ME AND MY SHADOW

By: Karen B.

Summary: Lots of confused, out of his head, hurt Sam balanced off with equal lots of caretaker, tender, snarky Dean. Just for fun. A grain of humor to salt. No rhyme. No reason. No plot bunny. No worries.

Disclaimer: Not the owner!

Rated: Just 'cause.

Never fear shadows. They simply mean there's a light shining somewhere nearby." ~Ruth E. Renkel

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Sam stumbled through the shade of ever growing trees, or was that Evergreen trees? He couldn't be sure anymore, barely able to hold his head up or keep his feet from tangling. His muscles were tight and twitching, knees drooping toward the ground. Desperate to keep upright he pressed up against the bark of one of those trees, planting his feet firmer under him.

He glanced around the forest; everything was spinning like a carnival of neon lights. His normally hard head felt soft and spreadable, like Philly cream cheese. Breathing in burned his lungs and bumble bees seemed to decide to make his ears their new hive.

What the hell was going on?

Sam titled his head back knocking it against the tree. "Ugh." The back of his head felt smashed in. He knew his head was bleeding, could feel where his hair was soaked and sticking to his scalp. He didn't know how serious, however. Small cuts bled just as much as big cuts where the grapefruit was concerned.

Stretching his neck carefully and slowly, he peered up through the expanse of thick branches and clusters of rustling dead-brown leaves. No. Not Evergreens. Maybe they were Maple or Oak. Squinting and concentrating harder than he ever had before, he found the sky. Time had no meaning. A single second or one million years were both the same. Took a while, but Sam finally figured out, behind those gray clouds, the sun was setting. It would be nighttime soon. In what century he did not know.

Black spots danced before his eyes and he dropped his chin to his chest, plastering himself further against the trunk. "Aw, God," he moaned, knowing enough that God had nothing to do with this. But who had? Something was wrong - obviously. He was on the verge of darkness; alone, and lost, and in pain. As if the pain had heard his thoughts, it pulled on his lips and he whimpered, "Nuuu."

He fought against the sharp sting that seemed to come from everywhere. Sweat soaked his shirt – cold and wet. He was going down. Sam spread his feet apart for better balance, arms straight at his sides; he flattened his palms to the tree, fingers digging into the bark searching for a handhold.

Suddenly, flashes of memory came to him. Letters dashed about in his brain creating words like some freaky Scrabble game. 'It's in the bushes, right behind you,' he'd shouted at someone.

He remembered something about chili cheese fries, seeing a brown leather jacket, a hairy paw reaching out through a tangle of thorny brush toward it. The stench of death. He remembered needing to run, to detour, to keep that leather jacket from receiving one claw mark. He remembered hearing growling and shouting and violent thrashing. He ran and ran, but eventually was stopped when something grabbed him from behind, wrestled him belly down to the ground. He'd managed to flip himself over, but as hard as he bucked, he was trapped under the weight of the massive thing. That was it. That was all he could recall. So how'd he end up, here, back against a tree? Just what had happened? And when?

Sam's attention turned further inward. His heart was working overtime, his lungs doing the same. Too bad his brain was a slacker. He couldn't move, didn't dare. One step away from the tree that had become his back brace and he knew he'd blackout. He couldn't blackout. And why was that so important?

He lifted his head, shook the hair from his eyes and resumed his survey of the area. To his right – frost coated trees, to his left – frost coated trees, and straight ahead… yeah… still more crappy frost coated trees. The sun was fading. Not that it brought any warmth anyhoo, and soon those frosted trees would turn into globs of black shadows. Somehow he knew… not so fun things hid in those shadows.

His fingers were turning numb, from gripping the bark so hard. The sun was gone now, the last of daylight lingering in a gray mist rising up from the frozen dirt and dead leaf matted forest floor. How'd that happen so fast?

Tempus fugit.

That was Latin for something wasn't it?

Sam rocked his head to one side, cheek scrapping against the brick wall. "No," he grunted. Not a brick wall… a tree. Man, he was losing it. The only thing he didn't lose was the overbearing pain. Not that he knew where exactly all the pain was radiating from. Was as if he were a paper target tacked to the tree behind him – and full of bullet holes. The gray fog thickened and his knees finally gave out as he did a slow, spine scrapping slide toward the ground.

A pair of strong and overeager hands suddenly appeared from out of the mist and snatched a hold of him, grabbing fistfuls of shirt just as his ass thumped down.

"Sam!"

"Ahhh." Sam jerked away.

"Sammy!" The offending hands were strong, yet gentle, as they seemed to be checking him out.

"Crap! Crap! Crap!" Fingers ran through his hair, to the back of his neck, up under his shirt, all over his body. "We gotta go. We gotta go, now," An agonizing hollow voice was shouting, patting his raw cheek and begging him to do something, but he wasn't sure what.

Sam somehow found just enough energy to take control of his feet and push upward to stand.

The hands helped. "That's it, dude. Find your feet. That's what I need you to do." One hand gripped his left forearm the other clamping down on his right shoulder.

