Okay. I guess I only thought this was a one-shot. Now, it's a two-shot…or whatever. Thanks to all the people who read and reviewed the first chapter! Several wanted another to finish things off, so here goes.
Darkness. A feeling of floating. Dizziness. Fatigue, especially fatigue. God, he was tired. What were those sounds? Voices? He tried to sort through them, but it was too hard. Was someone calling his name? No, not his name. Some other guy's name. He couldn't make heads or tails of it, but it wasn't Winchester. Good, that meant that he could continue to float or maybe go back into the comfortable darkness. So tired.
Wait, there was another voice. Familiar, warm, beckoning. He wasn't going to get to float much longer with that voice calling him. It was getting clearer, and this voice was calling him and not that other guy. Dean couldn't resist this voice.
"Dean? Dean! Come on, bro, they want you to wake up now."
He was trying, he really was. He could hear the words but couldn't understand them. He knew who it was. Sammy? Is Sammy okay? What's going on?
Dean began to claw his way to the surface, to consciousness. He had to get to Sam, to make sure he was all right, to get rid of whatever was threatening him. His eyelids began to flutter, and Sam's voice got clearer as Dean came further out of the darkness. A small moan escaped his lips as he struggled.
"That's it, Dean. Keep coming. We need you to wake up now."
Sammy was closer. Dean's eyes began to stay open for longer intervals as he tried to find his little brother. There was warmth on his forehead, and something strong but gentle was squeezing his right hand.
"Come on, Dean. You're almost here."
Dean felt the warmth on his forehead shift and begin making soothing motions, causing some of his fear and panic to recede as he realized Sam was fine. He knew that touch; it was Sam's. The tired hunter closed his eyes for just a second more then opened them again, locking on his brother's face, his head turning into the comforting touch. He squeezed the hand that was holding his. Sam smiled.
"Welcome back, Dean. You're in recovery. The nurses want to get you out of here and into a room. Something about being tired of looking at your ugly mug."
Dean closed his eyes again, a single tear escaping as relief swept through him. "Hndsmmme."
Sam chuckled, "You wish. But take it easy. It's okay, Dean. You're in a hospital. You had surgery and you're going to be fine. No vital organs were involved at all. You lost a lot of blood, but they're giving you transfusions, so you should feel better pretty soon."
Dean nodded against Sam's hand, opening his eyes and taking comfort as his brother continued speaking.
"They're going to take the oxygen off temporarily until you get to your room, so you can rest some more then, okay?"
A female voice from Dean's left said gently. "Are you ready, Mr. Webster?"
Dean glanced at Sam who gave him a barely perceptible nod. Dean Webster. Got it. Dean nodded to the nurse.
"Are you feeling any pain, nausea, or dizziness, Mr. Webster?"
Dean shook his head and tried to speak, but his voice came out raspy and his throat was sore. The longer he was awake he realized that the sore throat was really his only discomfort. He frowned and pointed to his throat.
The nurse nodded. "That's from the intubation tube used during surgery. A sore throat will usually only last a very few hours. I'll bring you some ice chips."
In the silence that followed, Dean realized that Sam still had one hand on his forehead and was holding his hand with the other. He shot Sam a 'get your hands off me and never mention this again' look that made Sam smile. He closed his eyes and relished the final rub on his forehead from his brother's thumb, holding Sam's hand a second longer when Sam let go. Dean regretted the loss of the warmth, but he had an image to maintain. Neither brother spoke until the nurse returned.
"Here you go, Mr. Webster. We're going to let you suck on the ice chips while we move you to your room, okay?"
Dean nodded without speaking. The ice chips were relieving some of the soreness, so he lay back to let a few of them melt, the cold sliding down his throat.
Sam jumped out of the way as an orderly came to move the bed. Dean laughed inwardly as he noticed his brother suddenly look out of place and awkward, hands stuffed in his pockets. He filed the picture away for future use in teasing his little brother about his size.
The ride to his room was old hat for Dean so he lay against the pillow watching the ceiling tiles as they flew by. He'd made this trip way too many times, sometimes for himself and others, more frighteningly, for Sam. All the hospitals essentially looked the same with a few minor differences. He closed his eyes against the movement and the accompanying slight feeling of nausea.
