Rating: PG-13

Chapter 7 – Brothers

Brenna used her right leg and arms to crawl from the sprawl Sam had dropped her in to the door he'd wrenched open for her. The sun was just setting, turning the western horizon a brilliant gold while dark blues and pinks faded and bled into the darkening night sky. She pulled herself out of the mill house and rested in the dirt, her back against the building. The trembling began gradually until her teeth were chattering and she had to wrap her arms around herself to keep from bouncing against the outer wall of the mill house.

Your fault, she told herself. You had to go off, without a plan, without thinking, expecting your power to save you…

She tried to reach out to Dean, but she couldn't see him. She couldn't see Sam. She was as blind in her power as she had been in the utter darkness of the mill house. Giving in to exhaustion and fear, she let the hot tears that had been building behind her eyes fall down her cheeks. She moved her hands from her arms to the back of her neck, dropping her head low. As her fingers dug into the tight muscles in her neck, scolding, punishing, she was reminded of what she'd had tattooed there so long ago. Creideamh. Faith. It had been faith that had brought Dean back. Her faith that she could do it, Sam's faith in Dean's will to live.

If faith had saved him then, maybe a little more wouldn't hurt now. She took a deep breath and started to pray the only thing she could think of: the Hail Mary.

"Sé do bheatha, a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta, Tá an Tiarna leat. Is beannaithe thú idir mná, Agus is beannaithe toradh do bhroinne, Íosa. A Naomh-Mhuire, a Mháthair Dé, guigh orainn na peacaigh, anois, agus ar uair ár mbáis. Amen."

"Brenna?"

She opened her eyes to see Declan standing in front of her, gripping one hand in the other, a look of complete disbelief on his face.

"Da?"

"He did it. I didn't think he could, but he did it," Declan whispered as he dropped to his knees in front of her, his hands gently touching the top of her head, then cupping her cheek.

"What are you doing here?"

"I brought Dean."

Brenna's eyebrows pulled together. "Wait, what?"

"He insisted, I couldn't stop him, girl. Nothing could have."

"B-but… you let him come in here, knowing how hurt he was, by himself?"

Declan raised an eyebrow. "He didn't give me much choice."

Brenna swallowed. On one hand she was so happy to see him she almost started crying again. On the other hand, he had allowed Dean, who had barely been able to stand, to come in after them on his own. And though she could sympathize with going up against the will of a Winchester, the point was she had been in there.

"Why didn't you come after me, Da?"

Declan had the grace to look ashamed. "I couldn't let her have us, child," he said softly. His work-roughened thumb rubbed at the dirt marring her soft cheek. "She'd gotten so close this time. If it hadn't been for…"

He stopped abruptly and dropped his hand. And suddenly Brenna knew. She knew that Sam had been right – Declan was hiding something. Before he could move to stop her, Brenna swung her hand up and gripped his face, looking into him as she never had looked before. Images from hundreds of years ago, of battle and flame, of swords and blood, filled her mind and made her gasp. She felt Declan try to back away from her, but she knew her power held him fast.

She could see into his heart, his soul, his memory and what she saw made her stomach clench and her lungs freeze. She saw a young, beautiful woman screaming in unimaginable pain, her arms tied above her head, a knife glinting in firelight being stabbed into her. She saw the man who wielded that knife - he could be Declan save for a horrible scar that sliced through one eye and a wild beard that was divided with multiple braids. She saw a young man in an old Porsche Boxer, then she saw the same man strung up by his wrists, head handing low, bleeding. She saw the same scene repeat over and over as the years passed in Declan's memory.

She saw Declan chanting in Gaelic, tossing incense over the doorway. She saw him mark her own forehead with a cross as he mumbled prayers she couldn't hear and didn't want to understand. She saw her grandfather, her mentor, her comforter, her punisher, her betrayer. The images melded together, swam up, and then rested in the haunted eyes that now blinked balefully at her, begging her to understand.

"It was you," she breathed as she dropped her hand. "You are the descendant of the clan chief. All this time she's been looking for you."

Declan swallowed. "Brenna –" he started.

"Did you deflect her from us and toward Dean? Did you send her after him?"

"She was getting so close to you – if she got you, she would have killed us both. And then she…she would win. The curse would never be broken."

"All this time… you let these boys go into danger and all this time you knew…"

"Brenna, it's their job. It's what they do!"

"Bullshit," Brenna shoved him away, pushing herself to a standing position, favoring her left ankle. Declan's eyes grew wide as he looked at her. She looked down at her shirt and saw the blood smeared there. "It's not mine," she said, her heart clenching for Sam. "It's Sam's."

