The Snake Bite

Summary: 1-shot.Tension and fights building between them, Sam and Dean are both worn out when leaving a case in a bayou results in Sam fighting for his life and Dean trying to save his brother and find a way to fix the problems between them./ Sick/hurt!Sam and Worried/angsty!Dean. Set in season 4 between 04x14-Sex and Violence and 04x16-On the Head of a Pin.

Warnings: Language of course even if it's mild. No violence, nothing graphic.

Spoilers: None unless you haven't seen season 4 then there might be some.

Tags: No.

Disclaimer: The usual. I don't own the boys or anything to do with the show. This is written for enjoyment and fun.

Author Note: I'm not a snake expert but Googled so I hope I got it right. The snake is just a minor thing so anyone who has a phobia (like me) with them shouldn't have an issue. Thanks in advance for reading.


"Snot nosed brats who make up stories really need to come across the so-called make believe monster they pretended to get ate by."

The tone itself was a dead giveaway that Dean Winchester was angry and frustrated. The way he was stalking around the jacked up 1967 black Chevy Impala told that he was also beyond stressed.

The recent weeks had not been the greatest in Dean's life. He'd returned from four months or forty years Hell-time in Hell, he'd found out that his brother had been going Dark Side with a demon that Dean had never liked then learned that Angels actually existed even if they were mostly douchebags.

He and Sam had been fighting pretty much steady for the past few weeks since Dean didn't approve of what he was doing with Ruby and Sam was keeping too much to himself.

Though what had caused the biggest strain between the brothers was a toss-up between the case with the Siren where they'd both said some pretty bad stuff to one another and finally when Castiel and his buddy had forced Dean to torture Alastair.

That had not only brought back things that were still raw in Dean but also revealed some things that he hadn't known about both his time in the Pit and the time his own Dad had been there but the final straw had been after the torture master of Hell had managed to get free, nearly killed Dean and Castiel only to have Sam, on some power trip, wipe Alastair off the map.

Dean had woken up in the hospital badly hurt and knew by the way Sam was on edge that something had happened. It had been Castiel who had told him of his brother's actions and what he'd seen the younger Winchester do.

From that moment, the tension had been thick enough to cut with a knife. Sam knew Dean was upset with him and was trying to either avoid open confrontation or hovering since the doctors had really been against Dean releasing himself AMA.

A simple case of a possible swamp monster in the bayous of Louisiana had been a way to maybe get them back on track of hunting if not relieve the tension between them.

Three days of hunting in a muggy, smelly, wet swamp had not made Dean's mood improve. Finding out that the three boys who had 'seen' the monster had just made it up to get out of being punished for skipping school hadn't helped either but it was the flat tire the Impala decided to get in the middle of nowhere that finally pushed him over the edge.

"Tell me again why I couldn't do what I wanted?" he demanded as he nearly slipped in mud as he leaned against the Impala's trunk and tried to ignore the still lingering pains all over his body.

"Probably because I'm pretty certain that feeding three kids to an alligator is frowned upon even down here and Bobby would bitch if he had to come get us outta jail."

Scowling at that thought, Dean ran a hand through his short hair and promised himself that the next case he picked was going to be somewhere that didn't make the air so hot and sticky that even his hair felt wet.

The sound of something clanging against metal made him look down with a deeper frown. "Don't scratch my car, Sam," he warned, wincing inwardly as he watched his brother struggle to replace the flat tire with the good one from the trunk.

"I know what I'm doing, Dean," Sam was tired and that was making him sound more cross than he wanted to since it didn't take more than a wrong word to set his brother off these days.

Sam knew he was walking on thin ice with Dean as it was. He'd said way too much during the fight between them that the Siren had caused and he was still trying to figure out a way to make his brother understand that he hadn't meant it when the mess with Alastair had happened.

Before meeting Castiel and Uriel Sam had always believed that Angels were kind and good. He'd believed in prayer and Heaven since he was a kid and Pastor Jim had let him listen to one of his sermons.

Now he wasn't sure what he believed or how he should feel. Everything was so confusing in Sam's mind. He was trying to do the right thing as he was told it was by Ruby but he was also trying to do right and make his brother proud. Those two things seemed to just be butting heads with him in the middle.

Dean had hardly spoken to him since getting out of the hospital and when he did he was either angry or snapping so Sam had just pulled back.

He'd been so lost during the time Dean had been in Hell that he'd tried nearly everything he could think of to get his brother back. When Ruby offered a way to make him strong enough to do just that, he hadn't thought of the ultimate consequences. He'd just jumped at a way to maybe do something right.

Doing what he had to do to take some of the burden off of Dean since he was still injured and hoping to avoid any more fights since every fight seemed to drive them farther apart.

When the car's tire blew in the middle of a lonely road next to a bayou, Sam quickly said he'd fix it since he knew his brother couldn't go bending and twisting on the cold, wet ground. He just had to make sure Dean didn't find out that he had two broken ribs left over from that fight they had while trying to save the Reapers from Alastair and he was pretty certain he was coming down with a cold.

