Preventative Loss

Don't own 'em, just love 'em. Wished ta hell I worked for Kripke.

Sam has his soul back and the boys are hunting again but during a blizzard they get attacked by a creature whose claws inject a powerful truth serum, and cold weather makes the toxins work faster. What secret truths will come forth was they fight to stay warm? Hurt/comfort, Protective Sam, Limp Dean, awesome Bobby.

wWw

Sam's time with the Campbells did teach him something other than what it's like to work for demon scale. He learned to wear protective gear when hunting, something his dad had never taught them. So when he goes with Dean into a hunt for their first Griffith he does so with a bulletproof vest on and Dean as a point of purism does not.

In fact his brother gave him such a load of bull about being a pansy behind the velcro vest that Sam almost didn't fight him on wearing one too.

"You look like friggin' S.W.A.T." Dean scoffed. "Doesn't that slow down your draw when ya need to get atcher gun and how bulky is that to run in anyway?"

"I got used to it," Sam answered, "trained in it and this one actually fits so its not as uncomfortable as the ones we stole in Milwaukee."

"Yeah, I could never get used to that under my shirt, too bulky." Dean retorted as he packed their weapons up.

"If we took the time to get a vest that actually fit you..." Sam continued, "It could cut down on the number and severity of wounds and down time from them AND keep you standing long enough to protect my ass too." he added.

At that Dean paused in his packing, quirked an eyebrow at his brother and gave Sam his turndown smile which meant he'd think about it. "Ok, okay after we finish this I'll consider it, but only if we find one that fits me so I can still do my Nija moves!"

Sam huffed, "Right... your mad skillz at being silent but deadly. I don't think I've seen any vests that come with a butt filter."

Dean smirked, "And I'm sure your tried them allllll on Samatha, I'm surprised you didn't get the pink 'Hello Kitty' one."

Sam just looked at his big brother and sighed. He shook his head and picked up his duffle and said, "I'm serious Dean, we've never fought anything like this and the last people that did had full suits of armor on...and they didn't always win."

Dean picked up his own bag and followed him out, "And I bet they couldn't hardly even move in those things, it's all about being nimble Sam." As he closed the door behind them.

Sam paused a minute at his brothers use of the word 'nimble' but still took the argument out doors, "This thing is going to be a Beast Dean! All the reports confirmed the medieval drawings, standing upwards of seven to nine feet tall, body and claws of a lion, wingspan of twenty some odd feet, the beak of a giant parrot with a crushing capacity of a giant squid!"

"We gotta take pictures afterwards!" Dean smiled at him as he threw his duffle into the trunk and closed the lid, "Pose like one of those big game hunters, my foot on it's head."

Sam's eyes lidded darkly as he turned from his brother to get into the passengers seat and mumbled, "If you even have a foot afterwards," and even quieter, "Or a head."

wWw

As the Impala sped along toward the last sighting Sam took out his phone and called Bobby for any more updates on the Intel that the older hunter had been researching on Griffiths for them.

"Hey, Bobby." Sam said as Bobby picked up. "Anything new?"

"Yeah, I was just gonna call you," Bobby answered as he moved over to the notes he had over on his desk, " I just got a call back from Smithson at preternatural research and..."

Sam smiled and kidded the older man, "Wait, Bobby you're outsourcing?"

Bobby looked at his phone and then growled into the mouth piece, " I ran into some conflicting reports from all the historical texts and thought you boys might want some intel that was a little more up to date than pre Elizabethan ya idjits!"

Sam looked over to Dean with a shocked expression. Dean nodded to him to put the phone out between them so that they could 'conference call' Winchester style. And he heard Bobby shout, "Listen up both of ya!"

"Okay..." the two brothers said in unison.

"The Griffith and Sphinx both come from a line of mythical beasts that test the integrity of the combatant. They're like gate keepers, if they find that you are worthy they give you the information you ask it and you walk away wiser. If they find that you are lacking in some way they tear you to shreds."

Dean spoke up, "So the victims weren't above board enough to live?" giving a nervous glance to his brother.

Bobby sighed heavily into the phone, "It sus's whether or not you are holding back something and if it gets the drift that you are... you're hamburger."

Which prompted Sam to ask, "So how does it know if your honest enough?"

"It doesn't have anything to do with you being honest enough, or in the way you ask the question but more about if you are right minded enough in who you are yourself to be deemed worthy of it's answer."

"What the hell does that mean?" Dean frustratedly barked.

"It means you gotta have a clean slate with who and what you are, be an open book, no lies, no misconceptions, completely 100 percent aware of who you are, and since you're going in as a team, that you're exactly truthful to each other."

"Oh," Sam said softly and he looked at Dean who returned his gaze with his own frown.

"Yeah, I thought so.." Huffed the older hunters voice on the other end.

Dean shook his head and asked, "How would it know if Sam and I had...I mean hadn't had the most honest record between us, what is it some kind of psychic parrot?"

"Well that's the other thing, these things use some kind of toxic truth serum. If it sniffs out that theres a chink in your personal armor it'll claw you to distribute the toxin, even a small scratch and it can deliver a potent dose. Then you start telling it stuff. If it don't like what it hears the feathers really start flyin'."

There was silence as each hunter weighed the risk but Bobby broke stretch of quiet. "Look, ever since your run in with the Siren I know you both have issues..."

Dean started to protest, "We can do..."

"Now shut it!" Bobby barked at them then more quietly said, "You two know that I love you like sons and there is no doubt that the both of you are the best hunters I have ever known but, lets face it considerin' your history, what with Sam being soulless for a year doin' god knows what... you may not, hell, you ARE not the best to send into this.

"But Bobby, that's water over the dam...we're good," Sam argued gesturing between himself and Dean, "we are...we've worked it out and..."

Dean interrupted, "Naw, he's right Sam even on our best days we're still keeping stuff from each other. I didn't tell you everything from my time in hell and you can't or it could kill you."

Sam pursed his lips together in what Dean considered classic bitch face. That look, it was so patented Sammy that it still gave his heart a pinch of relief every time he saw it. Then Dean asked Bobby, "Am I right to guess it doesn't matter how big or small the 'problem' is that it detects it's still considered a fatal flaw?"

"Yeah," sighed Bobby, "No tellin' what it might pick up on, might not even be somethin' important to you or even maybe be somethin' subconscious that you're not even aware of, but it would sense yer secrets and you'd just become meat." Bobby sighed one more time and finished by adding, "it seems to be targeting hunters too, probably for that very reason because they're more than likely got a crap load of secrets that they'd be holdin on to."

"Allrighty then," Dean confirmed, "this one's not ours." And both Bobby and Sam could hear the tone of disappointment in the older Winchesters voice. "So we'll find a place to hole up for the night, looks like the weather's gonna turn nasty anyway and then we'll head back to your place if that's alright... to regroup."

"Sounds like a plan, " Bobby replied then added "Thanks"

"For what?" Dean asked.

"For not stormin' at the thing all pig headed and tryin' ta git yerselves killed, ya idjits!" Bobby yelled back and then broke the connection.

wWw

Dean turned the car around and they started to head back but had only gone a few miles when they noticed the change in the weather. The snow that had been half heartedly spitting down in infrequent flakes was now picking up in intensity. In the dim distance they could see that the highway lights illuminated an actual squall line of swirling white that looked solid as a wall ahead of them on the long straight highway. They were going to be heading into white out conditions.

"Shit lookit that," Dean muttered as he glared through the windshield. The wipers were already failing to keep up with their sweeps. The Impala was forever going to be their vehicle of choice but it handled like a boat even in good weather and was never designed to be road worthy under blizzard conditions, "Hey didn't we pass a motel not too far from here?"

Sam sat frozen for a moment looking at the white mass they were heading into, "Uh...Yeah" He shuffled the map that he'd just consulted, five miles on our... left... now. It won't be fun but we might make it if we slow down to a crawl."

"I don't care if we slow down to walking speed as long as we get there without bangin' her up." And Dean adjusted his grip even tighter on the wheel as they entered the swirling frenzy of flakes.

The wind buffeted them, and suddenly there was no visibility.

"Christ, I can't even see the side of the road!" Dean exclaimed.

"What if we just pull over a bit and wait till it blows past us?" Sam offered.

"Are you crazy?" Dean yelled, "We'd be sittin' ducks, anything coming up behind us wouldn't see us until they plowed into us!" And the image of one of those behemoth snowplow trucks that the midwest is famous for suddenly crashing into his baby made Dean momentarily queasy.

"Ok, calm down Dean, why don't you just pull off the road completely?" suggested Sam.

"I can't see the SIDE of the road let alone where off is!" Dean yelled back, as he slowed the car down to barely a crawl, "You want me to go over a curb and rip out her undercarriage?"

"Look, I'll see if I can see any better on my side," said Sam, and he pulled a high beam flashlight out of the glove compartment, rolled down his window and pointed the light down by the side of the car to where the curb should be; but it's intense beam only improved the visibility marginally. Finally Dean heard him shout, "There! There's a patch of woods and a soft shoulder-no curb, we can pull off and the trees can shelter us from some of the wind until the worst is over."

Sam shouted directions over the buffeting wind as Dean held his breath steering his baby in a painfully slow crawl off the road. When they figured they'd pulled off far enough so that they could stop, Sam got out to grab a road flare from the trunk to put at the back of their car... just as a precaution. Dean exited on the other side and started to make his way toward Sam. He saw Sam ignite the flare then heard a screech that sounded louder than the scream of the wind and suddenly he felt stabbing pains grip his chest and leg and found himself being lifted up and flying backwards. "Aahhhrrghhhhuh!" he yelled into the muffling wind.

Sam turned toward the sound and saw a huge shape taking Dean airborne and carrying him off deeper into the woods. He could see Dean swinging at the thing and then his brother was dangling backward by just his leg; one vicious claw still holding on to him.

With a burst of adrenaline Sam threw the flare at the dark shape-the flare hit it. It screeched that piercing cry and suddenly the night was filled with light. Sam stood in amazement as he sees that it's the Griffith and he's caught the thing on fire. It rises like a Phoenix into the night lit with flame and a blur of wings. It drops Dean then swings back to swoop down and lash at Sam with enormous claws and suddenly it is gone. The darkness of the night instantly swallows them up and there is nothing but the wind and blinding snow.