"Is he…"

"He wasn't when he left me, but he went back in after his brother," Brenna said, thinking of Dean standing in the dark corridor, his pale face lit from the dead light of the banshee, listing to one side, but with a terrible determination in his eyes. He had been magnificent. "He went back in there…"

She looked up at Declan. "We have to go back in for them. We can't just leave them there."

"Brenna," Declan began, looking down at her swollen ankle and then back up at her face.

"There are guns in the Impala. I think. Help me over there."

"How are you going to get in?"

She lifted an eyebrow. "I have the keys," she reminded him.

Still, he hesitated. Her anger at him flashed hot and fierce. With a low growl, she pushed herself away from the wall of the house and tried to hobble around the house to the car. The pain in her ankle made her whimper through her anger. She heard Declan actually sigh before he reached out to her. As his fingers closed on her bicep, she whipped her head around and turned the full-force of her predatory eyes on him. He dropped her arm in surprise.

"Don't. You. Touch. Me," she spat at him, making her way slowly and painfully to the trunk. Declan followed at a distance. He tried to get her to speak to him twice more by saying her name pleadingly, but she ignored him. She just hoped that the boys hadn't unloaded all of their weapons in the room – there had been quite a lot in there.

She reached the Impala, dug the keys from her pocket, opened the trunk and popped up the floor to reveal the weapon compartment, thankful that she'd watched them unload the guns the day they'd arrived. Many were indeed missing, but there was still a rifle, a hand gun, and two knives along with bullets. Best of all, there was a large flashlight. She loaded the rifle, and grabbed the flashlight, slamming the trunk shut at she turned.

Declan tried one last time. "Girl, you have to understand. I did it for us. I did it to save us. I knew those boys could handle whatever came after them. Their father raised them that way. It's their…purpose."

Brenna looked at him like he was a particularly nasty bug she'd like to squish under her shoes. "You lied to me. You betrayed me. You purposely put them in danger, and you got Dean killed. No wonder you had to talk me through saving him. You couldn't have lived with your guilt otherwise."

"That was never supposed to happen."

"But it did. And they're still in there. With her. Because of you," she hefted the rifle and stepped around him, gingerly hobbling toward the house. Declan stepped in front of her once more.

"Goddammit," she yelled. "Either help me or get out of my way!"

Declan blinked at Dean's words coming from Brenna's mouth. He reached out and took the rifle from her, then turned toward the house, offering her his arm as a support.

www

When Dean had crumpled to the ground, Sam's world began to move in slow motion. Dean had fallen on top of the light taped to the gun, so the corridor was plunged into complete darkness once more. Sam dropped to his knees and crawled to his brother's prone form. He rested a trembling hand on Dean's back, praying for the movement of breath. When he couldn't tell through his own shaking, he felt up the length of his brother's body to his neck. The pulse was strong, albeit a bit rapid. Sam went weak with relief.

He grabbed Dean's shoulders and rolled his brother over onto his back, pulling him gently into his lap. Dean's collapse had apparently broken the flashlight as even with it was uncovered they were in the dark. Sam ran his fingers over Dean's face carefully, feeling for the source of the blood he'd seen flowing down his brother's face. There was a gash just below his hairline. Sam also knew that his stitches must've pulled loose, too, as he'd seen the blood on the green shirt he'd give Dean that morning. He felt the empty sleeve with confusion, then realized that Dean had taped his right arm against his side as a support.

His brother's breathing hitched painfully as Sam's explorations accidentally touched the wound on his side.

"Sorry, sorry," Sam whispered. He wrapped his arm around Dean's shoulders tighter, curling his own aching body over his brothers as if protecting him from the dark. His forehead found the top of Dean's soft hair and he rested it there, holding him tighter. God, this had been too damn close. He'd been so close to losing him again. He shivered, and felt the hot tears press against the back of his eyes. He shifted his head slightly so that his nose and mouth were pressed into Dean's hair.

He felt a tremor shift through Dean as a pain-filled moan escaped.

"It's okay," Sam soothed against Dean's hair. "I've got you now. You don't have to fight anymore, Dean. I've got you."

He felt Dean relax slightly, and realized what he'd said. Of course Dean had to fight. His life was about fighting, a constant struggle, a never ending battle. He needed the fight to stay alive. It was so damn unfair. Sam scrunched his eyes against the tears, willing them not to spill. Dean would never get two years off, a chance at a normal life, a pretty girlfriend who never knew how he'd grown up.

