As always, much thanks to Insane Troll Logic. I greatly appreciate the editing and suggestions. Thanks also to all those who put the story on their alert list and reviewed it.

No copyright infringement is intended.

Better to Reign

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged -Proverbs 16:6

Chapter 5/Epilogue

Sam couldn't remember the mad rush to the hospital or even exactly how he found it. Getting Dean to the hospital was a blur but every single minute that he sat in the waiting area for the emergency room was engraved in his memory.

With Dean's blood drying stiff on his shirt and jacket, he looked as if he should be the one behind the doors and the other people in the room had given him a wide berth. Consequently, Sam sat alone on one side of the waiting area.

There had been no word about Dean since he was rushed behind the doors, barely breathing, more than an hour ago. Sam could still see his brother's grey complexion. He was certain Dean had been dying when he carried him into the hospital. He was terrified of losing his brother again. He shut his eyes against tears when he thought that only that morning he had told Dean he was leaving. Now he just hoped that Dean wouldn't be the one leaving. He would give anything…

Sam clasped his hands together in front of him but couldn't summon the words of a prayer for his brother. The words to an exorcism he could summon instantly but he couldn't begin a prayer to beg for his brother's life. How, screwed up was that?

"Pray, Samuel, that our Father will heal the wounds of both flesh and spirit."

Sam startled slightly at the unexpected voice. Castiel sat beside him. Sam felt an unaccountable flash of anger at the angel. Where was Castiel when Lilith was bleeding his brother? "Aren't you afraid to sit beside me?" he said somewhat bitterly. "The boy with the demon blood?"

Castiel canted his head to the side and intently looked into Sam's eyes. "Except for parts of the brain, the cells in the human body renew themselves every seven to ten years. The blood Azazel gave you opened you to his influence, marked you so he could always find you and prepared a pathway to unholy power-but it is no longer a part of you. You were the boy with demon blood but now you are a man who must chose between right and wrong, just like any other man. I hesitated to take your hand because you had been consorting with a demon; not because of what had been done to you when you were an infant but because of what you had done as an adult. However, when you choose your brother over getting revenge, love over hate, you began to redeem yourself."

Sam looked away quickly, a flush of shame briefly coloring his face. He gathered his courage and looked back at the angel. "Is he going to live?"

"I can not see the future but I have faith."

"If you're not going to save him, why are you here?"

"I am here to wait, to watch and to give comfort to whom will take it. There is an Angel of Death in these halls and I would bid my sister pass your brother by."

"A reaper? Is it here for Dean?" Sam said, fighting his fear. Death was not a supernatural entity. It could not be exorcised or warded against.

Castiel stared straight ahead, his eyes fixed on nothing. "This one has met your brother on two other occasions and knows him well." He tilted his head as if listening to a voice. "She says that your brother has not accomplished his allotted days nor is his job completed. He has more than earned his rest but will not go to it today."

What the angel said slowly sunk in and Sam felt a quiet rush of relief. He heard a sound behind the double doors and quickly glanced toward them in hopes of seeing a doctor coming out to talk to him. The doors did not open. "So, he's going to be all right?" he asked hopefully, turning his head to look back at Castiel.

The angel was gone.

A white coated man of middle years and a receding hairline walked out of the double doors through which they had taken Dean. "Mr. Idol?"

Sam stood quickly and hurried over to the doctor. "How's my brother? Is he going to be all right?"

The doctor shook his head for a second, as if clearing his thoughts, and Sam's stomach plummeted. The doctor took in his stricken expression and quickly corrected his misconception. "Your brother is stable and should eventually be fine. When he was brought in, he was in hypovolemic shock due to blood loss. We had to give him ten units to stabilize him. Still there doesn't appear to be any organ damage due to blood loss and he's breathing on his own. He is amazingly lucky in that regard. The curious thing is that we couldn't find any wounds on his body. We were getting prepped for surgery to repair the damage before we realized that…it was as if the blood in his body was just pulled out. Neither I nor the rest of the staff in the OR have seen anything like it before. I have no way to explain it. In fact, other than a broken rib, we can't find anything besides blood loss wrong with him. You said you just found him this way?"

"Yes. We had gone for a walk out by cemetery road. He went one direction and I went another. When he didn't meet me where we said we would meet, I went looking for him. I found him covered in blood and rushed him here as fast as I could."

"Strange, very strange," the doctor said distractedly, as if trying to explain the mystery rationally.

"Can I see my brother now?" Sam pleaded, getting the physician's attention again.

"Yes, of course, we're moving him now. The nurse at the desk can tell you what room he'll be in. He should be monitored for a day to two just to make sure there won't be any problems and that we didn't miss anything. He is sedated and is probably still asleep but there's no reason that you can't sit with him."