His room turned out to be a private room as the orderly explained that this facility only had private rooms. Dean was relieved with that news as it meant not dealing with a roommate or sharing the TV. It also meant that Sam could stay as long as they wanted without bothering anyone else.
A second orderly magically appeared to help get Dean from the gurney to his own bed. The task was quickly accomplished by grabbing the sheet and gently pulling him over. Dean held his breath but relaxed with the careful handling.
After settling, Dean looked around in search of Sam, to whom he gave a tired smile.
Sam nodded as he moved closer, pulling a chair with him so he could sit beside Dean's bed.
A pretty brunette came into the room to check Dean's vitals and IV. Her name tag read 'C. Anderson'. Dean wanted to give her his best smile but decided that would have to wait. She was all business, and he really just wanted to close his eyes for a bit. After leaving instructions on the use of the bed controls, TV remote, and call button, the nurse left both brothers to relax.
The exhausted patient looked over at the younger Winchester through barely open eyelids. He saw Sam lean forward and pat his arm. The words "Go to sleep, Dean, I'll be right here when you wake up" came from somewhere far away as Dean slipped off into dreamless sleep.
He could hear sounds again, but they didn't seem close and certainly not threatening — mostly beeping, voices, other sounds that weren't quite recognizable. He lay there listening, wishing it would all go away. He was still tired and only wanted to sleep some more. He felt someone move closer. Dean felt his little brother's distinctive essence.
"Dean? Did the TV wake you? I'm sorry; I thought I had the volume down pretty low."
The older sibling gave up trying to go back to sleep, opening his eyes to see concerned hazel eyes looking intently at him. "'S okay, Smmmy," Dean grimaced and closed his eyes again.
There was suddenly a straw at his lips along with Sam's voice. "Take a sip of this. It's ice water."
Dean did as instructed, sighing in relief as the cooling liquid slid down his throat. Giving his brother a grateful smile, he closed his eyes again for a moment. He thought it was very nice here. It was quiet, Sam was there, the ice water felt soothing to his sore throat, and he didn't have to do anything right now but lie there. Maybe he could just stay like this for a while. He grinned to himself at the thought. Suddenly, his mind's eye saw his brother standing above him with a saddled horse. His eyes popped open and flew to where his brother was settling back in his chair.
"Hrse?" he whispered.
"What?" Sam was instantly at his side.
"Oh, yeah. Horse. I had to ride a horse to go get the Impala. Do you remember that?"
Dean gave a nod with a little shrug and immediately regretted it.
"Lie still, man. You've had surgery after a nasty fall, remember?"
He gave a tired smile as he closed his eyes. Soon, he was back under.
Together they were walking along the top of a hill, both keeping a lookout for the spirit they were hunting. The sun had just gone down and the sky in the west was beautiful with its last rays of the day. Not expecting too many problems until full dark, the brothers were enjoying some banter as they walked.
"Dude, you so did!"
"Did not!" Sam grumbled.
"Fine, Princess. Whatever you say." Dean smirked.
Noticing the sunset, Sam slapped his brother's arm as he stopped and pointed. "Beautiful, huh?"
"Yeah, Sammy, it is." Dean liked to look at things like this sunset, but they rarely got the chance to enjoy such things. Allowing a few seconds, he then glanced at his baby brother, noticing the peace on his face. Smiling at the rare look, Dean turned to resume their trek. Suddenly, his foot slipped on some loose gravel and he went down, heading for the drop off.
Letting out a small shout, Dean jerked awake from his nightmare, the movement causing his side to feel like it was in flames. "No! Aaahhh!" His face reflecting his agony, he scrunched his eyes as he rolled his head back and forth and tried to move away from the pain.
Sam was instantly beside him, talking in soothing tones and gently pressing his hand on his brother's arm to try to get him to stop moving. "Sshhhhh, Dean. Try to stop wiggling around, man, you're hurt. Lie still, okay? You're in the hospital, and I'm right here. It's okay."
Slowly, Dean responded to Sam's request and quieted his movements. His breathing took a little longer to get under control, however. "'M okay, Sammy."
"I can see that." Sam handed his brother a small remote similar to the call button. "This is morphine on demand, Dean. You just push the little button when you need it. Doc said it'd help you get better if you stayed ahead of the pain." At Dean's look, Sam explained, "It's regulated, so you can't OD. It'll only allow so much."
