Death After Sorrow

I'm The Only Backup He's Got

Rita eyed the worse for wear young man in front of her. "I just got a call from the police."

Sam returned her inquiring gaze steadily. He was too tired, too worn out, to play games with her tonight. "Yeah?"

"Lily is in custody, though it looks like she's being sent to a mental institution in the city. The police are saying she killed her father, and was responsible for the other murders," Rita continued nonchalant as she turned back to grab the paperwork for checking out. "Funny, thing, that. She's taken credit for all of them, and then some. She keeps ranting that she managed to kill the great Dean Winchester."

Sam's throat closed up, but he kept his expression steady. "That's a shame."

"Isn't it, Mr. Ulrich. Well, sorry to see you go, but I'm glad that article of yours worked out. You do these people justice, you hear? And you take care of that brother of yours."

"I will. And, thank you, Rita. For everything."

Rita nodded, and watched him walk out the door. Winchester. Somehow she doubted that would be the last she heard of that name, and that gave her hope that the devastation in Sam's eyes hadn't been real, that whatever had happened could be made better.

They were good boys, at heart, and in the end, that's all she really cared about.

"Sam, you need to get some rest," Bobby admonished as he found the youngest Winchester still sitting where he had left him hours ago, pouring over the books they had brought in from Faith.

"It's gotta be here, Bobby. If they knew enough to do this to him, they had to get the information from somewhere," Sam insisted. Then he blinked in awareness. "Why aren't you with Dean?"

Bobby looked away for a moment. It had been a week and a half since they'd returned from Faith, and Dean's condition had remained unchanged. Whatever had spurred him to defend his brother hadn't made another reappearance, not even to take care of survival needs. He couldn't eat, and would choke on any water they tried to pour down his throat. He just lay there, his blank eyes open and dry from the lack of blinking. Until tonight.


"His fever is up," Bobby reported. "His eyes are closed, so I think he finally passed out."

"That's good, then. I mean, he usually passes out when he's out of the trance," Sam replied, hope shinning in those hazel eyes.

Bobby felt like a heel for crushing it. "I don't think so, Sam. I think his body just can't hang on anymore. What we're doing, it's not working. There's a reason coma patients stay in the hospital."

"There's no point in taking him to the hospital. There's nothing they can do for him, and he'll just sign himself out when he wakes up," Sam insisted stubbornly, a mantra he had taken up since this discussion had first come around last week.

"They can keep him alive until we figure this out!" Bobby growled, hating to once again come up against the trademark stubbornness of the Winchesters. "We're not getting enough fluids into him, and what little we are, the fever is eating up. We're lucky he's still alive. If we don't do something soon, Sam, then he won't have a chance to wake up!"

Sam closed his eyes. He was too tired to keep the truth from Bobby, or himself, any longer. "I know."

"You-?" Bobby stuttered, shocked by the admission.

"What if we can't figure this out, Bobby? How long is he going to stay in that hospital?"


"No, Bobby. It's like you said, rotting away in a hospital bed, that's not who Dean is. I know my brother, and he would rather rot in the fires of hell than be stuck like that."

The old Hunter could see how much that admission had cost the young man. Sam wouldn't give up, but he wouldn't go against his brother's wishes, either. And like it or not, he was right. His own words flew back at him. We may not like it, and it may be plain scary to know, but it is what it is, and we just have to accept that.

Sam tiredly closed the book he had been reading, finally admitting there was nothing here. Being a professor, Knight could have potentially gotten the knowledge from anywhere. He rubbed his eyes with his fingers, scrunching his nose against the headache that had been lingering for days.

He wasn't stupid. He knew they were running out of time. They'd tried everything that had looked like even a potential cure, even an exorcism which had had disastrous results. It had been like trying to exorcise a part of his brother, and it had obviously been painful. Lily's taunts came back to haunt him time and time again. He didn't know how aware his brother was, but he wasn't taking any more chances. If only he could get inside Dean's head. The answer had to be there.

He blinked. "Oh my god! Why didn't I think of this before?"

Bobby frowned. "You wanna share with the class?"

Sam licked his lips. "Do you know any psychics? And I mean powerful enough to get me inside Dean's head."

"No way, Sam! We have no idea what's going on in there, or how this might affect you!"

"I don't care!"

"Well Dean does!" Bobby threw back, aiming for the low blow.

Instead of making him angry, though, Sam turned those puppy eyes, the irresistible pout Dean always relied on in a hustle, on him. And damnit if the only person ever immune to it was already dead. "Sam, this is dangerous. You don't know what you're walking in to."

