A/N: Figured I'd go ahead and put this up tonight! Thanks for all the reviews; I really appreciate them guys *hugs*
"Son of a bitch!" Dean cursed for what was probably the hundredth time that night. He was soaked through to his boxers from the rain, mud caked his boots, and leaves were stuck to his leather jacket. But that wasn't the worst part of his night. That honor would have to go to his inability to find the right ring, a malfunctioning blow torch, and a baby brother who was somewhere in the woods with the spirit.
Dean had given up on the ring and decided finding Sam was much more important. He'd been left alone with Elle for far too long. The thought only spurred Dean's tired body onwards at a faster rate. The dark clouds had begun to depart, allowing him to actually see where he was walking. He was able to maneuver his way around the wreckage of all the car parts and the trees. He had to find Sammy…
After what felt like forever, his eyes finally settled on his baby brother's form laid out in the mud a few feet away from him. Sam wasn't moving. Dean's hand tightened around the shotgun and he glanced around to make sure Elle wasn't anywhere nearby. He couldn't see it, but that didn't mean it was safe. With Sam lying so still though, it didn't matter if the bitch was breathing down his neck. Dean had to get to Sam.
He rushed towards his broken. He fell to his knees and skidded to a halt beside his brother. "Sammy," he gasped, taking in Sam's battered body. His face and neck were mottled with bruises of various colors and cuts. A particularly nasty gash ran across his forehead. His t-shirt had blood spots along the sides. "Damn it," Dean cursed once he moved the shirt up a little. Sam's ribs were a mess from what Dean could tell in the dim lighting. "Come on little brother! You've gotta wake up! No more sleeping on the job!"
"Mmm," Sam moaned, but remained more or less out of it.
"No you don't! Come on! We need to get outta here before the bitch shows up again, Sam!"
Sam moaned again as he blinked his eyes open. It was hard to focus with so little lighting, however he was eventually able to settle them on Dean's very concerned form. It wavered and blurred a bit before clearing completely. "D'n?"
"Hey, Sammy! It's me; we're gonna get you outta here. Come on kid. Let's get you up off the cold ground. You've gotta be freezing down there. My ass is and I've not been mud wrestling with a ghost all night." Dean's attempt at sarcasm made a wobbly smile form across Sam's face, but he didn't try to get up off the ground. He was just so tired and everything hurt. He still remembered trying to move earlier, and it by no means a pleasant memory. He didn't feel like repeated it any time soon.
"Come on Sam. You have to get up! I don't want to be here when Elle comes back! Not with you this hurt. I'll help you. Just, come on!"
"Not coming," Sam whispered, words almost lost in the night air.
"The hell you ain't! Come on!" Dean jerked on Sam's arm, which then in turn pulled on his abused ribcage.
Sam couldn't help but cry out as the pain assaulted his body. "Dean stop!"
"Sorry, Sammy," Dean soothed. "But you can't stay here! Please, come on! I'm not leaving you here!"
"I meant," Sam gasped, "that Elle isn't coming back, dumbass…"
Dean smiled for a moment. If Sam was cussing him and arguing back, it had to be a good sign at least. But then he realized what Sam meant and was completely confused. "What the hell are you talking about? I didn't torch the ring. I couldn't find the damn thing! Hell, wouldn't have mattered if I did. The freaking blowtorch malfunctioned will all this rain! So, we have to haul ass before she shows back up and decides to go another round!"
"She moved on, Dean." Sam watched as Dean's brow furrowed. He could practically read the questions racing through his brother's mind. "I think I guilt tripped her…"
Dean raised his eyebrows at that. "You guilt tripped a ghost?" he huffed.
"I think I did…"
"Seriously? Only you could do that…"
"She started taunted me about Jess." Sam blinked back tears once again; he was sick of crying tonight.
"She, uh, once she realized Jess had died, Elle changed a little. She started asking me how painful it was and if it was what she felt over not seeing Garrett again. I made her realize that she inflicted that pain on all the girls who lost their fiancés because of her. She honestly felt bad. She just wanted to be with her fiancé again."
