agreed to stay up in shifts to keep an eye on Sam – watch for signs of infection and keep an eye on his respirations – make sure Sam didn't disappear on them in a way they couldn't bring him back from.

John was busy putting away supplies when he heard the tired question. "Dad? What if the paralysis doesn't wear off?"

He almost dropped the kit on his foot. He looked over his shoulder to where his eldest lay. "Dean, it'll wear off in time. Sam will be fine." He just had to remind himself of that too.

Dean didn't seem happy with the answer, but just returned his attention to his brother, ignoring John.

John pulled up a chair near the boys' bed and grabbed his journal, only half aware of what he was writing in it. His thoughts drifted back to the hunt and where they went wrong, trying to figure out strategies and battle plans so that what happened to Sam didn't repeat itself.

He didn't stop thinking about it, even when morning's light touched the room with its orange and red glow.

Dean peeled open bleary eyes and tried to figure out what had woken him. He checked on Sam, whose head was just slightly turned to him. He couldn't be sure, but it looked like a slight hue of red in Sam's cheeks. He laid the back of his hand against his brother's forehead, checking for fever. The last thing his little brother needed right now was an infection on top of everything else.

He felt warm, but not overly so and Sam didn't stir from his touch.

Dean made a face at that, and pushed himself to a sitting position.

He could hear his father's baritone voice from outside the motel door, his tone having a bit of a bite to it.

Speaking of, his father opened the door a minute later; face puckered like he'd swallowed a lemon. "Good, you're awake." He said in way of greeting before Dean had a chance to open his mouth. "I need you to watch out for Sam while I go get breakfast." He said as he snatched up his wallet from the kitchen table and made a beeline back out the door that he'd just walked through.

"Wait, Dad. Who was on the phone?"

John grunted, barely pausing to answer. "Bobby. He made a few calls – the poison is something similar to tetrodotoxin." At Dean's blank look, John explained further. "It's a kind of poison that puffer fish have - the poison that the creature had is faster acting, but it doesn't affect the heart and lungs. It should be out of your brother's system in twenty-four hours or less." He reached behind him and grabbed the door handle. "I'll be back soon." The door shut behind him with a resounding click.

Dean sat there on the edge of the bed with an eyebrow raised. "And a good morning to you too." And Dean wondered why Sam was irritated and frustrated by the old man?

Dean did check on Sam and pulled the blanket up a little higher on his chest before he went to the bathroom and proceeded to wash up, splashing water on his face and patting it dry on the non-bloody side of the towel.

He moved with practiced ease as he cleared off the table and had the chairs in order, putting things away where they were supposed to be. His thoughts turned his father's words over in his head. Within twenty-four hours. A quick glance at the clock and Dean did the math in his head. It was almost lunchtime now, so it had been about… fifteen, sixteen hours since the attack.

Almost as if his brother had been reading his thoughts, Sam groaned.

Dean strode over and placed a hand on Sam's forehead. "Rise and shine cupcake, it's a beautiful morning."

Even through bleary eyes, if looks could kill, Dean knew he'd be fried to extra crispy pieces. "Geez, what a grouch. We really gotta work on your dark outlook on life, Sammy. You're never gonna get laid with an attitude like that."

The motel room would have gone up in a blaze of smoke, Dean included, with Sam's murderous glare.

Dean had been immune to that look all his life, so he ignored like he did every other time. "Hey, good news," he sat down carefully by Sam's side so as to not jostle him, "Dad says the poison should be out of your system in twenty-four hours. You should start to get feeling back in your limbs soon."

Sam just blinked at him.

Dean could even see a bit more animation in Sam's face already – the paralysis slowly losing ground.

He slapped Sam on the knee and reached for the remote. "Let's see what's on, huh?" He propped another pillow under Sam's head so he could see the TV just as Dean resumed his incessant channel changing.

Dean grinned at what he'd guess was Sam's annoyed face. Hard to tell when he was still ninety-nine percent paralyzed.

His channel surfing was interrupted fifteen minutes later when his dad pushed the door open, arms loaded with food. Dean rushed to help, taking one of the bags and putting it on the table.

It was his father who broke the silence. "Sam? If one of us helps you, would you like to eat something?"