"Come on back to me, man," Sam whispered, and his voice broke. "I need you here, okay?"

Dean shifted slightly, like he was trying to work his way up through a deep pool. His breathing became more rapid and he groaned again, a gut clenching groan of real pain. Sam couldn't stop them. The tears fell from his eyes and into his brother's hair, running down Dean's face to mix with the blood.

"I didn't mean for you not to fight, big brother. You come on back to me – don't let her get you now. Not now after we've already won. Please," Sam's breath hitched at the last word. "I have something to tell you, Dean. Something you need to hear. But I want to know you hear me. 'Cause it's all true…"

He felt Dean shudder against a choking breath and he pulled his head up off of his brother's hair. "Dean?"

He heard another strangled breath, and ran his hands over Dean's face. The blood from his head wound was running down his face and with the angle that Sam held him, it was pooling in his mouth.

"Oh, God," Sam said carefully shifting Dean to the left so that the blood could run out of his mouth. "There you go, that's it," he encouraged as Dean began to cough and he heard him spitting the blood from his mouth.

Dean became aware with a sudden, intense pain in his side as he coughed out the blood from his mouth. He drug a large breath into his lungs and coughed again. He could taste salt on his lips – blood wasn't salty… tears? Was he crying? He coughed once more and realized suddenly that Sam's arms were around him, holding him, supporting him. He knew then that they were Sam's tears.

"Sam?"

"I'm here, Dean. I got you," Sam pulled Dean back up against him, hoping the closeness would ease the shaking.

"Am…am I blind?" Dean's voice was thick from the blood that had pooled in his throat.

"No, you broke the flashlight when you fainted," Sam said, purposely using that word to get a rise out of his brother.

It worked. "Dude. I did not faint."

"Really? Then what was that nosedive you pulled off after we wasted the banshee called?"

Dean pulled in another breath, and coughed. "It's called friggin' blood loss, man."

"Ah."

"You okay, Sammy?"

"I'll be fine," Sam said softly. Knowing Dean would see the slashes eventually anyway and would ream him for not telling him about them, he continued, "She caught me a good one back there, but they're not deep. They already stopped bleeding."

"Is Brenna okay?"

Sam smiled slightly in the dark. "She's gonna be fine. She fell down the trap door and hurt her ankle. She was plenty pissed about it, let me tell you."

Sam felt Dean ease his head back against his chest. "I'm sorry."

Sam started in surprise, "For…what?" Dean had saved them…what could he possibly have to apologize for?

"I sent her to you. The banshee," his voice was barely a whisper, but in the pressing confines of the pitch black, Sam thought he could hear his brother's eyelashes sweep his face each time he blinked.

"What do you mean?"

"I tried to… stare her down. Show her the real me, y'know? Scare her I guess."

"You tried to scare a banshee?" Sam asked in wonder.

"I was pretty desperate, Sam."

"What's that got to do with me?"

"She… she saw you. She went after you, and… I could feel you."

Sam was immediately reminded of Brenna's words to him just yesterday, I look at Dean and I see you. I see John. I see…fire, if that makes sense. But I don't see Dean. It's like…to Dean…he doesn't exist without you.

"What do you mean you could feel me?" Like Dean needed to feel any more pain at the moment, he thought.

"I could tell when you were angry, or afraid. I could tell when you were going to come back for me…" Dean paused and hissed against a sudden pain in his side. His next words were strained against that pain, "I couldn't let her take you, Sam…"

Sam tightened his grip on Dean's shoulders, once again resting his forehead against Dean's hair. He felt his brother tense, but he didn't say anything, didn't pull away. Maybe Dean needed the catharsis of contact as much as Sam did in that moment. And the dark hid all.

"You matter to me," Sam said.

"What?" Dean's voice was a weak tangle of confusion.

"I just wanted you to hear that. I think you know it, but I need you to hear it."

"For God's sake, Sam."

"Shut up and listen to me. He left you. I left you. But I'm not leaving you again."

Dean went still.

"Even if we're not actually together, I won't leave you. You hear me?"

Sam felt Dean's quick nod. He still said nothing. If Sam didn't know any better, he'd swear Dean was holding his breath.

"I owe you, big brother. I owe you everything. I owe you my childhood. I owe you my freedom. I owe you my future."

"Sam…" Dean's voice shook on that word, again both a curse and a prayer.

"I'm serious, man," Sam said, trying to find the words to tell Dean that he existed beyond Sam, beyond John. That he was present. That he counted. "You are the reason I am who I am."

