Dean was floating. It was warm, comfortable. Sammy must have gotten his hands on some pretty high-powered drugs for this feeling. He knew he wasn't anywhere close to awake, still dreaming in a warm lake. He couldn't feel his body at all. Which is weird, really weird. He could hear something—raspy, labored. Is that me? Am I snoring? Sammy'll kill me. Other sounds. Someone was talking to him, maybe. He just floated there, disconnected from himself, disconnected from the world. There were still those sounds, he couldn't quite make them out, he tried to focus.
"My heart's about to give out, man. Please Dean." That was Sam. He could hear the fear in his brother's voice. There was something wrong. He struggled against the floating sensation, clawing his way away from the warm lake, towards his brother's voice. His heart was pounding wildly. Dean started choking. There was something lodged in his throat. He couldn't breath.
"He's fighting the sedation, he's going to crash."
"Dean no, you don't get to do this." Sam's voice, terrified. "You just stay here, do you hear me, Dean?" What? Sammy are you ok? Wait, there was a note, wasn't there? Sam's gone, that can't be Sam. He felt himself slipping back down, he tried to fight it for a moment, but then Sam's gone, and the dark won out. There was no sound, no sensation, just silence.
He was floating again, aware, but not quite. He could hear sounds around him. The raspy sound, something was beeping. I'm in a hospital. How did I get here? Sam. He must have brought me in. Why? My shoulder. Something was wrong with it, I think. I wasn't feeling really good.
"How long will he have to be on the respirator?" A voice, tired, weary, afraid. Sammy?
"We're not sure. If he starts responding to treatment…" Another voice, official.
"How long till we know?" Sam sounds like he's been crying or something. Are they talking about me?
"We can't be sure, I'm sorry."
"Thanks," there was silence for a minute. Then Sam's voice again. "That look they all give me is driving me nuts, Dean. I've been amusing myself picturing fun ways to wipe it off their faces. Fun, violent and bloody ways to wipe it off their face." That sounded like Sam's voice, but it didn't really sound like Sam. He heard his brother sigh.
"Damn it Dean, you need to come back, man." Come back? From where? What's wrong, Sam? "I'm getting sick of this hospital, you know." Well, you brought me here, little brother. "I need you to try and get better, Dean." What is he talking about? What's wrong? "Please Dean, come on, I need you here, dude." There was exhaustion and fear in his brother's voice. He tried to reach Sam, he couldn't, something was holding him back. I think I'm drugged. He fought harder. He needed to get to Sam, he needed Sam.
"Dean! No! Relax. Come on, don't fight it. Just stay relaxed." Sam said. Dean started choking again. What did they say? I'm on a respirator? Is that what's choking me?
"He started choking, help him!" Sam sounded terrified again. Dean knew they'd given him something, he felt the warm dark reaching out to him again. Sam? "It's ok," his brother's voice. "Just work on getting better and they'll take you off that damn thing." Sam's voice faded into the dark.
"I think I might be running out of things to say," Sam's voice again. How long has it been, Sam? "I don't know what to say to the doctor or the nurses anymore. They come in here and tell me…" Sam stopped, he cleared his throat. "But I told them they were wrong, you know? They have to be wrong, Dean. Do you hear me?" Sam sighed. Dean was worried, he could hear that Sam was near his breaking point. He could hear desperation in his brother's voice.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me?" Sam sounded angry. "How could you let that wound get like that?" I didn't want you to know, Sammy. I wanted to protect you. "You can't die. I won't let you, Dean," Sam's voice broke. "Please don't give up, Dean. Please." I thought you were angry with me, Sam. I'm so sorry. How could I let that happen to you? I couldn't save you from the demon. I couldn't find you. I was terrified, Sam. I thought I'd lost you, I thought you'd left. I can't lose you, Sam, that's not an option, you know. If I were awake, I think I might cry, and how sick am I to admit that?
"Dean? Dean, can you hear me?" Something feather-light touched Dean's face. "Hey, man, it's ok."
Doesn't sound ok, Sammy. It doesn't sound ok at all. He could hear the heart monitor beeping. That doesn't sound good. Is that me?
"Dean, you need to hang on. You just relax, ok? I'm going to call the nurse, but it's going to be ok." He heard Sam leave the room, heard him talking to someone. "I think he can hear me."
