Supernatural isn't mine.
OK, so this was just meant to be a little thing, but apparently Dean's brain doesn't work that way, so. Many thanks to aussiechick21, Annibal, Zadrak, SciFiNutTX, ziggy.uk, TammiTam, Alethianess, silentpixiee, Poaetpainter, dean'sdreamingangel, Still Awesome2009, RosieCotten, JazzyIrish, Nana56, Nimrodel Lorellin, Julie, MistyEyes and Onari for their kind reviews. I'm glad you guys have enjoyed it so far, and I hope the last chapter doesn't disappoint!
When You Put Your Arms Around Me, Chapter Four
So Dean's not really sure how it happened, but he distinctly remembers there being alcohol involved (left on his freakin doorstep, God, Sam is such a bastard sometimes), and a phone call in which Sam may have said something about needing Dean to save him and how could he do that if he couldn't even touch him, and Dean's pretty sure that if the phone call actually happened then he was pretty fucking wasted, but whether it happened or not he's damn sure it's Sam's fault that he's currently trying to figure out the quickest route to the nearest site of mystical convergence, which, as it turns out, is about seven hundred miles away (and damn if you can't find pretty much anything on the internet these days). The map's kinda blurry, because Dean's head is pounding like crazy, and when he recovers he's gonna kick Sam's ass into the middle of next week. No, make that next month. (Except he's not gonna kick Sam's ass at all, he's not going anywhere near Sam, because for all Sam's a gigantic jackass, Dean's still pretty sure he doesn't want him to die.)
The phone rings, and Dean makes a pathetic attempt at cursing, but his mouth feels like he's been chewing a plushie (God, he hates plushies), so it comes out kind of lame. He answers the phone just to stop the damn thing making noise, but unfortunately Sam's on the other end, and he's pretty damn good at making noise, too, and while the phone's noise is like whine whine whine, Sam's is more like hi Dean, how ya doing? By the way, you gonna kill me today? Because that would be awesome. (And also whine whine whine, so, you know, worst of both worlds.)
"How're you feeling?" says Sam, and Dean snorts and then stops, because hey, turns out that hurts his head too.
"Aren't I supposed to ask you that?" he says, and grimaces at the way his voice sounds (because it kind of sounds like he's been chewing a plushie, and damn if Dean isn't totally over that metaphor by now).
Sam makes a noise that Dean thinks is probably a stifled snicker (bastard), and says, "Little shaky still, but generally good. You work out a route yet?"
Goddamn, Dean is going to kill Sam (goddamn, Dean is going to kill Sam). "Why do I gotta do everything?" he grumbles, and OK, so maybe he's whining just a little, but he feels like crap and it's Sam's fault and he can't see the freakin map and he's plotting a route to a site of mystical convergence so that he can kill Sam and his head's pounding like crazy and goddamn Sam is a freakin asshole.
"I found the site," Sam points out. "But, you know, I'll do the route too, if you want. I just need to get a map."
Dean snarls, because the last thing he wants is for Sam to be reasonable about this. "No, I'm doing it," he says. "Just you freakin... Just stay where you are, OK?"
"OK," Sam says, and he's being way too gentle, like it's Dean who's sick. God, what an asshole.
"OK," Dean says, and cuts off the call, then bends over the map again. Green is such a bad colour for maps. He can't see a goddamn thing.
Eventually, he pillows his head on his arms and closes his eyes and hopes that if he can just wish it hard enough, none of this will ever have happened.
The first time, Dean's driving with his jaw clenched so tight he thinks he's gonna end up losing some teeth, and Sam starts shivering, and Dean practically sets a new land-speed record getting off the road and out of the car. His phone rings when he's about two hundred yards into the scrubby almost-forest crap by the side of the road (seriously, can't the goddamn vegetation just make up its mind already?) and Sam's saying I think you can probably stop before you get to the next state, because, you know, Sam's an asshole. Dean does stop, though (because he runs into a river, OK?), and an hour later Sam calls him again and tells him he's feeling better. Dean ignores him. He goes back to the car two hours after that, and Sam is pissed and bitchy, but he's Sam, so Dean has no idea if that means he's sick or not. His temperature's normal, though (Dean won't get into the car until he sees the thermometer, which Sam holds out of the window while rolling his eyes), so they get going again.