The tremble betrayed him before the hitch in his breath. Sam didn't say anything, knowing the only reason Dean gave in to the tears was because he couldn't be seen. They sat in the dark, Sam's arms wrapped around his brother's broken, trembling body, and Dean letting himself just be held. After a moment, Dean cleared his throat.

"Sammy?"

"Yeah?"

"The banshee's body is still in here isn't it?"

"Like five feet from us."

"You gonna think I'm a girl if I tell you that it totally creeps me out to be stuck in the dark with the headless body of a banshee?"

"Yes."

"Thought so."

Dean shivered again, and Sam knew it was from his wounds, not fear of the banshee's body.

"I have to get you out of here," Sam said, trying to figure out the best way to do just that.

"No argument here," Dean breathed.

Sam got his legs under him, shifting Dean forward, and as carefully as he could he pulled Dean off the stone floor and to his feet.

"Aww…sonuvabitch," Dean groaned, his head dropping back against Sam's shoulder as he got his legs under him.

"Easy, man, I got you…"

"D-don't let go yet, Sam," Dean panted, desperate to not lose consciousness. His back was against Sam's chest, his head helplessly tilted back against Sam's shoulder, and his left hand gripped his right side.

Sam pressed his lips together and his brow furrowed. "Wouldn't dream of it, Dude. I'll hold on as long as it takes." He tightened his grip on Dean's shoulders. "Forever if I have to," he whispered. Dean swallowed a pained groan. Sam stood still a moment waiting for Dean to get his balance.

"You ready?"

"Let's do it," Dean said through clenched teeth. Sam pulled Dean's left arm over his shoulders, stooping to help accommodate for his greater height. They moved slowly down the dark corridor.

"Do you even know where we are, Sam?"

"I'm starting to get a real feel for this place," Sam said, his step faltering over a stone just enough to make Dean hiss in pain. "Sorry."

After a few more steps, both brothers lifted their heads at a sudden bright light.

"Sam?"

"Yeah?"

"You see that, too, right?"

The corner of Sam's mouth pulled up in a grin. "See what, Dean?" he teased.

"The light at the end of the tunnel," Dean whispered, relieved that at last, at last, someone was coming to help them. That they had one moment where someone pulled them from the dark and told them it was going to be okay.

www

"Sam. Dean," Brenna's voice trembled with unabashed relief at seeing their images illuminated by the flashlight. They were battered, bloody, and bruised, but they were together - they were standing together.

"You okay?" Sam asked, squinting against the light, and shifting his grip on Dean as his brother leaned into him.

"I'm better now that I've seen you. Did you get her?"

Dean lifted his head, looking up through his lashes. "She, uh, got ahead of herself," he said, chuckling at his own humor, then wincing as the laugh pulled at his side.

Sam laughed at Dean's sudden levity. "She's back there…and…there," he gestured vaguely in two different directions.

"Can we… just leave her?"

Dean shook his head tiredly. "Gotta burn her…it."

Brenna cocked her head and turned the flashlight from the boys and shone it on Declan. "I know someone who is just dying to help."

Declan grimaced, but nodded silently. Sam and Dean said nothing, just began their journey to the light once again. As soon as they'd cleared the doorway, Sam took a deep breath and looked out at the fading light from the dying sunset. He felt Dean try to shift away from him and take back some of his own weight. He resisted, curling his fingers around Dean's shoulder to hold him close still. He just wasn't ready to let go. To his surprise, Dean allowed it.

"It seem like we're living our lives in the dark, Sam?" Dean said with a soft sort of melancholy.

Sam sighed, looking out at the night. The stars had come out in force, shining down on them like a comforting friend, lighting the way from the house to the car, which was, thankfully parked very close. He had become familiar with the night at an early age. It was the time when his family was in action. It held his greatest fear and his greatest source of pride. He could move with the night while he prayed for the light to return.

"Somebody has to, man," Sam said, matching his voice to Dean's. Dean nodded, not looking at his brother. "You ready?"

"Absolutely."

"I'll drive," Brenna spoke up.

"No!" both brother's yelled at the same time.

Brenna jumped, then said, "I was just trying – "

"Keys, Brenna," Sam said, holding his hand out. She dug them out of her pocket and slapped them into his hand. The trio made their slow, painful way to the car. Sam opened the passenger door and eased Dean into the seat. He winced in sympathy at the crease of pain that darted across his face as he shifted into the seat. When Dean was settled, Sam turned to see if Brenna needed help. She'd limped this far on her own; he could tell she was determined to get the rest of the way there without help.

