A/N: Just about ten years ago two brothers set out to find their father who was missing from a hunting trip. I started that journey with them, and somewhere along the way started writing fanfiction. It wasn't my first venture into fanfic, but on July 18, 2007, I posted Graduation Day. It was the first of more than a million words on Fanfic. Over the years, those two brothers have brought me a family that stretches around the globe. They brought me back to my youthful dream of being a novelist—and I did it. Would I have published my novels without the Winchesters? Yes. But they helped the process along. Sometimes I wish I could tell them what they've brought into my life, the people, the experiences. Maybe someday I will get that chance (a girl can dream).

A/N II: Thank you to all of your that have come with me on these journeys. I have no words to say how much you are loved. Sisters, friends, family—all that and more. I am humbled that you have let me into your lives and so, so grateful you are in mine. I love you.

A/N III: This is the second chapter of something that started as a drabble, was posted as the first part of a trilogy that decided it wanted to be something else. Yes, I will be finishing the unfinished fics. I have had a few rough years physically, which Dean, in the Multum in Parvo universe will catch you up on. I hate doing it to him, having suffered myself, but Sam saving him gives me hope too.

Chapter Three

Like the Hero Who Never Ran

Sam watched Dean for a long, long moment after their brief conversation. It was their third so far that day, their ninth since Saturday and their thirteenth they'd arrived at the hospital. He watched, waiting for the rise and fall of his brother's chest. Each in breath was one more moment, each beep of the machine meant Dean's heart was struggling to stay. Sam knew the fight was getting harder by the second.

The nurse came in, did her hourly check and left again. They had stopped talking to Sam on the fourth day when he'd demanded answers, demanded action and nothing happened. They told him they were doing their best, that this was the only treatment that made sense, the only thing that would prolong his brother's life. Sam had raged at the doctor, his fury ice cold and calm as he tried to hold himself together. It wasn't working, keeping him together was Dean's job, whether or not his brother knew, it had always been the truth. Sam sighed and squeezed Dean's arm. Somehow it seemed so small under his hand. That felt wrong, Dean was strong, he'd always been there holding Sam up, holding their world together.

That world had shattered a week before. One moment their world was as it always was—the road, the car, and endless string of hotel and diners. It was a world full of loud music and silent watches as they waited for monsters—so many monsters Sam had lost count over the years, although he could still remember every face of every victim they hadn't saved. He knew Dean did too, and that cemented their world.

Until a week ago.

The attack came out of nowhere, and the attacker was gone before Sam had time to even register its presence. In fact, he still didn't know if it was supernatural or natural. They were watching outside an old house rumored to be haunted. Five people had lost their lives to the "ghost of Dearborn House" over the last fifteen years. All the deaths happened on the same date, and so Sam and Dean had made a point of arriving to prevent a death that year. The old Thermos was between them as they leaned against the hood of the Impala. It was quiet, only the small sound of the night whispering in the air.

Sam had his eyes fixed on a ghostly form circling the porch—a giant owl on the hunt—when Dean made a tiny sound. It was so small, so quiet, that Sam almost ignored it, assuming it was one of the night creatures hiding from the predator in the air. He would never know what made him look over, but he did. Dean was staring straight ahead, his hand pressed against his chest as he started to slowly slide towards the ground. Sam caught him and eased him down, frantically looking for a wound and finding nothing. His brother made the tiny sound again, this time Sam knew it for what it was—a scream of pain from a man who never admitted pain. A man who would probably laugh off the loss of a leg with "why are you looking so worried, I have another."

Now, that same man reached up for Sam's shirt as the pained squeak-scream escaped him again. Sam desperately grabbed their bag, holy water, salt, herbs, everything he could think of did not change the growing agony and fear on Dean's face. Finally, he made a decision. He gathered his brother into his arms, put him gently in the passenger seat and drove into the hospital.

