I'm still alive and kicking. And finished the story - I know, unbelievable! ;) Here you go - last chapter - enjoy!

Chapter 3

Dean slid down the wall as soon as the light faded. His legs felt like butter and buckled the moment his feet touched the ground. He sat there frozen for a second, not quite believing that they really smote a ghost with a lightning bolt. Should win them an entry into the Guinness Book of Records of Doing the Undoable. He breathed easily, glad that they'd got off lightly this time.

Till Sam grunted next to him, setting of his big-brother radar in an instant. More or less lightly.

Dean crawled over to Sam who'd landed in a tangled heap in the mud. Eyes squeezed shut, good hand clutching his hair, he was muttering incoherently, obviously not noticing that he was lying half-submerged in a stinking puddle.

"Sammy?" No reaction.

He reached out and laid one hand gently on his brother's cheek, the other one grasping his shoulder, shaking it. But Sam didn't notice, just continued to mutter to himself. Dean sighed and carefully lifted him out of the water.

A foot caught him in the middle of his gut, not hard but still taking him by surprise. He tilted backwards, catching himself just in time to dodge a second boot aiming for his head. The third blow he caught, struggling with the foot for a moment before a weak whimper signaled a little brother being terrified and exhausted.

Dean easily pushed the leg down and took Sam's face into his hands, trying to catch his eyes that were wide open but obviously not seeing him.

"Hey buddy, it's me. Your awesome big brother. Sammy?"

Sam shook his head, voice cracking when he spoke. "You're not him. Stop… pretending! Never… Dean!"

Okay, Sam was definitely seeing him just fine. Recognizing him was a different though.

"Of course I am." But Sam still shook his head.

"No, no, no… cold… always cold… not foolin' me…"

Dean wasn't sure what Sam meant but he was determined to convince him otherwise.

"Sammy! You're out, remember? We went over this. Stone number one!" And Dean took his little brother's scarred hand which was a mess, glass still stuck in his flesh, the makeshift bandage hanging loosely off his wrist. He hated to do this but it worked before and Dean needed Sam's help to get him out of here. Coz honestly, with his adrenalin gone he felt like he'd just been run over by a truck.

He pressed his thumb in Sam's abused palm, right next to the wound, careful not to move the shard of glass but still close enough to cause him pain. He winced himself when his brother let out a painful gasp though not letting go. He saw Sam's eyes clear a bit, still confused and struggling to understand but at least not terrified of him anymore.

"That's it. Not hell, right? We were hunting a ghost, remember?" Sam looked around, taking in the mansion and the courtyard, slowing coming back. He flinched when another thunderbolt lightened up the night sky.

"I got rid of it. Your plan worked. The lightning made short work of it." Sam exhaled and nodded slowly.

"Think you can get up?"

Sam screwed up his eyes but still nodded, obviously not trusting his voice yet. Dean reached around Sam's waist and on the count of three he tugged him up. His brother was wobbly for a moment and Dean had to take most of his weight. When he got his feet under him, Dean steered him across the front lawn as fast as possible. The thunderstorm was still raging above them and he wasn't keen on being its next target.

They reached the Impala a minute later. "Dean… so… cold!" Sam stammered and shivered uncontrollably next to him.

Dean opened the passenger door and lowered him inside, careful to keep his head down to spare him any more pain. He hurried back to the trunk, pulling out a blanket. Sam was already staring straight ahead again when he kneeled down next to him. Dean cursed and wrapped him up in the blanket. Sam jumped at the movement but relaxed a bit when his eyes met Dean's. Dean couldn't help but ruffle his little brother's hair before shutting the door and climbing into the driver's seat.

He fixed his brother, picking up his injured hand with care to inspect it. Blood coated it, mostly dried by now. Only a trickle of blood was still seeping out. But Dean knew as soon as he pulled out the glass spear it would start to leak blood in record time. He didn't know if Sam had damaged any nerves or severed any muscles or tendons. He'd usually rush to the nearest hospital – possible permanent damage was nothing to mess with. But the Leviathans were still after their asses and he was reluctant to trust anyone with his brother in a hospital again.

"Sammy?" Dean looked up and saw Sam staring at the back seat – vacant for him but clearly occupied by the devil himself for his brother. He winced as he saw Sam cringe, shaking his head vehemently at whatever Lucifer was mentally torturing him with. Oh, he was going down!

"Hey! Shut your hole back there!" Dean reached out and turned Sam's head to him. "Don't listen to him. Concentrate on my voice. Just mine!"

Sam's eyes flickered back once again but then stayed up front, following his big brother's lead.

"Good boy!" He smiled. "That's it. Okay, try to wriggle your fingers for me, Sammy. Can you do that?"

Sam did as he said and hissed at the pain shooting through his hand. But all his fingers moved and Dean relaxed a bit.