Dean gripped the remote and pushed the button twice with his thumb. In mere seconds, the pain began to recede, Dean's breathing leveled, and his body relaxed. He let himself go with it.
"What was that, Dean?" Sam's quiet voice asked.
"Nothing, Sammy, 'm fine" came the sleepy reply.
"Did you have a nightmare?"
"Gonna slp, Smmm."
This time, there were no dreams.
Dean awoke feeling much better. It was nice not to have to claw his way to consciousness, but to awaken more naturally. He remembered he was in the hospital and why, but there was only slight discomfort at the moment. He lay there feeling almost content for some reason. No, not content, safe. That was it; he felt safe.
His eyes opened and, blinking to clear them, sought his brother. He had to chuckle at the sight that greeted him. Sam's freakishly long body was draped over the typical hospital chair in what looked like a very uncomfortable position. His head was back and soft snores were coming from his wide open mouth. What the older brother wouldn't give for a camera right now.
Trying to keep the laughter out of his voice, Dean tried "Sammy?" Laughter-stifling was given up when Sam nearly fell of the chair as he jerked awake, arms and legs flailing to try to stay balanced.
"Dean? How you doin', man?"
"I'm feeling better, thanks to you," Dean laughed. "That was great, dude!"
"Shut up!" Sam rubbed his eyes.
"Fine, I'll go back to sleep then."
"Are you still so exhausted?"
"No, I'm feeling much better. Why?"
"You're not receiving any more blood. The latest CBC showed your level to be normal, so the blood that was lost has been replaced. Your body should be able to keep up now. How's the pain?"
Dean hesitated and looked at the morphine control. He realized that his throat no longer hurt and his voice was stronger. "It's not bad at the moment, but I haven't moved yet either. It's nice to feel awake."
Contrary to what some people deduced about him from his drinking, Dean hated not being in control. If he wasn't in control, he couldn't keep Sam safe. That was his number one priority, no matter what. Speaking of which, his kid brother wasn't looking so hot himself. "How're you, Sam? You need to get a motel room and get some sleep, dude. I don't want you to get sick because you're all worn down."
Sam shook his shaggy head. "I'm good. I talked them into bringing in a chair that makes into a bed, and you have a shower in your bathroom. No need for a motel."
"I will tonight. It's not time for bed yet. I was just resting."
Dean nodded and looked around at what he was hooked up to. All that machinery gave him the heebie-jeebies. He hated hospitals. He let his eyes return to Sam. "How long?"
"Have you been here?" Dean nodded. "About a day and a half. Not bad for what you've been through."
The injured man rolled his eyes and Sam put his hand on his big brother's arm.
"Look, I know you hate it here because here is a hospital, but you're going to behave yourself." At Dean's scowl, Sam continued, "I promise I won't let them keep you any longer than necessary. We'll sneak out if we have to. Okay?"
Dean allowed himself to relax a little at his brother's assurances. It wasn't just being in the hospital that was the problem for him; it was being in the hospital alone. He wasn't alone, so he could handle this.
A heavy-set aide tentatively stepped into the room with a tray in her hands. "Anyone for some food?" Dean rolled his eyes again while Sam smiled as he moved the table so it was in front of his brother. The cheerful woman placed the tray on the table, smiling brightly at the brothers before turning to waddle out the door.
Dean watched as Sam took off the lids to expose a bowl of broth, some green Jell-O, and hot tea. Tea? "I want some coffee, Sam."
"I'll make sure you get some in the morning. You have to, um, well 'eat' this meal tonight. It's your first meal after surgery. Mmmmm, beef broth!" Sam sniffed.
"You eat it. I want a cheeseburger."
"I'm not going to fight or argue with you about this. Just do this tonight and I'll sneak something in tomorrow. Please?"
Dean scowled up at his brother, but caved when the puppy eyes appeared. He knew it had to be this way, but nothing ventured… He should have known better.
An hour later, the tray was gone and Dean was getting drowsy again. He just thought he'd send Sam for some food of his own when a male nurse walked in.
"Mr. Webster, it's time to get you up out of bed. We need you to begin taking some steps to get your body strengthened so you'll be ready when it's time to be released."
The smile and the energy of the nurse were annoying enough that Dean wanted to tell him to go to Hell, but Sam cut him off.