Debating on letting Sam finish or doing it himself, Dean glanced up at the setting sun and hoped they were closer back to civilization before it got too dark. His head still hurt at times and driving in the dark did not help things.

Something moving out of the corner of his eye caused the older Winchester to look but didn't see anything. Choosing to shrug it off as either his imagination or just being too tired he went to push away from the Impala to resume his pacing when this time he did see something move under the car.

Even a quick look told Dean what he was looking at and he cursed violently under his breath even as his hand was going for the weapon under his jacket. "Sam!"

Tired, wet and bleeding from the hand where his knuckles had taken a beating arguing to get the damn tire off then back on, Sam was just easing out from under the Impala when he heard his brother's voice.

Unlike the sharp tone Dean has been using, Sam recognized this one as his brother's alarmed tone of voice that normally meant for him to move his ass.

He'd just moved his right arm to give himself an extra boost when Sam felt the unexpected sharp burning agony as something clamped down onto his arm and his next move was pure gut instinct.

"Damn!" jerking his arm, Sam saw the snake attached to his arm only a moment before he fell back on the ground. "Oh, God."

The sudden movement of Sam's arm to the jar of hitting the ground seemed to make the rather large reptile to release its grip but the moment it hit the ground it curled its body up with its head raised to strike again.

Snapping its head forward with fangs ready to attack, rather than strike soft flesh again it struck something hard as a steel toe boot was put between it and Sam.

Angry hissing as the snake got one fang stuck in the boot just as something sharp and metal flashed, coming down to slice the snake's head off.

"Sonuvabitch!" Dean swore, using the tip of the machete he'd pulled to first knock the snake head away from his boot since he was well aware that even a decapitated snake could still be lethal then he used the blade to give both head and body a swift hurl across the road and heard the splashes as both hit swamp water.

The look he'd gotten at the snake told Dean what kind it was and even as he was tossing the machete back into the open trunk he was dropping next to Sam with sharp green eyes.

"I'm…alright," Sam was trying to sit up only to fall back as his had to blink to bring his brother into focus then as he tried again, he got a look at his arm and knew he hadn't been bitten by any common water snake. "Dean?"

"Cottonmouth," Dean nodded, laying a hand on Sam's chest to stop him from trying to move again as he more gently took the injured arm to look at the wound and tried to shield the frown as he seen that it was already beginning to swell and change colors around the wound site. "Stay still, Sam."

Hating to leave Sam even for the short time it would take him to grab what he hoped was still in the trunk, Dean's brain was already moving in six directions.

Raised by an ex-Marine turned hunter of the weird and unnatural, Dean had grown up being trained in some way, shape, or form nearly every day and while John Winchester could be a hardass who drilled his boys constantly he'd also taken the time to make certain they knew how to take care if and when things went bad on a hunt.

Since a lot of their hunts was in the woods or other areas where snakes were common, John had taught both of his sons what to look for in snakes to recognize the poisonous ones from the nonpoisonous ones and he'd taught Dean how to handle it if he ever came into a situation with a potentially life threatening snake bite.

"…De'n?" Sam had tried to sit up again only to fall back when his stomach nearly revolted on him and he grabbed for his arm as if to stop the pain. "This…I don't feel so good."

"Yeah, I know you don't, Sammy," Dean was digging through the trunk like a madman until his fingers finally landed on something he'd honestly never thought he'd have use for. "Hey, hey, lay still a second," he quickly grabbed the odd looking little thing and a blanket before hurrying back to see his brother had tried to move only to fall again.

Figuring it had to be their lousy luck that Sam had gotten bit by one of the world's most deadly water snakes, Dean knew he needed to move quick to get this situation under control before it was too late.

Struggling to keep his eyes open, the natural panic at both being bit in the first place and then seeing the wound was already swelling and looking weird was growing as he felt Dean's hand lay flat on his chest.

"Don't move and try not to panic on me, Sammy," Dean urged, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt as he needed to move the hand he'd laid on Sam's chest in order to try to calm him down so he could attach the end of the venom extractor to the swelling, bloody looking wound and slowly pulled back on the attached plunger to draw as much of the venom as he could.

Fear was huge in Sam's eyes as he tried to watch what his brother was doing but his mind kept going back to this was something else he'd failed to do. He knew his brother was mad just by the way his mouth was set and knew he'd yell as soon as he was done…doing whatever it was he was doing. "De'n…?"

"Don't talk, don't move," Dean urged, voice tight as he finished using the extractor with hopes that enough venom had come out that it would make a difference and buy him the time to get Sam to the hospital.

One look told him all he needed to know. Sam was slipping into shock and by the way he kept rubbing his chest he feared other possible side effects were coming on and that scared him because Dean knew they were at least two hours or so away from the nearest town with any decent medical aid.

Fighting his own panic, Dean gave the tire jack a swift kick to knock it down since he didn't have the time to free it normally while once again cursing himself for letting Sam fix the damn tire. He hurriedly put the tools away, slammed the trunk closed then reached down to lift his brother to his feet, having to quickly move when it became clear that Sam was too weak to stand on his own.