Sam's suddenly aware of the stinging pain along his arm from the Griffiths claws. He tries to squint his eyes against the wind driven snow to see where the thing dropped Dean. Nothing. The snow is too thick, 'this must be what a white out is' his fuzzy brain thinks as he shouts his brothers name into the confusing swirls of white that surround him.

"Dean! Dean! DEAN! Talk to me, I can't...see...the snow..."

He plunged toward the darkness were the Griffith once was; and sees a tiny flickering of light from the dropped flare sputtering in the snow. And just beyond that, the fallen dark shape of his brother.

"Dean! Dean!" Sam yelled to be heard above the sound of the wind, he slid on his knees to a halt in front of his brother and finds the shoulder that is closest to him then gently rolls Dean over, face up, to meet his own. He'd placed his hand on his brothers chest as he rolled him over and is surprised by the cloying warmth that instantly grows cold as the wind hits it. He doesn't need to look down to know that his hand is covered in blood. Deans blood...he immediately knows he needs to get him back in the car and to a bed where he can access his wounds.

Sam put his head down so that his ear is brushing his brothers lips. He felt a puff of warmth, Dean is till breathing. And it's not a wet sound, 'good' he thinks there's no puncture through the chest wall. A quick knowledgeable pat down revealed no broken bones but a huge blood soaked tear in his brothers jeans on his upper left thigh told him Dean has other worries.

His stomach rolls as he realizes that the only reason Dean isn't injured worse is because he was standing near the car when the Griffith attacked; the Impala must have protected his lower torso from even worse damage than could have happened from the beast's claws. But right now he has to put pressure on that thigh wound and pray the creature hadn't nicked the Femoral artery. If it did he knows Dean will likely bleed out before he can even get the Impala back on the road again. And as the younger Winchester plows his legs through the deep snow to grab something to staunch the blood he shudders to think of any other damage 'down there'.

Sam found some clean shop rags and a roll of duct tape and quickly made a compression bandage to slow the bleeding from his brothers leg. Then bracing himself against the blustery winds he gently dragged his brother into the back seat of the Impala fished the keys out of his jacket and got into the drivers seat. Snow or not he's got to get Dean to a dry, warm flat surface with running water and light to assess those wounds. And for what seemed like the longest two mile stretch of road Sam fought the blizzard as he headed the car to the nearest motel.

wWw

Getting Dean to the relative safety of the dry motel room was only half the battle. The manager informed him that the power went out and that it could take a day or two for the heat and lights to get back up. If he wanted it he could have a room tonight for half rate and get free extra blankets and a lantern, but a portable heater wouldn't arrive until sometime tomorrow after the road was open. Sam took it and took the offered Lantern to "read by" until the lights went back on.

As soon as Sam got Dean on the bed he set the lantern on the night stand and dialed it's brightness up all the way. The front of Dean's shirt was slick with blood. Sam swallowed and cursed his brothers stubbornness for putting off getting the vest, he could have suffered only a glancing blow if he'd been wearing one right now. 'Gotta get his pants off first and see how bad the damage is' Sam thought as he put his mind back into triage mode. 'Then I'll deal with the chest.'

While his brother was still unconscious Sam popped, unzipped and roughly pulled the bloody jeans down to his siblings knees. What he stared at made him catch is breath. There were four puncture wounds deep in the meat of Dean's left thigh, high up. Really high up.

Living all their lives in close quarters Sam and Dean had no secrets from each other physically, and the younger Winchester knew that his older brother 'dressed' to the left but seeing how close the brutal attack had come to removing all chances of Sam ever becoming an uncle made him blanche. He tore his eyes away from envisioning worse things and noted that the three puncture wounds on Dean's outer thigh and the one deep one on his inner were only oozing blood from them and not, as Sam had feared, pumping great gouts in a steady heartbeat rhythm. Exhaling a great sigh from the breath that he had been holding Sam said between clenched teeth,"Man you are one lucky bastard," because it meant that although the wounds were deep, they missed the arteries and that would buy him time to patch them up.

He then moved on to the chest. The outer coat wasn't torn, just blood stained, 'Dean musta had it open at the time' thought Sam and as gently as he could he peeled that off, inch by inch, of his brother's inert body.

Dean was only a few inches shorter than him but it always surprised Sam how heavy his brother was when he was unconscious. His muscle mass was about the same as his, but Dean's more compact body gave him a power house of explosive energy, and that army of one edge that always seemed to make him heavier than what you'd expect when he's like this... dead weight.

Sam could see now that both shirts were wasted so he just cut them off like they would have done in the ER. He moved quickly into the bathroom and grabbed a small towel running it under the cooling hot water cursing the Winchester luck, 'It won't stay warm much longer with this wind' Sam thought as he wrung the towel out and gently swabbed down Dean's chest and thigh to clear the blood away so he could see the wounds more clearly.

Dean's chest was slashed three times. The top claw mark was the longest. It raked across his chest at an angle. The deepest part ran from just under his black Tat to bisect the nub of his left nipple and ended as a shallow score across his ribs under his armpit. Sam looked where it terminated. It finished through Dean's Hawaii freckle.

That freckle had been named by Sam, as a child, after the fiftieth state because it looked like it to him and he had teased Dean that it meant he was destined to go there. On days of really shitty weather, like this, Dean would kid back that it itched and was telling him it was time to pack up and go, that his freckle's namesake was calling to him. 'And now it was gone. Obliterated, just like other parts of their lives that had been torn away from them because of this dangerous life.' Sam shook his head, 'what the heck,' he thought, 'it's only a freckle... the nipple is gonna itch like a sonofabitch as it heals but those are the least of Dean's problems; I gotta focus.' and something niggled at the back of his brain that maybe there was more going on with him that just worry for Dean's health.

He looked back down at his brother's wounds and accessed that the rest of the slashes across Dean's chest didn't hit any other salient features but were leaking blood just as profusely than his thigh. Thankfully none of the creatures claws ventured to his lower abdomen so Sam was spared having to look at the ravages he'd witnessed on his brother that night in New Harmony.

Sam shuddered at that memory and shook his head, 'focus!' he demanded of himself. And he set about to clean Dean's wounds out with holy water and then stitch them up as best he could in the dim light of the borrowed lantern. When the stitching was done Sam untied and removed his brothers boots and finished pulling the destroyed pants and boxers off and tossed them in the pile with the ruined shirts. Then he taped over the stitched wounds with gauze.

Dean roused as Sam was just finishing putting the wide gauze tape across the stitches.

"Hey...hey give me a minute to get you covered" and Sam drew the sheet and blankets over his brother to keep him warm and stave off shock.

It seemed to Sam that Dean was struggling to open his eyes and when he spoke his voice sounded mumbled. It took a moment for Sam to realize that Dean's slurred words meant the toxins Bobby had warned them of had infected the wounds and were spreading. Dean stirred and spoke, "You'wer alwaze mine to watch S'mmy, M'responsibilty." Dean murmured, "So sad and serious ya know? Wore me out..." then he started to shiver. The shivering made his teeth chatter so much he couldn't say more and Sam watched him struggle to tighten his jaw to make it stop shaking. The effort gave Dean's face a grimace that Sam worried was caused more by the pain than the strain to keep his chin still.

"Easy Dean," Sam soothed as he gently tucked the blanket around him a bit higher. Once he was assured Dean was secured against the cold creeping into their room he got up and moistened a clean towel to pad down all over his brothers face. Dean stilled a minute then started talking through clenched teeth. "Alwaze hard F'me to think of waze to make you quit it...quit poutin' nd bein' angry at dad or me or how much our life sucked...became a challenge ya know? Jus ta make you smile...lighten th' fuck up..." And Dean exhaled a little huff as he attempted to laugh. "Jesus, you'wer a tough audience!"

Sam could feel emotions collide as he looked down at Dean and felt his own face struggle between worry and relief his brother was still trying to joke. It sucked that he couldn't get Dean to a hospital and proper medical care right now. It sucked that they'd have to spend the night cold and trying to stay warm in a cheap motel with no heat because of the shitty storm. And yet that had always been their life and through it all Dean had always found ways to lighten the darkness around it.

"S'mmy? Sam...mmee? Dean tried to move his hand up to reach out for him but the fresh pain of the stitches stopped the movement halfway up so Sam reached out and grabbed Dean's hand instead. Years ago they had worked out a signal, one tight grip was their way to assure either of them that the other was right here and everything was going to be alright. Dean sighed as Sam gave him that grip and Sam could feel the weight of his brothers thick muscular arm relax at that moment. Dean always insisted he wasn't the touchy feely kind of guy but in an emergency, when either of them was that sick or wounded he proved different.

Sam remembered the many times Dean would sit by his bed or on it whenever he was sick or hurt and place wet towels on his forehead sometimes letting his hand linger when testing for fever and Sam wished his hand would stay. Because having Dean right beside him anchored him. It made the pain diminish and the world shrink down to a manageable size. And he couldn't lie to himself, he liked being the center of Dean's world and when he was injured or in a fowl mood he was just that.

Suddenly he felt a moment of dizziness, chalked it up to the adrenaline drop... then it passed. 'Why am I getting so maudlin?' he thought but he couldn't stop remembering things, like all his life how his brother wouldn't rest until he knew he'd made him a little bit better.' Hell...' he reasoned, 'Dean was a realist, we both knew even he couldn't give me the 'normal' life I craved. But Dean was always there to make what difference he could do- happen. If I got a cut knee, Dean thoroughly inspected it, cussed over it and bandaged it and only then would I see my brothers shoulders relax and visible relief enter his posture.' And then Sam smirked because only after that came part two of his brothers special healing treatment, the teasing, always at Sam's expense. 'God, it used to make me sooo mad. 'bad enough I got hurt but did he havta be a jerk about it?'

'It took me years to realize what was up with that.' he mused. 'The night when one of the first hunts I'd been on had really gone bad and I saw the inside of a hospital for the first time since the day I was born. Dean had been furious like it was my fault on the ride to the ER. But when I'd opened my eyes the next day I caught him cryin' silent tears, quietly as he sat in the chair by M' bed and he was mumbling, "I can't lose you Sammy...I can't take it...if you go...don't go...I can't take that."

It was whispered like a prayer and even as a child Sam knew it was meant to be kept secret.

'How many times had I ever seen dad cry like that? Never...I'd never seen dad cry like that over either of us,' he thought, 'Maybe dad had but he musta shed them in private.'

