Summary: Tag for 7x03 – Teenchesters / Hurt Sam / Big Brother Dean / Fairly Awesome John – "If you find him, maybe she'll let you have him back." Dean arched an eyebrow; not in the mood to play games. Because Sam belonged to him...and Dean intended to find the kid.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Warnings: Language and spoilers for 7x03


When I walked through the front door, my whole life was changed. 'Cause nobody answered when I called your name. ~ Vince Gill


He didn't think much of it at first.

Not really.

Because even though it drove him crazy and usually pissed him off, Dean was used to Sam not answering him; sometimes out of moody teenage angst or defiance but often because the kid simply didn't hear him.

These days Sam was usually tucked away in their shared bedroom; too engrossed in homework or research or his latest book from the library to hear someone come in, much less respond.

John had crawled Sam's ass about it more than once; about how a hunter should always be aware of his surroundings; should be on alert for lurking danger; should literally be armed and ready for anything at all times...even in his own house.

Or motel...apartment...whatever.

But the lectures had accomplished nothing except widening the gap between father and youngest son. One topic often leading to another...which led to hard words delivered in sharp tones...which led to cold stares and long stretches of mutual silent treatments...which led to Dean playing peacemaker and interpreter, speaking to Sam for John and vice versa.

Leaving the front door open, Dean sighed as he crossed through the small living room of their two-bedroom apartment; his boots striding over the grungy green shag carpet; shaking his head at the memory of oldest and youngest Winchester yelling at each other in the cramped space between the stained sofa and the black-and-white television.

But that had been a few days ago before Dean and John had left town to hunt a Kitsune and had left Sam behind; the kid insisting on not missing school and John being too frustrated to argue...or to care.

"You're a pain in my ass, Sam," John had snapped, glaring at his youngest, and then had snatched the weapons duffel from beside the front door. "Let's go, Dean," he had ordered gruffly and then had disappeared into the hall.

Sam had clenched his jaw – both in anger and hurt feelings – and had turned away from Dean as his big brother had continued to linger by the door.

There had been an awkward silence before Dean had crossed to his little brother; had squeezed the kid's neck in silent comfort and encouragement.

Sam had said nothing but had shifted under Dean's touch and had sighed shakily.

"I know," Dean had agreed – because he did – and had stood there behind his brother for a few seconds more before John had growled his name from the bottom of the steps; their father's voice somewhat muffled from having traveled up the stairwell of the dilapidated apartment complex.

"Better go," Sam had quietly advised.

"Guess so," Dean had agreed and had squeezed his brother's neck again. "Sammy. Look at me."

Sam had hesitated and had sighed but had done as he was told; had slowly turned to stare up at Dean.

Dean had forced a smile; had realized – not for the first time – that Sam was finally starting to grow and had felt strangely proud and sappy because of it; his kid growing up.

"Listen..." Dean had begun; making sure Sam was indeed doing just that. "We'll only be gone for a couple of days. Looks like that Kitsune is pretty close to this area..."

Sam had nodded because he had collected most of their research for the hunt; had known all the specifics even if he wasn't going with his father and brother.

"Be careful while we're gone," Dean had continued even as Sam had rolled his eyes at the familiar speech. "Salt the doors and windows...don't answer the phone unless – "

"I know the routine," Sam had interrupted, looking bored and sounding moody.

"Good for you," Dean had returned dryly and then had lightly smacked the back of Sam's head. "Bitch."

"Jerk," Sam had instantly responded and had shoved Dean's arm away; trying to glare even as he had quirked a smile.

Dean had done the same; always feeling better about leaving his little brother alone if the kid wasn't in a moody funk. "We'll be back in a few days."

Sam had nodded. "Be careful," he had said quietly and had stared at Dean in that intense way he sometimes did; willing his brother to be safe.

"Careful is my middle name," Dean had quipped; smiling again at his brother as he had roughly ruffled the kid's hair in silent affection and had crossed to the door. "I'll call you later."

Sam had nodded; because he had known that part of the routine, too.

"And don't let the phone ring more than once before you pick up..." Dean had warned over his shoulder.

Sam had snorted. "Yeah, yeah," he had drawled, knowing how his big brother immediately assumed worst-case scenarios if Sam delayed in answering the phone when Dean wasn't with him.

"I mean it, Sam..." Dean had emphasized and then had disappeared into the hall...and had met a pissed John waiting downstairs behind the wheel of the Impala.

Dean remembered his father's icy reception and equally cold silence. Because in taking care of his brother – in making sure Sam was okay to be left alone – Dean had ignored John's order to join him and had kept his dad waiting.

The rumble of the Impala's engine had been the only sound between father and oldest son as John had steered the classic Chevy out of the parking lot and onto the highway as they had set out for the hunt.

Dean sighed as the memory faded, focusing instead on the issue at hand – a seemingly missing little brother – and hurriedly walked down the short hall of their apartment. "Sam..." he called, glancing in the empty bathroom as he passed, and then stood in the doorway of their dad's room. "Sammy..."

Dean paused, waiting.

But there was no answer. No shift of movement. Nothing.

Dean sighed once more. "Damn it, Sam. Where are you?" he muttered in worried annoyance and then crossed to their room; pausing again as he heard his father's unmistakable stomp up the stairs and bracing himself for another of John's rants.

Because they had been right on the Kitsune's trail barely two hours ago; had tracked it back to town and had been within striking distance – they both had just felt it – and then...nothing.

Without warning, the trail had gone cold – as if the damn thing had just vanished into thin air – and after an hour of aimlessly riding around town, hoping some sign of the Kitsune would appear, John had decided they would call Sam to see if the kid had discovered any new information in his research that would help lead them back in the right direction.

But Sam hadn't answered his phone.

Sam hadn't answered his phone any of the six times Dean had called.

Dean swallowed as his eyes scanned his and Sam's empty room; remembering how his heart had steadily beat faster within his chest each time he had tried the familiar number...and had received no answer.

"Where the hell is he?" John had demanded from the driver's seat of the Impala.

