**Bear with me, ya'll. I'm still working on completely understanding this site and am currently playing with correcting typos in posted stories. So if they disappear and reappear, I'm sorry!**


"I'm looking for my brother, his name is Dean? He was brought in a while ago." Sam tapped his fingers impatiently on the desk while the receptionist looked him up and down before returning to the computer. "HEY!" he slapped his hands against the counter top. "I'm talking to you."

"Last name?" she popped a bubble, arching an eyebrow when Sam remained silent. "Sir?"

"Look, what difference does that make? He should be upstairs by now, been through the ER."

"I didn't ask for an explanation, I asked for his last name."

Yeah, I heard you the first time and I still don't know it, Sam fumed silently, shifting his weight. They'd been so preoccupied since getting new aliases they hadn't sat down and settled on some details, such as what name to use when admitted to the hospital. Admitted, Jesus Christ, what the hell had that Wendigo done to him?

She must have softened at the look of misery on his face and abject terror in his eyes, for she reached out and patted his hand in a way that made the gesture comforting.

"Don't you worry, it'll be ok. We've only had two admissions today, one was an elderly lady with a broken hip and the other was a male, early thirties with abdominal pain and internal bleeding." she tapped more keys. "Yup, Dean Singer, he's on the fifth floor, room 527."

"Wait, what? Abdominal pain?" Sam flashed an uncertain smile, well aware she had just broken all kinds of hospital rules and privacy acts and god knew what else to give him that information. "Uh, thanks." he headed for the elevator, one hand held against his stomach as he swallowed back bile, feeling the walls close in on him as he fought off a wave of dizziness.

Not now. He couldn't handle another headache now.

Internal bleeding, he got, expected as much what with the leg injury, but abdominal pain? What the hell? Since when? From what? Dean had been fine, well, okay, maybe not fine, but he sure as hell hadn't been in need of a hospital when Sam had left the cabin. Had he? Sam didn't know, he didn't know anything these days. That left the Wendigo attack and Sam had seen the entire fight. At no point had he felt Dean suffered any injury serious enough to require hospitalization. Did he do further damage to his leg?

He knew Dean had been hurt a week ago from being tossed around by two spirits, and he had finally worn his brother down and been allowed to look him over for injuries after the spill over the cliff. Nothing, he'd found nothing, some bruising, but nothing broken or cracked. What the hell had he missed?

Dean had been knocked unconscious during the fight with the Wendigo and as far as Sam knew, he hadn't regained consciousness, so when had it been determined he had abdominal pain?

He came off the elevator to a busy floor, must be medication time for the patients as well as collection of dinner trays. He made his way to the hallway that lead to room 527 and was nearly to the room when a nurse stopped him.

"Hi there, can I help you?" she asked politely. "Do you have a visitors pass?"

"AAh, no, sorry, the girl at the front counter…I must have left it there…sorry, she gave me his room number and I wanted to see him…they just let me go from the ER see, and I haven't heard from him, I don't even know if he's awake or what's wrong….and…." he shrugged. "I'm sorry."

"Who are you here to see?"

"Dean Singer, he's in room 527."

"Oh, yes, yes he is. He's...you go on in, and good luck, he's….a bit of a handful."

"Cranky, huh?"

"Are you by any chance his missing brother?"

"Huh, oh, yeah, that's me, Sam."

"He's been asking about you. We were told you were still in the ER. We asked him if there was anyone else to call, but…guess you're ok if they let you go."

"Yeah, thanks, so…why is he here? I mean, why has he been admitted?"

"Guess downstairs doesn't give out the information….he's only here for a few days so we can monitor his blood levels for hemoglobin, there's no sign of shock, and that's a good thing. The doctor would like to do a liver function test but your brother will have none of it. Anywho….should his hemoglobin levels hold steady, there'll be no need for surgery. He didn't want to stay at all, gave us a hard time, but the Sheriff can be pretty persuasive."

"What? Um…..liver function? Tests? Surgery? Is he ok?" how the hell long had he been asleep in the ER anyway? Obviously long enough for Dean to be subjected to a round of tests and be diagnosed. And Dean hadn't agreed to remain at the hospital because the Sheriff was persuasive. He was waiting for Sam; waiting for his brother to get him out.