"Great! I'll help if you need it." Sam smiled at Dean but was rewarded with a frown.
Dean watched as the nurse — 'Dave', according to his tag — placed a clipboard on the table and set about arranging the various pieces of equipment so they'd be portable for Dean to move around the room. Dave gently helped Dean to an upright sitting position and supported him until he was steady. As Dave reached to pull Dean's legs to the side of the bed, Dean gasped and put his good hand out.
"WAIT!" Dave and Sam both jumped at the force of the command. Dave actually stepped back a couple of paces.
The older hunter's scowl was a minor indication of his displeasure at what he suspected. His eyes bored into the nurse as he leaned forward as far as he could before the pain stopped him. "Do I have a catheter?"
Dave blinked at the patient as Sam put a hand up to his mouth to try and stifle the laugh that threatened to erupt from his lips like Mt. Vesuvius.
"Answer me!" came as a dangerous growl when Dave was too stunned to answer immediately.
Shaking himself, Dave managed to get out "Well, um, yes you do, Mr. Webster. You see you've been unconscious and the body continues to function under those conditions. We had to— "
"Take it out."
"Um, we can't do that just yet, sir. You see, we need to make sure you can—"
"Take. It. Out."
"Now!" The hunter was fighting for control. He didn't want to hurt this man, but there was no way he was going to allow this humiliation to continue.
He felt his brother's hand grip his arm in what was meant to be a calming gesture, but he shook the hand away as he glanced at his brother. "No, Sam. You know how I feel about this." Looking back at Dave, he raised an eyebrow. "Well?"
Dean was grateful to his younger sibling for letting him go, but also glad he hadn't moved away. He was beginning to tire, but this was important.
"I'll have to call the doctor."
"Okay, then call the doctor. I'll be right here when you get back."
Dave turned and hurried out of the room. Dean began to tilt as his strength finally gave out. Strong arms surrounded him and helped him lie back as Sam's quiet voice murmured in his ear. Dean clung to the voice to keep from losing consciousness. It felt really good to lie back.
Noticing the sunset, Sam slapped his brother's arm as he stopped and pointed. "Beautiful, huh?"
"Yeah, Sammy, it is." Suddenly, his foot slipped on some loose gravel and he went down, heading for the drop off. He tried to keep from going over, but the slant was too steep and there was nothing to hold on to.
"Sam! Help me!"
Dean jerked awake to find Sam in his face. "Are you okay, Dean?"
Rubbing his face to clear the cobwebs, Dean said, "Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"
"You passed out. Scared me for a second, but the doc said you were fine. You really used up a lot of energy on that poor aide, man. You got your way, though. The catheter's gone." Sam gave a little half smile.
"Sorry I scared you. I know it was dumb, but it was important to me."
"I know. Why did you call me?"
"What? I didn't call you."
"Yes, you did. Just now when you woke up. You said, 'Sam, help me'."
"Oh. I don't know. Just a dream, I guess. Must not have been a good one, though, huh?" Dean didn't think Sam would take this lightly, but he hoped his little brother wouldn't push either.
Something flickered in Sam's eyes, but he didn't pursue the situation.
Sam converted the chair bed into its 'bed' form and lay down. His feet stuck off the end about eight inches, causing the older Winchester to laugh at the sight. Sam gave him a one-finger salute in return.
"Actually, Dean, despite the shortness of the bed, it's quite comfortable; better than a motel bed. I should sleep like a baby tonight." Sam gave a contented sigh as he stretched out with his hands behind his head.
"Well, that's appropriate for my baby brother." Dean smiled as he received another salute.
The injured man reached over and pushed the button on the morphine dispenser, relaxing as the medication began to take hold. It had been a busy day for him, causing his injury to register its anger at the activity. The bandages had been changed, and he'd received a lecture about scaring the nurses. He'd been poked, prodded, gotten out of bed to walk, and gone to the bathroom and back (with Sam having to help him the last several steps). Dean was bone tired. He wanted to forget about everything and get some really good rest tonight.
Sam got up to turn off the light, leaving only the faint light coming in around the door and a little light coming in the window from the parking lot outside below. Dean could hear his brother settling down on his 'bed' and grinned at the mental picture. Closing his eyes, he was soon sound asleep.
