Summary: Post 8x23, Pre 9x01 – Hospitalized Sam / Worried, Big Brother Dean / Awesome Charlie – Dean glared at the redhead standing in the doorway. "I told you not to come." Charlie shrugged. "You're not the boss of me, Winchester..." she drawled as she snagged a chair from the corner and sat alongside Dean by Sam's bed.

Disclaimer: Not mine

Warnings: Usual language, plus spoilers for seasons eight and nine

Family don't end with blood... ~ Bobby Singer, episode 3x16

Dean turned at the soft knock, twisting slightly in his chair to glance over his shoulder and blink at the redhead standing in the doorway.

Charlie smiled.

Dean did not, his jaw clenching before he spoke.

"I told you not to come."

Charlie shrugged at the sharp reprimand as she entered the room, lifting the messenger bag strap over her head and crossing to the bed.

"You're not the boss of me, Winchester..." she drawled like the independent badass she was but softened the defiant statement with another smile as she snagged a chair from the corner and pulled it alongside Dean's.

Dean watched her as she sat beside him but said nothing.

Charlie felt her smile slip, fidgeting with the bag in her lap and suddenly doubting her decision to drive across two state lines to get here.

She sighed, remembering her earlier conversation with Dean.

Remembering him saying he was fine.

Remembering his growled order over the phone for her to "stay put" and leave him – them – the hell alone.

And maybe Charlie should have listened.

But she didn't.

She couldn't.

Not when her guys were hurting.

Not when Sam was so sick and broken.

Not when Dean was so worried and desperate.

She had to be here.

And here she was.

Charlie sighed once more.

"Listen, if you want me to leave...I will. But..."

Dean arched an eyebrow. "But..."

"But family sticks by each other," Charlie finished confidently, knowing Dean would identify with that principle even if he was angry and annoyed by what he perceived as her intrusion. "And like it or not, you and Sam are my family. I am."

"Yeah," Dean agreed, his tone flat. "Here you are. Like it or not..."

Charlie quirked a smile at Dean's dry comment echoing her own and nodded.

"Yeah. Like it or not."

It was one of her many catchphrases.

There was a pause.

Dean snorted and twitched a smile of his own as his earlier irritation began to fade; his gaze lingering on Charlie, silently thanking her for knowing what he needed even if Dean hadn't realized it before now.

The oldest Winchester appreciating the reminder that even though Bobby and so many others were gone, that didn't mean that Dean and his little brother were alone. They still had people in this world who cared about them, who wanted to help, who wanted to be there.

Like this stubborn redheaded chick sitting beside him now...

Charlie nodded.

Dean did the same.

A moment of understanding passed between them before Dean turned his attention back to Sam lying pale and motionless in the bed.

Charlie focused on Sam as well, taking in the IV lines and monitor wires and all the medical equipment surrounding the bed.

She swallowed against the threat of tears tightening her throat, surprised by the urge to cry as she realized how sick Sam was, how much worse he looked than the last time she had seen him.

Dean had briefly told her a few details when she had called earlier, but actually seeing Sam...

Charlie swallowed once more before speaking.

"'s he doing?"

Dean cut his eyes at her and her stupid question.

Because how did she think Sam was doing?

Was she looking at the same kid he was?

Charlie nodded excessively and continued to fidget with the bag in her lap.

"Right. Sorry."

Because Sam was obviously doing really fucking bad, Charlie.

Thanks for asking.

Charlie sighed.

Seconds passed.

The monitors beeped.

Footsteps and voices ebbed and flowed in the hall past the open door.

Dean's gaze never left his little brother's face.

Charlie shifted in her chair, always feeling uncomfortable with vigils held for the medically fragile and awkward in the heavy silence that seemed to accompany such occasions.

Like this heavy silence that had settled in Sam's hospital room over the past few minutes...

Charlie glanced down at her lap, eager to share what was within her bag.

Eager to share one of the reasons she had traveled here.

Eager to share what she hoped was the answer to all of this.

...or at least a step in the right direction.

Because although Charlie wasn't a prophet or a hunter, she was a kickass hacker with a knack for researching the supernatural.

And she had done a little digging of her own about these trials, about how to reverse them and their effects.

Charlie cleared her throat. "Any leads yet?"