It hurt so badly.

"Guh!" Sam cried out, the pain sending him staggering drunkenly away from the hand. Two steps left- two steps right. All he wanted was to be left alone, to lie down and not twitch a muscle – ever again.

"Son of a bitch, work with me, this isn't dance class."

Sam hadn't known where the majority of the pain was coming from before, but he sure knew now. It was an upgrade, though a sucky one.

"Shit," he gasped, slamming his eyes shut. His right shoulder was throbbing and screaming and burning and itching all at the same time. "Don't touch," he groaned, teetering. "Just don't." His legs seemed to turn to elastic, taffy-life and stretchy, both traveling off in different directions, then disappearing out from under him.

"Whoa! Sam!" The offending, yet gentle hands were back and something cold splashed him in the face.

His heart began trip hammering in his shoulder. He frowned. Shouldn't that organ be trip hammering in his chest? The voice kept yammering and his blood kept pumping. Wildly so, rushing through his veins, rushing upward and gushing out of muscle and tendon, the slickness, then dripping down his right arm.

"None of that, you stay with me, you hear?"

Sam blinked open his eyes, watching as the bees came back, black spots flying at him, smacking him in his face, and then disappeared, leaving behind a sting that revived him somewhat.

Curious, Sam glanced sideways. He was sitting on the cold ground, leaning against the tree again, but this time there was a shadow crouched down beside him. At first Sam thought he should be afraid, should try to fight, to start running again. Shadows were normally creepy, misshapen, gaseous, evil things that enveloped you, tried to harm you. But his shadow was no enemy. This shadow was different. Or maybe he was just too out of it to care enough to be afraid.

"It's okay. You're okay. I'm here now," The shadow soothed as if it read his mind.

Sam wiggled back against the tree, his shoulder burning hot - like bubbling pizza cheese.

"What the hell were you thinking? Splitting off from me and going on your own like that, talk about faulty directions," the shadow growled, adding more and more pressure to his hurting shoulder.

The harder the pressure, the more Sam's wound burned. "Uhhh," Sam gasped

"I outta give you a beat down here and now! I've been looking for signs of you," the shadow shook its head. "For you for hours…I thought—" The shadow cleared its throat, fingering the back of Sam's skull. "Crap, you took a good knock to the head, gravy for brains," he said, voice softer. "But what I'm really worried about right now is the fact we're out in the open and need to get moving…this is going to hurt, bro," The shadow man warned, tying something around said shoulder, pulling and tugging tight.

Sam's stomach felt strange and he leaned sideways gagging, only a little spit coming out.

The shadow was immediately there ducking down, worried green eyes peering out of the blackness. "Hold on to those chili cheese fries, you got me? I didn't spend my hard earned winnings on them so you could puke them up."

How'd that go? Sam felt like a complete idiot.

The shadow kept on asking him questions, simple questions. One's a fourth grader could answer. Sam opened his mouth, but no answers came out.

The shadow grabbed hold of his hand and squeezed. "Hey, answer me! Did you see it up close?"

Oh. Right. Yeah, sure, he saw it up close. Didn't he?

"It was…" Sam started. "I followed…" He frowned, totally confused. How could he forget? "I thought…didn't -" he gulped, the pain receding again, replaced by an empty floatiness.

"Sam." The shadow squeezed his hand harder. "I need you to stay with it, man!"

Sam stared at the blob of a shadow who wouldn't stop talking, giving him more of a headache.

"I don't-" Sam shivered, not understanding, just wanting the damn smoky form to shut up.

"Hey! You hearing me?" Puffs of white air expelled out the shadow's mouth.

Was he? Hearing? Seeing? Feeling anything at all? Sam was losing focus, disconnected, ballooning and floating off.

"Damn thing nearly ripped your arm off," the shadow mumbled, pulling Sam slightly forward and supporting him while he worked a coat behind him "When I found your parka on the ground like that…" The shadow eased Sam back, picking up his good arm and sliding it into a sleeve, "The lining was ripped open and all the stuffing pulled out and – "the shadow seemed to shiver. "Just let's get you warmed up." The shadow draped the other end of the parka over Sam's injured shoulder.

Grateful for the heat and not to have his shoulder jostled anymore, Sam wormed around inside getting comfortable while the shadow talked about juicy last meals and stupid bitches and pain in the ass brothers.

"Can you?" The shadow asked.

"Can I wha…what?" Sam slurred.

"Never mind," The shadow spat in obvious frustration, pulling him up to his feet. "Let's get us out of here first."

It was like being in another world, and Sam had to force himself to move along, but his strides were halting and awkward even with the shadow's help. And why was the thing helping him in the first place?