An eternity in the emergency and even longer here in this room with a window that looked out on a concrete roof. In the morning a group of crows—murder, Dean corrected him on the first two mornings—stopped by and walked back and forth. It made Dean laugh but, as the week wore on, there was less laughter, fewer smiles, more frequent visits from the nurses and doctors, more tubes running into Dean's body.

The silence fell on Friday, only a few words here and there. His brother was fighting with all he had. Sam didn't need the doctor telling him that most other patients would have had the good sense to die days before. It was only because Sam promised Dean he'd be there when Dean woke up that the doctor was alive. When the doctor said "the good sense to die" Sam's disbelief had turned to anger, then to something much, much darker. Sam didn't care what people said about him, but Dean was different. No one was allowed to speak against Dean. Sam knew it went both ways. It was so much a part of his life, it wasn't even a thought. It was like breathing. He had Dean's back, Dean had his—no one, not even their father—was allowed to breach the wall.

The doctor was very, very lucky and wandered in and out of the room not realizing he was risking death every time he opened his mouth.

In the long hours of the night, Sam wondered if this was where it should end. It seemed so prosaic for a life like the one they had lived. He smiled at the word "prosaic". Dean had tormented him with the word one day when he'd discovered one of the papers Sam had written at Stanford.

"What the hell is this?" Dean asked, his eyes bright with laughter.

"What?" Sam looked up from the documentary he was watching to see a paper in his brother's hands. "That's mine, put it back!" Sam demanded, wondering if wounding his brother was allowed in cases like this.

"Oh I like this 'the prosaic dichotomy of the culture…' that's awesome, Sammy. Prosaic. Nice word." Dean laughed at him. For the next three months everything had been "prosaic dichotomies".

Another nurse came and went. Sam was surprised. It hadn't seemed like an hour. He glanced at the clock, she was early by almost fifteen minutes. He was debating asking her what was going on, but then let it go. She would just smile that sad smile they all had and pat him on the hand. His brother was dying and they were trying to be kind despite his outbursts. She added another bag to the IV pole. It had an odd red color to it. It wasn't blood red—it was an artificial red as far from the color of life as was possible.

That red liquid bothered Sam more than he wanted to admit. There was something about the color that haunted him, it was like the haze of red he saw when anger took away thought and he acted completely on instinct. Of course, he rarely reached that point, Dean always pulled him back.

It was wrong. Sam stared at the bag. This was all so wrong.


Dean swam up through the pain towards consciousness. He wondered if he would make it all the way this time, or drift back down with just the awareness of his brother's hand on his arm. It was always there, cold, trembling, but always there. He knew at some point he had told Sam to get food, he knew with equal certainty Sam had never moved. It was the way it worked. He did the same thing during many long vigils. Somewhere along the way he'd become convinced that as long as he was there Sam wouldn't die. He suspected his brother felt the same way despite the sheer irrationality of the idea.

As he neared the surface, he heard a deep voice of the doctor and Sam answering—his brother's voice had that edge to it the one that scared the hell out of Dean. If the doctor only understood what that tone meant, he would be running for his life. Sam was like that, calm, cool, the thing that kept Dean in check when Dean wanted to just shoot something. But then there was this Sam, the one that voice came out of—the Sam that had once hacked a creature into tiny bits. In all fairness, the creature had pretty much killed Dean, but Sam hadn't just killed the creature, he had destroyed it. It was terrifying and comforting at the same time. Dean had no idea what kept Sam in check, but that rage was so rarely released, he often forgot it was there—until that voice appeared and then all hell usually broke loose.

It took everything he had to make a tiny noise. He wasn't even conscious, really, but he had to stop Sam.

"Dean?" Sam asked urgently.

Dean managed to make the sound again.

"See?!" Sam snapped and Dean wondered if making noise had been the wrong choice. "I told you!"

"It's just an involuntary response, son," the doctor said. "You have to accept it."

"Accept?" It was barely a whisper.

One more time, Dean concentrated and the small squeak escaped his lips again.

"Sorry, son." The sound of the doctor's footsteps seemed louder than they should.