"I know, Bobby, but I have to try. Like you said, we're running out of time. Dean's the only one with the answers here."

"If Dean knew what was going on, he would have told you."

"Would he?" Sam challenged. "This is somehow connected to him. That exorcism proved that. Something is going on, and by now, Dean either knows or has a pretty good idea of what. Lily, she said he was trapped in a world of his own making. Supernatural evidence aside, even his body is responding as though it's a virus. The symptoms are all there. Whatever this is, it's inside him, and he's losing."

Bobby studied the man in front of him, afraid that he was going to now lose both of them. He couldn't argue with Sam, but he wanted to. He had one last card to play before he was willing to fold, however. "Dean would forbid this, you know."

"Well Dean's not around to call the shots, is he? Besides, if the roles were reversed, you know he'd do it for me."

And really, there was no argument for that.

"I'll make some calls."

Sam took up the hand that had once been powerful and had now been reduced to hot skin and bone. It was one of the small comforts left from his childhood. That physical contact that Dean would rarely accept, but was always willing to give. Even with Dean horribly injured, he didn't ever remember being so afraid of breaking something. The man lying motionless on the bed was a pale, emaciated, fragile version of his brother that Sam had a hard time reconciling with the vibrant, muscular, strong version that had been by his side in battle a hundred times.

"I don't know how much you can hear, Dean, but we've got an idea. Bobby got a hold of a pretty powerful psychic. She'll be here in a day or so. You just have to hang on until then. I know you won't like it, but I don't think we have a choice anymore. I won't put you in a hospital, but I won't stand by and do nothing, either. I hope you can understand that, and forgive me."

Sam licked his lips nervously. "You can't fight us, Dean. You need to let this happen. Can you do that? For me?" He let out a small growl of frustration. "I know you felt like you were on your own for a long time, but you're not anymore. You have to let me help you. You don't have to do this alone, and I wish you understood that."

"Sam?" Bobby called from the doorway. "How is he?"

"His fever is higher. Another degree and we'll be looking for febrile seizures," Sam replied, placing a wet cloth on his brother's forehead, making sure the ends draped over the temples.

"I'll sit with him a bit. Why don't you go get some rest?"

Sam shook his head. "I'm where I need to be."

"Sam, you may have talked me into going along with this fool scheme of yours, but no way in hell are you doing it as run down as you are right now," Bobby growled.

Glancing at the man who had been more a father to him than his own had, Sam could see there was no argument here. Bobby's expression was clear. Either he rested up for this adventure, or he didn't go. He tried to go for a grin. "I thought Dean was your favorite."

"He is, and he'd kick my ass for not taking care of you. Now go get some sleep."

Sam chuckled and went over to his own bed with his hands up in surrender, turning back just in time to see Bobby tenderly wipe down fever flushed cheeks. He stripped without embarrassment to his boxers and fell into the wonderfully soft mattress, thinking.

When he was younger, it had made him jealous that 'Uncle' Bobby seemed to pick Dean as his favorite. He remembered the day that jealousy stopped like it was yesterday. He had fallen from a tree and scraped his knee. He hadn't gone to their father, hadn't gone to Bobby, no, Sam had headed straight for his big brother, tears of a pain that was more pride than physical streaming down his face. Dean had patiently cleaned the scrape, dressed it, helped him wash his face, and given him a stern lecture on being careful when climbing trees.

They'd had a Hunt that night. John had taken his oldest with him, thinking it a simple salt and burn. Hardly Dean's first, so there was no harm, despite how Bobby had begged him to leave the boy behind with him and Sam.

Sam had been hiding at the top of the stairs when his family had returned, bloodied and bruised. He was worried, but knew enough by now not to let them know he was there.

"Bobby, I need the first aid kit," Dean called out, sounding so much older than his mere nine years.

Bobby fetched, as ordered, watching as John criticized every move the boy made, but sat still while Dean cared for him. He knew enough not to interfere, that John would insist the boy needed to learn. It was a song and dance they'd performed many times, but tonight Dean looked far too exhausted to feel the need to play referee, so he let it slide.

John briefed Bobby on the hunt, while Sam sat listening, grinning when he heard that Dean had made a slide into the grave and been the one to light the match. He didn't understand all of it, but he understood enough to know his brother had been the hero tonight.

He heard their father order Dean to bed, and frowned a little. He was young, he knew that. Knew there was stuff his father and brother kept from him, but he had seen. Dean had been hurt too. Why wasn't their father looking him over?

He scrambled back into the bedroom they shared when they visited Bobby's and just made it into bed as Dean came through. He walked directly to the semi ensuite attached to the room, and carefully began checking his own injuries.

