Title: Finding Elrond

Author: shallowz

Warnings/spoilers: Faith, Houses of the Holy, Born Under a Bad Sign (possibly others)

Disclaimer: This story is based on the characters and premises of many talented people. Essentially, not ours, no profit being made, etc. This is just for fun.

Authors' Note: Happy Birthday, Harrigan ! This is for you.:) Many thanks to Erinrua for betaing!

Part One

"This isn't getting better."

"Going back to the hospital's a waste of time. You know that." Sam met his brother's gaze and found reluctant acceptance.

"I must have missed something."

"Dean… "

"Yeah, been through this before." Dean picked up the ibuprofen bottle and shook out four tablets. "Take these."

Sam didn't argue. It hurt. Had been hurting for so long, he didn't remember what it was like before. A bottle of water was handed over next, and Sam drained it. Never could seem to get enough fluid these days. The fever kept burning, never seeming to rise, but never lowering either.

Sam watched as Dean bent over his leg, deft fingers smoothing a gauze pad over the weeks old gash. It was better not to see the red, inflamed mess with its blackened, torn edges. Sam had been wounded before on the job, but he'd never received an injury that refused to heal like this one did.

It was taking its toll. Sam knew he couldn't keep going like this. The fever burned. Took his appetite. Took his energy. He'd lost too much weight; could hardly keep his jeans up at this point.

Knew things were bad when Dean didn't tease him. No, hey, scarecrow. Which would have fit. He felt like one hanging out in a field, baking under the sun, fading away.

Gentle hands wrapped gauze around his thigh. Sam would never admit it, but he welcomed Dean's touch on his leg. Dean was quick and precise when it came to patching him up. Plenty of practice, his brother would say with a smirk, but Dean's hands were cool, and the wound was so hot.

And just maybe Dean knew, because as Sam closed his eyes he felt both hands covering the wound, and for that moment knew he could sleep because Dean made the burn go away.

Dean watched Sam fall asleep. Pushed the panic down at how fast Sam could slip under. Happened more often now, and yet he never slipped into a true sleep. Not the much needed, healing kind of sleep.

Something supernatural made this wound, and even with all the cleansing Dean had done, something had been left behind. He'd been worried enough that he'd brought Sam to a hospital where they'd flushed the ragged laceration, patched him up, and handed out a prescription for antibiotics. Antibiotics that Sam had taken with diligence because he felt there was something different about this injury.

Two weeks later and no noticeable healing proved him right.

Four weeks later, it had become its own little horror story resulting in another hospital visit. Tests upon tests had left Sam so exhausted and washed out that Dean had thought his brother had died and someone had forgotten to tell him.

One look at the utter weariness in Sam's eyes told Dean more than the doctors could. They weren't going to find answers there, and Dean couldn't, wouldn't, put Sam through that again.

Alternative options were needed.

Dean couldn't help the soft huff of laughter as he booted up the laptop and googled 'natural healing'. He refused to put in 'faith'.

He looked over at Sam sprawled on the motel bed with his injured leg propped up on Dean's pillows. At first glance he might have looked comfortable, but that sprawl wasn't due to comfort. Sam just didn't have the energy to move.

Dean suspected that more than the injury hurt Sam to move. Sam hadn't said anything, but Dean had noticed in the last week that his brother's movements had become stiffer. Arthritic.

Dean knew Sam was dying.

Sam knew it too.

Sam woke to the recognizable sounds of Dean packing up. The light in the room was dim, leaving Sam at a loss as to what time it was. The days he had lost track of a long time ago.

"Dean?" He swallowed to ease the dryness in his throat.

"Hey, Sammy. We're heading out. Hate to do it, but we've got some place to be."

"A job?" Sam frowned in confusion.

"Destination."

"Huh? Where?"

"Rivendell."

Sam blinked. "You say Rivendell?"

"Yep. Come on, Frodo. Let's find Elrond."

"Is this a hallucination?"

"Would it work better if it was?"

"Yeah, think so. You've gone all Lord of the Rings, and that's just weird, man."

"Hallucination it is."

Sam felt Dean's arm sliding under his shoulders, sitting him up. Without that arm, Sam knew he would have just continued to topple over onto the floor.

"God, if this is a hallucination, could it not hurt so damn much?"

"Hold on, I've got some good drugs for you."

"You hit a pharmacy?"