"That's impossible, Mr. Halford," Halford? Good one, Sam. "He can't hear you. I know you want to think that, but it's impossible. You need to accept that he is not…"
"Don't say it. He'll be ok." Sam was angry with her, Dean could hear it. Good thing it's Sam there and not me, I would have thrown her out the window for that. What does she mean, anyway?
"He's not responding to treatment, you need to accept that." What? Not responding?
"He'll be ok."
"He has to be." Sam said quietly, Dean wasn't even sure she heard that soft comment. He did. He tried to pull himself out of the dark well, out to the light and not just sounds. "See, see! He can hear us!" Dean could hear the beeping, he was choking again. I don't care. I need to get to Sam.
"No, he needs to come off that thing," Sam sounded desperate, like he was trying to stop something.
"His body is fighting the sedation, that's all. We might need to adjust the dose, I'll speak with the doctor." No Sam, no. Don't let her—ah damn. The floating sensation began to get more pronounced.
"No, No. This isn't working, he needs to come off that thing." Sam, scared, determined.
"I'm getting the doctor."
"You do that."
Dean was drifting further and further from those voices. He heard another voice, but there were no words, only sound. He could still hear Sam, not his words, but Sam. They must have given him something else, darkness suddenly rose up and pulled him down.
He'd been nineteen, not quite twenty, and he had been really seriously injured. He and his father had been hunting and the thing had come at his father. Dean got between it and his dad. There was just no way anything else was happening. He didn't remember much until his father's voice, angry, pulled him back to consciousness.
"Dean! What were you thinking! You don't do that, ever. Do you hear me?" His father said, his voice wild. Dean could sense the car seat under him and he could hear the sound of the engine, racing, pushed to its limit.
"It's ok, Dean. I'm taking you to the emergency room."
"Are you ok, dad?"
"What? Of course I am, you got between it and me. Don't do that again. Ever."
"No choice," he felt weird. His chest was slick, he could smell blood, he knew it was his. "Need to keep my family safe."
"Not me, Dean. Sammy. You need to take care of Sammy and if you do something this stupid how can you take care of your brother?"
"Sammy?" He was feeling bad, really bad. He knew, then, it was serious. He'd been badly hurt before, but this felt a lot worse than last time. He could barely hold on to consciousness. The pain was overwhelming. The thing's claws had torn a swath out of him, tearing flesh away. He was bleeding. He was losing it. "Dad, tell Sammy…"
"No, Dean. You tell your brother. You need to be here to take care of him. I won't tell him anything."
"Bring him?" He needed to see Sammy.
"To the hospital? I don't think that's a good idea."
"Please? See him…Please."
"Ok, Dean. Just hang on till I get you there."
It was the last thing he remembered. There were flashes, the emergency room, pain, his father's face, afraid. Doctors, nurses, the pain of an IV. Then quiet.
"Dean? I'm here." He had actually known the minute Sam had walked into the room. He felt his brother's hand on his. It felt good. Sammy was ok. He needed to know his brother was ok, he needed to know Sammy would be ok, even if Dean didn't make it. And he was pretty sure that would be the case. Sammy sat down beside the bed. He was crying. Dean held his hand, let Sammy hold his hand. Dean knew his brother was there, even when he slept.
His father was alone in the room the next time he woke up. "Dad? Where's Sammy?" His father looked over at him, his eyes were red.
"I sent him off to get coffee and something for himself. He's been here since you came in."
"Yeah, I know," Dean took a breath. It hurt.
"You need to be here for him, Dean. He needs you."
"He has you, it'll be ok."
"No, Dean. It won't be. Sammy needs you, to be there for him, to take care of him. No matter what happens, Dean. That's job one."
"I don't know dad, I feel…" He stopped, Sam came back in the room carefully carrying two cups.
"Dean? You're awake!" He nearly dropped the coffee in his haste to get to the bed. "I've been worried, Dean."
"Hey, Sammy." He watched as his brother put the coffee down and put his hand in Dean's. "How're you doing?"
"Not good, Dean." Sam's eyes were full of tears. Dean knew the tears were for him, he knew his brother was afraid, was "not good" because of him.
"It's going to be ok," he said. "It'll be fine. You'll see." He was pretty sure he was lying to his brother.
"It can't be, Dean, if you're gone." Sam said, he understood what was happening, Dean could hear it in the tone of his voice. "I need you here, Dean. Please."
"It's ok, Sammy, I won't leave. Just give me a day or two, ok?" He hoped that was enough. Dad's right, he thought, Sammy needs me, Sam is job one—it comes before everything, even death.