Dean beamed proudly at his little brother. "That's my boy." He clapped his hand gently against Sam's shoulder and squeezed. "Come on sasquatch. Let's get you back to the Impala and to a hospital pronto!" Dean put his hand behind Sam's back and carefully guided him off the ground. Sam's head rested against his chest for a moment while he tried to gain his footing. His body protested his every movement, yet he somehow managed to get up off the mud and somewhat upright.
"No hospital," he wheezed. The strain pushing himself off the forest floor had put on his ribs was making it nearly impossible to take in a full breath. "M-motel…"
"Fraid not, Sam. You're barely breathing right now, and I'm gonna guess you're sportin' broken ribs. You look like you have a concussion and God only knows what she tore up on your side."
"She stuck her hands in me…"
"And you think that shouldn't be looked at by a doctor? You've probably got massive internal bleeding thanks to that bitch!"
Sam ignored his brother's outburst. "You can stitch me up just as well," Sam said, sounding like a protesting toddler instead of the strong man Dean had grown accustomed to since reuniting all those months ago.
"Sam," Dean started arguing back but stopped himself, knowing it wouldn't do much good. Sam normally responded by only fighting back, and he didn't need that in his condition. "Tell you what, if you can stand on your own for a minute and not fall on your ass, I'll take care of you myself. If you can't, I'm hauling your ass to the nearest ER and you'll just suck it up. Got it?"
Sam didn't give a verbal answer, but he clumsily shoved away from his brother's support so that he could stand on his own. Everything still hurt and his limbs shook from the effort of just standing up straight. He lasted longer than Dean thought he would have, but it wasn't enough to win the agreement. After about thirty seconds, he wavered and was unable to regain his balance. He was about to face plant in the mud and cause himself further injuries when Dean decided to intervene. He reached out a grabbed his brother around the shoulders and hauled him up against him.
"Damn it! I don't want to go to the hospital Dean!"
"You don't have much choice Sammy. So come on."
"Did you get it?"
"Get what Sam?" Dean asked.
"Jess's ring? Elle dropped it when she crossed over. I…I need…" Sam started to push away from Dean to go get it on his own. Dean managed to stop him and prop him up against a nearby tree.
"I'll get it, Sammy." He ran over to the spot Sam had pointed to and grabbed the delicate ring from grass. He jogged back over to Sam and placed it into his brother's hand. "There you go kiddo."
"No problem. Now, let's go. Can you walk like this?"
Sam sighed but nodded his head anyway. "Do I have a choice?"
"Not really. Guess I could carry you outta here, but pretty sure it would hurt you more."
"Probably," Sam huffed. "You haven't had to carry me after a hunt since – Ah!"
"Easy Sammy," Dean soothed while taking on more of Sam's weight. He had stumbled against the rocks that lined the forest floor. "I've got you. Just breath through the pain, kiddo. That's it." Sam slowly started to calm and breath easier. He still wheezed and panted, but it wasn't as desperate and pain filled as moments before. "You ok?"
"As I'm gonna be I guess."
"I'll take it for now. Let's get you outta here and back to the Impala. Ok?"
"Since I was sixteen…"
"What?" Dean paused for a moment to look at his brother, worrying that the concussion was a lot worse than he had originally assumed.
"You haven't had to carry me after a hunt since I was sixteen."
"Oh," Dean sighed with relief. "That's right. It was after that black dog in what, Michigan?"
"Uh huh," Sam replied with a nod.
"I remember that. We all got separated during the hunt. The beast tracked you down instead of dad and me. Clawed into you pretty bad but you managed to kill the son of a bitch on your own. You were barely conscious by the time I found you."
"I didn't want you to have to carry me," he quietly admitted.
"Yeah, but, your leg was practically shredded down to the bone. Besides, that was how I knew you were gonna be ok. You wouldn't stop bitching."
"Didn't want to be weak…"
"You weren't dumbass. You were hurt. I knew that. Hell, I could've been blind and still known you were in too much pain to walk."
"But Dad always thought I was weak on hunts."
"You never were and he realized that. He just thought you were gonna be like us and you were just different."