An icy silence hung in the air. Only the sound of heavy panting coming from him and his shadow could be heard. Sam stared long and hard as cotton balls started to fall from the sky. No, not cotton balls, snow. White snow, that clung heavily to stiff tree branches and everything else in sight. The first thing that came to mind was the North Pole. Silver bells and leather harnessed reindeer. No. He didn't believe. Not anymore. Magic and romantic ocean sunsets and glittering winged fairies that granted you your every wish had never existed. They were a long ago notion no longer twirling inside of him. The thought didn't sadden him. There were plenty of other myth, legend, and lore twirling inside that did exist. Wasn't there?

Sam stumbled, slipping on an icy log.

"Damn it," his shadow growled disapprovingly, yanking him upward and staring into his face. "You're eyes are messed up, man. I think that thing's bite did something to loop you up. Maybe to slow you down so you don't fight it while it takes its time eating."

Rubbing his blurry eyes, Sam examined the shadow closer.

"We gotta keep moving," The shadow man said. "Don't want us to run into that butcher again with you down and out."

This guy was no Old World Santa. With his cropped, wet hair, brown, leather jacket, heavy combat boots and black-strapped rifle slung over one shoulder.

"Are we having fun yet?" The shadow said in a sarcastic tone, prompting Sam with a slight nudge to move faster.

If he could call a shoulder burning like hellfire, frozen snot clinging under his nostrils that he couldn't wipe away, and a mind having regressed to the stone age because a stampeded of oxen – being driven to the slaughter – thundered through his head, then sure, he was having boatloads of fun.

Sam missed a step . "No fun," he let out a long sorrowful whimper.

"I know. I know." The shadow stopped moving. "Here, try this," he said gently, offering Sam water.

Sam choked down some water, coughing and trying not to drown.

"Easy. Try not to drown."

Didn't he just say that? Sam coughed again.

"Dude, don't drink so fast it's going down the wrong pipe." The shadow patted his back.

Sam flinched.

The shadow seemed to flinch in return, taking the water away. "Just lean against me and rest a minute."

"Thought…in a hurry." Sam swayed, but kept on his feet, only because the shadow tightened his hold.

"Yeah, well you being a girl…" The shadow's voice faded off for a while and the stampede in Sam's head came to a halt. Sure his eyes were open but he felt like he was asleep. He became aware of his body in motion again, aware of his feet placement. They weren't touching the ground; only the tips of both his boots were dragging across the frozen ground, injured arm hanging down, and the other drawn over the shadow's back.

The shadow was huffing and puffing and cursing, obviously engaging in a conversation with himself.

Flashes of images began to appear to Sam like a bizarre movie. He'd been hunting in the woods. Not deer or elk or bear either, but something horrible and evil and hairy. He had a hunting partner. Right. Sam frowned – what's his name? Jerk. Right, Jerk. No. His name was…was…was…

Sam made a sound that could have been somebody's name, but the word was so inaudible he couldn't make it out.

"Nice and easy," the shadow's voice was gentle and calm. "We're walking. Walkinging. Step. Step. Right. Left. Walking. Walking."

Sam obeyed the best he could.

"Good. That's the way. Keep going, keep going," the shadow repeated, seeming to be directing himself more than Sam.

Sam's injured shoulder accidently brushed up against a tree. "Ahhhh." He arched his back, knees buckling and crashing toward the ground.

"Sam! Come here," the shadow cried, his grip like a vice, sweeping Sam back upright.

Sam panted in agony, eyes slowly rolling upward.

"No, no, no." The shadow jiggled him hard.

Sam's head flopped back and forth, loose on his neck, until he was able to focus. There were those eyes meeting his again, green, but this time bloodshot.

"No checking out on me, man, you understand?"

"Hurts worse," Sam slurred miserably, shaking his head and fixing his feet firmer to stand his ground. Somehow needing to tell the shadow that and also knowing checking out was truly not a good move.

The shadow's vice-grip loosened. "Of course it hurts worse, bro, the woods sucks under normal circumstances, but I need you to keep walking with me as much as you can."

"Can't do this." Sam's breathing went shallow and his neck muscles tightened trying to hold his head up. "Need t' sit."

"No can do, tiger, only ten more steps to the car, then you can rest."

"Wha'?" Crap. Sam's ears were ringing so badly and he closed his eyes and kept them closed.

"Hey, come on, think!" The shadow demanded. "Count with me, Sammy," the shadow man coaxed, shifting his weight. "One-"

Sam swallowed dryly; he was going to be sick. All he wanted to do was get away from this guy and curl up into a ball.

"Sam!" There came another hard shake. "I know you don't want to, but you have too. One," his shadow growled angrily.

"Two," Sam had no choice but to counter.

"Three," the voice chimed.

Sam opened his eyes. Everything was swimming, white and jumbled. He glanced over at his shoulder. His jacket was torn and through it he could see heavy bleeding. His gaze swept down his arm, dangling useless and floppy. The sight twisted his stomach into a knot.

"Sick," he moaned.

"You're doing fine," the shadow's voice sounded shaky. "Just," a pause, "What comes after three?"

"Four," Sam automatically answered, eyes slowly shifting from his arm to the shadow so close next to him.

"That's my boy."

Sam frowned, swearing he saw the shadow smile.