Dean glanced at his father, then studied Sam's face. He couldn't believe he'd forgotten that Sam wouldn't be able to eat anything unless it was basically shoved down his throat by one of them. And Sam, being the perpetually stubborn and independent Winchester that he was, would have to be spoon fed if he did want to eat. And that was assuming his gag reflex was still working.

He wasn't all that surprised when Sam blinked twice in quick succession. No. They had already established Sam's basic 'yes/no' communication style last night.

His father nodded, understanding. "Alright. The paralysis should start to wear off in the coming hours, so you might be able to eat when you get a bit more strength behind you."

Dean gave his brother a forced smile. "Yeah yeah, I know, 'raincheck' on the pancakes thing."

John and Dean ate in quiet, tense silence, interspersed with the occasional explosion from the action movie on the TV.

Dean was just polishing off the last of the bacon when his father broke the silence. "I have to go back and salt and burn the body. I want you to take care of your brother while I'm gone."

Dean almost rolled his eyes. He'd only being doing that his entire life. "Yes sir. The squirt will be fine."

An unhappy growl came from the bed.

Dean turned around in his seat and pointed a finger at his brother. "Not a word from the peanut gallery."

John packed up his gear and was gone shortly after, leaving the two brothers alone.

Dean returned to Sam's side, being careful not to jostle the bed. "Alright, let's find something good to watch, huh?"

Sam dozed through most of the afternoon while Dean entertained himself with cleaning the odd weapon and watching an old Jackie Chan movie on the TV, back pressed against the headboard.

It was a quiet peace, one that Dean was grateful for. Weapon cleaning, his brother asleep next to him, and watching Jackie Chan karate chop his way through the bad guys.

He felt something brush against his hip. He glanced down and was pleased to see Sam staring back at him. "Sam?"

He couldn't hold back a proud smile as shaky fingers grabbed onto the hem of his shirt, Sam's face puckered with determination. "Hey, you're finally getting feeling back in those noodle limbs of yours. That's awesome."

Sam's lips moved in uncoordinated movements as he tried to form his first words since the paralysis had begun. "…." Sam's face creased with frustration.

Dean took pity on his brother, even as he cringed at the mangled word. "Bathroom? You think you can support some of your weight?"

A sloppy nod.

Dean grimaced. He didn't think Sam had enough feeling back in his body to actually hold himself up, but, a man had his pride, and he would do what he could to help Sam keep his dignity. "Alright, but I'm going to help you, okay? Just let me do most of the work."

It was more of a drag and stumble, but they managed to get to the bathroom without falling – Dean's arms shaking from holding most of Sam's weight and Sam white faced and tight lipped from pain.

Dean helped his brother as matter-of-factly as he could and then left the door ajar and waited outside for his brother to finish.

A man had his pride after all.

It was with a great sigh of relief when they made it back to bed and sort of flopped on top of it. "You are so laying off the donuts." Dean puffed, hearing an inhaled hiss next to him. "I mean, you're so scrawny, yet you deceptively weigh more than you look."

Sam just turned his head to the side, too tired and in too much pain to argue. He just let Dean do all the work in getting him back into bed under all the covers, eyes already closing before Dean sat back on the bed again.

Sam woke to pain.

He bit back a cry at the cramped muscles that seemed to attack in random areas – shoulder, hip, calf and abdomen. His muscles were twisting and cramping simultaneously, even when his body had refused to move to his mind's command.

"Hold on Sam, I gotcha covered."


Sam slowly relaxed as cramped muscles were massaged, the pain leaving Sam slack jawed and not fully aware.

His brother finally settled in his line of vision, his brow drawn in worry. "Hey, no drooling on my pillow, bitch."

Sam's sleepy smile seemed to calm his brother. "It's my pillow now, jerk." The words were a bit slurred, but stronger, more understandable. He shifted and winced with the movement. "Dad back yet?"

Dean shook his head. "No. He should be soon though. You want something to drink?"

Sam nodded his head and watched Dean move towards the small fridge and pull something out of it. A minute later Dean's hand was under his head, helping to lift him up and nudged the bottle at Sam's lips, a tact open up.

Sam drank what turned out to be Gatorade, replenishing fluids and electrolytes at the same time. He turned his head away when he was done and leaned his head back against the pillows again. "What time's it?"