"Sam, look at me," he ordered after managing to get the front passenger door opened while keeping a hold of his brother then eased Sam down into the car, kneeling next to the open door to use both hands to tilt Sam's head up so he could look into his face and not liking the glassy eyes he saw or the shaky beat of the pulse he could feel under his fingers. "Sam!"

Jerking at the deep, gruffer tone, Sam tried to move only to feel hands holding his head and when he went to bat at the annoying touch he nearly screamed in pain the moment his arm moved. "Dean, what's…I can't…shit…"

"Listen to me, Sam," Dean recognized old familiar signs and knew if he didn't make Sam understand what was happening then he'd be dealing with a good case of panic attack on top of the snake wound that could kill Sam if the kid panicked too much.

Taking off the battered leather jacket he'd worn ever since his Dad had given it to him, Dean deftly wrapped it around his now shivering brother before also using the blanket as both a cover and a way to support the arm that he needed to keep still but unrestricted.

"You were bit by a damn snake and…it's bad but we're gonna take care of it," he tried to sound calm but deep down Dean felt the fear like he hadn't felt since before going to Hell.

Shutting the door, he hurried around the Impala to get in, start the car with one hand while flicking the heater on but kept it on low so the shock Sam was quickly slipping into weren't go too far or so he hoped. "I need you to stay calm for me and try not to move your arm."

Blinking as if confused, Sam's mind took a moment to understand what Dean was saying and he felt his breathing get faster and then nearly panicked as his chest tightened. "Can't feel it, De'n," he murmured, wanting to curl up as he felt cold and hot and he felt nauseated. "De'n…sorry."

"There's nothing for you to be sorry over, Sam. I should've been watching for snakes," Dean gripped the wheel with one hand while using his other to reach other to touch his brother's wrist as if feeling for a pulse but kept his grip light in order to also make sure the arm stayed still. "Relax. I'm not gonna let anything happen to you."

"Why?" Sam mumbled, words slurring as shock set in fully and he tried to curl against the door like he was prone to do when sick or tired and he'd fall asleep in the Impala. "Hate me. I'm evil…and bad, jus' like they say. Hurt you and I didn't mean…too and don' blame…you for…hurtin' me or…"

Listening to the babble of words made Dean's throat tighten. He'd known he'd been putting a lot of pressure on Sam since he'd come back and had said things to the kid that at any other time, even a year ago, he never would've said on his worst day but since Sam had said his own share of hurtful things he'd considered them even.

Now as he listened to his brother's whisper soft voice talk through the fear and poison in his system, the elder Winchester was starting to think that maybe he hadn't been seeing his brother through the right eyes.

Sam had changed a great deal in the time Dean had been gone and it was hard to see his little brother as all grown up and not needing his big brother as much.

That and the way Ruby seemed to have his brother wrapped around her finger certainly pissed him off but as he drove them down a dirt road full of holes and ruts and he listened to things that normally Sam would never say Dean began to wonder just what had changed.

There were times, like now, that Sam was a lot like he'd been when younger. Soft spoken, quiet, shy to the point you had to practically drag three words out of him at a time. Then there were the times, usually after he'd been with or spoken to Ruby that he was bolder, more outspoken in ways that might even have raised the eyebrows of John Winchester.

Dean knew and accepted that he'd changed since Hell and that maybe he wasn't the same man he had been. That perhaps that did make him a weaker hunter than what Sam appeared to have been turned into by his time with Ruby and whatever the hell she'd showed him.

"'I've been looking up to you since I was four. I just want my brother back,'"

Two phrases that Sam had said to him before his deal came do when Dean was running on a death wish and hadn't cared if he died or not.

Having spent the better part of his last year alive proving he didn't care, Dean had lost the chance to give Sam what he needed the most. Time with the big brother he'd always looked up to and he'd failed to make certain that Sam was prepared to handle life on his own which had left the left paddling upstream without any paddles and the demon bitch had moved in to fill the void in her own way.

John had taught his sons to never show emotion, that emotions would make you weak in the face of an enemy and Dean had learned early on to bury his while Sam had never seemed to have picked up on that skill…until now.

"Didn't mean…what I said, De'n," Sam managed to lift his head so he could look over with huge eyes that were glassy with shock but filled with pain and loss so deep that Dean remembered that same look the nights right after Jessica died and his brother had been so broken by the loss. "Don' care what she says or they say…you're not weak. You're still…m'brother and…"

Coughing suddenly, Sam groaned at the rattle in his chest and the tingling in his arm. He struggled briefly against the arm that eased him over until he could rest his suddenly aching head against his brother's shoulder. "Gonna…die," he mumbled, thinking he heard something close to a snort and a cough as the smell of leather and gun oil was pulled tighter around him.

"Like hell you are, little brother," Dean growled, determined that he didn't dig himself out of a grave just to lose his pain in the ass little brother to a snake bite. "I may not be happy with some of the stuff you've been doing but then I'm not happy with some of the crap I've been doing but you're still my brother, Sammy and I'm not letting anything happen to you."

