Walking Wounded

Chapter 1

Dean was keeping his left arm very still. It was something of a problem, driving without moving his left hand, but the pain was such that he didn't really have a choice. In the days since the demon had shot him the bullet wound had become a little infected and as uncomfortable as it had been, it was now worse. He could let Sam drive, but he didn't want to let his brother know why he needed him to take the wheel. In fact, he didn't want Sam to know about that wound at all. His brother hadn't mentioned remembering shooting him, so Dean was just letting it go. He sighed and shifted a little. Nothing like cold water to aggravate a wound. Well, nothing like cold water and a demon shoving your brother's thumb into it to aggravate a wound.

Sam was quiet in the passenger seat. They hadn't been talking about much these last three days. They hadn't been talking much at all. Sam snapped answers to simple questions most of the time or just sat staring out the window or at the motel room wall or the table in whatever diner they stopped at for their meals. Dean was pretty sure his brother was angry with him. As if I didn't have enough to worry about, now he's mad because I didn't kill him. Dean was sure that was the crux of the problem. And what the hell am I supposed to do about it? Say sorry kiddo, next time I'll just put a bullet in your head? He gripped the steering wheel and ground his teeth together. So, on top of everything else, I have that. Just freaking great.

His shoulder was really beginning to throb. He tried shifting again, didn't help. He moved his left leg up a tiny bit and braced his arm against it. Damn it hurt. He knew that he was going to have to stop for the night—as early as it was—or ask Sam to drive. Neither of which is a great option. Stopping might be best. Sam looks tired, I'll use that as an excuse if I need it. He was still trying to decide what to do several minutes later.

"Dean?" Sam said suddenly, looking over at him with a slight frown on his face.

"Yeah, Sam?"

"It looks like we're coming up on a town. Would it be ok if we just stopped for the night? You never know how far it will be to the next town out here."

"Sure, Sam, sounds good." He started watching the signs. The first exit with "lodging" he pulled off. They found a small motel, clean, if a little shabby, and got a room for the night. They carried their bags in and Sam offered to walk to the store they had spotted to get food and drinks for the night. Dean watched his brother as he walked slowly away from the motel. We are going to need to talk about this sometime. We were just getting back on our feet and this happened. What can I do? What can I say?

Since Sam was at the store that meant Dean got the coveted first shower of the evening. Good thing too, I can get a look at this wound before Sam's back. He grabbed his stuff and headed into the bathroom. Getting his shirt off was more trouble than he planned on. The wound had seeped and his t-shirt was stuck firmly to the bandage, and the bandage was glued to his shoulder. Nice. What is it about my left shoulder, anyway? Someone up there hates it, fire irons, bullets, thumbs—they all get to go into my left shoulder. It'd be nice to balance out the scars. He laughed at his train of thought, then stopped and looked at himself in the mirror. Uh oh. His eyes were a little glassy and his cheeks looked red. Fever, great.

Once his shirt was off he tugged gently at the bandage underneath. It didn't budge. He tried again, a little harder. He could feel the wound pulling, the gauze tearing the wound open again. He soaked a washcloth with warm water and placed it on the bandage. Once it was thoroughly wet he pulled the bandage off. The wound looked bad. It had a green tinge and the edges were red. He hoped those red streaks were just from removing the bandage, but he really doubted his luck would be that good. The infection is getting worse. I might need to have Sam help with this. No, I can't tell him, he has enough to cope with—without my telling him he shot me. I'll just do my best.

Once he had showered—and wow, hot shower and bullet wound, not a great combination—he carefully redressed the wound. It was still seeping. It actually looked like it was getting worse. He knew his temperature was going up. He had that giddy, slightly nauseous feeling he always got when he had a fever. He found a couple of aspirin and took them before exiting the bathroom.

Sam looked up at him when he came in the room. "Took your own sweet time in there, Dean."

He thought of about a hundred smart remarks, but all he said was "Sorry, I must be tired." Sam looked at him sharply. Oops. That was enough unlike me for him to think something's wrong.

"They had fried chicken at the store, I hope that's ok?" Sam said putting food out on the small table.

"Anything sounds good. Thanks," Dean said as he sat down. He bumped his left arm into the table. It hurt so bad tears came to his eyes. He looked down at the food, trying to hide his face from his overly observant brother.