But it was the first time he'd seen Dean so wrecked by the thought of loss before. Loss of him. And then it had clicked. Dean behaving like a jerk after every time he'd gotten hurt had been... an act. It was the same way he'd seen Dean behave when he needed to face fear, he'd make fun of it, brush it off and go on like it didn't matter. But it was the first time Sammy knew...it did matter... that HE mattered...enough to his brother to behave like that; like his brother was facing the worst thing ever when ever he was hurt.

'And that was the moment I knew...I understood how Dean worked and I locked that fast inside m'heart. I'd keep it a secret... what I knew... wouldn't embarrass him with it...but I'll keep this a secret for Dean forever.' The peace that thought brought him faltered as

a wave of nausea hit Sam and turned his thoughts to more immediate needs as the deep scratches in his arm began to burn. 'Dammit!' He shoulda soaked them in holy water the first thing when he got in there, but looking down at Dean's sweat sheened face and recalling the long line of gauze tape that wrapped his brothers wounds, reminded him he'd been 'busy'.

Dean got wracked by shivers and as the toxins took their toll he began to murmur again as he drifted in and out of consciousness, "S'mmy don't go. 'angerous, git yerself 'urt." Sam watched as Dean swung his head this way and that as if trying to shake free of a bad memory. He stilled and and sighed then turned toward Sam his eyes barely open, "I shouldn't have treated ya like that, watchin ya too close, makin ya feel like I don't trust ya...it's just...just been so hard to let you go. I can't watch and see you walk into danger like that S'mmy..." Dean licked his lips and then huffed. "Reason is... I been doi'n the job most of m'life. Be'in both Mom... and dad too... those times we were alone and I pretended we were camping til dad got back...I tell you...I was scared for us. Scared most days for you... scared to death I got it wrong...did wrong by you. Dean huffed again and cracked his eyes open further, "never tol ya, but... got ta think'n of ya as my own. Like M'son."

Sam's breath hitched and he found himself holding it.

"Knew..." his brother shakily continued, "guess I did 'long time ago, I'd nev'r...you'wer it ya know? And M'so proud of you. I don't know when I stopped seeing you as just M'brother. Too much time invested in yer sorry ass...I guess." And Dean smiled lazily up at him with half lidded eyes.

Sam sat shocked. He didn't deserve that look, that look of devotion and...love. Hell, he didn't deserve Dean's trust if it came to that... not if he knew what Sam felt...what he knew about himself...about how fucked up it was in his own head about how he felt about...his brother... Dean would HATE him.

Sam felt tears welling up in his eyes that matched the ones that brimmed in Dean's. But his were caused for such different reasons that he quickly felt the bile rise from the pit of his stomach and had to look away.

'Dean.' Just the name alone made Sam thoughts regroup themselves... had been doing that to him for years. Before it had been hero worship. Dean was invincible as his big brother. If Sam had ever gotten hurt or teased or one of his moods had gotten too dark Dean had just been there. To chase away the pain, the bullies or even the sadness. 'Nothing could stand for long against the resolute, stubborn devotion of his brother Dean. Nothing.'

It wasn't until he'd turned around sixteen that he noticed hero worship had changed to something else. That was the year he noticed Dean's eyelashes. Really fuckin noticed them. It was a summer day, hot, they were both under the hood of the Impala, elbow deep in grease helping dad work on the carburetor when Dean stepped back to hand dad a tool and the light caught his face just right and made him squint and Sam thought, 'my brother has lashes as thick as a Giraffe's.' Just like that it started and Sam hadn't been able to take his mind off Dean's face ever since.

As soon as he discovered girls he'd measured a woman's attractiveness by how close they matched Dean's features. Suzy Miatlin had been his first kiss, she had eyes like Dean's with lashes just as thick. Margaret D'iego had full lips like his and that had gotten him to second base.

'Why am I thinking this now?' he asked himself then he thought of Jess.

Jess... even Jess...Jess had had the whole package. He felt his face draw down in a mask of grief with remembering the first time they met. She'd been cocky and confident, just like Dean and she had those same thick eyelashes. She'd look at him with those dam eyes and when she parted her lips to talk, his eyes couldn't escape how they were a more feminine version of his brothers, but hers were lip gloss covered and had sought out his to kiss. He hadn't had a chance of holding on to his heart when faced with her magnificent triple threat. And the night they first made it, he realized now how much he'd been fighting to ignore her similarities to his older brother as being the real reasons for what drew him to her in the first place.

Sam shuddered and leapt from the bed causing his brother to moan as the mattress rebounded and he just made it to the bathroom in time before he lost everything.

He splashed water over his face and looked in the mirror and thought 'Dean' and it anchored him and then he had to turn away from the face reflected in the dim bathroom mirror. He fuckin' hated himself for it. He fuckin' hated Dean for making him feel this way, for coloring the way he looked at all women as if to make it to his heart they had to pass some comparison test of how they measured up to his brother. This had been HIS secret. It was something he had to live with every day.

Sam shook his head. 'No, it wasn't Dean's fault. This has to be the toxins talking They're magnifying subtle personality problems. Making them bigger than they really are.' He suddenly felt his knees wobble a bit as he moved over to his duffle, brought out a bottle of holy water, rolled up his sleeve and splashed the cleansing water over his arm to flush out the toxins still in his wounds. Then Sam looked back over to were Dean lay on the bed. 'The guy cared, too much but he'd never did anything wrong...he was just always there. He patched me up, body and soul... you can't blame a kid for latching on to that kind of 24/7 kindness as being a template for love if that was all the love he'd ever known growin' up could you?' Sam suddenly got a shiver. He thought again, 'I'm way too fucked up about this.' And he took the rest of the sutures and threaded the needle to close up the wounds on his right arm.

When he was done he glanced over again to Dean who lay shivering on his back... and was struck again by Deans' perfect profile and thought, 'Even in pain the man was beautiful.' And suddenly Sam thought about his brothers bandaged chest and about his ruined nipple and the freckle they'd both named, well he named, and how Dean had gone along with it, how it was now gone forever and how if the thing had grabbed Dean's thigh just an inch or two either way than what it did... he woulda lost him forever too because of some dammed abomination of a creature that shouldn't even exist in this space and time...' and he fought the urge to sob. 'I can't come apart like this! I have to hold it together!' "Fuck!" Sam shouted out loud and walked over to where his brother lay. He bent down and tenderly pulled the coverlet up over him too. 'Gotta to keep him warm. Gotta call Bobby.'

wWw

"bBobby?" Sam couldn't keep the shiver out of his own voice.

"Sam! Where are you? There's a hellava storm roaring across the county you're in..." but Sam cut the older hunter off mid sentence.

"We know...b-believe me and we can't g-go anywhere right n-now." Sam was trying to keep his own chin steady enough to talk.

"You boys alright?" Bobby ask suspecting 'not' would be the answer.

"The Griffith found us...Dean g-got clawed up, w-we hadta hole u-up inna nearest p-place." Sam could feel the cold creeping into their room.

"IS HE ALRIGHT?" Bobby yelled.

"P-patched 'im up, best I could d-do. Seems s-stable. Delirious s-sometimes...m-me too. It t-tagged m-me...not as b-bad." Sam knew he was struggling to get out full sentences but the cold was getting to him.

"Dammit Sam!"

And Sam had to smile a little at the epithet...usually it was 'Dammit Dean!'

"Must be the toxins," Bobby warned him, " they'll make you shiver, talk in delirium, they act like truth serum delivered with a heavy dose of depressants. You'll feel all wobbly and won't be able to stop blabbing or cryin' in your beer."

"d-Dean's the one t-talkin, I'm j-just listen'in." Sam smirked crookedly as he glanced over to his bothers heavily bundled form and was suddenly struck by how helpless Dean looked.

Bobby heard Sam's sharp intake of breath and shaky exhale and ventured to ask, "How're you holding up?"

'S-still standing," Sam replied.

"What's yer ground status?" Bobby demanded.

Sam picked up one of the extra blankets and threw it over his shoulders and began to pace to keep warm; it felt good just to give Bobby the stats, it was helping him focus, "Power's out, g-gettin cold in here. W-we got extra blankets and w-one lantern until the p-power lines get fixed. P-pipes haven't f-froze yet." He answered.

'Well hell..." Bobby groused from his end then added, "You flush out the wounds with holy water?"

"N- not r-right away... only did Dean's when I c-cleaned him up before s-stitching. No t-time to f-flush just n-needed to close them. He g-got it on the chest and b-bad punctures on his thigh.

"And you?" Bobby asked.

"Right arm...n-not bad. B-but I didn't flush it out until a-after...after Dean..."Sam couldn't finish.

Bobby sighed. "So you both got a good dose then..." and Bobby's mind went back to the last time those two tangled with the Siren and had their near fatal heart to heart. "Look you two sit tight, and I mean that literally, you gotta both stay warm. The colder you get the more the depressants will kick in and I don't want to walk in on some Lifetime Channel cry fest when I git there!"

Sam smiled, 'good o'le Bobby', "Yeah, we'll try to keep it upbeat."

Then he heard Bobby's serious tone as the hunter growled at him, "I mean it Sam, treat this like any other survival drill. You're both wounded, under the influence of a mind altering toxin and you're in the middle of a fuckin blizzard with no heat or lights and I'm guessin' dam few provisions!"

'Ulp' Sam did a fast mental inventory of what they had on hand,"We got protein bars...uh, a bar some candy and...and...t-that is it, we didn't get a ch-chance to stop anywhere yet."

He heard a sigh on the other end. "Didja at least have enough medical supplies to patch ya both up?" Bobby dared to ask. And he heard Sam stutter out that they did. It's all gone now but they did.

Sam hung his head as he heard the relief in Bobby's reply, "That's good boy, ya did good. Now hunker down, and go easy on yerselves, it's the toxin's talkin, you remember that."

"I will b-Bobby...thanks."

"I'll be there as quick as I can...and I'll bring the HagenDas."

Sam huffed, "Very F-funny."

And in a softer tone Bobby started to say, "You two stay put...just..."

"We'll be here." Sam assured and gave him the directions to the place.

wWw

As soon as Sam got off the phone a blast of wind hit their room hard enough to make the curtains on the windows stir. The place wasn't very tight against the savage force of the cold that was battering it. And Sam wondered if the salt lines he was going to lay down would even stay in place or get blown away by the intruding gusts. He hated to go back outside but he needed to bring in their gear and their meager supplies for tonight.