Dean had shaken his head; his chest too tight with panic to speak; his mind too crowded with possibilities – none of them good.

"I swear that kid..." John had continued to rant, as pissed as Dean was worried.

They had traveled back to the apartment complex in strained silence; John's jaw clenched in anger – tinged with concern – while Dean had stared out the passenger side window; his mind buzzing as he had tried to figure out just what the hell was going on with his brother.

Dean had figured – had hoped – that it was something as simple as the phone's battery being dead; that maybe Sam had forgotten to charge it overnight, which would have earned his brother a lecture from John...but at least the kid would have been okay otherwise.

Or Dean had thought maybe Sam had been in the shower – which would have been weird for the middle of the afternoon...but his brother was a teenager now and did weird shit all the time.

Or Dean had considered that maybe the kid had been sleeping – which, at this time of day, would have immediately indicated a sick little brother to Dean and had caused him to worry about a whole different set of possibilities as he had rode shotgun back to the apartment.

But now that Dean was at the apartment, he had to consider that maybe...

Dean swallowed as he stood in the middle of his and Sam's room; no trace of his brother.

Maybe the kid was just gone.

Dean shook his head, unwilling to accept that. "Sam..." he called for the third time since arriving at the place they had called home – or more accurately, headquarters – over the past two weeks. "Sammy..."

Expectedly, there was no answer.

"Shit," Dean hissed; feeling like he would choke from the panic crawling up his throat.

"Dean..."

Dean startled as a voice called his name, even as he recognized it as his father's.

"Dean..." John called again; his voice becoming closer as he crossed the apartment's living room and approached his sons' bedroom.

Dean turned as John appeared in the doorway, watching as his dad gave the room a visual once-over.

"Where's Sam?" John asked, sounding annoyed and confused...and maybe a bit worried.

Dean shook his head. "I don't know," he admitted; feeling his heart hammer in his chest.

John scowled. "You don't know?" he repeated and then glanced over the room again before looking behind the bedroom's door as if he thought their youngest was playing hide-and-seek with them.

"He's not here," Dean rephrased – because this sure as hell wasn't a game; Sam knew better than that – and then pushed by John. "Sam..." he called; his voice echoing in the small hall as he crossed back to the apartment's living room.

"The salt lines are intact," John reported as he followed his oldest; remembering he had stepped over the line of white as he had entered the apartment...because that kind of detail was second-nature for a hunter to notice.

Dean nodded. "Yeah," he agreed, glancing at the door and windows to double-check their security before turning a slow, tight circle in the middle of the living room; his eyes crawling over everything as he desperately searched for some kind of clue of what had happened while they were gone.

Had Sam been forcibly taken from the apartment?

Or had the kid never returned home from earlier?

Dean swallowed.

"Okay..." John began, making an obvious attempt to stay calm; feeling more like a panicked father than a badass hunter at the thought of their youngest being snatched by god-knows-what. "He was at the library when we talked to him earlier, right?"

Dean nodded. "Yeah."

"And that was..." John glanced at his watch. "Around five hours ago."

Dean nodded again, still scanning every inch of the apartment as they continued to stand in the living room.

"Did Sam say he was with anybody?" John asked, knowing his youngest would confide that kind of information to Dean rather than to him and risk another lecture about talking to strangers.

Dean shrugged, remembering how Sam had told him how to kill the Kitsune – by stabbing it in the heart – and then before Dean could hang up, had shyly asked how to talk to girls...which implied there had been a girl at the library Sam had been interested in.

But Dean doubted his little brother had ever mustered the courage to actually talk to the girl, so that detail was probably worthless.

"Dean..." John prompted.

Dean blinked, knowing Sam would be embarrassed by him sharing this tidbit with their father but figuring the kid would get over it if it helped them find him. "Sam asked how to talk to girls."

John frowned. "Girls?" He shook his head. "What girls?"

"I think there was just one girl," Dean corrected. "At the library maybe?"

John arched an eyebrow; because hitting on girls was more Dean's style than Sam's. "And?"

Dean shrugged. "I don't know. I just told him..." His voice faded, deciding John didn't need to know what he had told his little brother about conversing with the opposite sex.

John stared at his oldest expectantly.

Dean shrugged again. "It doesn't matter what I told him," he smoothly informed his father. "The point is...I think there was a girl."

John nodded; making a mental note to talk with his youngest again about how he shouldn't talk to strangers in strange places...especially when left in town alone. "Did he tell you her name?"

"No," Dean replied. "I don't think Sam even knew her name...or if he even talked to her. You know how Sammy can be. I'm just saying that's the only thing that seemed weird about our conversation on the phone earlier. And we know the last place Sam was for sure was at the library. So – "

"Yeah," John interrupted, not needing his oldest to spell out his suspicions of this mystery girl perhaps having something to do with their youngest being missing.

Dean sighed harshly, glancing around the apartment. "I don't like this, Dad," he confessed; his body humming with adrenaline; with the need to find his brother and to make whatever had taken Sam pay with blood and pain.

"Me, neither," John agreed and then nodded at his oldest. "Try calling him again."

Dean returned the nod and pulled his phone from the pocket of his leather jacket; dialing his brother's number and pacing behind the stained sofa as he waited – hoped, prayed – for Sam to answer.

But the phone rang...and rang...and rang.

"Shit," Dean hissed under his breath and shook his head at John, indicating Sam still wasn't picking up.

"Where the hell is he?" John demanded, repeating the question he had asked earlier when he and Dean had driven back to the apartment; when the kid hadn't answered his phone then, either, and there had first been a clue that Sam was missing.

Dean swallowed – overwhelmed with the urge to throw the phone across the room in his frustration – and was about to end the call when the line stopped ringing.

Dean's eyes widened in surprise and then narrowed as he was suddenly pissed; relieved fear and worry manifesting as anger. "What the fucking hell, Sam?" he seethed, because the little shit had scared him; had made Dean think things he never wanted to think about Sam...like the kid being dead somewhere. "You're so busy you can't be bothered to answer your fucking phone?"

