Armor of Righteousness

Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Summary:Multi-chapter tag for OTHOAP. No one man wins or loses a war. Now Sam just has to prove that to Dean. No Slash.

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Chapter 3

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When Dean's breathing changed, Sam, immediately detecting it, tightened his grip on Dean's forearm and drew closer to his brother, eyes on Dean's face, praying for a twitch, a flutter of eyes, something that heralded good news instead of bad. "Dean?" he gently called, knew it came out imploring, weak. "Hey, man, how 'bout coming back to me, huh?" he tried to tease, gave a soft laugh that was nearly turned into a hysterical sob. Sliding his hand down Dean's arm, he slid it into his brother's hand, gave Dean's hand a squeeze. "You leave me alone much longer and I'm going to go all weepy. Ruin both our reputations."

Dean, he knew that voice, though the tone, he wasn't so sure about, hadn't heard it in long while, maybe since they were kids…no had heard it before that last showdown with Gordon. It was Sam's 'I'm breaking apart and only you can stop it' tone. Was the tone he had little to no defenses against, made him spill his guts every time, made him comply to things he sure never intended to. And this time, it was making him abandon the safe confines of unconsciousness to the harsh reality of the life that was his, that he had desecrated with his choices, with his weakness. 'What's Sam going to do when he knows? When he realizes he's not the evil one, I am. I am the harbinger of doom.'

Watching a wince contort Dean's face, Sam held onto Dean's hand with more desperation. "Just take it easy, Dean. I know you're in pain," the last word catching in his throat, came out thready, broken. Pain was an understatement of what Dean must feel. Facing Alistair, made to return to his Hell roots, battling and losing to Alistair..what did all that heap on Dean's soul? After all, it was all too evident what it had cost his body.

The break in Sam's voice clicked on Dean's protective instincts, made him fight his way to consciousness, to do whatever he had to do to protect Sam, regardless of the consequences. And as he merged from the levels of the void, he felt it now, Sam's presence at his side, Sam's hand in his, Sam's fear…and love for him. 'And I don't deserve any of it,' he thought even as he forced his eyes open, blinked his sight into focus to see Sam's worry drenched features, hovering above him.

"Hey," Sam greeted with a tremble in the one word, his eyes watery with relief at seeing Dean awake, at finally being able to look into his brother's eyes. Keeping his grip on Dean's hand, he put his other hand gently on Dean's chest, over his heart, coiled the fabric of Dean's shirt in his hand. "Bout time you stopped ditching me," he said, a smile turning up his lips, trying to mask his worry that still lingered, the ache that went though him at the pain he could easily read in his brother's eyes

"S…am," Dean rasped out, his voice a travesty of his normal tone, just like his eyes were a mockery of the light that used to shine in them.

"Shhhh, shhh," Sam cooed, trying not to break down at the sound of his brother's pain filled call of his name. "Don't try and talk yet. Let me do the talking for a change," he tried to tease but knew his voice was too choked for levity.

And Dean didn't protest the order, didn't react to the taunt, didn't do anything but swallow, wince in pain at the action and look at him numbly. But Dean tracked his actions, didn't remove his gaze from his face, as if he was waiting for some reaction from him..or for him to leave.

Reclaiming his seat but not releasing his grip on Dean's hand or unto his brother's shirt front, Sam assured, "You're going to be OK, Dean. No brain damage, no permanent damage to your throat but they say it'll take some time to recover."

Dean knew that Sam thought that was the good news, him being OK, no brain damage, no permanent damage to his throat. But it wasn't. He didn't want to be OK, he would welcome some serious brain damage so he didn't have to remember what Alistair had said, what he had unleashed. And not being able to talk much, not being able to confess his greatest sins to Sam….to Bobby? That would have been a blessing, not a curse. Nothing that he deserved though. No, he knew exactly what he deserved.

Instead of relief at his words, Sam saw deeper despair settle into Dean's eyes. "You're safe now, Dean," he vowed firmly, needing to believe that as much as he needed Dean to believe it.

'Safe?!' the word echoed in Dean's head. He wasn't the one who needed protection…everyone else did…from him, from his actions, from his failings. He closed his eyes, couldn't bear to see Sam's compassionate gaze leveled at him, for him. Why hadn't Castiel just let Alistair finish him off?! Let him go back to Hell …pay his penance for his actions for all of eternity, like he should.

