KEEPING WATCH

Chapter five

Thank you, Caroline, for truly you watched over this story and helped more than you know!

Thank you most sincerely for reading and sticking with. Story is now up and complete.

Sunshine to you, even in darkness and rain,

Karen

The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within,
Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.

A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
Still grasping in his hand the fire of love,
it does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
but hails the mariner with words of love.

"Sail on!" it says: "sail on, ye stately ships!
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse.
Be yours to bring man neared unto man.

The Lighthouse
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Sam," Dean called from a short distance away. "Hold on." There came the clank, clank of metal, heavy boots navigating over glass, slip-sliding in a frenzied rush. "Son of a…." Dean stood frozen at the top of the spiraling staircase.

Ghostly apparitions spun around the room tornado-style, flinging glass and pieces of debris in angry, chaotic mayhem. If he didn't know better, the sight would have been damn near inspiring.

Without his partner backing him up, Dean had to triple-time his efforts. In aggressive dependableness, he skittered across the floor going straight for the center of the room. Shielding his eyes with his duffle, he headed toward the lit lamplight. With a whole hell of a lot of colorful cursing, Dean stuffed the purification bags into the shattered bee hive-like slots.

"Happy hour's over, bitches," he growled and quickly turned his back away.

There came a loud wham, like someone slamming a giant door closed. Dean ducked down as a gust of heated air blasted into his back nearly teetering him off his feet, but he remained solid.

He whirled, glancing around the now ghost-free room. Everything was quiet, save for the musical tinkling of fragments settling. The moonlight gleaming in through the open windows, twinkled upon the glass-crackled floor; making the jewled shards look like treasure.

"Huh," Dean muttered.

"Dean," Sam yelled.

Gathering his wits, Dean took off sliding sideways out onto the catwalk as if he was skating across a surface of ice. "Son of a bitch," he swore, unable to stop, his right hip ramming against the rail and nearly flipping over himself.

"Holy crap." He righted himself, quickly dropping to his knees and peering through the bars. "Dude!" Sam's hooked fingers were barely gripping the edge of the tower. "I got you." Dean gripped Sam by both wrists just as the kid's strength gave out.

"Nuh!" Sam screeched, dangling wildly and nearly jumping from his skin.

"It's me," Dean panted. "I got you, okay?"

Sam didn't respond. Just swayed precariously, body going stiff with fear and sweating profusely.

"Shit," Dean cursed his own sweaty palms slipping over Sam's.

Without hesitation and in cool confidence, Dean let go one of Sam's wrist for a split millisecond, slapping a hand to Sam's forearm to get a better grip.

"Eh," Sam gave a small cry of pain.

"Sorry," he whispered out of breath. "Bro," Dean said calmly, "I'm going to let go your other wrist. I want you to reach up through the bars and grab hold of me.

Sam blinked rapidly at Dean - stunned into dark helplessness.

"We're good, Sam, reach up and hold on," Dean instructed. "I'll do the rest."

Sam didn't make a move.

"Just reach," Dean shouted urgently, "Or you're going to fall."

Sam jolted, snapping out of his stupor he complied. Raising a shaky floundering hand, he came in contact with a fist full of Dean's jacket sleeve.

Dean hesitated, wanting to make sure Sam had a firm grip. His brother was taller and weighted a good bit more than him. "Geeze, you're heavier than a garbage can full of bricks." He got off his knees and into a crouch.

"Dean." Sam shivered, instinctively looking down, thankful he couldn't see.

"It's okay. It's okay, Sam, I won't let you down. Ha," Dean laughed darkly, anchoring himself against the rail and hoping it would hold as he concentrated on keeping his feet dead weight and cemented to the catwalk.

Sam said nothing, fear crossing his face.

"I swear, Sam, you hear me? I won't let you go." Dean slowly rose, dragging Sam up with him.

"I hear you." Sam's voice shook.

"Friggin' don't get paid enough for this," Dean murmured.

"Don't get paid at all, Dean," Sam countered.

Dean leaned far over the rail, his back muscles taunt, one handedly inching his way down Sam's back. It was awkward positioning, the catwalk mossy and slick. Dean grunted, "So," he strained, cinching a hand under Sam's belt, "You enjoying the view, ah…" Dean's right boot slipped, Sam's weight nearly dragging him over, but he held his position, wouldn't let go. If Sam went - so did he.

