Summary: Post 9x13 – Slightly Injured Sam/Big Brother Dean – Usually after a conversation like they had experienced the previous night, they would avoid each other, especially the next morning. But here Dean was. Because Sam needed painkillers and water and someone to call him on his BS...and all of that sounded like a job for Dean Winchester.

Disclaimer: Not mine of course. Just writing this to make myself feel better...

Warnings: Usual language along with spoilers for season nine.

A/N: Oh, boys...

It is not our silence that is deafening but all the words underneath it, yelled in our heads. ~ David Levithan

There was silence.

The kind of silence that stretched too long.

The kind of silence that was easy to misinterpret.

The kind of silence that ached.

But there was nothing left to say.

With just four words, Sam had said it all.

And the silence afterward echoed.

Dean stood motionless in the dimly lit kitchen, staring down at his brother, speechlessly blinking as his heart pounded in his chest.

Sam momentarily held his gaze, looking unfazed...and then on the verge of tears, his lips pursing, his jaw working in that way it did when he battled emotion.

Dean had seen the expression enough to know that what Sam had just said had hurt Sam as much as it had hurt Dean.

But somehow that didn't help.

Not at all.

That knowledge did jackshit to stop the bleeding.

And Dean felt like he was bleeding out.

The silence lingered, empty and full.

"I'm gonna get to bed," Sam finally mumbled, his voice quiet and strangely hoarse as he stood from the table, ducking his head now and sheepishly refusing to meet Dean's shocked and wounded gaze.

...a classic sign that while Sam had meant what he had said, he also regretted the hurt that had accompanied his words.

No, Dean. I wouldn't.

As in, I wouldn't have saved you.

As in, I would've let you die.

As in, fuck you, big brother. I'm better off without you.

Oh, yeah.

Dean had heard that last part loud and clear.

Just like Dean had heard Sam's other speech loud and clear, the one a week or so ago about them not operating as brothers anymore.

Dean clenched his jaw at the memory – at the fresh stab through his heart – and watched Sam leave the kitchen, listening to Sam's steps fade down the hall; the distant sound a perfect metaphor for how Dean felt…like his little brother was moving farther and farther away from him.

Sam pulling back, retreating, slipping away just beyond Dean's reach.

"Don't run too far ahead of me," Dean used to tell Sam when they were kids. "Stay where I can see you."

...where I can reach you in case something bad happens.

...where I can protect you.

And Sammy – that sweet, scrawny little kid – would always smile and nod.

"I'm never gonna leave you, Dean," Sam would say, speaking the way children often did...promising never and always as though never and always were tamed things, as though never and always could be controlled.

But that never happened.

Because circumstances...and people...always changed.

Dean snorted at that piercing truth and glanced around the kitchen as if he would find the answer tucked away in a corner. The solution to fixing what was clearly broken between him and Sam just waiting to be discovered in the bunker – yet another little tidbit of useful information and helpful advice stored away by the Men of Letters.

But what was wrong between him and Sam could only be fixed by him and Sam.

And the enormity of that task was overwhelming...especially tonight.

Dean sighed, rubbing his hand down his scruffy face and remembering his other hand still held a glass...and the bottle of whiskey on the table was still full.


Hell no.

It was a fucking godsend.

And Dean embraced it.

"Hello, darkness, my old friend..." he greeted as he downed the amber-colored dregs in his glass, grimacing at their familiar bite, and then reached for the bottle to pour more.

I used to drink to drown my sorrows...Dean had read somewhere someone had once said...but then the damn things learned to swim.

Dean nodded in agreement, though it certainly wouldn't stop him from trying to drown them tonight.

It seemed like a better idea than trying to talk to Sam.

Because Dean was tired and numb and so fucking hurt. He knew anything he did now, anything he said now, he would regret later.

That was another lesson he had learned the hard way, although Dean wanted nothing more than to storm down to Sam's room and let it rip.

And damn, that would feel good – to release the rage and pain and guilt within instead of letting it fester and further infect their relationship as brothers.

But Dean knew for all the rage and pain and guilt that he felt, Sam felt more...because that was Sam's personality.

Dean was Little Miss Fucking Sunshine compared to Sam sometimes since Sam had always viewed himself as tainted and unworthy; as a burden, as a magnet for trouble and the reason everyone died.

Sam had even said those exact words when he was upset and drunk and stripped of his filter. "Everyone around me dies," he had told Dean as they had stood within inches of each other in their room at that bed and breakfast several years ago.

Dean lifted his glass now, rolling the whiskey in his mouth as he remembered his response back then.

"Well, I'm not dyin'."

As if it was that simple...

But even then, Dean had lied to his brother.