Once everything had been brought in from the car he looked around their room to find any way they could keep warm. He looked at the moving curtains and over to his bed and thought maybe if he put his box spring up against the window it would block some of the breeze, 'Nah, enough air will leak in around the sides, that won't do any good.'

And then he had a thought come to mind from a time they had gone camping as kids. They had shared a pup tent, one that they both barely fit in, Dean had been too old for it and had to squeeze himself into a tight fetal position that left barely enough room for Sam with out being jabbed by his brothers knees throughout the night. But there had been a frost that night and they had slept through it without even feeling the cold because they had been crammed in that close.

Sam looked at his bed, then over to the chairs by the kitchenette and had an idea. He could create his own "pup" tent with the mattress and box spring over Dean's bed, and with both of them inside it, blocked from the blowing wind, they just might have a chance to survive no heat without either of them going into shock from their wounds.

He listened to the whine of the wind howling out doors, then giving a deep sigh, shrugged his shoulders and grabbed his coat so he could trudge back out again into the swirling snow to get somethings from the car.

wWw

Sam tried to rouse Dean so he wouldn't wake startled but his brother was really out and only stirred a little at the jostling as Sam worked. It took some heavy pushing but Sam was able to move Dean's bed kitty corner so that only one side faced the wind. Then he took the kitchenette chairs and lined them up on either side of the the bed. A few awkward moves later and he had the mattress from his bed sitting on the chairs facing against the wind and propped up at an angle to the box spring. A series of extra long bungee cords from the Impala's trunk anchored the "A" frame structure in place on the chairs and then Sam draped the sheets and coverlet from his bed across the top of the structure so that the material covered the open ends. 'Viola!' he had recreated a pup tent over Dean's bed to shield them from the wind.

Just as he was adjusting the coverlet into place Dean regained consciousness. His first impression was that it was dark where he was and it smelled vaguely of feet then he reached out his hand and hit a padded wall, "S'mmy?"

Sam heard a muffled noise and lifted up the coverlet to reveal a blinking puzzled Dean looking up at him from the bed.

It took Dean a couple of blinks to get himself oriented but as soon as he tried to move he felt the fresh pain of his stitches pull on the wounds. "What...was it?" Dean asked.

"Dean!" Sam said relieved, "The Griffin, it came outta nowhere and grabbed you, tried to take off with you!"

His brother smirked, "Musta been female." But the smile quickly faded as soon as he tried to shift position and his chest and thigh told him it'd be best to lie still. "Didja kill it?"

Sam sighed, "I dunno, I set it on fire with the flare and it dropped you then it took off, I don't know how badly it was..." but Dean interrupted.

"Dude, you saved me from being date raped by a fur coverd chick witha beak," suddenly the pain from the stitches burst through his awareness and he grimaced adding, "and apparently claws."

"Whatda think pain meds now?" Sam asked worriedly.

His brother answered trough clenched teeth, "Yeah, now would be good." Sam dropped the coverlet back down to keep Dean's warmth in the structure and his brother was once again plunged into darkness. "What the hell?" Dean shouted.

Sam rushed back over to the bed and tossed the coverlet back up. Dean was hit with a blast of cold air. And looked up to see the upside down face of his worried brother looking down at him framed in the triangle of the "tent".

He looked around confused and repeated himself, "What the hell Sam?"

Sam told him about the storm knocking out the power, so no lights and no heat until it comes back on.

His older brother quirked a brow at him and said, "So you decided to build a..."fort" in the living room?"

"It's not a fort," said Sam with a little more defensiveness that he really had to, but as he looked over his work again he kinda had to agree, "Well it's kinda like a fort, it's supposed to be a pup tent to block out the cold air, the windows in this place leak like a sieve."

Dean reached up the arm, that hurt the least to move, and ran his hand over the quilted material of the mattress, "Huh, soooooo, you used your bed...where're you gonna sleep?"

Sam frowned at him, "in there with you."

Dean looked down the length of his own body filling up the space inside there and burst out, "There's no room!"

Sam's mouth pinched into a tight pucker and he said, "We'll have to make room because that's the whole point, the tent will keep out the worst of the cold and we make the inside bearable with our shared body heat."

Dean knew that Sam barely fit on his own bed by himself, having to hang and arm or a leg off just to maintain comfort but scrunched in this tight space would make it hugely uncomfortable...for both of them. Then he looked down at his chest and saw the length of gauze that Sam had had to use to cover the stitches he could feel. And that's when he realized he was naked. He became aware of a deep pain in his upper left thigh, very... high up... on his upper left thigh, and understood with a start that his brother had had to do a lot of repair work on him and that much damage must have taken it's toll on Sam too...big time. That thought alone made Dean chill inside more than any draft in their room.

He looked up to Sam and asked, "How bad was it?"

Sam looked back at him and he saw his brother's face do that subtle shift to a forced blank expression, the one he used whenever he tried to shield Dean from really bad news, and then Sam told him in a flat voice, "253 stitches, we're out of sutures and gauze and...hell, we're out of most everything, we'll have to do a restock when we get outta this.

Dean let out a low whistle. "OK...well, in that case I guess I can make some room."

Sam rewarded him with a quick upturn to one side of his mouth, "Thanks, you're so ...generous.

And Dean responded by running his had over the mattress wall again saying, "And you're so...resourceful."

Sam shook his head, "Shut up."

Dean looked around the space again and asked, "ok genius how am I...are we supposed to get outta here to get to the bathroom?"

Sam thought for a moment with frown then said, "Oh."

The younger Winchester had to dismantle half the structure to help get his brother out of the bed so he wouldn't pull out those stitches. As soon as he got one side torn down Dean shifted under the blankets to try to rise. But grimaced and fell back down against the mattress. "Dude, little help?"

Sam made a start to pull back the covers but Dean's hand shot out as fast as it could move without ripping out a stitch and grabbed the blankets edge., "Pants first," he said gritting teeth against the pain. Sam went to Dean's duffle and fished out clean boxers then grabbed a pair of sweats then looked at his brother, "So how do ya wanna do this?"

Dean lay there and asked, "d-Don't suppose preserving M'dignity is still a possibility?"

And Sam grinned and rolled his eyes answering, "That was gone the same night I walked in on you and the Kobiaski twins."

"Natural act Sammy, a beautiful natural act." Dean weakly grinned back.

Sam huffed and said, "Ok, why don't you just lay there and..."

"See you were paying attention..." said Dean wagging his brows at him.

"Dean.."

"Alright, help me up," and Dean reached his arm up for Sam to grab.

"Dean, ya sure? Won't that pull the stitches more?" asked Sam as Dean grabbed his arm.

"Nah, it'd hurt a lot more if I just lay there like a roofied date and tried to help you help me put them on."

"Roofied date?" Sam shook his head.

Dean grinned up at him, then he grimaced again when Sam pulled him all the way up to his feet.

"Ow!"

They both glanced over the expanse of white gauze but no red stain began to seep through.

Sam closed his eyes as he got down on one knee and held one leg of the boxers open wide, "OK, Dean grab my shoulders and then you step into the leg holes one at a time, easy peasy." Sam told him.

"Thanks... uh... averting your eyes?" Dean asked him as he braced his hands on his brothers stooped shoulders.

With his eyes already closed sam grinned, "Way ahead of you on the averted eyes thing" as he felt the weight on his shoulders shift when Dean put first one foot then the other through the boxers legs. Without opening his eyes he asked, "Ready for me to pull them up?"

This time Dean closed his eyes. "Averted and ready." And Sam opened his to slowly slide the boxers up, gently avoiding the taped gauze on his brothers thigh. They repeated the process with the sweats then Sam helped Dean to the bathroom and shouted through the door, " I'm gonna get you one of your flannel shirts."

Dean said, "You're not gonna want us to sit up all night with the flashlight and tell ghost stories are you?"

Sam sighed, but it was a good sign if Dean had enough energy to tease. "Just put it on, it'll keep you warmer and be more comfortable, but keep your socks on though."

A couple minutes later and Dean cursed. "Sonofabitch!"

"Dean! What is it?" Said Sam as he ran up to the door.

"You're gonna halfta help put it on me...the stitches...I can't twist M'arm back enough to get it in the arm hole." replied Dean in a dejected voice.

"OK...ok...no problem" Sam assured him, "Just open the door when your ready and we can do this."

"Right, ok thanks." said Dean and Sam heard the door handle lock click open.

When Sam gently pushed the door open he saw Dean leaning up against the sink, his right arm was in the flannel shirt but the rest was hanging behind him. He helped Dean put the left arm in the sleeve but the movement caused the stitches to pull and made him hiss out at the pain. "Dammit!" he blurted.

"Sorry Dean," Sam grimaced. "A torso wound, you know you can't move much with out involving those muscles."

"Yeah, yeah..." Dean puffed his cheeks out and held his breath as Sam gently pulled the sleeve up. However, in the process Dean noticed that Sam was favoring his right arm.

"So, when were you gonna tell me you got tagged too?" Dean asked.

Sam ducked his head and then shrugged. "It's not that bad."

"Bullshit!"

"Dean I only had to do fourteen stitches, the rest got patched up by butterfly sutures, I'll be fine in a few days."

Dean hung his head, he could imagine all too clear how hard it must have been for Sam to stitch his own arm up using only his left hand. He was sure the kid did a good job of patching himself up, that wasn't the point, the point was that he'd been down for the count and Sam had had to patch them both up all on his own... and still the kid had the crazy ( and he had to admit somewhat cool idea) of creating an emergency shelter for them in the middle of their room.

Before Dean could argue anymore Sam changed the subject by holding out one his hoodies to him.

"OH, you've got to be kidding!" Dean said.

"You've got to keep your head warm too Dean, it's gonna get almost as cold in here as outside."

Dean huffed but took the outlandishly large garment from him and slowly pulled on the right sleeve letting Sam repeat the process of helping him put on the rest. By the time they were done the stitched wounds really began and Dean felt tired and beat up.

Sam gave him a sad smile and asked, "ready for those meds?"

Dean just nodded his reply. And Sam made them appear.

