Author's Note I: Hello, All! Today marks the ninth anniversary of my first post on this site. Yes, folks, believe it or not, Graduation Day was posted in 2007! I am so excited to have a "ficaversary" post this year. I know I've been missing, I know there are stories that need finishing—In fact one from July 18 several years ago. In between then and now, something happened (several things, actually) and it led to a complete block in my writing. Which is why this story is here before the others. (See Author's Note III below. It's spoilery, so if you want to know the story behind the story first, head there now, if you want to wait, read on.) Multum in Parvo verse—you don't need to have read the other stories, just know Dean has been diagnosed with a serious illness called Gastroparesis.

Author's Note II: I would like to send a special hug, love, flowers, Impalas and everything else to my fic family here. You have been with me through "stuff and things" and it means so so much. I have met people who became friends, then family and now I can't imagine my life without them. Thank you all so much, I love you all. Huge Sam to Dean, Dean to Sam hug.

Fortitudine Vincimus


The engine was grumbling, pushed to its limits as Sam pressed his foot down on the gas pedal. He'd never driven the Impala like this, and he had no intention of telling his brother, but for now the need to get to Dean outweighed everything. He was pretty sure the car understood and was pushing herself faster as well. He was kicking himself for leaving, and more than that, heading to someplace that was hours away from Dean. At this point, he didn't care that it was Dean that told him to go, Dean that handed him the keys to the car with a smile. All that mattered was that he wasn't with his brother and things had gone terribly wrong. He should have known, things had been going wrong ever since... He jumped when his phone started ringing. Sam had forgotten it was clutched in the hand on the wheel.

"Dean! What's happening?"

"Still in the waiting room," Dean said, his voice drenched in pain.

"How can you still be in the waiting room? They called ahead!" Sam tried to school his voice, but it came out as an angry growl. The last two months had been a nightmare, and it was getting worse.

"I know they did, you know they did, but the ER seems to think the guy with the sniffles is an emergency."

"But Brian's office told you to go, they said it was an emergency."

"I told them that. They nodded and sent me to wait."

"But, Dean, how can they not believe there is something wrong this time?" Sam could hear desperation and anger in his voice and his brother's bitter laugh did nothing to improve his mood.

"They just called my name, I'll call as soon as they're through with the pointless questions."

"I'll be there as soon as I can."

"I know," Dean said. "And, Sammy?"


"This isn't your fault."

"Dean…" Sam paused. "I know. I'll be there soon."

"See you soon." Dean broke the connection.

Sam glanced up when he thought he saw red lights ahead of him, the next second he slammed on the Impala's brakes. With a groan he looked at the long line of traffic and the flashing blue lights far ahead. For a moment, despair washed over him, this whole thing was beginning to feel more than a little demonic. He took a slow breath and opened up the maps application on his phone. There had to be a way around the traffic. He had to get to Dean. Sam wasn't sure why he was so freaked, it wasn't just the last few months. Something had felt wrong all day.

He couldn't shake the idea that his brother was dying. Maybe it was the fact things had seemed a little better today, maybe it was the fact that he no longer trusted most emergency rooms, maybe it was the fact that Dean told him the reason he'd called Brian was he was in severe pain. All of that added up to a situation that had Sam trapped in a spiral of panic.

"Take exit 178 in half a mile," his phone said in its ridiculously sexy voice. Sam couldn't help but smile. The first time his phone had piped up in that voice, Sam had nearly strangled his brother. He'd tried to uninstall it, but Dean was not one to let a good joke die an early death. Sam had finally given up, thinking if he did, Dean would let it go. He'd been wrong, but since it still made him smile every time, Sam didn't actually mind—not that he'd ever let Dean know that. "Take exit 178 in one quarter mile." Sam looked at his watch. It had taken almost twenty minutes to go a thousand feet. At this rate… He stopped that line of thinking, as soon as he was out of this traffic, he would make up the time. He had to.


The ER waiting room was full. It was a Friday night, and it seemed like the ER was the happening place. Right after Dean had arrived, the police had stormed through the doors and locked the entire hospital down. There'd been some trouble less than a block from the hospital and they wanted to make sure the suspect wasn't there, and couldn't get in if he tried. It was a little excitement in what was turning out to be one of the worst evenings Dean had ever spent in a waiting room—which was saying a lot. He sighed and tried to shift without making the pain in his belly worse, which seemed impossible, breathing was making it worse. He got up and walked slowly to the nurses' station.

"Hi," he said. "I was wondering how long it would be until someone could see me?"

The nurse looked up at him with a smile—which promptly faded when she recognized him. "Stomach pain, right? You have to wait your turn."

"It's not stomach pain." Dead tried not to growl at her. "It's pain at the stoma. My doctor's office called and said I would be coming in—because the pain is at the stoma!" He pulled his shirt up and gestured at the tube protruding from his abdomen. "There is something wrong with the tube!"

"Uh huh. We'll call you when it's your turn."

Dean turned away and pulled out his phone. He needed to let Sam know what was going on, his brother was several hours away, on a silly errand Dean had dreamed up to give Sam a break for a few hours. He should have known something would go wrong. Their luck had sucked lately. Still, he'd handed the keys to his brother and playfully pushed him out the door, planning to spend the afternoon watching TV and relaxing. Dean wasn't feeling well, the stupid feeding tube was out of place again—or that's what it felt like—and thanks to a mix up at the local doctor's office, Brian's orders for a CT scan had been misplaced until it was too late to get one until sometime on Saturday.

The feeding tube was turning into a giant nightmare. His gastroparesis had gotten to the point that Brian felt he needed the tube because his nutritional intake had slipped to less than five hundred calories a day. After wrestling with the question for weeks, he was still on the fence, right up until he got a new phone. The phone had come with a diet and exercise tracking program, and Sam had suggested using it to help keep track of protein and caloric intake to prove to Brian he was doing okay when he went in for a checkup. A week later, sitting in Brian's office, he'd had to face the facts. He was averaging barely enough food to keep a mouse alive. Brian had joked he must be able to suck nutrition out of the air, then brought up the tube again. When Dean left the appointment, he and Sam had a long talk and a longer drive in Baby. When they'd gotten back to their room that night, Dean had called and told Brian he'd give the tube a try. Of course, it hadn't gone quite as smoothly as planned and in the eight weeks he'd had the thing, it had slipped out of its "track" and had to be replaced six times.

That was what he'd thought was happening this time too. He'd called Brian's office on Tuesday and they had called one of Brian's network of GP specialists and arranged an x-ray. It had come back normal, but Dean knew there was something wrong with the tube, so he'd called again. Brian wanted a CT scan, rather than just sending Dean for another tube—on the off chance that it had finally decided to stay in place. Dean had been dubious, but agreed. Unfortunately, the order had gotten lost and when they finally did call to schedule him, it was too late for Friday. Luckily the town had a radiology department that worked on weekends, and they set him up for the scan on Saturday morning. He'd been so sure it was just the now standard routine that he'd schemed up the plan to send Sam out on his own for a break. It had all been fine, if uncomfortable, right up until—he glanced at the clock—two hours before. He'd gotten up to use the bathroom and it felt like someone punched him hard enough to knock him down. He was still on the floor when he called Brian's office and they told Dean to get to an ER as soon as possible. He'd called Sam to let him know he was on the way to the ER and called a cab.

