Author's note: Thanks to those of you who have followed this story to the very end (Valerie, I don't know if this was how you pictured the story to turn out when you first introduced me to your idea, but I've done my best to bring the story to life). I appreciate all the kind words and support I've received. You guys are the best! ;) – Elisa.

Chapter 7.

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Dean parked the Impala as close to the motel room as possible before he shut off the engine and peeked at his little brother who had dozed off as soon as they'd hit the highway. Sam's face was still pale and his breathing ragged, but Dean hoped some days on bed rest under big brother's watching eye would do wonders for the younger Winchester brother.

"Sam." Dean said and lightly patted Sam's shoulder.

Sam's eyes snapped open and he shifted a bit on the seat – then winced and softly groaned as the action of it jarred his chest.

"Easy." Dean soothed. "We're here."

Dean nodded towards the motel room and Sam turned sleepy eyes in that direction to see where 'here' was.

"You good?" Dean asked, watching with a hint of worry as Sam slowly nodded.

Dean hoped that the reason why Sam was being quiet was because the younger brother was tired and not because he was in too much pain to talk. Dean knew it was risky taking Sam out of the hospital before the doctor had given him the green light, but Dean was confident he could provide Sam with the care he needed to get back on his feet. Taking care of Sam had always been as normal for Dean as putting on clean socks in the morning (although Dean didn't necessarily put on clean socks every morning) and he would continue to take care of his little brother no matter how old the kid got – and no matter how often Sam walked away.

The older Winchester brother buried the thoughts about Sam leaving for this time being, opened up the squeaky car door and went around the Impala to Sam's side of the car. His younger brother had managed to open up the door and was struggling to get out by the time Dean reached him - then looked up at his big brother with a despondent look on his pale face. Dean didn't need any verbal requests from Sam to understand what his brother needed, nor did he ask any questions before he hooked his arms under Sam's armpits and pulled the younger man to his feet. Sam let out a soft groan and Dean carefully dragged Sam's arm over his shoulder – his other arm wrapped around Sam's midsection – before eyeing his brother to look for any signs of distress.

"You.." Dean started when Sam cut him off.

"I'm fine, Dean." Sam said and sighed tiredly.

"Yeah, you look fine." Dean snorted with sarcasm as they started moving towards the motel room. "Tell me Sammy; would you describe that facial color as 'eggshell' or 'ivory'..?"

"Bite me." Sam muttered.

"Ouch, they teach you to talk like that on Stanford?" Dean asked.

"Actually, I learned that from my big brother." Sam said with a wry smile.

"Oh really? Sounds like a handsome fellow that one." Dean smirked, turned the key in the lock of the motel room door and pushed it open with his shoulder before leading Sam inside.

The younger brother was panting by the time they reached the bed farthest away from the door and Sam coughed a little as he sat down on the edge of it.

"Stay put, I'll go get the bags." Dean said and walked back outside to the car.

Sam removed his shoes and hoodie with a little bit of effort but felt good for being able to do it on his own before Dean returned – even if his chest was still sore from the surgery he'd gone through and the pneumonia that was slightly improving every day. By the time Dean returned to the motel room with the duffle bags, Sam leaned back against the pillow and let out a content sigh.

"I'm gonna take a shower." Dean said as he rummaged through his duffle. "You need anything before I go?"

"No." Sam answered, his eyes already closing but snapping open as Dean pulled out the covers from underneath him and draped them over the younger brother. "Dude, I can do that myself!"

"Shut up Sam, and go to sleep." Dean said, making sure the covers were tucked properly in around Sam before he turned around and walked towards the bathroom.

Sam followed Dean with his eyes and blinked a few times at the closing bathroom door before his eyelids started to droop again. His lip twitched a bit as he heard the running water in the bathroom and the unmistakably sound of Dean whistling in the shower, and it didn't take long before the familiar sound lulled him to sleep.

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Spending three days in a motel room bed with his brother constantly nursing and hovering around him, turned out to be too much for Sam. Dean Winchester had always been overprotective when it came to taking care of his little brother – especially a hurt or sick little brother – and it got even worse when Dean was on a guilt trip. He'd somehow decided that Sam ending up at the hospital was his fault and the constant need Dean had to do everything for Sam was driving the younger man crazy!

