When Dean came to, he was surprised to find that he didn't recognize his surroundings. As his brain tried to work out where exactly he was and why, he studied the small room. It was immediately obvious that he was in a hospital, and that realization set off a chain reaction in his mind and everything came flooding back. His first instinct, once he remembered what had happened, was to find Sam, and he jolted upright in the bed. The movement sent sharp bolts of electric pain through his shoulder and he gasped and brought a hand up to press at the source of the pain.

"Damn it, Dean, relax before the doctors have to get back in here and sedate you" Bobby's voice came from the doorway, and Dean snapped his head toward the sound. A sick, sinking feeling washed over him. Bobby should be with Sam. Why wasn't Bobby with Sam? Dean felt dizzy with the question and had no choice but to lay back against his pillow.

Dean intended to ask Bobby where Sam was, if he was okay, why Bobby wasn't with him, but fear tightened his throat until he could hardly breathe, let alone talk. Eventually, he did manage to croak out one word. "Sam?"

"He's still in surgery." Bobby answered immediately, rubbing his eyes as he took a seat in the chair next to Dean's bed. "Doctors don't have any information yet."

The knowledge that Sam was at least alive eased a little bit of the tightness in his chest so he was able to talk, but hearing that Sam was still in surgery did nothing to reassure him of his brother's condition. "How long have I been out?" Dean asked, because, for one, he was annoyed as hell that the doctors even knocked him out in the first place, but more importantly, the answer to that question was directly related to how long Sam had been in surgery.

"'Bout two hours." Bobby answered, watching Dean with a hint of caution that suggested Bobby knew just how well Dean was going to take that news.

"Two hours?" Dean demanded, sitting up once again and ignoring the dizzying effect the movement caused. He pulled off the pads stuck to his chest, and the heart rate monitor next to him went flat and cried out a long, sickening tone. He started tugging at the IV tube going into his arm, but Bobby was suddenly at his side. He grasped Dean's wrist and pulled his hand away.

"Dean, you need to calm down." Bobby's voice was soft, but carried a threatening undertone of authority. It wasn't a request, it was an order.

Dean challenged Bobby with a hard stare, and Bobby started back, his grip tight and unyielding on Dean's wrist. Neither man was willing to back down, and just when Dean thought they might stay like this forever, a nurse burst into the room, shocking them both out of the stare-off.

The nurse, a middle aged woman with black curly hair and far too much makeup, looked bewildered as her eyes darted from Dean to Bobby, back to Dean, and then to the heart rate monitor which, Dean was suddenly aware, was still screeching out it's deafening cry. The nurse went to the machine and unplugged it before confronting Dean.

"What happened?" She asked, and Dean was struck with the childish thought that this woman would never be as good of a nurse as Julia.

"I need to see my brother." Dean demanded, ignoring her question. He knew it was an idle request. Sam was in surgery, and there was no way in hell he was getting into the sterilized surgery room.

Not even a hint of understanding flashed across the nurse's face as she stared dumbly back at Dean. "Your brother?"

Dean was suddenly even more angry, and found himself more than a little annoyed when Bobby cut in and addressed the woman. "He's fine. Could you just give us a minute?"

The woman looked unsure, but huffed and replied, "I'll send in a doctor," before shuffling back out into the hall.

Bobby kept his eyes on Dean until the doctor showed up almost ten minutes later, as if he were expecting Dean to lose it at any minute and try pulling out the IV again. If Dean was being honest with himself though, that scenario wasn't entirely out of the realm of possibilities. Dean stared back, trying and failing to intimidate the older hunter, and the ten minutes passed slowly and without either saying a word.

Finally, the doctor showed up carrying a clipboard and an infuriating look of nonchalance. "Dean Smith?" The man said without looking up from the papers in his hand.

It was a name they reserved for when they wanted to remain truly anonymous. Bobby had probably chosen it, though, because he wasn't sure what names Sam and Dean had identification for, but knew that Smith would be one of them. It was just as well, because Dean was going to get him and Sam out of here the second Sam was stable enough to move.

"Yeah." Dean replied, letting his annoyance show clearly in the tone of his voice.

The doctor did look up at that, but didn't show any more interest than a moment ago when he had entered the room. He gave off the impression that his shift was almost over and he wanted nothing more than to go home and relax with a beer. Or maybe he wasn't supposed to be in at all today, but was called in after multiple shooting victims had shown up in the emergency room. Either way, Dean didn't like him.

"I'm Dr. Rosin. How are you feeling, Dean?" The doctor leaned forward now, watching Dean's eyes carefully as he waited for an answer.

"Peachy." Dean answered, meeting the man's gaze. "Now if you don't mind, Doc, I'd like to get the hell out of this bed so I can see how my brother's doing."