Dean and Sam were walking along the top of a hill, both keeping a lookout for the spirit they were hunting. The sun had just gone down and the sky in the west was beautiful with its last rays of the day. Not expecting too many problems until full dark, the brothers were enjoying some banter as they walked.
"Dude, you so did!"
"Did not!" Sam grumbled.
"Fine, Princess. Whatever you say." Dean smirked.
Noticing the sunset, Sam slapped his brother's arm as he stopped and pointed. "Beautiful, huh?"
"Yeah, Sammy, it is." Dean liked to look at things like this sunset, but they rarely got the chance to enjoy such things. Allowing a few seconds, he then glanced at his baby brother, noticing the peace on his face. Smiling at the rare look, Dean turned to resume their trek. Suddenly, his foot slipped on some loose gravel and he went down, heading for the drop off. He tried to keep from going over, but the slant was too steep and there was nothing to hold on to.
As he lost sight of his brother, he cried, "Sam! Help me!"
Suddenly, there was a white hot pain in his side as his descent halted, and he screamed.
"Dean, wake up. Dean! Come on, man, you're dreaming. Wake up!"
Four Weeks Later
Dean was cranky. He'd been out of the hospital and living in this motel room/crappy little furnished apartment for three weeks, but he still felt like crap. The wound was healing and the doctors were happy, but Dean wasn't. He was tired. The nightmares wouldn't leave him alone. He could hardly even take a nap without returning to the moment he'd been impaled on that branch. Sam didn't know the nightmares touched even his naps since he'd taken to disappearing for hours at a time — 'looking for another hunt', he'd said. 'Just what you need', he'd said. Truth be told, Dean was glad Sam was leaving for a while every day. The mother hen routine had gotten way past old as far as Dean was concerned. One day he'd tell Sam about the nightmare. Maybe. Sam knew it was happening, just not the content.
Dean rubbed his hands over his face and went out the front door to the little 'porch'. There was sunshine and a couple of not-too-uncomfortable chairs. He sat down wearily. The inactivity was beginning to make him a little crazy, but the fatigue was overpowering. They'd driven to the diner for meals, but he couldn't muster the energy to do much of anything else. He knew Sam was worried, but Dean didn't want to talk about it. Part of him thought Sam was going out during the day to get away from him. That thought hadn't done anything to improve his mood either.
Leaning forward in the chair with his elbows on his knees, Dean sighed at the small twitch in his side. He was going to have to get over this nightmare thing in a hurry. It had gone on long enough. He could stand it on his own, but he was making his brother unhappy, and that was unacceptable. He made a vow to be smiling and happy when Sam came home today. Well, maybe tomorrow. He knew Sam wouldn't believe him today.
The familiar rumble of the Impala made Dean look up as his Baby and baby brother pulled into the drive, coming to a stop in front of him. Dean watched as Sam got out of the car with a smile of greeting as he came over to him. Dean could tell he was being appraised and tried to smile back just like every other time Sam came home. His brother's eyes flickered enough for just a moment so that Dean knew that Sam was disappointed that 'the mood' hadn't improved.
Without a word, Sam sat down next to his brother. They sat there in silence for a few moments until Dean sensed that Sam had come to some sort of decision.
"So how was your day?"
"Not bad. Just sat around here and did nothing all day. Took a walk. Walked out to the road and back." Dean made a 'big deal' motion with his hand. "Did you find anything for us?"
"Not really, but there's something I'd like us to do this evening, if that's okay."
"It's not a big deal at all, Dean," Sam enthused. "We'll go grab a bite at the diner and then go for a little drive. There's something I want to show you. Okay?"
Dean didn't want to look at his brother. He knew the puppy dog eyes were in full force. He didn't have to see them; he could feel them. Dean was toast. There just was no defense against that weapon and Dean knew his brother knew that, too. Dean caved.
"Fine, Sam. We'll go for a bite and then go for a ride in the car like a couple of old dudes that have nothing else to do on a summer evening."
Sam was excited. He could hardly sit still during dinner at the diner. He watched his brother pick at his food and not even pay much attention to the coffee. Or the waitress. Sam knew that Dean was still having the nightmares about the fall. He also knew that Dean thought he was keeping that little tidbit to himself, but little-brother-instinct was fail-proof. The dark circles under Dean's eyes, the restlessness and fatigue, the trying to stay awake all the time all told Sam everything he needed to know.
