This follows BlueRiverSteel's "Marking Time." You should definitely read that, but this also works as a stand-alone.
He wakes suddenly, violently, with just enough time to heave to the side and vomit a sparse, watery mess into the trash can instead of all over himself. The trash can pushed so conveniently close to the edge of his bed, he knows this can't be the first time he's made use of it.
"Hey, easy, easy."
Exhibit B: Sam immediately within pawing distance, like he was waiting for it, now jamming his hands under Dean's chest and shoulders in order to assist the return flop onto his back, which hurts like a mother –
"You're seriously not doing those ribs any favors, man."
- fuck, yeah. Ribs. He remembers; they hadn't really hurt until the clinic, when he'd finally stopped moving. A dull roar in the background before that, but they sure as hell hurt now. Everything does, in a fierce, raging sort of way that screams of an uninhibited attack on his nerve endings. Not even the subtle comfort of Children's Tylenol to soften the blow. Fuck. Dean blinks a few times, but the water stains on the ceiling blur and spin sickeningly overhead. He drags a shaky hand down his face, smears the back of his wrist across his dry lips and croaks out a hoarse, "Sammy?"
"Yeah. Still here."
He moves to press fingertips to his forehead in an attempt to deter his brain from forcing its way through his seemingly fragile skull, but he overshoots, smashes his hand against the pillow next to his ear instead. Dammit, he can't even think. "Where's here?" Because this dim room sure doesn't feel or smell like his room in the bunker, he can suss out that much.
"Uh, just north of Salt Lake City." Sam's voice seems tight and pained as his footsteps shuffle slowly backwards. He breathes out a sigh of relief as he settles into a chair. "Still closer to Idaho than home, in any case, but you made it as far as that stop for gas before…you don't remember pulling off yesterday?"
"Maybe?" It takes an inhuman amount of effort but Dean rolls his head against the pillow and squints, scrutinizing his brother's pale, extremely unshaven face and the awkward way he's slumped in his chair. "S'wrong with you?"
Sam snorts, or laughs. In any case, he makes some sort of noise that clearly pains him, and lets Dean know that he thinks the question is ten different kinds of absurd. "Popped a stitch trying to keep your lame ass off the floor."
Dean wrinkles his nose, because that's about the only part of his body that doesn't feel absolutely and irrevocably wrecked at the moment. He had cowboy'ed up for as long as he could, but between the werewolves and the taser and the handful of pills and whatever the hell the doc did to him to bring him back, he was a mess – still is, apparently. He remembers now that break for gas, and how he'd convinced Sam to stop for the night because the bunker was still half a day away and he was beyond beat. He'd made a few excuses; confessed to be fucking starving and probably dehydrated, and copped to the busted ribs because they seemed the most obvious and unavoidable. They'd found this fleabag of a motel and Sam had been helping him wrap them up…and that's about all he's got. "Sorry about that."
"Yeah." Sam leans forward, bracing his weight on the right armrest and pressing his left hand to his bandaged side with a grimace. "So let's talk about that. From what I can tell, your vitals suck ass, man. We're talking basement here."
It's a conversational door left propped open, an opportunity to cop to more than broken bones, to admit to what he did when he thought Sam was dead. But Dean can't. He points his gaze upward, closing his eyes as the ceiling takes another stomach-wrenching revolution. "Sorry, Doctor Winchester," he manages thickly, through clenched teeth. "Had kind of a rough weekend."
"You gonna be sick again?" Concern and annoyance, and Dean figures he can't really fault Sam for either. Prescribed bed rest rarely includes a vigil of your recently overdosed and revived brother.
He shakes his head, and almost immediately contradicts the motion.
"Yeah," Sam says slowly, not buying it. "I don't know if that's the concussion talking, or the, uh…" He clears his throat noisily, and the chair creaks in protest as he shifts his weight, scoots it closer. "I called the clinic."
"Because typically, when your brother collapses and you find an injection site directly over his heart, you wanna find out why that is before you start home-medicating. Good thing, too. Do you have any idea what you – " Sam bites his lip, shakes his head. He no longer looks pained, or even unamused. He looks pissed. "Thrashing around like that with broken…you could have punctured a lung, Dean."
He'd actually thought about that. One of the many things that whizzed hazily through Dean's mind in the car, somewhere in the muck of those eight agonizing and horribly silent hours struggling to stay conscious and upright behind the wheel, before his girl finally bailed him out with the soft ding requesting another fill-up.
"What were you thinking? You were DEAD, Dean."
"I was only mostly dead," he deadpans, wriggling uncomfortably but only succeeding in ratcheting back up the nausea and bringing about a fresh stab of agony in his supposedly stabilized ribcage. God, everything hurts. "Same as you. We tied."
Sam's already said his piece. He doesn't respond, but simply stares, tapping his fingers on the armrest of his chair and waiting his brother out.
"Look," Dean relents, raising a hand that feels like it weighs a goddamn ton. "I'm not dead. You're not dead." He gives up, drops the heavy hand to his sore, traitorous, tightly wrapped chest. "Let's just call this another example of why we are never going camping. Ever."
Sam's silent another long moment, fingers jumping and twitching against the chair like he's resisting the urge to punch something…or someone. And even in his brother's recently stitched and transfused state, Dean knows he wouldn't stand a chance against the guy right now.
