Author's Note: Just a little something that I started thinking about.. I couldn't help wondering what the trip was really like for them, not knowing if Dean could be cured, and this was the result.. :)
Sam looked across at Dean for what had to be the twentieth time in ten minutes. Even with his eyes closed Dean could literally feel Sam's concern radiating from the other side of the car. It wasn't making him feel any better.
"Dude, I swear if you wrap my car round a tree cos you're busy staring at me, I will shoot you"
The threat was somewhat diminished by how weak and raspy Dean's voice sounded, but it was enough to make Sam flush and turn his gaze back to the road quickly.
"You and your damn car" he said, trying to keep the mood light, and Dean opened one eye long enough to glare at him.
"Don't use that tone of voice when you talk about her Sammy. She's a classic"
Sam rolled his eyes. His brother really did have an unhealthy obsession with his beloved Impala. He wondered if it was too late to get him some therapy for it.
Dean sat up a little, trying not to wince at the pain in his chest, and watched the fields flowing past the window. He had no idea where they were going, only that the person they were supposed to see was some kind of specialist. How this guy was gonna be any different to the specialists they'd had at the hospital he'd just checked out of Dean didn't know. But Sam had been so desperate for Dean to agree to see this person, he hadn't had the heart to say no. Dean winced mentally at his own poor choice of words, and unconsciously rubbed his chest.
Sam meanwhile was willing the miles to fly past. He was sticking near enough to the speed limit not to get pulled over – Dean's run in with the police during the whole shape shifter thing meant that was not something they wanted to be dealing with right now – but it seemed to be taking too long. Every breath Dean took made a horrible wheezing sound and Sam both dreaded and craved it. Dreaded it because it reminded him how sick his brother really was, and craved it because while he could still hear it, it meant Dean was still with him.
Risking a glance in Dean's direction again he saw his brother was looking out of the window, lost in thought.
"You ok?" said Sam quietly
Dean turned to look at him and shook his head.
"Yeah, sure. I'm terrific Sammy" he said. He regretted the sarcastic answer as soon as the words left his mouth, the flash of pain on Sam's face making him feel lower than pond scum.
"Hey" he said softly, waiting until Sam turned to look at him again "Sorry".
Sam shrugged and managed a small smile.
"Don't worry about it. Pretty dumb question anyway"
An uncomfortable silence descended in the car again as Sam racked his brains for something to say. It felt like they should be talking about important things, but Sam knew that it wasn't in the Winchester code of contact to get too 'deep' in conversations and besides, if they did start discussing the important things then it would feel like they were admitting Dean might die. And he wasn't going to. Sam refused to even consider the possibility.
"Did you call Dad?"
The suddenness of the question and the fact he'd been so lost in his own thoughts made Sam swerve slightly when Dean spoke.
"Uh, yeah I called last night. Left a message on his voicemail, as usual. He might not be able to pick up a signal wherever he is" said Sam, unconvincingly.
"Sure. Cos getting a cell phone signal is so tough these days" said Dean with a twinge of bitterness. He remembered leaving a message for John before, when he and Sam had to go back to Lawrence. He'd felt like he was drowning in a sea of memories that time but had their Dad called him back? Even acknowledged the message? No, of course not. Part of him wondered if their Dad was able to call back. Maybe he was in hospital somewhere hurt. Or worse. Dean wondered which would be worse – for their Dad to be in trouble and unable to contact them, or for him to be ok and still not have been in touch. Because the latter simply implied that he didn't give a damn, and that made Dean's chest hurt worse than it already did.
Sam could see that Dean was hurt by John's lack of response and cursed their Dad once again for just taking off and not keeping in touch. Like you did at Stanford? said a voice in his head and he grimaced. When you looked at it like that, Dean got the rough end of the stick from both members of his family. A thought which left Sam with an ache in his chest that he was sure could rival Dean's right now.
Deciding the best he could do right now was to change the subject, Sam smiled as he thought of something positive he could tell his brother.
"You know one of the cops I was speaking to at the hospital came and found me just before I left last night. He said both the kids were fine. Apparently their parents wanted to come thank us in person, but I wasn't sure you'd be up for that. He was gonna come back in a couple of days. They'll probably be real sorry they missed us"
Dean gave a small smile. "That's great Sam. At least this wasn't for nothing, right?" he said and Sam clenched his jaw.
"What 'this' Dean? You're gonna be fine remember, just as soon as we see this guy you'll be good as new" he said firmly.
Dean sighed "You know I get that you want to believe that Sam, but it doesn't make it true. You heard what the doctor's said – I'm on borrowed time here" he said.
Sam clenched the steering wheel "Stop saying that! Why are you giving up so easily? If it was anyone else you wouldn't stop until you found a way to fix this – why can't you accept me doing the same for you?" he said, frustration colouring his words.
"Because there's a difference between perseverance and blind optimism Sam! You have to prepare yourself for the fact you might not be able to fix this for me, not this time"
"The hell I can't!" said Sam and Dean grimaced with frustration.
"No Dean! We are not having this conversation! You are going to be ok and that's all there is to it!" said Sam cutting him off.
But Dean was stubborn and he wasn't giving up this time. "That's not all there is to it! You're smart Sam – smarter than me. You have to know that I'm dying here, and nothing you can say or do is gonna change that"
Before he'd even had a chance to finish speaking Dean found himself having to brace against the door as Sam swerved onto the side of the road. Slamming the car to a stop and switching off the engine, Sam flung open the door and got out. He stormed a few paces from the car, running his hands through his hair in frustration. As suddenly as it had come the anger seemed to leave him though and he slumped down onto the ground, so that he was sitting with his back against the front of the Impala.
