Into The Woods

Co-written by sendintheclowns and gidgetgal9

Summary- Dean needs a break from his little brother and Sam needs an activity to call his own. John reluctantly lets his youngest venture on a camping trip that should be safe now that he'd cleared the woods of evil. Or did he?

A/N: Written for the Summer of Sam prompt challenge. Based on pinkphoenix1985's prompt.

Pre-series- teenage Sam manages to get permission from John to go on a school camping trip. An excited Sam is delighted to get to do 'normal' for once. Unfortunately, for Sam, it just so happens to be the year in so many X of years and the season in which the legendary campsite creature/monster comes out of hibernation to hunt for victims.

Into the woods

Without delay,

But careful not

To lose the way.

Into the woods,

Who knows what may

Be lurking on the journey?

Into the woods

To get the thing

That makes it worth

The journeying.

Into the woods- Lyrics to the musical, Into The Woods.

John approached the screen door but before he could touch the handle, Dean flew out of the dilapidated house they were renting. "You're late, Dad!"

Before Dean taken two steps, John roared, "Whoa! Come back here. Where are you going?"

Dean stopped in his tracks and turned around but John didn't miss the way his son's eyes drifted to the watch on his wrist. A new watch. Hmmm.

"I told you last night. I have a date with Amber." Perhaps that explained the new wristwatch. The girls sure did like his oldest boy.

"Uh huh. Where's Sammy?" It was Dean's job to watch over the youngest Winchester when John was busy. He was a bit taken aback when Dean scowled at the mention of his little brother; Dean was protective of Sam-oftentimes overprotective in John's book-so for him to be put out with the kid was really saying something.

His son actually had the gall to roll his eyes at him. "Sam was in our bedroom, pouting. He refused to eat dinner. I'll be back by Midnight."

"Curfew is 11. Where are you going? And why is your brother pouting?" John really didn't feel like dealing with drama but if he had to, he wanted to be forewarned.

"We're going to the movies and then out for pizza. I don't think 11 will give us enough...fine, I'll be home at 11." Dean had changed course as soon as John had crossed his arms. "As for Sam, who knows why he does what he does? The kid is a pain in the ass. Now can I please go?" Dean looked like he was ready to burst out of his own skin, either frustrated at the delay in his departure or with excitement at the prospect of seeing one Amber.

"Sure, Dean. Have fun. And be careful!" John smiled as Dean's fair face blushed a bright pink. Be careful meant both be on the look-out for the supernatural as well as use a condom. He wasn't necessary on board with Dean having sex but he knew better than to try to halt an 18-year-old's libido. Let that be Amber's parents' problem.

Dean slowly backed out of the weed filled driveway but John heard the Impala's wheels squeal as he took the corner too quickly.

John entered the house, ignoring the way the paint was peeling from the exterior. The roof also had a leak in it and his nose twitched at the faint moldy smell. Mary would be very displeased with her boys living in this dump but John did the best he could.

The beer in the refrigerator called to him but he decided he ought to stick his head in the boys' room and check on Sammy first. With just a few steps he found himself in the tiny hallway that led to the two bedrooms. He was sorry his sons couldn't have their own rooms but up until now it hadn't really been a concern; those two were usually thick as thieves despite the age difference.

He peaked in the room and saw Sammy huddled on his bed, legs dangling way above the floor, while he read from the textbook in his lap. His baby was small for his age so he could forgive Dean's tendencies to be protective of him. The kid might be lagging behind on the growth chart but he was smart as a whip. Sometimes too smart for his own good. Raising his oldest son, spending time with him, was easy. Being around Sammy was more like work.

"Hey, Bud. How come you're doing homework on a Friday night? And what's this I hear about you not eating?" Sammy's chin tilted up and he made eye contact with John but it was a very forlorn expression he faced. The tilted hazel eyes were clear of moisture and the skin around them wasn't red which was a good sign; his youngest was a bit more sensitive than John was comfortable with and he sometimes didn't know how to deal with the overt displays of emotion.

The skin tightened around his son's mouth but that was the only sign of distress John saw. "I had other plans but they, ah, fell through. I thought I'd get a jump on my homework instead."

"Did those plans that fell through involve your brother?" Sammy blinked before swallowing audibly. Yahtzee.

It took a moment before his boy wrestled his expression back into a bland blank face. "He had plans with Amber."

The way he emphasized Amber's name told John exactly how his youngest felt about his brother's girlfriend.

"You know, Dean is growing up and it's natural for him to want to spend time with his friends."

"I know. I get it. Really. Dean shouldn't be stuck here with me all of the time. It's just that Amber is a bit of a b..." Sammy hesitated before finishing his thought, "witch." John's lips twitched before he could control them. He was pretty certain Sammy had wanted to use the word rhyming with witch. What wasn't funny was the fact that Sammy thought Dean was stuck with him. He made a mental note to speak with Dean later.

Another thought occurred to John. "Did you by chance mention to your brother what you thought of his girlfriend?"

Chin dropping to his chest, those expressive eyes were quickly hidden from view. "Dean just thinks I'm jealous because he's not spending time with me. I mean, I miss him, sure. But Amber isn't good enough for him."