John clenched his jaw as he listened to his oldest rant; equally relieved that Sam had apparently been found...and pissed that his youngest had made them worry – and had stalled a hunt – for nothing.

Dean glared at the silence that greeted him on the phone. "Sam..." he growled; because if the kid was cocking an attitude, so help him...

Someone audibly swallowed on the opposite end of the line and then shakily exhaled.

Dean titled his head at the sound; his anger slowly transforming back to panic...because something was obviously wrong. "Sam..." he called; his voice gentler. "Sammy..."

John frowned; confused by Dean's drastic change in demeanor. "What?" he mouthed to his oldest.

Dean shook his head and refocused on the phone; his grip tightening as he listened to the sounds of uncoordinated movement. "Sam..."

"It's..." the voice paused, breathless and disoriented...and not Sam's.

Dean narrowed his eyes. "Who is this?"

There was silence on the line.

Dean cut his eyes at John, silently alerting his dad that they now had a different problem. "Who is this?" he demanded again of whoever had Sam's phone.

"Not Sam," the voice replied.

Dean glared at the smartass response. "I know that," he snapped; freshly wanting to kill whoever had his brother. "Who the fuck are you? And where the fuck is Sam?"

There was silence again on the line.

"Jesus..." Dean hissed in frustration. "Hey! Do you hear me, or what?"

"I hear you," the voice returned, sounding quiet and weak. "I just...I don't know where Sam is. My mom..." The voice swallowed. "She was here...and she was pissed...and then she found Sam...and she grabbed him and said she was gonna kill him and – "

"Whoa, whoa, whoa..." Dean sharply interrupted. "Kill him?"

"Kill him?" John repeated and then shook his head, crossing to Dean and snatching the phone from his oldest. "Who the fuck is this?"

Dean glared at his dad but did not attempt to take back the phone; knowing it was more important to get information than to struggle over who got the information.

"Hey!" John barked into the phone.

"M-my name's Amy," came the hesitant response. "And I'm sorry."

"Save it," John advised harshly, not interested in apologies that were useless in helping him find his youngest. "What happened? Where's my son?"

"I don't know," Amy insisted; her voice trembling as her head pounded from being knocked unconscious by her mom. "Sam chased away these guys at the library who were bothering me...and so I invited him back here – "

"Where's 'here'?" John interrupted.

"My house."

"Where's that?" John pressed.

"Um..." Amy paused as if she was trying to remember the address. "It's 312 Fox Hall Drive."

"Good," John roughly praised; because having a location was a start. "We're coming," he announced and then nodded at Dean.

Dean returned the nod and followed John out the door of their apartment; having no idea where they were headed but hoping wherever it was, it would be closer to Sam.

"No," Amy protested, listening to the sounds of booted footsteps hurrying down a stairwell. "Don't come here. Sam's not here."

"Then where is he?" John demanded; scanning the parking lot as he and his oldest exited the apartment building and crossed to the Impala.

"I don't know," Amy replied, again sounding confused. "I tried to stop my mom from hurting Sam, but she hit me...and then when I woke up...they were gone...and Sam's phone was ringing."

"Shit," John hissed and cut his eyes at Dean; lowering the phone from his mouth. "This girl's mom took Sam," he reported to his oldest and then handed the phone to Dean.

"Why?" Dean asked, taking the phone and wondering why some middle-aged woman would want his little brother...and not liking the sick possibilities that came to mind.

John shrugged. "Hell if I know..." he responded, opening the driver's side door and sliding behind the wheel. "Keep talking to her," he ordered, waving toward the phone Dean now held. "Her name's Amy."

Dean nodded. "Amy..."

"Y-yeah?"

"Why would your mom want to hurt Sam?"

Amy said nothing, but Dean heard her breath hitch nervously.

"Amy..." Dean prompted, willing himself to stay calm; knowing if he yelled at this girl, it would only scare her more and make her talk less.

"I don't know," Amy responded; her tone indicating she was lying. "But if you find him, maybe she'll let you have him back."

Dean arched an eyebrow; not in the mood to play Finders, Keepers with his brother. Because Sam belonged to him – not to anyone else...not even to John – and Dean intended to find the kid...and to then kick the ass of whoever had taken him.

"Wait a minute..." John said; his eyes flickering between Dean and the road. "She said Fox Hall Drive..."

Dean nodded, covering the phone with his hand. "Okay. And?"

"Fox..." John repeated meaningfully. "As in – "

"As in a Kitsune," Dean finished quietly; instantly following John's train of thought as he remembered Sam telling them that the word "Kitsune" was Japanese for fox – which meant...

Dean swallowed as he and John exchanged glances; both knowing that the Kitsune they had hunted for the past two days and then had tracked back to town a few hours ago was the same Kitsune who now had their youngest.

"Sonuvabitch," Dean hissed at the realization that if Amy's mom was a Kitsune, then she was too.

John nodded, glancing meaningfully at the weapons duffel in the Impala's backseat.

Dean returned the nod; silently agreeing with the plan – to kill this Amy chick and her mother...whenever they found the bitch.

"Um, hello?" Amy's tentative voice came over Sam's phone. "Are you still there?"

"Yeah," Dean answered, even as he reached in the backseat to retrieve the two knives they would need to stab the Kitsunes in their hearts.

"Are..." Amy swallowed; her thoughts becoming clearer as the last traces of unconsciousness faded away. "Are you Sam's brother?"

Dean arched an eyebrow, surprised that Sam had mentioned him to this girl.

"You are, aren't you?" Amy pressed. "Which means that other guy is probably Sam's dad..." She paused and then laughed humorlessly. "Which means I just gave my address to two hunters who were already tracking my mom earlier..."

"Which means I guess you know what's gonna happen next..." Dean coldly finished; his grip tightening around the knife he held in his right hand.

John glanced at his oldest and back at the road.

Amy swallowed. "Yeah," she confirmed to Dean. "You're probably gonna kill us."

