Author's Note: I miss sick!Sam from season 8 and with my birthday on the 23rd, I figured I would write this as an early birthday present to myself.

"Things go away to return, brightened by the passage."

A.R. Ammons

"You don't need to stay." Sam blurts out of the blue. His brother eyes him curiously, placing his newspaper down on the wooden table and letting his green eyes rest on his younger brother. Nervously, Sam twists the little piece of denim sticking up from his jeans. Ever since he completed the second trial—the one that suddenly caused his immune system to go to hell and made fevers an everyday occurrence—he finds that he can't keep his thoughts to himself. He seems to just always say what's on his mind, not really meaning it or thinking about the consequences.

"Sammy, you wanna run that one by me again?" Sam sighs softly, but the ball is already in motion and there is no way to stop it now. Truth is, the youngest Winchester knows that his older brother is going stir crazy. He can't remember the last time they left the bunker and it's been even longer since they went on a hunt. Sam likes to stay in one spot, but Dean? Dean's always been the one raring to go, letting the open road carry him to anyplace at all. Being trapped here and looking after a sick brother, it must be exhausting.

"I mean," He feels the burning sensation at the back of his throat, blood wanting to be freed, but he swallows and pushes it back down. "We've been here for what, a month? You haven't gone anywhere except the store—"

"I don't need to go anywhere—" Dean interjects defensively, but Sam continues on.

"And I know it's driving you crazy," He presses and he sees the shimmer of truth in his brother's eyes. Sam knows he's right and he can't let this go now. "You deserve a night off, okay?"

"Sam—" Everything in Dean screams denial, but Sam has never wanted to be a burden to his brother. He's sick—he gets that, really he does—but one night of freedom for Dean would do them both well. For Dean, it's a well-deserved break, a chance to blow off some steam. And for Sam, it offers a moment to breathe, to research without his older brother hovering. It's not like he's infirm or anything like that. He can handle himself for one night.

"Just take the night off," Sam insists. "Go to a bar, get a drink, flirt with a pretty girl." Dean rolls his eyes at that one and Sam chuckles a bit. He instantly regrets it as the chuckle sinisterly turns into a full-blown cough. His hand darts to his mouth and he feels the tackiness of blood on his hand and fuck, who knew that the trials could cause this much damage? Dean is there, hand pressed against his back, rubbing comforting circles. Finally, the cough subsides and Sam grabs a towel lying on the table and wipes his mouth and hands.

He tries not to notice the large amount of blood that transfers from him onto the towel.

"No, you need—" Dean starts to dismiss.

"I need for you to go out and have some fun." He replies calmly.

"Why is this so important to you?" Dean questions softly and Sam shakily gets up from his seat at the table and meets his brother's gaze.

"Because I want my brother to be happy."

"I am happy—"

"Right, cause you look so happy taking care of me and not doing anything for yourself—"

"Sam, you're sick and I need—"

"One night," Sam insists. "Then, you can come back and watch me read about demon lore for months if that's what you want." Dean laughs at that and Sam relaxes slightly. "I'll call if anything happens, okay?" Dean runs a hand through his hair, clearly considering this.

"You really want this?" Sam thinks for a moment. He wants so much more than this. He wants to stop coughing and be healthy enough to go out with his brother, to sit at a bar and watch his older brother shamelessly flirt with every single woman there. He needs to laugh and joke and for once, not have the weight of the world on he and his brother's shoulders. He wishes he could go back to a simpler time, one where they were just two boys on the road, searching for their father.

But for now, for this second, having Dean going out would have to do.

"Yes." There's a pause as his desire sinks in, as his older brother weighs his options. Then, finally, softly, his brother speaks.

"Okay then."

And just like that, the decision is made.

After taking a copious amount of ibuprofen to get his fever under control and eating nearly a whole bowl of chicken noodle soup to satisfy his brother's requirement of eating for the day, Dean finally feels comfortable enough to leave his brother's side for a few hours.

