Title: My Brother's Keeper
Author: black_dahlia63
Pairings: Sam/Dean
Rating: PG
Warnings: character death
Note: I've filed this under slash because it's a "deleted scene" of sorts from a WIP of mine called "Survival", where there is slash...
Summary: An alternate outcome for Devil's Trap - and you'll need Kleenex, folks, sorry.


"I couldn't believe how much hair you had the first time I saw you," Dean tells his brother. "You looked like an Eskimo baby I'd seen in a book somewhere, I was - I'd never seen anything so small before," and he laughs softly. "I got up on the bed 'cause I wanted to hold you," he continues, combing his fingers through tangled dark hair as he recounts a story that he's told more times than he can count. "Mom said I should wait until she brought you home, and dad said

"He won't break, darlin'," and a laugh resonates deep in John's chest. "This one didn't, did he?"and he ruffles Dean's hair, the gesture producing a giggle from the tow-headed boy in tattered jeans and a red T shirt. "Sit back against the pillows next to your mom - that's it - now, put your arms out." He reaches for the bundle in his wife's arms, planting a kiss on her forehead and smiling reassuringly when he sees her brow crease with anxiety. "He'll be fine," he whispers, and then he leans down over his oldest son. "Now, you've got to watch his head," he tells Dean as he lowers the blanket-wrapped body onto the little boy's lap, allowing the head of impossibly thick hair to rest in the crook of Dean's left arm. "You need to hold it steady, 'cause he can't do it himself yet - there you are," and he folds Dean's other arm gently over his new brother's sleeping form; no sooner has he done this than there is a squeak, and Dean is transfixed as he stares down at the face inches away from his own.He watches eyes blink open and then close again moments later, and he feels something swell inside his chest; for a second or two, although he doesn't know why, he feels like crying - and then he rubs his thumb ever so carefully against the soft, warm skin of his brother's cheek, his hazel eyes widening in wonder when he sees tiny lips purse unconsciously .

"Hi, Sammy -"

He repeats the gesture now, tracing his thumb along Sam's jawline, but he doesn't look down at his brother's face as he does so, because to do that would bring him back to the present again; and there have been more and more occasions lately, when they've been getting closer to finding the thing that took their mother, when retreating back to these childhood memories has been the only thing that's kept him sane. He leans back against the head of the bed, his eyes closed and his head tilted upwards - and his world shrinks until it is filled with the weight across his lap, the pressure of Sam's head against his hip, his hand in Sam's hair, and he can't remember a time when it wasn't like this.

"You don't remember this, you were too little," he says, his fingers stroking his brother's face in a back-and-forth rhythm as he speaks, "but mom used to tell dad she thought you wouldn't miss the two of them as long as you still had me. She'd come to get you up in the morning and I'd be sitting in your crib trying to dress you," and a smile curves his lips as he remembers that long-ago Dean, the one whose attempts to align the tiny buttons on a sleeper always made his mother shake her head and laugh. "You screamed all the time when you started cutting teeth, it kept us all awake most of the night, but I wouldn't leave you," he tells his brother. "I hated seeing you like that, I didn't want you to be hurt..."

"How is he?"

"Fever's down," Mary says in a whisper as she removes the thermometer from beneath her youngest son's arm. "Dean, come on out of there, sweetie."

"Wanna stay here," is the sleepy response from the boy in Spiderman pyjmas who lies with his back against the bars of the crib and one arm draped across the diaper-clad baby dozing against his chest. "He doesn't feel good, mommy, he'll be lonely."

"Dean, you mind your mom, now," John admonishes softly, bending down to lift Sam out of his brother's arms. The moment a paw-like hand slips beneath that head of dark hair Sam stirs, his mouth drawing down into a trembling arc, and a groggy wail echoes in the half-darkness of the room; John begins the low, unintelligible crooning that is second nature to every parent, the murmuring all but drowned out by Sam's escalating sobs as he is taken out of the crib, and then a hand falls on his arm.

"Leave them be," Mary tells her husband quietly. "Put him back," and the two of them look down into the crib, where even in the dim glow cast by the nearby nightlight they can make out the tears welling in their oldest boy's eyes. Dean puts his arms out as Sam is lowered towards him, one of his hands curving gently round the back of his brother's head the way it did the first time he held him; one of Sam's hands comes up to grab a fistful of Dean's hair, his sobs muffled against his brother's pyjama top, the two of them already halfway back towards sleep before their parents have even left the room.