He'd arrived at the ER less than an hour after the call to Brian's office and been surprised when they sent him to wait. He'd had issues with several emergency rooms in the last year, thanks to the repeated visits because of the gastroparesis and esophageal spasm, but he figured this time it would be okay. After all, he had a very real, very physical, very visible tube sticking out of his belly and the pain was at the entry point, called the stoma. The fact the pain was getting worse by the minute was scaring him more than he wanted to admit, even to himself.

"Dean Iommi?"

"They just called my name, I'll call as soon as they're through with the pointless questions," he said to Sam.

"I'll be there as soon as I can."

"I know," Dean said. "And, Sammy?"


"This isn't your fault."

"Dean…" Sam paused, Dean heard the worry and guilt in his brother's voice. "I know. I'll be there soon."

"See you soon." Dean broke the connection and stood. He had to grab the back of the chair he'd been sitting in when the pain hit him. Several deep breaths let him get it under control enough to follow the nurse back into a tiny room. He sat on the hard plastic chair while she opened a computer screen.

"So, what brings you in tonight?"

"I have a gastric feeding tube. I have pain at the stoma. My doctor's office told me to come to the ER immediately. They said they were going to call."

"That's Dr. Gleason?" she asked, scrolling through something on the screen.


"He is out of the office for the weekend."

"He is now. He wasn't when I got here." Dean bit back his anger. "The pain is at the stoma, I have had six previous tubes fail."

"Uh huh. Well, I'll start an IV and get some blood." She picked up Dean's arm and made a show of poking around with her finger to find a vein. He was watching out the window, trying to ignore the fact he was about to have something else stuck in his body, when he felt a sharp pain by his left thumb.

"What are you doing?" he demanded as she finished what she was doing. "You started an IV in that vein?!"

"It was the only one I could find."

Dean looked in disbelief at his arms. He knew it was sometimes hard to start an IV because he was almost always a little dehydrated, but this was something else. Through dozens and dozens of IVs, he'd never had one started in the tiny vein on the palm of his hand by his thumb. He had no idea how they would even be able to push saline into that line. "What?"

"It was the only one I could find." She smiled at him as she drew blood, then flushed it with saline. The sting was more than he was used to.

"But that hurt!" he said indignantly.

"It's a small vein."

"You think?" he snapped, starting to get a sinking feeling, wondering when his brother would be there. He was beginning to think he was going to need back up on this more than usual.

"Follow me." The nurse stood and led the way to a room. "Change into this." She tossed a gown on the bed and smiled again. "They will be back to see you as soon as they can."

"Thanks," Dean said sarcastically, and picked up the gown. He was tempted to just leave, but the pain was still growing worse and that was really starting to worry him.


"In five hundred feet turn left on Maple Drive East," the phone said.

"I know, you've said that three times!" Sam growled at the phone, then shook his head. He was getting jumpy. He rarely talked to inanimate objects, but he'd almost be willing to swear the phone was baiting him. "And it would if you could figure out a way to make it bait me, wouldn't it, Dean?" he said to the empty passenger seat. He had been talking to the seat off and on since he'd gotten Dean's first call. It was helping pass the miles and made things seem a little less desperate.

He'd managed to get off the highway and was detouring through a small town. He hadn't expected how far away from the main road the detour would be, but every time he checked the real time traffic info, it was still showing the highway at a dead stop. "Moving forward is always better than stopped." He remembered the day his brother had told him that—and Dean had been right. "Because at least there is the feeling you're going somewhere, right, Sammy?"

When the phone rang, he grabbed it and hit speaker. "Dean?"

"Back in a room."

"What did the doctor say?" Sam asked.

"I haven't seen anyone but the nurse that started the IV in my thumb."


"In one hundred feet, turn left on Maple Drive East," the phone said.

"Hey, is that Sexy helping you navigate?" Dean asked with a chuckle.

"Yes," Sam replied, sighing loudly and smiling when he heard Dean laugh again. "What about your thumb?"

"The IV, it's in that vein on the pad of my palm by the thumb."

"Why is the IV there?" Sam was surprised at how even his voice sounded.

"She said it was the only one that she could find."

"But it's tiny."

"I know."

"How can they get CT contrast in a vein that small?" Sam was trying for calm and hoping he was succeeding.

"Whoa! Calm down, Sam."

"I am calm."

"I know, I can hear it in your voice, it's scaring me," Dean said with forced laugh.

"Oh ha ha, Dean." Sam opened his mouth to ask Dean how he was doing, and changed his mind. He could hear it in his brother's voice without asking and if Dean wanted to distract himself by teasing Sam that was fine—for now.

"This room is so small, there is barely enough room for a bed, but it's weird—I can't find the call button anywhere. Maybe they know I'm a hunter, and want me to go looking for it."

"Not funny, Dean."

"And it looks like I'm in the only room without a TV. Awesome."

"Dean." The feeling that something was going horribly wrong was increasing.

"I know, me too, Sam, but it's the only place in town and…" Dean stopped. "Someone is coming this way. I'll call you as soon as they go. Hopefully, they'll just do the scan and fix the stupid thing."

"Call me as soon as you can."

"I will."

"I'll be there soon." Sam broke the connection and tried to stop the feeling of impending doom blossoming in his chest.


The nurse had stopped outside his door and was chatting to someone in street clothes. Dean leaned back on the bed, trying to relieve a little of the pain that was quickly becoming agony, but it was getting harder and harder to fool himself that moving afforded any relief. She finally slid the door open and came in. After glancing at Dean with a smile on her face, she started pulling items out of a drawer. She set them on the table, then turned to him.

"I'm Dawnie, I'm your nurse tonight. I'm going to get you hooked up to the monitor."

"Okay." Dean wondered why they hadn't done it when he was first brought back.

"What's this?" Dawnie asked.

"It's a feeding tube. It's why I'm here, I am having pain at the stoma and my doctor's office told me to come to the ER. It's come out of place six times in eight weeks."

"Huh." She stuck the pads down and clipped the monitor wires to them. "How is your pain tonight?" she asked as she put the blood pressure cuff on his arm.

Dean thought about what to say for a moment. Sam wasn't here, so he wasn't worried about freaking out his brother by admitting just how much pain he was in. On the other hand, sometimes being truthful with emergency room staff had backfired on him. "Uh, high sevens?" he offered, deciding on almost completely truthful.

"Any nausea?"

"Yes, severe."

"Are you taking any medications?"

"They should be in my file, but I have a list." He pulled out the copy of his medications list that he carried with him. "This is correct," he said, handing it to her.

"Okay, I'll let the doctor know."