The second time, Sam's sleeping, and Dean's paying attention, God, he's paying more attention to Sam than he is to the goddamn road, but it comes on quicker than last time, and it's not until Sam starts muttering something about penguins (seriously, the amount of crap they've seen and Sam has hallucinations about penguins) that Dean realises. Lucky the Impala's just been serviced, because Dean doesn't think he's ever slammed the brakes on so hard, and OK, maybe he made Sam fall off the back seat, but Sam's a freakin asshole and he totally deserved it.
After that, Dean makes Sam talk, because he figures that's the best early-warning system. Sam's kind of self-conscious about it at first, and keeps running out of things to talk about, but after a while he gets used to it, and when he's explaining the difference between common law and Roman law or the inner workings of the digestive system and starts stuttering or repeating himself, Dean knows it's time to stop. Of course, that means Dean actually has to pay enough attention to what Sam's saying to catch the stuttering and repetition, and Jesus, it's fucking hard work. He never realised how much he doesn't listen to Sam until now (but, you know, Sam just says a lot of boring shit, and he figures if there's anything important Sam'll tell him again, so it's not like he doesn't have a good reason for not listening), and OK, if this was a movie or whatever then Dean would totally realise that actually his brother's really interesting and come out of the whole experience being enlightened and educated or whatever, but it's not, and Dean's just bored and pissed off (and terrified). After a few experiments, though, they figure out that they can go about two hours with Dean in the front and Sam in the back before Sam starts to lose it (and OK, Dean's definition of Sam losing it is kind of different to Sam's, but Sam's an idiot, so whatever), and then Sam needs a couple of hours to recover properly before they go again. So Dean spends half his time bored shitless listening to Sam talk crap in the car, and the other half bored shitless sitting on his own in fields and woods and places that can't make up their goddamn minds what the hell they are. So yeah, seven hundred miles? Actually a really freakin long way.
The real problem, though (OK, so the real problem apart from the whole Dean can't get near Sam without him turning into a goddamn space heater thing), is that by the time they've been going for a day and a half, Sam's starting to space out after an hour and only getting it together again after three. Dean has no idea if it's like a residual build-up thing from too much contact, or if the curse is designed to get more severe with time, but whatever it is, it sucks worse than an Avril Lavigne album, and by the end of the second day Sam's temperature isn't quite making it to normal any more and Dean's not sure he can bear the exhausted look in his brother's eyes for much longer.
"This is fucked up," he says, and Sam sighs on the other end of the line. They're in separate motels this time – Sam bitched a little about it, but Dean wasn't taking any chances (and actually, Dean thinks maybe Sam bitched less than usual and that makes his stomach twist in a way that really makes him glad he hasn't eaten much for the last few days), and they're only just over half-way to the goddamn centre of fucking mystical bastard convergence (and why the hell is it so far away, anyway? Jesus, with the amount of supernatural crap they run into all the freakin time, you'd think mystics or whatever converged all over the goddamn place, but no, apparently the little bastards are really goddamn picky), and Dean's about ready to give up on the whole deal and go and live in a cave or something (or, you know, whatever it is that people do when their lives are so fucked up that there's no way back. It doesn't have to be a cave, but Dean vaguely remembers that that's like the done thing or whatever).
"We've just got to make it another three hundred miles," Sam says. "We can do that in our sleep."
"Fuck that," Dean says. "We used to be able to do it in our sleep, before you turned into a goddamn Death Ray."
"Death Ray? Dude, lame," says Sam. "You could at least have said space heater or something."
Dean ignores him (yeah, OK, so sometimes he repeats himself, but he's got some pride about overusing metaphors) and stares at the map. "Your temperature back to normal yet?"
He can almost hear Sam shrug. "Yeah."
There's an uncomfortable pause. "It's only half a degree above," says Sam finally. "That could be anything."
That's it. Sam's been on the other side of town from him for five hours, and that's fucking it. "OK, no more," he says, trying to sound commanding and not like he's a desperate fuck-up who's giving up the only thing he has left at all. "This plan sucks. We're not doing it."
"Dean," says Sam, and he sounds like he can't quite decide whether to go for moral outrage or mournful puppy for his latest attempt to get his own way, but Dean's not listening to either, because he can't afford to let Sam win this one, he just can't. He disconnects the call and shuts off his phone, feeling like an asshole (feeling like a lost cause), then spends about ten minutes feeling sorry for himself until he remembers that Sam knows what motel he's checked into. Then he checks out, drops the keys and the Impala round at Sam's motel (he's not gonna need a dream machine when he's living in a cave, right? He figures caves don't have on-street parking, anyway), and hotwires a truck he finds two streets over.
