Sam glanced over at Dean for what must have been the hundredth time since they'd reached the Motel. His brother was oblivious to the scrutiny, lying on his back with his arm across his chest, fast asleep.
They'd driven for over seven hours, taking back roads where they could and changing direction several times. Both of them had wanted nothing more than to put the memory of being in prison firmly behind them and Sam was pretty sure Dean would have carried on driving until dawn had it not been for the fact he could barely keep his eyes open. Sam was no better, so swapping over was not an option, and in the end they'd had to give in and stop at a small Motel in the middle of nowhere.
They'd already stopped briefly to burn the horrendous orange jumpsuits they hoped never to see again and when they booked in they made sure to pay with the cash they'd managed to scrape together between them, and gave an alias they'd never used before.
Dean had barely managed to get changed before falling into bed and was asleep before his head even hit the pillow.
Sam on the other hand was still too hyped up to sleep despite his exhaustion. He'd showered, standing under the hot water for ages as he tried to wash away the smell of the prison. When he came out, he'd laid down on the bed but his mind was whirling with images from the past few days. Sitting up he'd found himself watching Dean sleep, taking in the dark bruises that covered the left side of his face in stark contrast to the paleness of his skin, even in the dim light coming through the Motel room window.
He swallowed as he thought of all the things that could have gone wrong in there. He understood Dean's reasoning behind helping Deacon, but the risks they'd taken had been far greater than they ever had before. Not to mention the dangerous line Dean had walked while they were inside. Sam swore sometimes his brother thought he was indestructible.
Shaking his head slightly as he contemplated the bruises that proved this wasn't the case, he frowned as Dean suddenly shifted, a grimace appearing on his face. As Sam watched he shifted again, his movements becoming more agitated. He mumbled something Sam couldn't make out and began clutching his chest with his hand. His breathing quickened and he moved his head back and forward, this time murmuring what Sam was pretty sure was 'no'.
Sam swung his legs over the edge of the bed and was just about to reach out and wake Dean when he sat bolt upright, clutching his chest even tighter and gasping.
"Hey – you ok?" said Sam with concern and Dean jumped about a foot in the air as he whirled round to face Sam.
"Jesus! What the hell, Sam? You scared the crap outta me!" he said breathlessly as he glared at him.
"Was it a nightmare?" said Sam, ignoring both the glare and the rant.
Dean rolled his eyes. "I don't remember. Were you watching me sleep or something? Cos Dude, that's a little creepy." he said, deliberately avoiding Sam's gaze as he rearranged pillows and blankets from the knots they'd become tangled in.
"I couldn't sleep. And you were definitely having a nightmare, Dean." said Sam, used to his brother's diversionary tactics.
"Yeah? Well good for me. Now go to sleep would you – we've got a long drive tomorrow." said Dean, lying down again and turning away from Sam to face the window.
Something clicked in Sam's mind as he thought about Dean's movements before he woke and the conversation they'd had back in the prison.
"What did you mean the nurse came after you?" he said and Dean huffed, annoyed, as he turned slightly in Sam's direction again.
"This is so not the time for a Q&A session Sam, it's 2.30 in the morning! Just go to sleep would you?" he said but Sam wasn't about to be put off.
"Not until you answer me. You said she came after you – did she try and go for your heart? Make you have a heart attack like those other guys?" he said, his voice taut with anxiety.
Dean let out a long suffering sigh. "For the love of God, Sammy! Would you just drop it?" he said, sounding irritated.
"No, not until you tell me the truth! You were with this spirit twice and both times the other guy ended up dead, Dean – I need to know what happened!" said Sam, his own voice rising as his anxiety about what his brother wasn't telling him grew.
Dean sat up, sliding back against the headboard and glaring across at Sam.
"I am really not in the mood for this Sam." he said, the warning note clear in his voice.
Sam, as usual, ignored it and just stared back, one eyebrow raised in an expression he knew irritated the hell out of his brother.
It had the desired effect and Dean threw up his hands in frustration.
