Actions

Work Header

And So Shall You Reap

Work Text:

And So Shall You Reap
By JJJunky

 

Sam Winchester stared blankly at the information on his computer screen. He had read the article so often, he had it memorized. Described in concise terms were the deaths of three children in Moab, Utah. Though the particulars were sparse, Sam had been able to read between the lines. The police didn't know it but they were dealing with a Rawhead. Sam wished he was as oblivious.

The program timed out. Pictures from a lesbian porn movie Dean had caught Sam watching on TV replaced the story. For the first time, Sam was actually glad he hadn't found time to change the lurid snaps. Bitterly regretting the necessity, he tapped the mouse pad to renew the screen. None of the details had changed in those few seconds. He knew what had to be done. He just wished someone else could do it. The thought of telling Dean what he had found made his heart thud against his chest until it ached.

All it would take to end his torment was to close the window, but the faces of the three victims stayed his hand. In his mind, he could clearly see the mutilated bodies of the two eight-year-old boys and the ten-year-old girl. This wasn't the first Rawhead he and his brother had hunted.

Which was what made this so difficult.

Their last encounter with the ancient monster had left Dean with a heart so badly damaged he had been given only weeks to live. Sam had found a way to save his brother's life, but had nearly sacrificed Dean's soul in the process.

The prospect of asking Dean to face the same beast that had cost him so dearly once before left the disgusting taste of bile in Sam's mouth.

"What'd ya find, Sammy?" mumbled Dean, emerging from the bathroom with a toothbrush in his hand and a mouth full of toothpaste.

Hating himself, Sam turned the computer so Dean could read the screen.

The hand pushing the toothbrush back and forth against white teeth stilled its motion. His freckles stood out as the blood drained from Dean's face.

Hastily pulling the laptop back, Sam said, "We don't have to do this. I'll find something else."

"No." Dean grabbed Sam's hand. "Kids are dying."

Though the touch was light, Sam could feel the slight tremors wracking his brother's body. He desperately searched for another escape. "I'll call Ellen. I'm sure she can find someone to take the job."

"No one could get there as quickly as we could," Dean pointed out. "We're two hours away."

He wanted to argue further, but Sam knew nothing would sway his brother – especially when children were involved.

"Pack up. I'll finish getting ready." Dean returned to the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

As he crossed to his bed to retrieve his duffle, Sam heard the sound of water running in the sink. The noise almost masked another sound - retching. He softly cursed, wishing he had never found the article; wishing his brother wasn't so stubborn, wishing that for once in their lives they could put their own needs ahead of others. But that wasn't the way they had been raised. Saving people – that was their duty.

***********

Dean parked the car in the shadows of the warehouse just outside a small pool of light created by the only working street lamp. Their research had shown this was the most likely place to find the Rawhead. Not only was the derelict building abandoned and at the edge of town, it was bracketed by new subdivisions, providing an easily accessible food source.

As Sam exited the car and walked back to the trunk, Dean took the few seconds of privacy to try to calm his nerves. No way in hell could he even pretend this hunt was the same as any other. The guilt over Marshall Hall's death was still too fresh; the pain that he had stolen Layla's only chance to live, too raw.

Dean closed his eyes as he remembered the obituary he had found in an Omaha newspaper six weeks after the encounter with Reverend LaGrange and his wife. The short paragraphs couldn't convey the warmth – the faith – of the woman he had known. Their acquaintance had been fleeting, but its impact would stay with Dean for the rest of his life.

Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes. The door hinges squealed, echoing loudly in the still air as he exited the car. It was music to Dean's ears, as beautiful as, if not better, than AC/DC or Blue Oyster Cult.

Softly cursing as snowflakes dribbled off his collar and down his neck to melt on his t-shirt, Dean hunched his shoulders. A few steps took him to his brother's side. Sam already had two tasers in his hand.

"Are you sure about this, Dean?" asked Sam, compassion audible in his voice.

It took every bit of self-control Dean possessed to keep his hand from shaking as he took one of the tasers. "For the last time, Sam, I'm good."

Sam's eyes stayed locked with his brother's as he closed the trunk. "I could do this alone."

"Like hell!" The thought of Sam facing the monster with no backup diminished the fear that had almost paralyzed Dean since he read the newspaper article. It wasn't because he had doubts about Sam's ability to find and kill the creature. Sam's hunting skills were never in question. It all came down to Dean's need to protect his younger brother, a desire that had only intensified since their father's death.

A cold hand wiping away the wet snow that dripped down his face, Dean followed Sam to the warehouse door. He kept a lookout as Sam quickly and efficiently picked the lock. Once the door was open, they slipped inside and paused to see if their entrance had been noticed. All they heard was the splatter of the wet, heavy snow on the corrugated roof. When they turned on their flashlights, they saw holes had rusted in the thick metal allowing intermittent rivers of melted snow to drip to the floor where they formed small pools. Shimmering light reflected off a large puddle. The sight made Dean's heart beat faster.