When she was gone Dean shifted again, trying to get some relief. The next instant he was hit with the worst pain he'd ever known. It felt like he was being stabbed from the inside out, the invisible knife twisting in his guts. He heard himself cry out in pain, but everything was pushed away, all he knew was the terrible throbbing pain. Closing his eyes against the too bright light of the room, he focused on breathing, trying to get the agony to relax. He wasn't sure if it actually did, or he just managed to fight his way through it, but he had enough control of it to open his eyes again. He glanced at the clock, it had been almost thirty minutes since the nurse had left. Taking another slow breath, he tried to find the call button again, but still couldn't locate it.

"I'm Dr. Vernon," a gray-haired woman said as she walked into the room with the nurse. "What brings you in tonight?"

Dean resisted the urge to sigh. He always wondered why he had to answer essentially the same questions three or four times every time he ended up in the emergency room. "I have a feeding tube, I am having pain at the stoma and my doctor's office told me to come to the ER."

"That's Dr. Gleason?"


"He isn't in."

"I know," Dean said patiently. "He was when I got here, but I was in the waiting room for two hours."

"Hmmm." She lifted up the gown. "Does it hurt here?" She pressed down on Dean's abdomen.

"Yes!" Dean tried not to black out as the pain washed over him.

"Have you flushed the tube?"

"Flushed?" he asked. He bit back the you're kidding, right? he wanted to add.

"I'll have Dawnie do that before we proceed." She nodded at the nurse.

"I did flush it before I came…" He trailed off as the nurse got ready to flush the tubes. She was fumbling with the large syringe. "You've done this before?" Dean couldn't stop himself that time.

"Of course!" she snapped and depressed the plunger on the syringe—it wasn't inserted correctly and he was sprayed with liquid. She got another one, and tried again.

"Would you like me to do that?" Dean asked, hoping that they'd let him. The nurse was putting too much pressure on the tube and it was agony.

"Fine, if you think you can."

"Pretty sure I can," he said, taking the syringe she handed him. He quickly flushed the tubes. It hurt, but not as much as when the nurse had attempted to do it.

"The tubes look like they are flushing fine," the doctor said.

"I know, I checked that when I was on the phone with my doctor's office. They told me since the tube had failed six times and the pain was at the stoma I needed to come to the ER," Dean said, trying hard to stay calm, but the feeling of everything spiraling out of control was beginning to catch up with him.

"Tell me about your history of addiction," Dr. Vernon said.

"What?" Dean tried not to snap, it always made it worse, but how could they ask these questions this time? He had a tube sticking out of his stomach.

"Your narcotics use."

"I am not an addict. I have a feeding tube that has come out of its track six times since it was placed eight weeks ago. I am having pain at the stoma. My doctor told me to come in."

"Hmm." The doctor glanced out the door and back at Dean. "We're going to send you for an x-ray."

"I had an x-ray earlier in the week. It didn't show anything. I am scheduled for a CT scan tomorrow."

"We will start with an x-ray," the doctor said firmly. "Any nausea?"

"Yes, severe." Dean took a slow breath, trying to get the pain under control, but it wasn't working. He waited for a moment for the "how's your pain" question, but it didn't come. "Pain is in the high sevens, low eights."

"I will get you something for nausea and we will get you to x-ray."

"But," Dean began, wondering if he should bring up the fact he'd already had an x-ray again.

"It is not my job to supply your drug addiction or give you drugs for undiagnosed pain. Anti-nausea meds and x-ray, then we can get your released." The doctor and nurse left, leaving Dean staring at the ceiling with a growing sense of hopelessness. Not again.


The highway was visible ahead of him, the traffic moving at highway speeds instead of the crawl it had been when he'd pulled off to detour around it. Sam had been keeping it at the posted speed limit through the small town. He'd seen no less than seven speed traps and he didn't want to be delayed for half an hour or more because he was trying to make up five minutes. He'd heard from Dean about fifteen minutes before, they were taking him to x-ray. Sam was sure there was something else going on, he could still hear the immense pain in Dean's voice and his brother hadn't said anything but they were taking him to x-ray. Sam had been in the middle of asking him why they were doing a simple x-ray, because he'd just had one, when the techs came to get Dean and he had to get off the phone.

He had just pulled onto the highway when his phone rang. "Dean?"

"Back from x-ray. The guys down there were nice, they had no idea why they were doing just an x-ray, though."

"I was wondering that too."

"How long until you're here?"

Sam glanced at his watch. "No more than an hour."


"Dean? What's wrong?"

"I'm a little nauseous."

"Uh huh," Sam replied, knowing there was more.

"The nurse is a bitch."

"You said that last time." Sam waited for a moment. "Dean?"

"How long until you're here?"

"Forty five minutes, Dean," he said. The pain that was in his brother's voice was starting an unstoppable combination of panic and rage in Sam's chest.

"No TV sucks."

"I know."

"I'm missing Spinal Tap."

"How do you know?" Sam asked with a smile.

"I just know these things, Sammy."

"You have a special Metal gland in your head that can sense Spinal Tap, Heavy: the Story of Metal and The Metal Years when they are playing on any channel you can access."

"Finally you accept the truth."

"It's hard to miss after you find Spinal Tap on TV ten nights in a row, in different towns with different cable providers."

"It's one of my super powers," Dean said, then paused. Sam heard him take several slow breaths.


"I hurt a bit."

"What?" Sam glanced at the time. "Are you due for more pain meds?" As soon as he asked it, he knew what the answer was, and couldn't stop the horror in his voice when he asked, "You have been given meds?"

"For nausea."


"Here they come, Sam. I'll call as soon as they're gone."

"I'm hurrying, Dean."

"Thank you." The soft acknowledgement did nothing to still the panic and rage. Sam knew what was happening and if it was as bad as he was beginning to suspect, he wasn't sure he could control his temper this time.


"I'm hurrying, Dean," Sam said. Dean could hear the emotion in his brother's voice and he wasn't sure if he was worried or comforted about what that particular tone could mean.

"Thank you," he said, trying not to let Sam know how bad it was, but he couldn't stop the words.

Dawnie pushed the door open, she had a syringe in her hand. Dean almost sighed with relief—until she started swabbing his upper arm with alcohol.

"What are you doing?"

"Giving you a little something more for nausea," Dawnie said. "It's called vistaril." She jammed the needle into his arm with more force than was necessary. "It will help you relax a bit, too, and we can get you discharged."

Dean started laughing.

"What?" Dawnie demanded, frowning at him.

"Joke's on you." Dean tried to stop, it hurt to laugh, but the absurdity of what they'd just done was enough to push him a bit over the edge.

"What are you talking about?"

"Vistaril. It's a sedative. You're hoping to make me cooperative by giving me 'something to relax' and ha ha."

"What?" She hissed.

"Doesn't work on me, hasn't since my first esophageal stretch." He got control of the laughter, he knew it wasn't helping matters, but he was starting to get hysterical from the continued torturous agony. "I'm not going to sign discharge papers." He swallowed down a sudden wave of nausea. Laughing really wasn't a good idea. "I'm going to be sick."

"Here," Dawnie pulled one of the ubiquitous blue barf bags out of a dispenser and dropped it on the end of the bed, positioned so Dean would have to sit up to reach it.

