Summary: AU tag to 7.01 – Hallucinating/Injured Sam, Big Brother Dean, Awesome Bobby – As long as he had Sam, Dean had two words for the world: bring it.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Warnings: Spoilers for Season Seven premiere...and usual language.

A/N: Today (September 27, 2011) marks the one-year anniversary of my time here on this site. A year ago today, I started writing and posting Supernatural fanfiction, and it's been an awesome experience! Twenty stories and an Author's Note Award ain't half bad for a year's worth of work, and I thank each of you for your support and encouragement.


If these walls came crumblin' down / Fell so hard, to make us lose our faith / From what's left you'd figure it out... / Nobody's laughing now / God's grace lost and the devil is proud / But I've been walking for a thousand miles... / I hold on to you / You bring me hope... / You lift me up and always will... ~ Dave Matthews


Dean knew.

He had known the second Cas had touched Sam's head in that alley.

He had known the hours upon hours he had sat beside an unconscious Sam in the panic room.

He had known the moment a wobbly Sam had appeared behind Cas at that lab.

He had known the instant Sam had collapsed after Cas had left.

Dean knew.

Because he knew Sam and knew something was off.

Even without the nosebleeds and headaches and constant sleeping; even without the squinting and side glances and head tilts; even without the nightmares and seizures and odd questions; even without the comments of Bobby and Death and Cas.

Dean knew.

Sam was unraveling.

Slowly, quietly, bravely.

And while he wanted to be pissed that his little brother was trying to hide something from him – again – Dean knew Sam meant well and was touched by the kid's attempt to shield him from more bad news.

But it did not change anything.

Because Dean knew.

Had known all along it would come to this, would end like this.

And yet, as he stood in the dimly lit dampness of the lab's winding hallway, Dean was struck with paralyzing fear at the realization that this was it.

This was it.

Sam was gone.

Gone in the worst way someone could leave; within sight – because Sam was right there – but out of reach – because Sam was not responding to Dean's repeated calls of his name.

"No sign of him," Bobby reported as he rounded the corner, referring to the Leviathan that had announced Cas was dead and then had tossed both hunters around the room before inexplicably leaving. "But I'm sure he'll be back."

...which was more than could be said for Sam.

"Stay back, Bobby," Dean advised as the older hunter approached from behind and held his hand out as further warning.

Bobby stopped mid-stride, gaze flickering from a barely-holding-it-together Dean to an obviously-freaked-out Sam, who was brandishing a gun in their direction. "What the hell is going on here?"

Dean snorted humorlessly at Bobby's choice of words. "I think that's exactly what's going on here – Hell."

"You mean..."

"Yeah," Dean answered, his attention never wavering from his brother. "I think he's hallucinating."

Bobby nodded.

Sam stared back at them, his entire body shaking; his breathing erratic; his expression a mixture of confusion and fear.

Bobby sighed, the volume and force with which he did so indicating his level of frustration. "Have you tried talking to him?"

Dean scowled over his shoulder.

Bobby shrugged. "Well, usually that does the trick..."

"Not this time," Dean countered, refocusing on Sam. "I don't think he hears me."

"I hear you," Sam corrected coolly.

Dean blinked at the sound of his brother's voice, simultaneously startled and relieved. "Sammy..."

"Shut up!" Sam yelled, thrusting the gun in Dean's direction. "I'm not listening to you anymore because you're not real. None of this is!"

Dean glanced at Bobby and then back at Sam. "No, Sammy," he soothed, keeping his tone steady and holding his hands up in a placating gesture. "This is real. I'm real. Whatever else you think you're seeing...it's not real. But I am. I'm right here. Just let me help you, okay?"

There was a beat of silence.

"Sam..."

Sam closed his eyes and shook his head. "You can't help me."

Dean swallowed against the emotion that suddenly clogged his throat.

How 'bout tell me you've got crazy crap climbin' those walls...

Why? You can't help.

"I don't know where I am..." Sam continued, opening his eyes and staring directly at Dean. "...and I don't know who you are."

Dean clenched his jaw as his heart broke.

"But I do know that you can't help me." Sam's breath hitched as tears welled in his eyes. "I think I'm too far gone. And whoever you are, you can't help me."

"Yes, I can," Dean automatically responded and took a step toward his brother. "Sam..."

"Please stop," Sam pleaded as he backed away, his outstretched arm continuing to point the gun at Dean's chest. "You can pretend to be anyone else except Dean, okay? Please." Sam paused. "Please."

"I am Dean," Dean assured, feeling helpless and desperate and terrified. "Sammy, listen to me. I'm Dean. I'm your brother, and I'm gonna help you. But you have to give me the gun." Dean slowly extended his arm, opening his hand. "C'mon, Sam. Just give me the gun, and we'll get out of here and back to Bobby's and sort everything out, okay?"

