Standard Dis, no spoilers. Warning for blood and gore. All mistakes are mine.
Dean kicked open the door and dragged Sam to the first bed, dropping him down onto it. The springs creaked under Sam's weight, the wooden headboard knocked against the wall. Sam lay still, bleeding and unmoving.
"Easy," Dean said, crossing quickly to the bathroom. He yanked the washcloth from the towel rack and held under the faucet as the water ran cold. After a quick wring, he returned to Sam.
Sam turned his head restlessly, first to the left then to the right, his hair falling over his eyes. "Fu… hurts," he groaned, flinching as Dean dropped the wet cloth over his eyes.
"Keep your eyes shut. I'm taking your shirt off."
Dean grabbed the t-shirt by the neck and ripped it, blood oozing from the fabric, between his fingers. He peeled the material from Sam's shoulder, bringing to light the torn flesh, muscle and sinew. The thick smell of blood clogged his nostrils and Dean clenched his jaw, turning away.
Dean backed away. "Don't move. I gotta get the bullet out."
The duffle bag scuffed the carpet as Dean pulled it out of the corner where he'd tossed it earlier. He unzipped it, pushed past the dirty clothes, and grabbed the Winchester's First Aid Kit: Not sold in stores. Dean returned to the bed and set the case on the comforter above Sam's head. "You still with me?"
A spreading bloodstain glistened under the lights, pooling in the shallows of Sam's body and in the indentations around him. His skin was pale and slick, his chest expanding and deflating quickly, shallowly. Sam's mouth opened but seconds ticked by before he replied, "Yeah."
Dean swallowed his fear, forced his voice to sound normal. He picked up a thick wad of white gauze. "I gotta get the bleeding stopped first."
Sam nodded, the cloth still covering his eyes.
If you couldn't see what was being done to you, it didn't hurt as much, or at least that was the principle.
Dean pressed the gauze to the oozing wound and winced at the sob below him, wishing Sam would just pass out. His fingertips were warmed almost instantly, the gauze soaking up the blood like a piece of bread in gravy. He pressed harder, ignoring the sting in his nose as Sam writhed and groaned.
"Dean… stop… please."
"Sam. Don't move." Blood dyed his fingernails, leeched through the wrinkles in his skin. But it was working. The gauze was thick and heavy and quickly became saturated with dark, congealing blood and shreds of muscle tissue. The wound was deep- pain had to be overwhelming. Dean glanced up at Sam.
Sam fisted the comforter in a white-knuckled death grip, his head turned away from Dean, the artery along his trachea throbbing. His chest was heaving now, pale and slick with sweat.
Dean looked away, his throat tight. "Try and relax, Sammy. I can't stop the bleeding if your blood pressure stays this high." He risked pulling back a corner of the gauze, encouraged by the formation of jellied blood clots. "I'm gonna try to flush it, so I can see how bad it is, okay?"
Sam groaned weakly.
The bottle of peroxide slipped from his fingers, rolling once before Dean grabbed it with sticky, bloody fingers, staining the plastic. He left the gauze in Sam's shoulder and unscrewed the cap quickly, barely noticing where it fell. "Okay, Sam," he said, mostly to have the company of his own voice, "Stay still. It'll only hurt more if you flop around." Dean suddenly missed Dad- missed the cool, calm way he could handle these things.
The way he took charge, always the one to clean the wounds as the brothers held each other down.
Dean gently pulled the gauze from the wound, careful not to dislodge the blood clots. He tossed it aside and grabbed more, poised against Sam's arm to catch the spill of peroxide. "Don't move," he warned.
Molars locked, he tilted the bottle. Clear liquid flooded the wound, filling the cavity and fizzing, the hiss of disinfectant underscoring Sam's soft groans. He started writhing and the washcloth slid to the bed. Sam squeezed his eyes shut.
"Stop. Stay still." He moved closer.
"I know." Both hands busy, Dean shifted and used his knee to keep Sam in place. "Almost done." But the hard part was next.