"I can't get that."

"Too bad." Dawnie walked out the door and closed it. Dean heard the click of the lock.

"Great." Dean tried to move the bag closer with his foot, but the spike of pain and nausea that lashed through him completely overwhelmed his ability to control. He managed to lean over the edge of the bed before his stomach emptied itself. When it finally stopped, he glanced down at the mess and was somehow not all that surprised to see blood splattered on the floor. Using his hand to brace against the rail of the bed, he managed to drag himself far enough to lay down on the bed again. Reaction started setting in, he was trembling and the fear that something was going wrong suddenly blossomed into blind panic. Without thinking about it, he dialed Sam.

"Dean?" His brother answered halfway through the first ring.

"Sammy," was all Dean could managed at first. He took a breath.

"What's going on?"

"How long?"

"Twenty minutes, maybe less."

"Why are they doing this?"


"What have I done?" The words tumbled out of him, once they started he couldn't stop them. "Why are they torturing me?"

"Torture?" Sam asked, his voice dangerously calm. Dean could picture his brother's face. It would look almost peaceful, unless you looked in his eyes and all the controlled, contained violence Sam could muster would be there, staring out at whoever had caused the calm to appear.

"Am I a witch? I'll confess if they let me." He knew it sounded crazy, but the pain was overwhelming his reasoning. "Maybe I'm in hell?" At least that would explain why it was happening. "Why are they torturing me?" He repeated. "I promise I won't do it again." Dean could feel tears running over his face, he wasn't sure if they were caused by the agony or the desperation. Maybe it was both.

"I will be there in ten minutes, Dean."

Dean heard the lock on the door. "They're coming back, Sammy."

"Hold on, I will be there. I promise. Just hang on for ten minutes."

The doctor and Dawnie were standing in the door. The doctor looked at him with a frown. "I won't speak with you while you are on the phone."

"Sammy?" Dean asked, hating the fear he could hear.

"Ten minutes," Sam said firmly.

"Right," he said, drawing strength from the promise in his brother's voice. Dean broke the connection and looked at the doctor.

"Your x-ray is back," she said. "It's normal."

"I know. I told you that. It's why my doctor scheduled a CT scan for tomorrow."

"I doubt you need it. We are discharging you."

"But…" He gestured to the blood-filled vomit on the floor.

"It is not my job to supply drugs to addicts." The doctor turned on her heel and left without another word.

Dawnie dropped papers on the bed. "These are your discharge papers."

Dean was desperate. He knew there was something seriously wrong, he was sure he was dying. Pain just didn't take control like this. Brian had been worried enough to send him to the ER, even knowing all the issues they'd had recently. Taking a deep breath, he said the only thing he could think of to save his life. "If you discharge me now, I will walk out of this hospital and blow my brains out in the parking lot."

Dawnie stared at him. "What?"

"The pain will kill me. I won't let it." He glanced at the door, it was still partially open. "If you discharge me now, I will KILL MYSELF. DO YOU HEAR ME?" He shouted, the pain ratcheting up even more, but he noticed three people at the desk look up. They'd heard him.

"I'll get you a social worker," Dawnie grated out and slammed the sliding door shut as she left.

Dean closed his eyes. I bought you ten minutes, Sammy. Hurry.


The parking lot was full when Sam arrived at the hospital. He pulled into the first spot he found and sprinted toward the ER doors. The waiting room was busy as well. He had to wait in line at the desk.

"Can I help you?"

"My brother, Dean Iommi, is here, can you tell me which room he's in?"

"Dean Iommi?" she said, typing something, then frowning at the screen. "Excuse me." She got up and pulled a woman in dark purple scrubs aside. They spoke for a moment, glanced at him, the doors to the back and the woman in purple shook her head, then approached the desk.

"Mr. Iommi?" she asked.


"Do you have ID?"

He handed over the correct license and waited, trying to stop his hands from shaking. "What's going on?"

"We are waiting for a social worker for your brother. He threatened to kill himself and we have protocols to follow."

"He WHAT?" Sam stared at her, the emotions he'd been trying to control bubbling just under his skin.

"He threatened suicide."

"I need to see him." When they hesitated, he snapped. "Now!" They still hesitated and he started towards the doors to the back.

"Sir! You can't just go back there!"

"If my brother is suicidal, I have to be back there!" Sam said, heading towards the doors again. "What room is he in?" he demanded.

"Nine," the woman said swiping her key card in the lock by the door. "It's in the back corner on the left."

Sam didn't even wait for the doors to open all the way before he was running through the emergency room. He could see the number nine on a wall beside a closed glass door. He grabbed the door to pull it open and was shocked to discover it was locked. He flicked the lock open and wrenched the door open. His brother was on the bed, his eyes closed, face whiter than Sam had ever seen it. Dean was trembling, the bed was rattling slightly, he was shaking so hard. There was a pool of bloody vomit on the floor. "Dean?" he said, approaching the bed. The room was so small, he had to step over the mess on the floor to stand by the side of the bed. Dean's eyes slowly opened. The pain Sam saw there was enough to send his rage up another notch. His hands were trembling, but he stilled them as he reached for his brother's hand.

"Sammy?" Dean asked, his hand closing around Sam's. His brother glanced at the clock on the wall and a ghost of smile touched his lips. "Less than ten, good job. I bought you some time to get here."

"You did," Sam said, trying to keep his voice light. "Although threatening to kill yourself is a little dramatic."

"Only a little." The smile faded. "It was the only way I could think of to get someone in here that might listen and not call me a drug addict."

"What?" Sam asked carefully, keeping his voice as calm as possible.

"You know the drill. I'm a drug addict. I just want a fix and the ER is the bestest place to get drugs."


"The doctor has said it several times, Sam. It's not her job to give an addict drugs." Dean looked up at him, desperation and fear in his eyes. "I think I'm dying and they are torturing me enough to make it happen. I'm freezing."

Sam glanced around, there was no blanket on the bed, just the sheet. He pulled off his shirt and laid it over his brother. "How long ago did that happen?" He pointed to the blood on the floor.

"A couple of hours, I think. I'm losing track."

"A couple of HOURS?"

"Yeah, I think so. Am I in hell, Sammy? It makes sense if I'm in hell."

"You aren't in hell, Dean," Sam said gently. "And I'm here now."

"I'm thirsty."

"Why don't you have fluids?"

"How are they going to get it through this?" Dean held up his left hand and Sam could see the IV on the pad of his thumb. "I was NPO before I arrived, I figured they would need it for any tests, like usual. So it's been since about four yesterday afternoon since I've had anything."

"Let me see if I can get you something."

"Don't leave!" Dean nearly shouted, paled even further and looked like he was about to pass out.

"I'm just going to step to the door, I won't leave your sight. I promise, Dean." Sam squeezed his hand and walked to the door, looking out at the desk. "Can my brother get something to drink?" he said loud enough to carry to the man sitting at a computer behind the huge desk.

"What?" the man said, looking up at him.

"Can my brother get something to drink? He hasn't had anything, water or otherwise, since yesterday."