Sam's gaze darted to Bobby – as though he had forgotten the other hunter was there – and then drifted back to Dean.

Dean nodded encouragingly. "It's okay, Sam. Just give it to me."

"Or, you could give it to me," a voice said from the right, and Sam swung around to face it.

Lucifer smiled before morphing into Dean. "Or me."

"I said stop!" Sam yelled and fired in the direction Lucifer had been standing.

In a split second, Lucifer transformed back to himself and chuckled before disappearing; the bullet ricocheting off one of the metal shelves.

"Whoa!" Dean shouted, ducking and then lunging toward Sam.

Sam made a guttural sound – half yell, half moan – as Dean knocked him to the floor; the concrete cold and damp under his cheek; the gun falling from his hand on impact and sliding away.

Bobby instantly grabbed the weapon, tucking it in the back of his jeans, and then surveyed the situation. "Dean?" he asked tentatively after several seconds passed and neither brother had moved; Sam still sprawled beneath Dean.

"It's okay, Bobby," Dean assured distractedly, his attention solely on Sam as he carded his fingers through his brother's hair. "Right, Sammy? You're okay now. It's gonna be okay."

Sam stared up at Dean, blinking owlishly as lucidity and recognition slowly replaced confusion and fear. "Dean?"

Dean felt like crying but smiled instead. "Yeah, Sammy. It's me."

Sam nodded as his eyes misted. "I'm sorry."

Dean shook his head. "It's okay, Sam. You're okay."

"No," Sam countered, blinking against welling tears. "It's not okay. And I'm sorry. Dean...I'm sorry. But...but he said you weren't real. He said I was still in the Cage, and none of this was real."

Dean clenched his jaw, knowing exactly who "he" was and wishing he could kill the sonuvabitch. "He was lying, Sam. You hear me? He was lying."

Sam nodded again. "I know. I mean...I know that now, but...but I..."

"I know," Dean soothed. "But it's okay. We'll figure it out. But right now, let's get you out of here, huh?"

"Sounds good to me," Bobby responded, eager to get his boys back to the relative safety of his house.

Sam shifted under Dean's weight and made a pained sound.

Dean narrowed his eyes. "What's wrong?"

Sam shifted again. "My shoulder hurts."

Bobby frowned. "Either one of you hit?"

"Nah, I think we're good," Dean replied. "Probably just wrenched it when we fell, Sammy, that's all," he assured as he slowly pushed himself back off his brother

But that's when he saw it.

Blood.

Sam's blood.

"Shit," Dean hissed as adrenaline once again began to pulse through his veins.

Bobby's frown deepened. That word said in that way was never a good sign. "What?" he demanded, angling to see around Dean.

"Sam's hit," Dean reported curtly, already unbuttoning his brother's shirt and peeling back the blood-soaked fabric.

"Ah, dammit," Bobby muttered and crouched beside Dean. "How bad?"

Sam shivered as the air ghosted over his exposed skin and flinched when Dean pressed around the torn flesh.

"How bad?" Bobby repeated, leaning closer to see for himself.

"It's bleeding like a bitch..." Dean groused, gently wiping away Sam's blood with the cuff of his own sleeve. "But I think it's just a graze."

"Looks like it," Bobby agreed, inspecting the injury for himself before pulling a blue bandana from his back pocket and offering it to Dean. "Still need to clean it and make sure, though."

Dean nodded, folding the faded blue fabric and gently pressing it against Sam's wound. "I'll do it later," he replied and then did a double-take as Bobby pulled a roll of first aid tape from his other pocket.

Bobby paused. "What?"

Dean shook his head. "Nothing," he commented, lifting the bandana to check Sam's already clotting wound before replacing it over his brother's shoulder. "Just forgot you were a Girl Scout."

Bobby rolled his eyes and tossed the roll of tape to Dean.

Dean caught it with one hand and smiled before glancing at Sam as his brother closed his eyes. "Hey..."

Sam blinked drowsily in response.

"You with me?" Dean asked, carefully taping the bandana in place over Sam's wound.

Sam swallowed; his expression pinched; his eyes squinted.

Dean applied the last piece of tape and glanced again at his brother's face, bothered by Sam's silence. "Sammy..." He handed the tape back to Bobby and scanned Sam from where he was still crouched beside him. "You're not hurt anywhere else, are you?"

"No."

Dean narrowed his eyes at the too-quick response. "Sam. No more lying to protect me, huh? I think it's pretty safe to say that my bubble is burst, so talk to me. What's wrong?"

Sam shrugged with his uninjured shoulder. "I'm just tired...and my head hurts," he confessed. "But my head always hurts, so..."