Some things the brothers were going to have to figure out how to navigate between themselves. Missing dinner was definitely within his providence and if Sammy was ever going to get bigger, he needed to quit skipping meals. "How about you and me throw a frozen pizza in the oven and see what's on TV?"

His son's nose wrinkled at the mention of pizza and John shook his head. He'd never known a kid who passed up fast food and pizza for healthy food. Only Sammy.

"Can I finish this chapter? It should only take me thirty minutes." The enthusiasm wasn't particularly there but he appreciated the effort. He and Sammy didn't get to spend much one-on-one time together and when they did, it usually involved a training exercise. This evening would be good for both of them. Even if John wished he could immerse himself in research instead of sitting on the couch with his son.

"Sounds good, Sammy. I'll throw in the pizza and let you know when it's ready." A partial smile, devoid of dimples, was his response. Parenting sure was a thankless job at times. Of course he'd never imagined he'd be single parenting.

As John moved toward the kitchen, he realized the boy hadn't once corrected him about using the name Sammy. For the last six months the kid had been on a campaign, asked them to call him Sam. It was just so hard. His youngest might have his coloring but he took after Mary more in that he was so slight, almost fragile.

Once he had the oven preheating, he sorted through the stack of papers on the counter. A teacher complaining that Dean was constantly tardy for class. A bill for the mandatory gym clothing John hadn't been able to provide for either son. A permission slip allowing Sammy to go on a school sponsored camping trip.

Normally John would have just filed the permission slip in the circular file but he remembered the look on Sammy's face. Almost like the kid was bordering on depression.

He read the information and realized the camping trip was scheduled for the following weekend at the Franklin Lake Campground, which was smack in the middle of the forest preserve where John had just finished a job. He'd resorted to a little arson to move along a witch-he snickered as he thought of Sammy referring to Dean's girlfriend as a witch-but since he'd done the purifying ritual there had been no more disappearances in the area.

John tapped his chin thoughtfully. Maybe allowing Sammy to go on this trip would work out well for everyone. His youngest could spend time being normal, something he was always angling for, while John would be assured that he was safe. Dean could have a weekend free from watching his brother. John would be able to devote more time to his current case.

Win-win for everyone.

-0-

It was early next morning and Sam found himself packing but not for a hunt, no a camping trip. It was almost seemed like he was living a fantasy instead of reality.

Sam was ecstatic, he had never dreamed his dad would even consider letting him go on the school science club camping trip. He had made some close friends in that club and this would be a great time spending time with people who had similar interests.

In fact, it would be nice to go on a trip in the woods where he wasn't hunting. This way he could enjoy the flora and fauna. The main reason for this trip was identifying plants which at least had some implications for hunting so in that regards his dad was happy with the trip.

He was of coursed drilled on how to protect himself while out on the trip minus his family. Salt would be a must and if he was questioned what he was laying down around his tent, he was to tell the others that it was a type of insect repellent. In fact his dad encouraged him to try and see if the others would let him 'shield them' from the insects.

Sam was fine with all that. It was a pain that he always had to consider the supernatural whereever he went but he did understand why his dad insisted. He had seen all too well what dangers lurked out in the dark.

The fact his dad had spent last weekend ridding the woods of a nasty witch drove home the point that evil was everywhere.

The only downside of the whole trip was how excited Dean was at getting rid of him. Dad had been reluctant, but Dean was high fiving him. Sam wasn't fooled, he knew that Dean's happiness wasn't over Sam getting a bit of normal, but instead was grounded in the fact he could spend time with Amber minus any little brother duties.

They were still in the area because the next town over had a haunted house. Dad had decided that while they were in the area, he might as well take care of it. It would be a straight forward salt and burn, the time consuming part was figuring out which ancient relative was haunting the place. Dad had been content to handle this himself which left Dean with free time.

Free time to spend with that stupid bitch, Amber. She was the queen of the school. The type of girl that normally dated the popular jock, but being in a small town she was drawn to what she considered the dark mysterious bad boy. It made her cool and that was the only reason she was with Dean.

She didn't appreciate Dean for the person he was, just the status he brought her. Sam hated hearing her brag about his brother like some trophy at school.

Sam was brought of his musing by his father's voice. "Sammy, we need to leave in five in order for you to be on time so hurry it up son."

"I'm almost done Dad, be there in a minute."

Sam shoved the last of his stuff into his duffel, smile planted firmly on his face.

-0-

Until recently, the bori had found life simple and pleasing. His part of the woods was kept clear of pesky humans because of the human witch that shared his land. She paid him no mind, and he her, until seven sleeps ago.

A human hunter had dared enter his part of the woods in search of the witch. The bori was relieved that he didn't have to tangle with the human, preferring to feast on the animals of the forest—they brought far less attention and in some ways he would be happy to be rid of the witch.