"You're just as stubborn as he is," Sam mumbled.

She lifted an eyebrow. "You should be used to it, then." She opened the back passenger door and climbed in. A sigh of relief escaped as she settled on the leather seats.

Sam climbed into the driver's seat, then paused.

"What are you waiting for," Brenna asked.

"Declan," Sam answered.

"He's got two ways home. Let him figure it out," Brenna muttered.

Dean's eyes were closed, his head resting against the cool of the window. "Something you want to share with the class?" he mumbled without opening his eyes.

Brenna closed her eyes and leaned back. Sam watched her in the rear-view mirror. Dean stayed still, eyes closed, and waited.

"It was Declan," she admitted in a low voice. "He was the descendant of the clan chief. He knew what was going on all along – had protected himself from her, but she was apparently getting close. He lied to you, me, and your Dad. He's the reason she took Dean."

She waited for the exclamation and cursing. Neither brother reacted at first, then in unison they both muttered, "I thought so."

Dean raised a brow and turned tired eyes to Sam, who acknowledge him with a curt nod.

"You thought so?" Brenna exclaimed incredulously.

"Not exactly our first time, sweetheart," Dean said. "I could tell something was hinky about him from the first time we met him."

"Yep," Sam agreed. "Think Dad knows?"

"No," Dean sighed, lifting his head from the window and looking out the front windshield.

"We gonna tell him?"

Dean dropped his head back onto the seat. "I don't know, Sam."

Sam nodded, then twisted the keys until the familiar, powerful rumble of the Impala filled the silence.

www

"You're not serious."

"We'll make sure you get picked up."

"Sam, you two are beat to hell. Come in with me."

Dean shook his head once.

Sam met her eyes, "And how are we going to explain these injuries, Brenna? A broken ankle is one thing…" His eyes trailed to Dean's bloody shirt and pale face. His gut told him his brother needed more care than he could give, and he was this close to saying the hell with it and hauling him in there.

As though he had read his mind, Dean rolled his head on the seat, meeting his brother's worried eyes, "No. You do it, Sam."

Sam looked back at Brenna with a shrug as if to say, 'what are you gonna do'? Brenna sighed and climbed out of the car, limping slowly to the ER entrance. She turned back once as the Impala roared out of the parking lot and headed toward her place.

Sam pulled into the lot and stopped the car. He simply sat there for a moment, registering how tired he was. His head ached from where the banshee had grabbed his hair – what was it about grabbing his hair, anyway? – his back was bruised from hitting the wall, and his arm and chest burned from the force of her nails. He looked over at Dean.

As tired as he was, he knew he was in no way as bad off as his brother. Dean slept with his head against the window. The cut on his head had stopped bleeding with the blood drying on his face. He held his right side protectively even in his sleep, and the empty right sleeve was eerie.

"Dean," Sam said. Dean didn't move. "C'mon, big brother. Open those eyes. We're here." Nothing. "Dean, Brenna's driving away in the Impala!"

Without moving, Dean grumbled, "So not funny, dude."

"Need some help?"

"Nah, I got it," Dean said, opening the car door. He turned his body and swung his leg out of the car, then caught himself with this left hand a moment before he tipped out of the car onto his face. "On second thought…"

Sam was already around the other side of the car and grabbed his left arm, pulling him to his feet. They made their way into the room and Dean dropped heavily onto the bed nearest the door, shifting immediately to his back and closing his eyes.

"Don't go to sleep yet, man," Sam said, closing the door behind him and retrieving the first aid kit. "We gotta get you cleaned up."

"You first, Sam."

"No, no way, man. You're lucky I didn't take you into the hospital."

"Sam, you have to clean those cuts out with holy water before they get too bad. Just, go take care of you and give me a minute…" with that he slung his left arm across his eyes, effectively ending the argument.

Sam muttered under his breath as he stalked to the bathroom.

"Stop pouting," Dean called after him.

"Jerk," Sam shot back. He heard Dean's muttered "Bitch" as he closed the bathroom door. He was surprised at the sight that met his eyes when he looked in the mirror. He looked like…well, like he'd been fighting a banshee in the dark. There was dried blood on his cheek – from Dean, he knew – and deep purple bruising on his neck from the banshee's death grip. He stripped off his shirt, tossing it on the floor, and poured holy water across his cuts.

"Aww…grwarrr…" he groaned out through clenched teeth. When he was done he leaned against the sink getting his breath back. Once cleaned, he could see that the cuts weren't deep at all. They would probably sting like hell, but there was no need for stitches. He turned the shower on hot, stepped in and winced as the spray soaked into the cuts and bruises on his back from hitting the wall. He lightly massaged his neck. He could still feel the banshee's cold bony fingers around his neck. Prying her fingers off of him had been…eerie.