They continued to trudge through a mixture of snow and lumpy mud. It was freezing and bitter cold. The unidentified shadow man next to him panted heavily, seemed determine to get him to the car. Why? Because evil things were generally eager to scrape the fresh flesh from your bones, Sam answered his own question.

"Concentrate, Sam. What comes after five, dude?"

"Four," Sam garbled the stampeding oxen were back this time their hooves like loud firecrackers exploding all around.

"Try six," he was told, the shadow sounding like a school teacher.

"You're an asshat" Sam gulped at the air.

"Uh-huh, six, right, and next?"

"Sev-" Sam faltered, nearly dropping to his knees. "Seven."

"And then?"

White and gray swirled all around; he knew he was dangling on the edge of consciousness, hanging by a gossamer thin thread. He was sleepy, his right foot dragging behind him every other step, body threatening to slither out of the silhouette's grasp.

The shadow man wouldn't allow that, just kept hold of him, yammering and questioning and asking. But Sam didn't have any answers, mostly because he didn't understand the questions.

A hand tightened around his arm. "Sammy, "he was hauled back up, "Say eight."

"Feel …" Sam drifted off, the words he wanted to say catching in his throat.

"What!" He was given a rough jolt. "Feel what? Sam! What do you feel?"

The shadow seemed to panic. Why would it care how he felt?

All these questions and all this manhandling and all this counting was pissing Sam off. What did the shadow-man want with him? Maybe he was one of those monster-types that liked to eat some now, save some for later. Was that why he was being coddled? Helped along? Bruised meat didn't taste as good as fresh. Sam wasn't telling his captor anything. All he wanted to do was break free and run, he wanted to reach for his boot where he kept his knife and gut the thing, but he was just too –

"Talk to me, Sam!" The shadow gave a tight squeeze and asked again, more demanding, "What do you feel?"

"Weak." Oops, did he say that out loud?

The shadow man sighed, "That's what happens when you bleed too much, Sammy. What comes after eight?"

More counting. Fantastic.

"Six," Sam murmured, eyes now on the snow-covered gravel.

"You suck at math, how the hell did you ever land your freak ass into college?"

"W-where?" Sam glanced all around.

"Big fat, F, Sam, your very first, big fat F."

The road took a curve and Sam glanced up. He was lead toward a large, black beast. And a beauty of a beast it was. Muscular sculpted from end to end – hairless and sleek and obviously very powerful. The snow from the sky melted the moment it touched the animal's mass, steam rising slowly up and twisting into nightmarish dream-like shapes.

Sam bulked, staggering senselessly, no choice but to struggle along.

"Easy. Come on, use your feet," he was ordered gruffly.

They continued on. The woods were soundless and the light was blinking out, pain nailing through him. They were on top of the black beast now, and Sam could see its wide grill-like mouth and large round eyes that appeared to be sleeping. If the beast woke, he was dead. Sam's chest started to pound and his breath turned to gasping. Wasn't the shadow man worried they would both be devoured in one mouthful?

The shadow man panted, obviously exhausted from holding Sam up. "Just need you to stay vertical for one more minute, bro."

Sam was spun around, pushed up against the beast's cold blackness. "Hold it right there." The faceless shadow left his sight, left him with just a voice ringing in his ears. "Keep holding, dude, keep right there. I see you."

Sam knew he should take flight, but his legs wouldn't obey his brain's commands as his knees obeyed gravities commands and bent, dipping toward the ground. He grasped and grabbed at the beasts smooth surface, fingers latching onto some sort of curled horn and he held himself in place. The beast must not have liked all the fondling as their came a loud bang and it shuddered.

Sam moaned deeply, the flames of pain all consuming.

"And where do you think you're going?" The shadow man was back, holding on to him gently.

Through hard squinting eyes, Sam watched as the shadow man cracked open the beast, the monster squeaking in protest. He was lowered inside, crammed into the beast's belly, and laid out flat, sealed inside. He took in a deep breath, waiting for stomach acid to burn the flesh from his skin and slosh his remains around like a washing machine.

Everything was raven-wing black, spinning around and around and around, this way, and that way, and this way again. Dizzy. The beast's inner walls seemed to move, coming closer and closer, closing in on him, crushing him, making it hard to breathe.

Sam moaned, struggling he lifted his head, looked all around.

The beast was startlingly hallow, and a portion of its inner skin was so thin Sam could see his reflection – lily-white skin and barely open eyes – staring back at him.

Could be a chink in the beast's armor.

Its Achilles heel.

His way out.

He had to break out.

Go. Go. Go.

Sam gathered what small amount of strength he had left bent his right knee and kicked out. Instantly he made contact with the beast's rock-hard shell, but the monster never so much as whimpered. Sam kicked out again, harder this time. Big mistake. The vibration hiked down his leg, shot through his torso, and jolted through his arms jarring his shoulder, stabbing into his head, and quivering all ten fingers.

"Ahhhhh," he cried out, back arching up high, and head dropping down to leathery cold skin just as the beast cracked open behind him.