"That's why he hated me…"
"He loved you, Sam. Just never was good at showing it. Come on; don't do this. Not now…"
"Sorry, I'm just…"
"It's ok. Just," Dean sighed, "keep walking, dude. We're almost to the car. We'll be there in a few minutes and I can dope you up on the good stuff from the med kit. You'll be seeing rainbows and shit the whole way to the hospital. Sound good?"
"Can't do that, Dean. You can't give me stuff beforehand. Could counteract with what they give me. Would mess me up. Can't…"
"Ok! Ok, I get it! Damn, only could be bleeding internally and manage to spout off medical facts."
"I'm not bleeding internally," Sam pouted.
"We don't know that yet, which is why we are heading to the ER."
Sam didn't reply; he was too tired. They spent the rest of the trek back to the Impala in relative silence, only mumbling a few curses here and there when a root or rock snuck up on them. After a few minutes, the Impala came into view. It was still sitting on the other side of the road where Dean had left it a few hours ago. He quickly glanced to make sure no other cars were coming before he dragged Sam across the pavement.
"Back seat or up front?"
"Don't think I can get back up if I lay down, so front," Sam softly admitted. He hated showing his pain, but he knew it wouldn't do him much good to hide it at this point. It would only end with more pain and a very pissed off big brother.
"Alright, buddy," Dean calmly replied. "Relax." He propped Sam up against the side of the car while he unlocked the door for him. "Let's get you inside, huh?"
"Yeah," Sam mumbled. He wasn't looking forward to moving much more. His ribcage felt like it was on fire and his sides were bleeding more heavily.
Sam closed his eyes against the onset of pain and tried to do as Dean asked. "Gah," he moaned.
"I know it kiddo. Just hold on for a few more minutes. I'll get you to the hospital and they'll give you so many drugs you won't know what's goin' on 'round ya. Sound good?"
When Sam didn't give an answer, Dean started to worry. Sam hated heavy painkillers and normally bitched at the prospect of them. But now he wasn't uttering one complaint; that couldn't be good.
Dean slammed the car door and ran around towards his own. He threw the car into gear and headed towards the nearest ER. The rain had finally stopped and the traffic was nonexistent, much to Dean's relief. It allowed him to drive faster than all the speed limits advised. Every once in awhile he glanced over towards his brother and took in the pain etched on his forehead. He was barely taking any deep breaths, another bad sign. He hadn't talked for a few miles either…
"Dad was so proud of you that night."
"What?" Sam gasped.
"That night, the black dog hunt from when ya was sixteen." Dean spared him another glance. "He was scared shitless when he saw you, but he was so damn proud when I told him you killed the thing on your own."
"Never said anything to me," Sam panted in reply.
"Was too busy worrying about you when you were in the hospital. I told ya, he was scared about you. You lost a lot of blood that night." Sam's face was set in shock. "Don't act so surprised, Sam. Just because he fought so much with you didn't mean he hated you or was never proud. He just was always too worried about you to show it. Ended up biting him in the ass when ya left."
Sam sat quietly for a few moments while he took everything in. "Thanks," he finally sighed.
"Didn't do anything," Dean said as he sped through a yellow light. He was only a few blocks from the hospital according to the sign.
"Just, thanks for telling me that stuff. Needed to hear it."
Dean pulled in front of the ER. He turned towards his brother and squeezed his shoulder. "Let's get you fixed up." Sam closed his eyes and nodded. Before he could even open them again, Dean was at his side, pulling him out of the Impala and towards the double doors of the ER. Sam could barely hold himself up and was leaning heavily against Dean as the entered the hospital.
The night had been slow, and Dr. Fry was striking out with the pretty, little secretary in front of him. But when he heard the shuffling of boots on the linoleum floor, he looked up to see two young men slowly trudging inside. They were soaked with rainwater and caked in mud. One of the men was completely supporting the other, who had blood running down his face and soaking through his shirt. The sight was enough to spur him into action.
"Need a gurney over here!" he yelled out. A few nurses responded and soon Sam was being taken out of Dean's arms.
