Actions

Work Header

In the Light

Work Text:

In the Light
By JJJunky

Crossover with Grey's Anatomy.

 

"Another job where we kicked ass." Dean rubbed his hands together in satisfaction.

The early morning sun that was burning away the fog shrouding the tall buildings wasn't strong enough to take the bite out of the chill air. Sam hunched his shoulders and tried to stuff his hands in his pockets. The cast on his right hand and forearm only allowed the fingertips to find relief. "It was a simple exorcism, Dean. The ghost was mischievous, not malicious."

"It was throwing fish at people, Sam." Dean brushed at the wet spot on the front of his t-shirt and turned his nose up at the smell. "That's pretty nasty in my book."

"All I'm saying is it didn't want to hurt anyone."

"Dude, I may never get the stink out of this shirt. And it's my favorite."

"Dave said he would replace it."

Dean stopped in his tracks and glared at his brother in horror. "That's not the point."

"Then what is the point, Dean?"

Before Dean could reply, a shrill scream cut through the thick air. Sam looked around, seeking the source in the limited visibility. At a second scream, Dean disappeared into the fog. The sound of his pounding feet guided Sam around the corner of a building. He saw the vague outline of his brother running toward what appeared to be two human forms. One was lying on the ground, and was trying to push the other away. It took Sam a few seconds to grasp what he was seeing.

For Dean, the realization had obviously come faster. Sam saw his brother had already covered more than half the distance to the struggling couple. The shock that had momentarily paralyzed Sam's limbs dissipated. A lifetime of fighting monsters most people didn't believe existed had never prepared him for the shock of man's inhumanity towards his own species.

The same sound that had alerted Sam to Dean's location drew the rapist's attention away from his victim. Through the rapidly dissolving fog, Sam saw the man pick up something long and apparently heavy and swing it at Dean. Trying to increase his own speed, Sam saw Dean dodge, avoiding the blow. The side-step caused him to trip over the prone woman's legs, making him lose his balance. The attacker took advantage of his opponent's instability and swung his weapon again. This time, he made contact.

When the man turned toward him, Sam's training pushed aside his fear for his brother. Keeping his head was the best way he could help Dean. The cast making his movements slower than normal, Sam unzipped the weapons bag hanging from his shoulder with one hand, and pulled out a shotgun with the other. Though it was only filled with rock salt, he knew from experience it would be enough to incapacitate the assailant long enough for him to get the upper hand. The barrel of the weapon had barely cleared the duffel when the man turned and ran away, quickly disappearing around a corner.

A part of Sam desperately wanted to follow, but he knew his priorities. "Dean, how badly are you hurt?"

It had been difficult to see in the limited visibility but Sam couldn't mistake the sound of bone meeting a solid object. It wasn't the first time he had heard it. Dropping to his knees next to his brother he saw enough to answer his question. Blood coated the left side of Dean's face. The pupil of one eye appeared to be enlarged.

A hand waving weakly, Dean groaned, "Head."

"I see that," said Sam. "I'm going to call 911. We need to get you to a hospital."

"No." Dean pushed himself up on his elbow. "You drive. Don't trust . . . ambulance drivers."

Conceding it would do more harm than good to continue arguing, Sam helped his brother to his feet. Only then did he remember the other victim of the attack. She was sitting with her knees draw up to her chest, pressed against the wall of a building. There was no sound to indicate her distress, but Sam could see tears streaming down her cheeks.

Though his size made it difficult, Sam tried to appear as non-threatening as possible. His good arm wrapped around Dean's waist, he slowly reached out to her with the other. "Miss, I think you should come with us. They can help you at the hospital."

When she stared straight ahead and started to rock, Sam mentally cursed the rapist. Putting as much sympathy and encouragement as he could in his voice, Sam pleaded, "Please, my brother needs help and I can't leave you here."

The words had an effect on the girl, though not what Sam had hoped for. Fear twisted her face as she grabbed Sam's cast with both of her hands.

"Don't leave me," she desperately cried. "Don't leave me."

"I won't." This time, Sam cursed himself for frightening her. Slowly drawing her to her feet, he gently repeated, "I won't."

Closing his fingers as best he could around hers, he unhurriedly started to lead her down the alley to where they had left the Impala. He could feel Dean faltering beside him and wished he could use both hands to assist his brother. However, the girl had such a strong grip on his fingers they were starting to go numb from lack of circulation.

In an effort to calm her, he said, "I'm Sam, and this is my brother, Dean."

Sam had almost decided his ploy hadn't worked when he felt the pressure on his fingers ease slightly.

"I'm Cindy," the girl softly replied.

"Our car is just at the end of this street, Cindy," explained Sam.

Her voice cracking, Cindy whispered, "Thank you for saving me."

"We couldn't have done it if you hadn't had the courage to fight back."

"He came out of nowhere. I walk this route to work every morning." A touch of anger deepened her voice. "I've never had any trouble."

"He took advantage of the fog."

By the time they reached the car, Cindy's grip had eased to a point where Sam could slip free. Opening the front passenger door, he carefully maneuvered Dean onto the seat. It bothered him that his brother hadn't said a word since vetoing Sam's suggestion to call 911. Normally, Dean would've had a few choice words to describe the lowlife who had attacked Cindy.

Once he had his brother settled, Sam took off his coat and put it around Cindy's shaking shoulders before helping her into the backseat. Then he ran around to the other side, slid behind the wheel, and pushed the key into the ignition. As the engine caught, he spared a quick glance for his brother. Dean was sitting sideways in his seat, his head against the backrest. Blood oozed from the wound, creeping down the side of his face and onto his shirt. It wasn't the amount of blood that bothered Sam. He knew head wounds bled a lot. It was his brother's silence. It made Sam wish he had called an ambulance. Even in this fog, they would know these streets, know where to find the nearest hospital.

His hand on the gearshift, Sam asked, "Cindy, do you know where there's a hospital?"

"That way." Cindy's hand waved down the street ahead.

Hoping she would be more specific once they were moving, Sam shifted into gear. Traffic was light this early in the morning, making it easy for him to maneuver.

"Cindy is there something back there, maybe a t-shirt or a towel you could press against Dean's wound?"

"No."

Sam's eyes drifted to the rear view mirror where he saw the young girl taking her sweater off. From what he could tell it was an expensive garment.

"I can use my sweater." Cindy pulled Sam's jacket back around her shoulders before leaning forward and pressed the pullover against Dean's head.

A blue sign with an arrow pointing to the left appeared in Sam's headlights. Putting a hand on Dean's chest to hold him in place, Sam turned the wheel sharply. As soon as the car straightened out, he pushed down on the accelerator. A quick glance to his right showed him Cindy had stopped crying. Her face red and blotchy, she held onto the seat with a strength Sam's numb fingers could relate to. He wished there was more he could do for her, but she needed someone with more training and experience with this kind of traumatic event.

The next blue marker indicated the hospital was to the right. Once again, Sam held Dean firmly in his seat as the car rounded the corner on squealing tires. Guided by red and white signs, Sam pulled up in front of the entrance to the Emergency Room. He threw the gear shift into park with more force than was necessary, then exited the car.