Watching Dean's eyes close raised a panic in Sam, seeing his brother's complexion go practically translucent again had him loosening his grip on Dean's shirt and ringing for the nurse. "Hold on, Dean. I've called for the nurse, they'll give you something more for the pain, check you over."

But Dean internally scoffed at the suggestion that anything could lessen his pain, could absolve him from what he had done . 'Ops, sorry, I went all "SAW" movie and that started the apocalypse. Ah well, make me another martini, dry this time around while I grab a seat for the destruction of the world'

"Dean?' Sam called out, hand coming to rest on Dean's cheek this time, afraid that Dean was sliding under unconscious again, terrified at the glimpse he had gotten of his brother's eyes that said Dean didn't want to stick around, wanted to go, badly. "Dean!" he snapped when Dean's eyes didn't open. His command at least got Dean's eyes fluttering open. "It doesn't matter to me what you did to Alistair, what Alistair did to you, what you did in Hell. None of that matters to me, Dean," he assured, knew that it was the truth. There was nothing he wouldn't forgive Dean for…unless he left him again. Everything else, anything else they could weather through.

"You're wrong, Sam. It matters. It's the only thing that matters," Dean croaked out, dead eyes holding Sam's startled gaze. Wishing that there was hope that Sam wouldn't discover just how wrong he was. That what he had done…it mattered in a way that was catastrophic, was the end of everything, not the least of which was their brotherhood.

At his brother's declaration, at the hopelessness in Dean's eyes, the breath left Sam's chest, hard. But before he could pressure Dean to elaborate, could pull Dean into his arms until he lost that look in his eyes, two nurses arrived, as he had bidden them to come a few moments before. And then he was pushed into the background, watched as they examined Dean, asked him questions. Helplessly he stood there when they rolled him out the door for some tests. Leaving him alone, a terrible feeling in his gut that something had happened to Dean worse than he could imagine. Had happened to Dean when he wasn't there, when Dean had friggin' Angels supposedly there to protect him.

Finding the room suffocating without his brother in it, Sam stumbled out the door, stood in the hallway a moment, unable to even see Dean's gurney anymore to determine which direction they had taken his brother. Stalking to the nurse's station, he ordered them to call him the second his brother was back in his room, or his test results were known and then he headed for the elevator, needed to be out of the hospital so badly he wanted to run.

When was this going to end!? When was good news simply going to be good news? When were they going to get a chance to stop being pawns for good and evil, to not be hunters, to just be brothers again?! It was all he could think about the past two days, just wanting to be brothers again, him and Dean in the Impala, critiquing the sandwiches in the restaurants, arguing about the their polar opposite housekeeping habits. Being able to look each other in the eyes, to not lie…about anything. To hear his brother call him Sammy again with affection. What good was winning the war if there was no one around that you wanted to share the victory with?!

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Coffee in hand, Sam stood at the other end of the hallway and demanded answers from Dean's doctor. Patient confidentially, he got that. Privacy laws, yeah yeah. But this was his brother, wasn't some stranger they were talking about. And it was all great and fine that everything was explained to Dean…now everything needed to be explained to him.

"I don't know what the problem is! He's my brother!" he lowly growled, fearing that his grip on the Styrofoam cup would crumble it. "You told me his condition before."

The doctor seemed to shift uncomfortably on his feet. "That was when your brother was unconscious, when you were 'in effect' his Power of Attorney. New privacy laws dictate that we not disclose pertinent information about a patient's condition unless the patient is unresponsive or signs a waiver to allow us to.."

Scowling at the doctor, Sam didn't notice Jason's approach, only recognized that the man was at his shoulder when he spoke.

"Sorry, but Sam…your brother seems upset. Some guy's in there talking to him…" Jason said, unprepared for the reaction he got.

Knowing just the type of "visitors" he and Dean were likely to get, Sam dropped his coffee cup, was half way down the hall before the cup even hit the floor, his brother's name silently on his lips.

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TBC

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Thanks for everyone who gave me encouragement for this story! It was nice to know that others missed having some H/C scenes like I did.

I'm not going to get the next chapter up tonight but it's not too far from being completed.

Have a great evening!