"Dean?" Sam's tone was gentle and so different from the whisper a moment before it could have come from and entirely different person. "I know you're in there. Don't worry, I won't kill him yet."

The red haze was there again, it seemed to appear the closer he got to the surface, and with it the pain. It increased, pulsing through his body like a living thing. He would even class it as agony, something he never admitted to himself, let alone anyone else. You couldn't be a soldier if you stopped in the middle of the battlefield because you were hurt.

And that's what their life was, a battle. Every damn day. Sometimes the enemy was there, obvious, something to fight. At other times, it was just the daily existence that dragged at his soul. The pain of more wounds than he wanted to think about, the ache of things he didn't want to know about, emotions he hid away until they came out in nightmares. If you let your guard down, you fell, it was that simple.

Sometimes you had to make hard choices, too. That was part of the war. Sometimes lives were lost, they cut a piece out of your soul when they died, but they were victims of the war. He remembered their faces, all of them. He and Sam talked about it one drunken night. His brother remembered them too. Knowing that helped, one more way they had each other's back.

Over the last few days—maybe it had been weeks, although Sam had said it was still Monday—during the moments of almost consciousness, Dean had come to a decision. He hoped his brother would understand, would have his back in this too. Focusing every ounce of his energy, Dean forced his eyes open. At first the world was blurry and red, but the second blink cleared his vision and he could see his brother, tears on his face, eyes turned away.

"Sam," Dean sighed the name out as he exhaled.

"Dean!" Sam looked down at him, a deep frown marring his brow, but he was smiling.

"Need … talk …" Talking used to be easier. Something inside of Dean grinned, speaking was easier, talking had always been tricky.

"What is it?"


"Don't worry, Dean, I won't let them do anything."

"No. Pain."

"What?" Sam looked puzzled for a moment. Dean knew the instant his brother understood. "You're afraid of the pain?"

"Yes… don't know… if I can … face…" Dean stopped, that wasn't it at all. As he fought the red haze his resolve grew. "Don't want to die."

"I know." Sam took his hand in a vise-lie grip.

"No, Sammy, here."

"I know." Sam was nodding, even as the tears poured over his cheeks. "I was hoping you would wake up so we could talk."

Dean felt his eyes burn. "Get me out."

"Yes." Sam's voice didn't waiver. "I'm going to close the door." He slipped across the room and shut the door, then pulled the curtain closed as he stepped back to the bed. "I was thinking about it earlier. This is wrong."

Dean nodded, and tried to sit up.

"Not yet. Falling over with all this shit attached to you isn't a good idea"

"Yeah," Dean said, closing his eyes.

"I took a bunch of supplies last night," Sam said. Dean heard a drawer open. "I'm going to pull the IVs." There was a sting, and then pressure in his left arm, then his right.

"Why?" He had to know.

"It's wrong, Dean, you being here. I'm sorry I brought you. I panicked."

Dean opened his eyes, Sam was getting out a bag that said "personal items" on it. "Why?"

"They aren't helping. You're getting worse, every day they add something. When they hung that bag of red shit, it got a lot worse. This morning they said something about surgery. I asked them for what, but they wouldn't tell me." It was all pouring out of Sam in a hurried whisper, as if he'd been saving it up for days. Maybe he had. "You weren't here long enough last time to talk about it. I wanted to make sure it was okay."

"Okay?" Dean grabbed his brother's arm.

"I've been getting a bad feeling for the last few days. I wanted to take you out, Dean. I am not letting you die here."

"I'll probably die not here."

"No," Sam whispered fiercely. "You aren't dying."

"Pretty much am."


Dean let Sam help him into a sitting position. His brother gently eased the hospital gown off and helped Dean pull on his clothes. The jeans were looser than he remembered. How long had he been in here?

"Can you stand at all?"

"Won't know until I try."

"You sound better." Sam met his eyes and Dean swung his legs off the bed.