"Well, the absence of bleeding increases the patients chances of recovering without surgery and your brother did have some internal bleeding, but still, his liver could still heal on its own, the laceration…."

"Wait, liver? He has a lacerated liver?" sure Sam, you checked for broken bones and cracked ribs, never occurred to you a tear could have occurred in his liver or spleen, way to go. "Isn't the internal bleeding from his leg?"

"Oh no, his leg is fine." she said way too cheerfully. Sam wanted to throttle her. "Not badly, mind you, the bleeding from his liver that is. It could have been a lot worse, only slight internal bleeding from the laceration. He could have needed surgery or bled to death….he had an MRI and a CT, well, he didn't want any tests, but he was here, you know? His blood pressure is low enough the doctor would like to give him a unit or two but he has adamantly refused a transfusion, so, hey, maybe you can talk him into that?"

What was it with the females in this hospital? Sam should be hearing this from Dean's doctor, not from a chatty floor nurse chattering on. Sam was having a hard time following her. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it. He could hear the all too familiar roaring that always presented itself when he was faced with a situation in which Dean had been hurt. A useless motion, he knew, because the only thing that would alleviate his feeling of weightlessness was to lay eyes on Dean and assure himself he was indeed hale and whole if not completely hearty.

"Luckily, he said he'd been rather inactive this past week, will need to continue being so for the next 12 to 16 weeks, but he's young and healthy and livers are one organ that have the ability to heal themselves…."

Months, she was talking about recovery taking months. "Can I see him now?" Sam interrupted. "And his doctor? I'd like to speak with him."

"Of course, he'll be doing late rounds around nine, visiting hours are over at eight-thirty but you can hang around until you see him. Go on in."

Dean looked up when Sam came to the doorway but didn't enter the room. Yeah, they'd been together this past week but things were still tense between them. Dean hadn't felt good since the first hunt ended with him being taken to the ER and having both internal and external stitches set in his calf. Truth? He hadn't felt good since the botched salt and burn and while he hadn't admitted to anything, Sam knew that.

It was the reason Sam had ordered him to remain behind while he and Jack went on this latest hunt. Dean hadn't had much choice, remaining behind not because Sam had decreed it, but because he was in pain and couldn't walk without a limp and he didn't want to be a burden to the other hunters and distract them with worry over him.

He waited, expecting Sam to start yelling, hands flailing as he proceeded to remind Dean how stupid he was, how careless he could be, how selfish his actions were. He schooled his features into a mask of patronizing tolerance and waited; waited for the scowl, the furrowed brow, the gritted teeth, the silent, heaving intakes of breath through the nose and….nothing.

"You ok?" Sam asked quietly, hand in his jeans pockets, head lowered, eyes on the floor. Dean frowned, not liking the slumped shoulders and hunched back. "Hey?"

"Yeah, Sammy, I'm good, what are you doing here?"

"Where else would I be?"

"Thought maybe you wudda went back to the cabin. Get a shower, catch up on some sleep." he rubbed his eyes. "They told me you were ok, been through the ER."

"I never once, left your side while you were in the hospital." Sam rubbed his eyes. He couldn't believe where this argument had gone. "Not when we were kids, not when you were electrocuted, not after the car accident that still haunts me whenever I have to drive, not after Alastair, and if you were ever in the hospital while I was at school, had I known, no matter how you felt about our separation, I would have been there, not even Dad would have been able to keep me away." he reached out with one hand, letting it drop to his side when Dean moved away from him. "You can believe what you want, you can think I'm some cold, unfeeling bastard, but don't you dare accept I would ever knowingly leave you alone in the hospital. That's crap."

"Been in the ER, just left. Apparently they let me sleep until I woke up."

"I don't really remember coming in. I know I was taken for an MRI and a CT and now I'm here for observation. Joe told me you were fine, that Jack was with you and he wouldn't let me leave. I tried, but, couldn't make it." he paused. "Sorry."

"For what?" he entered the room and pulled a chair close to the bed. "You cudda told me how you were feeling, I know you've been feeling shitty, but I….."

"Yeah, well, who wudda thought?"

