The sound of the truck roaring to life woke Sam from a light doze. He saw his father and Bobby in the truck as it pulled away from the Impala in pursuit of the demon they were hunting. He shook his head to dispel the last bit of grogginess and sat up, waiting for Dean to come back so they could follow.
Waiting in the car was getting old. Getting left like the puppy, with the radio on and the windows cracked. He was thirteen, plenty old enough to participate. Dean had been allowed to hunt when he was thirteen, but apparently what went for Dean didn't go for his brother at all. They left him in the car, where it was safe, or so they told him. At least they brought him along in the car most of the time—there was a time not very long before when they would have left him back at whatever motel they were staying at. Of course, these were extenuating circumstances, too, they were staying in an isolated cabin—miles from anywhere, so bringing Sam along hadn't really been much of a choice.
He had tried talking to their father about letting him hunt. If he had to go through the training, if they had to drag him along, the least they could do was let him help somehow. His father's answer had been simple—no. He then had the brilliant idea to appeal to Dean, only that turned out to be not so brilliant after all. Dean had been even more emphatic than their father.
So here I am, sitting in the car like a three-year-old, he thought, just waiting for someone to come back and get me. I wonder how old I will have to be before they let me go. I wonder if I will still even want to go then.
The time had been ticking by and still no Dean. Sam was a little worried. His father had taken off more than ten minutes before, where was Dean? He should be back by now. I'll wait five more minutes, and then I'll go look for him, he thought.
Three and a half minutes
Three minutes forty-five seconds
I'm going now. Sam got out of the car and reached into the backseat to get the flashlight and turned to head into the woods. On second thought…he turned back to the car and also grabbed the shotgun lying on the front seat that Dean had left him "Just in case." The demon might have flown the coup, but there were things like bears in the woods.
He followed the path his father and Bobby had made as they ran through the woods. Surely if something had happened to Dean his father wouldn't have taken off? I am probably just overreacting, Sam thought. When Dean wasn't around he felt a little less safe than usual.
It was dark. Once inside the trees what little light the quarter moon and stars cast was completely eliminated. Sam's world narrowed to just that exposed by the beam of the flashlight. He moved cautiously, just as he had been taught. He stopped and listened every few minutes, just as he had been taught. He tried to extend his awareness beyond mere eyesight, just as he had been taught. Funny how no one had mentioned in all those lessons how scary it was.
He was getting pretty deep into the woods. He kept expecting Dean to run into him, but still no Dean. Sam was starting to panic. He had a sense of unease, of something gone terribly wrong that was nagging at him. It was what kept him going deeper and deeper into those dark woods.
What was that? He froze, he thought he heard something. He stood silently, every ounce taken up with listening. There! He heard it again. It sounded like a groan, it sounded like Dean. Trying to quell the rising panic he swung the flashlight left and right, into the bushes around him. He saw something lying off to the side of the path. He had taken it for a log, but now with the light on it he could see it was…
"Dean!" He rushed over to where his brother lay face down in the mud. "Dean?" The many first aid training lectures he had received from his father started playing in his head. Make sure you check for head injury first. He shone the light on the back of Dean's head, no blood. Then check for broken bones in arms and legs. He reached out and gently ran his hand down the Dean's arm, it didn't feel broken, he did the same with the upper leg. After that he gently turned Dean onto his back.
Now there was blood visible on his head. His forehead had a large gash in it, blood was flowing freely down his face. His chest looked ok, the other arm didn't feel broken. It was when he got to the left leg that he stopped. Oh my god, he thought. There was a huge slicein the leg, and it was bleeding heavily.
Stop the blood flow. Direct pressure first, if that doesn't work, tourniquet. Sam pulled off his t-shirt and tore it into something that would work for bandages. He tied it tightly over the wound. Dean groaned.
"Sammy? Is that you?"
Sam thought he sounded a little disoriented. "Yeah, Dean."
"What are you doing out of the car?" Dean sounded angry.
"You were gone so long, I thought I would come and see where you were," he said sounding, even to himself, far younger than he was.
"You aren't supposed to leave the car. You are supposed to wait until I come back." Dean said, he still hadn't actually opened his eyes.
"But you didn't come, Dean! I waited and waited and you didn't come!"
"That is not how it works, Sammy, you know that." Dean still sounded angry.
"But Dean, you're hurt!" Sam said, his voice breaking a bit on the last word.
"What?" Dean opened his eyes and focused on Sam. "Where's dad?"
"He and Bobby left, they went after the demon and you didn't come."
"You said I'm hurt?" He was trying to sit up.
"Yeah, Dean. It looks really bad, I put a bandage on it, but I don't think the bleeding is going to stop."
The fear in his brother's voice, along with continuing awareness must have reached Dean. "Oh, yeah, my leg. How bad did you say it is?"
"Bad. Really bad, can't you tell? Doesn't it hurt?"
"Not all that much, right now. Can you help me up, Sammy?" He held his hand out for his brother's. Sam carefully pulled him up. Dean stood swaying for a minute and then tried to take a step, his left leg gave way and he started to fall. Sam caught him. "I think you are going to have to help me get to the car."
