Thankful For a Brother Like You

Chapter 3

Five Days Later:

Jim Murphy had dealt with a lot of things in his life as both a Pastor and a hunter but if he was honest with himself the past five days had been the hardest he'd seen in a long while.

Five days ago he'd believed that things would settle down once Sam Winchester was allowed to rest and given correct medication for the illness he'd picked up. He had believed that he could leave the brothers alone so he could work on the coming Sunday sermon and leave a couple messages on the two numbers he still had for John Winchester.

He had believed that up until a few hours later when he heard Dean shouting for him and by the time he got to the boys he saw that his beliefs were wrong.

That was five days ago and now as evening crept closer he finally chose to approach the older Winchester who had been standing on the small dock by the lakeside cabin for the past few hours, which was actually the first time Dean had been outside since he'd found his younger brother struggling to breathe and apparently coughing up blood.

"Dean? It's going to get colder now. Don't you think you should come in and…"

"Y'know, there are days that I hate this life," this quietly made admission made the older man blink but he thought he understood where the boy was coming from. "I mean, I know that what we do, the things we hunt save people and saves lives but…there are times when I wish it wasn't my life. I wish my Mom was still alive, that the damn fire hadn't happened and that Dad never became obsessed with finding the thing that killed her. I wish that he hadn't dragged me and Sam all over the goddamn country with him while he did hunt it and I wish…"

"Do you wish Sam was never born or that he'd died instead of your Mom?" Jim saw the change in posture and was prepared to block the fist that he suspected would shoot out but only saw a small but sad smile come over Dean's rugged face as he stared at something he'd been holding.

Feeling the edge of temper spark at the words spoken, Dean blew out a shaky breath because he knew he was still too raw for much more chick flickery as he'd be prone to say if he wasn't exhausted. "No, and that's what no one who knows the full story about us has ever understood," he began quietly, finally turning to face the older hunter while holding his hand out to show the rubbery black band that matched the one he wore…Sam's band. "I never held it against Sammy that Mom died in his nursery. I never once blamed him or hated him or wished that he wasn't my brother because Sammy was the only kid I would have ever wanted for that job. I've been more than thankful that he was my brother," fingers closing around the band he still recalled taking it off of Sam before Jim kicked him out of the bedroom the other night. "He's been my pain in the ass little brother from the very moment Mom told me she was having a baby and he'll always be that…no matter what."

Knowing that showing true emotions had never been easy for Dean, Jim remained quiet but cautious since he was more than aware of how fast Dean's emotions could turn dark. "This wasn't your fault, Dean," he remarked but the bitter chuckle he heard told him that wouldn't be easily believed.

" 'Take care of Sammy, Dean. Watch after your little brother, Dean,'" he quoted the two things he'd grown up hearing from his Dad while thinking back to every time in his life that he'd done that and failed. "I raised Sam, Pastor Jim, not Dad. I never once begrudged Sammy the life he wanted, in fact I fought to make sure he got the chance to have the normal life and then I screw up and drag him back into it.

"I was selfish and tired of it all so when Dad dropped out of sight this time I went to Stanford to get Sam and it cost him because if I had left well enough alone, if I'd left him alone maybe he'd be in Law School by now and still able to have a future with his dream girl," Dean finally turned to face Jim fully and the moon shining down showed the tears that Jim knew the boy wouldn't let fall. "I was raised by a former Marine who drilled everything I know into my head and yet I stood in a puddle of water while using a damn taser. I fried myself and then left Sam alone to cope when I knew that he couldn't because Sammy never handled it when I was hurt or sick and you know that."

Jim couldn't deny that since he'd seen how Sam reacted one time to an injury his brother suffered but also knew that John hadn't helped that situation any. "Sam's not twelve or sixteen anymore, Dean. He's twenty-two and grown up. Yes, Sam still sees you as the invincible big brother who should never be able to be hurt but no one has that ability. Everyone's human…including you and no matter how hard you try or how much you want to… you can't keep him in a bubble. Sam's going to fall and get hurt once and awhile…and so will you because you're not Superman."