"The nurse said they want to give you a transfusion, how come you won't let them?"

"Cause I don't plan on staying here, just waiting for you to pop me out of here, so let's go."

"No." he sat down and leaned forward to lower his forehead into the palms of his hands.

"No?" here it came, the classic Sammy reaction to all that scared the shit out of him.

"Dean, come on, I can sew you up, maybe even set a clean break, but a liver laceration? I haven't talked to the doctor and from the sense I made of what the nurse sprouted off, they are waiting to see if the bleeding has stopped. Internal bleeding Dean! Don't you think that is a serious enough injury to remain here where you can be properly taken care of?"

"I'm not staying here Sam."

"Surgery Dean, yeah, you are." he massaged his temples, feeling the familiar ache start behind his ears. "I haven't found out about any further damage you might have done to your leg yet either."

"I don't need surgery." he looked down at his leg that was packed in ice and elevated on pillows. "Leg's good."

"Says who? It's my understanding they don't know yet and you aren't being cooperative. You won't agree to any liver function tests…"

"They took blood. Let them run tests on that."

"Wow." Sam sat back in the chair. "Just wow, you really are an ass, you know that?" his right leg began to bounce, a sure sign of his agitation. Dean was back to waiting. "This isn't about you and your macho ego." he pushed to his feet to pace around the bed, unable to remain seated any longer. "You're unbelievable, I mean, Christ Dean, haven't you put me through enough?"

Dean stared at him. Put him through? What the hell?

"I can handle hell and hallucinations and memories and deal with what I did while soulless. I can handle being betrayed and lied to and mislead. What I can't handle...is you leaving."

Holy shit, was that what all this was about? Sam being scared of Dean leaving him? Finally, after everything Sam had done, did he fear he'd finally managed to push Dean into walking away? Dean remembered the fight as well as Sam did, he'd never once offered reassurance that he wasn't going anywhere.

"There is a tear, there's a strong possibility it will heal on its own. Surgery is a possibility, not definite. I can stay in bed, off my feet as easily wherever we go to hole up as I can here."

"But will you?" Sam shook his head. "Your doctor will be making rounds in an hour or so, let me talk to him."

"Won't matter." Dean insisted. "I'm not getting a transfusion and I'm not staying.

"You don't get to make that decision on you own."

"Since when?"

"Since, well, always, what's the matter with you anyway? You were ok to come in and get stitches…."

"No one expected me to stay. And what the hell do you mean, what's the matter with me? I ain't the one getting headaches and passing out and barfing in the dirt and having freak attacks. When was the last time you actually slept through the night? This can't be over the fight we had last week, I mean, seriously Sammy, what the hell's going on?"

"Don't do that, don't make this about me. You're the one lying in a hospital bed, hiding shit from me and you never sleep. Hell, you never even go to bed. Just pass out fully dressed on the bed with your jacket as a blanket."

"Least we know why I'm here." he chose to ignore Sam's sarcasm. It was just too much effort to match it.

"No, no I really don't Dean, I mean, yeah I do, but not why. When did you hurt yourself? When you were stupid last week? How long does it take for symptoms from a lacerated liver to appear? Was it from when you fell over the cliff and hurt your leg?"

"Fall? I didn't fall you ass, I was thrown."

"And the difference means what? How long have you been in pain? I know you lost blood when you cut your leg open, but how much have you lost bleeding internally to cause them to want to give you a transfusion?"

"I don't know!" he whined irritably. "Fuck Sam, you doped me up on pain meds when you took me home from the ER."

"Weren't you fine when I left you two days ago? I mean, you stayed behind because of your leg, right?" Sam's voice raised a notch in pitch. "Isn't that the reason Dean? Or did you stay behind for some other reason?" if Dean let him go on that hunt hiding abdominal pain from him, Sam would cripple him.

"Can we not do this now? What are you doing here anyway? Didn't expect you til tomorrow."

"The nurse downstairs told me you had been admitted. Where the hell did you think I'd be after hearing that?"

"I told them not to tell you."

Sam bit his tongue to keep from spitting out everything he wanted to say. Dean was avoiding him and the subject. Sam wanted to be furious, wanted to ream his brother up and down and call him out but common sense took control and Sam remained quiet.