His long legs took him quickly to the automatic doors. A short, African-American woman in the white coat of a doctor met him before he had taken two steps inside.

"Where are you hurt?" she demanded.

Confused, Sam looked down to see his shirt and hands were covered in blood. "It's not mine, it's my brother's."

"Get a gurney," the physician shouted over her shoulder as she ran outside. Crossing to the car, she opened the passenger door. Checking for a pulse and under the closed eyelids, she asked, "What was he hit with?"

"I'm not sure." Sam was at a loss. "It could've been a tire iron or a bat."

"What's your brother's name?"

"Dean."

Sam stepped out of the way when a gurney bumped into his leg. The medical personnel were efficient and gentle as they carefully extricated Dean from the car. Sam had hoped the movement and the touch of unfamiliar hands would rouse his brother, but long eyelashes remained plastered to pale cheeks.

As the gurney was rolled into the ER and over to a cubicle, Sam kept pace, his hand reaching out, trying to maintain contact with his brother. He was halted by the doctor who had met him at the door.

"Someone will let you know as soon as we find something."

A protest forming on his lips, Sam didn't get a single word out before she disappeared behind the curtain. He was tempted to defy her and follow, but he was afraid the delay would endanger Dean. Reluctantly, he backed away.

The keys in his hand jingled, reminding Sam he had another responsibility. Hurrying back outside, he saw a man in a white coat leaning into the back of the car. The distinctive sound of crying could be heard through the open door. Though there was compassion in the doctor's voice, Sam knew all the traumatized young girl saw was a strange man.

A hand on a hunched shoulder gently but firmly pulled the doctor away. Crouching until he was eye level, Sam said, "It's all right, Cindy. I won't let anyone hurt you."

"I-I'm Doctor O'Malley," the physician stammered. "I only want to help her."

His voice low and soothing as he eased Cindy out of the car, Sam suggested, "I think a female doctor would be better in this case."

"O-of course," said O'Malley. "I'll find one."

"Thank you."

As he almost lifted Cindy onto the curb, Sam absently straightened the coat he had placed around her shoulders. Both of her hands were gripping the garment so tightly they were leached of blood.

"Hello." A tall, blonde woman approached them as they entered the ER.

Sam's fears lessened as her gaze compassionately shifted to rest on Cindy. "I'm Dr. Stevens. Would you let me take care of you?"

Cindy looked at the outstretched hand before nervously nodding her agreement. But she pulled back when Stevens tried to lead her away and reached for Sam.

Gently squeezing her shoulder, Sam pointed to a chair near the cubicles. "I'll be right there if you need me."

As Cindy was reluctantly led to a treatment room near Dean's, Sam walked over to the empty chair. His legs were shaking so violently they could barely support him. He knew Dean was badly hurt. He'd seen enough head wounds in his life -- probably more than the doctors treating his brother -- to make an educated guess. Resting his elbows on his knees, Sam dropped his head into his hands. He felt numb. They were often injured in their line of work, but this was different; Dean had been hurt by a human. That was something Sam would never understand. With so many monsters in the world, how could one human hurt another?

Restless, he sat up and stretched his long legs, noticing the blood staining his hands and clothes. When a shudder wracked his body, he realized he was going into shock. Leaning forward again, he put his head between his legs and forced himself to take deep, even breaths. Shock was one of the first "wounds" Sam had learned to treat. Their father had taught them that the condition wasn't a sign of weakness or something to be embarrassed about, but the natural reaction of a traumatized mind and body.

"Mr. . . .?"

The questioning voice brought Sam to his feet. He found himself towering over the African-American doctor who was treating Dean. Unable to think what name was on the card he was carrying to charge their bills, Sam bypassed the information she wanted and sought his own. "How's my brother?"

"It appears he has a hematoma." Without prompting, she added, "Which means he has bleeding between his skull and his brain."

Sam wasn't a doctor, but he knew what she was telling him meant Dean was in serious trouble.

"We have him on a ventilator," the doctor continued, "and are doing a CT scan to determine if it's epidural, subdural or intracranial."

"Then what?" prompted Sam.

"If the CT scan is negative, we'll keep him under observation."

Years of dealing with injuries and medical personnel had taught Sam how to read between the lines. "You don't think it will be negative."

"No," she answered honestly.

"Which means?"

"Which means we'll have to operate as soon as possible."

Feeling as though his legs had been knocked out from under him, Sam stared sightlessly at the curtain separating him from his brother, and collapsed onto the chair he had just vacated. He felt just as helpless now as he had when Dean's heart had been damaged hunting the Rawhead.

"We'll need you to fill out a form giving us permission to operate," the doctor continued.

Sam nodded, unable to supply verbal confirmation past the lump in his throat.

"Try not to worry." For the first time the physician's voice showed her compassion. "Dr. Shepherd is one of the best neurosurgeons in the country."

"If you want," a strange voice offered, "we'll get the best."

Lifting his head, Sam saw an older couple standing at the doctor's side. His current position making him feel vulnerable, he rose on shaky legs.

The man offered his hand. "Sam? I'm Jeffrey Kendall, Cindy's father, and this is her mother--"

"Roberta," the woman supplied.

"I'm Dr. Bailey," the physician politely introduced herself. "I assure you, Dr. Shepherd is more than capable of performing the operation if it becomes necessary."

"We'll leave the decision up to Sam," said Mr. Kendall. "We'll cover any medical treatment deemed necessary. Don't worry about the cost."

Roberta added, "You saved our daughter's life, there's nothing we can do that will repay you."

In a daze, Sam followed each person's conversation. He felt as though he were at a tennis match, watching a particularly fast volley. His stupor disappeared when the curtains around Dean's cubicle were pushed aside. Taking a step towards the motionless body on the gurney, he demanded, "What's going on?"

"We're taking Dean to the surgical ward," explained Bailey. "The more prepared we are, the sooner we can operate, depending on the tests results."

Sam took another step toward the gurney. "I'm coming with you."

"Dr. Grey," Bailey called to a young female physician, "will show you to the surgical waiting room."

"Sir," a male voice called.

A hand tugged at Sam's sleeve, preventing him from following in Dean's wake. Turning, Sam confronted an orderly. His earnest eyes conveyed his regret along with a sense of urgency.

"Your car is blocking the emergency entrance and we have an ambulance coming in."

Wishing he could clone himself so he could do what he wanted to do and what he needed to do, Sam stared at the car keys in his hand.

"Why don't I move the car?" Jeffrey Kendall quietly suggested, holding out his hand. "I'll meet you up in the waiting room."

Sam knew he should refuse the offer, not only because Dean would be furious when he found out Sam had allowed a stranger to drive his baby, but because of what the car contained. If the man snooped around, he might find their weapons stash. However, even the danger this possibility posed wasn't enough to make Sam refuse. With barely a second thought, he dropped the keys in the outstretched hand. "Thank you."

"I'll meet you upstairs," Kendall promised, then hurried away.

Patting Sam's arm, Roberta pointed to the cubicle where her daughter was being treated. "We thank you."

"It's my brother you need to thank," Sam firmly reiterated.

"We will," said Roberta confidently. "As soon as he's conscious. Now you go."