"Nah, always told Sammy I was more in line with Batman," Dean's smile was shaky but stronger even though he dreaded going back inside the cabin. "I just wanted him safe. He's still jumpy after that damn 'shifter took my form and said some crap to him but I never held it against Sam that he went to college while I stayed with Dad. Hell, I gave up…"

"Sam doesn't know what you gave up so he could go to school, does he, Dean?" the Pastor doubted it but got his answer by the absent one shouldered shrug. "You never told Sam the real reason you dropped out of school and he doesn't know what else you passed up for…Dean…"

Skipping a final stone across the water, Dean ran the band through his fingers a final time before slipping into the pocket of his jeans since his leather jacket was still inside with… "Only Caleb knows about the trade school thing and no, both Dad and Sam still think I dropped out because of my grades and missing transcripts. Better to believe that than to have let Sam feel guilty because if you think I hold guilt…that kid's the King of it."

Jim knew that well enough since he'd seen both of John's boys carry guilt for one thing or another which was something else he planned on bringing up to their Father…the first time he got the man to pick up a phone. Right then he had to finish picking up the pieces of this mess. "Dean, you can't stay out here all night. You need to see…"

"Yeah, I know," the young hunter whispered while wishing for a bottle of Jack Daniels to numb this pain but finally nodded as he steeled himself for what was to come. "Jim? Have…have you talked to Dad?"

"Not in awhile," Jim admitted, staying close as he and Dean took the path back up to his place. "I know he said he was on to something big but wouldn't say anything else. You did everything you could've, Dean. You've always done what John wanted. Now it's time you start doing what's best for you…and for Sam."

"If I'd done what was best for Sam, Sir…I would've taken him and split when he was sixteen," Dean replied bitterly, stepping into the warm house but barely felt the temperature change as he stared at the closed door to the downstairs guest room before reaching for the handle. "What was best for Sammy was if I'd've left him the hell alone."

Jim waited until he heard the door click closed to release the breath he'd been holding. "No, son, because that wouldn't have been right for either of you."

Stepping into the bedroom, Dean's tired eyes immediately landed on the repacked duffel bags since he'd spent all morning putting things back as they had been or as close to it as he could get considering things. Running his hand over Sam's he felt his throat tighten as he thought back five days to the pure panic he'd felt when he spotted the blood and how white Sam had been as he struggled to get air into straining lungs.

For Dean, the very thought of losing his little brother was like losing a piece of himself so when Jim had taken a look at the situation and forced Dean out until he could get a better handle on what had happened it seemed like every part of their childhood had flashed in front of him.

He remembered the first time his Mom had let him hold his newly brought home chubby but always happy baby brother, he remembered the fear he'd felt while protecting Sam the night of the fire, he saw his brother the first time he walked, or spoke his first words or…

"Sonuvabitch," he whispered, feeling his eyes burn as tears once again threatened to come but quickly slashed them away as he heard a sound from behind him. "I wouldn't even advise you trying it." he spoke while coughing to try to cover the slight shake to his voice or the huskiness of it from emotions he did not want to show right then.

The bed squeaked but no sound from the floorboards were heard. "How long?"

"How long what?" Dean asked tightly, knowing his voice was deeper and more harsh than he meant but he was still riding on emotions and fears that he hadn't gotten over yet and could only hope it was taken as such. "Are you grounded? Try a century times infinity, little brother."

"I kind of meant how long was I out but I guess by that it must've been awhile," Sam Winchester's hazel eyes were still shadowed by exhaustion but they weren't as glassy or wide as they had been the last time his brother had seen them open.

Sam's memories were spotty at best. He remembered his brother being hurt, he remembered the Le Grange's and the Reaper and he briefly recalled going to the laundry then it all fades for him with bits and pieces of memory coming until he came to with his worried brother sitting next to him while Jim Murphy complained about the bullheadedness of Winchesters.

"You want the time from when you crashed at that laundry or when you tried to take my head off the first time in the Impala or any of the times here at Pastor Jim's after you decided to scare fifty years off my life?" Dean tossed back, still keeping his back to his brother while he made himself busy finishing folding the last of their things before giving up, throwing the shirt down to whirl toward the back. "You scared the shit outta me, Sammy."

Still remembering his panic at seeing Sam so lifeless and choking, Dean had also flashed on every other time his brother had ever been hurt and his own exhaustion and injuries nearly took Dean down as well.