"Sure Dean, I'll be here everyday. I'll be here."
"I'll be here, Dean." Sam's voice drifted over the memory. "They're not getting me out of this room anytime soon, no matter who they call. And I think they might have called just about everyone at this point."
Dean's throat hurt. It felt scratched, abused. His shoulder was aching, too. Memories crowded back. The demon shooting him, the wound, Sam tied to a chair, Sam at the hotel, cleaning his wound, fever, a note—it said goodbye—Sam's voice "I'll never forgive you." Sam, angry. afraid. "He has to be." The silence, the dark.
"Sam?" Well that was a grunt. "Sam?" Only silence from beside the bed. "Sammy?" Is he gone? Did I imagine it? There was a note…
"Dean?" Sam said, he sounded almost panicked. "Dean?"
"Sam?" Dean managed to open his eyes. That was a lot harder than you'd think. It was bright in the room, the light hurt his head. Sam was standing beside the bed. Dean tried a smile, "hey, Sammy." Sam just dropped. It was like someone chopped his legs out from under him. He fell into the chair. "Sam!" Dean struggled to sit up, to get to his brother. He looked so pale.
Sam put a hand gently on his chest, pushing him back on the bed. "I'm ok, you just surprised me, that's all"
Surprised you? You looked like you were about to faint. "Water?"
"I think it's ok. There's some ice here, would that be better?" Dean nodded, talking really hurt his throat. Sam gently lifted his head and held the cup of ice so Dean could get some.
"Thanks, Sammy." He smiled at his brother. "You ok?"
"Yeah, Dean. I'm ok." He sounded frustrated.
"Sam?" He frowned. Of all the things his brother sounded, ok was pretty far from the top of the list. He tried to push himself upright again. Sam gently pushed him back down. He left his hand there. "We need to talk, Sammy."
"You're right, but not now," Sam said with a sad smile. "You need to rest a little more, you've only been off the respirator for a little while. They, god Dean, they said…"
Dean lifted his right hand and put it over Sam's hand resting on his chest. I don't care what he thinks about this, I need to know he's there right now. I need to know he's safe. I need Sam. Simple, isn't it? So damn simple. "It's ok, Sammy."
"Yeah, I think it might be Dean." Dean noticed Sam hadn't moved his hand, either. Maybe he needs me a little, too? Thanks, Sam, for that. He drifted off to sleep. I think it might be ok.
It was quiet when he woke up. The room seemed dim. It must be night. I wonder how long it's been. We stopped at the hotel for the night, then it was bright and now night. Two days? I hope not more for Sam's sake. Waiting can kill you faster than anything. I've kept him waiting a lot in my life. Of course, the alternative is unthinkable. No, keeping Sam safe is job one. He sighed. I think I might have blown this, though. We should have talked about this.
He opened his eyes. Sam was asleep in the chair beside the bed. He had managed to stretch out, his feet on a hard plastic chair. I wonder where he got that? Sam looked terrible. He had dark circles under his eyes, and asleep he looked young, vulnerable. Dean could see the strain of the last week etched into his brother's face, even now, even asleep. I should let him sleep. He tried to grab the cup of water off the tray. It slipped off and onto the floor. Sam was awake instantly. Damn it, he needs to sleep a little deeper.
"Dean? What do you need?"
Just knowing you're ok Sam. "Thirsty," he croaked. And yes, it sounded like a croak.
"Dude, you should have said something," Sam shook his head.
"Didn't want to wake you."
"I'll go out and get something, I'll be right back," Sam walked out of the room. Dean watched him as he disappeared behind the curtain. That sounded a lot like we were talking about something else. It might be time. We need to talk. This can't go on. If I pass out halfway through, we'll just pick it up later. I remember he said something about trusting him. Didn't he? It sounded like he thought I didn't.
Sam came back in with a cup and straw. He helped Dean up and held the cup for him. The water was cool, soothing his abused throat. "Thanks, Sam."
"Sure, Dean." Sam sat back down in the chair. He left his hand on the edge of the bed, almost, but not quite, in contact.
Ok, hotshot, how do you start this conversation? Hard stuff first? That way if he wants to punch me I'll get it over with. "Sam?"
"I remember a note." Sam folded in on himself. "What was that about?"
"Dean, I…I thought if I left it would be better. I thought it would solve everything, you know."
"How could leaving be better?"
"After what happened Dean, I know you can't trust me. I'm so sorry," Sam looked like he was about to cry.