"What?" The man looked confused.

"My brother, in this room. He has not had anything to drink, or any liquids at all, since before he came in. He was NPO when he arrived."

"He should have fluids."

"He has nothing."

The man stood with a frown on his face. He walked over to where Sam was standing and looked in the room at Dean. "What the…?"

"Can I at least get a glycerin swab to moisten his mouth?" Sam asked, noticing the man's name tag. "Please, Tony?"

"Yeah, let me get something, uh…?"


"Sam." Tony nodded. "And I'm going to make a couple of calls."

"Thank you," Sam said, turning back towards Dean. The instant he did, the tiny amount of relief he'd felt disappeared to be replaced with blind rage. His hands were shaking again. How could anyone do this to his brother? Maybe the doctor wasn't human and they had stumbled into a trap? Taking a slow breath he stepped back to the bed and took his brother's hand again. "I think he went to get you something."

"He? Not the bitch?"

"The bitch?"

"Nurse Dawnie. She dropped off the discharge papers."

"Discharge papers?" Sam was aghast. "They discharged you?"


Sam picked up the papers that were on the foot of the bed with his free hand. He read over them, his eyes stopping on the "drug-seeking behavior" note as well as one that this was the second attempt at discharge for an "uncooperative and combative" patient. He took another slow breath, trying to calm what was uncoiling in his chest. "This says…" he whispered. "This says…"

A tap on the door interrupted him. "I'm Leah, one of the social workers here. I understand that," she glanced at the clipboard in her hand, "Dean is having some problems."

"I am," Dean said.

"Would you like to speak privately?"

"My brother can stay," Dean replied before Sam could speak up.

"What can I help you with? I understand you expressed the wish to kill yourself?" she sounded bored and a little annoyed.

"I did. I was desperate, I didn't know what to do. I'm here because I have pain at my stoma…"

"Stoma?" She frowned and stepped further into the room. "Why do you have a stoma?"

"Because he has gastroparesis and a gastric feeding tube," Sam said.

"A feeding tube?" she repeated, looking from Sam to Dean.

"Yes, it was placed eight weeks ago," Dean continued. "It's slipped out of place six times since then, including within the first twenty-four hours. I had an x-ray earlier this week, but my doctor was worried and set up a CT scan for tomorrow—unfortunately something happened and I started experiencing discomfort, then pain, and now agony at the stoma. I called my doctor immediately and he said report to the nearest ER ASAP. I did that. I was ignored for two hour in the waiting room. They started the IV here." Dean held up his hand and Sam saw Leah visibly flinch. "And I have spent the night in this room, without a call button, bloody vomit on the fucking floor and the doctor accusing me of drug abuse. I don't want drugs, I just want to NOT DIE!" Dean shouted the last part, then gasped and closed his eyes, his breathing ragged. "It hurts."

"Why did you say you were going to kill yourself?"

Dean didn't answer, he held onto Sam's hand and shook his head.

"He can't live in this pain," Sam said, guessing what his brother would say. Dean nodded. "He's probably in shock right now."

Leah's eyes flicked to the monitor and back to Sam. "I'll talk to the doctor and get you that CT scan now. Will that help?"

"Yes," Dean gritted out between clenched teeth. "All I ask is that. Sammy… going to…" He made a motion towards the bed where a blue bag sat just out of his reach. Sam grabbed it and helped Dean hold it while he vomited. When Dean finished he leaned back with blood flecked on his lips.

"Oh my god!" Leah said and dashed from the room.

"Sorry," Dean said almost soundlessly.

"Why isn't there a nurse here?"

"Hasn't been all night. Just come in, give me sedatives that don't work and lock me in."


"Yeah, vistaril. Probably figured it would make me compliant and leave."

"Too bad it doesn't work on you anymore," Sam said sarcastically. "Would have saved them a lot of trouble."

"I understand you are demanding a CT scan before you'll leave," a sour voice said from the door. "Fine, if it will get rid of you, but I am not wasting contrast on a druggie."

"What did you say?" Sam said, he tried to move towards her, but Dean held on to his hand, preventing him from going further than half a step.

"I'll see you after that." She turned and left without another word.

"Can't kill her yet," Dean muttered.

"Yet." Sam dragged the stool that was tucked in the corner over. There was barely enough room to sit, but he didn't want to hover over his brother. Dean smiled at him.

It was less than five minutes later when a tech from radiology showed up to take Dean for the CT scan. Sam had been wondering how to convince his brother and the hospital staff that he was going along, but he needn't have worried. Dean didn't let go of his hand as the tech, his name badge said Jules on it, released the brakes on the bed.

"We need to go," Jules said.

"Sam comes with," Dean whispered.

"Hospital rules…" He glanced at the doors. "Screw it." He smiled at Sam. "I was the tech on duty when he came in. There's something wrong, we all knew it. God, I'm sorry it's come to this. Let's get him down there. Ready to go, Dean?"

Dean nodded and they were moving. Sam walked alongside the bed as they wound through the emergency department then down a corridor and through huge double doors marked "Radiology". Jules pushed the bed into the room with the CT scan and stopped it beside the machine. "Can you sit up?" he asked Dean.

"I'll try." Dean shifted and Sam felt the tremor run through his body. "No."

"We'll lift you." Jules smiled again. "Hank? Can you come in and help?" Another man came in and nodded at Sam and smiled at Dean. "On three," Jules said. "One, two, three."

Sam watched as they lifted Dean with the sheet, like it was a stretcher. Everything was going smoothly for the first six inches, then to Sam's horror, his brother started screaming in pain.


The warm, solid comfort of his brother's hand was the first thing Dean was aware of as the agony backed off. When the techs had lifted him at the CT scan, whatever was wrong went from epically bad to worse to something beyond that. The scream had been torn from him against his will. He didn't scream, he didn't do that, but he could hear it. He could also hear his brother's angry words, but he couldn't do anything but try and not let the pain kill him. That's what it felt like.. Whatever was impaling him from the inside had stepped up its effort. It had to be demonic. Maybe it was hell, despite Sam's reassurance that he wasn't there.

"Dean? Hey, are you back?"

"Yeah," he said, opening his eyes. He was back in his room.

"They cleaned the floor while we were gone."

"What'd they say?" Dean mouthed the words, the pressure on his abdomen from trying to speak was horrible, trying to speak aloud was too much to bear.

"We're waiting. They didn't lock the door this time."


"The techs wanted me to let you know they're sorry."

"Not their fault. Good guys."

"Yeah." Sam frowned. "Here she comes. What the hell?"

Dean looked up as the doctor walked into the room and saw what his brother had seen. She had tears on her face. Actual tears. Crocodile, no doubt. "Well?" Dean asked, projecting his voice as much as he could and had to breathe through the pain.

"Thank god you persisted," she said, looking like she was going to come up and hug him.

"Hi, I'm Tony," a man in scrubs said as he walked in the room behind the doctor. "I'm going to be your nurse for the rest of your stay in ER." Tony stepped past Dr. Vernon and opened the drawer on Dean's left, pulling out an IV pack and setting it on the bed.