Sam didn't need any more urging. Shortening his stride to match Dr. Grey's, he stayed glued to her side as she led him down a corridor to a bank of elevators. People passing by gave them funny looks as they waited for a car. Sam saw the stares were aimed at his blood-stained clothes, but he ignored them. It was a hospital. This couldn't be the first time they had seen someone covered in blood.

The short elevator ride was followed by another long walk. This time they passed through a wide, glassed-in open area. All Sam could think was how dangerous it would be if a poltergeist visited Seattle Grace.

"Here we are." Grey indicated a scattering of chairs in a large room. "You can wait here."

"Where's my brother?" asked Sam.

The doctor pointed down the corridor to her left. "He's being prepped for surgery."

"Can I see him?"

"I'm sorry." Grey started to walk away. "Why don't you make yourself comfortable? Someone will let you know what's going on as soon as we have the test results."

Deciding a verbal acknowledgment was a waste of breath, Sam simply nodded. He crossed to the chair that would give him the best view of the hallway, and sat down.

Time moved slowly. Sam barely noticed Jeffrey Kendall's arrival or the return of the car keys, but he was grateful to the older man when he took the chair next to Sam's without quoting a single platitude. Sam didn't need or want to hear meaningless words of encouragement.

A clipboard with pages of forms was thrust into his hand. He filled out what he could using a fake name and one of their post office boxes for an address. He would just have to remember to cancel it once Dean was discharged from the hospital. As soon as he was done, Jeffrey took the papers and entered his charge card number as a voucher of payment.

Sam's eyes were gritty and dry. He was afraid to blink, afraid he would miss Dean. A touch on his shoulder alerted him to the presence of two police officers. He stiffened, praying they wouldn't lock him away before he knew Dean's status.

"Sir," the older of the two said, "I'm Sergeant Wright and this is my partner, Officer Garner."

Puzzled, Sam stared blankly at the two men. He had never seen policemen introduce themselves before arresting a suspect.

"First," Wright continued, "we want to thank you for saving Miss Kendall's life."

Sam felt like he should make a recording. "You need to thank my brother."

"We hope to."

The sentiment was spoken with a sincerity Sam hadn't expected. Their encounters with law enforcement had rarely been amicable.

"But according to Miss Kendall, after your brother was hurt, your intervention drove the rapist away," said Garner. "We need to get your statement concerning the attack."

Sam glanced anxiously at Jeffrey Kendall. A father should never hear how close his little girl came to death.

Taking the hint, Jeffrey rose. "I think I'll go check on my daughter."

Sam waited until he was a sufficient distance away before he started to relay what had happened. He spoke slowly so the officers could take comprehensive notes. He wanted the man caught and punished, and not just for what he had done to Dean.

"If you saw this man again would you recognize him?" asked Wright.

"No." Sam shook his head. "I never saw his face. He had the hood of his sweatshirt covering most of it. Between that and the fog, I didn't see any details."

"Do you think your brother might have seen more?"

"Probably, he was a lot closer." Sam glanced worriedly down the hall. "Didn't Cindy give you a description?"

"Not yet."

"She's still too traumatized," explained Garner. "She says she can't remember. We're hoping that will change once she gets some help."

"This isn't the first time a woman was raped in that area," Wright elaborated.

"It was the fifth."

"The other four women were killed after they were raped."

Sam's knees gave out and he sank down onto his chair. This was worse than he had imagined. He wondered if Cindy knew how lucky she was.

"We've increased police presence in the vicinity," said Wright, "and warned the public–"

"But if it wasn't for you and your brother there would have been a fifth victim," Garner bluntly stated.

Raising his eyes to meet the sergeant's, Sam said, "I'm glad we showed up when we did."

Wright put his notebook away. "I'll be glad when your brother can give us a lead so we can catch this bastard."

"Mr. Runyun."

Recognizing the alias, Sam stood to face Dr. Bailey and another doctor a man with the name "Dr. Shepherd" stitched over the breast pocket of his white coat. The expressions on the physicians' faces were enough to tell Sam they didn't have good news for him.

"The CT scan shows bleeding in Dean's skull," said Bailey without preamble. "This is the neurosurgeon I told you about, Dr. Shepherd."

"I'll be performing the operation to relieve the pressure in your brother's head," Shepherd explained.

It took Sam a few false starts before he was able to find his voice. "What will you have to do?"

"I'm going to bore two holes in his skull to let the blood drain."

Somehow, Sam managed to keep from collapsing back onto his chair. Though, considering how things were going, he decided it would probably be safer if he just stayed seated.

"It sounds worse than it is," Shepherd hastily comforted. "It's more routine than you think."

"Not for us," gasped Sam.

Wright stepped forward. "Any chance we can talk to him before you put him under, Doc?"

Resentment rose in Sam, almost choking him. He understood the officer's frustration and even admired his single-minded desire to catch the man responsible for his brother's injury. But if anyone got to see Dean, Sam was determined it would be himself.

"I'm sorry," said Shepherd. "Mr. Runyun hasn't regained consciousness since he was admitted."

With an apologetic glance at Sam, Wright shrugged. "I had to ask."

Shepherd patted Sam on the shoulder. "I'll come see you as soon as the operation's over."

A nod seemed to satisfy the physician. Sam watched Shepherd and Bailey walk away in one direction while the police officers went in the other. Stretching out in his chair, Sam looked around the empty room, wishing someone was there who could understand what he was going through. Dean was the only family he had left, and Sam felt very alone.

********

Sam sat next to the bed, his eyes rarely straying from his brother's pale face. They had told him the operation had been successful and that, assuming there were no complications, Dean would make a full recovery. Sam wanted to believe their reassurances, but looking at the bandages around Dean's head and remembering what had been done to save his life, it was difficult.

As he waited for his brother to wake up, Sam tried to think of ways he could tease Dean about having holes in his head. But Sam knew it would be a while before he would find anything funny in the injury.

The door behind him whispered open. Sam didn't bother to look to see who had entered. He knew it would be Shepherd, Bailey, or a nurse. They would check the machines monitoring Dean's vital signs, copy the information on his chart, and, last but not least, offer a meaningless platitude that was supposed to make Sam feel better. Their efforts would fail, leaving him feeling even more frightened and lonely.

"Mr. Runyun?"

Sam ignored the unfamiliar voice. He had discovered it didn't seem to matter if he responded to their inquiries, so he had stopped acknowledging their presence.

"Mr. Runyun," the woman's voice repeated before continuing, "Cindy wanted me to give you this."

The allusion to the girl who had almost died beside Dean gained Sam's attention. He turned his head and rested his eyes on the tall, blonde physician who had won Cindy's trust in the ER. "Dr. Stevens, isn't it?" asked Sam.

"Yes."

"How's Cindy?"

"She still can't remember most of the details of the attack."

"If she's lucky, she never will."

Nodding agreement, Stevens said, "She'll be all right; she has lots of family support."

"She seems to be lucky all-around."

The woman smiled, but it seemed forced and infinitely sad to Sam. She held the coat out to him.

"Cindy asked me to make sure you got this."

"Thank you, Doctor." Sam took his jacket and hung it on the back of his chair.