He's wondering where the best place to find caves is anyway (seriously, is there like some kind of search engine for that? Caves and Gardens magazine? He figures there are enough losers in the US to warrant at least a chat room) when he checks his phone and finds that he has seven missed calls and a text message. Figures. He flips through to his inbox.
Dean, come on. We can do this.
Dean drops the phone on the seat beside him and sets his jaw. He drives for thirty miles, finds himself another motel, and he's half-way through his second six-pack by the time his hands have stopped shaking enough to text Sam back.
And that's it, one freakin word, not even long enough to spell it wrong. One word, and it's pretty fucking anticlimactic, but right now Dean doesn't have it in him to care.
The phone rings five minutes later, but Dean doesn't answer. It rings a few more times, then finally a text comes through, and even the goddamn message tone sounds exasperated. Dean almost doesn't check it (what's the freakin point?), but it's Sam, and he's numb, he feels like maybe he'll never get the feeling back in his fingers, but it's still Sam, so he picks up the phone and reads it.
You're an asshole, says the message, and Dean thinks it's probably got a point. A second later, another one comes through.
I'm not getting better.
Dean stares at this one and feels the numbness spreading. He tries to think, but alcohol and panic are clouding his mind (because obviously, usually he has the mental capacity of freakin Einstein), and all he can think is fuck, did I do this, did I make it so Sam can't get better?
The phone beeps again just as Dean is contemplating having a full-on panic attack (except it would totally be, like, a manly breakdown or something, none of that fainting shit), and he can barely see the screen, the letters blurring against the grey.
Stop blaming yourself. We can still fix this.
Dean stares, and it's like Sam's right there in the room, he can hear the words in his head like Sam just said them. He swallows and forces himself to calm down, breathe in, breathe out, we can still fix this. After a minute, he's under control enough to text back.
I can't drive you.
He waits, chewing his lip, waits for Sam to tell him what to do because fuck, he can't work it out by himself, whatever it is that runs his brain has gone on vacation without warning, and when it gets back, Dean's gonna have some serious things to say about personal responsibility.
Finally, the phone beeps, and Dean realises he's been holding his breath and lets it out so fast it makes his head spin. He stares at the screen.
Fine, jackass. Meet me there in two days. Bring pizza.
And OK, so Dean's kind of set his heart on the whole cave thing, figures he can get a nice roomy bachelor cave with cable and maybe space for a foosball table, but on the other hand, Sam may be an asshole who knows way too much about lame boring shit, but Dean figures he could do with someone like that around to make him look even cooler, and it would be a shame to have to find a new guy to fit the bill when he's got Sammy all trained up and everything. So yeah, OK, maybe the plan isn't totally shot to hell, and the light-headedness that Dean's feeling is probably just because he's had too much to drink and too little sleep. He can do this. They can do this.
Dean's definitely thinking he needs to switch rides first, though.
Sam's leaning against the side of the Impala like he's been there for hours when Dean rolls up, and he stares in disbelief as Dean parks a decent distance away and jumps out.
"Jesus Christ," he calls. "You stole an ambulance?"
Dean grins with pride and slaps the side of his ride. "Pretty awesome, huh?" he says. "Figured if I was gonna be resuscitating and shit, might as well look the part."
Sam raises his eyebrows. "Anyone ever tell you you're kind of a drama queen?"
"Well hey, it's not like I'm cursed to bring certain death to my brother or anything," Dean says. "Oh, wait..."
Sam mutters something that might be jerk, and steps away from the car, staggering slightly. Dean practically bites through his tongue stopping himself from jumping forward (goddamn, he never knew he was this much of a mother hen, or, you know, damn, there's gotta be a more macho sounding phrase that means the same thing, right?), and surreptitiously kicks the side of the ambulance. "You OK?" he calls.
Sam's standing straighter now, but he looks kinda pale. "Yeah," he says, "but I think there's something new going on with this whole curse thing. I'm not sure..." he closes his eyes and sways slightly. "Let's just get this done."