"You found something?" Sam snapped.

"You are so strong," the doctor said, the tears tracking over her face.

"What are you doing?" Sam asked Tony.

"Pulling this IV and getting a decent line started to get Dean some proper meds before we proceed."

"Well?" Dean whispered, Sam heard him, even if the doctor didn't and fixed her with a glare.

"We're going to give you some morphine before we take care of this," she said.

"What is this?" Sam said, his voice so calm and even, Dean almost panicked. That tone was never good when it came out of his brother. It usually proceeded mass destruction of some kind.

"There's a problem with the tube," the doctor said, blissfully unaware of the WMD staring daggers at her. "The balloon—the piece that holds the tube in place in your jejunum—has slipped and traveled through your stomach and is exiting at the stoma."

"You mean he's being stabbed from the inside out by part of the feeding tube?" Sam's hand was shaking. Dean held on as tight as he could manage.

"Yes," Tony said as he pulled the IV from Dean's hand and swabbed his forearm. He slid the needle in with precision and slid the catheter into place. He screwed a syringe on the port. "I'm going to flush it, to make sure I have a good line, okay, Dean?" he said gently.


"I spoke with one of our on-call gastroenterologists and I am going to release the pressure as soon as Dean has some meds." Doctor Vernon was looking anywhere but at Dean.

"For his drug habit?" Sam growled.

"Uh," she said.

"Here we go, Dean. I'm giving you some Zofran and some morphine, okay?" Tony was getting another syringe ready.

"Thanks," Dean said as Tony pushed the Zofran in. It stung as usual, but before he could really notice, the next push slid up his arm. He felt the weird pressure at the base of the neck that he always got when they gave him morphine. It would work fast, but he was pretty sure it wouldn't be enough to touch what was going on. He doubted a general anesthetic would give him relief at this point.

"I'm going to help with the feeding tube. I need to flush it before we proceed. I'm sorry." Tony set the large syringe on the bedside table and pulled up Dean's gown so he could access the tube. "I'll be a gentle as I can. Don't worry, though, I know how to do it."

"Good. Last time I had to do it myself."

"At the hotel?" Sam asked.

"I know," Tony said at the same moment.

"What?" Somehow Sam was getting calmer.

"Dawnie sprayed me with water. Had to do it myself." Dean wondered what he should do about his brother. Sam was at the Hurricane Sammy point, and he suspected if the doctor had been a man, he'd already be nursing a broken jaw—or something worse.

"I'm sorry," Tony repeated and lifted the syringe. "Ready?"

Dean nodded and closed his eyes as the pressure increased. He bit back a shout of pain, only a small moan escaped his lips as the nurse flushed the feeding tube. Tony did know what he was doing, and it was over quickly. "Thanks."

"Okay, we're ready. I'm going to use the syringe and get the saline out of the balloon so I can back that pressure off," the doctor said.

"Take it out," Dean said, not able to bear the thought of the thing in him for any longer.

"I can't do that," she said.

"Yes, you can." Dean met her eyes. "I want it out."

"They put it there for a reason, Dean," she said in a condescending tone. "You need to leave it in."

"No." Dean insisted.

"You aren't thinking straight. You're in a lot of pain, Dean. You can't make this decision right now." She pulled on a pair of gloves.

"I want it out." Dean looked at his brother.

"Out," Sam said firmly. "I'm his medical POA. I want it out too."

"I can't," she said, picking up the syringe. "You can speak with one of our gastroenterologists after you're admitted."

"Admitted?" Dean whispered. He couldn't stay there, they'd kill him, he was sure of it. That might be a little paranoid. "Sammy?"

"You fix it and we leave." Sam squeezed his hand. "We can call Brian's office in a couple of hours, Dean. Karen's in this Saturday."

"I can't let him go!" the doctor exclaimed.

"You can!" Sam growled.

"Please," Dean said.

"I'll go get the forms you need to get out of here as soon as she's done." Tony patted his arm. "And I'll give you my cell, Sam, in case you need something before you can get a hold of his personal physician."

"No!" Dr. Vernon stopped whatever she was about to say when she glanced at Sam. Dean wondered what she saw because the next moment she pressed her lips together, then forced a smile. "Fine, but it will be against medical advice."

"Fine," Sam said. "Help him. Now."

Dean's fear suddenly ramped up. She had the syringe and was reaching towards him. For some reason that was finally too much. "Sam?"

"I'm right here. Tony is right here. She will not hurt you."

"I…" Dean wanted the pain gone, but his trust was completely shattered. "Sammy, before…"

"What?" His brother looked confused for a moment then his face cleared. "Right. Christo."

"What was that?" Dr. Vernon stopped what she was doing.

"Exorcizo te, omnis spiritus immunde, in nomine Dei," Sam recited, and stopped when nothing happened. "I guess not, Dean."

The fact the doctor wasn't a demon wasn't a comforting as Dean thought it would be. "Okay, Sam. Let her do it." He closed his eyes, trying to stop the acceleration of his heart, the first sign of an impending panic attack. He had to get it under control. Panic attacks almost always kicked off an esophageal spasm and the thought of that, on top of the tube and everything was too much. He felt his throat getting tight.

"Go ahead," Sam said. "But…" He let the threat hang in the air.

Dean felt the doctor fumble with the retention ring—the piece that held everything in place on the outside of his body—then with the tubes, heard Sam's growl as Dean tensed in pain as the syringe was pushed onto the tube. He was still focused on getting his heart rate under control, silently counting, concentrating on the numbers when the soul-killing agony was suddenly gone. Even though the panic was still buzzing under his skin like an electrical current, the tremors that were shaking the bed were backing off as his body adjusted to the lack of the foreign object attempting to come out his stomach from the inside. He took a slow breath, terrified the agony would start again, but it didn't. There was a lingering pain, but it was right at the edge of his ability to control. Any other day, and it would be controllable. He took another breath, and focused on letting the tension out of his muscles, still trying to control the panic. He could hear the monitor beeping too fast, reaction was starting to set in and that wasn't helping.

"You can't leave it like that!" The tone in Sam's voice made Dean open his eyes. His brother was staring at the doctor.

"It's all I can do. Tony will bandage it, if you still insist on leaving."

"But it's open, it's leaking stomach contents onto his skin."

"It's all I can do," the doctor repeated. "I can get him admitted."

"That's blackmail."

Dean looked at his abdomen, the retention ring was gone. There was just the hole and the tube, yellowish fluid already gathering around the plastic. The thought that the tube would be loose and could move was terrifying and almost enough to make him agree to being admitted, but he couldn't. If they admitted him, if he stayed here, he would die. It was irrational, he knew that, too, but he couldn't bear the thought of another fifteen minutes in the hospital, let alone more. "Okay," he said.

"I'll get you admitted, then," the doctor said, casting a triumphant smirk at Sam.

"No, we're going. That's what he meant." Sam looked at him and Dean nodded.


Desperation was beginning to pound through Dean again. The panic was almost at the point of out of control. "I can't stay, Sam. If I do. No. I can't. I'll die."