"Dude, dude, dude." A hand curved under his neck, supporting, lifting gently, the leathery skin replaced with something warm and soft, pillowing his head.

Sam stared up at the moving shadow, which for some stupid reason had joined him inside the bowels of the beast. "Are you crazy?" The blur of a man scolded harshly. "What are you trying to do? Widen that wound?"

"So I can –"Pain seized Sam's shoulder, clamped down hard front to back, hot and slippery with blood. "So I can bre –"his mouth gaped open, breath caught in his throat, eyes rolling back into his head.

"Hang on. I get it."

Wind suddenly rushed through his hair, memories too, like the pages of a book turning so fast he couldn't keep up with the story. Sam sunk deeper into the pillow, heavy and sweaty and gurgling and choking. Unable to suck in the cool fresh air fast enough, he bit into his lower lip, a moist warmness dribbling down his chin.

A hand grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and shook him violently. "Don't you do that," more shaking, "Come on!"

The beast growled to life, the sound of metal rattling and stones spitting filtered past the pounding beat of his heart that somehow got jammed into his ears.

"Sam!" A cold, hard hand slapped his cheek. "Window's down."

Startled, Sam drew in several deep raspy breaths, eyes fluttering open.

"That's it. That's the way. You can clock me one for that later." A hand took his and gripped tight. "You just hold on, just hold on to me."

Sam's hand instinctively gripped back, breathing easier. He stared out the thin skin of the beast, watching strange wisps of light flicker on by – the shadow man seemingly in charge of the beast, both of them obviously addicted to speed.

/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~/

Sam's body felt numb, like it was someplace else, not attached to his head. Letters floated around him like tiles of a Scrabble game, but Sam couldn't form a single word.

He licked his lips. They felt crumbly and dry. He opened his eyes, but the crack of light flooding in made them water and he slammed them back shut. He was shirtless, laying on something soft. After thinking really hard for several long minutes, the numbness wore off. At first he thought he'd been stuffed inside a down-filled sleeping bag and zipped up to his chin. Holy crap he was hot as any oven. He tried to wiggle out, but couldn't seem to move his legs or arms, even his chest was heavy, and every muscle weighted down by chunks of…of…of…heavy rocks? Sam thought harder. At the snap of a finger, the down-filled sleeping bag disappeared into thin air, replaced by something thin and wet that caused his skin to itch. Holy crap he was cold as a freezer.

What the hell?

He stopped trying to move and started trying to think, but that didn't go so well either. His thoughts were all over the place - sloppy and slushy and dripping and gooey. He just couldn't grasp hold of a concrete idea. It was like he was floating just under the surface of a hot spring and then a frozen lake, unable to come up for air. Then a hot spring… again. Why was he so out of it?

Sam did the only other thing he could do. He held his breath, held very still, and listened.

Light footsteps paced back and forth not far from him and a voice that sounded as waterlogged as he felt spoke softly.

"It bit into his shoulder and broke through the other side, took out a nice chunk. I don't know what it is. Yes, we were out there hunting the unknown. None of the research added up so we just went looking for the bitch." There was a long pause. "He's been under a long time. Yes, I know. Sluggish and drifting and I can't get the fever to break no matter what I do, so we're just riding it out here. I know but…yes, I know, but…don't you think I thought of that? Okay, right. No, I don't think it released any poison into his blood system, but it made sure to get him plenty full of some kind of sedation." There came another long pause, then a loud bang, like a giant fist punching through a brick wall. "Friggin' hell, Bobby, If he d–" the voice stammered. "I'm not. I didn't. I won't say the word," he cleared his throat. " I know you know that too! Just…you and Rufus find that mother and kill it for us."

Sam jolted involuntarily. Shit. He went back to holding his breath, thankful the voice didn't seem to notice as the feet kept right on pacing and the voice right on talking.

"Okay, okay," the voice quickly quieted. "Sorry. I'm sorry." A beat. "Yes. I am calming down."

Gabba.

Gabba.

Gabba

He could barely make out what else was being said. Whoever was talking must have stuffed their mouth full of shit. Something about bacterial infections, and yeah, they were mean buggers but this was ridiculous… and he was going 'bats in the belfry' crazy.

The voice continued to mutter on for what felt like years.

The excruciatingly hot spring Sam was immersed in suddenly turned into an icy-cold lake and he shivered, his body struggling to get warm again. The effort to keep listening to the meaningless words and keep afloat was completely tapping him out and the voice faded swimming just out of reach. Worse, he started sinking down to the lakes sandy, barren bottom. It scared him. He didn't want to be away from the voice. Come back. Come back. Don't leave me. Please. No, no, no…

"Nuuuuuu," Sam's breath whooshed out and he jerked wildly upward. Fighting the heaviness he felt trapped under, he freed his arms, hands flailing in the air, fingers latching onto a hard surface.

"Holy crap, Bobby, I gotta go."

Sam had one foot on the floor when a pair of strong hands to his shoulders, stopped him.