"Alright, fine! Yes, she came after me and yes, she did do a number on my chest for a minute. But then I grabbed the salt, threw it at her and she moved on to poor old Tiny. Happy now?" he said.
Sam stared at him in disbelief. "Are you kidding? Which bit do you want me to be happy with Dean? The part where you almost got killed or the part where you neglected to mention it to me, just like you always do!" he said heatedly.
"Oh here we go! See, this is why I don't tell you stuff Sam – because you always have to make a big deal out of it!" said Dean, his own voice getting louder.
"Right. Cos why should it matter if you nearly get yourself killed? I mean, why should I care, huh Dean? I should be used to it by now!" said Sam bleakly.
Dean leant his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. He so did not need this right now. But he never had been able to ignore when Sam was upset and clearly his brother had worked himself into a rare mood about what had just happened.
Like it or not, they were gonna have to deal with this.
Opening his eyes again he looked over and saw Sam was staring down at the blanket like it was the most fascinating thing on earth, picking at it with his left hand.
"Sam." said Dean softly but Sam ignored him.
Dean swung his legs off the bed so he was now facing his brother directly, their knees only a few inches apart in the space between the two beds.
"Sammy please – look at me." he said.
Just as Dean could never ignore Sam when he was hurting, Sam could never ignore it when Dean said his name in that tone of voice.
Still angry, he looked up defiantly and Dean sighed.
"Look, man – the reason I didn't tell you is because it was over and done with. I was fine and there was no point in you getting yourself all worked up about it, which I knew you'd do. And I was right, wasn't I? That's what you're doing right now – blowing this out of all proportion." he said quietly.
Sam snorted. "Out of proportion? How many times in the last year has something happened with your heart, Dean? First there was the electrocution, then Sue-Ann's Reaper, not to mention after the accident. Do you have any idea what it felt like watching those doctors trying to get your heart started again?" said Sam, his voice hitching slightly as he said the last part. "And now this spirit, the same spirit that's been killing people by giving them heart attacks, she comes after you and you don't even bother letting me know she actually hurt you?"
Dean rubbed his neck uncomfortably, feeling a pang of guilt deep inside. The last thing in the world he wanted was for Sam to be hurt because of him. That was why he tried to protect him, tried to shield him from this stuff. It was his job to deal with all this, not Sam's.
But unfortunately his brother seemed to have other ideas about that.
"I was just trying to protect you, Sammy. I didn't want you to worry." he said truthfully and Sam looked at him through eyes that were suddenly glistening too brightly in the dim light.
"You still don't get it do you? I don't want you to protect me, not when it comes to stuff like this. I'm supposed to worry about you, Dean. You're my brother." he said softly and Dean looked away from the emotion in Sam's eyes.
"I couldn't watch your back in there. When you were in solitary, when you were in the infirmary. You could have died and the first I would have known about it would have been when Deacon came to tell me. Why do you think I was so mad about all this? It's bad enough, the risks we have to take, without doing something crazy like this. And yeah, I know – it was for Deacon, because of him and Dad. And I get that, ok? But I can't keep watching you doing stuff like this, Dean. Its too much." said Sam and Dean looked back up at him, his own gaze just as pained.
"You think I don't feel the same? I'm not the only one who's had plenty of close calls lately, Sam. And that's without all this destiny crap and you asking me to kill you every five minutes! I'm doing my best here – what do you want from me?" he said, spreading his hands in a helpless gesture.
"I want you to be safe. I want you to let me look out for you the way you look out for me. And I want you to stop keeping things from me. Look at what Dad told you - you carried that around for months, and while I'm not exactly thrilled to know about it? At least we can try and deal with it together. Whatever's coming is big, Dean. I can feel it and I know you can too. We have to face it together, or we don't stand a chance. And maybe it's selfish of me, but the only thing I can't face is losing you so please – stop taking chances that leave me doing just that." said Sam.
Dean knew exactly what Sam was asking, because it was the same thing he asked for when he pleaded with his brother not to make him kill him if things went bad. They were each other's greatest strength and greatest weakness. And he had a horrible feeling it was only a matter of time before whatever evil was coming used that against them.