When the bathroom was completely full of steam, he turned off the water, wrapped a towel around his waist, and stepped into the room. He immediately looked over at Dean on the bed across the room. He hadn't moved a muscle. Sam held his own breath and started at Dean's chest, making sure he was breathing. Assured that he was, he dressed quickly and grabbed up the first aid kit, sitting on the opposite side of the bed so that he was closest to Dean's right side.

"Hey, Dean," he said softly so as not to startle his brother into waking. "You gotta wake up now, okay?"

Dean shivered but didn't answer him. Sam reached over and pulled Dean's arm gently away from his face. Dean's eyes were closed and darting swiftly beneath his lids. He was shivering and his lips trembled in and out from the swift breaths. His face was pale, sweating, and his cheeks were pink from fever.

"Dammit," Sam cursed. He immediately shifted to a better position to help his brother, unbuttoning the green shirt and easing it away from the sticky blood spots that soaked through the bandages to stain it. He moved around to Dean's left side, pulling the sleeve from his brother's arm, and easing the shirt out from underneath him. He then cut the medical tape and as gently as he could he pulled it from his brother's arm and chest, laying Dean's limp arm down at his side. He hoped that the obvious fever was from exhaustion and blood loss, and not from infection.

Once before one of Dean's wounds had become infected. John had been there, then. He had managed to acquire an IV and the right kind of antibiotics, knowing that there was no way they could explain the bite mark to a doctor. Sam had watched helplessly then as his brother suffered with the fever for 36 hours. Then, the fever broke, and while weak, Dean had almost immediately been back to his old self.

But, John wasn't here this time. And it was up to Sam to help his brother. Dean groaned painfully when Sam began to remove the heavy, blood-soaked bandages from his side.

"Easy, man," Sam soothed. "You're okay. I'm here…"

The wounds weren't seeping anything other than blood. They weren't swollen and red, and Sam felt dizzy with relief. The stitches in his shoulder and over two of the gashes in his ribs had pulled free, but the sutures holding the puncture wound were firm. Sam knew that it was still very painful, but at least it wasn't infected. He grabbed a cool, wet cloth from the bathroom and washed the blood off of Dean's face. The cut on his head was deep. It was going to need stitches.

Sam sighed and looked at Dean. "Too bad it's not Halloween… you could go as Frankenstein."

He cleaned the head wound with antiseptic, then began to sew his broken brother back together. Dean occasionally tried to pull away from the pain, but he never woke up. When Sam was done, he re-wrapped the wounds, pulled Dean's boots off, and eased his unconscious brother under the covers.

He sat for a moment, watching Dean sleep. He'd been doing that a lot lately. He thought about how young Dean looked when he slept. The years of war and worry slipped from his face and what was left were the handsome features of the man that simply his brother. Part of it, Sam realized, was that his eyes were closed. Dean held experience, pain, sorrow, and knowledge well beyond his 26 years in those green eyes. He masked it well. He had a well-constructed wall that was never without defenses, except for when he slept. Maybe that's why he always had that knife under his pillow, Sam mused.

Dean pulled his brows together and frowned. Sam echoed his expression, watching him.

"Not true…"

Sam waited. The last time Dean began to talk like this he'd had to soothe him into stillness.

"Dad… loves you… Sammy…"

Sam's breath caught. The idea that Dean was trying to reassure him of his own father's love in a dream broke his heart a little. Sam didn't pretend he didn't care – when his father told him not to come back if he walked away from them to go to school, he had ached. Every fight he'd had with John over the years had helped him construct a wall of his own. One that was getting harder and harder to vault when their father called simply to send them on a hunt.

"Scared…" Dean whispered, turning his head to the right.

"Who's scared, Dean?" Sam whispered in return.

"Sammy."

"I'm not scared. I've got you."

Dean quieted down, but wasn't still. His head continued to toss back and forth and his brows pulled together in pain and in anger. Sam kept the cloth cool with repeated trips to the sink in the bathroom, and wiped Dean's face as often as he could. The night wore on and Sam found himself growing increasingly tired. He blinked often, standing at various times to keep awake. He was worried what could happen to Dean's fever if he slept.

However, unable to fight it any longer, he leaned forward next to Dean and rested his head on the pillow near his brother's head. He awoke to a strange, muffled scream, and Dean jerking his arms out as though to catch himself from falling.