"Sam!" The hands tugged then pushed until he was pinned back down. "Where did you think you were going, Princess-Sleep- A lot?" He was promptly stuffed covered back up. "Just take it easy."

"Nuuuu," Sam whimpered dogpaddling to get away.

"Calm down." A hand cupped the side of his face. "Sammy!"

Bullshit. Calming down while under attack meant certain death. Sam fought the shadow harder nearly tumbling out of bed.

"Sammy!" The shadow was strong, and Sam couldn't get away. "Come on! Don't thrash around like that, man." The shadow hunched over him. "Where's your brain at?"

Right where it should be, bitch, Sam pawed at the shadow, legs kicking lazily.

"Sam, you need to settle down."

Poppy cock. Sam continued to struggle. He had to get away, least he be eaten alive.

"Woo…what you said, bro."

Son of a doodle turd.

"That's ridiculous. You're really out of it."

"F**k you."

"Okay, that's it your filth filter is just as broken as your head and screwed up as your shoulder." The shadow released him, only to crawl in behind him two seconds later, legs scissored and yanking him back against its chest, arms crisscrossing over his bare chest and locking him there.

Get off me assclown. Sam huffed and panted and fought, hands scrambling, clawing at nothing but air – no matter how hard he fought he couldn't break free of the strong hold.

"You're okay." A rough and stubbly cheek scrapped against his equally rough and stubbly cheek. "Sam! Listen up Turrets boy. Nothing's happening."

Bullshit, buttface. Sam could feel his face flush hot. The exertion caused his hair to dampen and stick to his face. Cold sweat dripped down his back, every muscle knotted up, and his chest tightened, the pain in his shoulder, bad, weakening his efforts, but still he fought hard. He didn't want to die.

A cold palm pressed to his bare chest, holding him back with no trouble. "C'mon, that's enough damn it," The shadow man shouted, his voice strained.

Sam tried to turn away from the shadow. Didn't want the thing seeing how scared he was, so scared his skin prickled and crawled. His breathing hitched, and became rapid. He was so hot, smothering. He choked and sputtered. Was as if barbed wire were wrapped around his throat, cutting deep, blood drops pooling in the hollow of his throat.

"No, no, leave me alone," he cried out loudly, bucking – a last ditch effort.

"Jesus, Sammy." The shadow crawled out from behind and restraining hands pressing him to the bed.

The shadow bent forward ever so slowly. Hovering – the beast savoring its kill – breathing in his ear. This was it. Sam couldn't fight any longer and his body went limp. Eyelashes fluttering, he waited for the foul fetid breath to assault his nostrils, waited for piercing claws to dig out his heart, devour the organ while he watched it stop beating, just before releasing his last breath.

"All right, all right." The shadow leaned in closer and closer. "It's okay."

Sam slammed his eyes shut and he clenched his right fist, fingernails digging into his palm as he waited for the end, but the end didn't come.

"You're okay. You're safe here." The shadow so close their foreheads were touching. "I'm here, Sammy, it's me, I'm here."

Soft hands patted his cheek, ran circles over the crook of his arm, took his right hand and unclenched his fist. "Easy, will you. Just take it easy."

Bite me, numb nuts. Sam exhaled loudly, and his head lolled out from under the shadow. No longer able to fight, he laid stalk still.

"That's it. Try to relax. You're not going anywhere." Shaky fingers combed damp stringy strands of hair out of his face. "Open your eyes."

Fine. My as well look at what was about to eat him alive. He blinked his eyes open. It was like ripping off his eyelashes one lash at a time.

"You coming out of it now?"

Sam twitched restlessly. His mouth was so dry and he swallowed repeatedly until a lump of nothingness scrapped down his throat. "Uhhh," a low moan worked its way past his lips.

"Hey." A hand gripped his jaw roughly. "Look here," the voice demanded angling his head back. "You awake now?"

Sam blinked. Everything was filmy, like looking through a bug-spattered windshield. He was nestled against a mountain of pillows now, gentle fingers caressing the side of his neck. "Yeah," Sam rasped. "Bad move."

"You're okay."

The hell he was.

"You understand me?"

Sam's thoughts were empty. He was nothing more than a puddle of water – shapeless and thin. His right shoulder was on fire, blistering with heat, and his head felt like a wrecking ball, not to mention the rest of him still kept going from hot to cold and vise-versa. Blurrily Sam surveyed his surroundings, the shadow next to him allowing the slight movement. He was in a crappy motel room. How'd he get here? What kind of sick monster where they dealing with? They?

Sam flinched, breathing in and out through his mouth.

"Shhh," Take a minute and think it through, little brother." The shadow's thumb worked small circles on his cheekbone.

Sam tipped his chin, staring up at the shadowy face, taking several long minutes of poking around in his cluttered mind, of watching the shadow morph in and out. Working his way through the orange blaze of pain and fever, and switching the lights on – one flick at a time – Sam rearranged his memories like broken furniture. He smelled coffee and pie – blueberry. The shadow suddenly came into focus, and a big, familiar and dopey face smiled down at him.