"Would you like me to get Leah while you wait for the papers?" Tony asked.

"No, as long as I can go."

"You will have to sign an AMA." The doctor crossed her arms.

"I know," Sam said, to Tony, not the doctor. "Can you get me the number of patient advocacy too? And any formal complaint forms I might need."

"I figured you'd want those, and a records request," Tony added with a grin. "You can get dressed, Dean. I'll get the papers, and do you need meds?"

"Thanks, Tony, but he has pain meds at home. The shot and what we have should be enough until we can get in contact with Dr. Gleason. Thank you again."

"I'll be right back."

"I want to speak with you," Dr. Vernon said as Tony stepped out the door.

"It can wait until they are on the way and Dr. Lansing is in. He's the ED director," Tony explained, smiling at Sam and Dean.

"He's not in on weekends," she hissed.

"He's on his way." Tony paused. "I was going to wait until I got back with your papers, but is it okay if I give him your number, Sam? I'm sure he's going to want to talk to you."


"Okee dokee. I'll be right back." He stepped out the door before the doctor could say anything else.

As soon as he was gone, the doctor turned on them. "Don't think it will be that easy." She opened her mouth, then shook her head and left.

"Are you okay, Dean? I just want to…" Sam glanced at the door, the wall, the table, the door and then at Dean. "I need um, to take a leak."


"Don't worry," Sam said quickly. "I'll be back in less than five minutes and Tony is just outside at the desk. He can see everyone who comes in, okay?"

"Okay, Sam, but…" He shifted and when it was relatively pain free, he slowly sat up. Everything caught up in that moment and he reached for Sam and was pulled into one of his brother's enveloping hugs. "Just don't do anything too stupid. I need you with me."

"I won't. I promise. I've got your back, always."

"Hand me my clothes before you leave," Dean said.

"Yep." Sam gently released him, then steadied him before setting the bag labeled "patient belongings" on the bed. He smiled and slipped quietly out of the room.

Dean knew he should be more worried, the calm his brother has been radiating was at something beyond a category 11 hurricane, but he trusted Sam's promise. And, if he was totally honest with himself, it felt good—better than good—knowing his brother had his back and the doctor might pay just a little for what had happened. He just hoped Sam would be discreet.



The TV was on as Dean woke from a light doze. He shifted carefully, aware of the open wound in his stomach and sighed. It was sore, but the pain was gone and now that the feeding tube was gone as well, he wasn't terrified it was going to try and kill him again.

It had been a long morning.

They'd managed to escape the hospital less than an hour after Dr. Vernon had released the pressure on the balloon. Dean had been surprised to discover the sun was rising when they left the building. It had been just as the sun set the night before that he'd arrived. Sam had left a message with Brian's service before they were out of the parking lot. His brother had been quiet as they drove back to the hotel, asking if Dean wanted to get something on the way, but Dean declined. He wanted to be "home" and safe. Sam could get him a sport's drink from the machine at the hotel or run across the street to the diner.

When they got to the hotel, Sam helped him in, settled him in bed and asked five times if he needed anything. His brother was in the middle of a full-blown Sammy fuss when his phone rang—Brian's office returning the call. Dean listened as Sam related what had happened at the hospital. Hearing it from Sam brought the fear, pain and panic back, even though he was safe. If anything, it made it worse, hearing the recitation of the events. By the time Sam was finished, Dean was feeling sick and surprisingly ashamed at what had happened. He was barely listening to Sam as his brother explained that Brian's office was arranging an appointment as soon as they could to have the tube removed. Karen, Brian's nurse, called back in half an hour to let them know she'd arranged for it all at a digestive health clinic.

They arrived shortly before ten, to discover the parking lot empty and a "closed" sign on the door. There had been a gray haired man leaning against the wall when they pulled up. He smiled and introduced himself as Dr. Uhls, a friend of Brian's and one of his GP network. The clinic was very welcoming, decorated in soft browns and greens and it felt like anything but a medical office. That helped a lot, because as they got closer to the clinic, panic started uncurling in Dean's chest, ready to strike. Even in the warmly lit office, the slight medical scent was enough to make his hands shake. Luckily, Dr. Uhls was a kind and understanding man and he joked with Sam and spoke gently to Dean, and the tube was gone less than fifteen minutes after they arrived.

Unfortunately, the panic attack hit less than five minutes after the tube was out—the doctor was still explaining how to care for the wound until it healed, carefully showing Sam how to bandage it and minimize the scarring to the skin that the stomach acid and other fluids might cause. All Dean knew was one moment he was listening to the doctor and Sam talking and the next he was in the corner, Sam crouching in front of him, talking to him with the same coaxing tone he'd once used on a terrified puppy. Once he was aware of his surroundings again, Dean managed to breathe through the panic enough to get up and head to the car. Sam followed a few minutes later with a bagful of supplies and a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication, just in case.

By the time they got back to the hotel, the adrenaline was wearing off and Dean could barely stay awake long enough to get from the Impala into the room. He had a vague memory of his brother helping him in the room and settling him on the bed, but that was all. He was asleep before Sam pulled the blanket over him. Sam shook him awake several times to make sure he drank some sport's drink, but it felt more like a dream than reality.

Now he was awake, listening to the TV and wondering where his brother was. Sam had left a note sitting beside the bed Running an errand, back by 4. Dean glanced at the clock, it was almost four and Sam was still gone. He was starting to get worried when he heard the rumble of Baby's engine. Sam came in a moment later with several grocery bags in his hands. He set them on the table and turned to the bed, smiling when he saw Dean was awake.

"Hey, how are you feeling?"

"Like I slept all day and owls nested in my mouth sometime around noon."

"I tried to chase them off, but they just looked at me," Sam said with a laugh. "I got you a DQ shake, do you think you can eat?"

"It's okay?" Dean asked, sitting up.

"I asked Dr. Uhls and Brian and they both said it was okay. I got Greek yogurt and some other stuff too, now that you'll be eating again. Brian wants to see us as soon as we can get there. I told him it would be a few days."

"Thank you," Dean said, taking the shake.

"I know you like them." Sam pulled a burger and shake out of the bag and sat beside him on the bed.

"That's not what I'm talking about, Sammy."

"I didn't do much, Dean."

"You did. I wouldn't have made it without you."

"I wasn't even there," Sam said softly, guilt clouding his face.

"You were, and knowing you were on the way helped. It let me focus on something other than the…"

"The calculated torture by medical staff to make you admit you were nothing but an addict looking for a fix?" Sam finished for him, his voice dangerously low.

"It never occurred to me that they would ignore me this time," Dean said, hoping to remove the look from his brother's face. Sam was caught up in a mire of guilt, he could tell. "I mean, I had a tube sticking out of me!"

"You had to threaten suicide to get help."

"I was desperate. You were almost there, I only had to hold on a little longer, although at that point I don't know." Dean trailed off, thinking about that plea. "I was pretty sure I was dying."

"You were. That's why Tony freaked and called the emergency department's director."

"He did?"