Because over a year later, Dean would be dead and in Hell...and Sam had never stopped believing that was his fault; had never stopped believing that he should've died instead; had never escaped the haunting reality that he hadn't been able to save his big brother.

And maybe that was the issue here – or at least part of it. Maybe Sam said he wouldn't save Dean because he was convinced he couldn't save Dean. Maybe that was why Sam hadn't looked for Dean in Purgatory as well.

Because experience was an often cruel but accurate teacher...and experience had taught – over and over – that no matter how much Sam sacrificed, no matter how much he tried, he couldn't save Dean.

And that was a jagged pill to swallow, especially when you were a little brother who already believed you didn't deserve to live; who already valued yourself as nothing.

"Jesus, Sammy..." Dean murmured in the quietness of the kitchen, feeling a bit unnerved at the reminder.

Because even now, even after what Sam had said earlier, Sam was still everything to Dean.

A pain in the ass that Dean felt like punching in the fucking face sometimes...but Sam was still everything to his big brother.

And sure...if the proverbial tables had been reversed, maybe Sam wouldn't have saved Dean – but Dean would never stop saving Sam.

It just wasn't in him.

The protectiveness, the possessiveness ran too deep.

There ain't no me if there ain't no you.

And Dean had meant every word.

Hell, Dean would even say it again if the stubborn little shit down the hall would listen to him and stop pushing him away.

But that was another classic Sam lash out and push away, to become uncharacteristically cold and withdrawn when he was hurting.

"I'm fine," Sam had assured numerous times over the years, only for Dean to discover later that his brother was bleeding or sick or soulless or seeing Lucifer himself.

I'm fine.

Sure, Sammy.

Sure you are.

Dean snorted and once again emptied his glass, wondering at what age Sam had realized that if he was cruel enough, he could delay Dean's pursuit.

Maybe around the Stanford years...

But that was what Sam had been doing over the past week, that was what he was doing now – was being cruelly "honest" to distract Dean, knowing that Dean would be so consumed with his own hurt and anger for a while that he wouldn't see the real problem here.

Dean blinked, suddenly remembering his brother's words on that pier, remembering Sam calling to him as he had walked away.

But don't go thinking that's the problem 'cause it's not.

...which meant what?

That Dean wasn't the problem...because Sam was?

That Dean wasn't poison...because that distinction belonged to Sam?

That Dean wasn't the reason people around them died...because that had always been Sam's claim to fame?

Dean sighed harshly. "God, we're fucked up..." he announced to the kitchen about him and his brother. "Fucked. Up," he repeated and poured another glass of whiskey before walking a small circle, feeling too restless to sit.

The bunker was once again silent, the muffled sounds of Sam getting ready for bed now gone since Dean assumed his brother was all tucked in.

"Snug as a bug in a rug," Dean used to sing-song as he did the tucking.

Sam would blink up at him, all floppy hair and sleepy smiles. "Stay?"

"With you?" Dean would ask as if he didn't already know his kid liked for him to stay close until he fell asleep.

Sam would nod with wide, hopeful eyes. "Please?"

Dean would nod in return and would get more comfortable on the bed beside his brother. "Where else am I gonna go, Sammy?"

Where else indeed...

Dean would always stay with Sam as long as Sam wanted him around.

But now...

Dean shrugged, refusing to follow the dark path of that thought, and scowled at the alcohol swirling in his glass, knowing it was making him overthink and teeter on the edge of becoming a sappy girl.

"You should go to bed," he told himself and nodded in agreement with his own advice.

And though Dean doubted he would sleep, the idea of lying down was appealing.

It had been a long day and a long drive...and was likely to be a long night.

Might as well spend it cradled in memory foam.

Dean nodded again, emptying his glass once more and setting it on the table as he switched off the light and left the kitchen.

He was two steps down the hall, heading toward his room when he heard it.

Dean frowned and immediately turned, instantly sober as he listened.

And there it was again – Sam coughing.

Dean felt his entire body react, his alertness increasing with his heart rate as adrenaline flooded his system.

And just like that, big brother was ready to swoop in and rescue.

Sam had been an ass earlier, but he had also been right; rescue mode was Dean's default setting when it came to his little brother.

And now, after what they had endured with the trials, Dean was always going to associate a coughing Sam...with a Sam coughing up blood.

Standing in the darkness of the hallway, Dean shook his head, knowing that was not happening – not now – but still unable to stop himself from moving in the opposite direction of his own bedroom.

"Dammit, Sam..." Dean grumbled at the power his little brother still held over him.

Because barely 20 minutes ago, Sam had acted like a heartless dick...but Dean was still going to check on the kid.