The sound of Legos rattling in the heater that was blowing just enough to keep Sam warm caused the younger Winchester to recall the nights he'd been little and sleeping in the backseat with his brother as their Dad drove to another town.

Dean's promises had always made Sam feel safe because he knew if his brother made a promise then he'd keep it. Now as he tried to keep his mind in the present, in his heart Sam knew the same was true because no matter what might go on between them if Dean made a promise then he'd keep it.

"Talk to me?" he asked, needing to hear something to keep him awake as Sam was afraid if he went to sleep now he might not wake up.

A quick glance away from the now busier road gave Dean a good look at the way his brother's arm was swelling and the odd color around the bite wound that had blood pooling around it as well.

"Yeah, I'll talk, Sammy," he made his eyes look back at the road, gritting his teeth at the way his vision blurred with the twinge of a headache. "You stay awake, I'll talk, and you can then figure out a way to convince Bobby not to slap me for letting this happen."

"Not…your fault," Sam yawned, moving his good hand up until he instinctively found the small gold amulet Dean wore to grasp it like a lifeline. "…didn't pay attention…ribs hurt too much and…"

One eyebrow went up at that and Dean stuck his tongue in his cheek to keep from commenting on that little bit of detail Sam had forgotten to mention.

Not mentioning the way his brother was clutching his amulet, Dean grasped for something to talk about that would distract Sam for the rest of the ride to a hospital or clinic in St. Charles Parish, the closest town to their location.

"Have I ever told you about the time Caleb and I hunted a Wendigo up in Oregon?" he decided since he couldn't think of anything off hand he'd resort to what he normally did when needing to keep Sam calm during a drive. He'd make something up as he went along. Or in this case, he'd stretch the truth a little since he had hunted a so-called Wendigo with Caleb only it turned out to be a bear and he'd leave out the running part.

The rest of the nearly ninety minute drive was heart wrenching for Dean as he struggled to draw out his story while listening to the way his brother was breathing and feeling his grip on the amulet getting weaker as it seemed Sam's strength was giving out on him.

"Thank you whoever," Dean whispered upon seeing the sign for the hospital. "Sammy? Hey, we're here, kiddo. You're gonna be fine real soon so just hang in there for me and…I'll let you eat all the green crap you want and won't say a word."

Sam's response was a soft whimper as he tried to cling to the amulet as Dean pushed his way out the car door, having to catch himself as his own legs seemed to want to give out.

Two nurses hurried out of the ER doors when they seen him almost fall but he was quick to wave them to the other side. "My brother…he was bitten by a snake…a cottonmouth. He's in bad shape," he told the on call doctor who'd come out with a gurney.

"De'n!" Sam, in his confusion, didn't know who was touching him as the orderlies went to lift him out of the car and his first response was panic, but stopped when a hand grabbed his and squeezed with a familiar strength. "Wha…?"

"Hey, we're at the ER and they're gonna take care of you now, Sam," Dean replied, hating to see that pure fear in his brother's eyes at any time but especially when Sam didn't understand what was happening. It brought back too many memories of when they'd been kids and Sam was sick or hurt and up to Dean to be the strong one. "I will be with you as soon as they let me but you have to let them treat you, ok, Sammy?"

Realizing that Sam couldn't feel him grip the hand on the arm with the bite, Dean switched his grip to Sam's left hand and this time bent closer so he could be certain his confused and sick brother would at least see him as he lightly carded his fingers back through sweat soaked hair.

"They need to take you to treat the wound, but I will be right outside the door and just as soon as they say it's alright I'll be in," he spoke quietly but firmly, seeing a slight nod as he offered a smile he knew was forced as he took in how much worse Sam's arm looked now than it had before. "You're going to be fine, little brother. Trust me."

Keeping his gaze locked with Sam's until the swinging doors to a treatment room swung closed only then did Dean let out a breath and leaned back against a wall, letting his eyes close with a whispered prayer to someone to just pull his brother through this.

Four Hours Later:

"Mr. Winchester? Mr. Winchester?"

A light touch on his shoulder snapped Dean back to full awareness as he tried to stand to quickly from where he'd been sitting slouched in a chair in the empty waiting room.

"What?" he demanded, resisting the urge to go for a weapon when his bleary mind reminded him of where he was and why. "Sam? How's my brother?"

The doctor, a short young looking woman with curly red hair, waited until her newest patient's brother seemed to shake himself awake fully before speaking again. "We got him stabilized and drew out the remaining venom that was left," she eyed this rough looking young man with a knowing eye. "You gave my staff the extractor you used so we were able to make an anti-venom that seems to be working well. He would've died if you hadn't thought to do that. Most people wouldn't have…though most people when confronted with a cottonmouth would've panicked."

"I'm not most people, Doc," Dean replied, scrubbing both hands over his face and felt the stubble, guessing what he probably did look like to these people. "Can I see Sam now?" he asked, just wanting to make sure for himself his brother was alright.

"We're moving him to a room now," the doctor told him, noticing that Dean looked about as worn out as her patient did. "He'll be weak for several days from the snake bite and we're treating him for the bronchitis he has so he'll need to be watched that it doesn't go into his lungs more and turn into pneumonia."