"Escaping is always better." Dean managed to get his feet on the floor. His knees wobbled as soon as he put weight on them. He did feel better, the red haze leaving the edges of his vision. What does that mean? He didn't think about it too much as his legs gave way and his brother caught him.

"Nurse is at the other end of the ward. The elevator is fifty three steps."

"Yours or mine?" Dean asked, leaning heavily against Sam.

"I don't think that matters. Just look like you're walking okay?" Sam suddenly laughed. "It's 'Operation Sammy Got Drunk at Fifteen, Must Sneak Past Dad' again. Only this time it's sneaking you past hospital security."

"Right." Dean nodded, grinning back remembering the night he'd half-carried Sam into the place they were staying, terrified the whole time their father would find out he'd let Sam get drunk.

"Let's go." Sam put an arm around Dean's waist.

"Fly casual," Dean said.

Sam sighed his long suffering sigh. It would have been funny if the situation wasn't quite so desperate. Dean wondered why there hadn't been a fight. Sam had to know that he was probably walking out of the hospital to his death. Dean swallowed as a wave of pain rolled over him. By the time it passed they were moving. Sam paused to check the corridor before stepping into the hall. Luck was with them for a change and they got to the elevator as someone was getting off—the doors closed before the man could even give them a second look. After that it was simple, through the hall, out a back door and to the Impala. As Dean sank into the seat of the car, darkness started to overtake him again. His last thought was the car had been close to the exit. Sam really had planned it all along.


The sun was setting in a ball of red fire, touching the landscape and bathing it in warm light. The hood of the Impala was still warm as Dean sat there, watching the sun go down. Sam said they were two days from the hospital. Dean had to trust him, the days had passed in brief flashes of light, the sweet taste of sports' drinks, the cool of the night air against his face when he woke at night. He wasn't sure if Sam had driven through the dark, or if he'd stopped and slept in the car. It was the one place that was more home than any place else on earth.

"How are you feeling?" Sam asked, sitting beside him.

"Better," Dean answered cautiously. Sam had taken enough pain medication to keep an elephant going, and he was making sure Dean stayed on a strict schedule. At first he'd tried protesting, but Sam would turn on the sad look and Dean acquiesced—he was pretty sure nothing that existed could resist the full power of his brother's puppy gaze. The fear that the pain would always be there still haunted him, but the further they drove from the hospital the better he felt about that as well—except of course for admitting to his brother that he'd been terrified by something as simple as pain.

"Good." Sam leaned against him, offering and asking for support.

"Why?" Dean had been waiting to ask. It was unlike Sam to pull him out of a hospital. Usually Sam spent the days with a chair propped against the door to keep Dean from leaving. The fact that Sam had known he was dying, and was still planning on getting him out was more than surprising—the fact that his brother would have done it without his permission was almost impossible to get his head around.

"Why?" Sam glanced over at him, then looked away. "I … Something was wrong."

Dean shifted so he could look squarely at his brother. "What do you mean?"

"I mean you kept getting worse. They would come in and shake their heads and check the monitors then say how sorry they were and leave. It happened over and over. The longer you were there, the more meds or whatever, they gave you." Sam ground his teeth together. "And they never said what it was. They just told me I had to accept it. I wasn't sure what to do—you were slipping too far for us to talk. I needed your answers."

"My answers?"

"Maybe more your hunches—that instinct you have that keeps saving our asses."

"What are you talking about?"

Sam huffed. "How many times have we walked away from a hunt that's killed other hunters?"


"Dean," Sam huffed again, then shook his head. "I have always been jealous of it too, I can't count the number of times we walked away from something that should have ended us—and all because you had a hunch to turn left, or open a different door, or—I don't know—zig instead of zag."

"Okay, I get it," Dean said, he wasn't sure he did, but he knew Sam needed to talk. "So, you needed my answers?" he prompted when his brother remained silent.

"Yeah, I couldn't shake this feeling there was crossing the beams bad thing going on. You were slipping, the pain getting worse. I think it really hit me when you stopped complaining about being there and didn't make one comment for an entire documentary on the evolution of the ballet."