Sam pulled his brother's arm over his shoulders and staggered briefly when Dean's weight settled on him. They moved slowly through the woods. Dean was getting heavier with each step. By the time they broke out of the woods it was all Sam could do to keep going. He never realized just how big his big brother was until now. He kept going, though. Dean needed him to, so he just focused on one step at a time.
When they reached the car, Sam leaned him up against the trunk, taking a break before trying to lower Dean into the seat. It was going to be difficult. Dean opened his eyes.
"We back at the car?"
"Put me in the back, so I can keep this leg as straight as possible."
"You heard me, Sammy. Put me in the back."
"You are going to have to get us back to the cabin."
"You want me to drive?"
"Unless you want to carry me. I taught you to drive just in case—this is the just in case, Sammy."
"Ok," Sam said. Now he was really worried. No one drove Dean's car but Dean. He didn't even let their father behind the wheel if it could be avoided. Sam walked over and opened the door to the backseat. "Are you ready?" He asked. He saw his brother brace himself, then Dean nodded. Sam pulled him up and helped him to the open door. Taking most of Dean's weight Sam lowered him down to the seat. Once there, Dean just leaned against the frame of the door. Sam realized his brother wasn't up to getting the rest of the way in. He ran around the car and wrenched the other door open.
"Dean? I'm going get you in, ok?" He hoped his voice didn't reflect his growing fear.
"Ok, Sammy, I'm ready. I don't know how much I'll be able to help."
Sam braced a knee against the edge of the seat for leverage and reached across the seat for Dean's shoulders. He wished he could be tall enough to do this easily. He gently pulled Dean across the seat, Dean groaned. Sam put his hand on Dean's back and eased the car door closed, so he could be propped up against it. He went around and closed the other door then slid behind the wheel. He couldn't quite reach the pedals so he moved the seat forward and turned the key. He might have gunned it a little hard.
"Hey, Sammy, be careful with her."
"Yes, Dean," he said dutifully. He wondered if he could get all the way to a hospital. He knew how to drive, sure, but that was in daylight, in a parking lot, with Dean beside him, not in the backseat wounded and in pain.
"Head to the cabin," Dean said, Sam wondered if his brother could read minds.
"You really need to go to the hospital, Dean."
"No, Sammy. It's too far, just head to the cabin."
"Ok, Dean." Obeying his brother was almost a reflex by now. Even though he desperately wanted to get Dean to a doctor, he trusted that Dean would know best. Sam checked the rearview mirror, Dean's eyes were tightly closed.
The twenty minutes down the dark road were the longest in Sam's life. Every now and then he would say his brother's name, just to make sure he was still there. Every time Dean would answer, although the answers were getting shorter and the last time it had been merely a grunt. Finally Sam saw the turn-in to the cabin. He prayed his father was there, although he knew if John was back he would have come looking for his sons. No truck, dad wasn't there.
He got the car as close to the steps of the cabin as he could. He was trying to figure out how to get his brother out of the car. Which way? He decided legs first would be the easiest on Dean. After parking he walked up the steps to the cabin and opened the door.
"Dean?" He asked opening the car door. His brother didn't answer. "Dean?" He put his hand on Dean's uninjured leg.
"Yeah, Dean. We're here. Are you ready to get out?"
He maneuvered Dean carefully out of the car. He could tell it wasn't easy on his brother. Sweat was running down Dean's face and he was breathing hard by the time Sam helped him to stand up. Sam mostly carried him into the cabin and then to the tiny bedroom they shared. He sat Dean carefully on the lower bunk of the bed. Sam went into the bathroom, wet a cloth, brought it out and wiped the blood off his brother's face.
That revived Dean a little. "You need to let me look at the leg."
"But Dean, I don't know if I should take the bandage off. You were bleeding..."
"I know, but we need to know just how bad it is, and it needs to be cleaned out. You don't want me to get gangrene?"
"Of course not!" Sam was horrified.
"I didn't mean that, Sammy. Calm down, it's going to be ok. Get the scissors, some towels, the alcohol, some warm water and soap and the first aid kit."
"Ok," Sam ran out to gather the items. He was trying to stay calm for Dean. It was hard, though. This was the worst Dean had been hurt in a long time and the last time their father had been there to take care of it. He ran back into the room, his arms full of the things Dean had asked for, he put them down on the floor by the bed.
"First, we need to cut the bandage and the pant leg off. Can you do that for me?" Dean was keeping his voice very even.
"Sure, Dean," Sam said sounding anything but sure.
"Go ahead." Sam ran the scissors up the outside of the jeans, when he got to the bandage he stopped.
"This will hurt."
"Go ahead, Sammy. I know it will hurt, but it's ok."
Sam took a deep breath and cut through his makeshift bandage. He cut the jeans a little higher and then cut around the pant leg so he could pull it off. The bandage had soaked through with blood and was stuck to Dean's leg. "Dean? What do I do?"
"You know what to do—get the bandage off. Try not to make me scream, but don't worry about hurting me."
Sam eased the bandage off from the back of the leg first, then around to where the terrible gash was, he tried to work it off as gently as possible. He stopped when he heard Dean suck his breath in.