"I thought this place was supposed to be abandoned." Sam's flashlight beam illuminated stacks of large wooden boxes. There was nothing stenciled on the slats to indicate what was inside. Some were elongated, others square. They ranged in size, with some smaller than a breadbox, while others were big enough to house anything from a microwave to a small refrigerator.

Dean flashed his light around. Boxes were scattered across the floor fading into the darkness. The pattern was haphazard, with stacks three to four boxes high. Instead of an empty building to search, there were numerous places the Rawhead could hide. "This job just got a lot harder."

With a nod of agreement and a sigh, Sam asked, "Where do you want to start?"

"You take this side," Dean gestured along the row to his left. "I'll take the other."

As Dean began to walk away, Sam caught his sleeve. "I don't think we should split up."

Shivering in his snow-dampened clothes, Dean said, "And I don't want to catch pneumonia."

"Dean –"

"Stay in sight of my flashlight," compromised Dean.

Dean didn't wait for Sam's acknowledgement. He could tell his brother wasn't happy with the plan. To be honest, Dean wasn't thrilled with it, either. But the size of the place and the presence of the containers forced his hand. They had to find the Rawhead tonight. According to the article Sam had found, children had been disappearing approximately every other day. Tomorrow, the Rawhead would be looking for its next meal. As with most of their hunts, they didn't have the luxury of time.

Despite their desire for speed, they moved slowly. If Sam's light vanished for more than a few seconds, Dean would pause, prepared to run to where he had last seen its glow. They would be no good to anyone if they got hurt themselves.

The odor of spoiled meat and dirty flesh reached Dean's nostrils seconds before a large box came tumbling down upon him. Its weight drove him to the floor. A pain-filled cry escaped his lips as he struck the hard surface. "Sam!"

His brother's flashlight turned in his direction, revealing a heavy carton lying across Dean's left side along his chest and hips, pinning him to the ground. His left arm was twisted under his back, so Dean used his right to shield his eyes.

"Dean!"

Dean's lips moved to reassure his brother but no sound came out. His chest ached as his crushed lungs desperately tried to drag in enough air to keep him alive. He could hear the smack of Sam's big feet as his brother ran towards him. Compartmentalizing his pain, Dean focused on searching for the creature. He'd been hunting long enough to know he couldn't let his guard down just because he was hurt. Water soaking into his clothes reminded him of another danger. "Sam . . . careful . . . water."

"I've got it covered," Sam soothed. "Are you hurt?"

Dean tried but failed to suppress a groan. "Does 'N Sync . . . suck?"

"I'll have that box off you in no time."

"Find that . . . fugly bastard . . . first."

"Can you see it?"

"No." The word had no sooner left Dean's mouth when he shouted, "Sam . . . left!"

A lifetime of obeying first his father, then his brother, saved Sam's life – barely. He spun and fired his taser, hitting the Rawhead squarely in the chest. Electricity ran through the creature and into the puddle near Sam's left foot. Even though the charge was at a minimum, it was strong enough to fling him back, smashing him into a crate.

"Sam?" When he didn't receive an answer, Dean stretched the fingers of his right hand, trying to reach his flashlight. He could see his brother's outline in the soft glow of the dropped light. What he couldn't see was if Sam was alive. Speaking was becoming more and more difficult as Dean's oxygen-deprived lungs exhaled what little air they had left. "Sammy!"

Consciousness slipping away, Dean stopped his futile attempt to reclaim his flashlight. Hoping his cell phone hadn't been damaged when the box fell on him, he fought against the weight pressing down on him to pull it from his jacket pocket.

Pressing the numbers: 911, he barely waited for the call to connect before gasping, "Help . . . warehouse."

He could hear the operator calmly trying to get more information, but he no longer had the breath or strength to answer. He thought he told her to hurry. Even if he had spoken the word out loud, he was sure she hadn't heard him.

*******

Awareness came slowly – and painfully. Sam was certain every muscle in his body was screaming in pain, albeit in voices only he could hear. Each seemed to be competing to see which could transmit the most agony - everything except his left foot. It was numb, a feeling amplified by the intense discomfort throughout the rest of his body.

"Easy, Mr. Medford," a strange voice soothed, "you're all right."

It took a few moments for Sam to equate the unfamiliar name with the cards he had been carrying in his wallet. Along with the awareness of his false identity came the return of other memories. He opened his eyes and tried to sit up. A moan replaced the question his lips tried to form.

The nurse gently restrained him with a hand to his chest. "Let that be a lesson to you."

"My . . . brother?" Sam finally managed to gasp.