"I didn't?"

"Nothing." Sam smiled wanly.

"When was that?" The days in the hospital had blended into one long haze of pain, Dean had no sense of the passage of days—he was relying on Sam for that.

"Saturday night. I started watching the staff more carefully, asking about everything—even though they refused to talk to me. At one point, they came in to take you for a series of 'tests'. They refused to tell me what they were—and tried to keep me from coming along." Sam stopped for a moment and leaned a little more weight against Dean. "I am not sure why it freaked me out, but something did. I sat on the bed and said we both went or you didn't go."

"What happened?" Dean asked, digging through his memory and finding a vague image of Sam standing by the bed, his fists so tight the knuckles were white and that calm voice filling the room.

"They ended up taking you to CAT scan, but I still have the feeling that wasn't what they planned. I was there,. I checked the contrast before it went in. They told me to leave. I wouldn't. They even tried calling security. I still wouldn't leave."


"Yeah," Sam said. "But that was when I started planning the escape. I had to get you out of there. I didn't know why, I had no idea where the obsession to get you out was coming from, but I had to. I noticed that the graveyard shift took fifteen minutes longer to check on you than the day shift. So, Sunday night, I waited until the nurse left, made sure she was a few rooms away and paced off the distance to the elevator. The next time, I took the elevator to the three floors with an exit to parking. The parking was all under cameras, so I wasn't sure what to do."

"And?" Dean nudged his brother.

"On the way back up to the room I noticed a 'staff only' button that had a keyhole by it."

"Whose keys did you steal?" Dean grinned, trying to wipe the bleak look of Sam's face.

"The security guard's—all the keys for the floor were on the wall of his little room. The next time the nurse left, I saw him leave and head to the men's room. I checked for an alarm, there didn't seem to be one, so I picked the lock and took one of the keys marked 'elevator' there were five…"

"So one wouldn't be noticed as easily."

"Right. I had to wait another hour to use it. There was a short hallway—no cameras—and it opened onto an ally—there was a parking garage on the other side. I was beginning to worry I was going to run out of time. The graveyard shift was almost over and I still had to get the car and get back up to your room."

"And you did."



"I got there when they were hanging that bag of red shit. They wouldn't tell me what it was, and there was no label—on the others they at least put labels that seemed to make sense." Sam paused for a long moment. Dean could hear the hitch in his brother's breathing that usually preceded tears. "But the red stuff, it was wrong. You woke up briefly and we talked—not long—then you were out again. That was when the doctor appeared and said you needed surgery."

"For what?"

"They wouldn't tell me." Sam's voice was calm, collected and that voice. "You stopped me from killing him, but I knew it was time to go. Having you conscious made it easier. We made it to the car and took off. I…" Sam paused for a long moment, then shook his head. Dean wondered what it meant, but before he could ask his brother continued. "I didn't stop until I had to get gas. I drove till the tank was nearly empty, filled up again, and drove out of town—I needed to sleep, you seemed better and so I hid the car in an abandoned barn."

"Good, you slept." Dean could feel the tremble of pain starting in his body again. Sam must have sensed it. He pulled a bottle out of his pocket and offered it to Dean. "Do… do you know why?"

"Yes and no," Sam said, tucking the bottle back in his pocket and handing Dean a cup of coffee. "Remember the deaths? One a year for five years?"

"Yeah, it's why we were there."

"Yeah—we didn't have all the information."

"What?" Dean asked, sipping the coffee, willing the pills to work quickly. With the pain came the fear.

"Five people did die after being at that house—they were all 'injured' somehow and taken to that hospital. In the town we stopped at a few hours ago, I found the library. It had computers and printers. I got everything I could, planning on going through it when we stopped again. I don't think we have to look far." Sam slid off the hood, opened the door to the backseat and came out with a handful of papers. "I think this is what it was all about."

