It Was Like This

Five times Sam almost died (and the two times he did)

Dean cried before Sam did. About two seconds passed during which no sound was made. The silence was weighing on Dean's ears heavily before anything else registered. Sammy's eyes were big and round, though not like the puppy dog look that Dean thought was so funny. Mommy wasn't in the room; Daddy was sleeping in the big, ugly armchair with the remote drooping from one hand. Right in front of the chair, Dean and Sammy were lying on the floor with a scattering of toys and other things around them. For one second, Dean looked up and then back down, and Sammy's giggles had stopped. His eyes were big and round and bigger and rounder, and it took Dean all of those two seconds of silence before he started screaming.

"MOMMY, DADDY, MOMMY, DADDY!" His little voice was being strained so hard it hurt, and all he could think was Sammy, Sammy, Mommy, Daddy, Sammy, Sammy, Mommy, Daddy. He didn't know why, not really, but something wasn't right, something wasn't right with Sammy, and Dean needed Mommy and Daddy to fix that right now.

Mommy came running, and Daddy woke up kicking and flailing, and both looked around with that 'what?' sort of look that made Dean scream, "Sammy, Sammy, what's wrong with Sammy?"

Mommy gasped and yelled Sammy's name and Dean heard Daddy say some words that Mommy always told him to never, ever say. Suddenly, Dean couldn't see Sammy anymore as his view was filled with Daddy's worn jeans and Mommy's fuzzy bathrobe. One second, and then two, and then three, and then there was a cough – a tiny, weak, strangling cough, but a cough, and Dean wasn't really sure how he'd forgotten, but all of a sudden he remembered to breathe.

Daddy cried. Mommy sobbed. Little Sammy gurgled, wailed, reached for Dean, got passed to Dean, and then stopped. Dean ceased crying as Sammy did and looked at his little brother, eyes still big and round and blinking at Dean with that 'what?' sort of look. Dean laughed. Sammy giggled. Mommy smiled through her tears. Daddy sunk into his arm chair with that big 'huff' sound.

After Mommy yelled at Daddy some, she locked all the toys smaller than Dean's fist in the really high cabinet in the kitchen. Dean would have complained about his now missing Hot Wheels, but he was too busy reveling in the joy of Sammy induced noise.

Sick was when you felt icky, took some pink stuff, and then you got better. Sick was when your stomach groaned and your head hurt, but then the noises and the pain went away. Sick was not this. Sick was not Sammy lying in a hospital bed with a tube in his arm and machines making odd noises and other things Dean didn't understand. Sick was not Daddy hanging onto Sammy's hand as the doctor whispered in his ear words like 'retain fluids' and 'extreme case' and 'doing all we can'. Dean didn't understand any of what the doctor said except that he was doing all he could, and that made Dean want to kick and scream because obviously that was not enough. Dean didn't care if they were doing all they could because they should be doing more. More, the doctors and nurses and other people with long name-title-things that Dean couldn't pronounce should be doing more. And what was the worst part? Daddy wasn't doing more either. He should be yelling at these people to help Sammy, help him because this wasn't right, this wasn't sick, this was…

Death

Dean remembered death. He remembered what it smelled like (smoke), felt like (heat), hurt like (too much to explain). Maybe this white little room didn't smell like smoke, and maybe it wasn't really all that hot, but he knew what death was. He knew from when that neighbor lady's cat died last summer that there didn't need to be fire to die, but he did know this feeling. This feeling he had right now was absolutely death. It hurt so badly that Dean couldn't think, and he was doing all he could not to cry.

He stretched out a finger and touched Sammy's face. Warm, he was warm. Actually, he was hot. He was hot like Dean got sometimes when he had a fever. That was good, right? Sammy wasn't dead. He was hot. Dean thought he heard someone say once, maybe on TV, that death was cold, but there was still this feeling. Hurt, Dean hurt so much.

"Daddy?" he asked. His voice was soft, quiet because maybe Sammy was just sleeping. "Daddy?" John looked up. His face was pale, and he needed to shave, and Dean got a little more scared.

"What is it, Dean?" John asked. He sounded tired, but Dean was hurting so much he couldn't describe it, and he needed to know.