"He's in the next room." Tucking a lock of bright red hair behind her ear, the older woman said, "I know you probably don't think so right now, but you'll be fine. Your body absorbed enough electricity to knock you out. And, while it may not feel like it, a slight concussion is the worst of your injuries."

As the woman rambled on, Sam silently swore. He couldn't care less about his own prognosis. Knowing Dean's location didn't reveal anything more than he was alive – unless this was such a small hospital they had the morgue right next to the patients' rooms.

This time, Sam was ready for the pain as he sat up and threw back his covers. He fought through it, even managing to swing his legs off the bed. He sat, panting, as the nurse tried to push him back down.

"Mr. Medford," she twittered, "you shouldn't be up."

"I need . . . to see . . . my brother," Sam hissed through gritted teeth.

"I told you, he's fine."

Sam could tell by the way she was avoiding his eyes that she was lying. "Take me . . . to him."

"You're not supposed to be out of bed."

Though he wasn't sure his legs would support him, Sam started to lower his feet to the floor. He held his breath, anticipating the shock of the cold tile against his warm soles.

"What's going on here?"

The strident demand made Sam pause. Shifting his gaze to the door, he glared at the older man in a white coat blocking his exit. "I want . . . to see my . . . brother."

"Mrs. Kinsey," the man requested, "please get a wheelchair."

"But Doctor," the nurse protested, "your orders --"

"Mr. Medford obviously doesn't care about my orders or his health."

"Yes, Dr. Collins."

Sam waited until the woman left the room before he said, "Thank you."

"If you really wanted to show your appreciation, you'd get back in that bed."

"I can't," apologized Sam.

"I know." Collins held up a hand to forestall further explanation. "You need to see your brother."

"How bad is . . . he?"

Collins held the door open to allow the nurse to enter with a wheelchair. "He's not badly hurt. But he hasn't regained consciousness and I can't find a reason why. Did you see if he hit his head?"

"No." Sam started to physically show denial when the muscles in his neck spasmed forcing him to abort the movement.

"We took x-rays," Collins continued, "but couldn't find anything that could be causing your brother's condition."

Sam could easily read the doctor and knew the physician was hiding something. "What haven't you told me?"

Surprise clearly visible on his face, Collins scratched his head. "While his unconscious state has me worried, my main concern is the bruise to the underlying lung tissue caused by the blunt impact of that crate. It's interfering with oxygen delivery."

Even more determined to see Dean, Sam slowly pushed himself off the bed. When the pain threatened to set him on his ass, he was grateful for the two sets of hands helping him into the wheelchair.

"I'll take it from here, Mrs. Kinsey." Collins unlocked the chair's wheels. Without another word, he pushed Sam out the door and into the next room.

Despite the warning, Sam wasn't prepared for the sight of his brother on a respirator so soon after the car accident that had ultimately led to their father's death. The stillness of the bruised body was unnerving, awakening memories of other visits in other hospitals after other disastrous hunts.

Touching the white cast that went from elbow to wrist on Dean's left arm, Collins said, "This was a clean break. It should heal with no problems. He's been lucky."

Sam looked up in shock.

"The type of injury he took to his chest can kill in minutes," clarified Collins. "It's encouraging that he's lasted this long."

Encouraging wasn't how Sam would view his brother's current status. As he gazed at Dean's pale and bruised face, Sam swore they would never hunt another Rawhead. It was an oath he knew neither would keep if a child's life was at stake.

"The police wanted to talk to you as soon as you were awake," revealed Collins.

His eyes never leaving his brother's face, Sam said, "If they can talk to me in here, that's fine."

"I think you'd be more comfortable in your own bed."

Carefully threading his hand through the IV lines, Sam gently laid it on his brother's good arm. "I'm not leaving."

"I'll send the police in." Collins sighed and moved the call button within Sam's reach. "Ring if either of you need anything."

Sam absently nodded. What little attention wasn't focused on Dean was mentally preparing for the grilling session to come. It was going to take every bit of skill he'd learned from his father to keep himself and Dean out of jail and/or the loony bin.

"Mr. Medford?" A police officer with a slight paunch that couldn't be held back by his belt crossed to the other side of Dean's bed. "I'm Sergeant Welch, and this is my partner, Officer Rudzinski."

A nod of his head was Sam's only acknowledgment that he had heard the introduction. The fewer words he spoke the less chance he would trip himself up.

"When we found you and your brother in that warehouse, we found the body of a strange creature. Do you know what it is?"

"No," Sam said, knowing they would never believe him if he told the truth.

A touch of frustration in his voice, Welch continued, "We also discovered what appears to have been its lair in the back. Evidence points to its having killed three children."

This time, Sam knew he would have to offer some kind of explanation or risk antagonizing the officers. Something that would hurt, not help them. "My brother and I happened to be driving by when we saw someone sneaking into the warehouse. We'd heard about the children and decided to check it out."