"Ignoring the fact that you used those goddamn pills to stay awake again, forgetting the fact you knew you were getting sick and neglected to tell me, the fact that I thought you were choking on your own blood five nights ago did not make me a very happy big brother," Dean knew he needed to calm down even before he caught the way Sam tensed when he neared the bed. "Damn it," he whispered, going to step back until he could level things off only to feel tentative fingers grip his wrist in a familiar move. "Why?"

It didn't take a genuis to guess what that question was in reference to since Pastor Jim had already given one lecture on his rather stupid use of the pills to help keep him awake. Sam knew it would only be a matter of time before Dean jumped on him but sudden weariness, the gruffer tone warned him that something had happened to scare Dean so instead of the light answer that he would've given Sam tightened his fingers until finally his brother sat on the edge of the bed.

"I needed to stay awake so I could find someone, something to help save you," he began quietly, lashes hiding hazel eyes that he knew would be shining with tears he didn't want Dean to cope with on top of everything else. "I had to do that because you're always looking out for me and I…I couldn't lose you, Dean. Not like that, not on top of losing Jess. You're my brother and I…" he broke off before saying the words he knew would make his brother bolt. "I'd taken pills before…in school and…"

"And nearly killed yourself then too," Dean growled, this time it was his turn to grasp the retreating arm as Sam went to pull away at his mention of Stanford. "You don't remember that time, do you, Sam?"

Frowning, Sam recalled a friend in the dorm getting him something to stay awake while he studied for exams and worked. He recalled taking them and knowing when something was wrong because it had been getting hard to concentrate, to breathe and he thought he'd heard his brother talking to him…well, yelling some of the time but he'd chalked that up to wistful thinking since he knew Dean hadn't been… "You were there?"

"You're not fun when you're sick, Sam so you were really a handful while stoned outta your head on pep pills and sick," Dean rolled his eyes but gripped Sam's wrist tighter to hold him still while using his other hand to reach around and grip his brother's neck like he would when he'd been small and Dean needed to make a point. "I stayed with you, I stayed for you until I knew you were safe enough to be left alone and then I stayed around until I was sure you were back on your feet."

"Well, that explains why Freddy avoided me from then on," Sam mused, blinking when he felt the fingers on his neck squeeze gently until he lifted his eyes to meet firm green ones. "Dean, did you…"

Snorting, Dean let go but didn't move away as he waved a hand. "Hell, no. Caleb beat the shit outta that geek," he shrugged, scowling. "He wouldn't let me near the son of a bitch. You know I will break you if I ever see you taking those again, right?"

"Yeah, I know," Sam yawned, still feeling sore from the other night when he'd woken up too fast, confused to where he was at and tripped. Hitting his nose and side of his face on the table by the bathroom he fallen and in his panic, began to cough which brought up the remaining pills and infection that had been in him.

It had been the nosebleed dripping onto the floor that had sent his older brother into such a panic but only Jim Murphy learned that after he'd forced Dean out so he could check on Sam himself. Then with most of the pills out, his fever coming down and a small understanding of where he was and where his brother was, Sam had fallen to sleep for the next few days which, as he'd come to learn later, was when Dean fell apart.

"I'm…sorry," he whispered, seeing his brother's frown but blinked when he felt the band go back around his wrist since Jim had told him that he'd removed it before the first ice bath. "I…just wanted to help you. I didn't mean to…cause all this…"

Staring at his hands while considering his next move it was what Sam wasn't saying and the way his already soft voice dropped that made up his mind when he moved quickly to pull his still emotionally and physically exhausted little brother into a hard hug, something that Dean had wanted to do from the moment the kid first opened his eyes again earlier that morning.

"I know, Sammy, I know," he murmured, hearing a soft sob and letting his fingers card through Sam's hair while deciding it was time to mention that his brother needed a haircut. "Though you are still so grounded for this stunt," Dean gave the hug another moment because he knew his brother and knew Sam would fall back to sleep soon.

"Too old to be grounded, De'n," Sam mumbled, knowing he'd hear about this for awhile but was still too relieved that Dean was alive and with him to care at the moment. " 'Sides, Pastor Jim said you do…stunts too so…"

"Shut up, Sammy," Dean decided to get off that subject for the moment then smiled as he watched knowingly as his 6'4" little brother flopped onto his stomach like he knew Sam did when sick, drunk, or scared. "You know I can't promise not to…"

Big, watery hazel colored puppy dog eyes shined up at Dean and he felt the words drying up as he laid a gentle hand on a shoulder that still shook slightly as Sam stared up at him with the same open innocence and trust that he'd always given his brother. "Don't leave…like Dad," he whispered, moving a hand blindly until he found the firm grip of the hand that Sam instinctively knew would always been there for him. "Don' want to be alone, De'n."