"No 'probably', sweetheart," Dean corrected. "Definitely. I am definitely gonna kill you and your bitch mother for taking my brother."

"No," Amy protested; her tone as panicked and desperate as her movement as she started to pace in the living room of their small house. "There's no reason to kill us if you get Sam back."

"See, that's where you're wrong..." Dean informed. "We have to kill you because you're both monsters."

John nodded his agreement; proud of how coolly and confidently his oldest was handling this situation.

"And if something has happened to Sam..." Dean's voice faded; not needing to elaborate on the kind of slow, torturous deaths that awaited the Kitsunes if his brother had been harmed.

Amy inhaled shakily but said nothing.

There was a beat of silence.

"Do you know where your mom would've taken Sam?" Dean finally asked, glancing out the passenger window as the Impala continued to rumble down the highway.

There was no answer on the opposite end of the phone line.

"Amy..." Dean called; his tone reminding the Kitsune child that he had no patience to play games.

"Maybe," Amy admitted. "I mean...mom knew Sam was a hunter. Sam had his knife and was coming toward me when mom grabbed him."

Dean felt his mouth twitch in a smile; a wave of pride washing over him at the news of Sam doing what the kid knew had to be done...even if he was friends with this girl.

Dean sighed, refocusing on the problem at hand. "Does your mom do something special with hunters?"

John scowled at Dean's question. Because every supernatural creature was known to do something "special" with hunters if they were ever lucky enough to get their hands on one – and John didn't want to think about his youngest being on the receiving end of such special treatment.

"There's this warehouse..." Amy casually mentioned.

Dean arched an eyebrow, realizing he was supposed to take the bait. "And what's there?"

"I'm not sure," Amy replied. "I've never been. But I know that's where Inari can be found."

"Inari?" Dean repeated and glanced at John.

John shrugged, having no better idea than Dean about who – or what – that was.

"The deity we serve," Amy explained. "Not that I really believe in that...seems kind of old-fashioned to me...but mom goes to the warehouse at least once a week." She paused. "And I think that's where she might've taken Sam. I mean...capturing a hunter...that's a big deal. Inari would want to know about that."

Dean nodded. "Guess that makes sense..." he allowed. "So where is this warehouse?"

Amy swallowed, knowing her mom would die if she told the hunters the location...and finding the idea did not upset her as it should. Because her mom had always been cruel; had always treated Amy like she was a burden and had wasted no time earlier in knocking Amy unconscious.

"Amy!" Dean yelled into the phone; knowing they had no time to waste. "Where is the warehouse?"

Amy sighed. "Downtown."

"Downtown?" Dean repeated, because they were downtown now; the Impala rolling down Main Street as they spoke. "Where?"

John glanced at his oldest in the passenger seat.

"Beside the church," Amy replied, sounding defeated but relieved.

"Beside the church," Dean reported to John and then pointed as the church's steeple came into view above the other surrounding buildings.

John nodded and steered the Impala into the warehouse's parking lot.

"I'll go find Sam," Dean told his dad; lowering the phone and opening the passenger door.

John shook his head at that plan. "Dean..."

"There's no time to argue, Dad," Dean snapped as he climbed out of the car. "If we wait until later, this one..." He waved the phone he still held to indicate Amy. "...might get away."

John sighed harshly; knowing Dean was right – and not wanting another monster to give them the slip – yet hating that he was sending his oldest to rescue Sam alone.

But there was no other choice.

"Be careful," John warned. "And call me as soon as you find your brother."

"Will do," Dean promised and slammed the passenger door; holding the knife in front of him as he entered the warehouse. "Amy..." he whispered into the phone. "If you're fucking with me about this..."

Dean let his voice fade, knowing he didn't have to elaborate on the threat...and realizing Amy was no longer on the line.

"Shit," Dean hissed but couldn't be bothered by her absence; knowing John would take care of Amy – and he would take care of Sam...just like he always did.

Dean sighed and pocketed the phone; his eyes scanning from left to right as he slowly moved through the warehouse; the building dark and dusty and eerily quiet.

Dean swallowed – resisting the urge to call out for his brother – and instead stopped walking as he noticed a sliver of light slipping beneath a door on the far wall.

Dean smiled, encouraged by the clue, and moved in that direction; careful to remain soundless in his approach and pausing outside the door to listen within.

Dean frowned at the silence – more suspicious than relieved – and tightened his grip on the knife before easing the door open; cringing as its hinges creaked, announcing his arrival.

But no one was inside the room to notice or to care.

Except...

"Sam..." Dean whispered at the sight of his brother stretched out on a metal table in the middle of the room; the kid's arms and legs tied to the four corners in classic sacrificial fashion.

Dean called his brother's name again as he fully entered the room but again received no response.

Dean frowned, realizing Sam was unconscious, and immediately began to worry about the implications.

Dean glanced around the room as he crossed to his brother; knowing he was probably walking into a trap but unable to resist helping Sam, especially when the kid was so vulnerable and most likely hurt...or worse.

Dean shook his head – refusing to believe that possibility...that Sam was dead – and immediately reached for Sam's neck when he was close enough to touch his brother; holding his breath until he felt the faint flutter of Sam's pulse beneath his fingers.

Dean smiled and sighed. "Atta boy, Sammy..." he praised softly – thankful beyond words that at least Sam was alive – and glanced once more around the room before refocusing on his unresponsive brother.

Dean's eyes swept over Sam, visually triaging and noticing the swollen jaw and bruised cheek – someone obviously having smacked the kid around – and then focused on the smear of drying blood on the left side of his brother's neck.

Dean narrowed his eyes; his heart instantly beating faster in his chest. Because he knew about Kitsune and knew what they fed on – pituitary glands...which were often accessed from behind their victim's ear.

Swallowing against his dread and still holding the knife in his right hand, Dean used his left to carefully turn Sam's head for further inspection; his fingers hovering over the ragged puncture wound sluggishly bleeding behind Sam's ear.

"Oh my god..." Dean whispered; his stomach clenching as he searched for proof that what he saw was not true; his fingers wet with Sam's blood as he further examined the wound and felt again for his brother's pulse.

