Sam listened with satisfaction as the glass hit the wall and shattered into a million pieces. Then sighed as he realised he was the one who was going to have to clean it up.
Sitting down on the nearest bed, he ran his hands through his hair in frustration and tried to work out exactly how the hell things had suddenly exploded into this mess.
Looking back it had of course been brewing for weeks. Ever since that fateful day in the hospital when doctors called time on John Winchester. Dean had shut down at that very moment, slamming a wall into place that kept out everyone, including his brother. Sam had tried and tried since then to get Dean to talk to him, yell at him, do anything that might give Sam an idea of how to fix things. But nothing worked. Not cajoling, or goading, or whispering. Dean Winchester was a closed book. And Sam couldn't remember being this afraid for his brother before.
Looking at his watch for the hundredth time, he got up and went over to the window. Pulling the curtain back he looked out, hoping against hope that the weather had cleared, but of course it hadn't. Snow still fell thick and fast, and everything was covered in a blanket of white. Sam might have appreciated the beauty of it, if it hadn't been for the fact that his pig-headed older brother was currently out there somewhere. In little more than a t-shirt and the leather jacket he was so attached to.
Sam rested his head against the glass and closed his eyes. Memories of the fight flooded back to him. They'd been sniping at each other for days. Ever since the whole disaster with Gordon, Dean had been even more withdrawn than before. Sam had given up trying to make conversation when all he got in return were one word answers. Sometimes not even that. He'd tried to be patient, knowing how hard it had been for Dean. Knowing how scared he was that he was like Gordon – which of course he absolutely was not. There had never been any doubt in Sam's mind that his brother was nothing like that monster. He'd felt the bad vibes coming off the other hunter from the moment they'd rescued him, but Dean had been so preoccupied with finding something to ease the hurt from John's death that he hadn't seen it. Not until they'd watched with horror as Gordon tortured Lenore in a way that just screamed 'psycho' loud and clear.
Sam had hoped that the conversation they'd had over the Impala before they left had done something to ease Dean's fears. And at first it seemed like they had. But then the silence had descended and no matter what Sam did or said, he couldn't pull Dean out of the black mood he'd fallen into.
The hadn't even managed to find another job to take their mind of things, as within a few days they'd hit what weathermen were calling the worst snowstorm in fifteen years. They'd found a motel and been holed up there for the past two days. Which of course had been the catalyst for the mother of all arguments that had flared a few hours ago.
Stuck in their room, with little entertainment, they'd both been climbing the walls. Sam had been reduced to spending hours surfing the net, absorbing any mindless information he came across. Dean had spent the same time flicking through the half dozen tv channels they could actually pick up, staring at the screen without even noticing what he was actually watching.
The simplest of enquiries resulted in Sam almost getting his head bitten off, until at last he'd reached the end of his tether too. In hindsight of course he should have known better than to push Dean when he was in that mood. But things had been getting to him too, not least concern for his brother, and so he'd ploughed ahead with the discussion despite Dean's warnings to "Leave it, Sam!"
Anything and everything had been fair game. From Sam's 'desertion' to go to Stanford and the ensuing two years of silence, to Dean's blind obedience to John's orders, to how they were both dealing – or not – with his death. Angry words had been flung on both sides and Sam had felt every barb hit home, just as his own had hit Dean just as hard. Part of his brain had been screaming at him to just stop, that this wasn't what they should be doing to each other, but he was so mad, and hurt, and frustrated. Finally Dean had stepped up in Sam's face, and for a moment he'd been prepared to be on the receiving end of another right hook, but then Dean had reached round him, grabbed the Impala's keys and stormed out of the room before Sam could stop him.
He'd stood there stunned for a moment, surprised not to be on the floor, and by the time he'd gathered his senses enough to go after Dean he could already hear the rumble of the Impala's engine and hear the screech of the tyres as they struggled to grip the snow covered parking lot.
He'd opened the door just in time to see the car's lights disappear as Dean made it out onto the road. And that had been three hours ago. Three hours that Sam had spent alternating between looking at his watch and looking out the window. And breaking glasses. Sighing in frustration he went over to where the shards lay all over the carpet and started to pick them up, making sure not to cut himself in the process. The glass had already made a dent in the thin wall, last thing they needed was Sam's blood all over the carpet.
