Come on, Dean. Come on. Come on, come on, come on come on come on come on…
Standing was a challenge. Standing was a chore.
The lack of intravenous drugs cleared the fog from Dean's brain, but a remaining dizziness tied itself around his head and slithered down his neck. It wound over his lungs and wrapped around his heart. It was cold and refused to move.
He tried to wait it out once he was upright, sitting steadily with legs dangling off the bed, breathing in oxygen through the tube in his nose. Slow, deep breaths.
No big deal.
He'd forgotten what this was like, breathing and moving with a damaged heart.
Not a problem.
He'd forgotten that this was as good as he was going to get.
This is nothing.
The shadowy aura around his vision was permanent.
The tingling in his feet wouldn't be going away.
It hadn't stopped him from leaving the hospital back then.
It wouldn't stop him now.
He gripped the silvery rod of his abandoned IV pole, watched his knuckles turn white around it, watched his warped reflection elongate as he drew it close, his face appearing ghost-like, twisted and insignificant.
The constant low ringing in his ears had become a hum. A mumble. A mix of phantom voices tiptoeing over his eardrums.
I told you not to let him out of your sight.
We are a family.
Dean, I'd do anything for you.
Dad, you're scaring me.
John appeared in flames in the corner of his vision. A flash of amber and shadow. Dean bowed his head and scrunched his eyes closed to make him go away. He gripped the pole tighter, and restarted his own mantra. Come on, Dean. Come on, come on, come on.
He sniffed deep, stretched his eyes wide—saw no John—and breathed. He dragged the pole closer. Using it as a brace, he reached, blacking out his monitors one by one. Leaning back, releasing the pole, he peeled his connections away.
The oxygen tube was last.
With a last deep breath, he stripped it clumsily off his nose and slid forward from the bed, groaning aloud when he stumbled on his feet. The cold linoleum against his pale toes made his leg hairs stand on end. He clamped his lips shut and darted his eyes to the door, expecting an alarm to sound. Expecting a nurse, a doctor, or Bobby, to come charging in with strength and disapproval Dean wouldn't have the energy to fight.
But I will.
He clenched his teeth and his hands, held his breath and waited.
He was met by silence.
Easing air from his lungs, he shuffled forward, one arm hugged close to his chest, free hand balanced on the wall.
One foot in front of the other.
Whatever Sam had been doing with the sage oil on his head… Dean hoped it worked, hoped it slowed the curse and held off the next injury long enough for Dean to do what he needed to.
He grabbed at his memories from the previous year, ticked off all the injuries that had occurred since Jessica's death. He tried to remember what'd happened after he'd been healed in Nebraska. The crazy back-woods family with the hot metal poker, or that Max kid psychically throwing him into a wall. He wasn't sure.
It probably didn't matter. If another injury hit him now, he was screwed.
Bobby's arms were folded, road blocking the highway. A hazy tower seesawing side to side. "Where exactly did you think you were going, boy?"
"Bobby," Dean breathed. He slumped his elbows over the armrests of the chair Bobby'd put him into. He'd made it into everything but his jacket and shoes. The hospital had cut his t-shirt in half, but he'd found the button-down intact. It itched against his skin.
He closed his mouth and flicked his gaze around Bobby to the door.
"Not a chance, kid." The arms stayed folded.
Dean swallowed. Bobby moved forward and Dean flinched, body locking, head jerking. A recoil of pain trembled through him. He bit hard on his raw lip.
Bobby froze, hands spreading wide, eyes confused. "Easy, Dean," he said, voice low and gruff and more careful than Dean had heard it before.
Dean shook his head tightly. He flexed his fingers against the sharp corners of his chair, gripping tight, and felt the buzzing of voices rise in his ears. He tilted his head up. "Where's Sam?"
Bobby stared. After a stuttered second, his arms dropped. He breathed out heavily, reaching up to adjust his cap. All of a sudden, he looked weary and old, lines appearing on his face Dean had never noticed before. "Sam's alright," he said. "He just went to check a few leads."
Bobby's eyes danced towards the hospital bed, to the monitors, and back to Dean, like he was trying to figure out how to reattach them. He tugged at the rim of his hat, like he wasn't sure if he should leave it on, or take it off.
"Bobby, where's my brother?"
The hat came off, fisted in one of Bobby's hands. "I don't know."
"You don't know?"
The next sigh was deeper. "No. I don't." He glanced heavily at Dean. "When I got back from the police station, he had that look in his eye, like he was onto something. Said he had an idea. Said he wanted me to stay with you, and just took off." Bobby shook his head, rubbing absently at his jaw. "I tried to get him to tell me more, but, you know how he gets. More of damn John Winchester in him than…"
Dean lifted his chin abruptly, felt his body stiffen, the low mumbles in his ears went completely silent. "Yeah."
Bobby turned his head to Dean, eyes puzzled. The lines on his face deepened further. He set his cap carefully back on his head and refolded his arms. "Dean," he said, then paused. "Ah, hell, kid, Sam ain't off selling his soul."
The burn in Dean's eyes was instant. He snapped them closed to hide the water.
Bobby's presence loomed closer. A moment later, a hand settled, warm and dry on the back of Dean's neck. "He ain't, Dean."
Dean jerked his head, felt heat in his cheeks and a hitch in his chest.
Bobby's hand gripped down and didn't move.
Dean worked his mouth open. "Last time I was in the hospital… Every time I've been in the hospital…"
…someone dies to get me out.
He opened his eyes, staring into Bobby's face.
The hand squeezed harder on his neck, giving him a gentle shake. "Not this time, Dean."
Dean closed his eyes again, forcing the pounding of his heart to settle, forcing saliva into his suddenly dry mouth. "Then where is he?"
Okay, so, yeah, short emo chapter, I know (facepalm). The plot does actually advance in the chapter to come…I swear.