Room to Breathe

By: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural, Dean or Sam, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Summary: Dean just wants some room to breathe but finds his good looks are as much a trouble magnet as Sam's ESP. No slash.

Nearly a day after experiencing the Benders "brand" of hospitality, Sam and Dean knew they were lucky to be alive, blessed that they had each other to count on and ready to strangle one another.

Rummaging through their first aid kit for the fifth time, Sam angrily flicked the lid shut. "I can't believe you didn't tell me earlier that you used the last of the burn cream," his eyes accusingly rested on Dean, who lay on the other motel bed, his focus on the tv.

"What are you all bent out of shape for? Tomorrow we'll stop at a drug store and restock the kit," Dean off handedly soothed, never taking his eyes from the televised extreme sports event live from Colorado.

His brother's reply notched up Sam's anger. "Tomorrow! What about tonight, Dean!"

Having earned his younger brother's anger, Dean turned his green gaze to Sam, who sat Indian style on the opposite bed, the majority of the contents of the first aid kit methodically organized around him. "What! You think they're going to do a room check tonight and write up anyone not having a tube of burn cream!"

If Dean hadn't looked abused to within an inch of his life, Sam feared he would have cleared the distance between them and landed a punch. Without that avenue of release, Sam, with a growl, viciously swept the items off his bed, and surged off the bed purposefully away from Dean. Plastic bottles flipped as they impacted with floor, and bandages fluttered in a wide radius, a few landing on Dean and his bed.

"Sam, what the hell!" Dean exclaimed, his eyes demanding an explanation, as he threw the bandage packet that had landed on his chest to the floor and began to sit up.

Whatever anger had latched onto Sam disappeared as he watched his brother struggle to sit up. Dean's features tightened in agony as he turned to his side, used his legs to maneuver backwards until he could brace his back against the head board, his left hand pressed tightly against his ribs to try and control the pain emanating from his shoulder.

"Dean, stop," Sam breathed as a plea. "Just stop trying to pretend that you're alright, that the damn burn doesn't hurt like hell."

"I've had worse," Dean smiled cockily but it didn't have the desired effect on the heavily bruised and cut features of his all too pale face.

"And that's suppose to make me feel better!" Coming to Dean's side and claiming a seat on the bed, Sam uncharacteristically initiated the close contact his brother was famous for, his eyes pinning Dean. Reaching his hand toward Dean, intending to check the burn, Sam found his wrist imprisoned in Dean's strong grip.

"It's fine, Sam," Dean nearly growled, pushing his brother's hand down before he released his hold.

"No, no it's not," Sam stated, his eyes shimmering and his voice unsteady.

Dean flinched, they were the words Lyla's mother had said when her daughter had politely said that it was Ok that she had cancer. The words had a thousand underlying meanings all underscored by love…just like he knew Sam's did right now. Willing only to reply to the obvious meaning, Dean sighed dramatically, "Fine, go get some burn cream but none of that awful smelling stuff, and don't let my car doors get dinged up in the convenience store parking lot by some drunk intent on getting his next fix."

A somewhat forced smile turned up Sam's lips, "I'll make sure nothing happens to your precious car." Standing, he looked down to Dean, his worry palpable. "You need anything else?"

"M&Ms, the peanut kind," Dean ordered.

"I meant medicinally," Sam retorted, turning around, snatching the keys from the table and crossing to the door.

"Hey, chocolate is medicinal," Dean called to him.

Stopping at the door, Sam turned around to face Dean, his mouth open but Dean cut him off.

"And stay out of trouble this time," Dean warned, worry evident in his eyes.

"I will if you will," Sam challenged, heading out of the door. The door was almost latched shut before he stuck his head in again, "You're gonna stay here, right? No running over to the bar next door the second I pull out of the parking lot."

Dean gave no indication that his brother had practically read his mind. "Me? Go to a bar? Have a few beers? Enjoy myself? It never crossed my mind."

"Dean," Sam drawled in warning.

Letting his pain show through his barriers, Dean raised his right hand to his left shoulder, pressing on the burn to ease some of the pain radiating from it. "Relax, Sammy. I'm not up to pool hustling tonight." Seeing the concerned look that overshadowed Sam's features, Dean once again masked his pain and hammed up his next words, "Gee I could really use some non stinky burn cream right about now."

"Jerk," Sam shot back, a true smile on his face as he shut the door behind him before Dean could make his standard reply.

Letting his body recuperate from the trauma it had sustained, that was the smart move. Staying in the room, that would be wise. Keeping away from crowds that could jostle his shoulder, that was foresight. Not drinking when he had a headache from some rednecks slamming his head into a few walls and then hitting him with a frying pan, a headache that threatened to bring him to your knees, now that was just common sense.

Dean Winchester, briefly raising his shot glass in a silent toast to all the ways he was defying logic, allowed the liquor to scorch a path down his throat. Something in him eased as the alcohol hit his blood stream and nearly empty stomach. Nodding to the bartender, he watched the amber liquid fill another glass. The bar was crowded, people congregated in all the sections of the bar. It was a perfect setting to play pool but in that aspect he had not lied to his brother, he wasn't up to hustling tonight.

Pointedly he had picked the end of the bar, the two seats on either side of him empty. He wasn't looking for company, even the bartender's necessary presence was an annoyance he could barely tolerate. He felt guilty, wanting to be alone, needing to be alone after having almost lost Sam. He knew he should want to stick by Sam like glue, to be reassured that he was OK by watching him, seeing that he was as unhurt as he claimed. But the trek back from the Bender's house, the ride in the car, the afternoon in the room, it was like his senses were on overload. He loved his brother, was so relieved to get him back and was choking on the air between them.