"Aw- gaw," Sam's back arched away. "Dean, don't be a hero," he pleaded.

"Sam, knock that crap off, this isn't the movies." Dean let out a breath when Sam relaxed. "And actually, it's Billy Don't be a Hero."

Sam groaned.

Dean finally dragged Sam belly- first then long legs over the rail, their combined weight taking them both down hard to the catwalk. He pulled Sam across the catwalk with him arranging them both side-by side against the masonry to catch their breath. "That was scary." Dean ran a hand through his hair. "Hope you packed a fresh pair of Batman Underoos, bro," he spurted out laughing - humor - his way of smoothing over a bad situation.

Dean turned to Sam. Yeah. That wasn't working. Sam sat stiffly next to him, all moppy haired and tight lipped, breathing in and out extra hard.

"Hey." Dean frowned.

"My eyes." Sam squirmed. "The lighthouse lamplight," he said, unable to stop blinking. "I was looking right at it when the ghost must have turned it on." Sam shivered. "Dean."

Silence fell between them. Dean leaned in close, Sam could feel his breath on his face.

"It's okay, Sam. Can you see anything?" He asked studying his brother's eyes.

Sam remained quiet, blinking rapidly.

"Sam." Dean gentled his voice, knowing Sam was scared. "Come on, tell me what you see?"

"At first, nothing but now…"

"Now?" Dean asked anxiously.

"Like a halo of light."

"Can you see me?" Dean waved a hand in front of his brother's face.

"You're a smudge."

"Gee, thanks, I've never been someone's smudge before," Dean said, bumping Sam's leg with his.

Sam raised a hand. "My eyes hurt."

"Yeah." Dean pulled Sam's hand away before he could touch. "Don't mess with them, man," he warned.

"Dean, I…" Sam bit his lip.

"It's okay, Sam. It's okay. Listen close. I'm no doctor, but I'm sure it's just temporary shock - flash blindness." Dean cupped a hand over Sam's left eye.

"Gah." Sam startled drawing back.

"Relax, just me. Want to test something." Dean moved an index finger back and forth in front of Sam's uncovered eye. He frowned deeply when his brother stared blankly, completely unresponsive. "Gonna do the same to the other eye, now, buddy." Not wanting to startle Sam again, he waited a beat, then cupped Sam's right eye, index finger moving back and forth.

Sam's eye twitched slightly. "Think I see a shadow."

"It's my finger."

"Flash blindness?" Sam asked, worriedly.

"Pretty sure."

"You making that up?"

"No, seriously, it happened to dad once on a hunt. Dad was chasing a shape shifter through a used car lot. Thing was quick, turned one of those giant advertising spotlights on. The sudden burst of light took dad off guard and…"

"Dad was taken off guard, I don't believe it. How the…"

"Can I finish?"

"Yes."

"And Dad looked right into the beam," Dean continued not losing a beat, "The light was so friggin' bright it temporarily blinded him for several hours, and the bastard got away.

"Fantastic," Sam winced, holding his arm to his chest. "Like father, like son."

"Looks that way. Hey." Dean gently took Sam by the arm. "What'd you do here?" he asked toying with the shredded material of Sam's jacket.

"It's nothing."

"Yeah, well all that nothing is leaking red stuff out your arm, bro, and last time I checked ketchup didn't flow through your veins." Dean's hand trembled as he inspected the wound. "Got some nice chunks of glass stuck in you," he grimly informed, probing to see how deep the wound was through the seepage of blood.

A flash of pain crossed Sam's face.

"Sorry," Dean drew back.

"Doesn't hurt," Sam said, trying to gather his legs under him.

"Uh-huh," Dean whispered. Dragging his duffel over, he deftly unzipped the pack tugging out a cheap motel hand towel. "Hang on." He twined the terry cloth to look like a rope, tugging it tightly around Sam's forearm.

"Ah, ffffffuuuu," Sam choked.

"That'll hold for now."

"Can we, can we," Sam wet his lips, "Go?" Sam asked.