A few minutes later the carpet was as glass free as it was going to get without vacuuming. And now Sam had nothing to do again. Nothing except berate himself for starting a fight with his brother when all he'd wanted to do was help him. Not that Dean was blameless here, not by a long shot. He was the stubbornest person Sam knew and that included their Dad. But Sam had known how close to the edge Dean was, and he should have approached things differently. Of course realising that now was about as useful as a chocolate fire-guard. If only Dean hadn't left like that, with the weather so bad and the roads so dangerous. It wasn't that Dean wasn't a good driver, he was excellent although Sam was so not feeding his ego by ever telling him that, but even the best driver in the world would have struggled with the snow covered roads that surrounded them right now.
Images of Dean trapped in the mangled wreckage of the Impala sprang into Sam's head. And wouldn't you know it, he was actually lucky enough to know what that looked like so it made the images even more vivid. Scrubbing his hands across his face and trying to block out thoughts of his brother lying broken and bleeding in the snow, Sam was startled to hear his phone ring. Fumbling as he grabbed it from his pocket, he turned it over and felt his heart leap in his mouth as he saw it was Dean calling him. Hoping against hope that it was actually his brother on the other end and not some policeman or paramedic looking for next of kin, Sam answered it.
Relief flooded through Sam leaving him so light headed that he had to sit down. All the anger and frustration he'd felt over the last few hours was gone. All that mattered now was that Dean was alive and talking to him, albeit by phone.
"Where are you?" he said, not even bothering to hide the anxiousness in his voice.
"I'm not sure" said Dean and it suddenly registered with him how tired he sounded.
"What do you mean you're not sure? Did you have an accident?" said Sam, fear coming back as quickly as it had left.
"No, not exactly. I had to leave the car, the roads were too bad, and I was trying to walk back to the motel. But now I'm not sure I'm even heading in the right direction" said Dean, sounding frustrated.
"How long have you been walking?"
"I'm not sure. Couple of hours maybe" said Dean and Sam bolted upright.
"A couple of hours? Damn it Dean, it's like -5 out there! And all you're wearing is that stupid jacket!" exclaimed Sam.
"Gee, really Sam? I hadn't noticed, I was so warm and fuzzy right now" said Dean with heavy sarcasm and Sam closed his eyes, reminding himself again that he was not going to start another fight with Dean. At least not right now.
"Ok, well where do you think you are?" he said neutrally and heard Dean sigh.
"If I knew that Sam I wouldn't have had to call you now would I?" he said and Sam frowned.
"Did you hit your head when you stopped the car? Or is it the cold?" he said worriedly.
"For crying out loud Sam, I'm not concussed or delusional! I don't know where I am because right now everything is frikkin white and covered in snow, in case you hadn't noticed" he said.
Sam winced "Oh. Right. Sorry" he said and he would have sworn he could hear Dean rolling his eyes.
"Don't worry about it. Just try and help me work out where I am would you?" he said and Sam was again struck by how tired his brother sounded.
"Ok, let me just grab the map" he said, rummaging through one of the bags. Thankful that they hadn't left it in the car, Sam spread the map out on the bed and found the road that the motel was on.
"Right – you turned left when you went out of here didn't you?"
"Yeah. I only managed to drive a couple of miles before the snow got too bad"
"Well, that would take you to just outside the town – does that sound right?" said Sam.
"Yeah, I could see some houses in the distance" replied Dean and Sam nodded, even though Dean couldn't see him.
"And you started walking back the way you came when you got out?"
"Yes Sam. Since I was trying to get back to where I'd come from, it struck me as being the best idea don't you think?" came the reply, and it was Sam's turn to roll his eyes.
"Hey, don't take it out on me just cause you got yourself lost" he said and then cursed himself when the line went quiet.
"Dean?" he said anxiously.
"Yeah, I'm still here"
Sam let out the breath he'd been holding. "Look I'm not trying to pick a fight, I just want to get you back here to the motel. Safely" he said quietly.
"I hear you" said Dean equally quietly "Right now even that damn motel room sounds good to me"
Sam traced the road along the map and frowned.