Only the stupid hunter had burned the land after killing the witch, and thus had burned the bori's home. Nature would reclaim it but in the meantime he would have to live in the ruins. It angered him, but not enough to risk seeking out the hunter beyond the woods. The small spirit sucking creature would have to be content licking his wounds and hoping that the legend of the creepy witch in the woods would continue to keep humans away.

The bori was proud to be a shape shifter of nature, taking almost any form, but his preferred form was that of a serpent. That was his form this morning as he slithered the boundaries of his land checking over the damage the hunter had wrought.

As he neared the edge a scent caught him by surprise—it was a familiar and detested scent. It was the scent of the hunter. The fool had returned to the woods. The temptation to seek the hunter out was great, as was the need for revenge.

The small demon soon found himself out of his safe boundaries and headed for the loathsome human campgrounds. It was there that the hunter's scent was strong. The creature stayed on the edge waiting and watching but he never caught eye of the hated hunter.

No, what was before him was mostly children. His favorite human essence. It had been his preferred feast until his kind became hunted instead of revered. The hunter's scent was attached to one of the young males.

It must be his son. Thought the bori. Poor child, a victim of circumstance because tonight, he would pay for his father's discretion. Tonight the bori would finally feed on a sweet human spirit after years of living off animals.

-0-

Sam was tired but happy. It had been a long day of hiking trails, plant collection and identification and then a camp-side cookout. He had even flirted a bit with Nancy Connors, who he really liked. A good day all around but he was ready for some sleep so that he could enjoy the morning's planned activities.

Placing salt around each tent and explaining that it was a type of insect repellent had gone off without a hitch, and now Sam found himself inside his tent afraid that his excitement over the day would keep sleep away.

He was wrong though, his body was bone tired and soon it was slipping off into the darkness.

Sam felt something slither up him, it was a snake, a large snake. He wanted to scream out but found he had no voice and as he tried to move away, he found himself frozen. Once the snake's head was in his face it smiled somehow and whispered, "I'm sorry child, I will take a more pleasing form."

The next instance, Sam found a beautiful girl with no clothes lying next to him. She was stroking his chest gently. Sam felt himself relax against his will.

"There, there child, such a pure heart but your soul has already been touched by evil. You will make a wonderful sacrifice. Such a strong soul. I feel the need to tell you, this is not your fault. You, my child, are just paying for the sins of your father. For that I'm truly sorry. Know I will cherish our connection and think of it often, even after you are gone. I will continue to flourish in the woods thanks to your gift. Sleep well my child."

Sam awoke with a shudder, feeling chilled down to his bones. It wasn't unusual for him to have night terrors, he'd always been a victim of them but as he learned the truth of his family's business they had increased in frequency. The weird part about this dream had been how vivid it was, how real it had felt.

Not wanting to go back to sleep, he pulled out a book light and a worn copy of Call of The Wild, he needed something to take his mind off of the creepy dream.

-0-

As the campers gathered for a breakfast of granola bars and milk on Sunday, Sam dragged himself to join the others. He was exhausted after his sleepless night.

He still felt a bit of a high from finally doing a normal activity but the fuzziness in his head made it hard to enjoy the morning activities. The night before he had been sad that they wouldn't be staying past mid-morning but now he was thankful.

Sam just hoped that his dad wasn't going to make him train as soon as he got home. He hated to plead being tired, afraid that his dad might hold that against him if he wanted to another school activity.

Once they had finished identifying the plants they had collected, the campers started packing. Sam felt out of breath and like he had been on a five mile run after taking his tent down and packing his gear. He was actually looking forward to napping on the bus ride home, hopefully a nap would leave him feeling rested.

-0-

Dean had surprised himself by actually missing Sam while he was on his little school camping trip. At first he'd been excited—he could spend more time with Amber without always having to know where Sam was—but spending more time with his girlfriend hadn't really turned out like he'd planned.

After doing what Amber wanted to do Friday night (a lame movie and soggy pizza) she had thrown a bit of a fit when Dean had asked her to go to the auto show with him on Saturday night. His girlfriend wanted to go to the party where everyone who was anyone would be making an appearance.

At least if Dean had been on babysitting duty he could've talked Sammy into going with him. Of course he'd made the mistake of saying that out loud and now Amber wasn't speaking to him. Whatever.

Dean had wanted to go to the school to collect Sammy but his dad had asked him to stay behind and clean the weapons. It was his brother's turn to do that but he'd agreed since that would mean he'd be able to hang out with the little spaz. Maybe they could still make the auto show for the monster trucks.

He set down the knife he was sharpening when he heard the truck pull into the driveway. His dad escorted his bedraggled looking little brother into the living room. "Hey, Sammy."

His second surprise of the day came when his brother barely acknowledged him. He got a weak, "Hey," and then his dad was herding the tired camper down to his room.

"Why don't you get cleaned up? That might make you feel better." His dad's voice was commanding but not unkind. The kid didn't argue for once because Dean heard the shower start up.

His dad sat at the table where Dean had been working, scrubbing his hands over his face. "What's going on, Dad? Did Sammy over do it on his big night out?"

"I hate to ask you, son, but could you please stay with Sammy tonight? I think he's coming down with something and I'm supposed to meet a contact. I don't know how long it'll take and I don't really want to leave him by himself."