Without a word Dean draped Sam's uninjured arm over his shoulder and hefted them both to standing. Sam stood on quivering legs, his breathing harsh, throat convulsing to swallow. He was disoriented and felt dizzy.

Sam clenched his teeth as the air-brushed darkness pitched him sideways. "De-Dean." He reached frantically.

"I gottcha." Dean edged closer, taking hold of Sam by the elbow.

"Yeah, okay," Sam tensed. "Thanks."

Sam's sight was cloudy and he couldn't differentiate between the shapeless shadows darting about in front of him.

"Gonna cost you big-time," Dean said, tripping their way back through the lamp room and down the staircase.

"How much?" Sam asked as they started down the stairs.

"I'll think of something, Sam, shut up."

"I'm good for it," Sam said, taking each step hesitantly.

"Better be, wench, now for the last time, shut up and save your energy."

Too tired and shaken to respond in the usual fashion, Sam focused on not bumping into the wall or dragging Dean down. He kept turning his head from side to side, trying to compensate for his lack of depth perception and dizzying disorientation. They could have been walking on the ceiling for all Sam knew - a ceiling of fire.

Misjudging the proximity of a step, Sam's feet twisted. "Humph." He tripped over himself.

Dean quickly righted his wrong, pulling upward and holding firmer to Sam's arm.

"Bet you don't know what number step we're on," Dean babbled on, deciding he needed to distract the kid before he took a header.

"Dean knock it off."

"Come on, Sam, bet me."

"No."

"I dare you."

"I'm not taking your money, Dean," Sam huffed in annoyance, but truth be told he was grateful. The idol talk filtering in through the dark grounded him, lighting his way.

"What makes you think you'll take my money, douche bag?" Dean steered Sam a little to the left.

"Stupid. I always take your money."

"Sam. Come on. Bet me. I say twenty."

"Fifty."

Dean gave a low whistle." Oh, Sammy, I get all tingly when you up the ante like that," Dean chuckled.

"Jerk."

"Want to make it an even hundred?"

"Deal."

"Well, what number step?"

"Forty nine."

"Wrong."

"I'm not wrong, Dean."

"Yes, you are."

"You can't count," Sam hissed.

"Don't tell me what I can't do," Dean scolded.

"How you going to prove it. Hike us both all the way back up the steps and count them as we go?"

"Don't have to, bro," Dean chuckled. "We're down"

Sam strained his eyes to see. "Oh, um, oh."

/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They made it as far as the chain link fence.

"Yikes," Dean mumbled, fingers gripping the fence and peering through the rusty links.

Even through the black-ink of night, Dean could see the large lake surf slamming into, and rocketing up and over the break wall. No way they were hobbling across, back to the mainland, where the Impala was parked in any empty lot.

"What?" Sam questioned nervously.

"End of the road," Dean grouched.

Sam pulled away from Dean, and turned, leaning into the high steel enclosure for support instead. "You mean we're stuck here all night?" He gripped his injured arm and held it close to his chest.

"San, I'm awesome, but even yours truly wouldn't be able to make it back across those rocks without hanging ten, and your in no shape to Moondoggie paddle across."

Sam snorted. "You mean to tell me 'yours truly can't fly us across?"

"You're in no shape to fly, Sam, back inside."

"Great." Sam pushed off the fence and stumbled left - the opposite way from the lighthouse.

Dean gave a shrill whistle, "Sam." He snatched his brother by an elbow. "This way."

"This sucks." Sam walked slightly hunched over, gripping his injured arm, allowing Dean to take the lead.

"You, me, or both of us taking a header into the cold lake water would suck more," Dean said. "Besides, I have to stitch up your wound and you need sleep."

"I can't…"

"Sleep. I know, and tough titties," Dean said sternly.

Sam's facial expression was unreadable. Dean wasn't sure if the kid was astonished, surprised, scared, or just totally repulsed by the word. What he was sure of was the guilt and grief, slithering around inside his brother was a living flesh and blood creature. Hideous, horrible, burning its way through his gut like a Godzilla-sized jalapeno. He wished he could put Sam under, and surgically remove the monster that was eating Sam alive, from the inside out.

"Look, Sam," Dean continued, "You can't go on like you've been. You're going to get some rest if I have to…"

"Sing Brahms," Sam suggested, recovering from whatever it was he was recovering from.