After he'd downed the pain pills Dean looked over to their disassembled shelter and said, "So how're we gonna do this, you gotta take it apart every time I need to get out, coz I can't crawl over your gigantor body in the middle of the night to take a leak."

Sam answered him by saying, "You wake me and I'll take it apart."

"You're wounded too, how you gonna crawl in and out with that arm of yours?" Dean countered.

They were still standing by the bathroom door way and Sam got this resolute look on his face, he put both arms out and put his hands on either side of the door frame and did three chest presses in front of his brother. "I can still put my weight on it, I think I can manage."

"Ok Hercules, you proved your point, just don't drop the mattress on me while you rebuild the fort."

"It's not a fort."

Dean smirked and painfully made his way back over to the bed. He conceded to letting his brother help him lie back down. And Sam piled the rest of the extra blankets on top of him.

"Do we really need all of these?" Dean said under the pile, "Isn't us being jammed in together gonna put off enough heat in here?" he groused.

"We'll need them...Bobby told me more of the lore while you were...uh... out..."

Dean jumped in by saying, "Good you called him. You didn't worry him didja?"

"Dean you're hurt, we're stuck here with no light no heat and no provisions...so he gave me the intel for surviving the toxins until he could make it over here to help."

"Geez, Sam we coulda held out without drawing him out into the storm." Dean snapped.

"He seemed pretty worried for us, Dean, he explained that the more we could keep warm the less the Griffiths toxins would work on us, it acts like a truth serum and a depressant so if our body temperature begins to drop too low we could..."

"Start spilling out shit like on a 'Jerry Springer' show." Dean summed up.

"Try more like the 'View' " Sam supplied. And a look of horror crossed Dean's face.

A sudden shiver ran over Sam and it wasn't from Dean's expression, by now he'd gotten familiar from his earlier experience to know this was another bout of the toxin's taking over and he told his brother, "d-Dean I don't f-feel so good."

Dean's eyes widened and he tried to shift his arm up and out from under the blankets but the stitches made that movement impossible right now. So he told his brother, "Sam..S'mmy just forget about putting the fort back together right now... just get in and rest a bit will ya, you've ben go'in like gangbusters ever since you got us here...just rest a moment... get yer strength back... ok?"

Sam looked down at Dean and felt a wave of dizziness come over him, "Yeah, I b-better before I fall on you." And he moved carefully over to his duffle and changed into his sweats and hoodie and made it back to the bed slowly by touching the wall and chairs and anything else to steady himself. Easing himself down on the edge of the bed he toed his boots off and crept under the covers just as the room got hit by another blast of cold wind.

"d-Dean?"

"Yeah, Sammy?"

"Gonna haveta eventually make the fort...too c-cold not to." He said as he felt his eyes close.

"I know..fer now we just rest okay?"

" 'Kay"

wWw

A few hours later and Sam woke with a start, he heard a moan and felt a body next to him, he was disoriented and his mind scrambled to figure out where he was and how he got here. Then he heard a familiar voice mumble, "Get down S'mmy, don't... let..." And he realized it was Dean was next to him. He tried to move but his right arm was on fire and then he remembered 'We were attacked, Dean's wounded, it's cold...no power...the storm.' And he roused himself to get up and get them both more meds and more water.

He made his way over to the sink by the dim light of the lantern and took his pills then rinsed the glass out and filled it up again for Dean. When he got back to the bed Dean was still murmuring things but so quietly that only his lips were moving and no audible sound was coming out. So he nudged the side of the bed with his knee and said, "Hey Dean wake up an take your next dose." His brother shifted a little in the bed and opened his eyes a crack. "Sam, that you?" he asked.

"Yeah, it's me bro time for more pain meds." Sam's brain was still fuzzy when Dean didn't just sit up he realized the stitches wouldn't let him. "Sorry..sorry Dean here lemme help ya up." and Sam put the water and meds down on the night stand and got behind Dean and gently lifted him into a sitting position, but however gentle he tried to be his brother still hissed as the shift pulled at the wounds. "Sorry...sorry" Sam apologized and Dean just grunted "S' okay" once he was sitting up. Sam passed him the water and meds and Dean drank them down thirstily. "Want more water?" Sam asked.

"Nah, I'll just haveta pee" Dean replied.

Sam rolled his eyes, "Can you hold a sitting position?"

"Yeah...think so."

And Sam gave Dean another glass to drink down telling him, "It's more important to flush the toxins out than disturb me to get up and pee."

"Then you have another too, you've got to flush out yours too." Dean insisted.

"Ok..." Said Sam and made a big show of downing another in front of his brother.

"Hey, you want anything to eat? We got a power bar and some M&M's with peanuts."

Dean thought a moment and said, "let's save the power bar for tomorrow in case we're stuck here another day but I'll take a few of those M&M's."

Sam smirked and shook his head but moved off to get the bag and heard Dean say behind him, "Hey they've got peanuts, they're practically health food!"

Dean saw that that got a smile from Sam as he returned with the handful of nourishment.

As Dean crunched away happily Sam looked over the disarray of the the dismantled pup tent. And told his older brother, "I think I should put this back together again so we can maximize the wind protection."

Dean swallowed and asked, "You sure you're up for it ?"

Another blast of wind puffed the curtains out and they both felt the breeze. Sam turned to his brother and said, "I think I have to."

Dean sighed and asked Sam, "Can ya help ease me back down?"

"Sure thing" and he braced Dean's back and gently lowered him back down on to the bed.

Once Sam had the tent back in place a thought hit him, and going over to the duffle he rummaged around until he came up with a couple of glow sticks, he grabbed some duct tape and poked his head into the tent and fixed them in place over their heads giving the interior a ghostly greenish glow.

"So now you're...decorating?" Dean asked.

Sam huffed at him, "when I pull the coverlet and sheets down over the opening it's gonna be pitch black in here." he answered.

"Soooo...we really are going to sit up all night swapping ghost stories?" Dean teased.

"Only if you want to," Snarked Sam back but he knew that ever since his brother had come back from hell, Dean didn't do well in pitch dark any more.

"Nah, but it does give the fort a nice 'homey' feel to it." Dean smirked.

"Shut up." Sam grumbled as he eased himself in under the covers.

Once Sam was settled Dean let a few moments slip by then he asked him, "So this toxin...it makes you...get all true confessions huh?"

Sam turned his head and saw Dean's profile in the dim greenish light, his brother was staring up at the glow sticks his jaw seemed tight, like he was clenching it and the way his brother was keeping his eyes to the front meant Dean was entering his 'discomfort' zone. And for Dean that meant he was about to 'talk.'

So Sam turned his head back also and faced his eyes up at the glow sticks too before he answered, "Yeah, the cold makes the depressants work faster and I guess the reason the truth comes out is like a psychological response, the mind wants to feel better and telling the truth does that so you say the things that weigh most heavily on your mind."

Dean was silent for a long while and Sam almost thought he was going back to sleep when he spoke up again, "Was I...did I...you know...say anything while I was out ?"

Sam held his breath a moment he didn't want to go there right now, he didn't know how much he should tell Dean about what he'd heard him say... about...how he felt about him being like a son.

"Sammy?" And just the way his brother said his name, part demand part plea, gave him reason enough to let him know.

"Yeah..yeah a little."

"What'd I say?"

Sam sighed, "You told me that the reason you've always been kinda overprotective of me was that you had...you had always had the job of being both dad... and mom I guess to me too...and that...after a while you kinda looked at me more than just a brother...more like I was kinda...like...your son."

Dean was quiet as he let that sink in. He couldn't deny it, hell, it made sense but it was just...unexpected to hear Sammy voice it, then finally he uttered, "Huh."

Sam glanced over to him and Dean shot him a quick sideways look then resumed staring at the glow sticks again.

"I'm ok with that Dean," Sam told him, "Fact is it explains a lot." he said with a soft smile. But in the reflection of his brothers devotion the guilt of his own secret began to tighten up his throat.

Dean finally spoke, "Look I know there were times when I came down on you kinda hard..." he started to explain.

Sam swallowed then answered in a constricted voice,"Water over the dam, bro."

Dean heard the tightness in Sam's voice and turned to see a tear trickle down from the corner of his brothers eye.

"Sam...I never meant to crowd you or keep you from doing anything you wanted, you know that doncha?" he asked softly.

"Dean...you did nothing wrong...ever." and Sam turned to face him and Dean glimpsed the moisture on his cheeks, then Sam quickly turned back and wiped a hand over both eyes.

"Sammy...I'm sorry..." Dean started to apologize.

"NO Dean, don't!" Sam blurted. "You did nothing wrong..."

"But I never meant to hurt you...by being..." Dean sighed trying to find the right words.

"You were... perfect!" Sam bit out, sounding more angry than hurt, even in profile Dean could see the patented bitch face being displayed in the dim light. And that just confused the hell out Dean. If it was his fault that Sam had had to resort to keeping secrets, his fault that they had got this rift between them then dammit to hell he wanted that to end right now. "Don't do this Sammy, don't you shut me out, not now!" Dean demanded.

Sam shook his head, sighed and said softly, "This isn't about...you" Almost like he was giving up, being defeated by...something. Then the light dawned in Dean's head, 'this was about...the toxins!' he realized.

And Dean encouraged softly, "So what is it about?"

It was Sam's turn to be silent. Dean figured he could wait him out. But after a couple minutes passed Dean chanced prodding a response, "Come on, you got a captive audience here...spill it."

"I can't." Came the quiet reply.

"Sammy, you know there isn't a thing you can't tell me."

And Sam turned and looked him in the eyes with something like fear? Regret?

"Come on, you said yourself that the only way to beat these toxins is to say whatever it is that weighs you down the most...so what ever it is... you can tell me ok?" Dean encouraged. And then he heard his brother take in a huge gulp of air and sigh it out slowly.

When Sam spoke he kept his eyes up to the ceiling of their tent, "You...you've always been...like my...I guess kinda like my hero..."

"See? Now was that so bad?" Dean smirked. But his smile halted on his lips as he watched his brother's face crumble.

"I just...I don't..." Sam glanced back at him then shook his head fighting back more tears. "It's more than that...way...way more than that Dean!"

"kay..."

"Don't look at me ok? Just don't..." Sam bit out.

"Okay, S'okay...not looking." and Dean fixed his gaze up on to the glow sticks again and kept his stare rigidly away from Sam..

