K Hanna Korossy
"If you keep scratching, it's just gonna itch worse."
Dean ignored the sage advice from the seat next to him and scratched harder at the bright red spot on the back of his hand. Maybe it would itch worse, but then he could always scratch it more.
Sam sighed. "You know, if you scratch it bloody, it'll scar."
Dean stopped mid-scratch and glared at him. "You're a real ray of sunshine, you know that?"
A moth rose up near Sam's face, startling him. He cracked his window and shooed it out, his mouth curling as he turned to Dean. "Sorry."
Yeah, they were still a little twitchy around bugs. Dean ignored the moth, too, and concentrated on the subject at hand. Or on the hand. And their legs, faces, and pretty much the rest of them. "Why aren't you scratching, anyway? You got stung, too."
"More than you—twenty-four, remember? It's just mind over matter, Dean."
Dean snarled something nasty and started scratching again.
Sam shook his head, went back to reading the paper.
The road was just like many on their long journey: endless, featureless, and dull. Dean would've hated it if not for the muted roar of the engine and the music playing, and his brother sitting next to him. Sam made up for an awful lot, even if Dean had never told him how much less he enjoyed the hunting without him. Swelled head—it wouldn't have been a pretty picture. No, that was just one of his secrets.
"I think I've got something," Sam spoke up, and Dean glanced over at him, fingernails absently working on another bee sting on his arm.
"We've already got something," he reminded Sam with forced patience. "Durrance, California. The house in the middle of the desert that got flooded, remember?"
"Yeah, but no one got hurt in that one. In Jessup, Nevada, they've had three deaths already, all suspicious drownings, all good swimmers." He glanced up meaningfully at Dean. "What does that sound like to you?"
Dean made a face. "Lake Manitoc." He frowned. "Wait a minute, did you say Jessup?"
"We were there once, Dad and I. It was, uh…" With an impatient huff, he pulled the Impala off the road and reached into the back, pulling out the leather-bound journal. He flipped through it for a few seconds, then turned it to face Sam. "Water babies."
Sam's eyebrows drifted up. "You're kidding. Water babies? I thought they were harmless, or just mischievous, tugging on fishing lines, that sort of thing."
"They can be." Dean nodded. "And then some of them get their kicks drowning people, too. Dad and I wiped out a whole nest of them about a year ago after they drowned a couple of teenagers."
Sam glanced at the paper again. "Well, I guess they're back."
Dean sighed. "Great. I guess Durrance'll have to wait."
"At least it's sort of on the way," Sam offered.
"Thank you, Pollyanna."
Sam smiled and ducked his head back into the newspaper. He didn't even look up a minute later when he said, "Don't scratch."
Dean growled in frustration. And knew that behind the paper, Sam was grinning.
Jessup was much as Dean remembered it, which was to say like the hundreds of other small communities he'd been to during his life. It was big enough that strangers weren't viewed with suspicion, small enough that they could get the job done without having miles of land to search. Those were the best kind. The only other thing Dean could have asked for was a little reward for their efforts, but that had rarely ever happened and didn't seem likely to in Jessup, either. With a faint shrug, he reached into the back and gathered his duffel as Sam did the same.
"So is this where you two stayed last time?" Sam asked as they headed toward the front office of the motel. As usual, they'd picked one where the rooms opened onto the street, just in case they weren't fit for company when they got back from the hunt, muddy and wet, or worse.
The question sounded casual but Dean knew it wasn't. For all the finality with which Sam had walked out on them and gone to school, he'd been wanting to know as many details as Dean would give him about what Dean and John had been doing since then. Sorry he missed out, just curious, or something more? Dean hadn't figured out that part yet, but it was an itch he didn't mind scratching. So to speak.
He glanced at the length of motel room doors and nodded. "It's close to the park where the water babies were nesting, far enough away from town that we could move around at night without the law-abiding citizens getting suspicious. Dad picked it."
Sam didn't ask any further than that, just scratched absently at a sting on his neck. Dean smothered a grin and didn't say a word.
They got a room—"with a bathtub," Sam had thrown in before he'd had a chance to—and collected their key, then headed back outside. It was at the opposite end of the row of rooms from the Impala, of course, but they'd be leaving again soon enough. Dean rubbed his chest with the flat of his hand while trying to pretend he was just running a hand through his hair and not scratching at a particularly swollen bite on his forehead.
"You wanna soak first?"
Dean had just been on the verge of calling for it, but the offer surprised him into shaking his head. "You can go." Resigned to the delay, he looked both ways along the street. "I'll get some dinner."
"Nothing greasy," Sam said tiredly, and after Dean wrestled their door open, headed straight for the bathroom. "You know where to look for the water babies, then?"
Dean dropped his bag on the bed nearest the door and scratched violently at his arm. "If they're in the same nest, yeah. It's not far from here—we can go by foot after nightfall."
"Great," Sam called with false enthusiasm through the bathroom door. "You wanna bet the mosquitoes aren't out this early?"