"Is Sammy dying?" John blinked at him like he didn't quite know what to say. Dean took a deep breath. "Is he dead?" Dean didn't think Sammy was dead because it just couldn't be true, but he asked anyways because this hurt, this hurt was too much.

A tear rolled down John's cheek, and with one swoop of his arm, he pulled Dean next to him and up into his lap. He tucked his cheek just beside Dean's and whispered in his ear. "No, Sammy isn't dead."

"Is he dying?" Dean asked again.

John chewed his lip. "It's gonna be okay. The doctors are working on it."

Dean knew what it meant when grownups didn't answer questions, at least when they didn't really answer questions. He looked at Sammy and cried.

Two days later, Sammy's hand was in Dean's. John was talking in hushed voices to a nurse. There was a scratch of a pen, and then John turned to look at Dean. "You ready to go?"

Dean responded quickly and clenched Sammy's hand tighter, "Yes, sir."

John smiled and turned. "What about you, squirt?" Dean watched Sammy as he smiled and nodded. All three walked out of the hospital grinning. Sammy was alive. The hurt was gone.

He was standing on the curb, and he can't believe he saw it happen. He watched it happen. More shockingly, it actually happened. How could it happen? It wasn't real, wasn't real, wasn't.

But it was. Sam was on the ground, one leg twisted in spokes and handle bars, and the other at an angle that really shouldn't be possible for a human limb. The car had stopped moving, and the driver was fumbling and rushing to get out of it. Dean was there before the door opened.

He'd seen Dad come home with some pretty nasty things from hunts. He'd seen blood, he'd tasted blood, he knew the smell by heart, but this was Sam's blood. This was Sammy's blood, and there was a lot of it. The driver was saying something fast that Dean couldn't quite catch, wasn't bothering to catch. A woman was behind them screaming, someone's voice was raised over the gathering crowd so that the person on the other end of their phone could hear. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Dean hoped it was the same person who had yelled half a second before, "I'll call 911."

Everything Dad had taught him was running through his head, but it was hard to sort the first aid advice out through the fluent stream of Sammy's that were bombarding his thoughts. He couldn't tell what the things he was saying out loud were and what were just his own non-coherent thoughts. Nothing made sense. The blood didn't make sense. The car and the bike didn't make sense. The screaming and shouting didn't make sense. None of this made sense. He'd watched it happen. How could it have happened? It didn't make sense.

The only thing that was clear to Dean was Sam. He could see Sam's eyes, desperately trying to focus and refocus on Dean's face. He could see Sam's forehead, a gash across most of it with a long line of blood streaming down his face. He could see Sam's legs, twisted and mangled and not at all right. He could see Sam's mouth working slowly, as though he couldn't quite remember how to make the words. It didn't matter. Dean knew what he was saying, could hear what he was saying. It was the only thing he could hear, could really hear. It was the only thing that made sense.

"Dean…Dean…Dean…"

It took the ambulance too long to get there. It took him too long to convince the paramedics to let him ride with his baby brother. It took too long to find a phone at the hospital. It took Dad too long to pick up. It took too long for him to get there, too long to finally talk to a doctor, too long to go see Sam, too long to hear something that made sense again.

"Dean?" Sam's voice cracked and sounded strained, but it didn't matter because as Dean stood beside the hospital bed with the too white sheets and the too cold railings, it made sense.

"Yeah, Sammy, I'm here." Sam's hand wrapped around his, and usually Dean wouldn't let that happen because he was too cool for 'that pansy stuff', but suddenly Dean was painfully aware of how completely lame and idiotic he really was because this was Sammy.

Dad was talking to a doctor or a nurse or something, and so it was just him and Sammy sitting in this cold, white room. It was just Dean and Sam, and that made sense.

Dean's shirt was soaked through. It was red and sticky and wet. It was ruined, and Dean hadn't even noticed because Sam's shirt was redder and stickier and wetter. It didn't matter that Dean's shirt was ruined because Sam was that close to being ruined.

Sam was flush against him, his back to Dean's chest as they sat in the back of the car. Dad drove faster than Dean could ever remember, and it was a damn good thing that they were in South Dakota, and there was no one on the road for a least a couple of miles to catch them. Dean was holding Sam with one arm, and trying to use his other to maneuver around his brother's annoyingly large body to stop the God damn blood. It wasn't working. Dad was trying to figure out if they could go to a hospital. Dean was yelling, "Screw it and just go!"