Lighting a cigarette from the pack he had bought when he entered the bar, he took a deep drag, letting the nicotine do more of the work that the alcohol had started. Setting the cigarette in an ashtray, he gingerly rubbed his throbbing forehead with his right hand, closing his eyes against the light, dulled as it was by smoke, that still managed to pierce into his skull.

"Two tequilas," a female voice said from his right side, before an arm brushed against his own.

Opening his eyes, he saw a brunette woman leaning over the bar, her assets barely concealed with her pose and her low cut blouse. When her heavily eye shadowed brown eyes intently focused on him, surprise registered in their depths as the woman saw the damage to Dean's face.

"Oh my gosh, what happened to you?" the woman drawled, her hand reaching for the cut on his forehead.

Snagging her hand mid air, Dean offered up only his 10 watt smile, "Ex-wife, took all my money in court too," knowing that it was a sure way of losing any unwanted female attention. Charm had its uses, as did his good looks, but both could also be a royal pain.

"Oh," the woman replied as Dean released her hand from his gentle hold, "we're not all like that. Women, I mean," the woman reassured and claimed a seat beside Dean.

Silently Dean cursed. He didn't make brooding a habit and had unwittingly forgotten that women found a man down on his luck very appealing, something broken that they could fix.

Sam's hands were clenched into fists as he stalked across the parking lot that divided the motel from the bar. Returning to an empty room that bore a note on his bed that read, "So I'll be one beer ahead of you. Get over it," had inflamed his earlier anger to new levels.

"Stupid moron!" he growled, his steps eating up the distance. "Drinking with a freakin' head injury, that's real smart, Dean. I am going to kick your butt all the way back to the room!" Then he was plowing through the bar door, his anger muffling the sounds of the bar as he stood at the entrance, his eyes sweeping the dense crowd for his brother.

Finding his quarry at the bar, Sam remained rooted to the floor boards in surprise. He had come here, angry as hell, knowing he would find Dean drinking but it was a gut punch to see Dean downing, not a beer, but a shot, one of three if the number of empty shot glass in front of him was any indication. A gasp nearly escaped Sam as he watched his brother nonchalantly put a cigarette into his mouth, inhale and let the smoke escape his mouth like it was habitual.

Cursing lowly, Sam began to make his way through the crowd gathered at the door. His eyes never left his brother as he made small progress, fascinated and concerned and angry at his brother's uncharacteristic actions. He barely registered the woman leaning over close to Dean, women were always throwing themselves at his brother, nothing new there. But as he shoved past three very drunk guys arguing about who dated whose sister first, Sam saw a man that looked like a linebacker for the Dolphins clamp a meaty hand down on Dean's left shoulder, the shoulder bearing the raw poker burn.

"No!" Sam bit out in protest and fury as he ruthlessly pushed his way through a circle of five young women, intent on getting the man away from his brother.

Agony blasted through Dean's alcohol haze like a blow torch when the linebacker's hand fell heavily down on his left shoulder. Gasping in pain, Dean pitched forward against the bar.

Thinking his own strength had garnered the response in the smaller man, the would be linebacker squeezed harder on the shoulder under his hand. Leaning toward Dean's ear, he snarled, "That's my girl you're talking to, jerk."

Feeling as if consciousness would abandon him if the pressure wasn't removed from his shoulder immediately, Dean, using a stronger tactic than he usually employed in a bar fight, sailed his right hand over his left shoulder, plowing his palm into the Neanderthal's jaw. Weakened not only by the agony the man had already delivered but also by the trauma of his treatment at the hands of the Benders, Dean's strike did not drop the linebacker but it did however cause the man to stumble back, thereby loosing his hold on his prey's shoulder.

Forcing his sluggish body to turn around to fend off the next strike, Dean unknowingly leaned right into his opponent's right cross. The blow knocked him from the stool and he impacted harshly with the sticky beer covered floor. Knowing another attack was imminent, Dean's eyes shot up to the man and saw the man's size twelve boot heading for his ribs.

But the strike never landed.

For Sam there was no thought, no debate of morality, no temperament of his actions only the blinding need to protect his brother. The linebacker was stepping forward to deliver a kick to an already down and bleeding Dean when Sam plowed into him and brutally and methodically yanked his arm backwards, dislocating his shoulder. The man's scream of pain barely registered with Sam as he shoved the man aside and crouched down by Dean.

Clutching onto Dean's shoulder, Sam asked, worry choking his words, "Dean, are you alright?" even as he saw the blood on his brother's lips and could practically feel the agony rolling off Dean in waves. "Dean?" he called in more alarm as his brother's eyes never met his own, instead they focused on something behind Sam.

"Sam," Dean warned, the urgency in his pained voice enough to break Sam from his doctor routine.

Turning around in his crouch, Sam saw that the linebacker had sympathetic friends, three of them, all looking for blood. Sam quickly sized up his opponents. The guy on the left was taller and thinner than Sam, the one in the middle was stocky and short and the one on the right was even larger than the linebacker.

"Help me up," Dean wheezed out the order, trying to get his elbow under him to lever himself off the ground.

"Stay behind me, Dean," Sam commanded, a lethal edge in his voice that Dean had never heard from his brother. Standing up, Sam took up a protective stance in front of his brother.

"Sammy," Dean cautioned and reprimanded, his struggles at last achieving him a sitting position, his back leaning heavily against the base of the bar.

Sam stepped forward, his fists clenched, his jaw set and a look in his eyes that gave his challengers pause. "You don't want to do this," his voice sharp enough to cut glass.

The linebacker, clutching his dislocated shoulder and hovering behind his friends, threatened, "We're gonna bust you up," then he let his eyes travel down to settle on Dean. "And then we're gonna tear your friend apart."

The threat directed at him had made Sam smile, the threat directed at Dean set him into motion.

TBC