"Please, call me Izzy." She handed him another article of clothing. "I also brought you this."

Sam reluctantly took the blue scrub top. Blood on his clothes was the least of his worries. He set the shirt on Dean's bedside table.

"I really think you should change," urged Izzy. "How do you think your brother will react when he sees you covered in blood?"

The fluid had long since dried on the light gray t-shirt. Most people would attribute the dark stain to water or some other liquid. But Dean wasn't most people. He would know blood had been the cause and would immediately assume Sam was hurt. Retrieving the scrub shirt, Sam started for the bathroom but stopped before entering. "I don't want to leave him alone."

"You go ahead, I'll stay with him," Izzy offered.

"A doctor has time to baby-sit?"

"I'm on probation."

Instead of feeling reassured, Sam felt like stepping between Dean and the young intern. No one but the best was good enough for his brother.

"I broke the rules," continued Izzy, "trying to save my fiancé's life."

Deciding he might have been a bit hasty in his judgment, Sam asked, "Were you successful?"

"Initially."

The pain in Izzy's eyes more than her words made it clear to Sam her fiancé had died. For over a year, he had seen the same look of loss reflected in his own eyes. He could see she needed to talk, and was biting her lip to keep from saying anything more. When he had tried to find a sense of closure after Jess's death, Sam had discovered that sometimes it was easier to talk with strangers than with family or friends. "What happened?"

Izzy opened Dean's chart.

Sam knew she wasn't really reading what had been written on the sheets inside; her hands just needed something to do.

"Denny, that was his name, Denny Duquette," She bravely smiled, and squaring her shoulders lifted her head. "He had a bad heart and needed a transplant I did something unethical that put him at the top of the donors list and he got a new heart."

When she paused, Sam kept silent. It was obviously hard for her to relive the incident. Pushing her would only make it more difficult, which wouldn't be cathartic, only painful.

"The transplant was successful," Izzy finally revealed. "But Denny had a history of blood clots. He died on the same day he asked me to marry him . . . three doors down from here."

This time, Sam didn't say anything because he didn't know what to say. He knew from experience that sometimes platitudes only drove the pain deeper. A moan from Dean broke the awkward silence. Throwing modesty aside, Sam pulled off his t-shirt and slipped on the scrub. It was a bit short, barely reaching his waistband, but it was clean and free of bloodstains.

Hoping the verbalization meant Dean was regaining consciousness, Sam leaned in close, wrapping his hand around his brother's. "Dean?"

Another groan, louder this time, answered Sam's inquiry. Happy Dean had responded, Sam wished it had been in a manner that didn't make it quite so clear Dean was hurting.

Dean's free hand rose a few inches off the blanket before flopping back down. "My head," he groaned.

Intimate knowledge of his brother made Sam realize he would have to make Dean understand the severity of his injury or Dean would be insisting they leave. "You had a subdural hematoma," Sam explained, his voice catching. "They had to drill two holes in your skull to drain the blood."

This information opened Dean's eyes. "Dude, you let them turn my head into a bowling ball?"

"Not quite." A relieved smile curved Sam's lips. "A bowling ball has three holes. Would you like me to ask them to put in another hole?

"Would you like your other hand broken?" Dean grumbled.

"Without the operation, Mr. Runyun," said Izzy, her gaze shifting uneasily between the brothers, "you would've died."

To see who was speaking, Dean had to turn his head. Sam could tell it was a movement Dean regretted as soon as he made it. His mouth opened and closed several times as he fought to keep from spewing the contents of his stomach. Knowing how embarrassed his brother would be if he vomited in front of a pretty girl, Sam tried to distract him. "This is Izzy Stevens. She's one of your doctors."

"Well, not technically," corrected Izzy.

Sam shook his head at her and frowned.

Clearly understanding the obvious command, Izzy quickly added, "But it doesn't mean I can't look in on you now and then."

A soft sigh of relief escaped Sam's lips when he saw Dean's eyes grow large with pleasure. Dean was nothing if not predictable. Having a pretty woman look after his needs was better medicine than anything the doctors would prescribe.

Dean stared at Izzy and tried to sit up. "Dad?"

Frightened that Dean would confuse a beautiful blonde woman with their father, Sam gently repeated, "Her," he emphasized, "name is Izzy."

"Dad, is that really you?"

Sam realized Dean was looking past Izzy, not at her. Speaking slowly and clearly, Sam said, "Dean, you know it can't be Dad."

"Dad," Dean whispered as his eyes closed and he slumped back onto his pillow.

"It's all right," soothed Izzy, eyes checking the readouts on the monitors. "Sometimes a trauma of this sort can cause hallucinations. It might make Dean feel better if you could get your father to visit."

"Our dad died a couple months ago."

"I'm sorry."

"He died saving Dean's life."

Izzy brightened. "Then it's possible your father is here and we just can't see him."

"No." Sam sadly shook his head, knowing their father couldn't have crawled out of Hell. "It isn't possible."

Her cheeks growing red, Izzy confessed, "I sometimes think Denny is still here."

Raising his head, Sam stared at her. "Why?"

"It's silly, really." The flushed cheeks almost glowed. "Sometimes, I think I feel his hand brush my hair."

While Sam wouldn't have been surprised to discover the hospital contained a ghost or that one of them was this Denny person, he was certain what his brother had seen wasn't John Winchester. No matter how much he wanted it to be.

Clearing her throat, Izzy continued, "The type of surgery your brother had can lead to episodes of confusion. I'm sure that's all this is."

"Yeah," Sam hesitantly agreed. "You're probably right."

"Let me know if you need anything." Izzy backed toward the exit.

"Thank you."

Sam turned his full attention back to Dean as Izzy slipped out the door. The encounter made Sam feel like he was missing something, the equivalent of having an itch and being unable to scratch it. It bothered him that Dean thought he had seen their father. His brother had enough physical pain to deal with right now. He didn't need the added stress of battling the emotional wounds of their father's death, too.

********

When Dean woke up, there was no beautiful woman to distract him from the unrelenting drums beating in his skull. In fact, he thought he was alone until he carefully turned his head and saw Sam. His brother was asleep, head resting on folded arms near Dean's shoulder. Even with blurry vision, Dean could see the bruised flesh under Sam's eyes, amplifying the younger man's exhaustion. For a man Sam's size, the position he had assumed couldn't be very comfortable. Another indication of how tired he must be.

Dean wanted to wake him and tell him to go find his own bed, but he hesitated. There was no doubt in Dean's mind that Sam would deny his need for proper rest and insist his place was at Dean's side. The pounding in his skull made Dean want to avoid any altercation.

Only to himself could he admit the real reason he let his brother sleep. While the attack in the alley was hazy, Dean remembered his last period of consciousness in vivid detail. The memory made his cheeks burn with mortification. He knew there was no way he could have seen John Winchester's ghost. Their father was dead, his body salted and burned, and his soul condemned to Hell.

Closing his eyes, Dean trapped the tear threatening to escape. He missed his father, more than he had ever thought possible. A soft moan hissed through his lips. It was a sign of emotional pain rather than physical.

"Dean?" Sam's concerned voice quietly asked, "Do you need a doctor?"