"Let's not get crazy, man. I'll sing you some Ozzy, Zeppelin, Hey Jude."

"McCartney, you're not."

"True, but you gotta admit, Ozzy and I jam."

/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam sat resting against a cold cement wall, his forehead pressed against bended knee, Dean shuffling quietly by his side.

"Sam?"

"I'm good."

"Not as good as Daisy Duke in short shorts, bending over the hood of the Impala -washing and waxing."

"Reality, Dean."

"Always was overrated," Dean huffed, peeling away the blood soaked towel to reveal his brother's sliced up flesh. Reaching behind him, he dug around in the duffel and pulled out a bottle of Jack.

"You know the drill," Dean warned. "Take a breath."

Sam did as he was told, taking in a small breath of air and holding it.

"All right, here we go." Dean poured the whiskey, rinsing away blood and tiny slivers of glass.

"Damn." Sam jerked a little against the sting of alcohol.

"Steady," Dean murmured.

Sam slowly lifted his head, following the gray-tinged blur - that was Dean - ghosting about him, gathering supplies.

"Think," Sam gritted, "There's something stuck in my arm."

Dean nodded, not that Sam could see as he flushed the wound again. "Glass shards," he said, taking Sam by the hand. "Open up." Dean tugged at Sam's chin.

"What is it?"

"Numbing stuff."

Dean slipped two pills into Sam's mouth, then pushed the whiskey bottle at him. "Take a big swig," he ordered.

"Crap." Sam cursed, wrapping a hand around the bottle.

He lifted the bottle shakily to his lips and downed several extra large swallows, preparing for more pain.

Dean took the bottle back and poured some whiskey over a small Swiss Army pocketknife, then heating the tip with the flame from his Zippo.

Sam knuckle-wiped away the drops of booze that slipped out the side of his mouth, dribbling its way down his chin.

"This is going to hurt," Dean said, "Take in another breath and hold it, Sammy."

Sam nodded, sucking in a very deep breath this time.

"Good boy, hold it a second. Gotta search…" Dean cut off, gritting his teeth against his own nausea as he sliced through meaty-red flesh, blood oozing out and washing down Sam's arm in streams.

Sam blew out the breath he'd been holding "What the hell you…guh," Sam grunted through clenched teeth. "You searching for?" He panted, "B-buried t-treasure?" Sam stiffened, fighting the pain. "Damn it, De…" He sucked in another breath.

"Sorry," Dean whispered not even tempted to take Sam's bait and fall back into his pirate character at the moment. "Bro, there's more than one piece of glass stuck in there. Looks like a lot of torn tissue and I'm about to tear it up some more."

"You, you gotta dig more?" Sam's voice quivered, digging around meant not only removing the foreign matter, but chunks of flesh too.

"No, Sam," Dean huffed. "I'm going to send in a tiny search party of leprechauns to go in and pluck out each sliver, one-by-one, with their Dove soft hands."

"Hysterical, Dean." Sam fidgeted in sheer anticipation of the pain.

"Don't move." Dean patted Sam's chest, hating what he was about to do. "Here we go. I'll take it as easy as I can on you."

Sam tried not to squirm, but all the digging around Dean was doing hurt - a lot. "Can you hurry up and stop pawing at…shit." Sam reached out, tangling trembling fingers into Dean's jacket. "Dee." Sam crumpled against his brother, unable to hold himself up resting his chin on Dean's shoulder.

"Easy, Sam." Dean cupped a hand to the back of Sam's neck and held him a moment in support. "Bro, I said, don't move," he uttered softly.

"Not," Sam grunted, "How can you see what you're doing anyway? Isn't it still dark outside?" Sam looked around, but everything was still dotted black.

"Brought the Coleman lantern." Dean let Sam rest a few more minutes, before inching Sam back against the wall and going back to the wound. "Just try to hang on," Dean whistled low.

Another stab of pain hit Sam hard. "Oooo, crap, watch it," he growled, forcing himself not to move.

"Got a big chunk out."

"Hurray for you," Sam deadpanned, desperate to catch his breath.

"Someone's grumpy." Dean squeezed the surrounding skin, sending something hot and sharp poking through the wound.

"Gah damnit, Dean."