The concern on his dad's face preempted any snarky comment Dean thought about making. He was bummed that he'd miss the auto show but at least now he had a legitimate excuse to bow out of meeting up with Amber later. Assuming she got over her little snit. "Sure, Dad. No problem."

The shower had stopped and Dean heard the door open. His dad clasped him on the shoulder as he walked by him. "Thanks, Dean. I should be home by 10. I'll leave my cell phone on in case you need to reach me."

Shit. His dad must be worried about Sammy if he was going to leave his cell phone on. Maybe he'd better check on the kid now. Dean poked his head in the bedroom he shared with his brother. Sam was curled up on his side, blankets tugged tightly around him, his back to the door. The fact that the kid was in bed on a Sunday afternoon was concerning. Usually Sammy would be studying or talking about studying or doing something equally geeky.

The front door closed as his dad left for his meeting, leaving Dean in charge again. It didn't rankle this time. "So how was camping with the geek club?"

His brother ignored him which pissed him off. Okay, so maybe Dean had hurt his brother's feelings on Friday but how was he supposed to make things right if Sammy wouldn't talk to him? God, he hated being ignored.

Ignored like he'd been doing to his brother. Crap.

"Listen, I'm sorry about Friday." His brother didn't acknowledge him.

Sam sure knew how to push his buttons. Well Dean wasn't going to stand for it. He approached the bed, tugging on his brother's shoulder, flipping him on to his back. He didn't mean to but he gasped.

The kid was pale, his dark eyebrows and long eyelashes resting on his sharp cheekbones the only color on his face. Even his lips were white.

"Sammy?" Dean shook his sibling again, not liking the way his body jostled on the bed without resistance.

Dean put his fingers on the carotid artery and had to pay attention before he felt the sluggish heartbeat under his fingertips. "D'n?"

Bloodshot hazel eyes blinked up lazily at Dean. Sammy's lethargic reactions weren't inspiring any confidence. "Hey, what's wrong?"

Sammy raised a hand and tried to motion to his head but when he almost smacked himself in the eye, Dean grabbed his hand. The skin was cool and clammy in his grip and his brother didn't try to pull his hand away. "I don't feel good."

"Yeah, I get that. Have you had any pain reliever?" When his brother shook his head no and grimaced, Dean said, "I'll get you something. Be right back."

Dean shot into the kitchen and filled a glass with water before fumbling for some Tylenol. He halved the dose he would take since the kid was a flyweight.

When he returned to the bedroom he felt marginally better that Sammy was still awake. He set down the pill and water while he propped his brother against the headboard. He had to wrap the kid's hand around the glass and guide it to his lips.

This wasn't good. In fact it was very, very wrong. His brother might look fragile but the kid was anything but. He was a fighter. A Winchester.

Sammy drained the water without further assistance and managed to give Dean an exhausted smile when he handed the glass back. No dimples, but the flash of white teeth was mildly reassuring.

"So Geekfest was too much for you to handle?" Dean used a teasing tone but when Sammy didn't respond and the smile faded, he sat down on the edge of the bed. "What's going on, kiddo?"

Frail shoulders lifted and dropped in a half hearted shrug. "It was fun, Dean. We camped out in tents and roasted hotdogs and S'mores over a fire and we collected plants. It was all so…normal. I woke up feeling like crap."

If Sammy wasn't so pale and looking like he was on the verge of passing out, Dean would have laughed. Sure, the S'mores sounded good but tents and plants…not Dean's idea of fun. Although it did sound like normal kid behavior and Sammy was always desperate to feel normal. Dean couldn't understand it himself but his brother deserved some happiness. That he woke up feeling like crap after so much fun wasn't fair.

Dean didn't get a chance to tell his brother that as tremors shook the light frame before him. He settled Sammy back so he was flat on the bed, stripping his own bed of its blanket and piling it on top of the layers. "Why don't you close your eyes and let the Tylenol do its job?"

Once he curled into a tight ball, Sammy's breathing evened out into a pattern that suggested he was fast asleep.

It was probably creepy the way he sat there, on the edge of the bed, watching his brother sleep, but Dean couldn't make himself move away. The last time the kid had been this wrung out had been when the shtriga back at Fort Douglas had gotten a piece of him. They never talked about it, and Sammy didn't remember it, but it was the first time Dean had ignored his duty and he had vowed to himself it would be the last time. He'd been ignoring the kid lately, so much so that their dad had agreed to let him go on this little field trip, so it felt like this was Dean's fault.

Sammy had stopped shivering and seemed to be settling down. Maybe Dean's Sammy sense was misfiring and this was a simple virus and soon his brother would be on the mend, following him around, acting like a cock-block. He smiled at that thought.

Dean rose to his feet, his hand smoothing the covers around Sammy's shoulders, and that's when he noticed it. A complete absence of sound.

His brother wasn't breathing.

Sammy wasn't breathing!

Yanking back the covers, Dean scooped the slim body into his arms. "Sammy!" He jiggled the slight weight in his arms. "Sammy, come on, don't do this."