"What? What the hell are you talking about?" That would sound a lot better if I had a little strength in my voice.
"You couldn't tell me about the wound, you let it get that way. You didn't trust me."
"What?" Dean struggled to sit up, to see his brother better. Sam put that restraining hand on him. "No, Sammy, no. It wasn't that at all."
"Then what Dean? What else could it be?" His voice was full of misery, or self-loathing. The tears started.
"I didn't want you to know because…" Dean stopped. I don't want to tell him. I don't want him to think I thought he shot me, because he didn't, it was the demon.
"Because the demon shot me. I didn't want you to think it was you. I was trying to keep you safe, Sammy." Oh, man, am I going to cry now?
"What, Dean?" Sam was looking at him, that lost look that Dean remembered from when his brother was about five—when he didn't understand why something had happened.
"The demon shot me Sam. That's how it happened. I thought if you knew…"
Sam took a ragged breath. "I knew, Dean." His voice was small.
"What?" My turn for the whats.
"I knew, Dean. I told you—I was awake for part of it. I remember that," his face crumpled. "I remember shooting you Dean. I saw you fall, I thought you were dead. The demon thought you were dead. I thought…"
Dean heard so much in that "I thought…" Yep, going to cry, I guess. Dean could feel tears in his eyes. "Sam, oh god."
"Then I was there at Bobby's, and you didn't mention it and I thought, well maybe it had been a bad dream. Then I realized it was because you didn't trust me anymore."
"It's ok, I understand you know. How can you trust someone when they might be possessed? You can't know, can you? I mean, when you first got to the hotel, you thought it was me and all I did was lead you on a wild goose chase that ended up getting you shot."
"Sam…" He's not listening, what can I do, what can I say? "Come over here, would you? So I can see you better?" Sam got up, hesitantly, and sat on the right side of the bed. The movement hurt the wound in Dean's shoulder. Sam saw and jumped up. "No, Sam, sit down." He patted the bed. Sam sat down again. I think his wounds are worse than mine—mine are just a little green and oozy. He put his hand on Sam's leg. Now what do I say?
"It's ok, Dean. Don't get too tired, you're still not in great shape."
"I don't really care what shape I'm in Sam."
"I think that's what got us here." Sam tried smiling, it didn't really work.
"That's not what I meant. How can you think I don't trust you?"
"You didn't say anything. You were so silent."
Ok, you have to tell him, get this off your chest. It'll just fester again if you let it. "I thought you were angry with me."
"Cause I couldn't kill you when you asked me to. When you made me promise. I thought…" He couldn't finish. I thought about it, but saving you always comes first. I know you asked, but I couldn't. I couldn't. Oh, come on, stupid tears. He could feel them getting heavy in his eyes.
Sam put his hand over Dean's. "I might have been mad at first. Mostly I was afraid, dude. If I go dark side, you will be the first to go, you know. I…"
"You aren't angry?" Dean could hear the relief in his own voice. I thought he said he was.
"Not about that, I might have been a little pissed that you let that wound get that way before you mentioned it. But I understand that Dean."
Oh, no you don't. You don't understand at all. "It never occurred to me," Dean said simply.
"That you would ever think I didn't trust you." He felt a tear trickle down his cheek. Oh, come on, stupid tears, it must be because I'm still a little sick.
"Sam, trusting you is so much a part of me that it never occurred to me you would think otherwise. I'm sorry. I just never thought about it." It's one of those absolute truths. Simple.
God, he looks young right now. "What is it Sam?" What is he hiding from me? I know it's there. "Come on Sam, what?"
"But it was my fault. I shot you, I let it all happen. I killed someone, Dean, I watched him die at my hands, then I killed you, or I thought I did." It poured out of him, almost without a breath, almost without a pause. The words were getting ragged, like they were being torn from him, pain so apparent in his voice Dean had to grind his teeth together to keep from stopping him. He needs to get this out of him, I have to let it.
Sam took a breath and continued. "That's why I tried to leave, why I left the note. I thought if…Then there was that wound and I knew you were hurt and I didn't say anything. I almost left you there, Dean. You were sick and I left. I almost let you die. That's what they told me. And they said you were…and then you coded, man, you coded and I stood outside that door, waiting. They…all because of me Dean. I wasn't strong enough to stop the demon. I couldn't stop it, Dean. Why couldn't I stop it? Why?" Sam collapsed forward, onto Dean. He was weeping. "Why couldn't I stop it, Dean? Why? Why?"