"Do you feel that?" Dean skimmed along the skin of his fingers and Sam nodded each time.

"Good. No severe damage." At least he hoped so, he was no doctor. "It's going to be okay. We'll go back to the motel and I'll patch it up in no time."

Sam cradled his hand tightly to his chest and snuggled deeper into the blanket. Dean smiled and started the motor, turned up the heat and took off, leaving behind the old mansion with screeching tires.

Sam didn't cast a single glance at the back seat the whole ten minutes they were on the road. Dean knew Lucifer was still there by the stiff posture of his brother. But Sam did his best to be strong and Dean was damn proud of him.

They pulled up in front of their motel and Dean helped Sam out of the car. His little brother was already a lot steadier on his feet. He however felt more miserable by the minute. His whole body ached and his throat felt uncomfortably swollen and tight. But he had a little brother to take care of first. He could have a hot shower and rest afterwards.

They more stumbled than walked into their room and Dean lowered Sam on his bed at the back. His skin still felt cold and the shivers hadn't subsided yet. Dean helped him to strip down to nothing, wet clothes landing in a heap on the floor. He then lifted his feet into the bed. Sam wanted to lie down but Dean stopped him.

"No sleeping yet, Sammy. First have to patch up your hand."

Sam grumbled, already bitchy as usual. Dean smiled at that and tugged Sam up against the wall, wrapping the blanket and another one from his own bed around his shoulders. He stood up and turned around but was stopped by Sam's hand clutching his own tightly.

"Where you going?"

He sounded just like a little boy again, unsure and scared of what might be lurking in the dark if Dean left.

"I'm just fetching our stuff from outside. Be right back."

"Oh! Okay."

Dean returned in record time and was glad to see Sam still sitting on the bed, only his head sticking out from the mass of blankets, following each of his steps with watchful eyes. He grabbed a towel, the first aid kit and a chair and sat down at his side.

"You ready for this?"

Sam cracked a smile. "Have no choice, right?"

"Oh, baby brother finally got it - big brothers always call the shots."

Sam glared at him – so much better than the alarmingly vacant stare from before – and Dean got to work.

He dug up a syringe filled with morphine. This was more than their usual kind of patch-up and if Sam was gonna stay conscious, he wanted him as far in lalaland as possible at least. Sam flinched when the needle entered his skin but didn't protest. Dean took a deep breath and poured antiseptic over the wound, wincing along with Sam. Had to burn like a bitch! He then armed himself with the towel and lots of gauze to stop the bleeding as soon as the glass was removed. Kid didn't need blood loss on top of a frozen ass.

He looked up and saw Sam staring at his injured hand with anxious anticipation. "You better don't look. This is going to be messy and I don't want you little bitch to pass out on me."

Dean smirked at Sam's muttered 'jerk' and waited for his little brother to do as he said. He counted to three before pulling out the shard of glass as straight as possible in hopes of averting further damage. Sam couldn't suppress a pained moan and his hand recoiled reflexively. But Dean held on firmly and pressed the towel on the leaking hole from above, gauze from below. Sam screwed up his eyes and breathed rapidly. But he kept still and Dean waited a bit longer before he started to expertly stitch the wound.

Sam stayed awake - stubborn as he was - and despite the morphine shot he got, he still hissed and tried to stifle groans from time to time, breaking Dean's heart. He remembered how he'd stitched the exact same spot just a few months ago, Sam blissfully unaware of it in his unconsciousness.

"You're one unlucky guy to get your hand pierced twice in such a short time. Damn Winchester luck, right Sammy?"

Dean laughed and looked up, surprised to see Sam shrink from his look, chewing on his lower lip and cheeks turning slightly pink. Okay, that's guilty-little-brother-stance all over. He had a sense of foreboding. Raising his eyebrows, he fixed Sam like only big brother could.

"Spill, Sam! What happened?"

Sam's lips parted but no sound came out. He just stared at his hand while Dean finished the last stitch, eyes only at half-mast but knitting his brow, a certain sign that the wheels spun in his head.

"Don't worry, I won't be mad. Just wanna understand…" Dean hesitated before he went on. "Was it Lucifer?"

Sam flinched at the mention of the devil, a haunted look passing his face. Dean's hand settled on his arm, rubbing calmingly and reassuring him. His brother relaxed slightly.

"You still seeing him?"

Sam shook his head. "Stayed in the car." His voice wasn't more than a whisper.

"Good. Coz I would've kicked his ass and sent him flying out in no time!"

A ghost of a smile passed Sam's lips. He was silent for another minute, then swallowed and started to explain hesitantly.

"He said he doesn't burn hot… that it was quite the opposite. You remember?" Sam's good hand fiddled around with the blanket absentmindedly. Dean nodded.

"He was right. The flames, the knives… everything hurt. But… his fingers were colder than ice, burning and biting more than anything."