"Why didn't you call us?" Rudzinski tapped the badge on his chest.

"For all we knew it was just a homeless person looking for somewhere to get out of the weather," said Sam. "The place looked deserted, we didn't think anyone would mind if a harmless squatter found shelter from the storm."

Welch quickly pointed out, "But it wasn't harmless and the warehouse wasn't empty."

His gaze shifting to Dean, Sam sadly shook his head. "Unfortunately, no."

"How did you get into the building?" asked Welch.

"The door was unlocked." Sam held his breath at the blatant fib. If his possessions had been searched, and they had found the lock picks, the police would know he was lying.

Welch wrote in his notebook. "It was lucky you had tasers."

Sam knew the statement wasn't as innocent as it sounded. "My brother and I are taking a cross-country trip. Our father gave us the tasers for protection."

"Good thing he did."

Grimacing as he shifted in his chair, Sam grumbled, "Right now, I'm not so sure."

"I bet you aren't." A genuine smile curved Welch's lips.

Realizing it would look suspicious if he didn't show some curiosity, Sam asked, "Have you been able to find out what that creature was?"

"Not yet," said Rudziniski. "There's been a lot of snow up in the mountains this year. We think it may have been forced down to look for food."

Welch crossed to the door where he stopped. "One more thing, Mr. Medford, do you know what was in those boxes in the warehouse?"

"No." Sam tried not to tense as he waited for the other shoe to drop. "We were surprised to find the building wasn't empty, but we were more concerned with that thing we'd seen go in."

"Understandable."

When Welch didn't continue, Sam couldn't contain his inquisitiveness, especially since one of those crates was responsible for his brother's condition. "What was in them?"

"Guns."

For once, Sam didn't have to feign shock. The slight distrust he had seen on Welch's face eased.

"We ran some serial numbers and found it’s a shipment of munitions that disappeared on its way to Hill Air Force Base."

Rudziniski added, "An ATF team out of Denver is due to arrive in the morning to investigate."

"They'll probably want to talk to you," said Welch, catching Sam's eye.

His eyes shifting to rest on his unconscious brother, Sam shrugged. "I'll be here."

Uncertain how much of his story the officers believed, Sam eased his aching body against the back of his chair. He knew they could be in big trouble if the ATF team discovered their true identities. There was nothing to indicate their innocence regarding the stolen shipment, while everything pointed to their guilt. They should leave before the Feds arrived. But Dean couldn't be moved and Sam wasn't leaving without him. They would just have to take their chances. Nothing new to either brother.

*******

Every now and then, Dean heard a familiar voice begging him to wake up. Initially joy would fill him urging him to obey. Then he would remember Sammy was dead. He had seen his brother's body vibrate as electricity passed through it before it collapsed limply to the floor. Dean knew the power of an electrical current, knew the damage it could inflict on the human body. He had killed his brother.

Overcome with guilt and pain, Dean slipped further into the comforting room he had created for himself. At first, it had looked like one of the many ratty hotels they had stayed in over the years. Soon, it had started to take on the appearance of a home. The curtains on the windows and the bedspread were the same as the ones that had been in his room before his mother died. It was the one place he could remember feeling safe.

It was also where he had killed his mother or at least he had thought so for almost a year.

He would never forget any minute of that night. Despite his young age at the time, one of his most vivid memories was when his mother had come to tuck him into bed.

"Good night, my little man." Mary bent and kissed Dean on the cheek.

Smiling broadly, Dean said, "Goodbye, Mommy."

"We say goodnight at bedtime, Dean," Mary gently corrected. "You say goodbye when someone is leaving."

With all the logic of a four-year-old, Dean argued, "But you're going to leave my room."

"Yes," agreed Mary, "but only for a little while. I'll see you in the morning. Goodbye usually means someone is leaving for a long time."

Dutifully, Dean said, "Goodnight, Mommy."

"Goodnight, Dean." Brushing his hair off his forehead, Mary whispered, "Remember, angels are watching over you."

For months, Dean had thought his slip of the tongue had caused his mother to go away. He had been afraid to speak, afraid he would send his father and his brother away, too.

The memory took the joy out of his happy place. He took his first step to leave it.

*******

Sam jerked awake as he felt his hand slide from its position on Dean's arm. The rubber wheels of his chair squealed against the linoleum floor as it was pulled back. To prevent further separation, Sam leaned forward and tightened his grip. A deep sigh sounded from behind him.

"Mr. Medford, you need rest," Dr. Collins asserted.

Unable to get the sore muscles in his neck to cooperate, Sam showed his displeasure in his voice. "I'm not leaving."