Nodding his head as if he was following along, the final comment had Dean stopping to turn, all further look of sleep gone from his face as he was now back in full big brother mode. "Come again?" he stared at the woman as if she'd been speaking Latin. "Sam's got bronchitis?"

Thinking back to the past couple days, he did recall hearing his brother coughing more but since Sam hadn't said anything about it and hadn't been acting sick he'd just assumed it was a result of playing spirits while heaping to save the Reapers.

Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. Sam knew he was getting sick but hadn't told him because they'd been fighting and he wasn't sure Dean would care. "Sonuvabitch," he muttered, more angry with himself than Sam at the moment. "Can I see him?"

"Sure, follow me," she led the way to the elevator, pressed a floor number then slid a sideways glance next to her. "He's going to look pretty weak and a little banged up. He came to a little while we were checking him out and when he did a number on one of my aides we had to restrain him."

Feeling his fingers curl into a fist at his side, Dean resisted the urge to growl even though he could feel the twitch in his jaw begin. "You should've come and got me," he replied tersely, guessing he was about to get a standard hospital speech about rules and protocols when he chose to drop his own set of protocols on the doctor. "Sam has issues with hospitals and restraints. You never tie him down unless I can't get him calm or…"

The warning was interrupted when the doors to the elevator opened with a chime and all Dean heard was his brother shouting in a way that he hadn't heard since Sam was little.

"Dean! Don't…go…! Dean!"

The fear and confusion that came through the clearly shaky and raw voice made every thought of doubt, mistrust and anger leave Dean as he stepped from the elevator only to whirl to glare at the very apologetic doctor.

"You. Do. Not. Ever. Restrain my brother," he growled, voice dropping to the low and lethal one only used when he was pissed off or someone or something threatened Sam.

"Doctor! He…woke up and…I tried to take them off but he's fighting so much we were afraid he'd hurt himself," a nurse explained, gasping at the harsh curse Dean gave as he bolted down the hall toward where the sounds were coming from.

Ignoring the explanations offered by the doctor and her staff, Dean jerked the door to the private room opened and in one gaze took the scene in, seeing what must have happened and hoping, after all the strain between them, that he could still pull this off.

Sam had been five when a sudden bought with pneumonia had forced John to take his raging with fever son to the hospital.

Scared and confused, Sam hadn't understood what was happening when the strange people had practically ripped him out of his father's arms and began poking and prodding him, jabbing him with needles and dumping his hot body in a bath of ice water.

He'd screamed for his Father and brother and had struggled against the many hands that held him in the water and on the bed while tubes and wires were put in his arms until finally his Dad had gotten the doctors to allow Dean to be with him.

Even at nine, Dean had been fiercely protective of his little brother and had come charging into the room with a look that could've killed as he glared at the men and women who were trying to break Sam's fever.

Now fully grown Sam woke up in a strange place with too many strangers surrounding him, the sight of the needles and tubes and the oxygen mask and unsure what had happened, where he was or where his brother was his first instinct was to fight.

Sam's blurry memory sort of remembered the case in the bayou, the flat tire, a snake, and he also thought he could recall hearing his brother actually using a tone of voice that wasn't hard or flat.

Waking up again to find he was still restrained with heavy straps and unable to move at all, Sam's fear and the thought that Dean had left him caused the reaction he was now in as he strained against the straps while trying to shout for his brother.

"Dean!" he screamed or tried to since the oxygen mask seemed to muffle his voice and he couldn't help the panic since being tied down brought back too many memories as it were but the thought that perhaps his brother had decided to walk away after all that he'd seen and learned recently was nearly too much for Sam. "Please! Don't…go…De'n!"


Jerking his head toward the door, Sam's wide eyes shot to meet his brother's and while still tense he did stop shouting as Dean shut the door firmly in the doctor's face then walked over to the bed, making certain to keep his eyes on Sam's.

"Hey, kiddo," he knew in one look that Sam's panic had shot his vital signs through the roof and probably hadn't helped his condition. "Calm down a second."

Sam tried to say something but began coughing despite the mask and really just wanted the thing off when he felt the first strap loosen on his wrist.

"Don't do it, Sam," Dean warned, catching the wrist before it could go for the annoying mask. "Leave that on until you calm down and then we'll see about taking it off," he kept his voice low and soothing as he always had when trying to soothe his upset brother.

Having gotten used to only using one hand for things, Dean folded San's freed arm up so it was laid on his chest and kept his left hand over it to keep some form of contact while he used his right hand to quickly free the remaining straps then steadied himself for what he suspected would happen next.

Feeling the final restraint come loose, Sam ignored the oxygen mask, the wires and sensors attached to him as he lunged up from the bed in a quick motion to grab onto his brother much like he had at five only this time his grip was as tight as he could make it while struggling past the fears of being left.

"Easy, Sammy. Just take it easy," Dean had been expecting this since he knew Sam's reactions to things but he hadn't been expecting the strength of his brother's grip as his fingers latched on to the back of Dean's shirt.