"No bet," Dean muttered to his wallet. They were down to twenty-seven dollars, but it would pay for meals while they were there. Maybe he could find a game before they left town.
"If I get any more bites, I'll—yi!"
Dean's head shot up. "What? Sam?"
"It's okay, I'm fine." Sam sounded embarrassed.
Which made it all the more intriguing. Dean took a couple steps toward the door. "What?"
"It's just a centipede in the tub, okay? It just startled me."
Dean grinned. "You want me to come in and kill it for you?"
"Just go get the food, Dean."
Still grinning, he went.
Fifteen minutes later he was back, large bag swinging in one hand as he tried to scratch the other again. Sam, sitting on his bed in a towel and combing his hair, just shook his head.
"You leave any oatmeal?" Dean asked, shutting the door behind him.
"I not only left some oatmeal, I even cleaned out the tub and drew the next bath for you."
Dean was back to rubbing his chest as he headed for the bathroom. "If you're angling for brother-of-the-year, I already voted for somebody else."
"Yeah, and I bet we both know who that is. Hurry up, Night Stalker starts in fifteen."
"Forget Reality TV—let's watch something funny." He shut the door and gratefully began to strip, the cloudy bathwater incredibly inviting.
"You know, you're cranky when you itch," Sam called in after him.
"Bite me," Dean called back.
"I think the bees took care of that already."
He was smiling as he lowered himself into the water, and it wasn't just because of the instantly soothing oatmeal.
They ended up watchingStar Wars while they ate, Dean rattling off Han Solo's lines until Sam started throwing French fries and lame Luke quotes at him. Dean groaned under the onslaught and shut up. He wanted to concentrate on the Death Star run at the end, anyway.
It was with a sigh of satisfaction that he sat back during the credits, and realized he hadn't scratched once during the movie. "I think that oatmeal stuff really works," he commented, admiring the sticky layer on his bare arms.
Uh-oh. Sam's serious voice. He glanced over at his brother, Sam's eyes on the TV screen but his attention someplace far away. "Yeah?"
"Dad really came to see me at Stanford?"
Dean leaned back against the headboard of his bed and draped his arms over his knees. "Yeah, he did. Why are you so surprised at that?"
"I don't know." An awkward shrug. "He just seemed so…final when I left. Like he never wanted to see me again."
Dean snorted. "Yeah, 'cause he was the one who was walking out on you."
"I wasn't—" Sam shook his head in frustration. "People go to school and still stay close to their families, Dean. We just don't do anything the normal way—why start there?"
"Yeah." Dean laughed. "I guess we don't." He rolled his head to look at Sam. "He stopped by every month or two, asked around about you, watched you go to classes or study. We even saw you with Jess once."
"You're kidding." Something flared in Sam's eyes. "Dad saw Jess?"
Dean softened. He really should have thrown Sam that bone before, but he hadn't even thought of it. "Yeah, he did," he said quietly.
Sam huffed a laugh, the sad kind Dean knew rode the edge of tears. "I wish I'd known," he murmured. "I would've liked for him to meet her."
He probably said more with that than he'd meant to, but Dean wasn't about to point that out to Sam. He just chewed on his lip a moment, then heaved himself regretfully to his feet. "It's dark—you ready to go hunting?"
His brother looked up at him, eyes full of emotion, and said only, "Yeah."
It was what they did. But Dean clapped him on the back as they walked out, and Sam didn't give him a hard time when Dean's hand strayed back to the bite on his arm and softly started scratching again.
It was what they did.
The nest was exactly where Dean remembered it, nestled in a dense clump of foliage and rocks at one end of the large town park. The nest had been cleaned up and restored to use…and was completely empty.
Dean looked up and around them, trying to see past the end of the flashlight beam as he swung it in a three-sixty arc.
"Well, they are nocturnal…" Sam started.
"We already checked the lake," Dean shot back.
"Yeah, ducking every time a car came by—we probably missed them, Dean. They can stay under water a long time. We can come back in the morning when they're back in the nest."
"And the park's full of people," Dean said sourly.
"I don't see any other—geez, did you see that spider?—any other options, do you?" he finished sheepishly at Dean's look.
Dean raised an eyebrow at him. "You gonna have bugphobia now? Just so I know what to expect next time you start screaming bloody murder."
"I didn't scream, it just surprised me. And it's 'insectophobia,' although a spider's not an insect—that would be—"
"Arachnaphobia," Dean supplied. "Dude, I saw the movie."
Sam shook his head but he grinned faintly. "So, you wanna head back? Come back out in the morning?"
Dean sighed. "I don't think we've got a choice. It's not like we could've used shotguns out here, anyway." The silenced pistol tucked into his jeans and the knife in his hand would be almost as easy to hide during the day, too.
"We can probably still catch the end of Empire," Sam offered.
"Missed the best parts." He was being peevish and he knew it but didn't care.
"You can take another oatmeal bath."