"Easy, pal, another huge piece."

Sam dropped his head back against the wall and swallowed hard. He needed to distract himself. Dean was really trying to be gentle as he'd always been with Sam whenever he was hurt. The ministries reminded him of Jess. She too, always gentle with him. He didn't deserve that.

He thought of the stupid Halloween bar party she'd made him go to. He'd gone as himself - lame. Jess was dressed up like pretty, little nurse fix-me-up. And some nurse she had been. She could always make him feel good inevery way possible. They'd slow danced and kissed a lot that night. It was that night swaying close together in the middle of the dance floor, surrounded by fake ghosts and ghouls, that Sam made the decision. Jess was his life and he'd spend the rest of it with her.

The pain in his shoulder returned, but it was nothing compared to the pain and torture of knowing that dream of normal would never come true - ever.

"I see another, this one's deep," Dean said, remaining calm on the outside.

Sam didn't move, just nodded, whimpering on the inside as warm blood washed down his arm. He closed his eyes, biting into his lip when he immediately saw Jess, burning on the ceiling. Blood dripping from her stomach, mouth open, but the scream would not come.

"Sammy," Dean stopped working on his shoulder. "What's going on?"

Sam didn't react.

"Sam!" Dean said louder tapping his cheek, compelling him to open his eyes.

Sam stared watery-eyed and silent at the fuzzy, painted smudge that was Dean.

Dean bowed his head, looming. "Sammy, I promise," Dean pledged, the rest of the words not needing to be spoken allowed.

Sam smiled, nodding acceptance.

As if the moment didn't exist, Dean went back to Sam's injury. "Ewe gross, took a chunk of skin with that one."

"Thank you so much for that, Dean." Sam grunted, perspiration dripping off the tips of his bangs.

"Almost done." Dean paused, pulling Sam's hair out of his eyes.

The echo of silence was loud between them.

"It's coming back slowly," Sam answered the unspoken question, softly. "I can make out the outline of your dumbass," he chuffed. "Pretty sure it's temporary, shock, like you said."

"Here." Dean wrapped Sam's good hand around the whiskey bottle. "Finish this off."

Sam obliged, sloshing back swallow after swallow.

Dean went back to probing. "Yeah, well if your dumbass would stop being such a babe….ah there it is."

Sam gritted his teeth while Dean pulled out shard after shard. "Okay, think I got them all," he finally said.

"Glad that's over," Sam gritted

"Needle and thread time," Dean said, "You gonna make it through?"

Sam listed to his right. "Think I might go to sleep now."

"That's good, Sam." Dean helped ease him down, pillowing Sam's head on his jacket. "That's real good."

/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam lay spread eagle, pinned against the flat surface of the break wall and staring upward. Enraged orange flames roared above him, spreading to the ends of the earth.

"Gah." He was cold and sick, the deplorable pain deep inside his gut making it's way into his throat.

He tried to sit up, but firm pressure to his chest pushed him back flat.

"Jess," a tiny moan escaped his lips.

"Why, Sam?" Jessica appeared, sprawled across the sky, her cloud-white nightgown red with blood. She stared at Sam, struggling to breathe, gurgling, asking Sam why, then disappearing in an explosion of heat.

"Tell her why, Sam." Dean's voice whispered in his ear.

The orange-flamed sky turned blood-frothed, spewing evil, drop-by-drop to his forehead.

"Dean?" Sam turned his head away, seeing nothing but blackness. "Dean, where are you?" Sam struggled to move, fighting hysteria, but an immeasurable pressure in his chest held him down, like a coffin of death had fallen on him. "Dean," he begged and strained to sit up, to see but his brother was nowhere to be found.

He couldn't blame Dean for bolting. Sam was a giant sponge, always sucking Dean dry. His big brother had stood watch over him his entire life. In motel rooms, backward cabins, diners, on hunts, in the car, on the barstool next to dad.

"Jess died, because you're a freak. Because you lied. Because you made it happen through your freaky psychic crap." Dean's disembodied voice was back. "She is dead. You killed her. You have to live with that the rest of your life. I told you, Sam. Dad warned you. I warned you. Winchesters don't live by normal rulebooks. I told you."

"No, no, no," Sam whimpered, staring back up.

"Sam."