Reopening his eyes, Dean saw his brother's hand hovering over the call button. "I'm good," assured Dean.

"It doesn't sound like it," Sam contradicted, massaging his shoulders and wincing in pain.

"Pot calling kettle."

"Jerk."

"Bitch." The throbbing in his head making his eyeballs hurt, Dean urged, "Go find a bed and get some decent sleep."

 

This was one request Sam badly wanted to pursue, but despite the doctors' assurances that his brother was doing well, combined with Dean's own corroboration, Sam was reluctant to leave. He didn't want Dean to be alone in case he had another hallucination – especially if that delusion came in the shape of their father. When reality returned, Dean should not endure the pain alone.

"I'm fine," said Sam.

"Have you looked in a mirror lately?" Dean asked.

Now that the seed had been planted, the desire to stretch out on a bed and lay his head on a pillow was so strong Sam felt physically ill. "I guess I could leave for a couple hours," he conceded.

"Make it more like ten."

It was clear by the tone in his voice that Dean wouldn't negotiate further. Deciding to fight this battle later, Sam agreed. "I'll see you in ten hours."

A triumphant smile on his lips, Dean closed his eyes.

As Sam watched, his brother's facial muscles relaxed. This, coupled with the gentle rise and fall of Dean's chest, told Sam the short conversation had tired his brother enough to allow him to fall asleep.

Sadly realizing Dean's recovery would be prolonged and that the sight of his brother sleeping would become all too familiar, Sam rose to his feet. He hesitated at the door, glancing at Dean's lax features. The last time he had seen his brother this vulnerable was a few short months ago after the car crash that had almost killed Dean. Sam shuddered at the memory. One such experience was enough for him. He didn't need it repeated.

With a forced resolve, Sam hurried out the door. Once in the hallway, he stopped, uncertain where he should go. They hadn't been in Seattle long enough to get a motel room. Since their stay would obviously be lengthier than normal, using a bogus credit card would be out of the question.

With an unhappy sigh, Sam realized he had only two options: stretch out on the chairs in the waiting room or on the backseat of the Impala. Just the image of either choice made his neck ache.

"Is there a problem, Sam?"

Sam looked up to see Dr. Shepherd bearing down on him. Shaking his head, Sam said, "Dean's fine. He kicked me out, thinks I need some sleep."

"Smart guy I guess there was no brain damage from the operation."

A wan smile curved Sam's lips.

Obviously interpreting the conflicting emotions on Sam's face, Shepherd suggested, "Why don't you bunk down in the on-call room?"

"I'm not a doctor," Sam unnecessarily pointed out.

Smiling broadly, Shepherd said, "No one can tell when the room's dark."

The prospect of staying close to his brother and being able to stretch out on a bed was too powerful a lure for Sam to refuse. "Thanks."

Shepherd pointed down the hall. "It's the last door on the left. I'll tell the nurses where you are in case your brother needs you."

"Thank you again."

"Hey, don't be too grateful. I can already tell you the bed is going to be too short and too hard."

"It's still better than chairs or a car."

"Only slightly." Shepherd smiled.

When Shepherd walked away, Sam hurried down to the room the physician had indicated. So tired he was swaying on his feet, he wasn't taking any chances the offer might be rescinded.

Light from the corridor spilled into the dark room, allowing Sam to see the bottom bunk on the right was empty. Closing the door behind him made his light-blinded eyes useless so he used his other senses to make his way to the bed.

His questing fingers touched the cold metal of the frame. A sigh of exhaustion draining the energy from his muscles, Sam flopped onto the thin mattress, kicked off his shoes, and was asleep before his feet found the end of the bed.

********

This time when Dean woke up, something felt off. Instinct kept him from moving a muscle or opening his eyes. The slight headache and the groggy feeling he usually attributed to drugs had accompanied him back to consciousness, but even they couldn't hinder years of training. He waited, wondering what had alerted him.

He finally realized there was someone in the room. But that shouldn't have made his nerves scream danger. There had not been a single instance since his surgery where he had awakened to find himself alone.

One thing he was certain of; the person standing at the end of his bed wasn't Sam. Dean never felt threatened around his brother. The lack of motion indicated his visitor probably wasn't a nurse or a doctor. They didn't have the time to waste staring at a sleeping patient.

Realizing the only way he would find the answer to his question was to open his eyes, Dean reluctantly allowed his lids to roll up. The light in the room momentarily blinded him and sent knives stabbing through his head.

Pain making him squint, Dean glared at the man in the ill-fitting white coat leaning against his bed, recognizing him immediately. "I wouldn't have thought I was your type."

The man smiled, revealing capped teeth. "You saw my face."

"It's a view I could've lived without," said Dean.

Beneath the stolen doctor's coat, Dean could see a tailored shirt and silk tie. This guy didn't fit the usual profile one associated with a rapist. He obviously had money and education. Not the type of person the police generally investigated concerning back-alley attacks.

Under normal conditions, Dean could subdue this guy with ease despite the fact there was a couple inches and at least twenty pounds difference between them. But in his present condition, Dean couldn't beat a five-year-old in an arm wrestling contest.

Stalling for time, Dean pressed, "Where's your weapon of choice?"

"Tire irons are hard to hide in a pocket."

"Bet you feel naked without it."

The man shrugged. "I didn't need to bring my own weapon. Hospitals kindly provide their own." He took a syringe from his pocket. Pulling back the plunger, he filled it with air.

Dean knew he couldn't press the call button; it would put a nurse in peril. Eyes never leaving the deadly syringe, he asked, "Do I at least get to know the name of my murderer?"

Blue eyes thoughtfully studied Dean. "You can call me Mr. Reese."

"I think Asshole is more appropriate."

Anger flushing his cheeks, Reese rounded the bed, heading for the IV bag.

Determined not to die without a fight, Dean frantically tugged at the needle in his left hand. Blood trickled from the small puncture wound left behind. His chest heaved from the exertion.

"You're just going to make this harder on yourself."

"I've never been one to take the easy way out."

"Injecting air into a vein will produce the same results as injecting it into the IV."

Dean glared at the man, saving his energy and building his courage. What he was about to do was going to take split-second timing – and hurt like hell.

A smile revealing unnaturally white teeth, Reese said, "I'm going to enjoy this."

"I thought you needed a helpless female to feel pleasure?" Dean kept his attention on the needle moving slowly toward his arm.

"Rape is one thing. I'm not as particular when it comes to murder."

"An equal opportunity killer. How very PC of you."

The tip of the needle pierced the skin above Dean's left elbow. Before Reese could depress the plunger, Dean slammed his arm against the bed frame breaking the needle and crushing the syringe.

"That was stupid," hissed Reese. "It's not like I can't get another."

Gritting his teeth against the pain and nausea, Dean said, "Take your time, I'm not going anywhere."

"Oh, well, I always was a more hands-on kind of guy."

The pain from the broken needle in his arm taking more attention than it should, Dean was slow to react when strong fingers wrapped around his neck and began to squeeze. He feebly tried to break the hold denying him air.