"He did. I've already spoken to the hospital a couple of times today. They're scrambling like crazy, trying to make it into something other than what it was, but it's not working so well. The guys in radiology have filed statements, Tony did too. Dr. Uhls told me he was calling the hospital and telling them he'd removed the tube and was not making you sign the AMA because of potential mental and emotional anguish that leaving it in could cause."

"What happened to Dr. Vernon?" Dean asked. He'd been worried about it since Sam had disappeared in the hospital but his brother had only been gone for a few minutes. Although, Sam could inflict a lot of damage in less than sixty seconds when he needed to.

"I didn't catch her, if that's what you're asking," Sam said, his voice flat, no humor reflected in it at all. "I wanted to, Dean."

"She wasn't supernatural?" Dean had to ask, even though he knew the answer. Humans could be crueler than the worst of the supernatural world given the chance. Demons—and others—had rules. Humans didn't.


"I'm glad you didn't catch her."

"I am too, now, mostly. She's on forced leave until the investigation is over. Nurse Dawnie too." Sam took a slow breath. "I wanted them both to pay. They tortured you for hours. They didn't even follow standard hospital protocol!"

"You know how it is, once you get the drug seeking behavior thing on the records, Sam. It's permission to mistreat."

"They tortured you," Sam growled. "When I talked to the head of the department, I asked about how we can get that off your records." Sam looked sick.


"They won't take it off, even though we can prove you don't use, haven't use and are not an addict. They say it's a judgement call by an attending and they can't remove it. All we can do is write up a rebuttal and let them meet in a tribunal to decide if they will add and amendment saying you say you aren't an addict."

"We can talk to them, then?"

"No, we write the rebuttal, we are not allowed to attend the meeting." Sam shook his head. "I spoke with Karen too, she said the same thing and Brian is worried if you can get proper care anywhere now, because of this. The 'drug seeking' thing is at the front of the records and every single note he's written refuting it is at the back."

"Where no one ever looks." Dean felt helplessness wash over him. Without really thinking about it, his hands strayed to the bandage on his abdomen. "Sammy…" He heard the panic, the desperation in his voice. He had a serious illness and he couldn't look to hospitals for help? What were they supposed to do?

"We will figure it out, Dean. I have a copy of a note from Brian—we can get the original when we visit him—that says any ER or doctor can call him on his personal cell any time of day or night about your case. Dean, I'm sorry."

"You were there, we just covered that."

"No, about that fight, when tube four went bad. You wanted it out then. I talked you out of it."

"No, you made me think about it and I agreed we needed to give it a longer try because of everything. I can't get around the fact that I was barely eating before it and that I was getting stronger with the thing in. No one, not even Brian, could have seen this coming."

"But, Dean."

"Sammy, you have been there through all this, since I told you about the GP. We have changed our lives and you've never complained. And you saved my life last night, because Leah or not, I wouldn't have been able to hold on much longer, and if you hadn't been there, if you hadn't found Tony, who knows what would have happened. No, I know. I would have died. It was close when you got there and who knows if they would have listened to me?" He leaned against Sam, drawing comfort from the strength there.

"I don't know," Sam said quietly. "Dean, Dr. Uhls said you probably have…"

"I know, Sam, I guessed that when I was in the corner and he gave you the prescription for Xanax."

"Karen gave me the name of a counselor that deals with PTSD."

"I'm not ready for that," Dean said, the thought of talking about what had happened was making the panic start again.

"I know, I told her that. You can't talk about it yet. You need time to get over the pain, the anger and the shame."

"How'd you know about that?"

Sam laughed, a little bitterly. "The shame? It's been getting worse with every hospital visit. The way they treat you, it makes you angry, but it also gets under your skin and I don't think you realize it, but you've barely been talking about the GP, the tube and any discomfort surrounding either. You weren't going to mention the tube feeling weird at all, until Brian found out it was out of its track the second time, because somewhere in your head you've become convinced you're weak, you're just complaining and you are ashamed of the pain."

"Yeah." Dean felt the shame well up. If he'd just been stronger the night before…

He was surprised when his brother pulled him into a hug. "Don't, Dean. You aren't to blame for what happened, those bitches and a broken system are. And never think you are weak. You are the strongest person I know, I couldn't go through what you're going through."

"Yeah, you could," Dean said, his voice muffled against his brother's shoulder.

"Maybe, but only if you were there to help."

"That's how I manage," Dean muttered, not sure if that was meant for Sam, or he just wanted to say it out loud. Either way, his brother heard him and tightened the hug for a moment before letting him go. Sam's eyes were bright, Dean felt an answering burn in his eyes. What had happened meant a lot of things were going to change, for the better or worse, they had to change. He knew he wouldn't be able to face an unknown medical clinic or doctor for a long, long time—if ever. How that would work with the GP, the esophageal spasm and everything else was terrifying to think about. "Whatever comes, we do this together?"

"Together," Sam said with a smile. "Always."

Dean nodded. Knowing Sam had his back always gave him strength, knowing his brother was there in this gave him hope. No matter what happened, it was easier when the Winchesters were working together. They faced down the apocalypse—more than once—they could face this, no matter how hard it was, no matter what it meant. He could do this, they could do this.

"Want to watch something?" Sam asked, picking up his burger again.

"Spinal Tap comes on at five," Dean said with a grin.

"How did… never mind, it's the Metal sensing gland in your head, right?"

"Of course, it's a gift."

"Only in your world would that be a gift."


"Jerk," Sam said with a smile.

Dean leaned against his brother, picked up his shake and changed the channel. Things were okay. They'd get through this and hit the road. It was time. Maybe medicine needed to be left behind a little, maybe there was another solution, but for now the promise of the road was enough. There was a hunt somewhere, someone they could save. It made everything better, saving people, hunting things, the road, Baby and Sam at his side. Winchester normal, and that was enough for now.

The End

Author's Note III: Thank you all for letting me share this. I am hoping that getting this out of my system will let me return to writing full time. It feels like it today. (Be gentle with me!) Hope is a good thing. So, like my stories in this verse, this is based on a real incident. It happened August 13, 2013. The events are pretty much as they happened with two notable exceptions—Sam didn't show up (dang, that would have been awesome) and there was no Tony for me. I have actually downplayed some of it, mostly because it still haunts me. Sadly, the rest is true. I know I have touched on the "Drug seeking behavior" issue in some of my other stories, but on that night in August, things went from bad to literal Hell. I asked people if I was in Hell, or maybe a witch and someone had a copy of the Malleus Maleficarum and they were practicing their witch torturing skills on me. Since that night, things have actually gotten worse as far as the three little words go. I, like Dean, have done my best to step away from medicine—and that is not easy with serious chronic illness. It's terrifying. And, yes, the whole written rebuttal and tribunal are real (at least here) and I am utterly trapped by it. I am trying to raise a little awareness along the way, not just for Gastroparesis but also for those people—and there are sadly many with chronic illness—that have that terrible label as "drug seeker". (If you want a little more on that night and what's come since, I've blogged about them at muffymorrigan dot com and the blog is called Multum in Parvo.)