Dean checked his watch. "About twenty past five. Hopefully Dad will grab some food on his way back. I'm starving."

Sam rolled his eyes. "You're always starving. Freaking bottomless pit."

He got a gentle cuff upside the head. "Hey, just because you like the scarecrow look you've got going on, doesn't mean I'm going to turn out the same way."

"Whatever." Sam tried to push himself up, but with one arm out of commission, one hand wasn't strong enough to support his weight. "Dean? I'd like to sit up."

Dean assisted and together they had Sam upright and propped against the headboard. There was a rattle at the door and Dean had the glock in one hand, the other still supporting Sam as the door opened.

John glanced down approvingly at the weapon even as Dean tucked it away and closed the door. "You boys alright?" He took in Sam's tired appearance, but was genuinely happy to see the kid sitting up in bed. "So the paralysis is wearing off then I take it?"

It surprised him a little that it was his youngest that spoke. "Yeah. About… two hours ago? I still can't feel much of my legs yet, but I'm hoping soon."

John smiled. "That's good to hear, son. Real good."

Dean took a seat on the opposite bed. "So how did the salt and burn go?"

John shrugged, dropping his bag on the kitchen table. "Just fine. Creature went up like a spark to timber." He wouldn't mention that he'd poured on so much extra gasoline that there was a plume of fire that resembled that of the atom bomb being dropped. Bastard creature deserved far worse for what it had done to Sam.

"So were you going to bring back some barbecue for dinner?" Dean's grin was bright.

Sam's face was in direct contrast – disgusted. "Dude, that's gross."

"What? I'm hungry."

John shook his head. Children. "I was thinking sub sandwiches for dinner. How does that grab everyone?"

He got two enthusiastic nods. "Great." He turned to his eldest and tossed him the keys. "Go get'em, tiger."

Dean's face fell just as Sam's broke out in a huge grin. "What? That's cold, man."

John raised an eyebrow and Dean mumbled his displeasure. "Yeah, I'm going. Geez, I am so unappreciated around here….." John tried hard not to smile.

Dean closed the door quietly, although John was sure the temptation to give into the petulant door slam was there.

Then it was just him and his youngest.

John scratched the back of his head, trying to find the right words to say. This incident had really shaken John. "Sam," he said, and watched as Sam's shoulders seemed to stiffen. "How about we stay here until the end of the month?" Sam's face showed surprise, and there was a happy glimmer in his eye. It has been too long since John had last seen a spark of something other than anger or betrayal. He continued before he lost the words. "That way you can get your stuff at school in order, finish that project you were looking forward to presenting. You could use a break – we all could."

Wow. The world must be ending. John Winchester, the selective hearing, badass extraordinaire, was actually going to keep his promise. Not only that, he was extending Sam's wish to stay longer by at least a week.

Pod people. It must be pod people. When Sam could actually use all his limbs, he was checking under his Dad's bed. "Really?" He dared to hope.

John smiled at him. "Yeah, son. We'll stay until the end of the month."

Sam could barely contain his excitement, bruises and stitches be damned. "Does Dean know?"

His father shook his head. "No, but we'll tell him later. I'm sure you're brother will be happy to have a few weeks to recoup as well."

Sam heartily agreed.

While his family ate in companionable silence, Sam reflected on the last few days – the fighting, the hunt, and the compassion of a family that tried their best to help him. Dean had tried earlier that day to thank him for saving his life – at the very least, thanking him for not enduring the same paralysis that Sam was fighting off – but Sam wouldn't let him.

Family was family, whether they saved your ass or drove you to the brink of insanity. You could always count on them to be there and remind you that what life had taken from them, it hadn't taken everything….

"Samantha, stop brooding and pass me my drink!"

Sam sighed. Well, it could have taken Dean's sassy mouth and Sam wouldn't have minded.

Then again, it was worth it to hear all the cursing and swearing when Dean spit his drink all over the table because Sam had dumped the rest of the ketchup from the leftover packages into the last swallow or two of his coke. He really quite enjoyed his brother's expletives and empty threats.


A/N: That's it, folks. Here was the prompt.

A younger Sam on a hunt that goes terribly wrong and he gets hurt - I'd love something right before Stanford, so 16-17ish. Of course, Dean and John would be included!