Author Note: Looooooooong overdue tag. Also, Asylum was the very first SPN I ever watched, in summer reruns before the S2 premiere. I was in college, and on vacation with my mom and little sister in Myrtle Beach, and I told them that we HAD to watch this show one night that a friend kept pestering me about watching.

I'm having ALL THE EMOTIONS as filming comes to a close. Supernatural has been such a huge part of my life for the past fifteen years. It had helped me grow as a writer and has brought me the best friends I've ever had. In the words of Michael Scott, "well, this is gonna hurt like a mother******."

The Little Things Give You Away

Do we need to talk about this?

No. I'm not really in a sharing and caring kind of mood. I just wanna get some sleep.

Sam keeps shooting him these looks, little grimaces that have that patented, irritating mix of overbearing concern and quiet wariness. Like he can't figure out whether Dean is about to pass out and wreck the Impala or grab the salt gun and shoot him point blank so they're even.

Dean has never cared about even.

His brother has never been able to bite his tongue for long, and he's on Dean again at the motel, before they're even out of the damn car.

"Dean, listen – "

"Shut up, Sam," Dean says, appalled by the exhausted rasp of his own voice. He yanks the key from the ignition and makes decent time to the door, considering every muscle in his body is in the process of locking up tighter than a tourniquet.

He goes straight into the bathroom, shuts the door with his brother stubbornly protesting in his wake. He doesn't turn on the light, not right away. Just leans against the countertop in the small, dark room, ducks his head, and breathes.

Dean is in a decent amount of pain, chest twinging, back aching, shoulder and head throbbing. He doesn't actually need the mirror's confirmation to know he looks like shit, but he bites the bullet, and his bottom lip, and flips the light switch. Well, shit. He looks as bad as the spirits back at the asylum.

He shrugs out of his jacket, wincing as he shifts his left arm, and squares back up to the mirror. A half-dozen tears litter his gray t-shirt, each ringed with a deep red stain. Beneath the shirt, his skin is irritated and bruised, smeared with blood and sticky with salt.

There's a knock at the door. Tentative, like Sam didn't just shoot him an hour ago.

"Go away, Sam." Not with any bite, just so, so tired. Dean thinks his brother has done enough talking for one day.

Dean hisses his way through cleaning himself up the best he can with what materials are available in the bathroom. By the time he's done, his chest hurts worse than it looks. A dark bruise is blooming on his left shoulder, where the gurney struck, and from what he can see in the mirror, his back isn't looking much better. The entire time he's in the bathroom, Sam's words are echoing through his head.

I mean, why are we even here? 'Cause you're following Dad's orders like a good little soldier? Because you always do what he says without question?

Are you that desperate for his approval?

That's the difference between you and me. I have a mind of my own. I'm not pathetic like you.

Spirit or no, his brother isn't that good a liar, and Dean doesn't believe that Sam didn't mean some of it. Just like he doesn't believe that he didn't deserve some of it.

For once in your life, just shut your mouth.

Ellicott may not have had his mitts on Dean long enough to do more than give him a killer headache, but that doesn't mean past resentments haven't been dredged up all the same. Dean spent the better part of four years missing his little brother fiercely, pretending everything was fine while feeling like a hole had been blown right through his life. But he didn't miss hearing that shit. Good little soldier. Fuck you, Sammy.

So, no, he doesn't want to talk about this. He doesn't want Sam's half-assed apology. He wants a handful of painkillers and to sleep for about four days, then to put Rockford in the goddamn rearview as soon as he can see straight.

It's not just the spirit. Sam was on his ass even before Ellicott got in his head. Getting in his digs. Manhandling him away from that cop in the bar. Itching for a fight and substituting Dean for Dad.

So, what, we always gotta follow Dad's orders.

Of course we do.

Because when Dean doesn't follow Dad's orders, the striga happens. Flagstaff happens. So, yeah, of course we do.

He exits the bathroom shirtless and on traitorously unsteady legs. It's morning in a real way now, but the curtains are drawn and the bulbs are cheap and dirty, and Dean hopes the pitiful offering of light in the room means Sam won't get an eyeful of the wreckage of his chest and try again to talk. He risks shifting his gaze to his brother as he makes his way to his bed, feels a twinge of satisfaction at the sight of a decent bruise coming to color on Sam's jaw. He flexes his own sore knuckles as he lowers himself to the mattress.

They've done a real good job of not having this conversation, but Dean can feel it looming now. The one where Sam asks what it was like when he was away. When he was gone. Dean and Dad, hunting. Living. Sam knows he struck a nerve and Dean knows he's in just enough pain to not be able to hide how pissed he is.

It's not going to end well.

Dean leaves his jeans in a pile on the floor and tosses back the covers. He can practically hear his brother clenching his jaw from the other bed as he rifles through his bag for those painkillers.

Tough cookies, Sammy, he thinks, throwing back four. You're the one who shot me. They aren't on Sam's schedule here.

He slips beneath the covers, gingerly, and without a word to Sam.

It takes a bit for the pills to kick in, and in the meantime, the pain is just annoying enough to keep Dean from falling asleep. Sam sits on the edge of the other bed for a while, breathing like he's got a bug up his butt, and that's just fine, because what he doesn't have is seven holes in his chest.

Sam sighs – the long-suffering one – and rummages through his bag for a change of clothes. Then the bathroom door shuts with a click.

And so, it sits there between them, unacknowledged and unresolved. An unsteady tower of collected exhaustion and stress, now topped with old-yet-fresh resentments and accusations, just waiting for the proverbial last straw.

They won't talk about it, but Dean finally drifts off thinking of how he'll get Sam back when he wakes up. Nair in the kid's shampoo, maybe. A classic.

Waking to Sam on the phone, Dad on the other end, sort of throws a wrench into that plan.