"OK," says Dean (but it's not OK, it's not freakin OK at all). "Just let me talk to my buddy Manny." He goes for the back of the ambulance, and then Sam's right freakin there, grabbing him by the arm and staring at him like he's totally deranged (and OK, maybe he's a little deranged, but Sam already knows that so there's no call for that level of shock).
"Dude," says Sam, staring into the ambulance. "You kidnapped a paramedic?"
Dean peers in at Manny, who's looking a little freaked out over the top of the gag. It occurs to him that probably, faced with the same problem, Sam wouldn't have tied up a health worker and taken him over state lines. On the other hand, he's already pretty much established that Sam's an idiot, so. "Yeah," he says. "A little."
"A little?" Sam says, and he's practically squeaking now. "How do you kidnap someone a little?"
Dean raises his eyebrows, but then Sam sways again and catches himself on the side of the ambulance, and Dean realises they're standing in a fucking centre of mystical whatever, and now is so not the time to be having this argument.
"Let's get you sitting down," he says, trying to haul Sam bodily into the ambulance, but Sam shakes his head.
"We're not in the right place," he says. "We need to be where the ley-lines intersect or the energy won't build up fast enough."
"God," Dean runs his hands through his hair, and Sam's leaning on him now, not heavily, just enough to make Dean's stomach flutter unpleasantly. "Where, then?"
Sam looks around, and then points to a pond a hundred yards away. "There," he says.
Dean stares. "You have got to be kidding me." There's no way he can drive the ambulance into the pond. Sometimes, Dean thinks maybe there's someone up in Heaven or wherever whose job title is person whose job it is to fuck Dean's life up in as many ways as they possibly can. Except, you know, they'd abbreviate it on the business cards or whatever.
"Just," Sam shakes his head. "It's not far, we'll just, you can just bring me back here when we're done."
"Easy for you to say," Dean says. "You won't be the one hauling your heavy ass around."
Sam rolls his eyes and glances in the back of the ambulance. "Sorry about my brother," he says to Manny. "He's kind of an asshole."
"Hey!" Dean says, because hell if he's letting Sam talk smack about him to Manny, but Sam's ignoring him (bastard) and is already heading (kind of lurching, really) towards the pond, and Dean's following, because what the hell else is there to do?
Sam reaches the pond and starts wading in, and Dean's there a couple of seconds behind him. The ground's sludgy and sucks at his feet (and Sam is so cleaning his boots when this is done), and the water's freezing, but he figures at least that'll help retard the fever. Sam reaches the middle and it's up to his knees, and when Dean gets there he's looking expectant.
"What?" says Dean.
Sam sighs. "Contact increases the power of the spell," he says.
"Contact?" Dean asks, and Sam rolls his eyes and throws his arms around him, and fuck, Sam's right there, and Dean has to fight not to push him away, to remind himself that this is what's supposed to happen, but he flinches back anyway, holds himself rigid and tries not to feel the heat of Sam's skin.
"Jeez, Dean," Sam says, "never took you for the prim and proper type."
"Hey," Dean says, "I'm only being a gentleman. You know, I'm not used to dating girls who are quite as... forward as you."
Sam rolls his eyes, but it's OK, because Dean kind of feels better now (or if not better then at least not quite as awkward), and he swallows and thinks about how they need to do this as quickly as possible so the fever doesn't get a chance to build up, and puts a hand on the bare skin of Sam's neck. Sam's skin is definitely warmer than it should be, but not too warm, and Dean's relieved, but he has no idea how long they're going to have to stand here (in a freakin pond, seriously, when Dean hears mystical convergence he thinks unicorns and freakin sparkly lights or whatever, not stagnant water and frogspawn) or how he's going to be able to tell if the mystical energy is building up at all. He blinks at Sam, and Sam blinks back, still wrapped around him like a goddamn bandage, and nothing happens.
"Well," says Sam after a minute. "This is kinda weird."
"Yeah," says Dean. His ankles are freakin cold. In the next field, there's this cow that's kinda staring at them, and he scowls at it over Sam's shoulder, but really, it's got a point; he's pretty sure they look like idiots.
"You sure you gotta hug me?" he says finally, and Sam blows out a breath and grins.
They've been standing around (like idiots) for over an hour when it starts to rain, and seriously, as if they didn't have enough problems. If Dean ever gets to Heaven, he's totally finding the guy with the job and kicking his ass. OK, so maybe the guy's an angel – and hey, what's the corporate structure of Heaven like, anyway? Is everyone who's actually on the payroll an angel, or is it something you can get promoted to from your basic dead-soul grade? -- but he's pretty sure he could kick angel ass if he really needed to.