"Your brother is improving. Look, I've taken out the respirator." Coming around to where he could face Sam, Collins continued, "As your doctor, I have to tell you, you're being foolish."

"It's not the first time."

"You're not helping Dean," argued Collins. "All you're doing is slowing your own healing process."

"How do you know?"

"I'm your doctor --"

"No," interrupted Sam, "how do you know my being here isn't helping Dean?"

Collins gently pointed out, "Because there's no medical reason to explain why he hasn't woken up."

"Which is exactly why I need to stay if he hears anything, it'll be my voice." Sam said with conviction, allowing his gaze to rest on Dean's pale face.

Exasperated, Collins said, "You won't do your brother any good if you collapse."

"I won't collapse."

"You can have a little longer," Collins finally conceded, before continuing in a tone that brooked no argument. "But you will sleep in your own bed tonight. Don't forget the ATF will be here to talk to you in the morning."

Like that was something I would forget, thought Sam. It was another obstacle he would deal with when the time came. He was beginning to feel like he understood Scarlet O'Hara. Why worry today when it could be put off until tomorrow?

As the doctor crossed to the door, Sam stopped him, knowing he better have the answer to his question when Dean woke up. "Doctor, do you know what's happened to my brother's car?"

"It's in the hospital parking lot." A wistful smile curved the physician's lips. "Sergeant Welch said driving that car was the best perk he's ever had on the job."

Knowing how Dean would react if he found out a stranger, a police officer at that, had driven his baby, Sam decided this was information he would keep to himself if at all possible. Wanting to be alone with his brother, Sam dismissively said, "Thank you, Doctor."

Taking the hint, Collins nodded. "You can have a few more hours. Then, I'm sending a nurse to take you back to your room."

Sam ignored the ultimatum nothing could make him leave his brother's bedside. Something they hadn't learned yet, but they would.

His gaze absently following the doctor to the door, Sam saw a uniformed police officer standing in the hallway talking to a nurse. Obviously, Welch hadn't been as gullible as Sam had hoped. It didn't take a genius to know why the cop was outside Dean's room. Returning his attention to his brother, Sam saw the long eyelashes were even more prominent against the pale cheeks. It didn't matter how often he sat at his injured brother's bedside, it never got easier. Sam knew that if it ever did it would be time to stop hunting.

"Come on, Dean," he angrily pleaded, "wake up."

"Okay."

The softly spoken word made Sam jump, re-igniting the pain in his limbs. He was unable to suppress a moan as the muscles in his calves spasmed. It was clear he was due for another muscle relaxant.

"Sammy?"

His own concerned gaze meeting worried hazel eyes, Sam said, "I'm fine."

"I'm thinking . . . if your body had a vote . . . it would disagree . . . remember, I have . . . the t-shirt."

Sam grinned. "I think you're right."

There was a catch in Dean's raspy voice as he asked, "So, how bad is it?"

"Me or you?"

Shifting, Dean winced. "Both."

"You've got a bruised chest and a broken arm." Carefully rising to his feet, Sam continued, "I've got a numb left foot and some really sore muscles."

"Your heart?" Dean quietly asked.

"Is fine," reassured Sam. "The tasers weren't set as high this time."

Dean laid his head back on his pillow. "Good."

"Hey, don't go back to sleep." Sam gently poked Dean's shoulder.

Sounding like a five-year-old, Dean whined, "I'm tired."

"So am I, but we have to get out of here."

"Can't it wait . . . for a few hours?'

"No. It can't." Sam put an arm under Dean's shoulders and slowly lifted him into a sitting position. Though it was difficult, he forced himself to ignore his brother's sharp cry of pain. "Those boxes in the warehouse were full of stolen munitions. An ATF team is coming to talk to us in the morning."

"That'll be a short conversation," gasped Dean, cradling his chest with his uninjured arm. "We don't know . . . anything."

"You think they're going to believe that? I'm sure they've found the lock pick in my coat pocket by now."

"Son of a bitch!"

Crossing to the window, Sam searched for the latch to open it. "Succinct, but accurate."

Carefully swinging his legs off the bed, Dean sat on the edge. Unable to take deep breaths, he panted, "Most people use doors . . . to enter and exit a room, Sammy."

"Most people don't have cops sitting outside."

"It just keeps getting . . . better and better."

Finding the lock, Sam pushed it to the side. A loud click made him pause to see if the noise aroused their guard's suspicions. When no one appeared in the doorway, he swung the glass pane open and looked outside.

For once, they had gotten lucky. In the dim light of a half-moon, Sam could see they were on the first floor at the side of the building. It was a short drop to the ground. Though, in their condition, even a short fall was going to hurt like hell. With his long legs, the distance was considerably shortened. He would just have to do the best he could to make it easier for Dean.

