Author's Notes: Written randomly. Because I miss the days before "Faith" when we didn't know why Dean was dying.

Just So We Understand

Dean is 27 when he passes out for reasons other than blood loss or alcohol.

He's arguing with Sam about guns and morality and Dad, because what else do Winchesters argue about, when his fingers go numb and whatever Sam said in response to the "Dad knows what he's doing" argument slips by him unheard. He stares at his hand and wonders why the right side of his body suddenly feels disconnected from the left. Did someone turn up the heat?

Dean thinks maybe this is one of those freaky ghostly possessions where the ghost moves in and you move out, but he looks up at Sam and his brother has his back turned, stuffing clothes angrily into a duffle bag, still working the "Dad's not always right" argument. Only Dean can't hear him. His hearing is replaced with a constant low buzz and a click-click-click that he's sure isn't supposed to be there. He tastes blood in his mouth and his right eye twitches shut and he thinks maybe Sam should turn around. He hopes maybe Sam will turn around. He really wants Sam to turn around.

Then he's falling and his head is introduced to the table and then the floor. Dean decides he must be tired, so he goes to sleep.

Morning comes three days later in a hospital bed with Sam sitting by his side saying, "please wake up" and "stay with me" and "don't you die" and Dean tries to tell him that Sammy, it was all a bad dream, but he's asleep again before he can open his mouth.

Dean wakes up wanting to scream but all he can do is gasp as a doctor shoots adrenaline into his heart. The room's an odd color or orange and purple and he wonders what kind of drugs he accidentally inhaled only this time there's black around the edges and something's shoving air into his lungs and he wonders when he forgot how to breathe and wouldn't Dad kick his ass for forgetting something so stupid.

Then Sam's there and he's holding Dean's hand and oh god does he look like shit. Dean wants to tell him to go take a shower or put on a new shirt or stop crying but all he can do is look at Sam with his orange face and purple hair and moving mouth with no words. All he can do is look at Sam as he runs a hand over Dean's head and Dean recognizes his name on Sam's lips. He wishes someone would turn the volume up because he wants to hear Sam, he wants to see Sam, he wants to feel Sam but all he can do is look.

And then even that is taken away from him.

He wakes up again to a more normal colored world and he can hear a distant beep-beep-beep and there's a hand holding his only it isn't Sam's. When he looks, he sees the collar first and the face second. Pastor Jim is praying and he thinks it's funny because as long as he's known the man, he's never known Jim to pray for Him.

From somewhere to his left, Sam says his name and there's a hand on his forehead. Jim opens his eyes and Dean's never seen them so sad so he turns towards Sam because he doesn't like seeing them so sad but Sam's eyes are the same only more red and more tired. Sam's looking down at him and Dean can tell he doesn't expect a lot because he's not looking at him the way he usually does. He's looking at Dean, but he doesn't see him.

So when Sam asks, "Dean? You with me?" And he tries to say "Boo!" but it comes out "Mmm" it seems good enough for Sam because his eyes widen and his face lights up and he's bending closer now and he says again, "Dean? Can you hear me?"

"God how can anyone not hear you when you're yelling in their face" translates into a weak moan that sounds like "Sam." And Sam lets out a sob as if it's the most beautiful thing he's ever heard in his life.

Jim goes to get a doctor and Sam's running his hand over Dean's head and, shit if Sam's fingers don't feel damn good. Dean tries to listen to Sam as he's talking but the kid is going too fast and all he picks up are snippets like, "scare me to death" and "wasn't sure you were going to make it" and "brain aneurism" and that one throws him for a loop and Dean starts to put the pieces together but it hurts too much so he stops.

Then Jim's back and there's doctors pushing him and Sam out of the way but damn if he doesn't want to let Sam out of his sight. He tries to keep his eyes on his brother but a doctor with cold hands grabs his head and makes him look at him and he's talking but he's going too fast and why is the world so fast and won't everyone just slow down for a minute. God he's tired, so tired, too tired.

Sammy, I just want to sleep, you drive for a while.

It takes Dean another week before he can stay awake longer than five minutes. Sam is there every time he opens his eyes and every time he closes them and every time in between and every time after. Jim comes and goes, the doctors come and go, but Sam never goes.

When the doctor tells them it will take surgery and rest and medicine and no strenuous activities for Dean to be okay, if that's even a possibility, Sam tells him that no matter what the cost, they'll do whatever it takes to get Dean better. The doctor nods with that knowing look and leaves the room and Sam turns to look at Dean and smiles that knowing smile. The smile that says, "You're okay, you're not going anywhere, we'll fix this." And Dean believes him.

But he has to ask.

"No more hunting." It's a question but his voice is still too weak and his mouth still doesn't work properly and it comes out as a statement and he tries to look as if he meant it that way. But Sam knows.

"Nope." And he shakes his head but he doesn't look sad or even worried or regretful. He just looks happy and Dean doesn't understand why. "You're not going to be hunting for a long time, Dean."

And the panic's so strong Dean thinks he may pass out or die and his mouth is moving before he knows what to say.

"But you."

Sam leans forward and takes Dean's hand and wouldn't you know it that's all Dean needs as an answer because Sam's hands are soft and strong and tight and he says it all when he squeezes Dean's hand but he has to make sure Dean understands so he says it out loud. For Dean. For Sam. For the both of them.

"I'm not going anywhere, Dean."

Just so they understand each other.