The words of the Scrabble game unexpectedly formed one simple word, spelling out a name that quickly slipped out from between Sam's lips, making total sense. "Dean."

Dean's brow furrowed. "You think so?" He asked his tone only slightly amused.

"I think…" Sam took in the smartass smile, the bright green eyes locked steady on his, the firm hand holding his and not letting go.

"You do realize, little brother, that you've called me just about every other name under the sun, right?" Dean sighed, "Which I will let slid this time, but you call me an assclown again…you are so getting a serious beat down."

"Dean," Sam muttered the name again.

"So now that we've established my correct name," Dean took away one cloth off Sam's forehead and put another cold cloth on, "How are you doing?"

Sam didn't want to answer, instead glanced around the room again. It was trashed. Both their duffle bags on the floor wide open, weapons, first aid kit, shaving kits, clothes and shoes all thrown around in a mad rush. To his left was a small kitchenette. Papers, books, brown grocery bags, candy wrappers, a bowl, containers holding herbs and spices and empty beer and water bottles were strewn all across what Sam assumed was the sink countertop as he couldn't see it under all the junk. The bed next to his was stripped down to the bare mattress. Blood and sweat stained bedding piled in a corner. The room in a muddle. Even the wood-framed painting on the wall of birds flying happily around a willow tree was hanging crooked.

Sam turned his attention back to Dean. "Really sick," he answered in an unsure tone.

"Yeah, you think?" Dean bellyached, but Sam could see in his brother's eyes a different sort of ache.

"Sorry," Sam whispered.

"You better be," Dean groused, exchanging out the wet cloth on Sam's head again.

Weak and resigned, Sam let out a relieved breath. It was true. He really had been out of it. His brain and all its memories hanging like laundry out on a line, flapping every which way in the wind. The shadow-man had a name, and just that simple act of naming the thing he'd thought was haunting him… thought was going to devour him… melded away all his fears.

Dean let go of Sam's hand and sat back in a bedside chair. "You had me worried, Sammy," Dean's voice cracked. "You have no idea how many days you were out of it, man," he said, fussing with the twisted sheets and tucking them in around Sam.

Sam studied Dean. His slow, almost achy movements, the sunken in eyes, drawn, pale skin, T-shirt sweat soaked and bloody.

"Four," Sam murmured.

Dean's head snapped up. "Dude, you were totally benched. How'd you know that?"

Sam reached up and brushed two fingers across the side of Dean's cheek. "Four-day stubble," he said, his hand weakly flopping back to the bed.

"Smartass," Dean muttered, leaned sideways for a tall glass full of brown liquid sitting on the nightstand. "Here," He eased back toward Sam, "Need you to drink this, and don't puke it up this time," he complained.

"What's it for?" Sam bent his knees trying to wiggle to sit up, but he was too stiff and exhausted, making it only halfway there.

"First off to get you to feel better, buddy." Dean slipped a hand between his shoulder blades helping him the rest of the way. "Second off, to wash your mouth out, the way you've been swearing at me and fighting me, you're lucky that's all I do."

"Fighting you?" Sam questioned.

"Told you… you were knocked out of the park. Drifting in and out of your head on me for days," Dean said softly.

"And third off," Sam slurred, tipping his head toward the glass.

"And third off," Dean placed the rim against Sam's lips. "Because I told you so," Dean ordered, "Big sips."

Sam eyed Dean over the rim as he gulped down the liquid. It was thick and tasted like cider vinegar, garlic, blueberries and a hint of Tobasco sauce. It was strange, but the concoction magically soothed his dry throat. He took a few more 'big sips' until Dean drew the glass away.

"Okay, okay, what are you part camel? Slow your roll." Dean set the glass back on the nightstand. How's that shoulder feel?" Dean dropped the cloth to the bed and began picking away the tape stuck to Sam's bare skin.

Sam didn't have the gum shin or the desire to answer.

"Pretty lousy, huh?"

"Pretty much."

"Speaking of your shoulder, what the hell were you thinking taking off on me the way you did?"

"Just 'cause," Sam muttered.

"You have no idea how close you came to going belly up on me," Dean choked the words out. "You ever do anything like that ever again, just 'cause, little brother, and I will beat you like I own you. And I do own you, Sammy," Dean ranted on. "Which means…I am the only one that gets to do all the 'just causing' around here, not you," he said loud and harsh.

"Quid pro quo," Sam uttered.

"What?" Dean snapped.

"Tit for tat. You can save me, I get to save you."

Dean pointed a stiff finger at Sam and poked him in the nose with it. "Never again, Sam!"

"Bite me, Dean," Sam said exceedingly polite, then winced when he moved his shoulder ever so slightly.

"We are going to discuss this later." Dean peeked under the thick, white gauze pad answering for him, "Still looks swollen and red," he mused, taping the patch back down. "Try not to move around a lot."

Sam licked his lips and nodded, yes.