Dean nodded. "Yeah, well..." He sighed, readjusting Sam's shirt over the bandana and then buttoning it. "We'll take care of all that later, too. But right now, I'm getting you up, and we're getting the hell outta here," Dean responded and nodded his thanks to Bobby as the older hunter repositioned himself to help pull Sam to his feet. "On three..."

The room titled, and in the next instant, Sam was standing between Dean and Bobby; swallowing against overwhelming exhaustion and a wave of nausea caused by the mixture of pulsing pain and disorienting dizziness.

"Easy, Sammy..." Dean murmured as Sam leaned heavily against him and then glanced at Bobby, digging the Impala's keys from his front pocket. "Go start the car..." – and make sure the Leviathan hasn't decided to rejoin us – "...and we'll be right behind you."

Bobby hesitated, gaze flickering between Dean and Sam. "You sure?"

Dean nodded. "I've got him," he assured, shifting under Sam's weight before tossing the keys to Bobby and then steadying Sam as the older hunter withdrew his physical support.

Bobby lingered for a second longer. "Be careful." He turned and began walking up the hallway. "And holler if you need me," he added over his shoulder.

"We will," Dean replied. "Same goes for you."

Bobby nodded, then rounded the corner and disappeared from view.

"Sammy..." Dean called, feeling his brother continue to lean against him. "You still with me?"

Sam grunted.

Dean chuckled lightly. "I'll take that as a yes." He paused. "Ready to move?"

"No." Sam closed his eyes and swallowed. "Dizzy."

Dean nodded, having expected as much with Sam's hallucinations, headache, and now minor blood loss. "I know," he soothed, readjusting his hold on his brother. "But I'm right here beside you, okay?"

"Okay," Sam whispered and allowed himself to dwell in that truth – I'm right here beside you – as he felt his brother's hand splayed in the center of his chest; Dean's palm offering support as he swayed; his thumb offering comfort as it rubbed back and forth over his collarbone. He felt Dean's other hand steadying him from behind, lightly resting on his back, as they took a wobbly step forward...followed by another step, then another...while his brother's shoulder further braced him.

All around him was Dean, and Sam had never felt safer, had never been more thankful.

Dean moved his brother six more steps, scanning their surroundings before rounding the corner and beginning to cross the main room of the lab; thankful Sam's eyes were closed, and his brother could not see the destruction of yet another good plan gone to complete shit.

"Dean..."

Dean spotted the Impala the moment they cleared the building and began crossing toward it even as Bobby was approaching them. "Yeah, Sammy?"

Sam swallowed, feeling grounded by Dean's touch as his brother continued to guide his steps. "Thank you."

Dean nodded at Bobby as the older hunter opened the rear passenger door. "For what, Sam?" he asked, checking Sam's shoulder wound before easing his brother to sit in the backseat.

Sam opened his eyes, looking straight at Dean as Dean crouched in front of him. "For being you," Sam replied simply, his voice soft and genuine and 100% Sammy.

Dean smiled affectionately as he held Sam's gaze. "Don't know who else to be," he quipped, even as a surge of emotion flooded his chest. "There's only one me, Sammy." He paused, making sure Sam was paying attention. "I want you to remember that, okay? No matter what else or who else you think you see or hear or whatever. There's only one me. And I'm not gonna let anything else bad happen to you. You hear me?"

Sam's eyes misted as he nodded. "It's you and me against the world."

Dean smiled, feeling some of the tension in his chest begin to ease, and squeezed the back of Sam's neck. "Damn straight, little brother."

Sam returned the smile in the beat of silence that followed and allowed Dean to help him get further settled in the Impala's backseat.

"You good?" Dean checked before closing the door.

Sam nodded and leaned his head back against the seat; exhausted and drained and more than willing to close his eyes as the Impala's engine was already lulling him to sleep.

Dean gave his brother another once over before standing and shutting the door.

Bobby glanced at the oldest Winchester as Dean joined him in the front seat. "What?"

Dean arched an eyebrow. "I don't know. What?"

Bobby eased the Impala out onto the highway. "It's been a long time since we've been this screwed, and yet you look..." He shrugged. "I don't know. Happy?"

Dean snorted and rolled his eyes. "Well, I think 'happy' is stretching it. But you know..." He paused and glanced at his sleeping brother in the backseat. "I think we're gonna be okay."

It was Bobby's turn to arch an eyebrow.

Dean smiled. "I know," he agreed. "We've got one very old, very badass sonuvabitch on the loose, and we're at the top of his shit list. But you know what?" Dean paused again, feeling a surge of love and determination. "As long as I've got Sam – and as long as we've got you – I've got two words for the world: bring it."


FIN