After a pause Sam continued, "I started to...Geeze this is so hard...to look at you...really look at you...like your... your features... were this perfect example of...beauty.

"ULP!" Dean swallowed

"And I started to get attracted to girls that...sorta had features that reminded me... that had... eyelashes, face shape or lips like... yours...or even the way you acted..." and out of the corner of Dean's eye he could see his brother had put his chin down like he was ashamed, so ashamed of telling him this.

But Sam took another shaky breath and continued, "So pretty much any chick that was extra confidant or gave me a snarky reply and looked vaguely like you and I was...interested. Ya know? It happened often enough that I knew I was a goner man, and I knew it was wrong and I tried to ignore it but...it's like there's this standard in my head...this set of features that have to be there.. or I won't...can't..." Sam huffed his self contempt, "I mean this is way beyond hero worship...and I don't blame you, this is all on me. I gotta be one sick bastard for getting drawn to any chick that reminds me of my big brother."

And that's when Dean heard Sam's ragged intake of breath that sounded more like a sob.

'Shit!' Dean thought in his mind scrambling to find a solution, 'How could I have not known this?' And as he ran through the short list of girls faces that he knew his brother had dated he suddenly lay there stunned. They were all cute girls but he'd never made the connection...until now. 'And yeah it was true! Hell even Jess...'and then he realized 'especially Jess...' and in that moment his heart re-broke for his brothers loss...'shit.'

'Damn their life!' Dean grieved, 'Damn the isolation and close confinement and lack of outside social connections that kept them socially... limited and driven to too much co-dependance. Damn this life that shaped and molded them to what they were now!'

He had always known that if he lost Sam he'd be devastated, but he'd told himself that Sam was better, more well rounded than he was, that was why he'd convinced himself that when he'd gone to hell his brother would eventually be fine...but now he knew...Sam couldn't have, that his brother never had a chance to thrive without him.

And Dean suddenly came to realize in this instant that the same cruel fate that made him look at his little brother as the center of his world had also seeped into all the cracks that he could never cover and protect him from and had worked it's ugly mojo on Sammy too...and made him twisted up inside...maybe different from his form of damage...but just as bad...as him.

"Sam?"

"Dean don't, I don't need your pity...or any...I mean what could you possible say to make me feel...I mean I hate me for feeling...no, for being like this...so I understand if..." And Dean watched Sam's chest heave in a convulsive silent sob. "I guess you pretty much hate me now too?"

There was silence between the brothers for a heart beat then Dean huffed and said softly, "I don't deserve you."

Sam lay tense beside him and then gulped and sunk inside himself and thought 'here it comes, the yelling and the GET OUT!'

But Dean surprised him. "I knew from the moment I first held you and you wrapped your tiny little hand around my thumb that I was the luckiest big brother in the world...but this..." and Dean shook his head slowly back and forth.

Sam turned his head tentatively to look at his brothers face more closely, to seek in his eyes some hope of redemption.

And he saw Dean swallow hard, his brows pinch together as struggled to find the right words. "This is...you're right...way beyond hero worship...you've made me your...gold standard Sammy!"

The look of puzzlement on Sam's face was priceless. But Dean knew he'd have to explain himself better to further convince Sam he had nothing to fear, so he smiled and continued, "I'm not mad... and don't ever think I'd hate you...I'm...what can I say? I guess I'm fuckin' honored that you...I mean geezus, every girl has to look or act like me to get your radar up? That's...awesome!"

Sam looked back at him gobsmacked, not only did Dean not hate him, wasn't repulsed by the whole situation but the jerk considered it a compliment!

"But...Dean?"

"Look, I get it all right?"

Sam looked back at him with a face that said he very much doubted that he did.

"I do..really" Dean assured him. "This is mostly about the toxins talking, I know, but this whole time you've been hating yourself for what? Admiring my naturally superior traits so much that you want to find a gal with some just like them- Am I right?"

Put it that way and Sam felt a wash of relief come over him but he still couldn't hold back the eye-roll.

"Admit it Sam, any chick that looked even half as good as me would be freakin' hot!" And Dean nodded at him in a 'you know I'm right.' head bob.

"Dean..." Sam sighed. "Just...get over yourself."

"Nuh huh, little brother I've got a new mission in life!"

"Don't...just drop it..please?" But Sam said the 'please' with a slight peak of dimple showing and to Dean that meant he was gonna be alright.

"I dunno, Sam, I feel I would be uniquely qualified to pick out your soul mate for you..." and he nudged his brother's arm, the movement hurt his chest like a bitch but it was worth the smile that it caused."

"My luck is you'd find someone with your eating habits instead." Sam teased back.

"All part of the package Sammy" Dean grinned.

And after a few moments of companionable silence Sam softly said, "Jerk."

wWw

They lay in the sheltered warmth of the fort, both of them drifting in and out of sleep until mid afternoon the next day when a series of loud pounding knocks on their door woke them up. "Open up, ya idits, don't make me hafta knock this door down!"

"Bobby!" they both said in unison. Sam shouted, "be right there!" as he struggled to ease himself out of the constructed pup tent without jostling Dean too much or inflicting pain on his own arm.

He reached the door and wrenched it open to suddenly reveal the familiar worried face of the grizzled hunter.

"Hey Bobby." said Sam after he let the man in and closed the door. The older hunter just stood there staring at the construction which filled their living room. A hand poked out of one end and waved, "Hey Bobby, didja bring any food?" Which meant the hand belonged to Dean.

"What in the Sam Hill...?" he asked gesturing to the pile of mattresses.

But just then he saw Sam shiver and stick his hands into the front pocket of his hoodie and Bobby noticed that puffs of breath were visible as the kid spoke, "We...uh..had to build a shelter..."

"Fort." Dean's voice supplied.

"Uh, sorta... cause it got so cold." Sam added.

"Gee, you got that right it's freezin' in here!" Bobby commented. "Look I didn't come all this way to jaw over your survival skills" and he rolled his eyes at the construction again, "or lack there of, I want to check you both out and get us somewhere where it's warm..."

"And there's food!" Dean piped up.

"Well, he seems ok" Bobby groused. "Which arm got tagged?" he nodded at Sam.

Sam pulled the sleeve carefully up to show the stitches. Some redness was still evident and that meant infection had begun to set in.

"You feeling feverish boy?" Bobby asked.

"I dunno, just got up." Sam answered honestly but Bobby noted that he seemed to sway a little bit on his feet.

Bobby walked over to the opening of the 'fort' and peaked in to see Dean lying inside.

"And what's your story?" he asked.

"She was a big fugly beast that didn't like no for an answer." came the soft reply.

"Here, Bobby let me dismantle this," said Sam as he began to unstrap one of the bungee cords.

Bobby put up his hand and said, "Why don't you finda place to sit down and put on your gear cause we're heading out as soon as I look over yer brother."

Sam smile weakly at him and said, "ok sure Bobby thanks." And Bobby dismantled the fort for a better look at Dean while Sam put his boots back on and packed things up.

The older hunter tried to keep his face neutral when unbuttoned Dean's flannel shirt and saw the extent of gauze plastered across the kids chest, "This might hurt a bit," he said as he set about to peel it back to inspect the stitches. The first thing that struck him was how many of them that there were. And the second was how fine and steady they'd been stitched. He glanced over at Sam as the kid moved slowly about gathering up their stuff. "Sam, ya did a good job patching him up." he told him, but he also saw how puffy and red the lines of flesh were and how some areas were beginning to ooze a puss like fluid. They both needed to get antibiotics into them ASAP.

"So, will I live?" Dean snarked up at him.

Sam stopped moving and listened as Bobby replied by saying, "let's see the leg." Bobby helped Dean up and on to his feet then instructed him, "You hold on to yer shorts and I'll drop your pants for a quick looksee."

Sam piped up and said, "It's kinda high."

Bobby stopped... squinted his eyes at him and asked, "how high?"

"Judge fer yourself," said Dean.

And on that ominous note Bobby gingerly pulled the sweats down to the older Winchesters knees. There was no wound visible until Dean pulled the left side of his boxers up.

The whole area where leg attached to trunk was black and blue from the extreme pressure of the beasts grip and the gauze showed starkly white against it. Except were feint stains of blood and a thick yellow fluid seeped through.

Bobby hesitated one moment then peeled the tape back to reveal four deep puncture wounds all puffy, red and oozing pus from infection. The one on Dean's inner thigh was the worst, mostly because of it's location and he instinctively drew back from the sight. They'ed known Bobby nearly all their lives and nothing much made the man pale but... after one look at Dean's close call he gently pressed the tape back, pulled the sweats back up in place and swallowed. Then he looked the young man in the eye and said, "You'll live long enough to put more gray hairs on this old head than I care to think about." He straightened his shoulders then addressed the two of them saying, "But you both need antibiotics, and some food to fight the infections. Sooner we hit the road and get that started the better we'll all feel." He looked at the younger of the two and asked, "Sam ya think you can drive with that arm?"

"Sure, I got us here." he answered.

"Good, you take my truck, it's got four wheel drive and will handle easier in this snow, I'll take the Impala, there's a place about ten miles up the road that I already booked for us, it's got power and a diner and pharmacy adjacent to it."

Dean chimed in, "I call shot gun in the Impala!"

Bobby huffed, "Oh you're in the Impala alright, you're in the back seat lying down."

Dean opened his mouth then saw Bobby's scowl and decided better of it.

"Ok," Bobby said as he clapped his hands together, "lets put this place in our rearview."

wWw

Getting Dean bundled up was a painfully slow process but getting him into the backseat of the Impala and lying him down with minimal stitches torn was even worse.

Sam cleared a path in the deep snow that banked around the car with one of the grave digging shovels from the trunk, while Bobby followed helping Dean as he limped along and then eased him into a sitting position facing him on the back seat.

Dean grimaced in pain but didn't let out a sound.

"Sam, why don't you grab your brothers arms and take the pressure off those stitches by lowering him back down on the seat yourself." Bobby said. "Dean don't help, you let your brother take your full weight. ya here?"

"Yessir," said Dean. He knew the drill it wasn't the first time the back seat of his baby had been used by them as an ambulance.