"Just a little one."

"Gimme."

He felt Dean's soft laughter and smiled. He hadn't heard it in awhile, and knew he was the cause of it. While he may be the injured one, it hadn't escaped Sam's attention that his brother was looking ragged around the edges.

Dean peeled open a packet. "Here. Open up."

Sam was grateful for the matter of fact way his brother 'nursed'. A pill was placed on his tongue and a bottle of water held to his mouth. Sam tried to lift his hand to take it, but found himself too weak and shaky. He swallowed the pill, and met his brother's worried eyes. Sam wanted Dean to stop worrying. Knew that wasn't going to happen.

"We'll take it easy, but I've gotta get you to the car before the happy meds kick in."

Sam nodded, detached. Dean picked up one of Sam's feet and started putting his shoes on. Tied the laces like he used to when Sam was little. It was so familiar that it took Sam a minute to realize that he was quite capable of putting on his own shoes, and had been doing so for years. Only right now he wasn't.

Strong, sure hands wrapped him in a blanket and pulled him to his now shod feet.

And for a moment that was too much. Sam was aware he was moving. Hoped he was moving. Otherwise, the room was and that wouldn't be the first time this week.

He heard the car door creak and wondered when they had reached the Impala. The lost fragments of time were worrisome.

"Come on, Sam. Stretch out in the back," Dean was saying, and Sam felt his brother's hand on his head making sure he didn't whack it on the car's roof. Sam couldn't breathe for those few seconds it took him to adjust to sitting. Without Dean's hand, warm and anchoring on the back of his neck, he knew he would've lost more time.

"Dean…" Sam knew his absolute weariness showed. He hated this. He hated that Dean had to take care of him like he was a toddler. Hated that there were lines in Dean's face that were only a month old.

"Hey, hey, we're going to fix this." Dean said with such absolute conviction, Sam couldn't help smiling at him.

"Yeah, I know. Not fair to you."

Dean broke out into a sudden, blinding smile. The genuine, rare one that lit him up.

"Sam, you're an idiot. This has nothing to do with fair." He pat Sam on the cheek. "You'll figure that out eventually. You're kind of a smart guy. Slow, but smart. Now, ease back in there. I've got your leg."

Sam glanced behind him and saw more borrowed pillows added to the nest Dean continued to build in the back seat. "I didn't realize you had such birdlike tendencies."

"Yeah, well, it's not the first time," Dean said, following Sam's train of thought.

"What?"

"What, what?"

"What are you talking about? This not being the first time?"

Sam felt his brother's soft laughter as Dean adjusted him back against the pile of pillows stacked up against the car door. The huff of it tickled his ear. Became crowded with two six-foot something guys even with the Impala's generous back seat.

"Come on. I know there's a story." Sam put just a little wheedling in his tone. "Tell me."

"Gimme a minute." Dean tucked a pillow under his leg, and covered him up with a blanket. "You good?"

Sam blinked, surprised. The pillows supported his back just right, and his leg felt about as good as it could.

"Yeah, now tell me."

Sam wanted to hold unto the lightness of the moment. Wanted to hear Dean telling him a story in that easy, flowing tone he used when reminiscing about something that made him happy.

"Let me get us going first. We've got an appointment to make."

Dean closed the car door and hurried around to the driver's side. As he was getting in, Sam felt warmth spread through his body.

"Dude, what did you give me?"

"Only the best over-priced pharmaceuticals." Dean started the car.

"Seriously, you're too good to me."

"Remember that."

"So, you better tell me the story before this stuff puts me to sleep."

Dean pulled the car out of the motel lot and glanced over his shoulder. "This was one of Dad's favorite stories. Used to pull it out when I was complaining about a pain in the ass little brother. Always made him laugh."

Sam snorted and let his head fall back against the pillows. A sweet lethargy was taking over his body. His leg still ached something fierce, but he just didn't care. Dean's voice flowed over him, and Sam smiled because he knew that Dean had probably complained on purpose to get their dad to tell the story, and to make John laugh.

Remind their dad about the good times.

"Anyway, you know how pregnant moms do that nesting thing?" Dean looked back at him. Sam nodded. "Well, I guess I was doing the same thing, only in the back seat here…"

Sam drifted off while hearing Dean telling the tale of a four-year-old preparing a nest in a 1967 Impala to bring his baby brother home.