A choked gasp made Dean light-headed; his brother was fighting to draw in air. It sounded horrible and Dean could feel Sammy's muscles tensing as he strained for oxygen. But it meant he was breathing.

Dean carried Sammy out to the living room, snatching his keys from the counter as he headed outside. He probably should stop for a blanket but right now he had one overriding idea in his head: Get Sammy to the hospital.

He wanted the kid where he could keep an eye on him so Dean deposited him on the passenger seat, drawing him firmly against his side once he slid behind the wheel. Dean kept up a steady patter of meaningless talk while he sped toward the hospital, one part of his brain watching the road while the other made sure Sammy's heart was beating and his lungs were breathing.

Ignoring the sign at the ER entrance that said unattended cars would be towed, Dean rushed to slide Sammy out of the Impala and carry him inside. The woman at the registration desk jumped to her feet, calling out directions, and soon the hands of strangers were tugging his brother out of his arms and settling him on a gurney. At least Dean wasn't barred from the exam room.

"What happened?" Dean didn't appreciate the sharp bark of authority but this was about helping Sammy.

"Sam was on an overnight school camping trip and when he got home this afternoon he said he didn't feel good. He was weak and pale so I gave him a Tylenol. When he started having trouble breathing I brought him here."

"And you are?" The guy in the navy scrubs was flashing a penlight in Sammy's eyes and Dean's heart sped up when the kid submitted to the treatment without flinching. He was either unconscious or didn't have the strength to protest; neither thought set well with Dean.

Remembering he'd been asked a question, Dean replied softly. "His brother. Our dad had a meeting so he asked me to watch Sam."

Something was put on Sammy's fingertip and then the doctor was placing his cold stethoscope on his brother. Dean tried to stay out of the way. He'd call his dad as soon as he knew things in the exam room were stable.

"Sam's oxygen saturation reading is below acceptable levels so we're going to put him on oxygen. I'm ordering a full panel of blood tests so we can figure out what's going on here. We're going to need some information from you and we're also going to need parental consent to treat your brother."

Dean accepted the clipboard someone thrust into his hands. A pretty nurse motioned to a phone at the nurses' station outside and Dean looked at his brother before stepping out of the room.

Sammy looked ridiculously young and vulnerable as he lay on the exam table with an oxygen mask covering half his face. Dean couldn't help but feel that this was somehow his fault.

-0-

John had been an hour out when he got a call from a near panicked Dean. It was John's worse fears confirmed; Sam was more than just a little sick. The troublesome part had been that the doctors were a bit stumped by what was afflicting the youngest Winchester.

They had asked Dean if Sam had fallen on the camping trip or if he had eaten any of the plants or drank water from the lake. Sam had told them no, but in his weakened state they wanted confirmation.

John had used his drive time to the hospital to confirm Sam's statements with the science teacher, Mr. Roberts, who had been in charge of the trip. Mr. Roberts was sure that Sam hadn't fallen and knew that the kid was smart enough not to drink lake water or eat any plants on the trip. The teacher reported back to John, after calling all the other parents, and confirmed that Sam was the only one sick.

This all made unease grow in John's belly. He knew better than anyone that the unexplained usually meant one thing, something supernatural had caused this.

John cursed his stupidity for letting his son traipse through a forest that he had just cleansed of evil. He'd let his confidence that he had resolved the hunt blind him to the fact that he wasn't perfect, something could have been missed.

Maybe the witch's ashes had infected Sam or there was another creature hiding in the woods that he hadn't been aware of. There were many woodland creatures, and while most were harmless as long as you left them alone, many could be deadly and even the harmless could be pushed into cursing someone.

His hour drive was cut almost in half and soon he found himself outside the hospital. The eldest Winchester quickly parked and moved to find his son.

-0-

John was first greeted by a lot of paper work. It seemed that while the doctors had not found anything in Sam's blood or vitals to point to his severe malaise and fatigue, they had ruled out mono but wanted to test for other things.

It was a bit overwhelming and John only heard half of what was explained to him, his overriding need to see Sam causing him to lose patience with the doctor. His gut was telling him that none of the tests would do any good; he needed to talk to his son to get to the bottom of this.

Once John had signed the paper work, he informed the middle-aged, male doctor, Dr. Adams, that Sam's teacher did not think there had been a fall or that his youngest had eaten wild vegetation or drank lake water.

"I know you have lots of questions for me doctor but really, I need to see my boys. I need to speak to Sam," John pleaded.

Dr. Adam's quirked an eyebrow at him. "Mr. Winchester, you do realize that one of the forms you signed gave permission to have Sam intubated. He is struggling for breath and we felt this best. I'm sure a nurse is getting him ready right now so if you want a word, I'd do it now."

John swallowed hard, he knew Sam was bad but until now he had been in denial mode, trying to get on with the 'hunt' for a cure.

"Which room?"

"121, but please try not to work Sam up. He needs to stay calm," the doctor replied in a firm manner.

John nodded briefly and headed to Sam's room.

