Author's note:- Ok people seemed to want a little more- I hope this satisfies. Let me know what you think- J
The first thing Dean was aware of as his mind drifted back to consciousness, was that he could drift back to consciousness. He had expected to be dead and this didn't feel like dead, this felt like waking up in the hospital, with that antiseptic smell, and the good drugs, keeping you from feeling just exactly how crap you were gonna feel when they started weaning you off them. They usually started you moving around at about the same time as they did that, just, as far as he could tell, to maximise the pain of recovery. He had that to look forward to then, lots of. . .he swore silently to himself as he shifted slightly and fire exploded down his side. Damn if it felt that bad when he was doped, what the hell was it going to feel like when he. .
He recognised Sam's voice, recognised the concern, and forced his eyes to open, forced his head to turn slightly in the direction of the sound. He could hear movement, could see a blurry figure moving closer, and he blinked several times to clear his vision as the world drifted back into focus. Sure enough it was Sam's slightly bruised face that finally loomed above him, a relieved smile only partially covering the concern in his eyes.
"Welcome back," Sam said, "I was beginning to think you'd never wake up."
"How'd you know I was awake?" Dean asked, aware that Sam had spoken before he'd opened his eyes.
"Must've been the girly squeal when you tried to move," Sam's grin widened. God he'd waited so long to tease his brother again. He'd spent a good portion of the last few days worried that he may never get a chance to, as Dean fought to survive the combination of injury and infection, it had been touch and go at times, and Sam, despite his own injuries, had been awake through most of it. The relief at seeing him finally awake and lucid almost exploded through him.
Dean hadn't been aware that he'd made a sound at all, but then it had hurt like. . . "I did not squeal like a girl," he responded as his mind caught up with the gibe. "I don't believe I made a sound at. . . ngh" He had shifted a little whilst speaking, and the pain forced air out with an involuntary gasp. He finished the move, gritting his teeth to avoid any more sound as he repositioned himself. He drew in a couple of deep breaths before admitting, "OK, it may have been a manly grunt."
"Are you OK?" Sam asked, the concern pushing itself to the front, as he studied his brother's still ashen features, just another reminder of how close it had been, after four days he still looked like a wreck. "Should I get a nurse or a doctor?"
"No, I'm good," Dean stated.
Sam was unconvinced, the lines of pain were drawn across his brother's face as clear as lines on a map, and he knew how much his own injuries still hurt. "They can give you something more for the pain," he suggested.
"I told you, mom, I'm OK," Dean shifted one last time, finally finding the position he wanted propped against the pillows, it was difficult because his left arm was strapped to immobilise his shoulder. "Now, quit fussing." He waved his brother off. "Besides," he said studying Sam a little more closely, the dark circles still under his eyes, the bandages that covered his arms and torso. "You look like you could still use a doctor yourself."
Sam turned to sit on the edge of Dean's bed, not taking his eyes off his brother, reading the reflected concern in his expression. "I'm doin' OK," he said, knowing that Dean needed the reassurance, knowing that even while that thing had been killing him Dean had been more worried about him than he had about himself. He swallowed back the surge of anger that that acknowledgement pulled from deep within. Sometimes, just sometimes he wished that his brother didn't feel so damn protective towards him. If he hadn't he wouldn't have pulled that stupid stunt, wouldn't have tried to trade his own life for. . .
"How long was I out?" Dean asked.
Sam stared for a moment; did Dean know that he needed to change the subject; that if he didn't the anger would build to the point where he would blurt out his feelings? He wasn't ready for that, not yet, and Dean sure as hell wasn't strong enough to take it yet, but it would come. "Four days," he finally answered.
Dean drew in as deep a breath as he could manage against his injured ribs and blew it out slowly. "Four?"
Sam nodded. "An infection set in almost immediately. You were running a fever of 104 at one point." His eyes clouded for a moment as he struggled with the memories of Dean thrashing about incoherent and weak. The fear of loss still resonated through his system. He bit his lip, pushing the emotion and the memory back, aware that Dean was watching him that he couldn't have failed to miss the emotion. He deliberately lightened his tone. That was all over now. Dean would recover, they both would. "When that broke they pretty much kept you sedated to give your body a chance to heal. Although looking at you, I think they should have given it a little longer."
"Hey, you're not exactly the poster boy for good health yourself," Dean pointed out, recognising the emotional shift. It had been close then.
Still, they would do what they always did, shrug it off and carry on. He stared into his brother's eyes for a moment, who was he fooling? This one would take an emotional dance for a few days at the very least, there were things unsaid, issues unresolved. Would they stay that way as so many of them did? He supposed that would depend on how deep they could bury them.
"I didn't nearly die," Sam let the words out before he'd considered them; dammit he was supposed to be changing the subject.
'Oh, yes you did,' Dean didn't verbalise the thought, but he knew that if he had done nothing then his brother wouldn't be here. Oh yes, this dance would be interesting, would either of them be able to let the emotion out? "Hey, it'll take more than a few scratches and a little fever to take me out," Dean stated forcing a grin. He glanced around, time to truly change the subject. "So the nurses, any of them pretty?"