He smiled to himself. Let's see what we can do about that this evening.
Dean wasn't hungry. That's all there was to it; he just wasn't hungry. He knew he was losing weight, that he needed the nourishment to help his body heal, but he needed rest, too. He wasn't getting it.
Flopping his fork down on his plate, he looked up at Sam. "Are you about ready to go?"
Sam looked at his brother in surprise, down at his plate, and then at his own plate. "I guess so, but aren't you going to eat anything? You need to eat to get your strength back."
"Stop it, Sam. I just don't want anything!" Dean's voice was getting louder. Sam looked around the diner at the other patrons as he made a quieting gesture. A few faces had turned toward them, but most weren't paying any attention.
"Okay, okay. It's fine. We'll go now." Sam threw some money on the table and waited for his brother to get up so they could leave. He'd learned long ago that his big brother didn't want to be hovered over, and it would definitely be counterproductive right now. He watched his older brother exit the booth like an old man and followed him out to the Impala.
"Let's just go home, Sam. I don't really feel like going for a ride, okay?"
"No, Dean. There's something I'd like you to see before we head back. I'm sure you'll enjoy it."
Dean nodded, if only to prevent another appearance of "those eyes" for the second time in one day. He got in the passenger seat and leaned back.
Sam started the powerful engine and pulled out of the parking lot, turning in the opposite direction from the way they had come. After a few minutes of driving, Dean began to sit up and look around. They were leaving the town behind and seemed to be heading out to the country. When Sam turned off the main road onto a less than well cared for lane, Dean could keep quiet no longer.
"Where're we going, Sam?"
"It's just a little bit further. We'll be there in a couple of minutes."
"Sam, you know I hate surprises!" Dean was beginning to growl.
"You'll like this, Dean. Look up there!" Sam pointed out the window. Dean looked to see some buildings of varying sizes in the middle distance.
"What is it, Sam, a farm? Are we here for a hunt? I don't think I'm up for it." The hunter put his arm over his side protectively as he spoke.
"Yes, dude, it's a farm; and no, it's not a hunt. Just hang on a second, okay?"
Dean scowled at his brother, continuing to stare suspiciously at the far buildings as they came closer. An old house came clearly into view. It really looked like no one lived there at all. As they got closer, he saw that the other buildings behind the house were typical farm buildings: a barn, a shed, and a corral; nothing suspicious, really. What did his little brother have in mind here?
Sam expertly brought the big car to a halt in front of the barn as an old man stepped out of the building. He smiled at them as he offered a salute to Sam. Dean's eyebrows went up as his brother got out of the car and greeted the old man.
"Hi, Jed. Didn't think I'd be back today, but it seems like today is the day after all."
"Sam, I told you, any time!" The two shook hands like old friends.
Dean's eyebrows were up to his hairline as he slowly got out of the car, glancing from his brother to the other man and back again. "Someone want to tell me what's going on?"
"This must be Dean?" Jed stepped toward Dean with his hand extended. "Glad to finally meet you, young man. I've been hearing about you every day and I feel like I already know you. My name's Jed."
Shooting his brother a look, Dean carefully reached out to take the offered hand. Jed grabbed it and began pumping it up and down with glee. Dean flinched and Jed let go immediately.
"Sorry, son. Sam told me about your accident and that you'd be coming out here one of these days. I was so glad to finally meet you, I forgot. Hope I didn't hurt you too much!"
Sam had moved toward his brother, but Dean waved him off and smiled at Jed. He found that he'd taken an immediate liking to the older man. "Nah, Jed, I'm fine, really. It'll just take time is all."
"Great!" Jed gushed. "Do you know which one you want?"
Dean was really confused now, and turned to Sam. "Which what do I want for what?"
It was now Jed's turn to be confused as he too turned to Sam.
Sam gestured to the corral where several horses were standing at the fence watching the three men. "You get to choose the horse you want to ride, Dean. We came here to ride horses."
If Dean's eyebrows could have gone any higher, they would have. It was too much to process and he wasn't really sure he'd heard right. "What?"
"We came here to ride horses." Sam repeated, slapping his brother gently on his good shoulder. "I haven't been going to the library every day, I've been coming here to work. I've been helping take care of the horses, figuring it was the least I could do since this is where I borrowed the horse the night you were hurt."