It still hurt but they moved fast and professionally so it was at least quick. Then there was the issue of securing him. The car's bench seats were ample enough to give either of them better than average comfort on those times they'd had to spend the night in the vehicle. And lying there with the car in motion, putting up with a few bumps along the road was a minor nuisance...but that was if they were well. However, keeping a severely wounded man from sliding off or being shaken as the car negotiated the slippery road was a real concern. They opted for placing their duffles and gear behind the front seat to brace him against the sudden shimmying this ride would likely entail as they made their way to the other motel.

As Sam packed the duffles in tight next to his brother and Dean groused, "Now I know what luggage feels like in a cargo plane."

"Oh, this is just to give you something to hold onto in case Bobby tries to do donuts when we leave the parking lot." Sam teased.

Dean visibly shuddered at the thought, "Not funny Dude." he said.

Sam smirked then said, "Here let me lift you up and put this under..." and the younger Winchester gently placed a folded blanket under his brothers head.

"Thanks Sammy, " said Dean. Sam replied. "Oh and here..." and he took one of the car's other blankets and spread it out over his brother. " Just be glad you can't see Bobby's face in the rear view mirror as he watches me try to drive his truck one handed."

Dean smiled up at him and thought 'good ol' Bobby' then told Sam, "Don't bang it up too bad."

At that Sam laughed and closed the door.

As Bobby slowly drove over the snow packed slippery road it took all of his skill as a driver of vintage cars to keep the Impala from fishtailing too badly. Sam followed in Bobby's truck and had a couple of hold your breath moments as he helplessly watched Bobby struggle for control. Dean managed to offer back seat driving epithets every time he felt her skid. And Bobby clenched the wheel and barked out curses of his own mostly about the road condition, drawbacks of rear wheel drive vehicles and the 'idjits' that own them.

wWw

When they arrived at the Crestview Motel the drill of moving Dean was done in reverse but this time Dean was less steady on his feet. And both Bobby and Sam noticed the change. Bobby had sprung for a master suite which situated him in an ajoining room of his own so that all three of them got to have beds and easy coverage for security. The motel also boasted of a sauna/shower and Bobby was going to see to it that each boy took his turn, for as long as the steam heat lasted, to get rid of the last of the toxins. But first he needed to get those antibiotics into them.

He let Sam bring in their stuff while he took a closer look at Dean's wounds. Bobby had helped him out of the layers of coat, hoodie, shirts and sweats that had kept him warm on the ride over and had the older Winchester propped up in a semi upright position on the bed. "Ok kiddo," Bobby warned, "I'm not gonna lie to you this is gonna hurt but I gotta see how far the infection has spread since earlier." What he was looking for was the dreaded red line that would indicate blood poisoning, a usual consequence in the aftermath of any animal attack.

"Yeah ok" said Dean listlessly. And Bobby didn't like the sound of that, usually Dean would snark back at him growl for growl but now his energy just seemed drained right outta him.

"Alright," Bobby prepped, "I'm going to peel back the gauze on three... one..." And he ripped all three rows off Dean's chest at once.

"AHHHHgee-sonofabitch!" Yelled Dean nearly coming off the bed from the pain. Next Bobby pulled up the side of Dean's boxers and slowly peeled off the gauze from his thigh.

Sam appeared quickly back in their room upon hearing Dean yell and stood beside Bobby as their friend looked down at Dean's thigh and softly said, "Awe hell."

The youngest and oldest hunters could both see that the skin around the dark line of stitches on his chest had puffed up around the thread and was an angry red. But Bobby noted that there was more seepage coming out of the the puncture wounds and the telltale start of a red line was already beginning to form up from the thigh. He reached out his large calloused hand and pressed it on Dean's forehead, "You feelin' feverish boy?"

"j-Just c-cold." Dean stuttered, "If you two have finished pervin' on me I wanna get M'sweats back and get warm. You'd th-think in a s-swanky place like this they c-could turn the heat up."

Bobby and Sam exchanged a glance. It was a comfortable seventy-two in their room, almost too warm but Dean couldn't tell. The toxins were still in his system and on top of that a massive infection was building inside him.

"Boy?" Bobby declared, "You just won the coin toss as to who gets to use the sauna first." He then nodded to Sam, "you think you can muscle him into the shower?"

Sam gave his brother a worried look than turned to Bobby and nodded, "Yeah, I can do that."

"Good." Bobby said, "While he's steaming the toxins out have him wash around the wounds with this antibacterial liquid soap. I'm gonna go over to the all night pharmacy and get you both antibiotics, more pain meds and anything else you need to restock your med kit."

Sam felt weak in the knees himself but Dean was sicker right now and he was suddenly struck with a thought and his eyes began to brim, "Bobby?"

The older hunter was shrugging his jacket back on and about to head out, "Yeah kid?"

"If you hadn't come along...would Dean...?"

The gruff owner of Singer salvage caught the pleading look in the younger Winchester's eyes and it moved him. It moved him to growl right back, "Don't you go foldin' up on me now boy, coz your next in the shower! Damn toxins, I better see that you've got him in there and those wounds have been scrubbed down good when I get back or you'll find out how much of an ass kickin I can still give!"

Sam blinked back the tears and fought hard not to smirk in the face of the man that just saved their lives, good ol' Bobby he knew just what to say when things got tough for them and then he got an idea, "Hey Bobby?"

"Yeah?"

Sam grinned and asked, "Think they got Hagendas?"

"Idjit!" and Bobby turned and slammed the door on his way out.

wWw

"Come on Dean," Sam coaxed, "You know the drill, we gotta get you in the shower and steam clean ya before Bobby gets back."

"Doan wanna" Said Dean his eyes pinched tightly closed from the pain of the bandage being ripped off.

"I know, but ya gotta" And Sam gently grabbed his brothers wrists and began to pull him up in a sitting position.

Dean tugged back, "get off me!"

Sam gripped his wrists tighter saying, "Don't struggle Dean it'll only hurt more!...Dean... com'on Dean...look at me!"

His older brother cracked one eye open and said, "Quit bein' a pain in m..." and looked like he was about to say more when his eye fluttered closed and his face suddenly went slack.

"Whoa Dean...are you with me?" Said the younger man cautiously.

Dean's eyes squinted together as he tried to focus, "which one are you?"

"How many "me's do you see?" asked Sam worriedly.

"Three...each one's prissyer t-than the last." his brother answered.

"Ok...well sorry to gang up on you but it's shower time." Said Sam as he pulled Dean up and put his arm over the broad shoulders to guide him into the bathroom. By now Dean's left leg was practically useless and Sam found him having to almost drag his brother there.

Sam leaned his older sibling against the sink counter and selected the showers temp on steam. The younger Winchester figured that his brother was too unsteady to be standing in the shower by himself, so after promising that Dean could kick his ass later Sam told him, "don't move I'll be right back." and hurriedly got one of the plastic padded chairs from kitchenette and put it in the shower for Dean to sit on.

Dean hadn't moved or made a snarky comment on his brother's geriatric seating arrangement for him and that meant he was even more out of it than Sam feared.

"Ok, Dean," Sam said as he hauled his brother as gently as he could into the shower and sat him down on the chair. Dean's butt connected to the vinyl of the kitchen chair with a soft "plop" sound but he just limply sat there. "Dean...Dean!" Sam tapped his brothers face lightly to get him to focus, "hold on to the grab bars if you get dizzy." But his brother just looked up into his face with a blank expression. Sam's mind spun into overdrive, 'should I trust Dean to wash over the wounds himself and hope he doesn't fall off the chair?'

Dean looked up at him with barely opened eyes and asked, "S'mmy, whymy t-taking a shower onna chair?"

That did it for Sam he ripped off his own clothes and got behind his brother and let the warm steam mist fall over them. Using the squeeze bottle of antibacterial soap he applied a liberal drizzle over Dean's wounds and his own hands and then gently rubbed the soapy foam around the stitches. Dean squinted up at him a few times but other wise sat there placidly as Sam cleansed the wounds. Only once, while Sam was trying to wash out the inner thigh wound did his brother look up at him with a puzzled expression and say, "You're not Inga?"

Sam huffed and replied under his breath, "And you're not my idea of a fun shower date either." As he continued to slather the cleansing foam over the wounds.

He heard the door to their room open and slam shut with Bobby's voice shouting, "I'm back!"

"In here!" Sam yelled. And a few minutes later Bobby poked his head into the steam filled bathroom to see two large forms behind the thick modesty sliders sharing the shower together.

"What the hell?" Bobby shouted.

"Dean can't stand up!" Sam shouted back, " He's really out of it, I don't think he knows where he is so I got him on a chair and I'm scrubbing him down, other wise I think he'd face plant in here and we'd be adding a concussion to his list of injuries." Sam explained.

"Well, that's not good." Bobby muttered. Then he shouted back "I'm gonna make a call then pick up some food, while yer in there don't forget to scrub down that arm of yours too! Give yerselves another five minutes then get him dry and into clean clothes. I want him in bed and a temperature reading done by the time I get back. ETA 40 minutes, is that clear?"

"Crystal" shouted Sam back. And he heard their door open again and slam shut.

Sam's own focus was beginning to wane as he shut the steam shower off and gently nudged Dean to try to stand up. "Com-on man, grab onto the bars and push up, I'll steady ya." Dean nodded and did as he was told but he seemed as if his legs would give out from under him and Sam was forced to carry more of his brothers weight than he expected to as he got Dean up off the chair and out of the shower. "Here hold on to this," Sam told him and put Dean's hand on the sliders bar as he wrapped a towel around himself then around his brother's waist and finally padded them both dry.

Sam then guided the towel clad man back to the bed. As they passed the kitchenette table he noticed the bag of supplies from the pharmacy sitting there where Bobby had left them. He maneuvered his brother past them and sat him down on the edge of the bed, then eased him back down until he was fully reclined. Throughout the whole process his older brother never spoke and it seemed to the younger sibling like he was only half there. Sam folded the coverlet over Dean to keep the chill off him and and made his way over to his own duffle and got dressed.

Once fully clothed he turned his attention onto the bag of supplies on the kitchenette table, he rummaged through it until he found the thermometer and placed it under Dean's lips. Then finding the tube of antibacterial ointment he flipped the coverlet back and began to liberally spread it over the stitches. Before he was done with half of the ones on Dean's chest the thermometer beeped and he took it out and read it. It was 103 degrees and climbing. 'Not good' he thought but returned to the task of spreading the ointment and re-covering the wounds with protective clean gauze.