His arms had fallen limply to the mattress and his vision had started to blur when he saw his father standing behind Reese. Dean had often seen raw anger twist his father's face, but it had never been directed towards a human – until now. John Winchester's arms circled Reese's chest, breaking the grip he had on Dean and dragging the murderer away from the bed.

"Dad!" Dean breathlessly gasped, his eyes misting over from the pain, the lack of air, and the presence of his father.

When his door burst open, Dean wasn't surprised to see Sam enter, a worried frown creasing his brow. Nor was it a shock that John Winchester had disappeared. Knowing he was safe, Dean allowed himself to flow away to where the pain couldn't follow. Sam – and his father – had his back.

 

"Dean!" Sam kept one eye on the strange doctor as he crossed to his brother. He caught a glimpse of red finger marks circling Dean's throat and noticed the rapid rise and fall of Dean's chest. Immediately suspicious, he turned to the doctor. "What did you do?"

"Nothing." The doctor backed farther away from the bed. "I found him like this."

The voice was so insincere, Sam didn't even pretend he believed the lie. "I think you should talk to the police."

The doctor stuck his hand in his pocket and lunged for the door.

His long legs covering the distance in half the time, Sam reached out to grab a sleeve and prevent the man's escape. He barely had time to register the presence of the metal blade before it came slashing across the palm of his left hand. His cry echoed around the room, but Sam didn't falter. His cast-encased right arm swiftly blocked another swipe. Though the pain almost made him black out, he grabbed his attacker's wrist and twisted hard. The "doctor" felt to his knees with a whimper as Sam forced himself to tighten his grip.

The door suddenly swung open, almost slamming into the downed man. A nurse had partially entered but stopped when Sam held up a bleeding hand. "Get the police," he ordered, "and page Dr. Shepherd."

When his captive started to struggle, Sam rotated the man's thumb until he heard the bone crack. The fight ended with an anguished cry. What little remorse Sam felt died when his eyes rested on his unconscious brother.

A small pool of blood from his sliced hand had formed at Sam's feet by the time the police arrived. He was glad to see it was the same two officers who had questioned him previously.

"What the hell's going on?" demanded Sergeant Wright.

Dropping his assailant's arm as if it was burning him, Sam explained, "I think this is your rapist."

Garner skeptically regarded the white coat. "Looks like a doctor to me."

Indicating his bleeding hand and the bloody scalpel, Sam said, "Then he's a doctor who generates his own patients."

Dr. Shepherd pushed through the partially blocked door. "What's going on?"

"You know this guy, Doc?" asked Wright.

"Never saw him before." His attention shifting to focus on Dean, Shepherd crossed to the bed. One hand wrapped around Dean's wrist, checking his pulse as the other gently probed the swelling flesh around the discolored neck. "I've never known strangulation to be a cure for anything."

Moving to his brother's side, Sam demanded, "Is Dean all right?"

Carefully plucking the broken needle from Dean's arm, Shepherd said, "I need to do some tests to be certain, but it looks like you arrived in the proverbial nick of time. Do you have a big, red "S" on your chest under that shirt?"

Sam put his right hand on Dean's shoulder. "I wish I did."

"He gonna be conscious soon, Doc?" Garner asked, nodding towards Dean.

"It's hard to say," said Shepherd.

Garner explained, "We need positive identification to charge him with rape and murder."

Wright pulled his prisoner to his feet and gave him a light shake, "We can only hold this guy for assault at the present time."

"I'm sure Dean will be able to give you a statement," assured Shepherd. "But from the bruises on my patient and the cut on Sam's hand, I'd say you can charge him with attempted murder."

"That should work." Garner smiled as he put his cuffs on the thick wrists, ignoring the swollen thumb, and started to lead him from the room.

Two young women almost crashed into them as they came flying through the door. One was Izzy Stevens. The other was a young Asian woman with a hopeful look on her face.

"Dr. Stevens," ordered Shepherd, "take care of Sam's hand."

Trying to hide her disappointment at receiving the menial task, Izzy said, "Yes, Doctor."

"Dr. Yang, I'll need you to assist me with some tests."

Letters and words Sam only half-recognized from previous trips to the hospital rolled off Shepherd's tongue. The obvious competency of the man should have been encouraging, but Sam only felt panic as Stevens and Shepherd pushed him out of the room. He'd left Dean alone once before and look what had happened. Doing so again was pure torture.

"We'll take good care of Dean," Shepherd promised, patting Sam's arm. "I'll come and get you myself when we're done."

As reassurances went, it fell flat as far as Sam was concerned. He knew the only person who could ease his fear was Dean.

*******

When Dean regained consciousness, he knew he wasn't alone, only this time the presence in the room didn't make him feel uneasy, it made him feel safe. Opening his eyes, he rested his gaze on his brother. Sam was sitting in a chair next to his bed. The bandage on his left hand made Dean frown. "What happened to you?"

"Your visitor tried to play doctor," explained Sam.

Considering how rough and garbled his voice sounded, Dean was impressed Sam was able to understand him. He guessed it came from years together, through all kinds of sickness and injury. "I could do without visitors like that."

"Yeah." Sam nodded. "The bruises on your neck are a dead giveaway."

Dean lifted the hand without the IV to inspect his throat. A hand much larger than his own pulled it away.

"Leave it," Sam ordered.

About to argue that it was his throat and he could do what he wanted, Dean wasn't surprised when Sam diverted his attention.

"I take it your visitor was the one who clocked you and tried to rape Cindy?"

"Yeah." Dean glanced at the bruise on his upper left arm. "He didn't want to leave any witnesses."

"Good thing I came back when I did."

Though Dean wanted to agree, partially because it hurt to talk but mostly to ease his brother's conscience, he couldn't. "You were too late, Sam."

Sam shook his head. "The fact that you're talking to me, if you want to call that noise talking, is proof I wasn't."

"I was almost out of it," admitted Dean," but I saw Dad pull Reese off me." Dean didn't look at his brother as he made the revelation. He didn't want to see the pity on Sam's face. However, it didn't stop him from hearing it in the concerned response.

"Dean, you know it couldn't have been Dad."

"I know what I saw, Sam."

"He couldn't have crawled out of Hell, Dean."

"How can you be so sure?"

"There's no way out of Hell. That's what makes it Hell."

"I know what I saw," Dean stubbornly repeated.

"Dean, you saw what you wanted to see."

"It was Dad." Dean fought to keep the tears escaping from his eyes. He wasn't sure if he felt like crying because he was frustrated with his brother or because he missed his father.

Though the voice was raspy and almost unrecognizable, Sam recognized the tone. No matter what argument he tried to make, Dean would stick with his story. If it made Dean feel better, Sam was willing to concede, but considering how difficult it had been for Dean to accept their father's death, Sam didn't think it would be healthy to back down. However, now wasn't a good time to continue the dispute. Dean's throat had to be sore, and talking only made it worse. Searching his brain for a way to change the subject, Sam was relieved when the door opened.

A nurse entered with a tray of food. Putting it on the over-bed table, she pressed the button to bring Dean up to a sitting position before pushing the tray so it sat in front of him. "I expect these dishes to be empty when I come back."

Sam could tell it wasn't an idle threat. He smiled as his brother and the formidable woman squared off.