A cold breeze making him shiver and increasing the pain in his muscles, Sam limped across to the closet. He was disappointed to find it empty. He had known he wouldn't find his own clothes, but he had hoped to at least retrieve Dean's. Returning to his brother's side, he grabbed a blanket, folded it in half and draped it around Dean's shoulders. A quick check of the bedside table unearthed Dean's wallet and car keys. Mentally cursing the hospital gown that had not only left his backside exposed but came without pockets, Sam searched for something he could use to carry the items. Unable to retrieve his wallet, they would be dependent on the cash in Dean's. Luckily, there had been no credit cards with fake names to confuse their rescuers concerning their identity.

Finally grabbing a pillow case, Sam dropped the items inside and knotted the open end. Tearing a strip off the ragged sheet covering Dean's bed, he tied the makeshift pouch around his waist.

"Dude," Dean frowned as he looked around, "where are my clothes?"

"Not here."

"Why not?"

"Maybe because they don't trust us?"

"Two men running around . . . in hospital gowns are going to be noticed."

"You want to take your chances with the ATF team?"

Carefully easing himself off the bed, Dean mumbled, "This sucks out loud."

Sam hovered, wanting to help but afraid his assistance would be more of a hindrance. Once he was certain Dean could walk without aid, Sam returned to the chair he had occupied for what felt like an eternity but had been less than a day. His muscles screaming their displeasure, he picked up the stool and carried it to the window. "I'll go first," he told Dean. "Can you stand on the chair by yourself?"

"I think I can manage," Dean disgustedly grumbled.

Though he knew Dean was over-estimating his body's tolerance for pain, there was nothing Sam could do. Climbing up on the chair would be agony; however falling out of the window could cause serious injury. Unable to be in two places at once, Sam chose the lesser of two evils – he hoped.

He swung his long legs out the window and dropped to the ground. His breath caught in his lungs from the shock of the snow on his bare feet, and the jarring of his aching muscles. Panting, Sam prepared his trembling limbs to accept his brother's weight. By the time Dean appeared in the open casement, his face had become even paler than it had been before. Sam prayed the pain wouldn't cause his brother to pass out. Even healthy, Sam would have a difficult time carrying Dean to the car. Hampered by his own injuries as well as Dean's, it would be nearly impossible.

Shivering uncontrollably in the frigid air, Sam stood up to his calves in snow, clad only in the thin cotton gown. By the time he gently lowered Dean to the ground, both men were sweating despite the cold. There were few places Sam could support his brother without causing him more pain.

Their progress was slow as they made their way to the parking lot. At this time of night there were few cars, making it easy to spot the Impala. Realizing they were visible under the bright lights, Sam tried to increase their pace. From the look on Dean's face, Sam could tell his brother was walking by rote, concentrating on simply putting one foot in front of the other.

As they neared the car, Sam slowly removed his arm from around Dean's waist and pulled out the car keys. Unlocking the passenger door, he opened it and eased Dean down onto the seat, forcing himself to ignore the groan of pain the movement elicited. Lifting the raw, ice cold legs and feet inside, Sam quickly closed the door and hurriedly climbed into the driver's side.

Putting the key in the ignition, he turned it until the engine caught. He cranked up the heat, stoically enduring the cold air as it slowly warmed. His right foot was now as numb as his left. Despite their need for a quick getaway, Sam knew he had to get feeling back in that appendage before he dared drive.

As the air around him slowly heated up, he tried to swallow a moan as feeling returned to the frozen parts of his body. To distract himself from the pain, he asked, "How you feeling, Dean?"

"Like a melting popsicle."

Sam barely stopped himself from giggling, a sure sign of exhaustion.

Frowning, Dean said, "Maybe I should drive?"

"I'm all right." Sam swallowed the reaction that would show his words were a lie. To forestall any more suggestions, he shifted into reverse and backed out of the parking spot. The wet, icy, conditions gave him a good excuse to keep his speed down if Dean should challenge him.

One look at his brother's pale, sweating face told Sam there would be no more comments concerning his driving. It was clearly apparent all Dean was aware of was his own misery.

Turning onto the road leading north, Sam drove until he deemed it safe to make a quick stop when a plowed lane appeared. He pulled off and killed the lights.

Warmth had just started to thaw his insides, making it doubly hard to face the frosty air outside in his meager clothing, but he had to retrieve their bags from the trunk. It would more than raise a few eyebrows if he tried to check into a motel in his current apparel.

Retrieving a blanket from the backseat, he spread it over Dean. When his actions failed to elicit a response, Sam almost turned the car around and headed back to the hospital. He had never seen Dean so out of it – except when he was unconscious. Knowing what awaited them back in Moab, he reluctantly turned the car off and pulled out the keys. An artic blast filled the small confines when he opened his door. His brother's moan of protest was a welcome sound to Sam's ears.