Dean also hadn't been expecting to feel his brother shaking so badly or the quickly buried sob. Waking up alone, hurt and confused had caused Sam's inner doubts and fears to surface with a vengeance and Dean was forced to swallow the lump that was clogging his throat.

Sam hadn't latched on like this since right before Dean had gone to hell and after all the strain and issues between them lately he hadn't honestly expected him to with this much emotion.

"I…thought you'd…left," Sam got out in gasps as his burning lungs made talking an effort but even as Dean went to ease him back to the pillows, he gripped tighter but did ease back enough to look into his older brother's face. "I messed up…again…and…you weren't…here. Why weren't you here, Dean?"

Closing his eyes, Dean took a moment to settle his already shaky nerves while moving a hand up to grip the back of Sam's neck like he would when his brother needed to know he wasn't alone then when he was close to certain his face was calm he managed to get Sam to let go enough so he could lay back on the pillows.

"I've been downstairs," he told him easily, keeping a loose grip on the hand that had managed to grab hold of him. "The docs wouldn't let me in until you were stable…though many more of these outbursts may change that opinion."

Seeing how uneasy the mask was making his brother and gauging the machines, Dean took it off but laid it close in case Sam would need it again then reached for a glass of water by the bed. "Take a sip of this," he ordered, knowing that between the medications and everything else that Sam's throat was dry.

While Sam sipped the water, Dean took the time to look at his younger brother. The arm with the snake bite didn't appear to be as swelled as it had. The actual bite was covered with a light gauze pad and bandaged.

Sam's face appear pale but Dean knew that was from being so sick from the venom on top of having bronchitis then this latest panic attack certainly hadn't helped.

"Where…are we?" Sam let his head fall back to the pillow but didn't close his eyes yet as if he was afraid if he did Dean would go away.

"A hospital in St. Charles," Dean replied, relaxing more now that he'd seen Sam and knew his brother was out of the serious woods. "Damn snake really did a number on you, Geek Boy," he tried to sound light but even the memory of the drive to the hospital without knowing if he could get his brother help in time scared him.

Sudden dizziness made closing his eyes a priority but Sam felt his brother's fingers grip his hand and knew he wouldn't be alone. "Sorry…I didn't…see it," he murmured, wishing this wouldn't turn sour but guessing after all the insults they'd been throwing at one another this was the perfect chance for Dean to toss it up that he hadn't even seen a snake before it bit him. "The car…is it okay?"

Blinking at the unexpected question, Dean had to think for a moment. His brother had just survived a deadly snake bite that could've killed him. He had bronchitis that could very well still turn into pneumonia, especially with how prone Sam always had been to that, and he was asking if the Impala was okay.

That was the finishing touch that told Dean he'd been riding Sam way too hard these past few weeks and it was no wonder his brother hadn't mentioned not feeling well.

"Yeah, the Impala's fine," he replied after a couple seconds of silence then he reached up to lay a hand on Sam's chest like he would any other time his brother had been sick and suffering through chest congestion. "You're sick, Sam. When were you planning on telling me you had bronchitis?"

Wincing as his chest ached, Sam glanced up as if surprised. Not that Dean had found out since he figured that red headed doctor would've told his brother about his bronchitis. He was more surprised that Dean sounded upset.

"You were hurt and…mad at me so I figured why tell you something else that would make things harder," he yawned, still tired and wishing they were anywhere but this hospital. "Think they'll let me outta here?"

If Dean hadn't already been struggling not to groan that question killed his efforts and he did groan, lightly tapping his brother on the forehead with the heel of his hand. "He-lo? Snakebite? Bronchitis? Probably something else if I know you? Any of those ringing any bells here, Sammy?" he asked with true brotherly exasperation, shaking his head. "Hell no, they won't and I won't let you out so you're probably in here for at least another day before I'd even considered doing AMA."

The incredulous tone at the suggestion made Sam force his eyes open to look at his brother, debating on if he was sicker than he thought or perhaps his brother had been taken over by an alien or something. "Do we have any Holy water on us?" he asked curiously.

"What? Yes in the…no!" Dean gave a look that was very close to the bitch face Sam was fond of doing when he realized what the question meant and this time gave another slap to Sam's head while working on a way to say what he wanted without breaking one of his main rules. "I'm not possessed, Sam. You…scared me this time and with everything we do I just want to be at least 75% sure you aren't going to faceplant on me or anything."

"Thought you were in a hurry to get back to a real case," Sam murmured, fingers of his good hand twisting absently in the blanket. "I…I don't want to slow us down. I feel fine and…Dean?"

Gripping Sam's hand, Dean lifted an eyebrow as if curious. "You're fine? Good, then show me how much strength you have," he invited then smirked at the dark look his brother shot him. "That's what I thought. You are stuck until tomorrow at least…unless your chest still sounds like the Impala's heater when I run it and those Legos rattle around."

Hating hospitals to begin with, especially if he was the patient, Sam felt like sulking but knew that would just amuse his brother more so he tried to settle back but felt the pressure in his chest at being flat until the bed seemed to raise to a more comfortable level.