John was yelling, "Go where?"

Dean was yelling, "To the God damn hospital for Christ's sake!"

He was being rude, but this wasn't a time for politeness. John didn't want to go to the hospital, said there was no way they could make up a story for this one. Sam had at least three stab wounds dangerously near his stomach, two slashes on his right shoulder, at least one good bang to the head, and his leg was bleeding. Dean couldn't even remember how the latter had happened. Damn bloody spirit.

Ten minutes of hell, and they were back at the motel. Dean was carrying Sam into the room and settling him onto a bed while John was still shutting off the engine. He didn't care about the fact that the sheets would be ruined after this, and for once John didn't argue. Two more minutes and John had stilled the bleeding, and Dean had a needle and thread in his hand. Sam, despite pain killers and some of John's whiskey, was groaning.

"Sammy," Dean's voice didn't match his head at all. Quiet, soothing, got to keep Sam settled. "Sammy, I gotta stitch you up, okay?" Dean hated this, really truly did. He would much rather his Dad did it. He would much rather whisper to Sam and let him ruin the circulation in his hand, but that was irrational. Dean was best at this. His fingers were quicker, nimbler.

"Let…Dad…" Sam's words were strained, and Dean peered at Sam as he bit his lip.

"I know, Sammy. I know. I'm sorry, but I've got to do this, okay? I gotta get you fixed up." He reached a hand up, let Sam squeeze it.

"Dean…"

"Sammy, please? You're not okay, and I've got to fix that." John was silent, just watched his boys. "Sammy, please?"

Sam groaned. "How bad is it?"

Dean glanced at Sam and then back at the wounds before him. "Bad, Sammy. It's real bad."

Sam met Dean's gaze briefly, then snapped his eyes shut. "Do it."

Thread met needle, and needle met skin. Just as Dean finished, Sam passed out.

An hour later, Dean was sitting by the bed watching as his brother slept. The door to the room clicked open, and John emerged carrying a Wal-Mart bag. "He still out?" he asked. Dean nodded. He heard the bag rustle, eyes still trained on Sam's face. He felt John move beside him, a bottle of ibuprofen was pressed into his hand. He took out a couple and set them on the night stand by a standby glass of water. "Close call," John whispered. Dean's jaw clenched. "Good work. If it weren't for you…"

Dean's head spun around to face his father. "If it weren't for you, it wouldn't have come down to me!" His voice was a harsh whisper. Sam was sleeping, and Dean wasn't about to compromise that.

"What?" John asked in outrage.

"You should have gone to the hospital! What if I hadn't been able to pull it off? What if he'd lost too much blood? Or the wounds had been too deep? What if he gets a God damn infection?"

"Since when do you use what ifs? And he's not going to get an infection! We're careful!" Dean glared at his father.

"Since when do I use what ifs? Since there are real risks that we need to consider! Sam could have died! Still could! And you were to damn proud to go to a hospital! Sometimes I think Sam's right! Is keeping our cover really worth risking our lives?"

"Don't take that attitude with me! You know I'd do whatever I had to in order to keep you boys alive!"

"Well, then for God's sake act like it once in a while!"

"I…"

"Dean, shut up," Sam's said suddenly, his hoarse voice broke the argument. "It's my job to fight with Dad, not yours." Dean spun on the spot and dropped to his knees beside the bed.

"Hey," he said, "how you feeling?"

Sam grinned. "Like shit."

Dean cried, and Sam didn't. Sam didn't make a sound. Didn't laugh, or scream, or yell, or shout. He didn't even breathe. Eyes didn't go wide. Nothing moved. Still, he was so still. Sammy, Sammy, Sammy.

It hurt, hurt so much. He was cold, and there was no fire, but it hurt. Good God, did it hurt. Hurt worse than he could imagine. Must be bleeding, had to be bleeding. Maybe it was Dean's blood on his hand, Dean's blood on Sam's back. It had to be. It had to be his blood because it hurt. It hurt so much he had to be bleeding.