Dean put his right arm around his brother. He concentrated and managed to get the left up, too. That hurts. "It's ok, Sammy, it's ok." He repeated it over and over. He knew the words meant nothing to Sam at that moment, but he hoped his voice would help, somehow. He was crying with his brother. The tears were running down his face. His shoulder hurt like hell, but none of it mattered. Only Sam, job one. Oh, Sam. I am so sorry. I wish I knew how to fix this for you. If I could I would. I just don't know what to do, what to say. He held his brother as he had so many times when they were young, when Sam couldn't understand why something bad had happened—it was that voice Dean could hear now. His little brother, lost, hurt, desperately wanting it to be better. And I am helpless. I can't fix it for him. All I can do is stand between Sam and whatever fate throws our way.
He realized Sam was quiet—the sobs had ceased. He still kept his head down against Dean. And "no chick flicks" be damned. Sometimes I might carry that a little far. Sam needs this, he needs the words, I might need to think about that a little. Maybe if I try opening up to him, we can avoid things like this happening again. Maybe. Of course, if I start doing something like that he might think I've lost my mind.
"Dean?" Sam's voice was muffled, his head still down.
"I'm totally killing your shoulder, aren't I?"
"Nah, it's ok."
"Uh huh, if I had ripped your arm off you'd say that, too, wouldn't you."
Sam laughed a little and sat up. "No probably about it Dean." He smiled at Dean. "No probably about it at all."
"Yeah, probably," He said smiling back. "What is it?" He saw Sam swallow and frown.
"You still trust me?"
"No 'still' needed, Sam. Always have, always will. Nothing is going to change that. Ever. That's why it never even occurred to me. I don't even think about it, it's just there, part of me, you know."
"Dean, I'm sorry. I've been a little…"
"Don't Sam." He was forcing his eyes to stay open, he needed to make sure Sam was ok, but his body was starting to win the battle.
"It's ok, man. I'm ok. Go to sleep." He put a hand gently on Dean's arm. "It's ok. I'll be here when you wake up."
"Thanks for that, Sam." And he closed his eyes. I think we might make it through this. I think we might be ok. He knew Sam stayed sitting there until he was asleep, even after.
"You ready to get out of here, dude?" Sam said coming in with a wheelchair.
"Not in that."
"Hospital rules. Wheelchair or you don't get to leave."
"Wheelchair sounds good. Get the stuff," Dean said pointing to his bag. He was leaving with a supply of oral antibiotics, painkillers and dressings. His shoulder was still seeping. The annoyingly young doctor had said it might keep up for two weeks. Which is just about the best news ever. Not. At least Sam convinced them to let me go early. I have no idea how he managed that. I'm not even all the way steady yet. He can drive. He'll like that anyway.
Sam put the bag over his shoulder and wheeled the chair towards Dean. "Ready?"
"Sure, Sammy, what are you thinking?" He stood up and his legs went out from under him. Just great. Sam caught him. He always does, doesn't he? Dean stood there for a minute, one arm around Sam, waiting for his head to stop spinning, leaning on his brother.
"Yeah, Sam?" He said letting his brother help him into the chair.
"Did you just hug me?"
"What? No. You're nuts."
"Felt a lot like a hug, Dean." Sam was laughing at him. It is good to hear that laugh. I miss that, Sam, when you don't laugh. Let's me know I'm still breathing.
Dean smiled. "Well, if it was—and I'm not saying it was—it was a totally non-chick flick hug."
"A what?" Sam looked at him funny.
"You heard me, shut up."
"Bitch." Yeah, Sam, nice to have you back. Nice to be back.
The Impala was parked just outside the door. Sam helped Dean up and into the car. He sank down into the seat.
"What do you want to listen to, Dean?" Sam said pulling out onto the road.
"What do you think, Mr. Halford?"
"Judas Priest it is." Sam smiled at him and put a tape in the stereo. "It's good to be back, Dean." Wow, there was a lot in that statement. Quite a lot. I think we might be ok.
"Yeah, Sammy. It is." It's good to be home. Funny how home could be a car. Dean looked over at Sam, his brother sensed the look and turned to him with an answering smile. Actually home is more my brother first then the car. I think I'll keep that thought to myself, Sam might think I'm still feverish, and I might be. But I'm healing and so is Sam. We're together again, and since that will never change, we can fix everything else.