"If anything happens—" He warns as Sam ushers him towards the Impala sitting outside. The sleek black car almost seems to brighten in moonlight, as if she's happy that someone is finally going to take her out for a well-deserved night on the town.

"Dean, it's just for a couple of hours." Sam manages to stop from rolling his eyes lest his brother get angry. He can't give his sibling a reason to stay, not when he's finally so close to giving him the break that he deserves.

"And you better pick up—"

"When you call," Sam completes, smirking slightly. "I'll be fine. This is not the first time you've left me alone." No, he's been left alone ever since he could remember. When his brother could help it, he was always by his side, but food wasn't free and their father never understood how much money they actually needed. Memories of countless starless nights where he stood by the motel's grimy window and watched and waited for the familiar rumble of the Impala's engine to come up the dirt road fill his mind as he waves goodbye to his brother as he disappears down the street.

It's only when the taillights are nothing but a red speck in the darkness, does he turn around and head back inside the bunker.

The first hour goes fine.

With the blessed silence, Sam actually finds he can focus better and he finishes the tome of demon lore that he had been reading for the past week under his older brother's careful eye. He feels good—the persistent headache subsides, his lungs allow in a bit more oxygen than usual—and he's only coughed up a fraction of the blood that he usually does. All things considered, everything is going well.

Dean calls once—his voice nearly drowned out by the live band that rocks on in the background—and Sam grins at the relaxed, happy tone that laces his brother's voice. He can practically hear the grin on his brother's face and in turn, it makes Sam's shoulders sink, calmness coursing through him.

"You're having fun?" Sam asks, though he doesn't need to since he already knows the answer.

"You would love this place, Sam," Dean informs him. "We'll have to come when you're—" His voice stops abruptly and a wistful smile tugs at the youngest Winchester's lips. When you're better, that's what Dean wanted to say. The only problem is, they don't know if he will get better. They don't know what damage the trials are already doing to him, what damage they will continue to do to him. The third trial could cure him—or kill him. The truth is, they didn't know. Still, Sam won't let this momentary slip ruin Dean's night. Quickly, Sam adds,

"Yeah, sure." A rock guitar wails in the background and Sam knows it's time to go. "I'll talk to you soon."

"I'll be home in a few hours." Dean vows.

"No hurry." There's a click as the line goes dead. Sam rises from the wooden chair and lets his fingers run across the pages as he closes the book shut. He moves to the bookshelf and carefully puts it back in. Glancing at his watch, he sighs somewhat. He's not due for more medicine for one more hour and he's too bored to stay in here and read more about demons. He could go watch some TV, but without Dean to provide running commentary, it wouldn't be the same. He moves to the hallway, prepared to return to his room when he lets his gaze linger down the corridors that he hasn't explored. Who knew what other secrets this bunker had, waiting to be uncovered? Perhaps, he could find some new information on the trials? This is his night off too and mapping out their new home would be bound to be useful down the road.

With deliberate steps, he turns and makes his way down the dimly lit corridor.

For the most part, his exploring yields nothing but spare bedrooms and bathrooms. He finds a few meeting halls with long wooden tables and plush chairs. Sam's almost about to give up on his quest—he's overdue for his medicine dose by 15 minutes and Dean would kill him if he found out—when a door seemingly appears out of nowhere. It's small, unassuming, but the faded paint on the small window in the door gives him pause. He presses his face to the glass and makes out books and instantly, his interest is piqued. He yanks on the brass handle; it doesn't budge. Frowning slightly, he grips it once more with both hands and then pulls. With a whine, the door swings open and a rush of stale air greets him. Dust flies up and Sam coughs, grimacing as blood trickles from his lips and drops onto the floor. Still, he moves in, the door clicking behind him and his careful eyes scan the titles of the various tomes. Suddenly, they widen as the realization sinks in.

"Holy shit." He breathes because, fuck, these aren't just books. These are books that had been deemed "lost" over the ages. Records of the crusades, volumes from the Vatican—books on nearly everything and anything supernatural over the ages.