The movement and bitter cold waking every aching nerve ending, Sam cursed as he hurried to the trunk and opened it. Dragging out both their duffels and a bag of weapons, he retrieved underwear, socks, pants, shoes, and a shirt before tossing the gear into the backseat.

In the dim light from the trunk, he quickly pulled on the clothes. Now he was almost glad Dean was out of it or his brother would have insisted on getting dressed as well, a process that would have been indescribably uncomfortable for both of them.

As the icy fabric touched his warm flesh, Sam felt isolated muscles spasm. Gritting his teeth to suppress a groan, he closed the trunk and pulled the keys from the lock before climbing back behind the wheel. His hand shook, making it difficult to insert the key in the ignition. Softly cursing, he finally used both hands to guide it into the slot. When the car roared to life once more, Sam held his frozen fingers up to the heating vents, trying to thaw them. Once feeling had returned sufficiently, he turned on the headlights and pulled back onto the road. They hadn't passed a single car since they left Moab. Sam hoped their luck continued to hold. The distinctiveness of the Impala, coupled with the lack of traffic, would make their passage stand out to other motorists - and eventually the police.

*******

Exhaustion pulling at his eyelids, Sam knew he would have to stop soon. His decision was confirmed when the tires hit the side of the road almost sending them into a tailspin. It was as dangerous to continue as it would be to stop. A wracking cough followed by a groan from the passenger seat solidified his decision.

Though he knew it was too soon, they were too close to Moab, Sam looked for a motel that would fit their needs. He found one near the edge of town.

Pulling up in front of the office, he shifted into park. Careful not to jostle Dean, he leaned over, opened the glove compartment, and rummaged around until he found the box they used to hold their fake ID's. Looking inside, he grabbed a driver's license with his picture on it. It took a few more minutes to find a credit card to match, prompting Sam to decide he would organize the contents the first chance he got.

He exited the idling car. Mourning the loss of his winter coat, he tried not to look too uncomfortable in his spring coat as he entered the lobby. He found it shabby but clean, and hoped the rooms would be equally spotless. They had been through enough for one night; Sam didn't relish dealing with bedbugs or any other kind of vermin.

"Can I help you?"

Sam crossed to the desk. Knowing the police would be looking for brothers, he said, "My friend and I need a room."

"For one night?" The clerk started writing in a ledger.

The night was already more than half over, prompting Sam to contradict him. "Two."

"A king-sized bed?" The clerk glanced out to where Dean was barely visible in the light of the flashing vacancy sign.

Sam's first instinct was to refute the man's assumption. Reluctantly realizing the false impression would help conceal their identity, he forced a smile. "That would be great. Would you have a room at the back of the motel, away from the road? My . . . friend is a light sleeper."

"Of course." The clerk pulled a key from a slot. "Will that be cash or credit?"

Handing over his card and ID, Sam said. "Credit."

As he wrote down the information and ran the credit card, the clerk said, "You boys are out late."

"My friend had trouble deciding what to pack, so we got a late start." Sam easily lied.

The attendant handed back Sam's cards. "My wife has the same problem every time we travel. You're in room 119. It’s on the end, in the back."

Sam pocketed the cards and key. "Thank you."

The clerk had already returned to watching TV before the door closed behind Sam, which was fine with his newest customer. The less attention he paid, the less he would remember if the police came asking questions.

Driving around the building, Sam found the parking space in front of their room was empty. He backed in, prepared to make a quick getaway if needed, and left the car running while he gathered their bags and opened the door to their room. A flick of the light switch revealed what he had hoped. The forest green colors on the wallpaper and bedspread were faded, and the carpet was threadbare, but from what he could see, the room was clean.

Now that they were as close to safe as they could get under present circumstances, Sam found it difficult to steer his aching body away from the bed. All he wanted to do was collapse onto the soft mattress and sleep for two days.

A moan of frustration slipping though his lips, Sam dropped the bags on a chair and forced himself to walk past the beckoning bed and back outside. The cold wind seeming to blow right through him, he opened the passenger door. Leaning inside, he turned off the ignition and pulled out the key. The frigid air immediately invaded the car, making Dean groan and curl away.

"W-what?" mumbled Dean.

"Easy," Sam soothed, putting a supporting hand on a shaking shoulder. "It's just me."

"W-where?"

Afraid that if he named the town Dean would realize they were still too close to Moab and refuse to get out of the car, Sam hedged, "I got us a room at a motel."

To forestall anymore questions, Sam swung Dean's feet out of the car. His sore muscles throbbing in displeasure, Sam eased his unusually compliant brother out of the car and into the motel room. Stopping only long enough to tug off the bulky blankets, Sam threw back the bedspread and helped Dean onto the mattress. He swallowed his envy as Dean relaxed against the pillow with a heartfelt sigh.