The sight that greeted him took his breath away. His youngest was as pale as a sheet with an oxygen mask over his face. John could see Sam struggling for each breath.

Dean had a firm grip on his brother's right hand, and when he caught sight of John he let out a sigh that bordered on a sob.

"Dad, thank God you're here," Dean rasped out but then looked quickly at Sam, patting him on his right thigh. "See kiddo, I told you Dad would be here soon."

A nurse entered the room with a cart and John knew he was running out of time and he wanted to scream at how out of control he felt. He wanted to have time to comfort both of his boys and to make everything alright, but he didn't have time to do this gently.

"Excuse me nurse, uh, Miss?" John tried to glimpse a name tag.

"I'm Amy, and I'm here to get Sam ready for the doctor." She gave him a sympathetic smile.

"I just got here and the doctor said I could have a moment with Sam, I need to reassure him before you proceed, okay?"

John hoped he didn't have to be ugly about this but he knew if he didn't get the pertinent information that Sam might have, he'd be clueless as to how to help his youngest.

Amy nodded. "Five minutes is all we can spare, Sam really needs help breathing."

"I'll take what I can get," John replied as she moved to leave the room.

Turning his attention to his sons, he moved towards the bed.

"Dean, has the doctor been in to tell you what needs to be done?" John asked as he placed a reassuring hand on Dean's shoulder.

He could feel his oldest trembling under his touch as he replied. "Yes sir, they want Sam to be intubated to help with his breathing."

John nodded and moved to the other side of Sam's bed, sitting down gently at the side. He took Sam's left hand into his, mindful of the IV line that was in place in Sammy's hand.

"Hey kiddo, this has gotten pretty crazy. But it is going to be okay."

Sam's eyes welled up with unshed tears. He spoke through the mask in a raspy voice. "I'm scared Dad."

John nodded. "I know, but we are going to figure this out. I need you to listen real closely, Sam. Was there anything at all that was weird or out of the ordinary on your camping trip?"

Sam's eyes went wide for a minute and he struggled with a breath.

John gripped his son's hand and used a more commanding voice. "I need you to stay calm Sammy, this is important."

Sam nodded and let blew out a raspy breath.

"That a boy, son. So just think, anything unusual?"

Sam nodded and pulled his right hand from Dean's. He then removed the oxygen mask even as Dean and John began to protest.

"J-Just for a m-minute. P-Please, it's h-hard to talk with it on."

John winced at the reedy quality of his youngest son's voice but nodded.

"I-I uh, h-had a weird..." Sam let out a rough wheezy cough that interrupted him; it took a moment but he was finally able to speak again. "D-Dream, n-nightmare. A b-big snake, couldn't m-move. Changed into a n-naked, uh, I mean w-woman. S-Said...I would make a w-wonderful sacrifice...not my fault... p-paying for the sins of my f-father."

Sam started coughing again and John placed the mask back over Sammy's mouth and then took him into his arms, rubbing soothing circles into his back, willing for his youngest to relax. It seemed like an eternity but slowly, Sam calmed back down. John gently laid him back down.

"You did so good Sammy. Is that all you remember?" John asked gently.

Sam wiped the stray moisture from his eyes and nodded.

John gave him a reassuring smile. "Kiddo, you know I took out a witch last weekend? Well, I might have pissed off another creature in the woods. I'm so sorry that he attacked you but know this, by dusk he will be ash and you will be fine."

Sam seemed to relax at the news.

"Sammy, I hate to leave you, I know the hospital is scary but I'm leaving Dean here to watch out for you while I take this creature down. I promise you will be okay."

John took Sam into another hug and then stood up. "Sammy, I'm gonna talk to Dean just for a quick moment outside, okay?"

Sam blew out a raspy breath and nodded.

-0-

Nurse Amy was moving towards the door just as John and Dean stepped outside.

John moved to block her for a moment. "Amy, as you start your prep, please tell Sam exactly what you are doing. He is the type of kid that does better with all the information than things just being shoved in his face. I think I might have a lead on the cause, but Dean will be in there in a moment to help keep Sam calm."

Amy smiled. "Thanks for the heads up. I'll start with checking vitals so you have a minute or two before things might get more stressful."

John moved out of the way. "Thanks."

Once the nurse was inside John moved close to Dean, talking in a low voice so that others couldn't hear.

"Son, I there are a few creatures that this could be, but I'm certain that Pastor Jim will know. He has dealt with many creatures on his missionary work overseas. I'm gonna give him a quick call to narrow it down. Once I have a confirmation on the creature, I'll gather supplies and head out. I want you to stay with Sammy, and if he starts to deteriorate or there are any changes, please call me. I'll have my phone on vibrate in my pocket. As soon as the creature is toast, I'll call you."

John placed a hand over Dean's right shoulder and squeezed hard. Dean took a large calming breath before nodding in confirmation.

"Yes, sir. I understand."

"Go to take care of Sam. I'll call you as soon as I can." John withdrew his hand and watched Dean quickly disappear into Sam's room.

