KEEP HOLDING ON

Summary: Missing scenes from 11x17 – "Red Meat". Sam was not only still alive but had somehow managed to get himself to the medical clinic just in time to save Dean. Now Sam was the one who needed rescue before he bled to death for real. Hurt!Sam, Protective!Dean.

Author's note: I really loved this episode (lots of angst and hurt!boys, yay!) but I felt like we got cheated of some hospitalized Sam and a little extra brotherly love at the end of it, so I decided to fill in a few missing scenes :)

-Elisa.

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"You never know how strong you are… until being strong is the only choice you have."

- Unknown

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Dean was on the verge of passing out from lack of oxygen when the sound of a gunshot rung through the air, and the pressure around his neck released. Gasping in much-needed air, Dean quickly threw the dead werewolf off him and turned his head to look for the source of the gunshot. Dean's already strained breath caught in his throat as he saw the person, he'd literally died to try to bring back less than an hour ago, lower his gun before him. To see Sam alive, even if he'd never actually been dead, filled Dean with such a massive amount of relief that he would have needed to sit down had he not already been on the floor.

"It took you long enough." Dean joked, chest swelling with pride as he took in the sight of his brother.

Sam's shirt was covered in crimson from the still bleeding gunshot wound in his abdomen. Although he looked like he was barely able to stand on his feet, Sam was not only still alive but had somehow managed to get himself to the medical clinic just in time to save Dean from being choked to death by Corbin, the newly turned werewolf. Whether Sam had kept himself going on adrenaline or sheer Winchester stubbornness (or maybe a combination of both), Dean didn't know but, slumping back on his elbow, Dean did hear Sam's grunt of pain the moment before Sam's legs gave way. The younger Winchester collapsed to the floor, clutching at his wound, and Dean closed his eyes for a brief second – still not fully able to comprehend that he hadn't lost his little brother after all – before he got off the floor with a grunt.

Ignoring the pain in his aching ribs, Dean quickly moved to Sam's side, kneeled down next to him and grasped Sam's shoulders.

"Sammy?" Dean said in a soft tone while trying to take a good look at his hurt brother.

Sam didn't (or probably couldn't) answer through his pained grunts. His skin was clammy and pale, and his face was twisted in discomfort as blood continued to seep through his shaky fingers from where he was trying to cover his wound. Dean took away the gun Sam was still grasping in his other hand, tucked it away and put his own hand on top of Sam's to add pressure to the gunshot wound – wincing in sympathy as Sam let out a groan of pain in the process.

"Hey, hey, hey. Easy, Sammy." Dean soothed. "You're okay."

Dean noticed the moisture gathering in the corners of Sam's eyes, and he put the hand that wasn't currently applying pressure to the wound, on the back of Sam's neck and gently pulled his trembling brother closer.

"You're okay, Sam." Dean repeated, closing his eyes as Sam's forehead came to a rest in the crook of his neck, feeling his brother's warm breath against his skin. "I've got you."

Dean knew that Sam was in desperate need of medical help but he couldn't bring himself to let go of his brother just yet. After the absolute devastation Dean had felt when he'd thought that Sam was dead, the older Winchester craved the physical contact – the reassurance it gave him to have Sam cradled in his arms, alive and breathing. Dean also couldn't let go of the fact that the last time he'd let his brother out of sight, he'd lost him. It wasn't the first time Dean had lost Sam but in the past, Dean had at least been there with him, trying to protect and comfort his little brother until the very end. But not this time. This time, Dean had left Sam alone with a couple of strangers while Sam was hurting and bleeding to death. Dean wasn't sure he would ever be able to let go of the guilt he felt from that.

Shaking himself back to the present, Dean noticed that blood was still trickling from Sam's wound, now not only covering Sam's hand but Dean's too, and Dean knew he couldn't wait any longer. Instead of letting go of Sam though, Dean got Michelle's attention and all but begged her to go find help. The girl had been crying inconsolably since Sam had put a bullet through her boyfriend's chest but, despite her grief, Michelle nodded her answer and left to find someone to help them.

"D-Dean…" Sam hissed out but Dean shushed him.

"Don't talk, Sammy." Dean said, squeezing the back of Sam's neck in a comforting way. "Don't try to move either, alright? Help's on its way. You'll be just fine."

Sam continued to let out pained sounds and trembled against Dean – he'd probably lost way more blood than Dean dared to think about and who knew what else the bullet had done of damage? It was when Sam's eyes rolled back in his head and he went fully limp in Dean's arms that the older Winchester brother really got scared. To Dean's big relief, Sam still had a pulse. Nevertheless (and despite the fact that Michelle was supposed to find a doctor), Dean started shouting for help while he kept Sam tucked against him.

Precious seconds ticked away and Dean had just begun to fear that help wasn't coming after all when a medical staff – followed by a still crying Michelle - finally showed up with a gurney. While Sam was transferred from Dean's arms to the gurney, Dean was asked a million questions about Sam, what had happened and why there were three dead people further down the corridor. Dean didn't answer a single one of them though. He barely heard them as he stared at Sam's still form on the gurney, his little brother's head turned to the side in an exact replica of the way Sam had lain on the floor of the cabin when Dean had thought he was dead. It was all too much, all too soon. Overwhelmed by the thought of losing Sam once again, Dean barely registered that he was being manhandled himself until Sam was rolled away and Dean was held back so that he couldn't follow his brother.

