Between Brothers
K Hanna Korossy

Sam aimed and shot in one motion.

Moloch froze. Then the god disintegrated, clothes fluttering into an empty pile.

Dean was on the ground, blinking at Sam, and Sam grinned at him. "Colt. Dusts anything."

"Mm," Dean said, and flopped facedown in relief.

Sam looked back over his shoulder at the sheriff, who was still bent over his dead half-brother. Time to stand down. Sam tucked the Colt into his jacket and strode over to his own brother. "Dean."

Dean didn't move, face hidden.

Sam frowned. "Dean. Hey." He crouched down and put a hand on the back of Dean's head.

Cold blood squelched against his fingers.

"Dean!" Alarmed now, Sam grabbed his brother's shoulders and turned him carefully over.

Dean rolled bonelessly, unconscious.

"Hey. Hey." Sam felt for a pulse, which was strong and fast, and peered at the pale face, the blood on the side of his head. "Dean? Hey, man, you in there?" He was pretty sure Dean had fallen over a banister at the Bishop house earlier, been knocked out, and then he'd gone a round with Moloch here in the freezer. Sam looked up, wincing at the smeared blood on the pillar beside them. Head injury on top of head injury. He patted Dean's cold face and put some bark into his voice. "Dean! Open your eyes!"

Dean made a grumbling sound and squinted one eye open, then the other. "Suaymm?"

Sam sagged a little in relief. "Close enough. Can you get up?"

Dean's eyes slid from side to side. "Wher'we?"

"Meat locker. C'mon." He dug his hands under his brother's arms and tried to lift gently.

It probably wouldn't have made a difference how slowly Dean changed elevation. His eyes widened, and Sam got him turned just in time to throw up on Moloch's vacated robe. It seemed fitting.

Sam looped an arm around his chest to wait out the vomiting, grimacing at the smell but not budging. So, bad concussion on top of any other bruises, breaks, or strains. Did the British Men of Letters cover hospital visits? Probably. Although, it was nationalized healthcare in Britain, so maybe they hadn't thought about it. They'd have to start a hunter's insurance network in the States…

And then Dean was sagging against him, and Sam's runaway train of thought derailed. "All right, let's get you out of here." He pulled his shaky brother to his feet and ducked under one shoulder. "C'mon, help me out, man."

They stumbled out together, Sam instantly relieved by the warm air. How long had Dean been in that freezer, already injured? His skin was marble-cold and white, even after the exertion of throwing up. He wasn't saying a word, either, besides the labored breathing and occasional grunt. There were tiny hitches of sound, though, that Sam bet would have been tears of pain in another man, one less used to hurting.

There was a chair about twenty feet away, and Sam headed them there. He eased Dean down, hands quickly going to his shoulders to keep him from curling forward out of it. "Hey. You with me?"

Dean took a minute to answer, one hand gingerly cradling his head. Sam knew from experience it probably felt like it was going to explode at any minute. "Yeah," he finally said, voice rougher than usual.

Sam gave his shoulder a light squeeze. "I'm gonna find something for your head."

Dean didn't answer, but he didn't fall over when Sam cautiously pulled his hand away.

He hurried back to the meat locker, grabbing the first small package he could find. Steak: perfect. He returned to find Dean in exactly the same position, and lifted his other hand to hold the frozen steak against his bleeding temple. Dean's breath hissed out, but he held on.

"You got knocked out in the house, didn't you? Went over the banister?"

There was a definite delay as Dean's bruised brain tried to make sense of the question and remember the answer. "Think so?"

"Okay. And here, Moloch?"

Another few beats. "…What?"

Yeah, that kinda answered his question. "Never mind. Anything broken? Besides your head?"

"'S he dead?"

"Moloch? Or Pete? Yes to both."

Dean had walked okay, shaky but not limping, so Sam just did a quick pat-down of arms, wrists, ribs. Maybe a cracked rib or two, but that was practically the norm for them. Nothing else besides Dean blinking dazedly at him, not even protesting as Sam felt him up.

Sam sat back on his heels. "Hey. How you feelin'?"

"Like I jus' went twelve rounds with a god. So, you know…normal."

"Yeah." Full sentences. Looked like they were skipping the hospital, insurance or no.

"You should go," Bishop called over.

Sam really wanted to, to get Dean out of there. But Bishop had just killed his half-brother, had a couple more bodies in the meat locker as far as Sam had seen, and he was a good guy. They shouldn't leave him to it. "No, Sheriff, uh, we can help clean up."

"No. This…I'll take care of it it. It's on me. This? This is my legacy."

And how sad was that?

Dean swallowed hard, like he was thinking of throwing up again.

Sam sighed, one hand back on Dean's shoulder to make sure he didn't take a nosedive. "Yeah. Okay."

00000

Getting Dean to the car felt like an exercise of sadism, but finally he was piled up in the passenger seat, hand cradling his head again. Sam had tried to get him to lie down in the back, but Dean said he really would upchuck then, and, yeah, that wouldn't be good. Sam padded the window with a pair of folded flannel shirts, tucked a blanket around his still-shivering brother, and drove away.

Well, three exits away.