"You should have come across the motel by now, if you've been walking back the way you came. You didn't get that far, even allowing for you being on foot now" he said.
"I'm starting to think maybe I'm not on the road anymore" said Dean.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, there's a sharp bend before you get to where I had to leave the car. There was a track leading off the bend I think, going God knows where. I'm starting to think what with the snow I missed the bend and carried straight on when I should have followed it round. Now I'm heading into what looks like a forest and I know I sure as hell didn't pass one of them on the way out"
Sam swallowed. "Shit. There is a forest on the map, but it's off to the right of the road you should be on. You've definitely gone the wrong way"
Dean sighed wearily "Terrific. Guess I'd best turn round then" he said.
"Maybe I should see if I can come meet you" began Sam but Dean cut him off.
"No way Sam. There is no point both of us being out in this. Besides, you've got the map. What good is it going to do me if you end up lost as well?" he said.
It'd make me feel better to actually be doing something thought Sam, but he didn't say it aloud.
"Ok, well then at least stay on the phone would you? It makes me feel better hearing your voice" he admitted self-consciously.
Dean didn't tease Sam for what he'd just admitted. Truth was it made him feel a hundred times better hearing Sam's voice as well, especially given how cold he felt right now.
He'd known it was stupid to drive off like that as soon as he'd left. Pure stubbornness had made him keep driving and of course now he was paying the price. Thinking about some of the things he'd said to Sam earlier made him wince. It wasn't that he didn't understand that Sam worried about him, in fact it was nice in a way knowing that he did, but he just couldn't deal with Sam wanting to talk about everything right now. He felt like if he started, he'd never stop and then Sam would see how broken he was inside. And he wasn't supposed to see that. Dean was the big brother, he protected Sam. That's how things worked.
He jumped as he heard Sam's voice in his ear, and realised that he must have been silent for the last few moments as his thoughts had drifted.
"I'm still here Sammy" he said reassuringly and heard Sam sigh on the other end.
"Well then do me a favour and say something ok? It's not a video phone Dean" said his brother dryly and Dean couldn't help but grin.
Forty five minutes later it was starting to get dark. Dean had walked back the way he'd come until he came across what seemed to be the road again, and he'd turned right there hoping it was the right direction this time. His feet, hands and face were numb and his brain was struggling to hold onto even the most basic thoughts. Distantly he was aware that if he was out in the cold much longer he was gonna be in serious trouble, but he tried not to think about that and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Which was harder than he remembered it being.
Sam for his part was getting more anxious with each passing minute. By his reckoning Dean had been out in the snow for nearly three hours now, and it had to be starting to have some effect. Their conversation had rambled from discussions on various mullet rock bands, to Dean's beloved car, to reminiscing about things that had happened when they were kids. Anything to keep Dean talking. Unfortunately it was taking him longer and longer to form each sentence, and he was starting to slur his words.
Making a decision, but keeping quiet about it to Dean, Sam had managed to get his coat on and leave the room without giving anything away over the phone. The cold hit him like a slap in the face and his stomach lurched at how long Dean had been out in it. Heading in the direction Dean should be coming from Sam walked quickly, praying that he'd come across his brother soon. As reassuring as it was hearing his voice he really needed to see him in the flesh right now.
Dean was seriously starting to wonder who he'd pissed off in a previous lifetime. He could barely see where he was going now thanks to the approaching twilight and the dark spots dancing in front of his eyes. He was trying to keep up with the conversation he was having with Sam, but his replies had been reduced to one word answers. He could hear the worry in Sam's voice and wanted to reassure him everything would be ok. But he couldn't seem to connect his mouth and his brain anymore. He'd already stumbled twice and the second time it had been a miracle he stayed on his feet. Face down in the cold, wet snow was so not where he wanted to be anytime soon.
He could hear Sam still talking in his ear, he'd moved on to a Christmas they'd spent with Bobby when John had broken his leg on a hunt. Dean managed to grunt in the right places, enough to let Sam know he was still there at least.
He was keeping his head down, eyes locked on the snowy ground. Suddenly he tripped over something buried in the mounds of white and he was falling. Not even having the reflexes to try and save himself at this point he tried to brace himself for impact.