The flames above burned his eyes, but his body felt deathly cold. "Oh, God, Jess."

"Hey!" A hand came to his shoulder and squeezed. "It's okay. It's okay. Sammy. "

"Should have told the truth," Sam choked hard, "Protected you."

"Sam!" His entire body shook.

Sam's eyes shot open, and he pulled himself up to sitting. "What?"

"Sam," Dean said softly, "You were dreaming," Dean sighed, "Again."

Unable to connect dream with reality, Sam shoved back against the wall, wild-eyed and stuttering breathed.

"Hey, hey, it's me." Dean gently took Sam by the shoulders and held him in place, waiting for Sam to realize. "Just a dream, kid."

Sam wanted to throw up, but didn't. Just a dream? For normal people that statement would be true. Normal people were lucky. Sure they often times woke up screaming from their dreams, yet they knew fairly quickly they were unreal. Sam never knew if he was dreaming or if he was awake. His dreams freaked him out, then they'd turn into the real deal, turned into a weapon of death and destruction. Sam rubbed his aching head and squirmed uncomfortably, but Dean didn't let go.

"You were practically unconscious, pal, you back with?"

"Yeah," Sam groaned, his vision swimming all gray and misty. "Gah." Damn his arm burned. He squinted, trying to see the damage. "You done?" he asked when he couldn't.

"You've been out about a half hour," Dean announced wearily, "Took ten more stitches than I thought." Dean bent over, lifting the compress. The wound was open, seeping a slow, steady stream of blood, hot and swollen to the touch. "Hurt much?"

"I…um," Sam cleared his throat, "Little bit."

"Can always count on you to get strung out on a couple extra shots of whiskey and a double dose of pain pills," Dean sighed.

"Dean, you know the good stuff always does that to me."

"Man, you're fragile. Wasn't even the good stuff." Dean stared long and hard at Sam.

Kid hadn't had more than a few hours sleep in weeks because of the nightmares. Dean wished he could strip away all the layers of Sam's bullshit, then his baby brother would have nowhere to hide. Sam would have no choice but to talk to him about his dreams. Maybe if he did, they'd go away, like when they were kids. Once Sam told Dean about a nightmare, he forgot all about it.

Dean had asked Sam umpteen times what he was dreaming about, and umpteen times Sam had quickly come up with some smart- ass, piss-poor response. Lollipops and candy canes, raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, teddy bears and ice cream cakes, sunshine and Applejacks. Anything Sam could think of to powder over what he really was dreaming about; in which Dean's only reply was – "uh-huh."

"So," Dean licked his lips, never one to give up. "Want to tell me?

"Dean, you do realize that's like the umpteenth time you've asked."

"Umpteen and one."

Sam nodded. "Guess that's some sort of record."

"Uh-huh," Dean replied causally.

Sam nodded again, "Guess you deserve some sort of answer."

Sam waited for the usual 'Uh-huh', but when Dean remained silent, he let out a sigh and said, "One minute I was happy," Sam swallowed audibly, "Happy to be back…eh…home. She'd baked me cookies. Left a note saying she missed me, that she," Sam stared down at his hands, "I thought she was in the shower. I thought…" his voice broke. "I thought everything could go back to normal. Figured normal would start the moment she crawled into bed with me and …" Sam shook his head. "I was almost asleep. Took a minute to realize something was dripping from the ceiling. For a second I thought the tenant upstairs had plugged up his toilet again. When I opened my eyes…" Sam struggled not to puke, titling his head back against the wall, blinking and peering upward.

"It's all I see when I close my eyes. Should have known the hand of fate wouldn't allow a Winchester to have something good and decent in his life. Dean, don't," Sam blinked back a tear, "Don't let me…" Sam bit his lip.

Dean glanced away, not wanting to watch the shudders racing through Sam's body. Blood, fire, senseless heartache. Fuck the hand of fate - always shoving them over the edge.

"Ah, Sammy...you have to let this go. You have to sleep."

"Don't." Sam rubbed at his eyes as if particles of dust were making them itch. "Dean, please."

Dean nodded. There was nothing he could do or say. He wished he could piece the remains of Sam's heart back together, but his guilt was a gruesome monster, Sam had leashed and was not going to let loose. He'd have to get creative if he was going to get his baby brother some sleep and a little relief.