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Dean had impatiently endured yet another examination at the medical clinic while he waited for news about Sam. Fortunately, he didn't have to wait long before a doc showed up to tell him that Sam had been very lucky. The bullet hadn't damaged any vital organs, had just caused major blood loss and a wound that had needed stitches. Sam was now resting peacefully in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV that was providing him with a great deal of O-negative while Dean stayed in a chair next to him, keeping vigil.

Dean washed a hand down his face and sighed heavily. He couldn't believe how something as simple as a werewolf hunt could have gone so horribly wrong. The brothers had had a lot of bigger and stronger opponents during the years – demons, angels, knights of hell, witches, monsters and Gods, just to name a few. Hell, they still had the Darkness and Lucifer in Cas' meat suit to deal with - two major players - and yet here they were; both almost having kicked the bucket because of a run-in with a few fugly werewolves. Who would have known?

"Hey." A soft, raspy voice said, and Dean's head shot up to see Sam blinking back at him from the hospital bed.

"Hey." Dean said – then got to his feet and smiled down at his groggy little brother. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I got shot." Sam answered with a wry smile and Dean couldn't help but chuckle.

"Seriously though, you lost like half of the blood in your body." Dean said and nodded at the IV Sam was hooked up to. "Hence the blood bank over there."

"I'm fine, Dean." Sam said. "Just tired."

Dean nodded while he took in Sam's pale face and the dark circles underneath his eyes. The kid sure did look like he hadn't slept in weeks - which, of course, was what blood loss could do to a person, but Dean didn't like it either way.

"So, what happened? Back at the cabin, I mean." Dean wanted to know.

"You mean before or after Corbin tried to choke me to death?" Sam asked and suddenly he wasn't the only Winchester who looked pale.

"W-what?" Dean asked, eyes widening in shock as he took in the information Sam gave him. "That son of a bitch smothered you?"

"Yeah… Corbin knew that you wouldn't leave me behind so I guess he felt like killing me was the only way to save his girlfriend." Sam said.

Dean clenched his jaw hard and swallowed against the lump that had formed in his throat. The guilt he'd already been feeling about what happened to Sam just ten-doubled by the knowledge that Sam had been strangled by one of the strangers Dean had left him with while Dean himself had been right outside the cabin at the same time. And Dean had furthermore left Sam behind, vulnerable and dying, while he'd helped his brother's murderer get away. Dean nostrils flared in rage. If Dean had known what Corbin had done to Sam, Dean would have ripped him apart, piece by frigging piece, with his own bare hands!

"Dean." Sam said in a soft voice, cutting through Dean's murderous thoughts. "I know what you're thinking and it's not your fault, man."

"I shouldn't have left you alone." Dean said with a shake of his head.

"You couldn't have known what would happen." Sam tried to assure him. "Besides, Corbin's dead now and I'm still here, so just… let it go, okay?"

That was easier said than done but Dean took a few calming breaths – then looked into his brother's weary eyes and tried to focus on the fact that Sam was still alive. A sudden feeling of protectiveness shot through the oldest Winchester and, before he even thought about doing it, he'd wrapped his arms around Sam and pulled him close. Dean didn't know if it was the exhaustion or the fact that Sam needed the contact as much as he did in the moment, but instead of stiffening up as Sam sometimes did when Dean surprised him with a hug, Sam immediately melted into the embrace.

"That was too close, Sammy." Dean muttered into Sam's hair.

"Yeah." Sam agreed, fingers tightly clenching the back of Dean's jacket. "But I'm okay."

Dean planned to have a word with Sam's doctor to find out when they'd be able to go home to the bunker – preferably before the place got swamped by cops. He also needed to take a trip to the Impala to find some clean clothes for Sam to wear, and maybe see how Michelle was holding up if she was still at the hospital. It could all wait though. Right now, Dean was content with Sam in his arms – chick flick moment be damned. Besides, they always got a pass when one or both of the brothers had been dead or close to death.

"That roadhouse chili still bothering you?" Dean asked to lighten up the tension and smiled as Sam snickered into his shoulder.

"Nah, I'm good. Next time though, I'll have the salad." Sam answered as they pulled away from the hug.

Sam then laid back against his pillows, eyelids getting heavier and heavier with each blink of his eyes. Dean knew it would only be a matter of seconds before his brother was out for the count, so he sat back down in his chair – close enough so Sam could feel his presence without even having to look at him. Dean leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs at his ankles where he'd put them on the edge of Sam's hospital bed, and watched Sam fall asleep again.

As he stared at his resting little brother, Dean couldn't help but feel troubled over the fact that the next time one of them died, Billie the Reaper was waiting on the other side to throw them into the empty. There was no more coming back – no more deals or favors to cash in, no more heaven or hell waiting for them either. But if that was how things were gonna be, they just had to make sure to keep holding on for as long as they possible could, and when their time would finally be up, Dean knew that there was only one way they would be leaving this world; and that was together.

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THE END