"Ah, yes." Rosin leaned back again and flipped up the first page in his clipboard, scanning the paper underneath. "Sam Smith. Admitted with a gunshot wound to the left lumbar region. It looks like he's still in surgery."

"I know that." Dean scowled, and Bobby shot him a warning glance.

"Well, Mr. Smith." Rosin continued. Either he hadn't heard the hostility in Dean's voice, or he chose to ignore it. "I would suggest taking it easy for a while, but your injuries are not life threatening and I can get the discharge paperwork whenever you're ready."

"Now." Dean said without hesitation, and the first sign of any emotion flickered across the doctors face. Not disapproval or concern for his patient, just a mild curiosity.

"If you insist." Rosin stood and shuffled through the papers once more. "Keep the bandage area dry and leave it on for a couple days. The wound is stitched, but the bandage will help prevent infection. I'll write you a prescription for some antibiotics. Just hang tight while I get the paperwork together."

Dean had to bite his tongue to stop himself from telling the doctor where he could stick his paperwork and antibiotics.

After everything was sorted out on Dean's end, he and Bobby really couldn't do anything except sit in the waiting room, and Dean thought maybe he should have kept his room for a while longer just so they could have had some privacy. The beige, plastic benches of the waiting room were filled with people – one of the perks of a big city hospital – and Dean had to, on a couple occasions, shoo away a stray child who had wandered into his personal space.

Despite the crowd, or maybe because of it, Dean couldn't sit still. He jumped up frequently just to walk down the hall and back, sit back down by Bobby, then repeat the process. Bobby had already talked to the police, explaining that they had all three been home when a robber broke in. Sam and Dean interfered and were both shot before Bobby was able to scare away the robber with a gun of his own and the man ran off into the night. Bobby gave the police Marcus' description, but left out the part about Marcus targeting the boys personally and the fact that he was now laying dead on Bobby's living room floor. The police bought Bobby's story easily – they were the victims after all – and assured him that they would catch the guy. Dean found himself asking Bobby again and again if he had informed the doctors about Sam's pre-existing conditions, even though Bobby swore he had.

"Did you tell them about the poisoning?"

"Yes, Dean."

"Did you tell them about his medicine?"

"Yes, I did."

"Did you tell them about his ribs?"

"For the hundredth time, yes. I told them everything."

Bobby was getting impatient, Dean could tell, but he couldn't bring himself to care too much about Bobby's mood. He just had to be absolutely sure that the doctors knew they had to be careful with Sam. When a doctor finally came into the waiting room a little over an hour later asking for the family of Sam Smith, Dean felt jumpy and off-guard, and he was pretty sure Bobby was ready to punch someone in the face.

"I'm Dean Smith. I'm Sam's brother." Dean informed the man. At least this doctor looked like he maybe cared a little bit about what he was going to say to Dean, though his somber expression didn't exactly help ease Dean's nerves.

"Mr. Smith, I'm Dr. Patrick Naylor."

Dean nodded quickly, urging the doctor to just get on with it already.

"Your brother, Sam, suffered a penetrating injury to his small intestine, caused by the bullet." Naylor explained. "We managed to repair the intestine and stop the bleeding. Sam is in stable condition and is currently resting."

Dean let out the breath he had been holding. "He's okay." He simplified.

"He will make a full recovery, yes." Naylor confirmed. "However, for the next couple of days we need to seriously limit Sam's movement. He's not allowed out of bed. He won't be able to eat anything during those days, and he has a nasogastric tube inserted to keep his stomach empty. Nutrients and pain medication will be given through an IV. After a number of days, Sam will be able to drink clear liquids and over time will be able to resume eating regular foods. This whole process might take anywhere from two days to a week. Even after he is discharged, however, Sam needs to limit his physical activity for a few more days to give his body time to heal."

Dean knew Sam would be bummed about the food thing. He was just getting back to almost-regular food after his previous hospitalization, and the set back would undoubtedly be an annoyance. Something they could get through, though. The limited physical activity, too. Not exactly a step backward, but a hindrance nonetheless. Still, Marcus was dead and Sam was alive. Sam was going to be okay. Now they could take all the time they needed for Sam to recover, and they didn't have to worry any more about Marcus' insane vendetta.