They strapped Sam down and took off behind the doors. Dean made to follow but was stopped by an elderly nurse. "You've gotta stay here sweetie."
"We'll take good care of your friend."
"Brother…he's my younger brother."
The nurse rubbed his shoulder in sympathy. "Then I'll make sure they take especially good care of him. Have some younger siblings myself." She smiled sadly at him. "Let's get you a blanket and some hot coffee while you fill out some forms for your brother."
After that, Dean was taken to a waiting room. The nurse gave him some blankets and a set of scrubs to change into. Once he had rid himself of the cold, ruined clothes, she gave him a cup of steaming coffee and the paperwork. He filled them out with fake names and fake insurance cards. It didn't take long; it left Dean with a lot of time to sit by himself while the doctors took care of Sam. His body was exhausted, but his mind continued replaying images of Sam, bruised and bloodied, on the forest floor. They plagued him the entire time he sat there and only disappeared when the doctor finally showed up at his side a couple hours later.
"Family of Sam Gibbs?"
"Here! I'm right here!" Dean shot up from the hard plastic chair and was at the doctor's side in seconds. "I'm his brother, Dean." He stuck his hand out for the doctor to shake.
"I'm Dr. Fry; I've been taking care of your brother."
"How is he?"
"Pretty lucky to be blunt," the doctor sighed. "He took quite the beating from the looks of it. What exactly happened again? Your brother was a little out of it by the time we got to work on him."
Dean swallowed down his emotions before continuing. "We were headed out of town when his car hydroplaned. By the time I realized he wasn't catching up to me and I turned around to look for him, he was already like that."
"So all this came from a wreck?" he asked skeptically. "Sir, your brother had injuries that looked more conclusive with being beaten by a human being."
Dean mentally cursed. "We…we were headed up 1st St Hill. Maybe that bastard that's been hurtin' all those people got a hold of him. I could've scared them off when I went looking for him. I don't know. All I know is my brother is hurt and you are focusing way too much on how it happened instead of telling me how he is," Dean snapped.
"Of course, I apologize. I'm just trying to get an idea of what happened in case there was a need to file a police report." The doctor paused to look up and down Dean. The brother's stern look never wavered. "Now…your brother sustained some injuries from the wreck. He face has a lot of bruising, as well as his neck and shoulder. But his ribs took the worst of the hit. Some are broken; most are just bruised. The cut to his forehead required seven stitches to get it closed up. I'm worried about infection due to the fact that he was out in the forest for so long with open wounds. He was nearly hypothermic from the elements as well."
"God," Dean gasped, letting his stern mask give way to worry.
"Furthermore, he has weird bruising and wounds around the sides of his abdomen. I can't tell what exactly happened, but the damage is going to be quite painful to recover from. His kidneys are bruised from it. If I didn't know any better I'd say something used them as a stress ball and squeezed them or something," Dr. Fry huffed. Dean cringed a little, knowing that was probably exactly what Elle had done to his brother. "But he'll heal with some rest and proper medications. Would you like me to take you to him now?"
"Yes," Dean quickly replied.
"Very well." The doctor guided Dean along winding hallways until he reached a small private room. "We're pretty dead right now, so we went ahead and gave your brother some privacy."
"Thank you…for everything."
The doctor smiled tightly and opened the door for Dean. "I'll leave you alone with your brother. The nurses will be in and out to check in on him. If you need anything, just press the call button." With that, he left Dean with Sam.
"Shit," Dean cursed, taking in his brother's black and blue face in the soft glow of the bedside lamp. "That bitch really did a number on you little brother."
"Mmmm," Sam groaned from the bed. "D'n?"
"Shhh, go back to sleep Sammy. I'll be here." He took Sam's hand in his own and rubbed soothing circles around the outside. "Just get some sleep kiddo."
"Mmm…" Sam quickly drifted back off to sleep.
Dean kept his brother's hand in his as he pulled a nearby chair closer to the bed with his other. He settled into the uncomfortable seat with a sigh. He knew he wasn't getting much rest tonight…
The morning sun filtered through the blinds and fell into Sam's eyes. He turned his head to the side, trying desperately to move out of the stinging sun. It didn't work. He blinked his eyes open, and the sterile room slowly came into focus. A few more blinks and he noticed Dean sitting beside him. His brother was absently sipping at a cup of coffee and flipping through some old car magazine.