"Wasn't more than a week or two after that, was it?" he says, his mind going back to that night in Lawrence when everything changed. "It looked like there were hundreds of stairs, Sammy, and every one of them made me feel I was gonna drop you before I got outside..." He keeps his eyes closed as something prickles behind them, and his ears are filled with the words spoken so long ago that have never left him -

"Take your brother outside as fast as you can! Go!"

"You don't know what that night was like," he tells his brother then, and his thumb rubs circles just beneath Sam's ear. "You cried and cried, and you wouldn't stop," and he thinks of how Sam had been the only one who did cry that first night. He thinks of how he lay in an unfamiliar bed, covers pulled up to his chin and unable to sleep because his head was full of their father telling him the fire took mommy, Dean, you're going to have to be brave; he remembers, even now, the heaviness in his chest and the lump in his throat and how he wanted so badly to run to his daddy and shout I want mommy, bring her back...

"But I couldn't, I knew that," he says now. "I could see him in the kitchen, the door was open just enough, and he was sitting at the table - his face was so pale, Sammy, he was just staring, but he wasn't crying, so I told myself I couldn't either," and a low, shaky breath whispers past his lips. "I got out of bed, I walked across the room -"

He lowers the side of the borrowed crib and climbs in, feeling it creak beneath his weight as his brother's almost hysterical wailing fills his ears; he gets his arms round Sam, lifts him carefully into his lap, curves a hand round the back of his head. His brother's hair still smells of the shampoo that was used on it only the night before, when the two of them splashed and giggled in the tub under their mother's watchful eye; and the thought that mommy's never going to wash Sam's hair again makes the lump in Dean's throat swell to the point where he can hardly breath around it, but he manages to do it somehow. "Ssh, Sammy, ssh," he whispers unsteadily, rubbing his brother's back the way he's seen mommy and daddy do it; he's scared, he doesn't understand what happened tonight, but he whispers in his baby brother's ear that he mustn't cry because it's gonna be okay - and eventually it works, Sam gives in and slumps bonelessly against Dean's chest, and when their father looks into the room a few minutes later both his boys are asleep.

Dean is silent for a long time then, and he lets his hand strays down Sam's neck; there is a scar just below Sam's collarbone, one that is fairly recent because it's still a raised ridge of healed flesh. He runs a fingertip over it, trying to remember where they were when Sam got it, and he can't; there are so many scars, not only on Sam but on Dean and their father as well, that they've simply blended into a roadmap of the journey they've been on that's lasted more than twenty years.

But there's one he does remember, even though it was sustained so long ago that it's hardly visible now - and as he thinks of it now, that long-ago afternoon when Sam had just started first grade, he feels tears brim behind his closed eyelids...

"Are you the boy's father, sir?" the doctor asks, bustling into the curtained-off cubicle that already has four people crammed into it. Dean is sitting on a hard plastic chair, hanging onto his brother's hand as Sam sits in his teacher's lap with a bloodstained gauze pad pressed to his forehead; John, who has just arrived after being summoned by a frantic phone call, stands with his hands outstretched towards his youngest son and his face lined with worry.

"Yes, I am," John replies. "I'm John Winchester, what's happened to my boy?"

"It seems he fell and gashed his forehead on a concrete step, Mr. Winchester," is the answer. "Now, I've had a look at the wound, and it's going to need some stitches - does Samuel have any allergies to medication, sir? We weren't able to locate his medical records."

"We've just moved," John says, not taking his eyes off Sam while he's speaking. "He's allergic to penicillin, but that's it."

"Well, I'm going to give him an injection to numb the area first - can you sign this consent form for me?" and John gives the sheet of paper on the doctor's clipboard a cursory glance before scrawling his name at the bottom. "It might be better if you hold him, sir."

"Thank you, ma'am," John tells the teacher gravely before reaching to take his son from her arms. "I appreciate you taking care of the boys till I got here."

"You're welcome," is the woman's reply, and she rises from the chair. "We'll see you soon, sweetie," she says, reaching to pat Sam's shoulder, and the curtain parts as she leaves the little group; as soon as Sam is on his father's lap he burrows into John's arms, not letting go of his brother's hand. His eyes are almost swollen shut, his face is bathed in tears and his chest is heaving visibly; with each indrawn breath there is a small whimper, and these tiny sounds break Dean's heart.

"Can you turn him a little bit so he's facing me, Mr. Winchester?" the doctor asks as he turns back towards them. "Let's take this pad off so we can see what we're doing - son, you're going to need to sit out in the waiting room while we take care of your brother, okay?"