"You feeling any different?" he says to Sam, and Sam peers down at him, water dripping from the ends of his bangs.
"Feel wetter than I did before," he says, and shakes his head like a dog.
"Dude," says Dean in disgust, but the rain bothers him, because he can't tell how much Sam's sweating any more. What he does know is that Sam's neck is a lot warmer than it was when they started, and that so far, he's seen precisely zero sign of any goddamn mystical energy (although, given the whole stagnant-pond deal, for all he knows the freezing rain is the mystical energy), and he's wondering what the hell he's going to do if this goes wrong.
"We should," Sam says, and shifts his weight, and wow, actually he's kinda leaning on Dean pretty hard now. "We should, Dean, I think maybe we should sit down."
Dean would say something about how sitting down in a foot of scummy water is a really fucking dumb idea, but he can see the way the colour's draining out of Sam's face, making his cheeks look even more flushed, and he shuts his mouth for once in his life and carefully lowers them both to the ground (or, you know, the water). He grimaces as the water seeps into his clothes (OK, so Sam's totally doing all the laundry too when this is over, because Dean knows what pond water smells like when it's dried in, and it's not freakin Yves Saint whatever, that's for damn sure) and tries to rearrange himself so that he's supporting Sam (because there's no way there's gonna be a repeat of the whole bathtub thing, no chance in freakin hell).
"You know," he says, "this was an awesome idea. I love vacationing in the country."
Sam snorts. "You love vacationing in biker bars."
"What can I say? I find them charming," Dean says, and Sam shifts restlessly, sending ripples through the dull brown surface of the water (that looks pretty much like liquid – oh, OK, Dean's crude, but he's gonna try not to think that while he's sitting in the goddamn stuff) and says something too low for Dean to hear.
"What?" Dean asks.
"Cold," Sam says, and he's shivering now, just a little, and Dean scowls because he has no idea if that's the fever or the fact that they're sitting in a pond in the rain, but Sam's eyes are half-closed and Dean thinks he hates this pretty much more than anything ever.
It doesn't take too long before he finds out that actually, there's some shit he hates more (and hey, turns out he has a pretty huge capacity for hating stuff, but then, everyone's gotta have a talent, right?) For example, right now, he really hates the way Sam's body is sinking lower in the water, until it's all Dean can do just to hold onto him, and also, he hates that it's the goddamn holding on that's causing the problem in the first place. His brain is completely fucked, because half of it's telling him to cling onto Sam and never let go, and the other half's telling him to get as far away as possible, because Sam's burning up, Sam's sinking and it's Dean that's doing it, and that can't be right, that's not how it's meant to be.
Both halves of his brain are wrong, though. Being close to Sam is fucking him up, but it's all that Dean can do, because whether it's his fault or not, there's no going back now. It's the biggest fucking kick in the pants Dean's ever had, and man, he's had some doozies.
"Hey," says Sam. His eyes are still hooded, but he's looking at Dean. "If this doesn't... Look, none of this is your fault, OK?"
Dean barks out a laugh. "Does this look like a good time for a heart-to-heart to you, Sammy?"
Sam's eyes slide around a little, taking in the scene. It's raining harder now, the droplets battering the surface of the pond. "Well," he says slowly, "you know, it's missing the swelling violins, but otherwise, I think it's pretty much perfect."
Dean rolls his eyes, and Sam grins weakly and says, "We should get away from the fire, first, though."
Yeah, funny how much colder freezing cold water can suddenly feel. "What?" Dean asks, and Sam looks up at him.
"It's too hot," he says. "We'll burn. I don't want to burn, Dean."
He says it calmly, like it's freakin obvious, but Dean's sitting in a foot of water and there's more coming out of the sky and there's no fire.
"Sam," he says, but really he has no idea what to do right now. Should he humour Sam, or should he try and bring him back to reality? Is it the mystical energy that's fucking his brain up or the fever? And how, how is it that Dean's sitting here willingly making them both worse?
Sam grabs his arm suddenly, and even through his sodden shirt sleeve Dean can feel the heat, it's way more than it was a moment ago. "Dean," he says urgently. "The fire. You've got to go before it gets you."