They weren't fleeing the scene of the crime this time, so Sam figured that was near enough. Trying to rest in the car when your head was a cracked egg was agonizing at best, so they were going to ground until Dean didn't look like, well, he'd gone up against a god.

The Brits did cover hotel stays—and food, and gas—for cases they gave the Winchesters, so Sam picked a chain motel a few grades above their usual haunts. A three-star lodge was a little too much, they'd already learned, but a Best Western in the middle of Wisconsin was just right: clean and comfortable without anyone to notice when you hauled your bloody, slumped brother from the car into the room.

Dean got the inner bed this time, not like Sam thought he even noticed. He curled miserably on his side, still clutching that steak, as Sam went back for their bags and the med kit. He stopped at the vending machine at the end of the row and bought a half-dozen bottles of water, then locked the door behind him and slowly exhaled.

Okay. They were safe. The rest was just recovery. He could do that.

Dean dozed through Sam cleaning the gash on the side of his head, just flinching occasionally at a tender spot or mumbling something Sam was glad he didn't understand. Sam found a goose egg a few inches from the cut, the second impact, and winced at the thought of blow upon blow. Half his brother's face was swollen now, black faintly ringing one eye. Dean's head bandaged, Sam molded a cold pack around the side of his skull, far more comfortable than a frozen steak. He dosed him as strongly as he dared, got some water into him, and wrestled off his bloody clothes before covering him up. Dean was out before Sam was even done.

Sam stood, watching him sleep a moment. Then he went to shower.

Cas still wasn't answering his phone; his healing ability would've been awesome just then. There was another text query from Mick, and Sam just responded that their quarry was Moloch. Then he turned his phone off, ate a pile of peanut butter crackers from the vending machine, and went to bed.

Dean's murmurs woke him a couple of times. Some of them unintelligible, some about the "family business" and "killing people," which would have panicked hospital staff but was sadly routine for them. Whenever Sam roused his brother, Dean answered with groggy lucidity, so Sam let him sleep. Especially after, some time around two, Dean got up to have some water, pee, throw up, then stagger back to bed.

Sam ordered subs from a nearby deli. A pizza he ate outside. He wrote up their own notes, turned his phone back on to find and answer a text from Mom, and finished the copy of Elephants Can Remember that he'd been carrying around at the bottom of his duffel for a few weeks. He sat by Dean a few times when his brother got restless, changed his bandage and ice pack, and fed him crackers and water.

Sam was rearranging the med kit, taking inventory of what they needed to restock, when Dean's rusty voice spoke up from his bed.

"Y're organizing. Must've been here a while."

"Two days," Sam said mildly, relief hidden. "The kit needed it." He dropped the gauze he was rolling and went around to the side of his bed facing Dean's.

"Uh-huh." Dean reached up, gingerly feeling the bandage. "Bet I look like…Boris Karloff."

Sam smiled faintly. "The swelling's mostly gone down. How do you feel?"

Dean considered that, blinking at the ceiling. "Not goin' out dancin' anytime soon, but…think I'm ready to hit the road."

Sam raised an eyebrow. "All eight hundred miles back home?"

Dean's nose wrinkled. "…yes?"

Sam laughed. "Yeah, all right. Let's start with sitting up, huh?" He waited until Dean held out an arm, then helped him slide up in the bed until he was more or less vertical. Dean swallowed a couple of times, but he didn't lose his color, so that was a win.

Dean pinched his nose a moment, then sniffed and raised his head. There was pain in his eyes, but they were clear. "So, how long?"

"Since we've been here?" Sam glanced around the room. "Little over two days?"

"Awesome." Dean sighed and tilted his head back against the headboard. "You killed Moloch, right?"

"Yup. One shot with the Colt."

"Nice."

"And Barrett took care of Pete." Off Dean's cocked head, Sam elaborated. "Pete Bishop? He was the one who let Moloch out, 'to save the town.' Barrett shot him to save me."

"Remind me to send him a fruit basket," Dean muttered. He rolled his head sideways to peer at Sam. "Pete was his brother, right?"

"Half-brother. Not exactly close, from the sound of it." He paused, shifting on the bed. "Hey…You were muttering before in your sleep, something about the 'family business'? You remember that?"

Dean was rubbing his eyes. "Not really? But Pete said something like that. Killing people was his family's business."

"Huh. And I thought our family was messed up."

"Hey, just 'cause it's family don't mean it's right," Dean said tiredly, hand dropping back to his lap.

"Barrett had to kill his," Sam said, nodding. He couldn't help remembering his desperation to get to Dean after hearing him fall, his opening the freezer door to see Moloch standing over him.

"While mine's gonna run out and get me donuts."

Sam's eyes bounced back to him, corner of his mouth turning up. "Donuts?"

"Yeah. Glazed. And powdered. Maybe some chocolate." Dean returned his smile, small and weary but real. "Because he's a good brother."

Sam softened. Over the last sixty hours, he'd saved Dean from a god, gotten him someplace safe, patched up his bleeding head, and cleaned up his vomit. But, yeah, it was donuts that were gonna put him in the "good brother" column.

"No jelly," Dean added, a little queasily. "Don't think I'm up to squishy stuff yet."

And Sam was okay with that. He understood exactly what his brother was saying.

He grinned.

"Okay. No jelly."

The End