"Dad!" Dean shouted, then lay still and blinked his eyes.

Sam sat up, eyes still heavy with sleep, neck stiff from his odd position. Faint rays of daylight were streaming through the blinds covering the windows. Dean lay next to him, his arms at either side of his body, hands splayed on the sheet as if to balance himself. He blinked slowly and Sam watched him try to get his breathing back under control. He set a sturdy hand on his brother's shoulder, pulling Dean's gaze toward him.

"You okay?"

Dean swallowed, looking at Sam a moment. Sam watched as the cobwebs from the dream were blinked from his brother's green eyes. Dean closed his eyes with a grimace, reaching up with his right hand and rubbed it over his face, wincing as he touched the cut on his forehead.

"Man," he groaned.

"Just a dream," Sam said softly, not moving his hand, keeping his eyes on Dean. He could tell from where he touched his shoulder that the fever had gone down.

"We gotta find him, Sam," Dean said, his hand still covering his face, his voice suspiciously raw. "I gotta find him."

"We will, Dean."

Dean sighed, then looked back over at Sam. "Dude, what happened to your neck?"

Sam tilted his head in question and then remembered the bruising. "Banshee."

A light flashed dangerously in Dean's eyes. "She touched you?"

Sam's eyebrows shot up. "We kinda got her back for it, Dean."

Dean sighed, "I guess." He started to struggle to sit up, and gratefully grasped Sam's silently offered hand. "Man this sucks."

"I been thinking," Sam said as he helped Dean shift his legs over the edge of the bed.

"Well that's never a good thing," Dean gripped the edge of the bed, waiting for the room to stop spinning before he tried the standing up thing.

"We should tell Dad about Declan."

Dean sighed and looked over at Sam, blinking his bleary eyes. "Yeah, me, too."

"He's not gonna be happy."

"Nope."

"Think he'll believe us?"

Dean's jaw clenched. He'd better. "Yeah. I mean, why wouldn't he?"

The knock at their door surprised them both. For a moment, they exchanged a cautious glance… surely he hadn't…

Sam stood and opened the door. "Brenna!"

"Make sure I'll get picked up will you?" She grumbled, leaning on a crutch, her left ankle wrapped in ace bandages.

"Oh, man, Brenna," Sam started.

"Save it," she said. "Just invite me in."

Dean lifted an eyebrow at her. "What are you a vampire? Get in here already."

She limped in and stood in front of him. "Well, I'd say you're a sight for sore eyes, but really you're a sore sight for my eyes, Winchester."

He looked up at her, squinting his eyes against the daylight from the open door at her back. "What…"

She sat next to him. "Forget it. Are you okay?"

Sam closed the door and sat heavily on a chair by the small table in the corner of the room. He just watched them, not worry about the total lack of privacy he was creating. He didn't plan on letting Dean out of his site for awhile – not until he was able to move around without the lines of pain on his face.

"I'll live," Dean said, his hand unconsciously snaking around to cover the fresh bandages on his right side. "Your, uh, Declan get back okay?"

Brenna shrugged. "I have no idea."

Sam pulled his eyebrows together. "How'd you get home?"

Brenna spared him a glance. "We do have cabs in this town you know."

"Ah."

"Dean," Brenna started. "I wanted…I needed to say…"

"Don't worry about it…"

"But I – "

"I get it, okay? I understand…"

"I really mean it."

"I know you do."

Sam shook his head. "You two are freaking me out."

Brenna looked over at him with a slight smile, then looked around the room. The spare bed was still covered with their guns. She looked back at Sam, then shifted her glance to Dean.

"You two share a bed last night or something?"

The brothers just looked at her silently.

Brenna looked from one to the other, then really looked at Dean. She could tell he was the one who'd actually slept in the ruffled bed, but he looked exhausted. Without thinking, she reached out to stroke his cheek, surprised when he jerked back.

"I-I'm sorry…"

"Brenna, listen, it's been a long couple of days."

Brenna nodded. "Right. Got it," she stood, leaning on the crutch. "I'll leave you to it then."

Dean let her walk out of the room without saying a word to call her back. Sam knew exactly what was going through his brother's head.

"Dean, don't," he said softly.

"Don't what," Dean asked tiredly with the tone that said he already knew what Sam was thinking.

"Don't shut her out. She didn't know about Declan either."

Dean nodded, then let his head drop a bit to stare at spot on the floor. "I know."

"Why won't you let her… let someone in?"