Dean scrubbed his face with his hands. "Ah, crap" he muttered.
Getting out of the car took supreme effort but he managed it, the need to help his brother giving him the extra strength he needed. Walking to the front of the car, using the Impala to help him stay upright, he sat down next to Sam, close enough that their knees were touching.
Sam had his head forward, resting on his bent knees, and he didn't look up as Dean sat down. He did however lean into Dean, a fact which didn't go unnoticed. When he did speak, he still didn't look up so his voice was slightly muffled.
"Why won't you fight Dean?" he said, sounding wearier than Dean had ever heard him.
Dean let out a breath. "Because I don't want you to get your hopes up. Because I don't want this to be worse when you realise there's nothing you can do. Because I don't want to spend my last few days pretending everything's gonna be ok and then regretting all the stuff we didn't talk about"
Sam turned his head so he could see Dean. "You hate talking" he said accusingly and Dean shrugged.
"Yeah, but this is extenuating circumstances right? There's stuff I want to tell you, before it's too late"
"Well I don't want to hear it! Because it's not going to be too late" said Sam.
"You think I'm enjoying this? You think I want to be right? I don't want to die Sammy, but what choice do I have?"
"You could believe in me" said Sam softly, his eyes glistening with unshed tears and Dean winced.
"That's not fair Sam! You can't work miracles last time I checked"
"Why not? It happens all the time, why not for you?" said Sam.
"Because.." Dean struggled to find the words and Sam brought his head up, looking at him properly.
"Because you don't think you're worth it? Is that it?"
Dean's silence and the way he looked away from Sam told him everything he needed to know.
"That's bull Dean! You are worth it – think of all the people you've saved, all the good you've done. You're a good person and you deserve to live as much as anyone. And you're worth it to me" he said, his voice breaking slightly at the end.
Dean swallowed and tried to ignore the wetness in his eyes.
"That means a lot Sam, really it does. But.."
"But nothing. Just promise me you won't give up, that you'll keep fighting until the very last second. Because I can't loose you Dean. I just can't!" said Sam, his voice really cracking now.
Dean shook his head "You'd be fine Sam. You've coped with everything you've been through these last few months better than anyone I know could have. You're strong, you'd be fine" he said softly but Sam was already shaking his head.
"No I wouldn't – not without you. I loved Jess with all my heart, but you – you've been there my whole life Dean. You taught me to walk, to talk, to play baseball, ride a bike, read a book. Dad was my father but you raised me. And I never thanked you for that, and I'm sorry, but that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate it. You're the most important person in the world to me Dean. I can't live with the thought of you not being there, I just can't"
That was the moment the dam broke, and Sam could feel tears pouring down his face.
"Sammy.." Dean's voice hitched as he saw the depth of pain in his brother's eyes and without even thinking he put his arm round Sam and pulled him against him. Sam buried his head in Dean's chest and snaked his arm round Dean's waist till he was holding him so tightly Dean could barely breathe. But it didn't matter. All that mattered was Sam and Dean could feel his brother's sobs and the wetness of his tears soaking through his t-shirt.
He said nothing. There was nothing he could say, not right then. Nothing that would have made things any better anyway.
Sam for his part hated himself for breaking down like this, for laying his burdens on Dean when he was the one who was sick. But he was so afraid right now, and he needed to make Dean fight.
After a few minutes he managed to pull himself together and sat up, wiping his face with his sleeve and trying to compose himself. Dean kept his arm round Sam's shoulders still and Sam was grateful for the contact.
When he was sure he could speak without bawling again, Sam looked back up at Dean.
"I just need you to fight for this, as much as I am. I need you to believe that we can fix this. I need you to let me take care of you for once, the way you always have for me" he said with quiet urgency.
Dean was silent for a moment. Part of him wanted to believe, he really did, but what if Sam was wrong? What would that do to him? Looking into his brother's tear stained face he realised though that nothing could make what may happen any harder or easier for Sam, so why not?
"Ok. You win Sammy. I'll go see your specialist and I'll keep fighting, I give you my word"
From the way Sam's face lit up and the grin that spread over his face you'd have thought Dean had just promised him the world. And maybe he had.
"Thank you. I won't let you down" said Sam and Dean tightened his grip on Sam's shoulder for a second.
"Just promise me that if, IF, this doesn't work you won't blame yourself ok? You haven't let me down and whatever happens, that won't change you understand?" said Dean and Sam managed to nod, not trusting himself to speak.
"Oh and there is one more thing" said Dean and Sam looked at him apprehensively.
"If you ever, ever make me sit through another chick-flick moment on this scale, I swear to God I will kill myself. Are we clear?" said Dean disgustedly.
Sam laughed out loud, feeling the tension wash away, and Dean grinned. Rolling his eyes at Sam he nudged him with his shoulder.
"Now can we please get up? My ass has gone numb"
Shaking his head Sam scrambled up and held his hand out to help Dean. He let Sam help him back into the car, knowing that his brother needed to be doing something productive, and he settled back against the seat with a relieved sigh.
Sam got back in the drivers seat and started the engine. Looking over at Dean he smiled.
"Ready then?" he said and Dean shook his head.
"You were the one who stopped for a meltdown, Princess" he said dryly.
Sam rolled his eyes, but couldn't help but grin. It felt good hearing Dean tease him normally. It gave him hope that this might just work.
Pulling back onto the road Sam gunned the engine confidently. They had a few hundred miles to go but they were on the right track, and more importantly they were on it together.
Beside him, Dean closed his eyes and leant back against the seat. Maybe this just might work after all. With that thought in mind, he drifted off. Happy to let Sam take control for once. His brother had his back – and that was all Dean needed to know.