Nothing made sense. Lights and sounds and voices and nothing made sense. Sam wasn't dead, couldn't be dead. It didn't make sense. Nothing made sense. Sam and Dean, Dean and Sam, had to be, supposed to be. It didn't make sense. Dean and no Sam didn't work, didn't click, didn't make sense. Sam made sense. Blood didn't make sense. Death didn't make sense. This didn't make sense. This wasn't happening. Sam made sense. This didn't.

And it wasn't fair. What was he supposed to do? This shouldn't have been dumped on him. This shouldn't have happened. It was him and Sam and sometimes Dad. They were supposed to go to the hospital, get Sam patched up. It would be fine. Everything would be fine, and then it wasn't. Sam was dead. Dead and Dean was crying while Sam just laid there. Dead and it hurt so much he must be bleeding. Dead and nothing made sense. Dead, Sam was dead.

It was stupid to take this case. Sam had been right about that. They should have stayed at the motel. He should have let Sam keep searching for an answer to Dean because looking for an answer to those disappearances meant that instead this had happened. Instead of Sam looking for a way to save Dean eventually, Dean was scrambling to come up with a way to save Sam now.

He wanted to kill the thing that had done this to Sam, which was stupid because he had. It just couldn't just stop at possession, no. Damn thing had to go and force Sam to slowly kill himself while all Dean could do was chase it around like a God damned idiot and hope to exorcise it before Sam was killed, bled from the inside out, and yeah, Dean was still working on how it got control over Sam in the first place, but that wasn't important. What was important was that now Sam was absolutely broken, in every sense of the word. They were sitting inside a Devil's Trap, the same one that Dean had trapped his possessed brother in and performed an exorcism in mere minutes ago. They were sitting in a Devil's Trap, and Dean felt like they couldn't get out, felt like they were trapped here, felt like everything was stuck, on hold, frozen. Everything was on pause until Sam could walk again, until Sam had the strength to stand. Dean prayed Sam would have the strength to stand because as things were now, all Dean could do was fall to his knees.

He wasn't sure where here was, but he'd followed that demon here on foot, and he didn't honestly remember how far away the impala was. It was too far to carry Sam; that much he knew. It was too far to carry Sam, too far to support him, too far to have anything be certain. Certainty, what Dean wouldn't give for that because right now, he didn't know anything for certain. He didn't know if Sam was bleeding to death, he didn't know if he would walk again, talk again. He didn't know if Sam would ever stand and Dean was falling, falling.

This wasn't right because it was Dean, Dean who was supposed to die. It was Dean who gave up his life, and this wasn't right because he'd already been here. He'd already watched Sam die, and then he'd gotten him back. He'd gotten Sam back, and now here he was. He was sitting on the ground with the taste of blood and dirt in his mouth. He was sitting on the ground with Sam in his arms, and he could feel the warmth of Sam's blood on his hand. He could see it trickling out the corner of his mouth and down his chin and onto his neck to make a dirty little pool on the floor. He'd been here. He'd seen Sam on the brink of death a thousand times, a thousand times too many, and he'd felt this feeling, this not knowing feeling. Except now it was worse. Now he knew. He'd always wondered; if something happened to Sam, could he make it through? And now he knew the answer: no. If something happened, no, he wouldn't make it. No, he couldn't make it. No, he wouldn't want to. He knew. He knew what that felt like. He knew what it'd be like to lose Sam again, and he couldn't deal with that.

Every now and then, Sam's eyes would flutter open. Each time was hope. Each time was, maybe he'll make it. Each time they closed, and each time was no, no, can't lose him. His hand was in Sam's hair because he hated the feeling of gripping Sam's hand, but not having Sam grip back. His other hand was wound in his own shirt, the shirt no longer on his back because it was pressed to Sam's shoulder, desperately applying pressure to the bleeding. Stop the bleeding, stop the blood, stop the hurting, stop the dying, stop it, stop, stop, stop it.