Dean got up and every so slowly moved stiffly across the room to a small kitchenette.

Sam lifted his head slightly and squinted in Dean's direction following his movements. "What happen to you?" he asked.

"You know, Sammy, you don't punch so much like a girl when you're all fevered up. That! I won't let slide, pay you back later."

"Much later," Sam said. Feeling lightheaded, he slammed his eyes shut as everything began to spiral out of control.

The room filled with noises that first spun around him and then spun him around. Sam kept his eyes shut listening to Dean's boots crunch, crunch, crunching on the dry rotted carpet, his busy clatter, and angry chatter. Something about Bobby and Rufus tracking down the thing that did this to him, how it was some strange hairy bird-like thing. Hhow they found it perched in a tree. How they flanked it. How it just kept coming, how it took the two of them to wrestle it to the ground. How Rufus held it down while Bobby bashed its head in, scooped out its heart then burned the mother. How Dean wanted so badly to take part in that. How'd he'd even the score, how he would have taken his good old sweet ass time doing so, letting the thing bleed out slowly, make the friggin' bitch pay.

There came a loud clash. "Son of a bitch," Dean bellowed in frustration.

With eyes that were not ready to open, Sam did just that, long enough to see an irate Dean crouched down over a sauce pan, rag in hand mopping up clear liquid off the floor.

"How about I give you a hand," Sam muttered, but didn't dare move an inch.

"Got it," Dean grouched.

The room started to spin around again, furniture going up and down like a merry-go-round. Sam shut his eyes once more, his stomach feeling squirmy. He concentrated on breathing deeply, listening to Dean go on and on about what he'd do to make the bitch pay. The next thing he knew Dean was at his side, a gentle hand on his arm.

"Hey, you up for this?" he asked.

Sam made sure to keep his eyes closed. "Up for what?"

"Soup," Dean said.

"What kind?" Sam grimaced, not knowing what it could be.

"Chicken noodle or chicken noodle," Dean gave a light laugh.

"Not cute, Dean," Sam chirped.

"I'm naturally cute, Sammy."

Sam took in two more deep breaths, the spinning seeming to finally come under control.

"So which do you want?" Dean sat down on the bedside.

"Surprise me," Sam said, opening his eyes and looking up at Dean who had a steaming bowl in one hand, plastic spoon in the other.

"Can you sit up?"

Sam thought about that. The room was no longer spinning out of control, but the bed suddenly seemed to disappear from under his body strangely taking his body along with it. He continued to stare up at Dean, pathetic, wishy-washy, limp, dangling in limbo.

"Dude." Dean sat the bowl of soup and spoon on the nightstand behind him. "Stop with the puppy eyes already."

"Okay," Sam scowled.

"Not helping, Sam."

Sam cleared his throat and squinted. "Better."

"Not so much," Dean sighed. "You are pathetic. Let's try this another way." He raised Sam up slightly and gathered the pillows up more behind his back, easing Sam to rest against them.

"Better?"

"Yes."

"Think you can keep this down?" Dean reached for the soup and spoon.

"Sure."

"Stop being so agreeable, Sammy, you're freaking me out."

"Okay."

"Dean rolled his eyes. "Shut up." Dean ladled a spoonful of soup, blew on it softly then fed it to Sam.

Sam swallowed a few bites. "That's enough, Dean."

"I'll tell you when it's enough, bro." Dean dipped the spoon in the soup, blew on it again and offered it to Sam.

"Dean, I don't want anymore."

"Eat, Sam."

"No." Sam turned his face away.

"Yes."

"No, Dean." Sam pursed his lips in refusal.

"Fine." Dean set the spoon and bowl down. "Then get some more sleep." He tucked the blanket higher up around Sam's chin.

"Too hot." Sam shoved the blanket away.

"Leave it, Sam." Dean tucked the blanket back.

"No." Sam pulled the blanket back down.

"Yes." Dean yanked the blanket back up.

"I said, no." Sam told Dean, weakly fumbling to tug the blanket down but unable to.

"Fine." Dean rolled the blanket down and left it around Sam's waist. "At least stop fighting to keep your eyes open and go to sleep."

"Nu-"

"Sam! How about you go back to being agreeable, huh?"

"Fine," Sam yawned loudly, "Only under one condition."

"What's that?"

"You do the same."

"What am I your shadow?" Dean crawled onto the bed and laid on top the covers shoulder-to shoulder next to Sam, hands folded and resting on his chest.

"Yeah, guess you sort of are," Sam yawned again snuggling down under the blanket, and inching a little closer against Dean's side. "Always there for me."

They looked over at each other at the same time.

Sam searched Dean's face. "Is that weird?" he asked.

Dean thought about that a second.

"Dean?"

"Sure it's weird, but I wouldn't have it any other way, little brother." Dean gave Sam a playful little nudge, "You're crossing the line, stay on your side of the bed, bitch."

"I am on my side, Jerk."

They both smiled at each other, and then turned back watching the ceiling until their eyes grew heavy and they fell asleep.

The end