Dean snorted – somehow feeling like he was being played – but quickened his pace, eager to see Sam now that he could hear his brother wheezing as well.

"No," Dean whispered at the horrible images filling his mind and didn't hesitate as he reached Sam's door; didn't even knock as he barged in, ready to perform fucking CPR if he had to.

How's that for a savior, Sam?

Was that "hero" enough for you?

Dean clenched his jaw at the bitterness of his thoughts – at the bitterness in Sam's words – but still felt his heart pound in his chest with a mixture of fear and panic as he stood in the doorway.

Because even though he was pissed about what had been said earlier, Dean still needed Sam to be okay.

And Sam was.

He was fine.

Dean blinked as his eyes adjusted to the soft yellow glow from the bedside lamp left on, the light clearly showing a sleeping and breathing Sam.

Dean released a shaky breath of his own – because Sam was fine – and scanned the room for any lurking danger before approaching the bed.

Sam didn't stir but wheezed again.

Dean winced at the whistling sound, remembering a similar sound escaping Sam's throat as Alonso had attempted to choke him back at Canyon Valley.

Realization instantly dawned, and Dean crouched beside the bed, narrowing his eyes as his fingers skimmed the bruised, slightly swollen skin around Sam's neck.

Sam didn't wake but turned toward Dean's touch.

Dean froze, knowing the scene would not be pleasant if Sam awoke to find his meddling big brother once again hovering...and even performing a cursory triage.

Oh, the endless horrors of being cared for and loved...

Dean twitched a cynical smile, still crouched beside the bed, motionless and watching Sam.

But Sam only sighed in his sleep, his chin brushing Dean's knuckles.

"Out like a light..." Dean used to tell John when their dad would return late from a hunt and would ask about Sam.

John would nod at the report but would still glance at the bed farthest from the door…and there Sam would be – bundled beneath the covers and out like a light.

Just like he was now...

Dean felt an unexpected warmth spread through his chest...but then frowned as Sam wheezed again.

Dean tilted his head, angling for a better view of Sam's swollen throat and realizing his brother's airway was marginally restricted from the abuse of the pishtaco...and was now made worse by Sam's current sleeping position.

But that was easily fixed.

"Alright, Sammy. Roll over..." Dean told his sleeping brother, keeping his voice quiet as he carefully pushed against Sam.

Sam wrinkled his nose and grunted but remained asleep as he responded to Dean's hands smoothly, gently, expertly resituating him on the mattress.

Just like old times.

Dean smiled softly at the brief flash of nostalgia and watched as Sam settled on his back and inhaled a deep, soundless breath.

Mission accomplished.

"Atta boy," Dean whispered, a hint of affection in his tone as if he was praising a puppy or a child.

He snorted and shook his head – imagining Sam's reaction to that – and smoothed the blanket over his brother's chest, his hand lingering there as he felt the steady rise and fall, the reassuring heartbeat.

Dean swallowed as he felt something twist within his own chest.

"Damn right I'd do it again," he confessed to Sam as he slept, referring to his earlier statement about saving his little brother again if he was granted a do-over.

Nothing would change.

Dean would still save Sam.

Damn right he would.

Again and again and again...

And regardless of what Sam thought, Dean's decision to do so had very little to do with Dean...and everything to do with Sam.

They needed to talk about that.

But not tonight...obviously.

Dean sighed, lightly patting Sam's chest before standing and reaching for the lamp on the bedside table. "Tomorrow..." he promised his sleeping brother.

Because the longer they waited to sort this out, the harder it would be to fix.

That old adage about time healing all wounds was bullshit.

Sometimes time made the situation worse.

...and their current situation was already bad enough.

Dean sighed.

Sam mumbled something in his sleep – his closed eyes briefly squinting in pain as his split bottom lip snagged on the top – and then snuggled deeper into his pillows.

Dean smiled and switched off the lamp, wondering how he could ricochet from so fucking pissed and hurt to god-I-love-this-kid in the span of only a few minutes.

It seemed to be yet another mysterious power Sam held over him.

But Dean knew he still held a certain amount of power over Sam as well.

That's what happened when you were each other's weak spot.

And no matter what had changed between them over the years, that had remained the same.

All I'm saying, Sammy...all I'm saying is that you're my weak spot. You are. And I'm yours...

Dean nodded as the words echoed...and then yawned, suddenly exhausted and drained.

He glanced at the bedside clock – not surprised that it was well past midnight – and sighed as he turned back to a sleeping Sam.

"See ya in the morning, Sammy..." Dean called over his shoulder as he exited his brother's room, leaving Sam's door cracked.

Because Dean refused to be shut out.