-0-

A quick call to Jim confirmed John's suspicion. He was after a bori, a creature who originated in Africa. Jim had encountered them during his missionary trip to Africa and five years after, he'd helped Caleb, who had encountered one somewhere in Oregon. John had remembered that hunt for the unusual method used to take it down, music lured the bori out of hiding and iron could kill it.

He was glad the shape shifting serpent creature had stuck in his head because it led to a quick identification of it. Now John just needed to load his gun with iron rounds and to grab his son's boombox.

After hanging up with Jim, he had quickly located the boombox in their rental place. It had a tape inside so John loaded it with new batteries and quickly made his way to his truck.

-0-

Sam's limbs flailed a little as he jerked awake. Dean was leaning over him, eyes large and panicked, speaking with urgency. A low buzzing filled Sam's ears and he couldn't make out what his brother was trying to tell him.

His chest expanded with great effort and Sam let his eyes drift close again. He didn't want to ignore Dean but every bit of strength he had was being channeled into breathing.

Sharp pain flooded his left nostril and Sam tried to yank his head aside but he found he couldn't move.

God, he couldn't breathe.

The sharp pain morphed into short, piercing pulses that made him want to arch his back and scream but he could only lie there while tears leaked from the outside corners of his eyes.

Time passed but Sam didn't have a way of tracking it. A hand was sliding through his hair, a calloused thumb wiping at the moisture trapped at his temples, soft sounds soothing him.

Dean.

His brother was standing watch. Taking care of him.

Sam wanted to say something or even grab Dean's hand and squeeze. Something to let him know Sam was aware he was there.

Instead he slipped into the nothingness of complete exhaustion.

-0-

John still had about three hours left of daylight as he reached the forest. He needed forty five minutes to reach the ruins of the witch's house and then he would prepare to lure the bori out.

It was a quick hike, moved along with the adrenaline rushing through John. Once he was on the outside of the burnt part of the woods where he'd taken the witch down, John set out the boombox.

He rewound the tape in the player to the beginning and then hit play. It was with little surprise when the screeching tones of AC/DC's Highway to Hell started to blare from the little music box. John reluctantly turned the volume all the way up and just hoped, that the bori considered this music, if it didn't work he'd have to rely on the radio part of the boombox.

The music grated at John's nerves a bit. It wasn't that he hated AC/DC per se but like Sammy, he'd just gotten tired of the amount of times his oldest had played the tape! John had all the songs memorized and sometimes they haunted him in his sleep.

As John stood ready with his gun, he found himself in his unease singing along with the screechy vocals.

I'm on a highway to hell

On the highway to hell

Highway to hell

I'm on the highway to hell

He was about to start another verse when he saw a large, mark that very large, snake slithering in the dead burned away grass. It was so tempting to take a shot but John knew from Caleb's accounts, this snake was in a trance but if you missed the shot, he would be pulled from it by the loud noise. Better to wait for the clear shot.

John held his hand gun steady and in a fast moving pace, the snake was soon next to the music box blasting AC/DC. It raised its enormous serpent head and started to sway to the music just like a hypnotized cobra in the movies would.

His hands were sweaty and John knew he had one really good shot at this and he needed to take it soon, before the song ended, because then there would be a pause before then next song and that might give the creature time to act.

Squeezing off a sure shot, John felt major relief as the iron rang true and blew the head off the bori. Its whole body began to sizzle and within a minute there was nothing left but a blackened area on the ground.

John lowered his gun and smiled as he sang the last lyrics of the song that was still blaring.

Highway to hell

I'm on the highway to hell

Highway to hell

And I'm goin' down, all the waa-ay-aay, wohh

M-on the highway to hell

-0-

Dean felt moisture dampening his cheeks but he didn't want to stop touching Sammy, even for a moment, to swipe them dry.

Somehow he felt having that contact meant Sammy couldn't slip away, that Dean was anchoring him here on earth. Keeping him alive.

It had been an absolute nightmare ever since his dad had left. The doctor had opted to perform the intubation through the nasal cavity and Sammy had just about jumped out of his skin. His brother had a high tolerance for pain but Dean could tell by the way he writhed and moaned that this hurt like a bitch. The worst part for Dean was there wasn't anything he could do to make it better for Sammy.

It had taken an hour of trying to sooth Sammy before the kid finally calmed down, and for a moment Dean thought everything would be okay. Then an alarm sounded and medical staff poured into the room, trying to push him out of the way, trying to stabilize his brother.

The nurse, Amy, had taken pity on Dean and allowed him to stay in the room and as soon as they'd done what they could, which was pitiful little, Dean had resumed his watch over the too pale, too silent boy in the bed.

Dean refused to let go of Sammy's hand, digging his phone out of his pocket awkwardly with one hand. He dialed his dad's number but it went straight to voicemail. He didn't bother to leave a message. What could he say? Sammy's dying. Hurry it the hell up!

Even with all of the equipment supporting him it didn't take a genius to see that Sammy was slipping away.

He tugged the chair closer to the bed and clutched at the cold hand in his grasp while he continued to smooth the flyaway hair from the lax face. For the first time in a long time he thought about praying.