Sam expected the standard 'no chick flick moments' comment from his brother, but the last few days had really worn Dean down. He didn't seem to have it in him to resist honesty for the moment.

"Because I'm afraid there's nothing to see," he said. "Besides, I did that once before."

"Did what?"

"Let someone in," Dean said. "She couldn't run fast enough, man."

"Brenna's not Cassie, Dean. For one, she already knows about you… for another… man, you guys are like two halves of the same coin."

Dean gave him a sideways glance. "You been snooping around her herb cabinet, there Sammy?"

"I'm serious. I mean you practically said it yourself. It's how you knew she was going after the banshee."

"So we think alike, so what?"

"I'm not pushing you, Dean. I'm just saying you don't have to fight this… just because."

"Because that's what I always do you mean."

Sam shrugged. He watched Dean think on that a minute, then he grabbed the headboard of the motel bed to pull himself to a standing position. Sam was by his side in an instant.

Dean looked at him with a raised brow. "You gonna shower with me, too?"

Sam sighed. "Just be careful with those stitches. I don't want to have to put them back in a third time."

"Ditto," Dean said with a nod. The shower was a long, arduous process ending with Dean sitting, wrapped in a towel, on the closed toilet lid, pushing the door open and calling Sam in.

"Don't worry about it, man," Sam said, grabbing Dean's left arm and hauling him to his feet.

"This sucks out loud," Dean grumbled on the way back to the bed.

"Next time maybe you won't get yourself captured by a banshee," Sam teased, easing him down. Dean groaned through clenched teeth as Sam eased him back on the bed. "Want me to help you with your shorts?"

"No."

Sam helped him lay back on the bed still wrapped in the towel, and then pulled the covers up to Dean's bandages. "I'll check on you later."

"Fine."

One-word answers were a sure Dean Winchester signal of pain. Sam grabbed his cell and left the room as soon as Dean's eyes closed and his breathing evened out. He closed the door firmly behind him, then leaned on the rail that traveled the extent of the building. He flipped the phone open and scrolled down to Dad.

Hitting the send button, he realized that once again he was holding his breath. When his Dad's voicemail picked up, he tried to not be disappointed.

"Hey Dad, it's, uh, Sam," he said, clearing his throat. "Listen, the banshee's gone. We, uh, we decapitated her. Didn't know exactly what would work, but not much can live without their heads, huh? Even evil. Anyway, there's something you should know. Your friend Declan? He knew about the banshee. He knew about the curse. He sent it after Dean trying to protect himself. He almost got his granddaughter killed. Dean wanted – we wanted you to know, Dad." Sam sighed and collected himself. "The banshee messed Dean up pretty bad. We're going to stay here for a bit" – translation, do not send us any coordinates – "until he can hunt again."

Not knowing what else to say, he closed the phone with a "Bye, Dad."

He stared at the closed phone for awhile and was surprised when her voice sounded from just behind him. "Think he'll do anything about Declan?"

Sam turned and looked at Brenna. He knew instantly that she'd been crying and had tried to cover it up. Her eyelids around her lashes were slightly swollen and the tip of her nose was red. He'd always been able to see right through Jessica's attempts to hide her tears.

Sam pressed his lips together and shrugged. "You know… he doesn't know how else to be, Brenna. It's not been easy for him."

"I know," she said, knowing instinctively that he was talking about Dean, not John or Declan. "I mean I know. I saw the scars – the ones on the inside. But…"

"But what?"

"Well, I'm not one of those people who think they can fix it. I know that some things can't be fixed, and I know that some things can only be fixed by the person who is broken."

"So…"

"Thing is, Dean doesn't believe that about me."

"Oh, I see. You think he thinks you are only interested in him because you want to fix him… and why do I suddenly feel like I'm back in Jr. High?"

Brenna grinned ruefully. "He asleep?"

"He is right now. He's pretty… well he's…"

"He got the hell beat out of him, Sam. It's okay to say that your brother is hurt. It doesn't make him less a hero," she leveled her eyes on him.

"I know that," Sam snapped. "But… Dean's not supposed to be the one that is hurt like this. He's… it's like he's invincible. And if I say it out loud, how bad it is, well…"

"He's not invincible, Sam. He's human. He's human and he's lost and he's fighting and he's lonely… and most of all, he's your brother."

She started to turn away, then paused. She turned back to Sam and grabbed his hand. "When he wakes up, will you give him this?"

She pressed a small silver medal into the palm of Sam's hand.

"You don't want to give it to him yourself? I mean, we're not gonna be going anywhere for awhile."

She shook her head. "That's okay. Just make sure he gets it."