Blood stained everything. It saturated the bedding, Sam's left side, Dean's hands. Dean blotted the yellowish foam, his stomach turning at the sour stench of blood and bone. The smell of deep hurt.
Sam's skin was torn, the muscles underneath red with trauma. Though mostly stopped, blood seeped into the wound, filling it slowly, a dark reflective pool under the florescent lighting. Dean set down the peroxide and grabbed the bag of supplies, pulling out forceps and a flask of the strongest whiskey Dad had been able to find.
"Here," he said, holding the flask out. "You're gonna need this."
Sam squinted at it, his bangs wet and flat against his forehead, covering his eyes. His face held the pale, sickly parlor of impending death. When he reached for the flask, his fingers trembled.
Dean helped him, held a hand behind his head, hating the damp heat there. He watched Sam take several long drinks, not even flinching at the bite of the alcohol. The smell of it overpowered the blood and when Sam was finished, Dean drained the last of it.
"Good," he said, easing Sam back down, "You always were horrible at holding still. Pissed Dad off."
Sam turned his head away, panting, pain slicking his skin. "Just do it."
Dean picked up the forceps, grateful they had 'fallen' into Dad's pocket all those years ago. Hospital visits were expensive, after all, and you didn't have to have a medical degree to fish a bullet out of a body.
You did, however, need a steady hand.
"Here goes nothing, right?" Dean murmured, the claws of the instrument poised above the wound.
Sam winced. "Don't… fuck it… up."
"What, and give myself a one-armed little brother? You're enough trouble as it is."
Sam huffed and tightened his grip on the comforter. "Just hurry."
Dean resumed his original position, kneeling over Sam, one knee on his chest. He bent closer carefully, staying out of the light. Now or never, he thought, and lowered the forceps into the wound.
Sam jerked, his whimper sharp, his body like rock under Dean.
"Easy." Dean grabbed the gauze and blotted the blood spilling out of his brother. "It's deep."
Fisting the gauze, Dean resumed his search, the forceps pushing through layers of muscle and tissue, diving through slowly welling blood. The metal was warm between his thumb and index finger, but clumsy and unforgiving as Sam trembled.
Like a kid on a sandbox expedition, Dean searched through his brother's body, unnerved. There it was, small and silver, nestled against bone and held in place by tight muscle fibers. He clenched his jaw as a drop of sweat rolled down his own back, cold against his spine. "Found it."
Sam appeared unconscious, but the tension in every muscle said he was not.
Dean squeezed his fingers, pinching the ass end of the bullet with the forceps. His entire world shrank, zooming in on the bullet with frightening clarity.
Steadily, he pulled.
It didn't come easily; they never did. Removing a bullet was more like pulling weeds- lose your grip and you fall on your ass, cause even more damage. In the background, Sam groaned.
"Got it," Dean announced, blood dripping from the bullet as he looked at it. At last he was able to breathe, filling his lungs deeply before speaking. "We'll put it in your scrapbook later, okay?"
Sam laughed, a pathetic bark that just barely concealed a sob.
Dean moved off Sam and dropped the bullet and forceps on the nightstand, splattering blood on the polished wood. He grabbed the damp washcloth and pressed it to Sam's shoulder, covering the wound. The bleeding would have to stop again before he could suture it. "Hey, you still with me?"
Sam nodded twice, his eyes still pinched shut. He opened his hand and flexed it, his skin slowly filling with color. A twisted tent remained in the bedding, slowly losing its form.
"Breath, Sammy. It's over."
Dean glanced at the package of sutures. "Well, the hard part is over."
Sam swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing, sweat dripping from his hair to the pillow. His chest swelled, his muscles started to uncoil.
Dean raised one hand to his face but stopped at the sight of blood. He lowered it and wiped it on his jeans. "Guess we're doing laundry tomorrow, huh," he said, watching Sam breathe.
One by one, Sam's muscles softened as did the lines of pain on his face. He slipped into unconsciousness, once again losing to the familiar battle of pain, exhaustion and alcohol.
Dean checked the wound, took comfort in the dark, clotted blood, and smiled.