Only after Dean's wounds were dressed did he tend to himself. As soon as he had taken care of his own wounds he took his own temp and it read 101 degrees. Low grade and manageable but he worried about Dean who lay on the bed with his eyes closed hovering between consciousness and sleep.

He needed to get him dressed and that meant he'd have to move him around some more. "Dude!" Sam approached the head of the bed and lightly touched his brothers shoulder, "you with me?" he asked softly.

Dean kept his eyes closed but mumbled, "S'mmy?"

"Right here man," Sam told him and took him by the hand and squeezed once. "Gotta get you dressed now, the streak party's over."

"Huh, no w-wonder M' s-so cold." his brother stammered.

Sam wrinkled his brow at the renewed shivering, 'was it the toxins still or was this from the infection?' he thought as he moved over to Dean's duffel and gathered up fresh clothes.

"Huh?" Sam thought, 'Apparently Dean only owned two pair of sweats,' then he realized the pair he held seemed kinda long and looked familiar. "Hey...Dude! Sam waved the pants over his brother, "These are mine!" Dean's eyes remained closed and Sam huffed and shook his head.

By now Dean was so out of it that getting him dressed was more of a balancing act. He was able to get Dean up in a standing position but his brother's legs were so wobbly that he nixed the idea of struggling with the boxers and told Dean, "You're going commando bro. okay?"

Dean was more slumped than standing and nodded into his shoulder, "Humph."

Sam got him to lift first one leg then the other to slide the sweats up his legs saying once they were up, "uh...you're welcome and you can keep the sweats."

Dean mumble into the crook of his neck "Kay, gonna lay down now." and Sam barely had time to catch him from sliding down into a heap on the floor.

"Whoa...geeze Dean!" Sam cried out and gripped his brother tight to ease the fall. Dean didn't even make it to his knees before Sam had pulled him up and sat him onto the bed. Grabbing the flannel shirt that lay there he got it on Dean and eased him back down on the bed just as Bobby came back into the room.

"Why is he not in bed?" Bobby barked.

And Sam whirled on him in panic. "Temp's 103, he's practically passed out and I can't tell if it's the toxins that he's shivering from or the infection."

Bobby put the bags of food and other supplies on the kitchenette table and strode over to the bed. He touched Dean's forehead with his hand and drew it back. The kid was hot no doubt about it. He went over to the new supplies that he'd brought in and began to assemble an intravenous kit.

"Where'd you get that?" Sam asked surprised.

By way of an answer Bobby gruffed at him, "Bring that floor lamp over and set it up by the head of Dean's bed," then as Sam was moving the lamp he answered him in a softer voice. "I called in a favor, local guy, said he'd supply me with anything, anytime day or night..." Bobby took off the lampshade and hooked the bag over the finial that topped the bow. "Don't think he expected me to cash it in during a winter storm but he came through." and the older hunter winked at Sam.

Sam didn't want to know all the details as to why Bobby was able to magically produce hospital grade supplies he was just grateful that he could.

"Here," Bobby motioned to Sam, "You git on the other side of the of the bed and roll him toward you. Sam went to the side closest to his bed, grabbed Dean's shoulder and hip and pulled the solid weight of his brother toward him so that he was laying on his side. Bobby rolled the bed clothes back to expose the sheets and then they both eased the still form of the wounded man over until they could get him under all the coverings. Then Bobby inserted the needle into Dean's arm for the drip to begin. The pinch of the needle was what finally roused him.

"b-Bobby?" he asked.

"I'm here boy." the older man said. "Now I'm gonna put you on an antibiotic drip, you got a bad infection from that Griffith and we need to give your immune system a jump start."

"kay." was Dean's soft reply. "b-Bobby?"

"Yeah?"

"You know I loved my d-dad?" Bobby sat down on the edge of Dean's bed and looked up at Sam with concern. Then he looked back down at Dean and said, "Yeah, I do boy and I'm sure he did too." he answered.

"Yeah, yeah he d-did I'm s-sure t-too." Dean softly said then added, "b-but Bobby I s-sure do wish he'da b-been more like you...to me and s-Sammy."

"ULP!" thought the older hunter.

"C-coz we can always c-count on you...an...we know...ya know?" Dean's eye lids fluttered as he tried to focus on the man sitting beside him.

"Know what son?" Bobby coaxed gently.

"th-That we're m-more important to you th-than anything else..." then Dean's eyes fluttered closed.

Bobby turned his brimming eyes to meet Sam's and they both were silent a moment then Sam looked down at the floor and said, "He means that ya know."

The younger Winchester paced around then turned back to the older hunter and told him, " Dad left us on our own so many times to fend for ourselves...times when we really shouldn't have...and it always fell on Dean to see to it we were both alive for when ever he got back...we just...we never had some one we could trust to... come... when we called...not till... you." And Sam looked down to avoid tearing up in front their friend. Then he spoke to the floor softly adding, "Betcha wish you'd bought the Hagendas now huh?"

Bobby huffed and got off the bed to brush something out of his eyes muttering, "Idjits!"

wWw

They took turns watching over Dean as he slept, eating the take out Bobby had picked up from the diner, checking Dean's temp and cleaning his dressings twice. But by four a.m. the next morning, on Bobby's watch, his fever finally broke, the flesh around the stitches seemed less swollen, more bright pink than red and the dressings showed signs of only clear healing fluid seeping. The older hunter declared Dean was on the mend and bent down over the sleeping man and softly told him, "you turned the corner boy, now this old man's gonna catch some shut eye himself." and headed off to bed.

Around eleven that morning Dean began to rouse groggily from his sleep. He looked around the clean open room. 'What happened to the fort?' was his first thought as he tried to make sense of these new surroundings. His second was, 'why am I hooked up to an intravenous drip?" The third was " OW!" when he tried to move and the pain from his stitches kept him in place. He looked over to the long form of his brother sleeping back to to him in the next bed and said, "S'mmy?"

Just that one word from his brothers oh so familiar voice brought Sam fully awake. And he rolled over to look into Dean's puzzled eyes. "Dean! How're ya feeling?" he asked.

"Like I lost a fight to a...Griffith?" he answered.

"Yeah, it was a Griffith," Sam confirmed. "and it tore you up pretty bad. You were out of it for a while with the toxins and the damn thing even gave you blood poisoning."

"Huh, so it wasn't a crazy dream." Dean sighed. Then he shook his head and grinned, "Man, I must have been out of it I even thought you built us a fort in here using our mattresses."

"Uh, actually, that part's real" Sam said with a wry smile. "Only it was at this other place, that had no heat because of the storm."

Then Dean remembered the blizzard and began to panic, "Where's my car!" and tried to sit up "ow-geeze!"

Sam got up and moved over and put his hand on Dean's shoulder to gently keep him in the bed. "It's fine Dean, it's right out side. Bobby drove it over here when we moved you to this place."

"Bobby's here?" Dean asked.

"Yeah, he's got the ajoining room."

Suddenly a door opened just beyond the small sitting area and a familiar voice called out, "Dean?" Then Bobby strode into the room clothed in a long plaid flannel robe that could have passed for any of his usual shirts.

"Hey Bobby!" grinned Dean from the bed.

Sam nodded at the older hunter and said, "Sorry if we woke you."

"Nonsense Sam," smiled the older man and then he turned to Dean and asked, "How you feeling boy?"

"He's worried about his car," Sam smiled shaking his head.

Bobby frowned and looked toward Dean, "And not about nearly gettin yerself taken as a Griffith snack?"

"No offense but my baby IS more car than you're used to," Dean smirked. "And I can't help it if females of every species want to bring me home to meet their folks. Hey, do I smell meatloaf?"

Sam rolled his eyes.

Bobby looked up to the ceiling and grumbled, "Oh, yeah he's back to normal."

wWw

Dean still needed help getting out of bed mostly because of his chest stitches, however, once vertical was able to limp over to the bathroom on his own but he still couldn't put his jeans on by himself.

"Dammit... Sam!" he shouted through the bathroom door.

"What?" asked Sam.

"I can't pull M'pants on over the leg bandage do ya have clean sweat pants I can borrow?"

"You're wearing them." Sam told him.

"Why doncha invest in a few more sweat pants for yerself?" Bobby suggested.

"Yeah right, no self respecting hunter would be caught dead on a job in a friggin' jogging suit!" Dean scoffed.

Bobby responded by growling out, "Well, perhaps now would be a good time to stand down and mend until you can hunt in more fashionable attire-ya idjit!"

Sam nearly blew his sip of coffee out of his nose and barely had time to turn quickly away so that Bobby wouldn't catch the grin that was threatening to emerge. To cover he offered, "Hey, why don't I pick up breakfast?" this paused the discussion long enough for him to shrug into his coat and head out to the diner. They had a celebratory simple breakfast of bacon and eggs, extra greasy just the way Dean liked them but for Sam just seeing his brother sitting upright and joking again made it seem like one of the greatest luxury meals they'd ever had.

Bobby checked out before them but made them promise that they'd follow soon after and meet back at his place by tonight.

As they packed up to go Sam held his hand out and tilted his head toward the car. Dean reluctantly gave the keys over to him saying, "The roads still suck so don't feel like ya gotta make it to the salvage yard in record time." He'd been adamant that he could have driven himself but he ended up dozing in the passenger seat most of the way back. 'Heck,' he found himself thinking as he felt himself doze off, 'I'm just glad to be making the ride back to Bobby's sitting upright instead of horizontal in the back seat.'

Once he was fully healed he made good on his promise of letting Sam take him shopping for a bullet proof, or in their case a creature proof, vest.

However, when they got to the surplus store they discovered that Dean was not an easy fit. With shoulders impossibly broad and his complaining of immobility with all the traditional length vests Sam got him to try on one that he told Dean was a "half vest" (it was really designed for women but Sam figured he'd deal with breaking that news to him later). But it was the only one that Dean liked so they got it.

It rides a little high at the waist, doesn't offer as much kidney protection but the younger Winchester figures Dean's got two of those ...and more importantly only one heart. 'If it comes to that I'll get him a kidney,' Sam resolved, remembering that while he was soulless he learned other less reputable skills for survival with the Campbells too.

Dean will have to train in it to make his moves as fluid as they were without one but Sam can sigh a little in relief knowing that having Dean's vital organs covered against raking claws and piercing teeth will be his best attempt toward preventable loss of his brother for now.

the end

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