And he has access to it, all of it.

If there is any information on the trials, it will be in these books and he has time tonight to start digging in. He can hold off on the medicine for a bit. All he needs is 15 minutes, just to get a sense of what they now have in their collection. A quick glance will give him a sense of where he will need to start his research. Nodding, he reaches for the first book—all in Latin and dating from what looks like to be the 1500's and in excellent condition. It's heavy and his arms protest under it, but he grits his teeth and places it on the table. Flipping on the light and pulling the magnifier by it, he can't stop the grin from alighting on his face as he glances at the handwritten text.

Before he knows it, 15 minutes elapses into 30, then 45 and finally, it's an hour before Sam gets up. Frowning, he moves for the door, but he can start to feel his fever kick into overdrive. The room around him sways, and he blinks, trying to clear his vision, but if anything, it makes it worse. He shouldn't have gotten up so fast; he should've taken his medicine on time. But it doesn't matter now and his knees buckle and his hands grip the table, trying to keep him upright. He can make it to the door, he really can—

The darkness comes on fast and hard and the last sensation Sam feels is the cool ground coming up to meet him.

Consciousness returns slowly and the ache that has pooled between his eyes causes him to wince as he forces his eyelids open. Time is a foreign concept to him now, but the bunker is silent. Dean isn't home yet, which is good. If he had found out about this, Sam is sure that his brother would never leave his side, something which wouldn't benefit either of them. Thank God for small blessings. His clothes are damp and he can feel the fire in his veins surge within him. His fever is back with a vengeance. He needs to get up, get out and get medicated before his brother gets home. Pushing himself up off the floor, he curses softly as the pain in his head ratchets up. The door is close by and with shaky steps, he grasps the handle and then pulls.

It doesn't budge.

He pulls harder, grits his teeth, ignores the pain that flares up, but the door doesn't move. It's locked up tight and through the fog that covers his brain, the comprehension pours through. In Stanford, practically another life ago, he visited a specialized reading room, one that locked air tight to protect the older books. Considering how old these books are, it's a safe bet to assume that this room is based on that design. The door only opens from the outside and automatically locks once it shuts.

Sam's trapped here in this room.

Oxygen suddenly becomes precious and who knows how many hours he's been out, drinking it up without knowing how fragile the situation is. He has to get out, that much is certain. The door handle is a lost cause and spinning around, he lets his gaze drift over the room. Perhaps, there was a key somewhere? He keeps blinking every few seconds but the room keeps spinning around him and he can't focus on anything for too long. Sam sits and takes a few slow, deep breaths, trying to calm himself. Panicking wouldn't help. It's up to him—he couldn't hold out for Dean and since he left his cellphone behind, he couldn't call for backup. The room is small and the oxygen would run out soon. There are a few drawers in the room and he moves to them and throws them open, hands tossing the papers aside, searching for a key. Handwritten notes go flying, but by the time the drawers are empty, Sam is panting and there is no key.

"The window." It's tiny, but he could probably get his elbow out. Of course, he isn't sure if he would be able to reach the door handle. Still, it's an option and the only one he's got as of now. Grabbing a heavy book, he groans under the weight, his head spinning, the air becoming syrupy and making it harder and harder for him to breathe. With all his energy, he throws the volume at the glass, wishing for it to crack.

It does not. It falls with a thud.

He's breathing faster and faster, and if he doesn't stop, he'll hyperventilate and pass out. He wants to stop, but his body is overloading, the fever burning through his sanity, leaving only panic in its wake. It's the Cage all over again and he's going to burn up here—

"No." He hisses, his lungs heaving though there is only a fraction of actual oxygen making it in them. He's a hunter, dammit, and he isn't going to give up and die here. He will get out, damn the consequences. He moves towards the window and backs up a bit. This is his last chance and if it doesn't work . . .

It will work.