"Thanks," he bit his lip until making up his mind. "Dean, I'm sorry I…" the sound of a cellphone going off interrupted him and he frowned since he knew the ringtone even before Dean pulled his phone out of his jacket pocket. "Umm."

Dean knew the tone and the number since he'd seen and heard both before. Making his face blank he held the phone out to Sam without saying anything and waited.

Taking the phone in the hand that had more strength, Sam stared at Ruby's number then pressed the button that would shut the phone off before handing it back to Dean. "Put it away?" he asked, seeing the mild surprise in his older brother's eyes and he shrugged. "Don't want to deal with her. Just want to sleep and hope that my arm feels better and I can breathe when I wake up."

Dean nodded, slipping the phone back into his own pocket until Sam was out of the hospital. Seeing that Sam's eyes had once again closed, he went to get up onto to feel fingers grab his wrist. "Sammy?"

"Stay…please," he asked through a yawn. "Hate this place. I…don' want to be alone," looking from under half closed eyes, Sam tried to look for his brother when he felt the familiar weight of Dean's leather jacket as it was laid over him and knew he wouldn't be alone.

"I'll be right here, Sam," Dean promised, keeping his hand over his brother's wrist while pulling a chair closer to the bed.

Quickly recalling how uncomfortable these chairs could be, Dean knew he was in for a bad night but had no intention of leaving Sam alone in a place he didn't feel safe in, especially when he knew how prone to bad dreams Sam was when sick.

Settling down in the chair, Dean was almost relaxed when he felt the change in the air and managed to keep the growl out of his voice when he spoke. "Get out."

"Dean, we need to talk," Castiel understood that the elder Winchester may not still be pleased to see anyone from Heaven given what happened the last time but he still was under orders and had to try. "Sam is…hurt?"

Offering a smirk and a dry laugh, Dean glanced over at the trench coat wearing Angel while feeling the way Sam seemed to have tensed in his sleep. "You could say that," he acknowledged, not feeling like going into the details. "Just go away unless you feel like healing my brother."

While that was in his power, Castiel knew it also wouldn't have been approved of by his most current superiors. I…can't do that at this time, Dean," he knew it was a poor excuse and how it would be taken by Dean. "Sam's actions with Alastair and his continued work with the demon are causing great concern for…"

"Why did Sam come after Alastair?" Dean asked suddenly, never failing to be amused at the Angels' attempt at portraying human confusion. "I mean, he didn't have to. So why did he?"

"Because he feared for you," Castiel replied, not understanding the question or Dean's sudden tired smile. "Dean, what is…"

"Sam came after me and did to Alastair what you couldn't because he was trying to protect me," Dean agreed, finally seeing that and beginning to understand perhaps why his brother was still with Ruby. "Try this scenario on and see if you can understand it."

Taking a second to focus his thoughts, Dean really was seeing what might be happening even if he still didn't have a clue as to how to help his brother.

"I make a deal that sends me to Hell. Sam's left alone with no real idea as to what he's supposed to do since in my haste to prove to him and myself that I didn't give a crap about it, I didn't take the time to make sure my brother was able to stand being on his own in his crappy life our Dad dropped us into.

"Sam blames himself for what happened to me and if I know my brother he was pretty well a mess. He's looking for any way to get me back or make the demon bitch who held my contract pay. Here comes Ruby with all these ideas on how Sam can use those damn powers Yellow Eyes's blood gave him to make Lilith pay and maybe even get me out of Hell but you and the Angel patrol do that.

"So here he is now. Stuck with powers he's scared of but I bet feeling obligated to the demon bitch for whatever she has done for him and still wanting to be the brother I left four months ago. Looking to protect me from whatever the hell you guys were making me do, Sam pulled power from someplace I'm not ready to know about yet and played rescue party before Alastair could kill me and…you for that matter. That make sense, Cas?" Dean asked curiously, wondering how he hadn't put it together before then.

Taking the time to try to understand all of what Dean had said since the Angel was still having difficulty with certain phrases, he did finally nod. "Yes, I suppose those are solid hypothesis," he agreed, cocking his head as if in question. "Yet, Sam's actions and his…abilities make it difficult for my superiors to overlook…"

"He's my brother," Dean broke in firmly, easing his hand away from Sam's so he could stand up to finally face the Angel. "I've told you before that there are two things you and your featherheads don't touch or screw with. Those are my car and my little brother.

"Do I like what he's doing? No, I don't. Do I like what you had me do the other day? Hell, no. So before you come in here where I don't want you and try to cast stones at Sam for doing what just comes naturally to him I'd really think twice," Dean finished, glancing back at a soft sound then gave a not so light poke to the Angel's chest.

"I don't care what you and yours think or say. Sammy's the kid who prayed to your God, he's the one who believed in Angels, and he's the one who still tries to do what's best even when he'd put down. He's also my little brother and no matter what he may do I will love him and I will always stand by him. Now get the hell outta here, Cas," there was no mistaking the tone in Dean's voice this time as he turned away to resume sitting next to his brother.