Sam remembered thinking, even then, that it wasn't right. That Dean took care of him, took care of Dad. Why wasn't there someone to take care of Dean? Had that been Mommy's job? Heavy boots on the stairs had made him duck under his covers, peeking out just enough to see Bobby enter the bathroom.

"You okay kid?" Bobby asked, crouching down.

"I'm fine," was Dean's automatic reply.

"You look a little banged up. How about I take a look?" Bobby offered gently, careful not to tread on the boy's pride.

"Dad says I'm fine."

"Your Dad says a lot of things."

Sam had winced, knowing even then that it was taboo to bad talk their father in front of him. He remembered thinking that sometimes Uncle Bobby wasn't too smart. But most importantly, he remembered feeling grateful that there had been someone there to finally take care of Dean.

Sam rolled over, trying to get comfortable as he listened to Bobby tell his comatose brother stories of past hunts. He'd never been jealous after that day. He'd been glad there was someone to look after his brother, even if they didn't often spend time at Bobby's. Dean had resisted it, of course, being who he was, outright refusing it when he got older, but Sam had never let go of that gratitude to Bobby for having never stopped trying.

Bobby remained the only other person in the world that Sam trusted to look after his brother besides him. He loved Pastor Jim and Caleb, but they hadn't fought for Dean, not like Bobby had. In his young eyes, standing up to John Winchester was just about the bravest thing you could do, and Bobby had willingly gone to bat with him time again. Years later, the hero worship of a child had faded to be replaced by a deep respect of one man to another, both bound to a common cause.

The memory reminding him that Dean was safe, was in good hands, allowed him to close his eyes and surrender to the exhaustion that had been his shadow for almost two weeks.

Bobby answered the door on the second knock, having just come downstairs for a drink as Sam had taken over the watch. A woman about his age was standing there in track pants and a t-shirt, her hand moving to try and control the wisps of short hair that the breeze was teasing. He smiled and ushered her inside.

"It's good to see you again, Sarah."

The woman took his offered hand, holding it. "You too. I wish it were under better circumstances." Sarah studied her old friend. "You know this plan of his, it's about as dangerous as it comes."

Bobby nodded, guiding her upstairs. "I know. But we're getting desperate."

Stopping outside the spare bedroom, Sarah grabbed his hand, sensing his answer, but needing to be sure. "Is it worth risking both to save one?"

Bobby regarded her soberly. "If I lose one, I've lost them both anyway."

Sarah nodded. The house was thick with desperation and fear, something she had never felt coming here before. Her old friend was tired, soul weary, and worried sick. The young man she could already sense in the other room a matching soul.

When they entered the room, Sam sat up, looking the woman over. She was plump, but tall enough to carry the weight well. She had a pretty face that was adorned with freckles, and fire red hair that he somehow suspected could match her temper. Her eyes, though, caught him. There existed a duality there in that she seemed far away, and yet present, as though she stood with one foot on either side of two borders.

"You must be Sarah. Thank you for coming," Sam offered as a greeting. He could see it on her stern expression. She wanted to talk him out of this, and he strengthened his resolve. This was their last chance. Dean was barely hanging on. If this failed, there was nothing left to try. She seemed to catch on, and gently patted his hand.

"Sam, I can't promise you this will work," she replied, sensing she couldn't dissuade him from this course of action. "He might still die."

"I know. But we have to try. Wherever he is, he needs backup, and I'm it."

Sarah moved to the bed, frowning at the boy lying there. "He's not completely comatose. His mind is very active, and he's fighting against something. He's terrified." She met the young man's eye. "There's a part of him that knows we're here, knows what you plan to do. Sam, if he blocks us, he could kill us all."

"He won't. If he knows that much, then he won't take that risk with me," Sam replied confidently.

"And if he can't tell the difference between you and the enemy?" Sarah asked bluntly, voicing the small concern that had been lingering in the back of Sam's mind.

"He's killed for me," Sam answered, swallowing the lump in his throat. He didn't think he'd ever be ready to deal with what Dean had done. "He's died for me. I have to believe he can't hurt me."

"You need to understand the risks of what you're asking me to do. If he dies while you're in with him, you'll die too. Once you're in, you won't be able to come out again, not until he lets you go. I can only open the door," Sarah warned. "Sam, are you sure you're ready for this? You don't know what's behind these doors. It's too deep and I can't see it. For something like this, I can guarantee it won't be pretty."

Sam took a deep breath, preparing himself, but his answer was quick and immediate. "He's my brother."

Nothing else mattered.

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