Unexpectedly, Sam shifted under Dean's touch; whimpering in pain and weakly trying to move away from the offending pressure behind his ear and against his neck.

Dean's eyes widened, overwhelmed by relief. "Sam..." he called quietly; his blood-stained fingers smearing red across his brother's skin as he lightly rested his hand on the kid's forehead, preventing further movement. "Sammy..."

Sam blinked owlishly, clearly having trouble focusing, but immediately stopped moving at the sound of Dean's voice.

Dean smiled, knowing Sam realized he was there. "Sammy..."

"D'n..." Sam hoarsely slurred in response and then blinked again; his eyes instantly misting with tears.

"It's okay," Dean soothed, even though he wasn't sure yet if that was true. "I'm here now, and you're okay," he further comforted and gently patted Sam's chest. "You hear me, kiddo?"

Sam nodded jerkily and then winced in pain. "M'head hurts."

"I know," Dean agreed, glancing again the wound behind Sam's ear and wondering what had happened.

Had Sam just been knocked in the back of his head during whatever struggle he had obviously put up against the Kitsune? Or had the Kitsune actually tried to feed on his brother?

Dean swallowed at the thought.

"D'n..."

"Yeah, Sam..." Dean answered, keeping one hand on his brother's chest while starting to saw through the ropes that held the kid on the table.

"K'sune."

Dean nodded. "I know," he replied, glancing around the room to make sure his brother was just reporting and not warning. "Do you know where it went?"

Sam swallowed; his eyes lazily tracking Dean's movements as Dean reached across him to free his other arm.

"Sam..." Dean prompted and rubbed his brother's chest to help the kid focus; concerned by Sam's difficulty in maintaining attention and tried to remember if Kitsune could somehow poison their victims...or if Sam was just reacting to the head trauma he had obviously sustained.

Sam sighed and closed his eyes.

Dean frowned. "No sleeping, Sammy," he lightly reprimanded and shook his brother's foot as he cut the rope binding the kid's ankle to the metal table.

Sam blinked his eyes open. "M'tired."

"I know," Dean soothed, freeing the kid's other foot and then reaching for his brother to help him sit up. "And you can sleep when we get home. But we've gotta get out of here first, okay?"

Sam's breath caught in his throat as Dean eased him up, and he squeezed his eyes shut as pain stabbed through his head. "D'n..."

Dean felt his heart plummet at the expression on Sam's face; hating it when his brother had to endure such intense pain. "Breathe through it, Sammy," he quietly coached, rubbing the kid's back and glancing again around the room.

Sam nodded, trying to do just that as he blindly reached for his brother; his hands fisting Dean's shirt and tangling in the cord of the amulet; desperate for strength and comfort.

Dean patiently waited for Sam to regain his bearings; frowning as Sam shivered violently. "Are you cold?" he asked, knowing that the pituitary gland helped regulate body temperature. And if the Kitsune had somehow screwed with Sam's, then...

"Kinda," Sam admitted and then shivered again, opening his eyes to stare at Dean.

Without a word, Dean shrugged out of his leather jacket; switching the knife from one hand to the other as he did so and being careful not to jostle Sam.

"Here..." Dean offered and wrapped the jacket around his brother before pulling the kid from the table; keeping one hand on Sam's shoulder as Sam swayed and then seemed to find his balance.

Sam swallowed, trying to smile at Dean though the expression looked more like a grimace.

"You okay?" Dean checked and waited for Sam to nod.

But Sam stared at him blankly; the color seeming to instantly drain from the kid's face before Sam's knees buckled and he went down.

"Hey. Whoa..." Dean cautioned and smoothly caught his brother before he fell; supporting Sam's weight with one arm while still holding the knife in his other hand.

Dean sighed, his eyes sweeping over Sam's face as the kid rested against him; remembering that the pituitary gland also regulated blood pressure...and Sam's blood pressure had obviously just nosedived.

So what did that mean?

Dean shook his head, uncertain what that meant even as his attention flickered to the blood still trickling from behind Sam's ear.

"Alright, Sammy..." Dean sighed, preparing to lift his brother when he noticed movement – ever so slight – by the door in which he had entered only moments ago.

Dean narrowed his eyes, sensing trouble, and carefully maneuvered Sam back on the table; leaving the kid to rest while he handled whatever lurked outside the door.

"Be right back..." Dean whispered to his brother and readjusted his grip on the knife as he moved forward; startling slightly when a woman suddenly appeared in the doorway, her eyes briefly flashing a lighter color and resembling that of a fox.

There was a beat of silence; hunter sizing up supernatural opponent...and vice versa.

"You're one of those guys from that Impala that tracked me back to town," the woman commented coolly.

Dean nodded, continuing to approach. "And you're the Kitsune bitch who snacked on my brother."

The Kitsune laughed disgustedly. "Tried to," she admitted. "But the little shit wouldn't hold still. Who knew such a scrawny kid could put up such a fight?"

Dean felt a wave of pride wash over him. "He's a tough kid," he agreed.

"He's pain in my ass," the Kitsune corrected, backing away from Dean and then circling around.

"Is that why you tied him up?" Dean asked; his eyes tracking every move the Kitsune made.

"Kinky, huh?" the Kitsune taunted and then smiled. "He resisted that, too, so I had to get a little rough."

Dean glared, remembering Sam's swollen jaw and bruised cheek.

"And then..." the Kitsune continued. "Then he started yelling. Calling for help and screaming your name." She paused. "You are Dean, right?"

Dean's glared intensified; remembering Sam's hoarse voice from earlier and hating the idea of his brother calling for him...and him not being there to help the kid.

The Kitsune sneered. "And then...right as we prepared to feed, you actually showed up."

"Damn right I did," Dean returned and then blinked at the realization of what the Kitsune had said. "Wait a minute...we?" he repeated, instantly reminded of Amy talking about why Sam had most likely been brought to this warehouse – because her mom had wanted to share a hunter with their deity, Inari.