"It's not gonna get me, Sammy," Dean says, using his other hand to push Sam's dripping bangs out of his eyes. Sam's forehead is soaking wet and radiating like a fucking hot plate. "I'm gonna be just fine."
"No," Sam moans, shaking his head, and his eyes are rolling now, it's unsettling (fuck unsettling, it's a fucking nightmare, is what it is), like some monster from a bad B-movie, and he's pawing at Dean's sleeve. "I don't want – Dean, I want you to live, I don't want it to get you, it's burning, God, please, just get away."
Dean's staring now, because he stood around waiting for hours, and now everything's happening too fast, like the world's been saving up its energy so it can kick him in the face extra hard, and goddamnhe would pretty much give anything to have the penguins back right now. "We'll be fine," he says, and he's got one arm around Sam's torso, Sam's back resting on his chest and Sam's head under his chin, he's wrapped around Sam pretty much as close as he can be, but it's not enough, it's not freakin enough. "It's OK, I gotcha, nothing's gonna happen."
Sam's head snaps round, then, and he looks straight into Dean's eyes. "I'm going to burn," he says, serious and solemn like he wants to make sure Dean understands. "You can't save me, but you can save you. I can save you, Dean. Please."
Dean feels himself snarl, and it's not like he's doing it on purpose, OK, so, obviously snarling is a useful skill and all, but right now it's probably not the best response to the situation. All the same, there it is, and this is so fucked up, and Sam's fucking sitting there telling him to go and it's just like the motel room (Sam was possessed), just like the creepy old hotel (Sam was drunk), just like the hospital (Dad's got no freakin excuse). "Shut the hell up, Sam," he says (I'm gonna save you whether you like it or not), and thankfully Sam chooses that moment to obey orders for once in his life, and passes out.
So now all Dean's gotta do is stop Sam from slipping under the water and pay attention for the moment when his brother (dies) stops breathing. And hey, that's a pretty easy job, and OK, so Sam's big and all, freakin yeti is what, but he's lost some weight in the last week (Dean's not thinking about that) and he's pretty much dead to the or actually out cold is probably a better phrase, so he's easy enough to manhandle. Only problem is, now that Dean's not busy concentrating on Sam's yapping, he's got nothing to think about except the fact that he's sitting here killing his brother by degrees and he's not even a hundred per cent sure that this is going to work. And if he's honest with himself, he's not sure hoe he ended up here, why he agreed to it, or even what the hell he's been thinking since Sam got sick (except he hasn't been thinking at all), and he can't really believe that Dad left this all up to him, that he left Dean in charge, because Dean's about as good at making sure things run smoothly as David Hasselhoff is at acting, but he doesn't even have the singing career in Germany to fall back on.
Sam shudders and moans, thrashing in Dean's arms, which is just awesome because now Dean's trying to cling on to six foot twenty-five of slippery, messed-up brother and it's all he can do not to just let go and run, all he can do not to tighten his grip until it's enough to break Sam's ribs. He feels bone-tired, and it seems wrong, that it should be like this, so quiet and slow, the only sound the drumming of the rain on the surface of the water, loud enough to drown out the beat of blood in his ears. He wants there to be earthquakes and meteor showers, or at least an ominous voice from on high or, you know, a black-cloaked figure or some such shit, but all there is is Sam dying in his arms in a muddy pond in the rain, and Dean never wanted death, certainly never even entertained the prospect that Sam might die (not possible), but if he had, he would never have imagined it could be like this.
Sam stiffens suddenly, starts to twitch, and that's all the warning Dean gets before he's convulsing in a full-blown seizure, Dean's too hot now even from just being near him and this is the third time, the third fucking seizure that Dean's had to watch and not be able to do anything about, and he can feel Sam's heart hammering against his ribs, his head rolls back and smacks against Dean's chest with every jerk and the only thing Dean can do is cling grimly on and stop Sam from slipping under, and even now it's so fucking quiet.
Sam's been seizing for maybe four minutes (Dean can't do this, he can't) and Dean's just beginning to think that the mystical fucking bastard energy isn't doing what it's meant to be doing (killing Sam) because the fever's so high, it's so goddamn high and this isn't supposed to be the way it goes, it's supposed to be painless (and Sam's not supposed to die), when Sam suddenly stops, just like that, his body going limp in Dean's grasp. Dean has just a moment, just one fucking second of relief before he becomes aware of the fact that he can't feel Sam's heartbeat any more. And OK, so there's no way he can go through this again and really he ought to stop and make sure (make sure his brother is dead), but fuck that, fuck it, and Dean's struggling to his feet, hauling Sam's body out of the water and staggering through the sludge dragging him, not even stopping to get him in a proper hold, because he thinks if he unlocks his arms from around Sam's ribcage maybe whatever it is that's holding Sam inside his body now that it's not his heart and lungs will let go too.