His fist collides with the glass, bites into his skin as it breaks and some air rushes in. Twisting his arm, his slick hand grips the handle and he pulls on it, the lock clicking open. He practically falls out, his body hitting pieces of glass dotted with blood. He breathes, letting his fear leave him. Pain starts to set in and the blood continues to drip on the floor. Slowly, Sam pushes himself up. He's got to get down the hall, back to his cellphone and call his brother. He needs Dean now, needs someone to patch him back up and assure him that everything is going to be okay. He leans against the hallway, breathing heavily, and he forces his feet to move. On the white walls, he leaves a bloody streak as he uses his injured hand to help steady himself. He can do this, just a walk down the hall, but as he turns the corner, the fever flares up. The room does a 180 and Sam knows he's going down and there's not a thing he can do to stop it. He braces himself.

Only, the impact never comes; a strong arm yanks him up and keeps him supported.

"Dean?" He whispers, confusion lacing his tone. His older brother seems like he's had one hell of a night. His hair is disheveled, his eyes wild and bright. The familiar green eyes rest on his before taking in the glass, the broken window and the blood that are in the distance. A cool hand touches his flaming cheek and Sam unconsciously leans into it.

"Fuck, Sam," Dean curses, his gaze coming back to met his little brother's. "I leave you for a few hours and look at the mess you get into." There's anger in his tone, but it's mixed with relief. It's his older brother's default worried tone.

"When'd you get back?" His older brother is a walking contradiction—rough tone, soft hands—and it's with the utmost gentleness that he helps Sam down the hall.

"Well, after you didn't pick up," A sharp glare and Sam sheepishly looks away. "I came back only to find that you were nowhere to be found. I spent nearly two hours searching every room for you and still couldn't cover the whole damn place."

"This bunker is huge." Sam remarks, his voice starting to slur as the adrenalin leaves him.

"It is," Dean agrees. "I heard a noise, ran here and found you bleeding all over the walls and floor." Sam winces; he knows what it's like to find your brother like that, not knowing how badly hurt he was or not.

"M'sorry." His eyelids droop and he sinks, only prevented from hitting the floor by Dean's strong hands.

"Jesus, you're burning up." Another contradiction—sharp words, gentle tone.

"Forgot medicine."

"I noticed," Dean remarks wryly. They are back in the main hall and Sam slumps onto the chair. His older brother vanishes, and then returns with the first aid kit. He pours out some ibuprofen and Sam takes it while Dean begins to clean out the wound. None of the glass pieces were embedded and the cuts weren't too deep. For once, it appears to be much worse than it actually is. "You scared the hell out of me, Sammy." It's a quiet admission and Sam understands that it isn't just the sight of finding him missing that's bothering Dean. It's not even the fact that he managed to get pretty banged up tonight. It's the not knowing whether the trials would kill him; it's the being powerless to keep his brother safe from his own body.

"M'sorry." He really is, for more things then he can voice right now, but he knows that Dean understands—he always has. The bandage is finished and Dean places a cool palm to his little brother's forehead, frowning slightly at the heat of it. "Bad?" He knows it is, but he wants the reassurance anyways.

"Nothing we can't handle." Somehow, a blanket is draped around his shoulders and Sam lets the drowsiness take him away to blissful contentment. Yes, he's in pain. Yes, his fever is bad and yes, he's still coughing up blood.

But with Dean by his side, Sam finds strength to keep going, to keep fighting.

"D'n?" He's halfway to dreamland, exhausted by his ordeal. Still, he keeps his eyes open a crack, to rest on his brother's face.


"Did you have fun?" Dean huffs out a laugh and Sam smirks. It's the right thing to say and the tension in the room dissipates. His eyes shut slowly and he nestles onto his arms that rest on the table. He'll take a quick nap before Dean wakes him in order to get him to bed. A cool hand ruffles his hair and by his ear, a faint whisper,

"Sleep well, Sam."

And then there's nothing more than the blissful darkness of sleep, cradling him in its welcoming embrace.

Author's Note: Really happy with how this turned out! I have one more piece to post before my birthday so stay tuned for that. Please review if you have a second!