Chapter 2 – Standing Together
He'd just gone back to their hotel, it was the standard operating procedure after all. Sam was more or less awake although not very clear on much, still he was able to get inside and on to one of the warm, hotel beds on his own. Well mostly. Dean didn't miss how Sam leaned into his touch, staggered and then burned with relief when Dean steadied him. The kid was literally dying for attention, for affection. Something Dean just hadn't been capable of providing. He hadn't even seen what this forced separation had done to Sam before but he was seeing it now and oh so clearly. Sam was starving for it. Famished even and if Dean was honest with himself, he was too. It felt good to be dependant upon someone else for his emotional wellbeing. Strange to have found that answer now after he'd almost freaking killed himself just a few hours before. Dean scoffed to himself, what's that they say about near death experiences and epiphanies anyway?
Sam lay on his bed on his side, holding a towel to the back of his head to keep the blood off the sheets. Dean approached him, having brought the first aid kit in from the car and settled on the bed behind him.
"Okay, let's take a look." He pulled the towel away from Sam's head and studied the wound. "Good news, little brother. Doesn't look that bad, you're lucky you have such a hard head." The wound didn't look deep and the blood had already begun clotting so Dean just cleaned it out then bandaged it up. "Hey kiddo, look at me."
Sam lazily turned over, facing his brother with those brown eyes. Dean looked closely this time, glad to see the pupils were equal and responsive to his mag-light. "You're gonna be fine." He patted his shoulder and slid off the bed, giving Sam his space.
Sam rolled back onto his side, watching his brother with sad eyes. His head was clearing. "I should have talked you out of it? That's what you wanted me to do?
Dean didn't turn, didn't need to ask what he meant. "Don't Sam. It's over now."
Sam clenched his jaw and fought down a new rush of tears. Nodding he simply replied, "So I've never helped you at all." It wasn't a question. He closed his eyes, darkness of all types flooding him.
"Sam…" Dean trailed off. God, he didn't know how to do this. He wasn't good at it. By the time he figured that he needed to say something, anything to quell the raw hurt in his brother's voice, Sam had already spoken.
"It's okay, you don't need to say anything. If you don't want to talk, you don't have to. You don't have to talk to me. I was just trying… Dean, I don't know what I'm doing. Whatever it is, whatever I do decide to do, it's always wrong. So I'll just stop. I'll stop everything." Sam had rolled onto his back, his eyes blank, staring up at the ceiling.
Dean sat down on his bed opposite Sam staring at him. "Jesus Christ, Sammy."
There was a horrible drawn out silence. Sam was just waiting quietly for whatever it was that his brother would decide. He squinted at the ceiling, wondering not for the first time how it felt to be stuck there bleeding to death. Wondering if it could possibly feel worse than this.
"Stop it." The command in Dean's voice was obvious. Still Sam didn't understand.
Then Dean was across the room, grabbing Sam's shoulders and rolling him on to his side to face his bed. "Just stop staring at the ceiling. I hate that."
Sam sat up slowly, staring at his brother. "How'd you know I was…"
Dean laughed coldly. "You get this horrible look and you stare, your eyes glaze over and I know just what your thinking. That wasn't your fault. And neither is this."
"I saw it. I felt it Dean. You wanted…"
For the second time, Dean cut off his brother. "Only for a second, I swear. Only for one second and then … then he released me and it was a little better."
Sam was now staring at him, different than at that damned ceiling but staring non the same.
Dean sighed, not really prepared to have this conversation but knowing that he owed it to Sam. "And I'm sorry."
Sam choked on that. "You're… sorry?"
Dean nodded, determined now to start rebuilding the bridge that had been demolished between them. "Yeah. I am."
Sam sat up, eyes a little clearer but still just as confused. He stared at his brother, not fully comprehending what he was hearing. "I didn't … I don't understand. What are you sorry for?"
Dean meet his eyes. "For ignoring you. I've been a right asshole lately and I couldn't deal with any of my own stuff. I didn't want to and by extension I sure as hell couldn't deal with any of yours."
"I never blamed you for hurting Dean." Sam's eyes were filled with compassion and no small amount of relief. That combination of emotions so bare on his brother's face took the last crumbling bit of Dean's bravado and destroyed it.
"How about blaming me for hurting you Sam? That's something you don't seem to be doing either." Dean practically yelled at his sibling.
Sam broke their eye contact. "It's okay Dean."
"God Sammy, is it not okay." Dean knelt on the ground between their beds, his eyes wet. "It's not okay."
Sam was still looking away. "What do you want me to say? Every time I try to talk to you, you do something to push me away."
"I know, I know I do… I just, I don't know how to do this. I don't do this." Dean made a wide gesture, desperate now to get Sam to understand.
Sam squinted. "You don't … do this?"
Dean sighed. Stupid head injuries. "Talking. Bonding, what the fuck ever we're doing right now. That's what I don't do. I can't."
Sam's eyes went soft and it sent a strong bolt of guilt straight through Dean's heart. Goddamn it Sam, yell at me, hate me, hit me back, something other than feel bad for me!
Then Sam was speaking again with those huge, clear, brown eyes full of love. "Yes you can. Not all the time, but sometimes you need to let someone else help you stand."
Dean's head fell to rest on his arms on Sam's bed. "Sammy…"
Sam smiled and closed his eyes. Strange how much he now loved that name, strange how sweet it sounded coming from his big brother. Sam leaned forward. "It's going to be okay, Dean. You're not alone. I'll never let you be alone again."
Dean breathed in sharply. How the hell did he always know just how to read him? He started breathing raggedly. "Thanks"
Sam nodded. "We'll be okay." He put his hand firmly on Dean's shoulder and when Dean looked up fixed him with such a strong look of support, of fucking certainty that Dean believed him. God, he wanted to believe him.
Dean stood, eyes wet. "You should get some rest. You're head must be killing you."
"I've had worse."
Dean smiled at him. "Because that makes me feel better. Come on, go to bed. It'll all be better in the morning."
"That may have worked when I was six, but I'm a lot less naive now." Still, Sam climbed under the covers and rested his head down on his soft pillow.
Dean watched Sam close his eyes and adjust himself into a more comfortable position. "Trust me Sammy, this time I swear, everything will be better. I'm going to make it better."
Sam murmured something unintelligible under his breath, but the smile was on his face and he looked honestly happy for the first time in months. Dean's breathing evened out as he lay down on his own bed, eyes still on his brother. He was going to go back to doing his job, protecting his brother, life, body and soul. And strangely, that responsibility suddenly didn't feel so crushing, so hopeless as he studied the smile on Sam's face while he slept.