"Dean, stop. Stop it, dammit!" Sam exclaimed when Dean was fluffing Sam's pillow for the third time that day. "Enough already!"

"What's your problem?" Dean asked with a hint of irritation in his voice.

"You!" Sam said and pushed himself off the bed despite Dean's protests. "You are my problem!"

"Oh, so that's the thanks I get for taking care of your sorry ass?" Dean said with anger smoldering just underneath the surface.

"I know and I'm grateful for it, but Dean you're smothering me! I can't take it anymore." Sam said with frustration and washed a hand down his face. "I need to get out of here and get some air."

"So you're leaving again? After everything?" Dean asked and shook his head. "Unbelievable.. You ungrateful little bastard."

Sam's brows furrowed and he looked at Dean with confusion.

"What are you talking about?" Sam wanted to know, having no other intention than to just spend a few minutes outside without his brother asking him if he was fine or in pain or needed an extra blanket.

"You walking away!" Dean shouted, picking up the reason why they'd been fighting in the first place - before Sam's hospital stay. "You always walk away! You want me to mention the occasions again?"

"Why are you bringing this up now?" Sam wanted to know.

"Well you were the one who wanted to talk about it, so talk!" Dean demanded with anger written all over his face before throwing Sam's pillow through the room. "Tell me what's so important that you have to leave your family over and over. Tell me, Sam!"

The older brother had grasped the collar of Sam's shirt with his hands and his angry face was now only inches away from Sam's face.

"Dean." Sam said in a much calmer tone than the one Dean was using on him right now – taking his big brother's anger for what it really was; hurt. "I ran off to Flagstaff because I was sick of the way Dad treated me, okay? I was sick of the fact that we could never agree on things, that I was being the bad son for wanting different things in life. I ran away from Dad, not you."

Dean stilled looked angry but didn't interrupt, so Sam continued.

"You know why I left for Stanford. I didn't mean to walk out on either one of you, but.. I just wanted to go to school, Dean. Is that too much to ask for?" Sam asked.

"You walked away in Indiana." Dean said, no longer shouting but still with a hard look on his face. "You can't blame that one on Dad or school."

"You wanted to do the hunt, I wanted to find Dad." Sam said with a shrug of his shoulders. "But I did come back."

Dean huffed in disbelief and let his younger brother go before stepping a bit away. Sam shook his head, glanced out of the motel room window and let out a sigh.

"You wanna know what really happened back in Indiana?" Sam asked without looking at Dean.

"What do you mean?" Dean wanted to know.

"I wasn't the one who left, Dean." Sam said and finally turned his head to meet his brother's eyes again. "You were."

"Okay, now you're not making any sense." Dean said. "You grabbed your bag from the car and took off."

"I didn't start walking until you drove off." Sam said.

"Well you did tell me you wanted me to take off!" Dean exclaimed.

"And you believed that?" Sam asked which made Dean look at him in surprise. "Dean, I didn't believe you would actually leave me there, I.. I watched you drive away and I kept expecting you to turn the car around and come back for me. But you didn't."

"You thought I'd come back?" Dean asked incredulously.

"Yeah." Sam said before they both fell silent – just staring at each other.

Sam swallowed against the emotion that was suddenly clogging his throat and blinked a few times as he felt the familiar sting of tears in his eyes.

"I admit that I've walked away a lot of times in my life, Dean." Sam said, breaking the silence with a shaky voice. "But I always come back, okay?"

"Okay." Dean said and nodded - anger no longer present.

He could easily spot the tears in his little brother's eyes and the sight of it pulled at his heart strings. He'd been too hard on Sam. Way too hard. Sam hadn't walked away from Dean in Indiana – he'd ended up with no other choice than to walk away since Dean had been too blind to see that Sam hadn't wanted them to part ways; that Sam had wanted Dean to stay - despite what the younger brother had said at the time. And Dean should have known that because he knew the kid better than anyone else in the entire world.

"I'm sorry I pushed you." Dean then said and a guilty look settled on his face.

"Don't.." Sam started when Dean cut him off.

"It's my fault you ended up at that hospital, okay?" Dean said. "I should have realized you were hurt, and if I hadn't pushed you then maybe.."

"Maybe what, Dean?" Sam asked, this time being the one to cut off the other brother. "If anyone's to blame, it's that scarecrow for throwing me into a tree! You couldn't have done anything about it, so stop beating yourself up and get over it, okay?"