Bleeding and blood, and Dean could taste it. He could taste himself drowning in it. He wondered if maybe he was delusional. Fifteen hours of sitting here. He tried to remember how long people could go without water because Sam wasn't looking better. Sam was lying in a sea of blood. A sea of blood and it swallowed them whole. It swallowed them, and they were drowning. They were drowning, couldn't stand. He couldn't stand, falling. He was falling. Sam had fallen. Blood and sweat and blood and tears and – tears? When had there been tears? He touched his cheek, and his face was hot, hot and sticky with tears and blood. He'd been crying. Sometimes, in stories, tears healed people. Magic tears, sometimes there were magic tears, but he'd been crying (Crying? When had he been crying?), and Sammy wasn't better (Sammy? Sammy was hurt?). Sammy was hurt. Blood, there was blood on Sammy's face. No noise; Sammy wasn't making any noise. Mommy, Daddy, Sammy's not making any noise. Not even blinking, not even blinking at him. Daddy, Daddy, is Sammy dying? Is he dead? Can't walk, Sammy can't walk. Limbs and legs are broken by bikes? Not bikes. That's not right. Not the bikes. Demons, that's it. It was a demon that made Sammy bleed. Blood, there was so much blood. He had to fix Sammy up, had to fix him. No noise, just silence, there was silence everywhere, and it hurt so much, and nothing made sense, and he just had to get Sammy to a hospital. That was all. That was it.

Tears mixed with blood, blood mixed with tears, and they left a track in the dirt on his face. Sam's head was in his lap, and Dean kept dozing off. He kept falling asleep, and he dreamed. He hated his dreams. There was fire and silence and death, but worst of all was what there wasn't. No Sam, his dreams had no Sam. He would wake up then. He'd feel the weight of Sam's head in his lap, and he'd cry in relief. Then he would feel the way his jeans had suctioned to his legs and his shirt had fused with his hand, and he would think blood and cry again.

Twenty hours and he knew he was delusional. Sam had stopped bleeding, and he hurt so much. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't see, he couldn't speak, he couldn't stand, and he was falling. Twenty hours and he knew he was delusional because the silence was broken.

"Dean?" Sam's voice, Sam was there. Sam was there, and it couldn't be a nightmare because Sam was never in his nightmares now. Only not Sam was there. Sam was alive. Alive, Sammy was alive.

Dean's eyes were dry from too much crying, and his legs were numb from Sam's weight on them, so he did the only thing he could think to do, and he fell. He fell forward onto Sam, let his eyes push for the last of his tears, and he held his brother as close as he could. He moved his hand from Sam's hair to Sam's own hand and he gripped, gripped hard. Sam gripped back.

Alive, he's alive, and suddenly the blood was gone.

His back slid down the wall. So this was what it was like. Or this wasn't what it was like because Dean hadn't known. Sam knew. Sam had warning. Dean, Dean just had Sam yanked out from under him. Sam had known all along this was coming.

So this was what it was like. It was like this times ten, times one hundred, times a million. It was like this. It was this silence, the not waking up to a steady breath or being clutched to a chest to hear a heart beat when they'd just been through one of those hunts. It was like this hurt where everything was swallowed in pain that you knew would never go away. It was like this all encompassing pain, this indescribable pain that seared your chest whenever you took a breath. It was like this state where nothing made sense, and your head kept spinning like you couldn't really get a handle on what had just happened. It was like this. It was like this voice that kept saying 'if only, if only' and then everything would be alright. It was like if he just found Dean, got him to a hospital, then it would be okay. It was this sight of blood – the blood on Dean's face and hands and chest and body and the blood that now stained Sam's mind and heart. It was this blood that you just couldn't wash away and found yourself drowning in.

He slipped down the wall and put his face to his hands, and he knew what it was like. Dean had just died, and Sam understood suddenly why Dean couldn't get through it. He had brought Sam back because it was the only thing he knew to do. Sam didn't have that option, though. Dean had used the last life line, and so Sam was stuck. He was stuck in this world of silence and hurt and 'what ifs' and blood. Sam knew what it was like because he realized as he sat there with his back to the wall that Dean had used their last life line, and that meant what Sam should have known all along. Dean's year was up. The moment that year was up, the moment Dean died, Sam died, too.

end

A/N: This is the first fic I've posted on For more of my stuff (or just more info about me) you can visit my livejournal page (http://muddledmusings. although there isn't much there as of yet. If you do visit, kindly leave me a comment letting me know that you were directed there through here. Hopefully the stories on my lj will be added to this account shortly. In the meantime, review please. Constructive criticism is welcome. Thanks for reading!

Oh, yeah, and I'm muddledmusings. You'll be seeing a lot more of me in the future. waves