After securing the car and locking the hotel room door, Sam rummaged in Dean's duffel until he found a pair of socks. Other articles of clothing could wait until Dean was more aware, but Sam knew Dean's feet had to be blocks of ice. The only reason his sibling hadn't complained was due to the pain from his other injuries. They had made him oblivious to the condition of his frozen toes.

Sam slipped the socks on and made sure Dean was comfortable and breathing relatively easily before he concentrated on his own needs. While a hot shower sounded like heaven, he knew he didn't have the strength. It was a luxury he would have to forego until after he got some sleep.

The warmth of the room making it difficult for him to keep his eyes open, Sam quickly shed his coat and pants, and climbed under the covers. His vision was already blurring as he made one last visual check on his brother. He knew Dean would have a few choice comments concerning their sleeping arrangement. Sam was actually looking forward to hearing them. A sarcastic Dean was a recovering Dean.

*******

Light penetrated his closed eyelids prompting Dean to try to move his head away from the annoyance. He stopped when he felt a hot breath blowing on his neck. Listening for any sound that shouted danger, he opened his eyes.

The shock of finding Sam's head nestled against his shoulder left Dean momentarily speechless. When he finally found his voice, he inarticulately grumbled, "W-what the hell?"

An attempt to move away was quickly halted when pain in his chest flared, going from a small flame to a conflagration. All the air exited his lungs, forcing him to pant as he tried to ease his agony.

"Dean?"

Sam's worried voice penetrated the layers of misery as nothing else could have. Dean wanted to respond and dispel his brother's concern but he simply didn't have the breath to waste.

"I'm calling an ambulance."

A moan as Sam started to move away gave Dean an unexpected shot of energy. The almost Pavlovian response always happened when his brother was hurting or in danger. His good hand pawed blindly until it made contact with Sam's arm. Though he knew the contact was weak, Dean hoped it would be enough to convey his own anxiety.

"Dean, you can't breathe," Sam pointed out. "You need help."

Dean's questing hand made contact with a soft fabric he recognized as Sam's shirt. He grabbed hold with all the strength he could muster.

"All right, Dean. I won't call."

His eyes following the sound of his brother's voice, Dean understood the exasperation he saw on Sam's face. He would feel the same if their positions were reversed. Hoping to ease his brother's anxiety, he loosened his grip and patted Sam's chest to show his entreaty had been accurately interpreted.

Though the process was much slower than Dean would've liked, enough air finally filled his lungs to allow him to speak. "Dude . . . what are you . . . doing in my . . . bed?"

Blushing, Sam admitted, "It's my bed, too. The attendant assumed we were –"

"Son of a bitch!" gasped Dean. "Do we have to . . . tattoo it across our . . . foreheads?" Dean ran his hand in the spot he thought the message was required. "We . . . are . . . brothers."

"In this case, I thought it best not to correct the misconception." If it were possible, Sam turned even redder.

"Why not?"

The color faded. "Because we're a little closer to Moab than I would like."

"How close?" Dean carefully hitched himself up until his shoulders were resting against the headboard. He was ready for the pain this time and forced himself to ride it through.

"Cisco."

"What were . . . you thinking?" Dean threw back the covers.

Another low moan escaped Sam's lips as he reached over to replace the blankets. "I was thinking . . . I didn't want to end up wrapped around a tree."

"I could've driven."

Sam didn't bother to respond, he simply glared at his brother with a look that clearly said, are you crazy?

"Yeah, all right." Dean buckled quickly. "I couldn't have."

"I got the room for two nights," said Sam, wincing as he lay back onto his pillow. "We might as well get some more sleep."

Closing his eyes, Dean didn't protest when Sam helped him to lie flat. His brain was screaming for him to get dressed and drive away. But his body didn't care. Tensed muscles eased and he sank into the soft mattress. They relaxed completely when he felt Sam ease down beside him. Though he would never reveal his feelings to anyone, least of all his brother, he didn't lie to himself.

"We left behind enough DNA and fingerprints that it won't take them long to discover who we are," whispered Sam.

"They'll notify Hendricks." Dean sighed. "He'll be adding . . . arms dealer to the list of offenses . . . he has against us."

"If they check, they won't find our fingerprints on any of the guns or boxes."

"You think . . . that's going to absolve us . . . in Hendricks' eyes?"

"No," mumbled Sam.

"Look on the bright side . . . Sammy." Dean gently patted his brother's arm. "They can only . . . execute us once. And . . . only if they get us . . . before a Rawhead or –"

"Or the yellow-eyed demon," finished Sam.

Dean was relieved to see a slight smile curving his brother's lips. "Hendricks has . . . a lot of competition."

"All roads lead to hell."

Knowing what they would do for each other, Dean couldn't agree. "Not all roads."