"No, go ahead and finish, I'm doing ok."
Sam didn't think that was true at all. Dean's face looked like it had no blood left in it. Sam finished pulling the bandage off. Dean's leg looked like butchered meat. Sam swallowed hard.
"Good job, Sammy, now let me look at it." Dean said in that even voice. He leaned forward and poked at the cut with his finger. "You are going to have to clean it out. First the soap and water, then the alcohol. Can you do that?"
"Sure, Dean." Sam got the bowl of warm water and liquid soap and carefully washed the leg around the wound. There was so much blood and the cut had started bleeding again. When he finished he grabbed the bottle of alcohol and stopped. This was going to hurt a lot. Even tiny cuts hurt when they had alcohol dumped on them, he thought. He looked up at Dean with the bottle in his hand. "Dean?"
Dean braced himself. "Ok, do it."
Sam poured the alcohol on Dean's leg. His brother moaned in pain before he bit the sound off. Sam looked up, Dean's eyes were closed, his face a mask of pain. "That's all of it, Dean."
Dean opened his eyes, "Good job. Now comes the hard part,"
"What hard part?" Sam said, suddenly afraid.
"You are going to have to stitch it up."
"Dean, I can't!" Sam said standing up and backing away.
"Sure you can, you know how."
"Dean, I can't!"
"Sammy, I can't do it. You are going to have to."
"You'll do fine."
"You have to, I need your help, little brother," Dean said very softly.
Sam swallowed. Dean had just asked for his help. In fact, Sam realized Dean had asked for his help more than once in the last hour. Dean had asked Sam for help. Things must be a lot worse than he thought.
"I'll try." Sam said.
"You'll do fine Sam. Get the stuff out of the first aid kit."
Sam dug through the kit until he found the sutures. He went into the bathroom and carefully washed his hands. When he came back into the room Dean had his eyes closed again.
"I'm ready, Sammy." Dean said opening his eyes and smiling a little at him.
Sam opened the sterile suture package and held the needle over his brother's leg. Somehow even with the training this was harder than he thought. There was a big difference between a beef roast and Dean's leg. He realized his hands were shaking uncontrollably. Dean must have noticed because he put his hand on Sam's shoulder and gave him a gentle shake.
"You can do this Sammy, I trust you."
"Yeah, Sammy, go ahead." He said with a nod.
Sam took a deep breath and carefully pushed the needle through, Dean gritted his teeth, Sam could actually hear them grinding together. He ran the needle through the other side of the wound and very carefully pulled it tight. He tied it off and cut the thread. He started on the next stitch, just focusing on the action and not thinking about what he was actually doing. If he thought about it he started getting nauseous.
He kept going until the wound was closed. Fifteen in all. They were a little uneven, but they were holding and the bleeding had dropped off to a trickle. Sam cleaned the blood away and placed a sterile pad over the stitches, he wrapped a bandage around Dean's leg and looked up at his brother. Dean's eyes were closed and his face was green-gray.
"Do you want to lay down now, Dean?"
"Yeah, Sammy, sounds good."
Sam helped him lean back and then pulled the spare blanket over him. Sam was starting to shake, suddenly he felt his stomach protest and managed to get to the toilet before it emptied its contents. When it was empty and all that was left were the heaves, he rinsed his face with cold water. He got another washcloth, wet it and carried it out to Dean. He laid it gently on his brother's forehead.
"Thanks, Sammy," Dean said opening his eyes and smiling at Sam. "You did good, kid."
Sam smiled back. "Thanks, Dean."
Nine Years Later
Dean watched as Sam put the last stitch in his leg, right above the scar that had been there since he was seventeen "You haven't lost your touch, Sammy."
"It's Sam." He said with a smile. "Must be like riding a bike. It comes back to you without even thinking about it." He started to bandage the leg. He was happy his hands were steady. It had been a long time since he had to take care of a wound quite this serious.
"Remember the first time you stitched me up?"
Sam sat back on his heels and looked up at Dean, sometimes he was sure Dean could read minds—at least his mind. "I was just thinking about that."
"Yeah, me too." Dean grinned. "You need to throw up now?"
"Not so much."
"You threw up the first time."
"Dude, I was thirteen."
"Yeah." Dean's smiled softened. "You did good back then."
"I was scared to death. I was panicked. You stayed so calm—it helped me. I remember I felt so young—only a little before I had been thinking about how I was so grown up and then I was just a little kid again."
Dean laughed. "You looked pretty young to me, but I knew you could do it, and you did just fine."
Sam smiled, "Do you want to lay down now, Dean?"
"I think I should, just for a bit, then we can hit the road."
"Ok," Sam reached over to help him scoot back in the bed.
"I can do it." He started to move then stopped when his leg shifted.
"I know you can." Sam gently helped him back and put an extra pillow behind his head. Dean closed his eyes. Sam pulled the blanket over him and headed towards the bathroom to get a damp cloth for Dean's head.
"Going in to throw up?" Dean said from the bed.
Sam smiled and got the cloth. He put it on Dean's head. "Get some sleep. I'll be here if you need me."
"Yeah, Dean. You're welcome."