"I'm not hungry," groused Dean.

"You better get hungry if you don't want to be fed through a tube in your stomach." Turning her back, the nurse quickly left the room.

"Come on, Dean," Sam wheedled, "if you want to get your strength back so you can get out of here, you have to eat."

Putting an elbow on the tray, Dean propped his head up with a balled fist. "Good advice, Dear Abby. Why don't you follow it yourself?"

"I'm not hungry." Looking at the cup of broth and Jell-O on Dean's tray, Sam felt almost weak at the knees with hunger. He just couldn't bring himself to leave Dean's side again.

"Try saying that with a little more enthusiasm and I might believe you."

Sam's stomach growled, making it impossible for him to continue with the lie. "I'll go," he conceded, "if you promise to eat everything on your tray."

"I promise to do my best," Dean compromised.

Looking at the meager contents, Sam was dismayed by the realization that his brother, who under normal circumstances ate everything in sight, felt the need to negotiate. It was another indication Dean's recovery was going to take time. And patience. More from Sam than Dean.

*******

Sam swallowed the last bite of his sandwich and followed it with the remainder of his carton of milk. Tossing his used napkin on the empty plate, he sat back in his seat, enjoying the sun warming the open-air courtyard. The bright, yellow ball was a rare sight in Seattle – and to hunters. For someone who had spent the last several days inside amidst the gloom and anxiety of a hospital, it was a good omen.

According to Shepherd, Dean was healing well. The more recent attack had not set back his recovery. Dean should be able to leave the hospital the following week, provided he went home and got plenty of rest. A slight problem since the Winchesters didn't have a home. But Sam would figure something out. In fact that obstacle seemed easier to scale than the one concerning their father. Sam was torn. He didn't think it would be healthy for Dean to continue to think John Winchester had saved his life. But was it any healthier destroying his conviction?

With a soft sigh of disappointment, Sam realized he really wasn't enjoying basking in the sun without Dean at his side.

Pushing back his chair, Sam rose, picked up his tray, and took it to the nearest trash can. His path took him by a table containing a number of familiar faces. However, the only name he could recall was Izzy Stevens'. "Dr. Stevens," he politely greeted the young physician.

Izzy had taken her cell phone out of her pocket and was turning it on. She smiled at Sam while she waited for the screen to light up. "Hi, Sam. How's the hand?"

"A little sore." Sam idly glanced down at the phone in her hand. The picture filling the screen was Izzy and John Winchester. It looked as though someone had held the camera phone at arm's length and snapped the photo. "W-who's that," he stuttered, pointing at the smiling couple.

Izzy gently brushed her thumb across the surface of the phone. "That's me and Denny, my fiancé." Her smile faded. "I took this the night he died."

"That's Denny Duquette?" demanded Sam.

Frowning at the urgency in his voice, Izzy nodded. "Yes."

With a hand on the back of her chair to steady himself, Sam closed his eyes and sighed. "Thank you."

Misunderstanding, Izzy said, "You're welcome, but your hand wasn't that badly damaged. Still, you'll have to be careful. The knife didn't cut muscle, but it did nick a ligament."

Sam politely listened to her warning as he waited for the strength to return to his legs. It was something he was starting to get used to; it had happened so often since Dean's injury. Sam willed strength to his muscles. He had important research to do before he confronted Dean. "Is there an internet café nearby?"

"Across the street," directed Izzy.

Ignoring the puzzled look on her face, Sam repeated, "Thank you."

With as much speed as he could muster on a full stomach, Sam left the lounge area and the hospital. Shielding his eyes from the bright sun, he scanned for his target. Once he found it, he was so focused on his destination he almost walked in front of a moving car.

He entered the small store, and paid for a half an hour of computer time. That, coupled with the time he had already taken, was more than enough to be away from his brother. But he had no choice. He knew Dean would require proof before he accepted Sam's theory.

*******

The tray had disappeared with its half-empty dishes and still there was no Sam. Dean had been relieved when his brother hadn't reappeared in time to see how little Dean had eaten. But as the minutes continued to tick away, he had started to get worried. He knew Sam. After the confrontation with Reese, his brother would be a little more anxious and a lot more protective.

"Dean!" Sam fairly shouted his brother's name as he crashed through the door.

Ignoring the pinch of the IV needle when he jumped in surprise, Dean anxiously asked, "What's wrong?"

"What?" Looking around, Sam said, "Nothing's wrong."

"Then why did you come in here like Freddy Krueger was on your tail?"

"Sorry," Sam sheepishly apologized, placing a handful of papers on Dean's tray table. Pushing the table over the bed with the back of his bandaged hand, he used the other to bring the head of Dean's bed up to a sitting position.

"What's this?" asked Dean, picking up the top sheet. His hand started to shake as his eyes rested on the face of the man in the picture. "Dad?"

"Dean, it's not Dad," Sam gently corrected.

His pale face flushing red with anger, Dean snapped, "I think I know my own father, Sam."

The pain twisting his features as Sam picked up the second sheet and handed it to his brother was obviously mental rather than physical. The article detailed the formation of a free clinic at Seattle Grace thanks to a generous donation from the estate of Denny Duquette. Halfway down the page there was a smaller picture of the one Dean held in his hand.

The color draining from his face, Dean looked at his brother in bewilderment. "What the–"

"You know how they say we all have a twin somewhere in the world? Apparently, Denny Duquette was Dad's."

"Why are you showing me this?"

"I think this is who saved you. Denny died in this hospital."

There was a lump in his throat that made it almost impossible for Dean to speak. "Of what?" he managed.

"He'd had a heart transplant." Sam retrieved a paper from the middle of the pile. "It was successful, but he died later from a blood clot."

"But why would he save me?"

Sam sat in the chair next to the bed. "Apparently, he was a really nice guy. I'm sure he thought you were worth saving."

To hide his shaking hand, Dean dropped the copy of the photo he had been holding. The face was so much like his father's it hurt to look at it. But he couldn't look away. Upon closer inspection, he saw there were enough differences to make Sam's story plausible. In these pictures this man had a smile on his clean-shaven face. He hadn't known the grief of losing a beloved wife. There was no sign of the physical or mental scars from hunting that had aged John Winchester beyond his years.

"One of the articles," Sam continued, "tells where Denny is buried. I'll go out tonight and salt and burn the bones."

"No," whispered Dean.

"Dean, his ghost is obviously haunting the hospital."

"If it wasn't, I'd be dead."

"You always said there's no such thing as a benevolent ghost."

"Just like we never thought there was a vampire that didn't look at humans like they were an all-you-can-eat buffet. We were wrong once, Sam, we could be wrong again."

Sam nodded slowly. "Salting and burning his bones does seem like a rotten way to say thank you."

"Yeah." Dean laid his head back on his pillow and closed his eyes. He knew Sam was relieved to have solved the mystery concerning Dean's savior. Dean, on the other hand, wasn't quite so happy. He had wanted the ghost to be John Winchester. It would have meant he wasn't still in Hell. It would have meant he was no longer suffering for saving his eldest son's life.

It would have meant Dean could let go of his guilt.