Sam shuddered. His heart had stopped when he'd met Jess. Why did it beat on when hers did not? He wasn't going to sleep a wink. If he didn't sleep, he wouldn't have to relive her death. So vivid. So real.

They sat quietly next to each other against the wall. The light of the moon filtered in, mixing with the light of the Coleman sending shadows leaping from spot to spot.

Dean tilted sideways, and pulled his pack closer, digging around until he pulled a velvety purple drawstring pouch.

"Crown Royal, really?" Sam murmured.

"You pack your juice, I pack mine." Dean drew the fat bottle from the pouch and quickly raised his eyes to meet Sam's small bloodshot ones, circles of deep purple pitted beneath. "Sam?"

"What are you doing with a forty dollar bottle of hooch, Dean?"

"Dude, you can se..."

"That's the holy grail of all whiskey." Sam smiled weakly.

"Bro," Dean scolded.

"I can see, still a bit blurry, but I can see." Watery hazel eyes peered at Dean

"Yeah, kinda noticed that," Dean snipped, then whispered, "Thank, God." He twisted off the gold cap, breaking the seal and taking a swig. "Here." He passed the bottle to Sam."

"No, thanks," Sam refused, "Had enough of the cheap stuff before."

"Didn't get you drunk, and you only took a thirty minute catnap."

"I don't want to get drunk, Dean." Sam glanced away. "Or sleep," he said lightly.

Sleep, it wasn't something Dean could force upon his brother, much as he wanted to. Come to think of it, getting Sam drunk wasn't something he could force either. Course, he could slip Sam a mickey, but in remembering the last time he'd gone that route, he'd revved the dude up, not down. Kid was always backward.

There was a simpler time when a warm bottle of milk and a song had easily put Sam down for the night, but Sam obviously wasn't a baby anymore. "Sleep or drink," Dean ordered taking his chances and shoving the bottle more forcefully at his brother. If Sam wasn't going to do one, by all that was fucked-up, he was going to do the other.

"Dean," Sam objected

"Isn't mother's milk but it'll do."

Sam sighed, to exhausted and in pain to argue, "Fine." He swiped the bottle, quickly raising the lip to his, and guzzling the whiskey until he choked. "Happ," he choked harder. "Grrrrrrrr."

"Easy, Sam, drink, not drown."

Took a moment, but when Sam's choking subsided he settled back against the wall, becoming more and more relaxed with each sip.

'That's it." Dean began to chatter, monotonous and repetitive.

In-between Sam's sips and yawns, Dean talked. And talked. And talked some more. Talked about different gages of shower pressure and the all important strength of a hot cup of coffee. Breakfast. The car. The proper way to order pizza, mud wrestling strippers and the female species of leprechaun. When he'd finished rating every flavor of pie here and abroad, Dean started all over again; talking about shower pressure, hot cups of coffee, breakfast, the car, the proper way to order pizza, mud wrestling…

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Dean's idol chatter turned into dull, white noise, causing Sam's head to nod, his eyes to droop, his body to go lax. Or, maybe it wasn't the random babbling, but the golden hooch, all lukewarm and numbing its way through his veins? All of a sudden his mind went blank, and a weird floaty feeling he hadn't felt in ages came over him.

"Can't hardly keep my eyes open," he garbled.

Dean covertly glanced at Sam and waited until the kids' eyes stopped fluttering and his head-bobbing became less and less. Dean angled toward Sam just as the bottle of Crown Royal in his brother's right hand started to gradually slip from his grasp. Dean gently took the bottle from Sam's loosening fingers.

Sam whimpered, then settled, his bobbing head doing a final flop - chin to chest.

Gritting his teeth to hush himself, Dean queitly screwed the cap back on and returned the half-empty Holy Grail to its velvety-purple thrown. He took in a deep breath and held the air inside puffed out cheeks, ever so slowly reaching over to take Sam by the shoulders, taking Sam gently down to his lap.

"Uhhh," Sam mumbled, and squirmed, a few strands of hair falling over his eyes.

Dean softly brushed them away, only stopping when Sam mumbled again, snuggling deeper into Dean's lap he finally fizzled out.