The alarm started blaring again and something clenched deep inside Dean's chest. He wasn't ready to say goodbye.

-0-

John had to wait until he was back to the car before he got a good enough signal to call Dean. He found his hands shaky as he tried to dial his oldest, the adrenaline rush dying down, along with his worry over Sam, causing him to crash hard.

As soon as the call connected, John's heart skipped a beat. "Dean, it's dead, how is Sam?"

There was a long pause that scared John to his core. And then after a stuttering breath Dean spoke quietly. "It was close Dad, too close, but he is back with us."

John let out the breath he was holding and it almost sounded like a sob, he felt like sobbing, but he had to keep it together for his oldest.

"Thank God. Dean, I'm still at the Campgrounds but I'll be there as soon as I can."

"Yeah, please just... I know he'd like to see you, it was ..."

"I know and I promise I'll be there, you tell him that okay?"

"Yes sir."

"I'm on my way." John cut the call off and moved quickly to get into his truck.

He felt like he had been through the shredder only moments before, but now he had a mission to get back to his boys who needed him, and that renewed his strength.

-0-

John entered Sam's room quietly, not wanting to disturb his youngest if he was sleeping. The scene that greeted him was very similar to the one from earlier in the day.

Sam was wearing an oxygen mask but at least he was no longer intubated. The kid still looked pale but was breathing easier as he slept. His oldest was sagging a bit and seemed on the verge of sleep until he entered, and then Dean perked up.

"Hey Dean, how is Sammy doing?"

Dean swallowed big and nodded towards his brother. "His vitals are getting back to normal and his breathing is much better, improving each hour. The oxygen mask is there to help him along."

John sighed. "Good."

Dean looked away and sniffed. "He crashed Dad. We were losing him and I couldn't..."

John moved forward as Dean stood and took his oldest into a crushing embrace. He needed the reassurance from Dean as much as his oldest needed it from him.

Once Dean seemed to relax into him, John slowly let go, giving a reassuring smile while squeezing his son's shoulders. He then turned his attention to his youngest, who looked so peaceful now that he was breathing easier.

Part of John knew he shouldn't risk waking his exhausted son, but the need to sit beside Sam and touch him won out. He slowly lowered himself next to Sammy, and ran his fingers through his youngest's bangs.

As he pulled his hand away, there was a fluttering of Sammy's eyes as they slowly opened. John couldn't help but grin like a maniac, so happy that this day was in the win category for them.

Sam pulled at his oxygen masking and John helped him pull it off his face.

"Dad, you killed it?" Sam's voice was very raspy but not near as wheezy.

"Yes, I did. You're description was dead on. Good job kiddo. I'm just sorry I missed it in the first place."

John watched as Sam's face scrunched up in thought before he spoke. "What was it Dad? How did you kill it?"

John chuckled, and smiled proudly at his youngest. Sam was always full of questions, always ready to learn.

"A bori, which is a woodland demon from Africa. Caleb hunted one, do you remember?"

Sam's eyes lit up in recognition. "Yeah, was that the one that you draw out with music?"

John nodded. "That's it, I used the boombox you two drive me crazy with to draw it out and then filled its head with an iron round."

Dean who had been quiet up to this point, chimed in. "What music did you use? It's not like we have classical or crap like that."

John laughed, it was good to have a lighthearted moment now that the danger of the day had faded. "No, I was in such a hurry I just checked to see if it had a tape in it... when I got there I realized that I had AC/DC's Highway to Hell in it."

Sam sat up a bit straighter, thoroughly intrigued despite his fatigue. "Did that work?"

"Oh yeah, the thing slithered out so fast and then was bobbing its head like a cobra to the music before I took it out."

Dean snorted. "That's wicked awesome, I wish I could have seen it."

"That's cool." Sam rasped out and then started to cough. It was a much lighter sounding cough, but it still brought John back to the fact his youngest was still recouping.

"Hey kiddo, let's put that oxygen mask back on and let you get some sleep. My hunting story can certainly keep 'til morning, okay?"

Sam sighed but nodded. "Yeah, okay."

He let John help him get his mask back on but then pulled it away from his face again.

"Dad?"

"Yes kiddo?"

"Could you sneak me in a McDonald's sausage biscuit in the morning? Hospital food sucks."

John chuckled. "Not sure your throat will be up for it but yeah, I can do that."

"Thanks Dad, you know, for everything." Sam replied with a smile before placing the mask back in place and closing his eyes.

John sat there on Sam's bed watching his youngest fall asleep. This one had been a close one and it reminded him why his family could never have normal, not while evil lurked all around them. He did take pride in the fact that both boys were smart and strong, and as a family they would prevail.

End

Sendintheklowns' Note: Due to real life issues, we had a writer drop out of the fic exchange and I jumped at the chance to co-write with my talented pal, Gidget. She's such a blast to work with! Thanks also to our brilliant beta, Floralia; her comments were both humorous and helpful and thoroughly appreciated.

Gidgetgal9's Note: I'm so happy that circumstances lined up so that I could work on such a great prompt with one of my favorite writers! A big thanks to Floralia for the beta. :)