Castiel looked between the brothers for a moment longer before offering a nod of his head. He understood Dean's loyalty to Sam and just hoped it didn't end up hurting him before the end.

Releasing a breath after Castiel vanished as easily as he'd appeared, Dean squeezed the bridge of his nose before reaching up to card his fingers back through Sam's hair and heard the soft whisper. "It's okay, little brother," he whispered, hearing the door open and guessing he was in for another hospital lecture. "I'll always be with you."

Twenty-four hours later:

"How'd you convince them to let me out?"

Glancing over to where Sam was sitting in his usual spot on the Impala's passenger side, Dean gave a small smirk and a one shouldered shrug. "The usual. My quick wit and charm and the promise to keep you out of bayous and away from snakes."

"Uh-huh," Sam had his doubts but since he was just glad to be out of the hospital and back in the Impala he wasn't going to complain…at least about that. "What's all this for?" he shook the rather large white bag the unhappy doctor had handed him before he'd gotten into the car.

Biting the inside of his cheek, Dean didn't intend on telling his brother just how hard it had been to get him released even AMA and tried to keep his answer light but the bag of medications and other supplies was going to make that hard.

"You still have bronchitis, a couple cracked ribs and your arm where that bite is still needs stuff put on it so that's what's in the bag, Geek Boy," he replied, seeing and ignoring the bitch face since he knew if Sam was unhappy with that news then he'd be downright pissed with the next piece. "I'm also planning on finding the first decent motel in Atlanta and parking your butt there until the crap in your chest goes away."

Counting in his head, Dean got to the normal count of four before Sam found his voice after staring at his brother for a shocked moment. "What? Why? I'm…" he tried to argue only to be shut up by a sharp look that normally meant not to try for the 'fine' excuse when they both knew he wasn't.

Slumping back against the door like he would as a pissed off teenager, Sam crossed his arms and hide the wince as his one arm still ached. "Fine, but you're still hurt too," he shot back, hearing his own voice and knowing he sounded like a spoiled brat but didn't like the idea of just staying at a motel because he was sick.

"Yep, not arguing with you over that," Dean agreed, motioning to the box of cassettes on the floor. "That's why we're both taking it easy until Bobby gets back in touch over a possible ghost case in Macon. Now put one of those in."

"Who are you?" Sam wanted to know but grabbed the box with another mutter about updating both the tape collection and the tape player.

"I'm the big brother who will break your fingers off if you try to touch my tape player," Dean returned, smiling at the laugh that brought since both Winchesters knew the tapes and player were as much a part of the Impala as the Legos in the heater or the little plastic Army man in the rear door ashtray were. "Use the inhaler, Sam."

Having heard his own chest rattle Sam was cursing the bronchitis even as Dean was digging in the bag to hand him the tiny inhaler that would help clear up the rest of the lung infection. "Dean…are we…good now?" he asked a little awkwardly, unsure if he wanted to know the truth or not when he noticed the way his brother's shoulders tensed then relaxed.

He'd been wondering the same thing for the past several hours and finally Dean had come up with an answer. He might not ever like or approve of what his brother was doing but Sam wasn't a child anymore and he needed to find out some things for himself…like not trusting a demon.

As for the fights, he accepted that they'd probably have those since while they were still brothers they were also two very different people with different styles and ideas.

Dean also accepted that too many people seemed to want them driven apart and that was what he was going to have to fight to prevent, no matter who he had to gut to so it.

He felt Sam shift a little more toward the door at his silence and finally reached over to lay a hand on his brother's shoulder, squeezing it lightly. "We're brothers, Sam. Nothing or no one will ever break that bond," he began in the deep tone he used only when showing more emotion and usually only with Sam.

"We may not be the same as we were even last year but the one thing that will never change is…you are my baby brother and I will always stand by you. So…yeah, we're good," he told him letting Sam see the full relaxed smile before coughing. "Now, if you ever scare the shit out of me like this again? That may be different."

More at ease now, Sam turned slightly in the seat to watch his brother before sticking his tongue in his cheek. "Guess tackling that case down in Texas of a giant gila monster is probably out right?"

"Cute, Sam, very damn cute," Dean growled, hearing Sam's soft laugh as he then curled up with his head and shoulder against the door to fall into a sleep that the familiar sound of the Impala's engine and the tunes of the battered cassette tape would deepen.

Waiting until his brother was sleeping fully; Dean relaxed and smiled. It had been closer than he liked or that he'd ever tell Sam about this time but his brother had pulled through and they'd both pull through all this crap being piled on them. Of this he was certain of since he'd be damned if he'd gone through what he had just to lose his brother to either a damn snake or a snake in high heels.

"We'll make it, Sammy," he spoke quietly even though he knew Sam was asleep and he just hoped this case Bobby had didn't include anything but a nice simple ghost. "Not my luck," he muttered, ignoring the vibrating phone in his pocket since he was giving them both at least three days of rest before he had to salt and burn anything even if it did mean maybe eating something green to make Sam happy.

The End