Written for SSA's "Dean & Pie" short story competition. This story is complete – I'll post all chapters over the next few days in honour of the end of Hellatus! Hope you like it.

Saving you – Chapter 1

"Damn it," Dean groaned, pressing the clean towel against the seeping shoulder wound. He stared in the mirror, at a reflection that was hard to recognize. Dark, weary eyes were clear evidence of exhaustion; he'd not slept in days, not since Sammy had gone missing. Now his brother was safe, sitting bewildered in the next room, oblivious to the damage he'd caused. "Way to go bro," he thought as blood continued to seep through the white cloth.

The tap at the door was barely audible. "Hey Dean … you okay in there?"

"Yeah Sammy … m'okay."

It was a lie, designed to reassure his worried brother. He was far from okay and he knew it; Sam's crushing hand had torn Jo's "make-do" stitching, which was why he'd started to bleed again. And his attempts to re-seal the wound were having little effect. He desperately needed medical attention but a trip to the local hospital was out of the question; they'd know he'd been shot and call the cops. It would be too big a risk so soon after Milwaukee.

He should've told Bobby, should've asked for the help he desperately needed. But he didn't want Sam to find out what he'd done while possessed; poor kid was already feeling guilty enough. He could see the pain in his younger brother's eyes; felt for him when he'd told him he'd been awake when Wandell had died (seen the light go out of his eyes). He was surprised but thankful that Meg hadn't forced his brother to watch when she'd shot him; when he'd taken that nose dive into the river, into the ice-cold blackness.

He'd fought for his life in that river, fought frantically to get to the surface, his lungs crying out for air. And he'd barely made it out; "one arm only" swimming a severe hindrance. By the time Jo had found him he was barely conscious; shock from the loss of blood kicking in. She'd done her best to patch him up, to pull out the bullet; clean the wound; stitch him up. But her med-kit had been limited, had lacked the medication that he needed, the antibiotics he should've been taking from day one. He'd swallowed polluted river water and bacteria had washed into the open bullet wound. Judging by the way he looked right now he was paying the price; the shoulder was badly infected.

Fever-flushed he felt his legs begin to shake. Grabbing the sink he tried to maintain his balance, but when the room began to spin he knew he'd lost his fight with gravity and gave in, collapsing onto the bathroom floor. Shivering uncontrollably he tried to call for his brother, but lacked the energy even for that. Closing his eyes he welcomed blessed oblivion.