But what could they do? Since the moment Sam was born Dean had loved his brother with all his heart, and he knew Sam felt the same about him. He hadn't always been so sure in the past, times when the distance between them had seemed almost impossible to bridge. But these days, it was the one thing in his life he was sure of. Sam showed him, every day in a million little words and gestures.
And just occasionally in monster chick-flick speeches like the one he'd just given.
"So is this the part where I'm supposed to say you had me at 'you're my brother'?" said Dean with a tired smirk.
Sam snorted. Of course – how could they possibly have a serious conversation without one of Dean's typical smart ass remarks. It just wouldn't be the same.
Aloud he said "Man, you do know that kinda backfires on you when it just shows you've actually watched Jerry Maguire at some point in your life." he said dryly.
Dean looked indignant. "I have not! It just gets quoted like a million times. You're the one who knew what chick flick it was from." he said, with disgust.
Sam rolled his eyes. "Whatever. And don't think I don't know what you're doing. It still doesn't change what I said, Dean." he said firmly and Dean rolled his eyes.
"Alright, I get the point ok? And for what it's worth? I don't plan on doing anything like that again anytime soon, Sam. That place was not my idea of a good time. And I know you think otherwise, but I don't have a death wish either. You really think I'm gonna leave you alone to take care of yourself?" he said with a cocky grin that had Sam's lip's twitching despite himself.
"I am perfectly capable of that you know." he said, even though in his heart he knew he would never truly want Dean to stop doing what he'd always done. It was the one comforting constant in his life.
"Yeah, sure you are. That's why you're sat there at 3am having a fit of the vapours when you should be sleeping, like most normal people. And like I was doing before you insisted on this Lifetime moment." said Dean dryly as he patted Sam's knee and lay back down again.
Sam shook his head as he lay back on his own bed.
"You were the one doing his Dracula impression half an hour ago. I'm surprised you didn't get whiplash sitting up that fast." he said and Dean just snorted.
"It's not my fault you were being weird and watching me sleep, Princess." he said and Sam briefly reconsidered what he'd said about wanting Dean by his side in the future. Sometimes Dean really did walk a very fine line.
"You never did say what the nightmare was about." he said pointedly and was rewarded with silence. He knew Dean wasn't asleep already but he also knew his brother had more than reached his limit on the whole talking thing, so he might as well save his breath. Sighing, he turned over. He had a pretty good idea he'd been right on the money before anyway. The way Dean had woken clutching his chest had been a fairly obvious clue.
Trying to push aside the memories of their thankfully brief incarceration, Sam closed his eyes. Part of him knew he'd never stop Dean taking risks to try and save people, even convicted criminals, and in a way that was just who his brother was and Sam was proud of that. Immensely so. But it also scared him and sometimes it didn't hurt to remind Dean just how much he needed him here. Alive and safe.
Hoping that he'd done that for now, Sam finally drifted off to sleep.
Across the room Dean listened to Sam's breathing even out. He was grateful Sam had let the nightmare thing go, although most likely he already knew what it was about anyway. Sometimes his brother knew him better than he knew himself, which was a scary thought in itself.
He still felt like they'd done the right thing helping Deacon, but he was sorry Sam had ended up in such a state about the whole thing. He never intentionally wanted to scare his brother, it was just these things needed doing and he'd rather risk himself than Sam. But he knew Sam didn't see it like that and he wasn't really in a position to argue. The brother thing did after all go both ways.
Maybe Sam was right though. There was something big coming and the idea of what it might be scared the hell out of him. So perhaps it wouldn't hurt to be a little more cautious, take a little more care. Not for himself, but for Sam.
Because he understood what it felt like to face losing the person you cared most about in the world, and the last thing he wanted to do was to be the one to hurt Sam more than any demon or destiny ever could.
Getting comfortable again, he closed his eyes. Tomorrow they'd be back on the road, heading towards whatever fate had in store for them. But for now, they'd earned some rest. Destiny could wait until they were ready for it – together, just the way it should be.