"Shhh," Dean quietly let out the breath he'd been holding, and finished smoothing Sam's hair back. "I'm right here, Sammy, sleep," he barely whispered, settling himself more comfortably against the wall, keeping one hand on Sam's shoulder.

If the kid so much as got a goose bump, Dean would be there. Patting his back in time to the beat of his heart. He'd chase away the nightmares - keeping watch - a port in his brother's storm.

/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Epilogue:

Morning came all too soon.

Dean stood facing the lake, zipper down and watching the sunrise into the raspberry colored sky.

"Hey." Sam came up from behind, lugging both duffle bags. "What you doing?" He dropped Dean's bag near his feet, wincing; even though he'd carried both bags out using his uninjured shoulder the strain hurt.

"What's it look like," Dean said dully, "I'm pissing a river into the lake. Ha!"

Sam nodded. Enough said.

"Nice drool rash on your cheek," Dean chuckled, continuing on with his extra long whiz. "Better?" he asked more seriously.

"Almost," Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, he's eyes were still a bit blurry and stung, not to mention his arm and leg. "In spite of my inability to remember much of anything, could be worse."

"You need me to take your pulse again, dude?"

"I'm good, Dean."

Dean stood in front of Sam. "Yeah, you look grrrrrrreat," Dean grouched, unsmiling.

"You're the one who wanted me to drink," Sam said snootily.

"Numbed your arm, didn't it?"

"And everything else."

"My point. No nightmares," Dean raised a questioning brow, "Right?"

"Dude, I dreamt about mud wrestling, coffee drinking midgets showering all night long, that much I remember."

"Least they weren't mud wrestling, coffee drinking clowns."

"Uh." Sam shivered.

"You got some sleep, didn't you?"

Sam shrugged. "Some."

"Think you can navigate those rocks?"

Sam made an unsure face.

"Man. You do know I'm a deadly, dangerous, panther… Lord of surefootedness. I could carry your ass over the fence and back across Stonehenge."

"I'm fine."

"Bet you twenty-five, you don't make it halfway without puking," Dean chirped.

"Double that, plus the fifty I still owe you for the step bet... you don't make it without falling into a hole." Sam dazedly crouched down, about to cup some lake water in his palm and splash himself awake.

"Rrrgrrr rrm," Dean cleared his throat.

Sam froze, hearing the trickling fountain of Dean's piss still hitting the water.

"Oh, gaw." Sam forwent the golden shower face wash, and stood.

"Ready?" Dean zipped, a smug look on his face.

They made their way up and over the fence and carefully back across the gray-slab bridge, staying silent, the whooshing roar of the emerald lake waves the only sound.

Half-way across, Dean gazed over at Sam. "How you doing, klutz, you're not… ahhhh…" Dean stumbled.

Sam whirled fumbling to grab hold of Dean, but his injured arm and leg slowed him and Dean ended up with his left leg hip-deep in a hole.

"Are you okay, oh deadly and dangerous panther?" Sam couldn't help but laugh.

"Don't forget Lord of surefootedness," Dean growled.

Sam giggled reaching his uninjured hand down offering his help.

Dean stared up at Sam, unmoving and totally pissed.

Sam waggled his fingers in offering.

Dean still refused, his face darkening.

"Dean."

"Got it." Dean slapped Sam's hand away, bracing his hands on the stony edge and pushing himself to standing.

Sam bent down to look at the tattered and torn jeans. "You sure…"

"Shut up." Dean grouched with embarrassment.

Sam shuffled along beside him, his damaged arm close to his side, and limping on one leg.

Dean put a hand to Sam's shoulder the rest of the way across the break wall, surprisingly pleased Sam allowed the action, and even seemed comforted by the brotherly gesture until they reached the end of the jagged walkway.

"Pay up." Sam whirled, holding out a hand.

Dean grudgingly pulled a fifty from his inside jacket pocket. "Happy."

"One hundred, Dean." Sam blew a sweaty lock off the middle of his forehead.

"Getting greedy, brother."

"You're not going to hornswaggle me out of my money, Dean."

"Horn what?"

"Pirate talk for cheat, defraud."

"Fine." Dean reached in his back jeans pocket for…he looked at Sam in shock. "The hell? My wallet's gone."

The end.