"Yeah, sure," Sam was looking at him. Dean could feel it.

Just eat your dinner, Sam. Ignore me. "This isn't bad for grocery store chicken," Dean said. And am I talking about the food? Yep. I think I just want to talk with Sam. Funny, I miss him when he's quiet.

Sam frowned at him, "Yeah. It's pretty good. Dean?"

"Yeah, Sammy?"

"Is there anything…" He stopped. It looked like he had changed his mind about what he was planning to say. "Is there anything else you want with dinner? I got chips and stuff."

"Thanks. Chips sound good. Did you remember dessert?"

"If M&Ms qualify as dessert." Sam said smiling at him.

That's the first smile I've seen in a couple of days. Missed that, too. "Did you notice if the motel has cable?"

"Cable, but not expanded. I think you might miss that metal thing you wanted to see on VH1 Classic. I checked when I got back."

He did what? "Too bad. I was looking forward to it, but they'll probably repeat it."

"Yeah, they always do. How many times have you seen 'Heavy the Story of Metal'?"

"Not enough, never enough. That would be like seeing Spinal Tap too many times, just can't happen." Dean said laughing.

"Not sure I'd agree with that. I think more than a thousand is too many times for Spinal Tap."

"Nah, never enough." He smiled at Sam. "I think I'll have dessert in front of the TV." Because if I don't lie down now he'll have to carry me and he might figure out there's a problem.

"Sure, Dean. I think I'll get in the shower." Sam got up and got his stuff out of his bag and headed to the bathroom.

If I didn't know better I would think he was trying to give me space. No, he's still mad and we talked too long at dinner, that's more likely what's up. Dean stood up and walked stiffly to the bed. The aspirin didn't seem to be working very well, he knew his fever was climbing. His arm was throbbing with a steady beat. He was nauseous. The food he had just eaten already threatening to come back. Damn. I would have gotten medical attention, but it's a bullet wound and they have to report those.

He leaned back in the bed and turned the TV on, trying to keep everything looking normal for Sam's sake. But nothing was normal. Nothing. His brother was pissed at him because Dean refused to kill Sam, even with goading from the demon. His brother had been possessed. The demon wearing Sam's body had killed someone, had shot Dean. In the middle of a bad year, things just keep getting worse. Sam's silence hurt him more than anything. Usually they talked things through—as much as Dean pretended he didn't like to talk about stuff—and since that first night, they hadn't mentioned it. Not at all—it was almost like it was just a bad dream, except for the silence and the throbbing wound in Dean's shoulder.

In that silence, the wound went unmentioned. Dean didn't want Sam to know about it, he wanted to protect his brother from that, as long as he could. He didn't want Sam to have to think that he had shot him. Because he didn't shoot me, the demon shot me, just because it looked like Sam doesn't mean it was Sam.

Dean shifted in the bed, didn't help. His shoulder seemed to have reached some kind of boiling point. He was feeling worse. Steadily worse. The need to not tell Sam what happened was beginning to conflict with his need of his brother's care. His brother's comfort. I can't tell him what happened, but I need him. Not just to care for the damn wound. I need Sam. Simple as that. I miss him when he's silent. Those days when he was missing nearly killed me. My fever must be getting fairly high to admit that, even to myself.

He drifted off to sleep before Sam got out of the shower. He thought he heard him come out, but he wasn't really sure. He didn't wake up enough to know one way or the other. The only reason he was even a tiny bit awake was that he was beginning to get chilled. At the edge of his awareness he heard Sam moving around the room. It sounded normal, comforting, he felt warmer and dozed off.

He dreamed. Nightmare and memory becoming intertwined. Sam asking about demons when he was eight or nine. Sam shooting him. Yellow eyes. His eleven year old brother hiding during a hunt. Blood, pain. Sam tied to a chair at Bobby's. Sam begging Dean to kill him. Sam scraping his knee and coming to Dean to fix it. The demon, their father, Sam.

He clawed away from the dream, up through the layer of consciousness. He knew, before he was all the way awake, that he was in trouble. His fever had risen, the pain and throbbing in his arm was almost too much to bear and the smell told him the infection had gone from annoying to deadly serious. In that feverish moment all else was forgotten. He reached out to the one thing he needed, the one thing he knew could help.

"Sam?" Silence from his brother's bed. "Sammy?"

To be continued