"You didn't think I would notice you were missing?" Dean wasn't asking him to leave. Wasn't picking on him or calling him out. That had to count for something, didn't it? It was all he had to hold onto and he wasn't going to let go. Cause if Dean told him he didn't want him around..."You hungry?" he asked when he was sure he could speak without his voice quivering. "I'll check with the nurse and see what you can have. It's after eight, I doubt you had dinner."

"Sam." he hadn't missed the kid's pale complexion or the red webs that obliterated the white of his eyes. Not for the first time he wondered what the hell was going on with Sam. Joe and Jack and the nurse and the doctor had all assured him Sam was fine. Dean knew they'd come into the ER together, then been separated. That meant Sam had been taken care of. Jack had convinced him Sam had suffered no severe injuries from the Wendigo attack and Dean had been content to let it go.

"No. I'm good." he stood up. "I'm not going to argue or disagree or throw a fit until after I've talked to your doctor and Jack. But then, be prepared, cause I ain't backing down if I feel you're being stupid or stubborn or an ass. I'm going out to get something to eat."

When he returned an hour later, Dean was asleep. Sam stood in the doorway, eying his brother and not for the first time, in awe of how young and small Dean looked when in a hospital bed. Least this time he wasn't hooked up to monitors and there were no tubes up his nose or down his throat, no IV's, no blood pressure clip, no oxygen tubing, no heart leads snaking under the neck of the ridiculously oversized hospital gown.

Maybe it was the gown, or the numerous pillows or the white sheets or the way hospital beds never quite lay flat, whatever it was, Sam hated seeing his brother in the hospital. It made him realize just how vulnerable Dean was and forced him to admit, how at any time, Dean could be taken away from him, this time for good.

He'd met the same nurse in the hallway getting off the elevator a second time. She'd told him the doctor had been in to see Dean who still refused a transfusion and tests but had grudgingly agreed to wait for Sam to return before getting dressed and walking out of the hospital. Dr. Anvil would be back around before ten to speak with Sam.

"Hey." he entered the room and took a seat in the same chair he'd vacated earlier. "Awake?"

"You know I am." he yawned sleepily. "Bring me anything?"

Sam offered him a white Styrofoam cup with a straw. At first Dean thought it was coffee and as much as he loved coffee, he just didn't want any right then. Several blinks later, bleary eyes saw the straw and he was struggled to sit up. Sam knew him so well.

Sam waited to see if he would know what it was, would want it, would take it. If Dean refused it, Sam knew he would cry. It meant Dean was sicker, in more pain and hurt worse than he was admitting.

"Vanilla?" Dean pushed himself up in the bed, at least four pillows behind him. He must have really sweet talked the nurse into allowing him to have so many.

"With malt."

Dean took the milkshake with both hands with such a look of happiness on his face that all Sam could think about was the Goth girl on that TV show when her boss brought her a huge cup of some caffeinated drink and she clasped it in both hands and slurped happily.

"What?" Dean asked, eyes narrowing at the smile that played with his brothers lips, easing the harsh lines of tiredness and worry around his eyes.

"Erhm, nothing, so, it good?" he cleared this throat. No way was he going to share with Dean the vision currently in his head. He didn't think, no he knew, Dean would not like being compared to some gothic forensics chic on a TV show.

"Yeah, thanks."

The doctor chose that moment to enter the room and Sam rose to his feet to shake his hand in greeting. Dean didn't pay them much attention, content to drink his milkshake and give serious thought to at least spending the night. It would make Sam happy and the way he was looking, he'd have a meltdown if Dean argued with him much more. And hell, it was sometime after nine, had to be.

"How's his appetite been? Has it been off? What is his normal diet?"

"Hey! Not a horse, ain't off my feed!" Dean protested, hearing snippets of what they were saying. Didn't look like Sam was going to agree to get him out of there; looked like he'd be submitting to whatever liver function tests they were insistent on performing and whether he wanted it or not, looked like he'd be getting those two units of blood. Great. Well, fine, but they weren't going to get him to be happy about it.