But it never came. Suddenly strong arms were holding him and he could hear Sam's voice, saying his name and telling him everything was going to be ok. It was weird but it sounded like it was coming from in front of him, not from the phone he still held to his ear. With supreme effort he managed to raise his head and looked up into Sam's worried face.
Those two words filled Sam with such a sense of relief he couldn't speak and he actually felt tears welling in his eyes. Blinking them back, he took in Dean's pale face and the way he was trembling in Sam's arms. Sam gave thanks to whatever deity was listening for allowing him to reach Dean just as the elder Winchester's strength had given out. He still wasn't sure how he'd managed to close the gap between them so quickly, but as soon as he'd seen Dean in the distance and then seen him starting to fall Sam had moved faster than he ever had before.
"What do you say we get you out of this snow?" he said softly, shifting so that he could get his arm round Dean's waist and take his weight.
"Sounds good to me" mumbled Dean, realising belatedly that he didn't need to talk into the phone anymore and putting it back in his pocket on the third attempt.
Neither of them had the extra energy to make conversation as they staggered along back to the motel. Dean dreaded to think what they must look like, weaving along as if they were drunk. He knew Sam was taking most of his weight and pride dictated loudly that he should help out more, but the rest of his body was telling pride to shut the hell up and let Sam help him. So he did.
Sam was alarmed by Dean's lack of co-ordination and how cold his skin felt. He was grateful that the motel was nearly in sight and tried to take comfort in feeling his brother alive and relatively unharmed beside him.
After the last two days neither of them had thought they would be so pleased to see the motel room come into view. Balancing Dean against the wall so he could get the key out of his pocket Sam opened the door and they practically fell into the room.
Depositing Dean on the nearest bed Sam turned the heating up to it's highest setting and quickly went into the bathroom. Turning the taps on he started to fill the bath with hot water.
Coming back into the room he saw Dean was still lying where he'd left him, blinking owlishly up at the ceiling.
"Come on, we need to get you out of those clothes" said Sam, sitting his brother up and taking off his jacket.
Dean was too tired to resist and simply let Sam take care of getting him stripped down to his t-shirt and shorts. Helping him up, Sam put his arm round his waist and helped him into the bathroom.
"Sit down here for a second ok?" he said, putting the lid down on the toilet so Dean could sit there. Once he was certain Dean wasn't going to take header straight onto the floor, Sam went over to the bath and checked the water.
The bath was full almost to the top and the water was warm, but not too hot. Sam knew it didn't do people much good to warm up too fast after getting as cold as Dean had. Satisfied that the water was a safe temperature, he turned back to Dean squatting down in front of him so he was at eye level.
"Do you need me to help you get in?" he said and was rewarded with a tired glare.
"Dude, you even think about getting me in that bath I will kick your ass" said Dean. The threat might have held more weight if Dean hadn't swayed as he said it.
Sam grinned "I'll take that as a no then shall I?" he said wryly and Dean mumbled "Hell, yeah" as he managed to stand with Sam's help.
Sam left Dean to finish getting undressed and into the bath, pulling the door to behind him but not closing it completely. He listened carefully, hearing Dean's contented sigh as he sank back into the warm water.
"Sam, would you go find something else to do!" said Dean, and Sam grinned. It never ceased to both amaze and reassure him the way his brother always knew what he was doing, even when he couldn't see him.
Shedding his own coat, Sam got changed into a fresh t-shirt and sweatpants and set the coffee machine going to get them both a hot drink.
As Dean lay in the warm water, feeling his extremities come back to life, he let out a contended sigh. The freezing cold and endless whiteness were fading to a distant memory.
By the time he got out twenty minutes later he was feeling almost human again. Drying himself off and dressing in the fresh clothes Sam had left out for him, he went out into the main room. Sam looked up from the coffee machine and smiled at him.
"Feeling better?" he said warmly and Dean grinned.
"I feel less like a popsicle now, yeah" he said.
Sitting down on one of the beds he gratefully accepted the steaming cup of coffee from his brother.
"Thanks Sammy" he said and for once Sam didn't correct him. It felt good having Dean in front of him, using the nickname only he was allowed to use.