"Hey," Sam croaked. His throat was dry and talking irritated it something fierce.
"Hey yourself," Dean replied as he grabbed the water jug and poured a cup for Sam. "Small sips."
"Thanks," Sam mumbled after taking a few drinks. He fell back onto the pillows with a sigh. "How bad?"
"Good to know…"
The boys were interrupted by a soft knock to the door. A young nurse slowly made her way into the room. She stopped abruptly when her eyes settled on the hunters.
"Kate," Sam gasped. He hadn't expected to see the grieving woman again after leaving her house the other day.
"Um…wow…sorry," she said, shaking her head. "I didn't realize…um." Once again, she took a moment to compose herself. "Sorry, it's my first day back and I just didn't expect my first patient to be you."
"It's ok. He didn't expect to be a patient here today either," Dean quipped. Sam shot him a look, but he brushed it off. He was just trying to help lighten the air between the two of them. "Um, I'm going to go grab another cup of coffee while Kate checks up on you. You need anything, kiddo?"
Sam shook his head, eyes still following Kate as she moved about the room collecting supplies.
"I'll be right back." Dean crept out of the room, giving Kate the space to work.
"I'm sorry for how I reacted," Kate apologized.
"No, you're fine," Sam placated.
"Let's just see how you're doing this morning."
"Feel like I was hit by a train," he sighed.
"You look like it too," she said sadly. She changed his bandage along his forehead and checked his abdomen. She did it all quietly, biting her lip as she did so. She then grabbed the thermometer from her cart and placed it in his ear. The little instrument beeped, breaking the silence in the room. She took note of his stats and starting packing everything up onto her cart. She looked as if she was about to leave, but she suddenly stopped. "Is it true?"
She bit her lip again and walked back towards the bed. "Is it true that you went to the hill last night? I heard some of the night nurses talking about one of the patients…saying he looked like he was going to be the first guy to survive whoever has been…well…the hill." By the time she had stopped speaking, she had tears misting in her eyes.
"Yes, I went up there last night."
"Oh," she continued shakily. "Is it…did you…"
"It's over, Kate. Won't be any more. I don't like breaking promises."
She nodded her head and allowed a few tears to escape. "You're partner said you were good at what you did…"
"It's gone. No one else will get hurt."
She carefully leaned over and wrapped her arms around his neck. She hugged him tightly, avoiding all his injuries, and allowed more tears to flow down her cheeks.
"You're ok," Sam choked out around his own tears. "Shh…it's ok."
"Thank you." She sniffled as she pulled away from him. She sat down in Dean's abandoned chair to calm down and straighten out her scrubs. "Sorry…this is just so hard."
"Wish I could say it got any easier…"
Kate nodded in understanding, remembering Dean's words from that day at her house. "You think it ever will?"
Sam thought back to how hard those first few weeks were. He functioned on autopilot and wasn't sure what he would've done if it wasn't for Dean. Things still hurt like hell, but he could at least think about Jessica every once in awhile without breaking down and shutting himself off from the world.
"No," he finally rasped. "But I think it becomes more manageable. I think we'll get to a point where the wound closes up some…it just doesn't ever go away." Some tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. Kate wiped away her new fallen tears and reached across to do the same for Sam's.
From the doorway, Dean stood with his own tears sliding down his face. He knew his brother would always carry around Jessica's death, just like their father always carried around their mother's. He could only hope that it would get better and wouldn't consume him completely. But then again, that's what he was there for.
He was drawn out of his thoughts when Kate and Sam started talking once more. Dean decided to leave them be for a little longer happen. He slid back from the door and decided to head down to the gift shop to find something for Sam. Maybe a good book…yeah…that's what his geeky little brother would love. And no matter what, Dean wanted to make Sam happy again. He didn't want to see that spark leave Sam's life completely like he had seen in his dad all those years ago. It just wouldn't…not on his watch at least…