Dean took the papers. He recognized the pictures of the other victims. Even though he hadn't been there when they died, they were still burned into his memory. He looked at the next page—it had a Mayan stelae and pictures of Mayan glyphs. The next page had pictures of what looked like a ritual. No, wait. He glanced at the picture again. "They don't know what they are doing do they?" There was something about the picture that was unsettling.

"I don't think so, not completely."

"What do you mean?" Dean was still going through the papers. "How many pages are there?"

"In that stack?" Sam shrugged.

"You mean there's more?"

"I wasn't going to leave you in the car for long. I just hit print on everything that was remotely related to anything."

"Which makes total sense."

"It does." Sam pulled one of the sheets out and put it on top the stack. "I think they were trying to recreate this ritual. It's a blood ritual that requires seven victims before the god will appear."

"Blood ritual? Like ripping out hearts?"

"No, blood-letting. The Mayan kings practiced blood-letting. From what I've read so far, whoever is behind all this, got at least half of their info from one of those…"

"Whack-job sites?"

"Yeah, I think it's about page twenty, but the site claims the Maya held one royal prisoner and drained the life from him, offering the victim's pain and blood. Which explains why there were so many 'blood tests' in the hospital." Sam drew a slow breath. "The final act was to kill him with the 'blood of the gods'. Then, believe it or not…"

"The guy put a recipe for the poison on the site?" Dean growled. Someday he would hunt down every single person who ran every single bogus site and…

"Yeah," Sam said breaking his train of thought. "I called Dr. Dave and talked to him about the pain. He wants to see us, but he said it he doesn't think it will be permanent. He is doing some research, trying to see if there is an antidote. If not, he said he will find another way."

"Oh." The pain isn't going to be gone. How can I face it every day? Isn't everything else bad enough?

"We'll get through this. Dean." Sam met his eyes. "You talked in your sleep last night. It's okay to be afraid."


"It's something out of control. There isn't an easy answer. That's what's making it hard."

"Yeah." Dean wasn't sure if that was it or not.

"We'll deal with this," Sam said firmly.

"What about the people who started it? Who killed all those people?"

Sam looked down, took the papers out of Dean's hand and put them back in the car. He stayed there, head bowed. "They won't be a problem," he said quietly.

"Sam?" Dean stood and walked to his brother. Sam was trembling, his teeth clenched, his muscles tight, like he was waiting for a blow. Dean knew the look, he'd only seen it a few times in his entire life. He knew exactly what Sam was feeling—and he knew exactly what Sam had done. There was even a tiny fleck of blood on Sam's coat. "You were right," he said, responding to the pain on his brother face. "It was the only solution."

Sam looked up at him, his eyes bright with unshed tears. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," Dean said, pulling his brother into a tight hug. When he pulled away, he felt tears burn in his eyes.

The pain was always there, it was built into their life. Sometimes it was worse when the wounds were fresh, like now. His pain, Sam's pain, it was same, and they always went on. "We'll get through this." He smiled. "We always do."

"We do," Sam agreed.

"Let's hit the road. I want to watch TV tonight. I think Spinal Tap is on."

"No it's not," Sam said as he helped Dean into the car.

"Yes, it is."

"No it's not." Sam started the car and the rumble of the engine helped chase some of the pain away.

"It is. Spinal Tap is playing on some channel every hour of every day."

"It's not."

"It is." Dean grinned, then gently punched Sam's shoulder when his brother didn't respond.


"Bite me."

"Jerk," Sam said. He turned at met Dean's eyes and smiled.


Sam put the car into gear and pulled onto the highway. They were headed towards the last red drop of sunlight on the horizon. Dean shoved a tape in the stereo and Dio blasted out the speakers. He heard Sam humming along with the song and knew—at least for that moment—things were okay and they would get through. Together, like always.

Looking inside of yourself
You might see someone you don't know
Maybe it's just what you need
Letting the river in you flow

You can sail away to the sun
And let it burn you while you can
Or walk a long bloody road
Like the hero who never ran