Dean held his breath. They never talked about the cage aloud. Sam usually dealt with it silently - pressing his scar when he thought Dean didn't look, relaxing under the touch of his hand after a nightmare, just drawing strength from his presence next to him... And Dean never tried to push him. He knew it probably wasn't for the best. But Sam seemed to do fine. And Dean wasn't sure if could bear to hear Sam talking about the horrors he'd to endure. The imagines Dean saw in his own nightmares were already horrific enough.

But Sam obviously needed Dean to listen now and he wouldn't dare to interrupt him.

"I… in the house… the ghost, the storm, the rain… it was freezing. And…" Sam stopped and shuddered, eyes still focused on the blanket.

"He was there and I couldn't move… I tried… know he isn't real, Dean. But…" His brother looked up, wanting Dean to understand. He took his good hand and squeezed, reassuring him that it's okay. Sam grasped it thankfully, holding on like he'd get lost without it.

"Tried the scar… but he didn't vanish, he just didn't… and the ghost was choking you. And he just laughed, couldn't move… wanted me to see you die, always loved to do that."

Sam let out a sob, his eyes filled with tears now. But he kept going.

"The glass was right in front of me. Knew pain helped… worked before. And I…"

Dean exhaled and wrapped his arms around him, holding him tight. Sam clutched his shirt, face hidden in the crook of his neck, sobs wrecking his body. Dean ran his fingers through his hair, muttering words of comfort.

"Couldn't let you die… not again…" Sam's voice was broken and muffled. Dean clutched him only tighter. Fuck Lucifer! Of course he'd used Dean against his little brother. Most people knew about their close connection. The devil just loved to fuck with your mind. And that was often worse than the physical torture itself. His eyes burned as well and he blinked back the tears that threatened to escape him. He had to be strong for Sam.

"Sorry!" Sam sniffed. "So sorry…"

"Hey!" Dean broke away just enough to take Sam's face in his hand and catch his eyes. "You've got nothing to be sorry for. You did good. You've kicked Lucifer in the ass back there. And saved mine after that. I couldn't be more proud of you, Sammy!"

Sam looked miserable, eyes swollen and red, face glistening with tears. But his lips curled up to a hesitant smile. Good boy!

"So how about I finish bandaging your hand, you hop into the shower for a sec to get all that mud washed from your freakishly long mop of hair, I get one of those hot soups you love so much to warm you up and then you go to sleep?"

Sam sniffed, then looked him up and down, frowning. "But you too. You stink!"

Dean made his best impression to look appalled. "Thanks! Right back at you! But girls first, so go ahead."

His bitch face was back for a second. Then Sam sniffed one last time, hand wiping away snot and tears, smiled and nodded.

A few minutes later, Sam was walking out of a steaming bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. Bruises and little cuts were standing out from his bare chest and arms but nothing serious. Dean was sure he wasn't looking any better.

Sam's eyes were already drooping when he sat down on his freshly made bed and Dean had to practically feed him to keep him from drowning in his soup. He waited till Sam's breathing evened out and indicated that he was fast asleep before he started to painfully strip himself from his still wet and muddy clothes.

The shower was a bliss and he enjoyed the hot water washing away all the grime and blood – Sam's blood – and loosening his tense muscles. His shoulder was bruised and painful to move and a bad headache was building up by the minute. He hissed when he ran his fingers along his swollen throat, red and hot to the touch. He took some pills to take the edge of his aches and reentered their room.

Sam was snoring softly beside him when he crashed into his own bed. Exhausted to the core but glad that they'd made it out alive – more or less in one piece – it didn't take him long to fall asleep.

Pain awoke Dean the next morning and he groaned. His throat felt raw and burned uncomfortably, stinging fiercely each time he swallowed. Sunrays were fighting their way through a half-closed curtain when he opened his eyes, plunging the room into a soft golden light. He blinked a few times to clear his head before his eyes searched for the nearby bed where he'd tugged in Sam last night. It was empty.

But before his brain had the chance to fully register what he saw and send him into a full-blown panic attack, he was startled by the creaking of the door behind him. He whirled around and relaxed at the sight of Sam standing in the doorway, smiling sheepishly.

"Sorry! Didn't wanna wake you." He held up a glass of water and a small plastic bag. "Breakfast and pain killers."

And Sam sat down at the side of Dean's bed and started to spread out the contents on the nearby bedside table – a package of Tylenol, fruit salad – really? – yoghurt, applesauce and some kind of still steaming yellow-brownish mush – he wasn't gonna eat that!

He looked up skeptical at Sam, not sure if he should be grateful or smack him at the back of his head.

But Sam just grinned and reached behind his back, conjuring up a fresh and delicious big pie and a box filled with ice cubes.

Damn, was it good to have little brothers!

The End

Thanks so much for reading. I hope you had as much fun as I had? You know reviews are like chocolate - yummy! :) Big hug to all of you!