*******

Sam carefully eased the Impala off the highway and onto the dirt road. With one hand in a cast and the other heavily bandaged, it was dangerous – and painful – to grip the steering wheel since he could only use his fingers. He was glad they were close to their destination.

Letting up on the gas pedal, he checked the directions Bobby had given him. Dean would be upset enough about the abuse to his baby without having to do it twice.

Confident he had found the right driveway, Sam pushed down on the gas pedal and drove slowly down the rough track. Though, if Dean were awake, Sam was certain there would be more colorful words to describe the pot-holed, rock-strewn trail. Which was why Sam was glad Dean was still asleep, even if it did worry him. They were only about six hours out of Seattle. To them that was a short jaunt. Not a long enough period to require a nap.

Trees pressed in on both sides, making Sam a bit claustrophobic and filling the car with the scent of pine. He breathed deeply, feeling as though he was cleansing the inside of his body.

The track made a sharp turn to the left, then the right. The canopy of trees opened up to reveal a small rustic cabin. According to Bobby, there were two bedrooms, one bath, a recreation room, and a deck with a hot tub. It was the latter amenity that had convinced Sam to accept Bobby's friend's offer to stay here while Dean convalesced. They couldn't stay with Bobby it would be too hard to keep Dean away from rebuilding the cars in the junkyard. And Ellen's Roadhouse was out of the question. Dean hadn't returned there since they discovered their father was partially responsible for Ellen's husband's death.

Behind the house was a small lake Bobby had assured Sam was full of trout. Somehow, Sam couldn't imagine Dean sitting patiently on the pier fishing. Not unless his appetite improved.

Parking as close to the front door as he could, Sam turned off the engine and shook his brother's arm. "We're here."

Normally, Dean was instantly alert when he was awakened. That had not happened since the attack. Now, he was sluggish as he sat up and opened his eyes. He groaned at the dimming sun and quickly threw an arm across his face. "Where's here?"

Somehow, Sam swallowed a sigh of frustration before it escaped his lips. "I told you about the cabin. Now let's go inside."

"We don't have time for a vacation, Sam. People are dying."

"You almost died, Dean!" hissed Sam. Taking a couple of deep breaths to calm his temper, he said, "We're not hunting again until you start eating, can stay awake longer than thirty minutes, and I have at least one completely functioning hand."

Dean squinted out at the cabin. "Are we going to be living off the land, Daniel Boone?"

"There's supposed to be fish in the lake." Sam tried to control the smile on his face at Dean's look of disgust. "But you'd probably rather have the food Bobby's friend stocked in the kitchen."

"You got that right." Dean opened his door.

Realizing Dean's intention, Sam swiftly exited the car and went around to assist his brother, even though he knew it wouldn't be appreciated.

Both feet solidly on the ground, Dean ignored Sam's outstretched hand and used the door to pull himself to his feet. Looking back down the rough road, he growled, "You drove my baby down that?"

"It was the only way to get here."

"I told you we shouldn't have accepted Bobby's offer."

Sam no longer bothered to suppress a sigh. "Where else were we going to go, Dean?"

When Dean closed the car door and walked slowly to the stairs leading to the porch and the front door, Sam knew he had won. Though he tried to make it look like he wasn't, he hovered ready to lend a hand if it was needed, even though he really didn't have one to offer.

As soon as Dean was safely on the top step, Sam hurried over to the three-foot high wooden statue of a bear cub decorating one end of the porch. His finger felt around the cub's neck until it found the thin wire latch. He pressed it and the bear's jaw slid out, revealing a drawer with a key inside.

"That's it," said Dean, "we're leaving."

"Dean –"

"We stay in a place like this we're going to end up with diabetes."

Thinking it was more sad than funny that Dean would find the hide-a-key figurine insufferably sweet, Sam grabbed the key and unlocked the door before his brother made good on his threat. "It's getting late. Do you really want me to drive down that road in the dark?"

Dean looked at the darkening sky and then the rocky trail. "I guess one night couldn't hurt."

As he led the way into the cabin, Sam wondered how he was going to coerce Dean into staying until they were both well enough to get back into the fight. Hiding the car keys wouldn't work. Dean would just hot-wire the Impala. And if he stole the distributor cap, Dean would kill him. With a mental sigh, Sam realized the next few weeks weren't going to be as restful as he had hoped.

*******

The snow on the mountains was farther down than it had been when they first arrived. Dean shivered from his perch on the end of the short pier and stared out across the peaceful lake. It was the first time he could remember being in a position where he could enjoy such a view without having to worry about water sprites or murdered children looking for revenge. Though he would never admit it, particularly to Sam, Dean knew he had needed this reprieve. It didn't make the pain of their father's loss easier to bear nor diminish the fear he might have to do as his father had ordered and kill Sam if he couldn't save him. Nothing had been resolved, yet Dean felt more in control, ready to do the job again. Though, sometimes, he wished they could say "screw the job" and stay right there. Then he would never have to lose his brother.

The sound of footsteps pounding on the pier reached Dean's ears before his body felt the slight vibration of the wooden structure. He didn't jump as he would have when they first arrived. He knew it was Sam.

Two white pills were thrust into one of his hands, a glass of water into the other.

Dean didn't bother to argue or wonder how Sam always knew when he had a headache. He had learned to simply accept it, another by-product of being a brother.

"Bobby called." Sam sat down beside his brother.

"Does his friend want his cabin back?"

"No." Sam hesitated before continuing. "He wanted to let us know we wouldn't have to worry about testifying against Reese. He's dead."

Another major concern lifted from Dean's shoulders. There was always a chance the St. Louis murder would come to the attention of the police. But if Dean didn't testify, Reese might have been set free. Cindy's memory of the attack was still hazy, making Dean the star witness. Even if it endangered his own freedom, Dean wouldn't have let Reese walk the streets again. "What happened?"

"No one knows. They found Reese dead in his cell yesterday morning."

"Suicide? He didn't seem the type."

"Not unless he cut his own penis off and allowed himself to bleed to death."

"Ouch." Dean winced. A hand unconsciously covered his crotch.

"They didn't find a knife," Sam continued, "so they're not sure what happened."

Dean looked across at his brother. "Justice is what happened."

"You think one of his victims came after him?" Sam skeptically inquired.

"I've seen stranger things. So have you."

"Bobby must think so, too," Sam said. "He asked another hunter he knows in the area to salt and burn Reese's corpse and those of his victims."

Dean started to rise. "That's our job."

"It's being taken care of." Sam tried to pull Dean back down onto the dock, but Dean evaded his grip.

Taking one last long-lingering look at the mountain-framed lake, Dean started to walk away. "I'm eating and staying awake for hours at a time, and you have one functioning hand. It's time to go, Sammy."

With a disappointed glance, Sam rose and used his longer stride to catch up with his brother. "At least one good thing came out of this."

"What?" As much as he'd enjoyed this short imposed vacation, Dean couldn't think of anything beneficial that had come out of this last month.

"Well," said Sam with a smile that showed his dimples, "from now on when I say you've got holes in your head, you can't deny it."

Dean slapped his brother across the back of the head, and picked up his speed. He didn't want Sam to see the smile he couldn't hide.