"Did you do it to try to make a deal?" Sam asks finally.
"No." Without pause, because while there's not really a good answer here, Dean gets that Sam knowing the truth is somehow the worse option.
"Dean, I swear to – "
"NO, Sam," he says loudly, the protest resonating throughout his broken ribcage, stealing his breath. "Jesus."
But it doesn't seem that he needs Dean to admit to this to know what really went down. Or why it went down. "It's just…one big joke to you isn't it?" Sam asks, shaking his head. His jaw twitches, muscles in his neck jumping visibly. "What is wrong with you, Dean? After everything, you still – " Sam breaks off the inquiry, or accusation, finding some self-restraint through his anger and pain.
Dean sighs, drags his hand back up to scrub at his eyes. Misses again, cuffs himself in the ear. Son of a bitch. "What do you want from me, Sam?"
"I want you to take this seriously."
"Take what seriously?"
"Your LIFE, Dean." Sam pushes a hand through his hair and makes a fist, thumping it against the thigh of his sweats. "I want you, just once, to stop and think, and make the smart choice."
And Sam's got him there, because he hadn't thought things through, not once. Maybe once. Dean swallows. "Left you there, didn't I?"
"Yeah, once you thought I was dead," Sam spits, rejecting Dean's argument immediately. "But before, when you still had the chance to…you wouldn't even consider it."
Sweat breaks out at Dean's hairline, and it has nothing to do with Sam's words, or with the tension or temperature in the room. It's pain, pure and simple and not wanting to be ignored, and the fact there ain't a damn thing in his body working to counteract it. Didn't really think this brilliant plan through, did ya, Winchester? "I was right," he grits, squeezing his eyes closed and attempting the shallowest breathing he can manage without passing out entirely. "Rest of the pack would've found you."
"Handled them okay." A much softer counter than his last, and the chair creaks on the heel of Sam's words.
Dean doesn't dare open his eyes to confirm, but the mattress dips, evidence that his brother has relocated, propped himself on the bed. A giant hand grips his knee in an attempt to ground him through the waves of pain attacking every inch of his body, because they both know it'll be days still before he can safely swallow so much as an aspirin. "Whatever, Sam," he breathes, meaning to communicate both thanks and shut the hell up. "I'm not gonna apologize for that."
"I'm not asking you to." Sam hisses as he shifts his own exhausted, wrecked body. "But for lying to me?"
Dean tenses, sucks in a breath, and the hand on his knee gives him what's both an apologetic pat, and an urge to continue. "I'm not gonna…apologize for that, either."
"Why not?" Sam demands.
Jesus, Sammy. If you're not gonna give me some friggin' Vicodin you could at least gimme a damn break here. Dean thumps his own frustrated fist against the sweat-drenched mattress. "Because you didn't need to know."
"How can you even say that?"
"Nothing came of it, okay?" Dean all but shouts, levering himself off of the bed as much as he can handle, which is not too damn much. His arms tremble from the effort, and his chest screams from the angle, but he glares, locks eyes with his brother. "Look, Sam. I'm here, you're here, and the job got done. Can we just…please, let that be that for right now?"
Sam's tired and wounded, and he's still pissed, still filled to the brim with questions he wants answers to, now. But he relents, nods once. "Okay."
And Dean can beg and plead but he wasn't actually expecting that answer from his brother, and that can only mean that he looks like at least as much shit as he feels but thank GOD it gets Sam to agree, because he's also not sure he's got another five minutes left on this side of consciousness to wade back into a war of words with the guy.
Sam knows it, too, pats Dean's leg as he drags himself upright with a groan. "Get some rest."
Dean raises his eyebrows in agreement, and he's pleased to have identified another inch of his body not currently radiating pain. He settles back as carefully as he can manage and closes his eyes, taking a moment to catch his breath and maybe allow the spinning room to kindly stop. He's on the fast track to drifting off when something pops into his mind, something that now seems small but not so insignificant. His eyes snap open and he palms the mattress, gives it a go at shoving back upright.
"Whoa, hey – " Sam's there immediately, back at Dean's side much quicker than he should be currently capable of. He sticks a hand against Dean's shoulder, halting his rise. "Whatcha need, man? Gonna puke?"
"Jacket," Dean grunts, allowing Sam to push him back down flat against the pillow.
"Okay, I'll get it. Just, don't move, okay?"
Dean lets his eyes fall closed once more, focuses on his breathing and listens to the sounds of Sam slowly limping and shuffling about the room, shifting items until he shuffles back.
"Got it. What am I looking for?"
"Pocket," Dean grits out. "Right."
More shifting, and a faint metallic clink as the item in question rolls about, collides with the lighter in the jacket pocket. Then Sam coughing out a bark that sounds more obligatory than amused, but Dean clings to the comfort in the sound either way.
He almost smiles, too. Or, tries. "Told you we'd laugh about it."
"Yeah," Sam exhales, and the chair at the table gives one last ominous creak as he settles back down, no doubt palming and studying the bloody little bullet. "Yeah, I'm laughing on the inside."
As Dean drifts off, he knows what his brother means is, I think this bullet did more damage to you than me. And he doesn't quite know that he has an argument for that.
A/N: what I've written here might simply be fangirl fodder, but seeing as that's what the entire episode might have been, I'm okay with that.