The Kitsune smiled. "We," she confirmed; her gaze going beyond Dean.

Against his better judgment, Dean took his eyes off his opponent and glanced over his shoulder – because Sam was behind him...vulnerable and alone – and felt his stomach drop at the sight of another woman – presumably Inari – standing over his brother; her long, sharp claws hovering over the kid's head.

"Sonuvabitch," Dean hissed and instantly lunged in that direction; hoping a knife to the heart would kill an Inari the same as it would kill a Kitsune...and hoping his aim and timing were deadly.

The Inari's eyes flashed as she drew her arm back; preparing to deliver the final puncture to Sam's skull and to then feed upon the kid's pituitary gland...and god-knows-what-else.

"No!" Dean yelled; the volume and force of his voice combined with the intensity and speed of his movement momentarily distracting the Inari and providing the perfect opportunity to kill the supernatural creature before she could further harm Sam.

The tip of Dean's knife plunged into the Inari's chest and exited through her back as Dean savagely twisted the blade within her body cavity.

The Inari stared at Dean in speechless shock; her eyes flashing in that peculiar way once again before the light of life completely faded, and the Inari slumped to the dusty warehouse floor.

Dean breathed heavily – adrenaline rushing through his veins – and jerked his knife free from the Inari in time to whirl around and stab the approaching Kitsune in her heart as well; vaguely wondering if she honestly thought he hadn't heard her running toward him and watching as her eyes also flashed before closing in death.

Dean pushed the Kitsune to the floor, removing his knife from her chest and wiping her blood on the sleeve of her shirt before turning a slow, tight circle; his eyes scanning the room for more signs of potential trouble.

But there were none.

Dean swallowed – his heart still pounding from the rush of adrenaline – and immediately crossed back to Sam as the kid continued to lie motionless on the metal table in the middle of the warehouse room.

"Sammy..." Dean called, placing the knife on the table before cupping his brother's cheek while also checking the kid's pulse.

Sam shifted but did not open his eyes.

Dean smiled affectionately. "Good enough," he praised, figuring his brother had offered the only response he could at the moment, and pulled his phone from the pocket of his leather jacket which was still wrapped around Sam.

Sam shifted on the table; once again responding to Dean's touch.

Dean patted Sam's chest soothingly. "It's okay," he assured his brother. "Just calling Dad..." he commented, his gaze roaming the room; alert and ready for whoever – or whatever – dared to threaten him or his brother again.

Dean sighed and had just lifted the phone to his ear when he heard it – another phone ringing in the warehouse.

Dean narrowed his eyes, instantly grabbing the knife and protectively edging closer to Sam as he listened to the echo of the ringing phone draw nearer.

"Dean..."

Dean blinked at the sound of John's voice, both in his ear and in the warehouse.

"Dean!"

Dean smiled, relieved and grateful to have backup as well as transportation. Because Sam needed to get home; needed to get cleaned up and patched up and be able to rest in the safety of anywhere except here.

"Dean!" John's voice bellowed again.

"In here..." Dean called back; pocketing his phone and continuing to stand guard over Sam as he waited for John to appear in the doorway.

And within seconds, he did.

"Dean..." John said, relief evident in his tone at the sight of his oldest and pride shining in his eyes as he visually swept the room; taking in the two dead supernatural creatures sprawled on the floor. "Good work," he praised.

Dean nodded.

"Where's Sam?" John asked, cautiously entering the room; his own knife held in front of him as he scanned the corners for danger.

"He's here," Dean replied, stepping to the side for John to see their youngest still lying on the metal table.

John frowned. "What the hell?" he demanded, lowering his knife and crossing to his sons; his gaze sweeping over Sam and taking in the kid's injuries. "What did they do to him?"

Dean shook his head. "I'm not sure, but I think he's okay. Just roughed up a little and – "

"Did they feed?" John interrupted, his hand hovering over the blood slowly drying behind Sam's left ear.

"They tried," Dean admitted and then smiled proudly as he brushed Sam's bangs from his closed eyes. "But Sammy fought them off."

John returned the smile. "That's our boy," he praised and winked at his oldest.

"Yeah," Dean agreed. "But I think they still might've screwed with his pituitary gland."

John frowned, coming closer to examine Sam's wound. "Why?"

"Because he was freezing earlier..." Dean worriedly explained and motioned toward the leather jacket he had wrapped around his brother. "And then when I stood him up, he passed out. I mean, his blood pressure just dropped like a freakin' rock and bam!"

John nodded at Dean's description of Sam's condition. "Might just be shock and trauma," he soothed his oldest. "We'll keep a check on him over the next few days."

Dean returned the nod; because damn straight they would keep a check on him. Sam would be lucky to take a piss by himself over the next few days as overprotective as Dean currently felt.

John chuckled, knowing Dean's thoughts. "He'll be fine," he reassured his oldest and moved closer to Sam, preparing to lift his youngest.

"I've got him," Dean quickly told his father; stepping in front of John and scooping his little brother from the table as if the kid weighed nothing; one arm behind Sam's knees while the other supported the kid's head.

John smiled – not surprised at being practically body checked in response to trying to take charge over Sam's care – and sighed as he watched Dean further settle Sam in his arms. "Alright. Let's go. Stay close…" he advised as he led the way out of the room and through the warehouse.

Dean followed close behind, alternately looking ahead and checking on Sam as the kid continued to rest against him in his arms; hating that his brother was unconscious and hurt...as evidenced by the swelling and bruising on the kid's face and the blood smeared on the fabric of Dean's shirt as Sam's head lolled on his shoulder.

Dean sighed, exiting the warehouse through the door John held open for him and then waiting as John then opened the backseat door of the Impala; his dad obviously waiting to see whether Dean was going to deposit Sam and ride shotgun back to the apartment...or if his oldest would ride in the backseat with Sam.

Dean quirked a smile. "What do you think?" he asked, answering the unspoken question, and heard John chuckle good-naturedly as he ducked inside the Impala; carefully positioning Sam in the seat and then holding the kid steady while he climbed in beside him.