Dean thanked Naylor, and the doctor gave Dean and Bobby the okay to see Sam. Just one at a time, though, and only for a little while. Sam needed his rest. Dean went in first. Sam was awake, but looked tired, pale and, Dean suddenly realized, incredibly skinny. He obviously had been losing weight over the past two months, but this was the first time Dean had really taken in just how thin his brother had become. When this was all over, they were going to have to start a training regimen to get Sam back into shape for hunting. That is, if Sam still wants to hunt. At some point between waking up in that warehouse and now, Dean decided that he wasn't going to hold Sam back from doing his own thing anymore. He wasn't going to push Sam one way or the other. Whatever Sam wanted, he could have. It was his life, after all, and he deserved better than monsters, fast food, and dirty hotel rooms with only his brother for company; even if Dean did hope that Sam would choose hunting in the end. Sam had potential, Dean only had Sam.

"Hey, Sammy" Dean said with a sad smile, and despite how sick Sam looked, how close to death he had come, Sam smiled back.

"Hey, Dean." He replied.

"Doc says you gotta go back to the whole no-food business for a while." Dean said with a sympathetic frown.

Sam nodded. "Yeah, s'okay."

They were silent for a long stretch, then Dean finally spoke. "I'm glad you're okay, Sam, and you know that I... I..."

"Yeah, I know." Sam interrupted, saving his brother from having to say the words out loud. "Me too."

It was the closest they were probably ever going to come to expressing how much they cared for each other. They were, after all, macho hunter-men, and girly feelings weren't part of the job description. Dean nodded and shared a look with Sam, and like always, they both knew exactly what was hidden in the unsaid words. You're my brother, and I love you.


Dean spent a bit more time in Sam's room than he had been allowed, and eventually a nurse had to come in and get him. Afterward, Bobby only popped in for a second to say hi, and then he left, too, so Sam could get some rest.

Bobby went back to his place to deal with Marcus' body and get some sleep. Dean considered going with him, but decided against it in the end. He knew Sam was safe now, but there was still some part of him, the big brother part, that wasn't willing to leave Sam all alone in the hospital. He slept on one of the cold, hard benches of the waiting room with his jacket as a pillow. At some point during the early morning hours, someone covered him with a blanket.

Sam ended up spending only three days in the hospital, which was better than Dean or the doctors had expected. He was healing well enough, though, that they sent him home with orders to stay in bed for at least a couple more days. Dean insisted on a week, just to be safe.

They spent another five weeks at Bobby's after that. Sam was back to eating completely normal food now, though he preferred to stay away from anything spicy; said it gave him heart burn. Dean called him a girl.

They spent most their time getting both of them back into hunting shape. Once they started training, Dean realized how out of shape he had also become while Sam had been hurt. Sam never mentioned anything about going back to school or any other lifestyle that didn't involve hunting, and as much as it pained Dean to even bring it up, he had to let Sam know he had options. Both of them being as stubborn as they are, that conversation had ended with some swearing, a bit of name calling, and a whole lot of yelling, but in the end it was clear that Sam had no intention of quitting hunting. Though Dean would never admit it out loud, he was immensely relieved. He still had Sam.

Eventually, Bobby came across a hunt in Nebraska and mentioned it to them. It was a simple hunt. Just a haunting at an elementary school. A few students had been hurt, but nothing more serious than a couple bruises and a broken arm. It was a perfect job for both of them to get back in it, so they loaded up the Impala. Bobby made them all steak and potatoes that night, and they sat around the kitchen table joking and reminiscing. Sam and Dean spent one more night and took off to Nebraska first thing in the morning. Bobby stood in the doorway and saw them off.

"Keep in touch." He said, pulling Sam into a hug.

"We will." Sam promised.

"You call me if you need anything." The older man insisted, moving on to hug Dean.

"Sure thing, Bobby." Dean replied.

They waved once more to Bobby as they climbed into the Impala.

"Stay out of trouble, ya idjits!" Bobby called, and then they were gone.

As they left Sioux Falls, Dean rolled down the window and turned up the music. As the warm wind blew across his skin and the sounds of AC/DC's Back In Black filled the car, he couldn't help but think of himself as lucky.

Maybe he had been looking at things the wrong way this whole time. Their luck had always seemed bad to him, but with all the things they had faced in their days as hunters – all the evil, demonic, supernatural things whose only interest ever seemed to be to kill them – they were pretty damn lucky. Lucky to be alive, lucky to be in one piece, lucky to have each other. Sure, they ran into a lot of trouble and dealt with a lot of terrible things, but at the end of the day they always ended up alive, together, and headed off to stop more evil; to save more people.

And if either Sam or Dean were left with any scars from this whole ordeal, physical or emotional alike, then it was just another tribute to one more battle fought and won.

END


Thank you guys so, so much. I had so much fun writing this and it's all because of you. There is definitely a very strong possibility that this story will have a sequel some day. After all, Marcus had to have other relatives, right? Someone else to carry out his vendetta? For now though, I have other ideas that I want to work on. I sincerely hope everyone enjoyed this story, and I love you all for reading it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. See you soon.