He should get out of bed, find his clothes and walk right out that door. He'd do it too, if Sammy was trying not to cry. So, ok, the story he would tell was he stayed for Sam's benefit, not because he was dizzy and in pain and weak and nauseous. Nope, did it all for Sammy.

Next thing he heard was Sam agreeing to have Dean started on IV pain meds. Might not be such a bad idea, the shot he'd been given was wearing off and his leg was sitting up and begging for attention. Fine, Sam wanted to be in charge and make decisions, Dean had no problem with that.

He was once again, falling asleep, his body having given up the fight to remain conscious. A prick in his arm alerted him to the fact he was going to have some help in being unable to stay awake. He lifted heavy eyelids to see an IV port inserted into his left arm. So, not a shot, an IV, looked like he was here to stay for a few days.

He stirred with a murmured protest, reaching to stop the nurse. Where had his milkshake gone? He didn't remember giving up the cup. His hand was caught and held as his arm was pushed to the mattress. Sam didn't even bother to pause in his conversation with the doctor. Simply reached out and stilled his brother's movements with a simple touch. Dean huffed and gave up completely. Fine, have it Sammy's way, again.

"So, he didn't do any further damage to his leg? Just ripped some stitches lose?" Sam repeated so he was sure he understood. "Wow."

"Just painful." the doctor nodded. "He was lucky. Soon as the test results are back, we'll know more about the laceration, in the meantime..."

"Yeah, go ahead, start the transfusion." was the last thing he heard his brother say.

Dean woke sluggishly, reluctant to leave the last remnants of a pleasant dream. He stirred, moving about the bed, legs stilling when the blankets didn't give. Smiling, he reached out for the warm body he knew, from the weight on the bed, was beside him. He expected to encounter a handful of soft, silky nightie, smooth, warm skin and feel the tickle of hair along his arm. So when his hand gripped stiff denim and his fingers poked against muscle, he frowned, giving the body an experimental shove with the palm of his hand. It didn't budge, not Lisa then.

He squeezed and the muscle beneath his hand flexed and contracted but didn't move away. He tugged but his hand wasn't shoved away. Screwing up his courage, he partially cracked open one eye.

Sammy.

He was in a hospital bed and Sam sat on it next to him, talking quietly with a nurse. Why wasn't Sam in the chair and what the hell was he doing in the hospital? Right, he'd insisted on leaving, but Sammy had not seen things the same way. IV fluids, liquid pain meds and a blood transfusion meant Sam had been the one to get his way, not Dean.

Sam's head was bent, eyes on the hand that was gripping the denim of his jeans at the knee. He seemed content, if not comfortable, but Dean knew Sam wouldn't break the contact with him until he felt the grip ease and the fist relax.

"Look, I have to be ok, don't you get that? I can't...not be..." Sam was saying in that husky voice that betrayed his emotions. "I don't get to be...not ok. I have to be ok so he is, if he thinks I'm not...if he even suspects I'm struggling, he'll... I dunno, it's just...he has to be ok, cause I won't be if anything happens to him. I can't lose him again, it killed me last time and if I hadn't gotten him back when I did, I wouldn't...the world would have ended." he pushed his hands through his hair, interlacing his fingers atop his head to keep his bangs out of his face.

"You mean your world." she corrected gently. "Your world would have ended."

"No." he raised tear-filled eyes to meet hers. "The world...mine ended the day he died."

"He's going to be fine, just needs some rest, plenty of rest." she patted his knee. "He's not going to die, ok? You'll be able to take him home in a couple days."

"I'll go soon." he said huskily. "I don't want him to wake up and think I left him...you know? We've been arguing a lot lately, and I dunno...kinda thinking he might not want to be around me, but I...I need to be with him for a bit longer...if that's ok?"

"Stay as long as you like." she stood up. "You need anything, ring his bell or just pop out to the counter."

Sam nodded. "Thanks." she left and Sam gave in to the urge he'd been fighting all evening. He laid his hand over the fingers grasping his pants leg and gave them a gentle squeeze, fisting the thumb. "You're wrong you know." Sam whispered to his sleeping brother. Eyes on Dean's hand, he didn't notice the barely slit-opened eye. "You have something you'll never lose…..me."

***END***

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!