"So. Do you think we can both agree that storming out of here like that wasn't the smartest move you ever made?" he said gently and Dean sighed.
"Alright, I'll admit the snow was worse than I thought it would be ok? I just needed some space that's all" he said quietly.
"I get that Dean, really I do. But have you noticed how every time we split up something happens to you? I mean, do I need to bring up almost being sacrificed to a tree-God?" said Sam and Dean rolled his eyes.
"That was not my fault, and for the record you were the one who stormed off that time" he said and Sam held up his hands.
"Ok, you got me on that one. But whether it's you leaving or me, the point is it always leads to something bad happening" he said seriously and Dean looked uncomfortable but nodded.
"I hear you Sam. I promise, no more storming off into the sunset ok? But that doesn't mean that I'm ready to start 'caring and sharing' like you want me to. I'm just not up for that, however much you want me to"
Sam shook his head "I don't want you to 'care and share' as you put it. I just want you to stop pushing me away. I know how hard the last few months have been, and now all that crap with Gordon on top of it. I just want to help you Dean. You don't have to do this on your own"
Dean looked down at his coffee for a moment. He understood what Sam was saying and it meant a lot to him, but he was just so used to handling things by himself. He looked back up to see Sam still watching him, a look of patient concern and affection on his face.
"Look, it's not easy for me you know. I'm the older one remember? I'm supposed to take care of you not the other way around"
Sam shook his head again "That's bull Dean. I get that you want to take care of me, and I appreciate that, but your my brother too and that means that I want to take care of you sometimes you know?" he said earnestly.
Dean held Sam's gaze and he could see the truth in what he'd just said. And it warmed him even more than the coffee he was cradling.
"I appreciate that. But I can't promise to just change overnight. I just need time to deal with this in my own way Sam" he said quietly.
Sam sighed. "Alright. But just remember I'm here for whatever you need ok? And I'm not going anywhere, not now, not in the future. We deal with this stuff together Dean, that's how it works"
Dean smiled slightly. "I'll bear that in mind. Now can we please leave it alone? I don't know about you but I could sleep for a week" he said yawning.
"Fine. As long as you remember what I said"
Getting up Sam put his now empty mug on the side and turned out the light, leaving just a lamp on. Climbing into bed he lay back with a sigh of contentment.
"By the way, don't think I'm not pissed at you coming out in the snow like that. I thought we agreed you were gonna wait here?" said Dean and Sam grinned.
"No, you agreed I was gonna wait here. I couldn't just leave you out there like that, I could hear you were getting in trouble and I just needed to get you out of there. Besides if I hadn't come looking for you, you'd be face down in the snow right now" he said.
Dean huffed. "Yeah well. I guess I owe you one for that. But next time you stay where it's safe you hear me?"
"Fraid not Dean. I can't promise not to try and help when you're in danger, whatever that means. It's what I'm here for – to catch you when you fall" he said softly.
Dean swallowed the lump in his throat and blinked back what was definitely not tears in his eyes.
"Alright" he said eventually and Sam smiled, pleased to hear Dean accepting what he said. He'd meant every word.
Sliding further under the covers, Sam reached out and turned out the light. They lay there silently for a few minutes, both simply enjoying the warmth that came from having the other next to them and safe.
"Hey Sam?" said Dean quietly after a bit.
"Thanks. For coming after me. And you know.. Everything else" he said, grateful for the darkness.
"You're welcome" said Sam simply and Dean smiled to himself. He couldn't honestly say that the pain he was feeling was completely gone, but the gaping hole inside had been filled slightly by what Sam had done for him tonight. And he really had meant it when he said he'd try to let his brother help him more. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, leaning on Sam now and then. Like he said, they were stronger together.
With that thought in mind, Dean closed his eyes and drifted off, feeling better than he had in weeks. Whatever was coming they'd get through it – just like they always did. Of course there was one more thing...
"This whole supportive thing Sammy? You do realise that means you're helping me dig the car out tomorrow. I'm not leaving her buried under all that snow any longer than that. You hear me Sam?"
His only reply was a light snoring sound from the other bed. Shaking his head Dean closed his eyes. He'd give Sam the good news when he woke up.
Maybe this supportive thing wouldn't be so bad after all...