John shook his head fondly – because it seemed some things never changed with his boys – and closed the backseat door before crossing to the driver's side and sliding behind the wheel.

Wordlessly, John cranked the engine – the Impala's familiar rumble soothing his slightly frayed nerves – and eased the classic Chevy out of the alley beside the warehouse and back on to the street.

Dean shifted under Sam's weight as his unconscious brother leaned against him; his arm protectively wrapped around the kid's narrow shoulders as they rode in silence.

Minutes passed along with scenery.

"Everything okay back there?" John checked, glancing in his rearview mirror; knowing no news was good news but unable to stop himself from asking.

"Yeah," Dean reassured, meeting John's gaze in the mirror. "We're fine."

John nodded – always feeling strangely sappy and proud when Dean used "we" in reference to his little brother – and refocused on the road.

"Hey, Dad..." Dean called.

John glanced again in his rearview. "Yeah..."

"What happened with Amy?"

John snorted and shook his head disgustedly. "Good question."

Dean arched an eyebrow.

"She was gone by the time I got there," John further explained.

Dean nodded, having expected as much; remembering Amy's sudden silence on the phone once Dean had arrived at the warehouse.

"We'll get her, though..." John assured, signaling a left turn as he pulled into the parking lot of their apartment complex.

"Damn right we will," Dean agreed heartily; because nobody hurt his brother – either directly or indirectly – without answering for it.

John nodded; parking the Impala, killing the ignition, and then exiting the driver's side.

Dean waited for the backseat door to open and then maneuvered himself out of the car before reaching for Sam; once again lifting his brother in his arms and scowling at the curious glances a few bystanders casted their way.

John further shielded his sons with his body as Dean moved in front of him, and they entered the apartment building; slowly climbing the stairs and ducking into the relative safety of their apartment.

Without a word, father and son set about taking care of their youngest; Dean switching on the light with his elbow and carrying Sam into their shared room while John grabbed the first aid kit and a damp washcloth from the bathroom.

Sam shifted as Dean settled him on the bed; weakly pushing against Dean as if he thought he was still in danger; was still being held captive by supernatural creatures at an abandoned warehouse.

Dean gently restrained his brother. "Easy, Sammy..." he soothed, glancing over his shoulder as John entered the room.

John frowned. "What's wrong?"

Dean shook his head. "Nothing," he answered without looking at John and instead pulled off Sam's shoes before removing his leather jacket from where it was still wrapped around his brother and tossing it to the chair in the corner. "He just needs a minute..."

John nodded, setting the first aid kit on the bedside table and handing the washcloth to Dean.

"Sammy..." Dean called, sitting on the edge of the bed beside his brother and gently wiping the warm, damp cloth over the kid's forehead and cheeks.

Sam scrunched his face; his eyes fluttering open at the sensation and at the sound of Dean calling his name.

Dean smiled. "Hey, sunshine," he greeted teasingly and brushed Sam's bangs from his eyes; checking their dilation while feeling for fever; satisfied that both seemed normal, though his brother was slightly warmer than usual.

Dean frowned, wondering again about the issue of body temperature regulation and if the Kitsune – or Inari – had screwed something up with Sam's pituitary gland during their "preparations" to feed on his brother.

Sam blinked at the worried expression on Dean's face. "What's wrong?"

Dean shrugged. "Nothing," he replied casually, lowering the washcloth from Sam's face, and then forced a smile. "How do you feel?"

Sam sighed and closed his eyes as though he was taking an internal inventory. "Okay," he finally replied; his voice quiet and sleepy as he stared again at Dean. "Just tired...and my head hurts...and my face kinda hurts, too," he added, reaching to touch his cheek.

"Dude..." Dean lightly admonished, intercepting Sam's reach and lowering his brother's hand back to the mattress. "Chill," he advised. "I got this."

Sam quirked a tired smile and watched as Dean grabbed the first aid kit from the bedside table before glancing at John; his eyes misting as he realized their dad was standing at the foot of his bed.

John frowned. "Sam..."

Dean glanced up, frowning as well. "Sammy. What's wrong? Are you in pain?" he asked, his gaze sweeping the length of his brother.

Sam shook his head and then winced at the motion. "M'sorry," he apologized, staring straight at John. "I screwed up," he admitted, blinking against the tears that threatened to spill.

Dean cut his eyes at John, wondering if their dad had given some nonverbal signal of disappointment.

John shook his head in denial and then refocused on his youngest. "It's okay, Sam," he soothed. "You did screw up. But every hunter has a bad day now and then." He shrugged. "Even me," he confessed and winked. "That's why we have each other." He paused at the doubtful expression on Sam's face. "You hear me?"

Sam nodded and sighed shakily.

John smiled warmly; knowing that for as much as he and Sam butted heads these days, Sam was still just a kid trying to find his way; just a kid who didn't want to disappoint his family.

"I'm proud of you," John told his youngest, his tone genuine. "You kept your head in the game and put up a good fight. That's all any of us can do, Sam."

Sam nodded again and glanced at Dean for further reassurance.

Dean nodded as well. "You heard the man," he quipped and smiled at his brother.

Sam laughed softly and swallowed; trying to pull himself together.

"You got him?" John quietly asked Dean about their youngest; knowing the answer but still needing to check.

"Yeah," Dean confirmed and pulled a couple of alcohol wipes from the first aid kit in his lap.

John lingered, watching as Dean carefully turned Sam's head and dabbed the stinging wipes around the edges of the puncture wound behind Sam's left ear.

Sam's hands twisted the fabric of the sheets, and his legs moved restlessly against the pain – but he did not make a sound.

John quirked a proud smile at both his boys.

Dean glanced over his shoulder. "I got this," he reminded John.

John chuckled at Dean's possessive streak over Sam and nodded. "I know," he agreed and then paused. "It's been a long day," he commented needlessly, glancing between his sons. "You boys rest up and be ready to leave in the morning. Got a lead about a possible hunt two states over..."