"You…you won't be alone, Sammy," Dean promised, giving up on trying to be the reasonable one since he knew he'd move heaven and hell if it meant protecting Sam from whatever threat might come. "Hey, didn't I tell you that nothing bad would happen to you while I was around? Though if you caused me to scratch my car I am so ending you, baby brother."

A small laugh ended on a hiccup as Sam turned his face into the pillow to fall back to sleep, confident that he was safe for the moment and that Dean would be there when he woke up.

"I'll never leave you, Sammy," Dean whispered the promise he remembered making the night his brother was sixteen and hurt. He just hoped that he could keep it better than he had that time.

Three days later, Jim Murphy watched the trunk of the Impala close with a well known thud before eyeing the shaggy head that was leaning against the passenger side window. "You know that you and Sam can stay until you're both well, Dean," he repeated the same offer that he'd been trying the last day or so to get one of the boys to accept. "Sam's still sick and you're…"

"I'm fine enough that I can take care of Sam now that it's just a simple cold and some sleep deprivation I'm dealing with," Dean returned, grateful for the offer but knowing that Sam was getting edgy with being in one place for so long because they couldn't be certain if another of his visions would hit and neither Winchester was ready for anyone else, even a long time friend, to know about those.

Glancing into the Impala to see that Sam seemed to be sleeping but knowing his brother too well to buy that, Dean smiled before accepting the offered hand. "I appreciate you helping me with him, Pastor Jim," he coughed, feeling as awkward as he had as a teenager when needing to accept help from someone. "We'll be okay now but if you happen to hear from Dad…" he drew off, uncertain what he wanted to say in that area.

"Oh, I know what I'll say to John if I hear from him, Dean," Jim assured him, very clear on that topic since he'd seen John do this crap to the boys too often. "Just promise me that you'll take care of yourself…as well as your brother?"

"Yes, Sir," Dean accepted the older man's concern as just Jim's concern for them. "Thanks," he added before getting into the car and pulling away. "You okay?" he asked after awhile, knowing Sam was sleeping.

A brief pause was heard before Sam nodded, clearly still tired but better than he had been. "Do you think Dad's getting our messages, Dean?" he asked softly, not missing the way his brother's fingers tightened on the wheel. "I mean, if he had gotten mine about you…I mean…he'd've come for you, right?"

Knowing that Sam need an answer even if it was one that Dean didn't want to give or accept, he bit his lip while watching the road then noticed the way Sam was picking at the material of his jeans. A tell that his little brother was upset and so Dean did what he always did when Sam was small and asking questions about their Dad…he lied.

"No, probably not, Sammy," he shrugged, reaching for the box of cassette tapes to hand it to his brother to pick one. "His phone might be turned off or broke. He would've called you back so let it go. We'll do what it is that we do best and…one day…one day we'll find Dad. Now, pick a tape…bitch."

"Jerk," Sam smiled while rolling his eyes at the tapes before choosing one and knowing without even seeing Dean's face that he was smiling the one rare smile that Sam knew meant things were good between them. "Dean, we really need to…"

"House rules, Sammy," Dean warned then laughed with the mutter he got in return while turning up the music only until he felt Sam shift more against the door and knew this time his brother had fallen asleep fully. "Family business, Sammy," he whispered, reaching over with one hand to lay his jacket over his sleeping brother and left it there a moment until he felt Sam relax fully. "Saving people. That's what we do and what I do is always take care of the little brother that I will always be thankful that I have."

Dean's eyes returned to the road while keeping one hand one Sam's shoulder because he knew at this stage of illness his brother was still prone to bad dreams and was still insecure so as AC/DC played on the stereo, he let himself relax for the first time in weeks.

Content that he was healthy or healing and that Sam would be fine once he got over this latest set back, Dean knew things were good and he'd keep them that way…no matter who he had to kill to do it.

The End

Author Note: See? I said no death fic, lol. Thanks for reading this and I hope everyone enjoyed it.