Dean leaned against the car. It was too much for him. His brother had been keeping this a secret all this time. He realized his brother was still speaking and tried to gather himself together to pay attention.
"I wanted to make sure Dream had gotten home safely and do what I could to repay Jed. Dream was here, and after I'd worked for a few days, Jed insisted on paying me. That's how we've had the money for the apartment and everything."
Sam was beaming at him. Dean couldn't help but feel a huge swelling of pride that his little brother had really stepped up to the plate on this one. "So Sammy's been working on a horse farm?"
"It's been a lot of fun. I couldn't turn down the money when it was offered." Sam shrugged at the idea he'd done something special. It had felt good to be the provider, to take care of his older brother who'd taken care of him his whole life. Tossing a hand in the direction of the horses in the corral, Sam looked at Dean. "Which one do you think you'd like to ride?"
His big brother looked at the horses skeptically. "I'm not sure I should ride yet. It sounds wonderful, but …" His voice trailed off as he put a protective hand on his side.
"It's fine. You know your doctor wants you to get some exercise. I talked to him just yesterday about this. He thought it was a great idea. Which horse do you want?"
"No. You're not getting out of this. We're not leaving until you've ridden a horse." Sam's voice softened a little. "I know you want to. You know you want to."
The older brother's shoulders sagged. He did know he wanted to ride. It had been a long time. He stood staring at the horses in the corral for a moment then looked over at Jed. "It's really okay?"
Jed nodded enthusiastically. "Of course it's okay. Any horse you want."
Dean looked back at his little brother's hopeful expression. "Which one is Dream?"
Sam fairly jumped with joy as he took hold of his big brother's arm to draw him to the corral. "Dean, this is Chestnut Dream. Dream, this is my big brother, Dean. You remember him, right?"
The older hunter grinned at the introduction but put his hand out to the beautiful animal that was watching him curiously. Dream stretched his nose forward to be fondled and Dean happily obliged. "Do you want to go for a ride, big guy?" He grinned as his little brother bounced from one foot to the other in excitement. He turned to Jed. "Is it all right if I ride him?"
Jed gave a happy grin. "Of course. I told Sam you could ride any one you want and that includes Dream. Let me get you some tack, and we'll get him ready."
Sam took off toward the barn, unable to stand still any longer. "I'll get it!" he called over his shoulder.
The older men chuckled at the youngest man's enthusiasm. "Sam's been looking forward to this."
"I can tell." Dean laughed. He realized that it actually felt good to laugh; the pain in his side wasn't much trouble at all. Maybe this really was a good idea.
A short time later, Dream was out of the corral and ready for the hunter to mount. Jed held the bridle while Sam enthusiastically walked his older brother forward. Dean had to laugh. "Dude! Could you be any more…" His hands waved in the air as he was unable to come up with an appropriate word.
Sam pulled a face. "Do you need some help getting into the saddle?"
Glaring at his little brother, Dean grabbed the saddle horn, placed his foot in the stirrup, and pulled himself up to straddle the magnificent horse. A minor twinge was the only complaint from his side. Sam mounted his own horse, and the brothers took off down the trail at a walk. Riding in companionable silence for a while, Dean decided this was good, but he wanted a little more. He gave his horse a nudge and Dream willingly stepped up his pace. Sam's horse also moved quicker without being encouraged.
After a few more of these actions, Dean turned to his little brother with a Million Dollar Smile on his face. Sam could have cried from the joy of seeing that look which had been missing for so long. What he didn't expect was the "'Bye, Sammy" that was tossed his way as his big brother urged his horse forward. He watched in happy surprise as the older Winchester and Dream took off.
Dean leaned slightly forward and, squeezing with his knees and jabbing with his heels, fell into the easy rhythm as Dream stretched his head forward and moved into a flat out gallop. His short spiked hair lay almost flat against his scalp, and Dream's mane and tail were straight out as the horse gave his all. Dean leaned over further and couldn't help the smile that appeared on his face. It'd been a long time since he'd felt this kind of freedom; he gave himself over to the feeling of exhilaration that swept through him.
The pain in his side receded until it became as if he'd never been injured. He let the wind blow through his mind and his soul as it blew through his hair, taking his cares and worries and horrors of the life he led with it. His shoulders relaxed as the tension leeched from them. Horse and rider were one.