Dean didn't look at her but shook his head, knowing Charlie was referring to the reversal of the trials and saving Sam.

"Kevin's working on it back at the bunker," Dean told her, sounding as tired as he looked. "And I've done a little research here and there..."

But it was obvious that most of Dean's time these days was spent at Sam's bedside, not researching at the Batcave...and who could blame him?

Sam could slip away at any moment.

No way would Dean leave his little brother alone.

No way would Dean not be there for Sammy.

No way would Dean focus on anything except his sick kid.

Charlie smiled sadly, feeling her throat tighten once again.

"But no..." Dean finally concluded. "No leads. Not yet."

Charlie nodded at the expected answer. "Well...I've got good news."

Dean looked at her.

Because god knows he needed some good news.

Charlie nodded again, confirming he had heard her right.

"I've, um...I've done a little work of my own," she announced, meaningfully patting the worn and faded fabric of her messenger bag still resting in her lap. "A little research about how to undo this epic cluster fuck..."

Dean snorted at the accurate description of the trials and glanced at the bag, then at her.

Charlie held her breath.

"Alright. Let's hear it..." Dean allowed, once again checking on Sam; his eyes scanning first his brother, then the monitors, then back to Sam.

But Dean was listening to Charlie.

She could tell.

This was her chance to help.

This was her chance to give Sam and Dean a fraction of what they had given her over the past couple of years.

Charlie smiled, snatching back the top flap of her bag and pulling out an ancient book along with a bulging folder.

"Well, from what I can tell, the only way out is to go back through...only in reverse."

Dean arched an eyebrow. "Meaning...?" he snapped, because there was no way in hell he was allowing Sam to endure the trials again, regardless of the order.

Sam was too sick, too weak.

"Meaning..." Charlie repeated. "...that the demon who was cured would have to be turned back into a demon. And the soul that was rescued from Hell and released to Heaven would have to be returned to Hell. And the hellhound...well...I'm not sure yet what would have to happen there. I haven't gotten that far in the process yet. But whatever has to happen...someone of the same bloodline of the one who started the trials would have to reverse the trials."

Dean nodded, absorbing the information. Not giving a shit about what had to happen to Crowley but his heart already aching at the thought of returning Bobby's soul to Hell...though Dean knew the older hunter would return without hesitation if it meant saving Sam.

Dean swallowed against the emotion that truth stirred within his chest and continued to process Charlie's words. Knowing that if she was right about this, that would mean he would have to embark on this reversal since he was Sam's brother and was of the same bloodline.

Dean sighed.

"And if I did this..." he began, gesturing toward the book and the folder of research resting on top of the messenger bag in Charlie's lap. "...then Sammy would get better? Sammy would be okay?"

Charlie felt her heart twist, touched by Dean's only concern being whether or not he could save Sam...without a worry for the effects reversing the trials may have on himself.

"Charlie..." Dean prompted when she didn't respond. "If I did this, would Sammy be okay?"

Charlie followed Dean's gaze to Sam still lying motionless in the bed; Dean's little brother pale and thin and bruised from the internal bleeding seeping beneath his skin.

"I don't know," she admitted quietly. "But from what I've read so far...from what I've found...I think so. I mean...not immediately. It would take a little time. But I think Sam would get better. Once he was released from the hold of the trials, I think he would be okay."

Dean nodded again, picturing his little brother healthy and strong and active; imagining Sam talking and laughing and smiling with those stupid dimples.

Sammy getting better; Sammy being okay.

It was worth a chance.

Sam was always worth the chance.

Regardless of what happened to Dean in the process, Sam was worth it.

Dean sighed, staring at his little brother and making his decision.

"Alright..." he announced and glanced at Charlie, motioning for the book and the folder. "Let me see it. Sounds like we've got work do to."

Charlie smiled. "Damn right we do," she heartily agreed, passing the book and folder to Dean and then reaching inside of her bag for her journal and tablet.

Because together, they were going to figure this out.

Together, they were going to save Sam.

Together, they were going to do their damnedest to save Dean as well.

Because that's what family did – they fought beside each other, for each other.

And while Dean was fighting for Sam, Charlie was fighting for both of these guys she had come to love like brothers.

And she wasn't losing them.

Neither of them.

Because like it or not, they were family.

And family never let go.