Dean nodded; hoping John realized they wouldn't be going anywhere unless Sam felt like it...but deciding that battle – and that decision – could wait until tomorrow.

"Good night, boys..." John said and left his sons' room, closing the door behind him.

Dean sighed, refocusing on his brother.

Sam stared back at Dean.

Dean narrowed his eyes. "What?"

Sam swallowed, as if he was afraid to ask. "Is Amy dead?"

Dean shook his head; because of course that was what Sam would be worried about – whether the monster who had almost gotten him killed was still alive or not.

"Dean..." Sam prompted; his eyes wide and pleading. "Is she?"

"No," Dean answered, ripping open a fresh alcohol wipe and continuing to clean his brother's head wound.

Sam hissed at the pain that flared.

"Easy," Dean soothed. "Almost done with this part..."

Sam nodded and swallowed against the pain that continued to throb behind his ear. "Is it bad?"

Dean said nothing; his eyes narrowed as he wiped the final remnants of dried blood from Sam's skin and then examined the wound more closely.

"Dean..."

"No," Dean replied; his fingers gently pressing around the edges of the torn flesh. "No stitches. We'll just keep it clean and covered for a few days, and it should be fine." He paused; his eyes sweeping over his brother. "How do you feel?"

Sam smiled tiredly, knowing Dean's concern. "Like I still have a pituitary gland."

Dean glared. "Smartass," he growled, though there was no heat to his words and only relief in his expression.

Sam's smile widened, watching as Dean searched through their first aid kit and pulled out a few pads of gauze.

There was silence between them as Dean covered Sam's wound, carefully taping the gauze in place behind his brother's ear.

"Alright..." Dean sighed; seeming satisfied that Sam was patched up enough for the night but wanting to double-check. "How do you feel now?"

Sam shrugged. "Tired and sore," he answered honestly. "But I'm okay."

Dean smiled fondly. "Only because you have an awesome big brother to constantly save your scrawny ass," he replied and winked at his little brother.

Sam grinned in agreement; a brief flash of dimples making an appearance.

Dean chuckled. "Okay. Let's sit you up and get your jammies on," he continued to tease. "It's bedtime for my little Sammy muffin."

"Shut up," Sam responded dryly even as he continued to smile at his brother's masked affection; his breath catching slightly as Dean eased him to his feet.

"You got this?" Dean asked suspiciously, waiting for Sam to nod before briefly leaving his brother to stand between their beds while he quickly grabbed the kid's sleep clothes from the top drawer of their shared dresser.

Wordlessly, Sam accepted the clothes; changing into his sweatpants and t-shirt while only a few steps away – close enough to grab Sam if he needed to – Dean did the same; slipping out of his boots, jeans, and t-shirt and into his own sleep clothes; freeing the amulet from under his fresh shirt to hang where it belonged in the center of his chest.

Sam sighed shakily as he completed his task and suddenly sat on the edge of his bed, blinking as black spots dotted his vision.

Dean was instantly by his side, crouched in front of him. "Hey..."

Sam blinked again. "M'okay," he assured quietly. "Just got kinda dizzy..."

"I see that," Dean commented, making a mental note to keep a check on that tendency over the next few days.

"M'okay," Sam said again and tried to smile at Dean though the expression looked more like a wince of pain and fatigue.

"Well, you will be," Dean corrected, knowing Sam just needed to rest and heal, and kept one hand on his brother while pulling back the sheet and comforter on the kid's bed and helping Sam get situated under the covers.

"I'm not a baby, Dean," Sam complained but did not resist his big brother's help; settling into his pillow and sighing as he closed his eyes.

Dean quirked a smile but said nothing; keeping his opinions to himself. Because like it or not, Sam would always be his baby brother...and Dean would always take care of him.

"Night, kiddo..." Dean said softly, giving one last check to Sam's wound behind his ear before affectionately rustling the kid's floppy hair and crossing to his own bed.

"Night..." Sam called back; his voice barely audible.

Dean smiled and crawled under his own blankets; hearing John move around in the living room; their dad undoubtedly checking salt lines and making notes in his journal.

Dean sighed – thankful they had all survived another day – and startled when Sam's soft voice floated through the darkness, having thought his brother was asleep.

"Dean...why isn't she dead?"

Dean turned to look at Sam in the neighboring bed; not surprised to see the kid drowsily staring back at him and knowing his brother was still thinking about Amy. "She's just not, Sam."

Sam blinked and yawned. "But why?" he persisted, obviously resisting the pull of sleep his body craved after the shitty day he had endured. "You killed the others, right?"

"Yeah," Dean confirmed; knowing Sam had been unconscious at the warehouse after the Kitsune and Inari had died but also knowing that Sam knew him well enough to know Dean would have never let them live after what they had done to Sam.

"So, why is Amy still alive?" Sam pressed; his voice quiet but insistent; wanting to understand this unexpected twist.

Dean sighed, staring through the darkness at his sleepy kid brother. "Because she was gone by the time Dad got there," he answered honestly and waited for Sam's reaction.

Sam blinked again but said nothing.

"Sammy..."

"Yeah," Sam responded; his head moving on the pillow.

"You hear me?"

"Yeah," Sam said again and then paused. "Is she gonna stay alive?"

Dean swallowed against the urge to lie to his brother. Because he knew what Sam wanted to hear – but he could not promise that he would not kill Amy if their paths ever crossed again.

"D'n..." Sam called; his slurred voice indicating that he was now more asleep than awake.

Dean smiled fondly; remembering all the times over the years his name had been the last thing Sam had said before the kid had fallen asleep.

"D'n..." Sam called again.

"Don't worry about it tonight," Dean replied soothingly. "Just go to sleep, Sammy."

Sam's deep, even breaths answered.

Dean smiled softly and listened to his brother breathe in the silence; thankful the kid was okay and determined that as long as he was around, Sam would always be okay.

"I promise..." Dean whispered to the sleeping kid beside him and closed his eyes; hoping he would one day have the chance to kill the girl – the monster – who had almost cost him his brother tonight.


FIN