Before Dean could protest any further, Sam suddenly took in a troubled breath and blindly grasped the air to find something to grab in support as dizziness appeared and made black spots dance in front of his eyes. Dean was by his side in an instant and held on to Sam while the wave of dizziness slowly dissolved.

"Sammy? Sammy? You alright." Dean asked with concern and quickly guided Sam back to bed before sitting him down on the edge of it. "Talk to me!"

"I'm alright. Just a bit dizzy." Sam said, grasping his chest with one hand and leaning forward a bit – head between his knees.

"Okay, that's it! You're staying in bed until I tell you when you're ready to leave it, got it?" Dean asked from his crouched position in front of Sam - although it was clear to Sam that it was no question.

Sam nodded and Dean got up from his crouching position, manhandled his little brother back to bed before he left – only to return a few seconds later with Sam's pillow in hand. The younger Winchester brother was too drained of energy to complain when Dean fluffed the pillow a few times and placed it underneath Sam's head, neither did he protest when Dean gently tucked him in.

"Get some rest, Sasquatch." Dean said and was about to walk away when Sam grabbed his wrist.

"Dean." Sam said.

"Yeah, Sammy?" Dean asked.

"Are we good?" Sam wanted to know.

"We're good." Dean promised and confirmed his words by sending Sam a wry smile. "I mean it this time."

"Good." Sam said, returning the smile. "Cause I'm too tired to kick your ass today."

"Please." Dean snorted. "Like that could ever happen."

"You're just jealous because I'm the tall one." Sam said around a yawn.

"Yeah? Well I'm the handsome one and seriously Sam; who do you think the ladies prefer the most?" Dean asked and then winked before he flopped down on his own bed, grabbed the remote and turned on the TV while waiting for his brother to throw an insult back at him. "What? No great come-back, Sammy?"

When Sam didn't answer, Dean turned his head to look at Sam – only to discover that Sam's eyes were closed and his breath evened out in sleep.

"Yeah, I would have fallen asleep too if I couldn't come up with a great come-back." Dean said to himself with amusement, dropped the remote to the mattress and folded his hands behind his neck before leaning back against the headboard with a content smile. Sam would be alright.

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Five miles away, at the ER section of the hospital, Loretta was getting ready for her shift. The hospital staff had been very dismayed when they'd discovered that the kid, who'd been brought in with Hemopneumothorax, and his protective big brother had disappeared without anyone noticing.

Loretta smiled as she recalled her last meeting with the two brothers; how surprised and grateful they'd both been when she'd let them go without any questions asked. The nurse knew that there would be trouble did anyone ever find out what she had done, but she simple couldn't find it in her heart to care. The brothers had needed someone to look after them and Loretta had found it more than natural to help out those two sweethearts as much as she could. She just wished they were both alright – wherever they were now.

Loretta blinked against the emotion in her eyes and chuckled a bit at her own sentimentality before she took seat behind the information desk – ready for a new hectic night to begin – when the phone in front of her started ringing. She picked up the phone, introduced herself and the hospital and waited to hear how she could assist the person on the other end of the line.

"Oh, it's you again sir." Loretta greeted when the person introduced himself, then looked a bit from side to side and lowered her voice. "Well, it's been three days and they're still not back here so I'm gonna assume that everything is alright with Sam."

"Good, just checking." The male voice said. "This is the last time I'm calling so I just wanna thank you for informing me about the boys."

"Well, you have been calling every single day those boys were here so it's the least I could do." Loretta said and hesitated a bit before continuing. "Look, I.. I still don't understand why you didn't want me to just give them a message or something to let them know that you'd been worried about Sam from day one."

"I have my reasons. Thanks again." The person said and Loretta put the phone down as the line was disconnected.

She sighed and sent a thought to Dean and Sam before she looked at the guy on the other side of the desk who was trying to get her attention.

"I need some help." The guy said.

"Oh, everyone here does honey." Loretta said and put down a chart in front of him. "Fill out these forms."

In another part of the country, John Winchester stepped out of the phone booth he'd just used and smiled to himself. Now that he was sure Sam was out of the hospital, safe and sound with Dean looking after him, he could refocus on tracking down the demon that had killed his wife and left his boys without a mother.

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That's all folks! Reviews are love – and I love you back ;)