Sam was running down the hall before the doctor had stopped talking.

Consciousness returned in easy stages. Dean first became aware of softly spoken words, "… is going to be fine, Bobby." Then he wasn't aware of anything for a while. Gradually he realized he was laying down. Next he became aware of pain; his head was pounding with one of the worse headaches ever and there was a sharp stitch in his side when he drew in a breath. Then there was darkness again. When he next became aware, he saw Sam's worried face inches from his own. He just stared; his mind not yet engaged enough to joke with his brother about personal space.

"Dean?"

"Sammy."

Sam sat back in his chair with a sigh of relief. "The doctor said you would be fine but you've been out of it for hours. I was starting to worry."

"If you're just now starting to worry, Sam, then your timing sucks." Dean's voice was raspy and Sam handed him a cup of ice chips to wet his mouth and throat.

"What happened? I don't really remember much after I finished that incantation."

"Prayer, Dean, a prayer of protection and it worked. After you called on the three angels, they showed up. The Seal is safe. When the angels came, Lilith left her girl suit and ran. She got away but she dropped the colt. We have the gun back."

"The little girl?"

"She's alive, probably traumatized but alive. So is the woman. Bobby took them to the police station. He's going to say that he was out running on the ATV trails and found 'em in the woods. He'll be here to see you as soon as all the red tape is tied up."

Dean shifted his gaze from his brother to almost anywhere else. His eyes roamed around the room without really touching on anything before he closed them. "I thought you would be gone-off with Ruby."

"I...I thought about it…for like two seconds. Why didn't you tell me that Ruby tortured you while you were in Hell?" Sam asked softly.

"I didn't remember. There were a lot of demons wielding the blades, especially in the beginning. I was lucky to remember my own name; no way was I going to be able to remember every evil son of a bitch who took a piece of me."

"I sent Ruby away."

"Thanks," Dean whispered.

"Don't thank me; I didn't do it for you. I did it for me. Being around her was turning me into someone I didn't like."

Sam sighed heavily. "After I found out that Dad told you to save me or you might have to kill me, I was obsessed with killing every supernatural thing that I could so I could save myself.

"After I found out about your deal, I became obsessed with saving you.

"After you died and I couldn't get you back, I became obsessed with revenge and killing Lilith.

"After you came back, I was still obsessed. I lied to you, did things you asked me not to do. I thought the end would justify everything and that after I killed Lilith, I could make it up to you.

"I kept thinking that after this was over, we could just be brothers again, not a demon's boy king or a hunter pulled from Hell by an angel. Seeing you bleeding out, I realized I can't wait for this to be over to make things right between us."

"Sammy, you don't…"

"No, Dean, let me finish. I chose a demon over you. I don't know what I was thinking."

"You were thinking that you were saving people. That you were trying to stop the apocalypse."

"No, Dean, I was thinking that I knew more than you and the angels; I was thinking I was the only one that knew what was right. It was just like with Dad all over again. I wanted to do what I wanted to do and found a way to justify it. For someone who's supposed to be so smart, I can sure act like an idiot.

"Anyway, I want to say I'm sorry. I truly am. I was doing things to separate us instead of bringing us together as brothers. I forgot what you told me, hell, what you show me everyday-we're stronger as a family. I won't forget it again. I promise. No more Ruby. No more tempting fate by using Azazel's powers. No more sneaking off in the middle of the night…"

"Unless it's to meet a hot chick, Sammy, sneaking off for that's always fine…unless she's a demon…or a vampire, shape shifter, werewolf or a succubus. We're Winchesters, Sam; we have to have some standards." Dean tried to lighten the mood, uncomfortable with his brother's admission and apology but he sobered quickly. "We won today, Sammy. We might not win tomorrow but we won today and we didn't need Ruby to do it. We just needed each other."

"Yeah, Dean, we won," Sam said quietly.

"Don't worry, Sammy, it'll all work out," Dean promised as his eyes slid closed. "Everything's going to be okay."

It was the same promise that he had been making to his family for as long as he could remember.

Sam sat beside his brother until Dean's breathing became deep and even. He remembered the number of times he'd had his brother's blood on his hands. He thought about all of his brother's sacrifices for him. He remembered his brother's broken confessions about Hell. He compared them to his own broken promises. He remembered the heady feeling of strength and control over his own fate when he used the power.

The apocalypse was coming, Seals were being broken. There were always hard choices made in times of war. Looking back, Sam realized that he and Dean had been making hard choices all of their lives.

He whispered, "Everything is not okay, and maybe it never will be again, but we'll still be brothers. No matter what happens or what I have to do, I won't forget that again. I promise."

End