Sam walked into the room and Dean looked up expectantly. "Did you get it?" he asked leaning forward a little in anticipation.
Sam pulled the paper bag from behind his back and held it up. "I had to smuggle it past the nurses' station," he replied walking forwards. "I don't think they'd approve of the triple cheese."
"I don't care," Dean virtually snatched the bag from his brother's hand and pulled the wrapped burger out of it. "If all I get is the hospital food, I swear I'll starve." He took a bite and grinned happily chewing. "Dude, I love you," he stated, his mouth still half full.
"If only the women in your life knew that all it took was a double burger with extra cheese," Sam smiled back. It was good to see his brother more animated. The recovery was still taking a lot out of him, especially the surgery and physio on his shoulder.
"Some of them do," he replied mischievously, "trouble is it only lasts 'til I'm hungry again."
Sam rolled his eyes in mock disgust, and settled into the chair, turning his attention to the game Dean had been watching on the TV. "So who's winning," he asked, gesturing towards it.
Dean filled in the score and finished his burger, licking the last of the juice from his fingers before flicking the off on the remote. Sam turned to look at him surprised.
"So what's up?" Dean asked, he knew his brother well enough to notice the difference in demeanour. Sam had come here for more than just to deliver a burger.
Sam thought about stalling for a moment but one look into Dean's clear hazel eyes was enough to let him know that wasn't going to work. His brother knew him too well. "We need to talk," he paused looking down at his hands, "about what happened."
Dean knew he was right, knew that far from being buried the emotional fallout was driving wedges between them, but he didn't really want to talk about it, didn't know how to. How to let those emotions to the surface, the ones he held deep within, the ones that exposed his vulnerabilities. How could he let those out and still be the strong man that his father had taught him to be, expected him to be, even as a child? He didn't know how. He shook his head. "No, we don't," he stated firmly. "It's done, we both survived end of. . ."
"You shouldn't have used the scroll," Sam stated, allowing a little of the anger out. "You were trading your life for mine, you didn't. . .don't have the right to do that."
Dean stared back as their gazes met. "I had to save you."
"Not by killing yourself."
"By any means necessary," Dean stated, and he'd had the means in his hand. Sam couldn't expect him not to have used it.
Sam stood, shaking his head. "No," he took a couple of paces away before turning. "It was a stupid stunt. You didn't even know if it would work."
Powerful memories pushed tears into Dean's eyes; they hovered on the edge of forming. "Didn't matter, I had to try," he replied quietly.
"You don't always have to protect me Dean," a certain amount of resentment in his tone, that was built from more than just this most recent incident. "I'm not a kid anymore I can take care of myself."
"I know," Dean stated, his tone even softer. "You saved my life." He paused for a moment. "You saved both of us."
Sam's eyes searched his brother's expression, reading the pain, the guilt, the sincerity of the reply. His emotional bubble deflated as quickly as it had formed. He sank back into the chair. "You have to promise me that you won't do anything like that again."
Dean stared at him. "Promise that I won't dive between you and the speeding bullet, that I won't push you out of the way of the oncoming train."
"Hey what are you, superman?" Sam's light jibe was lost in the tears that formed in his own eyes.
Dean ignored it. "Promise that I won't stand between you and the next demon?" Dean shook his head. "I can't and neither can you." A tear finally escaped down his cheek. "I'm your brother Sam and I'm always gonna try to protect you. You're just gonna have to live with that." He paused and gave a slight smile, "And I'm gonna have to live with you saving me every so often." He gave another smile. "Just don't make a habit of it because these stitches itch like crazy."
"That's the new skin forming," Sam supplied helpfully and smiled back before sniffing back his own tears as Dean turned the TV back on. Chick flick moment over, they'd managed to get some of the emotion out. Now the healing could really begin.
Dean bent down and picked up a piece of charred wood, staring at the ruins of the two cabins. Both fireplaces had been smashed to rubble, the cottages burnt to the ground. Sam claimed that they had both caught fire that night when he'd destroyed and burned the crystal. That the intensity of the blaze followed by several days of heavy rain had caused both fireplaces to collapse.
Dean knew that he was lying.
He knew beyond doubt that the crystal had been in the fireplace that he was supposed to search. That if he'd stayed to find it, he could have saved them both a lot of pain.
Sam had been in no state to do this much damage on that night. Dean wasn't even sure how he'd found the strength to come here and search, but he had, and Dean admired his little brother for that.
He stared at each pile of rubble, walking a little closer. Sam had come back after being let out of the hospital, and had destroyed the evidence of Dean's failure, to save him from the guilt that now clawed at his gut. If only he had stayed and searched. . .but he hadn't, and, despite the guilt, he knew it was something that he couldn't have done.
Sam knew that too. Sam lied because he wanted to protect him. He gave a slight smile; they weren't as different as he sometimes believed. He threw the charcoal away and turned to head back to the car. As far as Sam was concerned he bought the lie.