Title: Looking, Seeing, Dancing, Dying

Author: embroiderama

Characters: Sam, Dean (gen)

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: language?

Spoilers: Devil's Trap

Word Count: 1,023

Feedback: - constructive criticism welcome

Disclaimer: None of the Winchesters belong to me, alas.

Summary: Dean wants to start moving forward, but Sam's having trouble seeing what's in front of him.

"Come on, little brother." Dean stood on the grass, feet firmly planted hip-width apart, beckoning to Sam with both hands. "Dance with me."

"Dean," Sam shook his head. "I don't think--"

"I'm fine, dude. They let me out of the hospital, didn't they?"

"I'm not so sure they exactly let you, man."

"Yeah, well, I'm out, and I'm standing on my own feet here, so we've got work to do."

Sam sighed, knowing he was screwed either way. The wounds on Dean's face were still angry and red against his pale skin, and Sam knew that under his clothes the rest of his body looked the same way. He looked like a man who belonged on a couch, with his feet up, and blanket and a remote control.

But if Sam wouldn't spar with him, he was going to be pissed. And if Sam took it easy on him, he was going to be pissed. Unfortunately, Sam was pretty sure that, if he didn't take it easy on Dean, his brother was going to end up tearing something that wasn't quite healed yet, and he couldn't take the thought of that. Loading his brother, pale, semi-conscious and bleeding internally, into the back of the car once had been enough. More than enough.

Looking at Dean now, he didn't think he looked any better than he had that night. God, was there still blood on his face? Hadn't he washed it off? Hadn't somebody? Sam closed his eyes and tried to remember whether it had still been there in the hospital.

"Sammy?"

Sam blinked his eyes open, and saw that Dean wasn't just pale anymore. He looked gray in the fading late-afternoon light. "Dean, I--I think you should sit down."

"What the fuck?" Dean stepped closer, and Sam couldn't understand how he was still on his feet. It hurt to see his brother so weak. He couldn't help but close his eyes again. "What's going on?"

Sam shook his head, held a hand up over his eyes. How could Dean pretend things weren't so bad?

"Hey, maybe you're the one who needs to sit down." He felt Dean's hand on his arm. "Come on."

That sounded okay to Sam, as long as it got Dean on the ground too, so he unlocked his knees and felt Dean sinking down with him.

"Hey," Dean shook his arm a little where he still held it. "Head hurt again?"

It did, actually, but what did that matter? He forced himself to open his eyes and look at Dean's gray face. "You're dying."

Dean's face twisted up, as though he didn't know what was going on. "What?"

"You're not better." And Dean looked so confused and so injured that he couldn't look at it anymore. He let his eyes close again.

Dean didn't say anything for a moment, but Sam could hear him still breathing. "What are you seeing? Sam, what are you seeing when you look at me?"

"Huh?" He started to open his eyes again, but Dean covered them with a warm hand.

"No, keep 'em closed. Just tell me what you saw when you were looking at me a minute ago." Strangely, his voice doesn't sound weak. It doesn't sound strained or washed-out the way it should.

"You--" He stopped. Breathed. "God, Dean, you look as bad as you did that night."

"That night?"

"In the back of the car."

"You think I look that bad?"

"Shit. You still have blood--" He reached out blindly, touching Dean at the side of his mouth, on his forehead."

Dean reached up and took his hand, pulled it away from his face but held it firmly. "No, I don't."

"But--"

"There's nothing there, Sam. I'm starting to think you're the one who's not getting better. You took a couple of pretty good knocks to the head, you know."

"I'm fine. I'm not the one who was on a ventilator."

"No." Dean sounded oddly gentle. "But you're the one who had to see it."

"Yeah." Sam's legs were starting to ache from kneeling there on the ground, but when he moved to push himself up, Dean held him down. His hand was still over Sam's eyes, a warm weight against the bridge of his nose.

"I want you to do something for me."

"Yeah."

"Open your eyes and look at me."

"I have been--" Sam felt tears prickle in the darkness behind Dean's hand.

"No, you've been looking at me through that fucking rear view mirror. What you're seeing doesn't exist anymore." He pulled his hand away, leaving Sam's face feeling cold and exposed. "Look."

Sam opened his eyes, steadying himself against the expected sight of blood and gray skin, but it wasn't-- It wasn't there. His stomach lurched a little with the disorientation, like the ground had fallen away a little under his knees. He studied Dean's face and saw a fading bruise around the healing gash on his face, healthy, warm-looking skin where it wasn't bruised. His eyes were a golden green in the sunlight, the corners crinkled a little in worry more than pain.

"Dean," he breathed. "Thank god."

"Yeah. How's your head?"

"Okay. I'm fine. Guess I was just a little freaked out or something."

"A little?" Dean smirked, pushing up to his feet. "You were getting to be more of a mother hen than that nurse Dad liked so much."

Sam choked out a laugh, standing up as well.

"So, you up for that dance now?"

"You've got to be kidding me."

"No way, man. We've both got to get up to speed. We've got to get back on the road and hunt that bitch down."

Sam looked at his brother's strong stance, his steadiness, the way he was only a little bit careful of his ribs now. "You think you're ready for my moves?"

"Taught you every step you know."

Sam grinned, shaking his head. "Then I guess you don't mind letting me lead."

He threw his fist forward, knowing it would be blocked, half-suspecting he was about to get danced into the floor.

He wasn't disappointed.