The trip back to the ambulance is five miles, ten, goddamn, further than Dean's ever walked in his life, how could it be so far? It's really fucking pouring now, and Dean's boots are full of water, Sam's heels are dragging along the ground, and if Dean can't see, if the world's gone out of focus, it's because there's rain in his eyes. But finally, finally it's there, the goddamn ambulance huge and white and blurred, and Dean's going to be OK, he's going to make it, everything's going to be fine.
Except Dean's utterly, utterly fucked, because the ambulance is empty. Manny is gone, and Dean leans against the side of the ambulance, trying to stop Sam from slipping, but his fingers are going numb and Sam's like a (dead weight) lump of lead in his arms and he can't see anything but sodden grass and driving rain and no fucking paramedic.
There's no time to think about it, no time, because Sam's not breathing and Dean needs to fix that right now. He climbs backwards into the back of the ambulance, dragging Sam up onto the gurney that's waiting there, and closes his eyes for just a second, breathes through his nose, because he's been preparing for this moment all day and it's here and he's fucked, Manny is gone, but he still needs to save Sam and he can't afford to panic, not now.
When he opens his eyes, Sam's lying pale and still on the gurney, his hair plastered down against his forehead and the flush rapidly fading from his cheeks, and he looks worse than he did before (when he was alive), but Dean's not thinking about that, he's pumping his hands on Sam's chest and then breathing into Sam's mouth, and while he's breathing, feeling how warm Sam's lips are even now, his hand is fumbling for the defibrillation unit, switching it on, because he knows that CPR rarely works to restart a person's heart, that's why he stole the goddamn ambulance in the first place.
One two three four breathe, and OK, Dean doesn't know how to use the defibrillator, but Sam's not breathing, Sam's heart's not beating, and he's seen enough crappy medical shows, it can't be so hard, right? He's got a list in his pocket that he scribbled down the night before, after hours surfing internet sites trying to think of every possible eventuality (and hey, actually turns out it's kinda hard to google for possible medical side-effects of a build-up of mystical energy, which sucks because the goddamn internet's supposed to know everything), and he pulls it out now, the ink's run but he can still just about read his own handwriting. Heart attack, it reads. 200 Joules.
It's good enough for Dean, and he pumps on Sam's chest with one hand and tries to work out how to use the goddamn machine with the other. Dial to 200, OK (Sam's not breathing). There's that goddamn gel stuff they always use on ER, where the hell's that? (One two three four breathe). Oh, right, that must be it, and he's gonna need both hands for a moment, come on, Sam, don't fucking die, and he doesn't realise he's said it out loud until he hears it, weird in his ears after so much quiet.
Then he's pulling Sam's shirt open (the buttons pop off but Dean figures maybe Sam can just get a gig as a catalogue model or whatever afterward this is fucking over) and trying to remember where they always put the pads or whatever the fuck they're called, and then he discharges the thing, and fuck, is that it? Because Sam's body doesn't even move, and if Dean knows one thing from watching too much crappy TV, it's that the whole defibrillation thing is meant to make people jump like they've just sat on a fucking killer bee.
"Shit," says Dean. "Shit, shit." He feels for a pulse, but there's nothing, and he checks the paper, turns the machine up to three hundred and lays the goddamn whatever the hell they are on Sam's chest again. The flush is completely gone from Sam's face now, and Dean has no idea how long it's been, but any time at all is too long. "Don't you do this to me," he says, "or I swear I'm gonna kick your ass so fucking hard..." He discharges again, and Sam's body is lifeless and still.
There's a crack of thunder outside, and oh yeah, now the world's finally catching up with the whole melodramatic gestures thing. Dean turns the dial to 360 and doesn't think about the fact that the only person he has in the whole world, the person he loves more than anything and who he'd do anything, anything to protect, is slipping away right now because of Dean, because Dean didn't just follow his instincts and find a goddamn cave, Dean's not thinking about that and about Dad and Mom and Jess and everything they've lost in their lives, because dwelling on it isn't going to save Sam, and saving Sam's all he has left.