"No," Dean replies, hanging on to Sam's hand when the doctor makes an attempt to separate them. "I'm not leaving him."

"Sir -?"

"Dean, do as you're told," John says quietly, disengaging Sam's hand from his brother's. "The doctor needs room to work."


"Now, Dean," is the uncompromising response, and as Dean gets up the gauze pad is lifted away from the three-quarter inch gash just below his brother's left eyebrow; at the same moment, Sam catches sight of what the doctor has in his hand, and he begins to struggle in his father's lap.

"No, daddy, no shot!" Sam shouts, fresh tears spilling down his cheeks. "No, daddy, please!"

"Be a brave boy, Sammy," John murmurs against his son's dark curls, pinning Sam's arms against his sides and holding his head steady. "It'll only hurt for a second."

"Dean!" Sam wails as he sees his brother back out through the curtains. "DEAN!" Seconds later there is a piercing shriek, then sobs that are interspersed by their father telling Sam that it's okay, it'll be over soon; Dean runs into the waiting room and throws himself into a chair, his hands clamped over his ears while he weeps silently - and he knows that no accusation their father might make later on about him not looking after his brother in the playground can possibly hurt as much as hearing Sam crying and not being able to do anything to help him.

It takes more than fifteen minutes before the doors to the waiting room swing inwards to admit his father and his little brother, and Dean is on his feet in an instant. Sam is holding their father's hand, his chest still heaving visibly every time he breathes in, and his nose is running; a dressing is taped over his left eyebrow, and he is holding something in his free hand.

"You okay, Sammy?" Dean asks, a lump in his throat as he fishes a crumpled Kleenex from the pocket of his jeans, and there is a nod even though Sam's lower lip is quivering; he bends down to his brother's level, wiping his nose, and then he straightens up again to face the recrimination he knows is coming. "Dad?" he says faintly. "I'm sorry, dad, I was right there with him, he just fell..."

"Wasn't your fault, Dean," John says gravely, studying his oldest son's face. "You ready to go home?"

"Yes, sir," Dean tells him, and the three of them head out to the parking lot of the small hospital in a town that's been their third "home" so far this year. He climbs into the back seat of the Impala, Sam right behind him, and as soon as the two of them are settled in the back seat Sam lies across Dean's lap; he shifts slightly, getting comfortable as Dean's arm goes round him, and as Dean strokes his brother's hair the tightness in his chest loosens just a little.

"Dean," comes a tiny whisper as the Impala's engine rumbles into life. "I got you something," and the red Life Saver the doctor must have given Sam when he was done stitching him up is pressed into Dean's hand; he lowers his head, whispering a thank you and kissing the top of Sam's head, and he watches his little brother's eyes close.

"Never liked hospitals, have you?" he says quietly. "Don't worry, we'll get you out of here, just as soon as Dad comes out of the anaesthetic," and the sound of a door being opened echoes in his ears.


"He's okay, dad," he says, a tight, brittle smile on his face. "I've been looking after him," and his fingers run gently over his brother's face; they touch the plastic tube that still protrudes from Sam's mouth, even though the machine it was attached to has been silenced - but Dean ignores it, because to acknowledge its existence means admitting to the truth, and he won't do it. "Can we go home now?"

"Shall I get an orderly in here?"

"Don't be stupid, we don't need an orderly."

"He bit me! I've still got teeth marks!"

"Damn it, his brother just died and you were trying to make him leave the room - I'd probably have done the same thing! Now go and see whether the father's awake yet, and let me deal with this."

The middle-aged doctor watches his younger colleague leave the room, and then he approaches the bed; the man wearing a blue hospital nightgown and with his arm in a shoulder brace and a cast sits propped against the pillows, his uninjured hand moving ceaselessly over the face of the dark-haired younger man who lies across his lap. "Dean?" he says gently, and the hazel eyes that fix themselves on his face are glassy with shock. "Dean, will you let me help you?"

"Can we go home?"

"In a little while," the doctor says, his throat tightening as he brings out the syringe that he filled with a sedative minutes before when chaos reigned in this room. "We just need to make sure you're all right first."

"He doesn't like shots," Dean says as he catches sight of what the doctor has in his hand, and although he is still managing to smile somehow a single tear escapes down his right cheek. "Don't make me wait outside, dad," he whispers, and when the needle sinks into his arm he doesn't struggle; he closes his eyes again, focusing on the feel of his brother in his lap, and as the sedative takes hold he lets himself go back to a time that is long gone when a sticky piece of candy was pressed into his hand.