The machine discharges, and Dean lets go of it and feels for a pulse, clenching his jaw because if it isn't there, he's not sure what he's going to do next, but he thinks it might involve murder.
And there. There, against his fingers, fluttering a little and then slow but steady, and Dean's fallen to his knees before he's even realised it, talk about your fucking melodrama, but there's no-one to see, nothing but a hundred miles of empty, rain-washed sky and a sleeping brother who miraculously isn't dead, so Dean figures maybe once, just this once, he can let himself break down.
They're two hundred miles away from the mystical whatever when Sam wakes up, because hey, Dean's not above stealing the odd ambulance, but waiting around whistling Dixie when Manny the freakin Houdini has most likely called the cops is not his idea of a good plan, and OK, Dean's obviously not the expert when it comes to good plans, but he's not a total moron. Then of course there's the fact that actually, Dean doesn't know if the curse is broken (but if it's not he's seriously gonna beat the shit out of Sam), and hanging around the Muddy Pond of Mystical Freakiness also comes under d for dumb ideas in Dean's brain.
Sam's lying in the back seat, and he groans and mutters something, then opens his eyes. Dean checks the rear-view mirror (hey, it just so happens that the angle for seeing behind him best is also the one that lets him see Sam's face, OK?), and Sam's staring at him, unfocussed.
"Thank fucking God," says Dean, and then clamps his mouth shut, because that was totally not what he meant to say.
Sam doesn't seem to notice, though. "You OK?" he asks thickly, and Dean almost chokes and pulls the car over.
"Am I OK?" he asks, and Sam's face twitches.
"Did you bring the pizza?" he asks, and Dean feels his mouth drop open, but he can't do a fucking thing about it. Sam eyes him for a moment, then closes his eyes. "Dude," he says. "Lame."
Sam's temperature's normal, but he's not done being sick. Turns out mystical energy combined with high fever (and almost fucking dying) actually is kind of a pain in the ass for the person it's happening to as well as their manly saviour, and it takes Sam a week to fully recover (Sam claims he's recovered in four days, but there's that whole thing with Sam being an idiot and all, so Dean's totally not falling for it.) Dean does the laundry (oh yeah, Sam fucking sleeps through that one and dried-in pond water pretty much smells exactly the way Dean remembers), cleans his guns, watches TV, watches Sam sleep; the curse is gone, and if almost everything that Dean finds to occupy his time with results in him being within arms' reach of Sam, well, that's just how it is when you live in the same motel room, got it?
When the week is out, Sam gets out of bed and demands they move on, and Dean looks him over, shoves him a couple of times, then shrugs and tells him to pack. Sam slides into the passenger seat of the Impala a couple of minutes later, and it's like something clicks back into place in Dean's chest, which is embarrassing and kind of lame, but no-one needs to know about it except Dean, so he just lets himself enjoy the feeling.
"You know, there's one thing that really fucking bugs me about all this," he says, and OK, there's a hell of a lot more than one thing, there's a whole goddamn raft of things, in fact there might even be an ark or, you know, whatever those big fuck-off boats they use for moving oil and shit around are called, but he's only making conversation, so.
"The witch," Sam says, and Dean wonders if he's really that obvious.
"I hate it when they're human," he says. "I wanted to kill that bitch so bad."
"Yeah, well," Sam says, and he sounds a little tired, a little frayed around the edges, but he's alive and he's six inches away from Dean and that's all that counts. "She's not getting out of it scot-free."
Dean frowns. "What do you mean?"
"She's got a few... parking tickets," Sam says solemnly, like he's just announced that she's committed high treason.
"Parking..." Dean looks over. Sam's watching him, his face unreadable. "Dude. I don't think she even had a car."
Sam shrugs. "The DMV database doesn't lie," he says, and grins so quick it would be almost like it never happened if it wasn't so goddamn huge.
"Huh," says Dean, and remembers wondering what exactly Sam was doing tapping away at the laptop when he was meant to be convalescing. "Parking tickets, huh?" he says, starting the engine. "How many?"
Sam shrugs. "Seventy-four," he says.
Dean lets his grin spread as he pulls out and turns onto the highway. "Sounds like that's gonna be a real pain in the ass," he says.
"Couldn't have happened to a nicer lady," says Sam, and Dean can't help but agree.