Dean considered that, a few vicious little itches throbbing under his collar at the very thought. "Last one back to the room does laundry," he finally tossed out, and started running.
He heard Sam's outraged yelp behind him and the long legs making up the distance between. Dean didn't have a prayer, his power no match for Sam's stride over short stretches, but what was the fun of having a brother if you couldn't be kids sometimes? He ducked his head and poured on the speed.
Sam beat him, but not by much, and the stitch in Dean's side was worth the distraction from the itching for a while. And the moment of sheer delight in his little brother's eyes.
"I hate water creatures."
The complaining, a steady stream of it since they'd left their room that morning, would have bothered Dean more if it weren't a sure way of keeping track of Sam. As it was, he smiled at the petulant mutter from behind him and kept creeping forward, gun in his hand.
They were already deep into the wild end of the park, out of sight of the civilians. Sam had pulled out his own weapon of choice, the battle axe, and it caught the sun sometimes in blinding glints. Even out of the corner of his eye, Dean saw it, and used it to keep track of Sam visually, too. He probably could have found his brother blind and deaf, but it made Dean feel better knowing exactly where he was.
Good enough, in fact, to tease back even in the middle of the hunt. "You're just cranky 'cause that roach woke you up."
"You'd be cranky, too, if you woke up with a monster cockroach sitting on your nose!"
He cracked up silently, glad he was turned away from Sam. He hadn't actually seen the cockroach, Sam's flailing probably having sent the thing flying across the room by the time Dean woke up to check if his brother had gone insane. But he'd heard all about it in gory detail several times now, including the description that grew by inches every time Sam told it. "Maybe it just knew how much you like bugs?" Dean answered in an almost level voice.
"That's not funny, Dean. It's not enough that we almost get killed by every insect within a hundred square miles of us, now they're following me around." He swatted the air. "See? Mosquitoes. I'm telling you, it's like they can sense it."
Dean gave him a shrug of the head. "Maybe you're turning into Willard. That would be kinda cool, actually—instead of hunting creatures, you could just sic a plague of locusts on them or something."
Sam came to a stop, still swatting the air. "Did you just make a Bible reference?"
Dean glanced back at him with a roll of the eyes. "I do read sometimes, you know."
"What book's in every motel room we go to, huh?"
Sam hmmed. "I just thought—ouch!" He slapped at his neck.
Dean couldn't resist a grin that time. "Got another one for your collection?"
"Not a mosquito." Sam peered at his hand and groaned. "Great, another bee. They have to be stalk—" He broke off, a puzzled expression crossing his face.
Dean raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"I don't know, I just…it feels funny. My lips…"
His breath wheezed faintly.
Dean went cold clear down to his boots. "C'mon, Sam," he barked, grabbing his brother by the arm and towing him back in a near-run the way they'd come.
"It can't—"wheeze "—be allergy." Sam's voice was thinning with every word. "Nothing happened—" wheeze "—before."
"Well, you just hit the lucky number then," Dean snapped. "Stop talking, concentrate on breathing and moving. We've gotta get you out of here before—"
Dean hauled him back to his feet and, shoving his gun into his pocket, threaded an arm around his brother's waist. Then he doggedly kept going, trying to tune out the breaths that were growing steadily raspier and more desperate beside him. Sam's gait had become uncoordinated and weak, and his hand rose to cling to the edge of Dean's jacket, as if he'd be okay as long as he hung on to his brother.
That scared Dean more than the strained breathing.
He didn't think they'd gone that far into the roughage, but it took too long to reach the edge and break into the open park. Sam was badly wobbling now, every breath clearly a struggle, and Dean spared an alarmed glance at his pale face as he lowered him to the ground and started to yell.
"I need some help here!"
A mother feeding ducks at the edge of the water with her toddler froze to stare at him. Two old men sitting on a bench nearby did likewise. In fact, everyone seemed to be standing and watching them. Not helping, even as Sam was choking to death right there in front of them, in front of Dean.
He fisted a handful of Sam's shirt to keep him upright and swept a glare over the people in the park. "My brother's having an allergic reaction to a bee sting—somebody call 911!"
The mother by the lake pulled out a cellphone.
"Not—gonna be—fast 'nuff," Sam wheezed beside him, voice only a weak thread now.
Dean swiveled back to him, giving him a little shake. "They'll get here," he vowed. "Stay with me, Sam—breathe with me." And he pulled in a lungful of air, Sam's hand rising and falling against his chest.
Sam tried, he really did, eyes frightened and determined as they locked with Dean's. But all he could manage was a strangled gasp, and his body bucked weakly in its fight for more air.
"Hang in there, help's almost here. Just hold on a few more minutes." Dean tried to look encouraging, strong for his fading brother, but he was as terrified as Sam obviously was. The simple fact was, Sam wasn't going to make it until help got there, and there wasn't a single solitary thing Dean could do about it.
Sam started to list, and Dean jolted out of his helpless rigor, turning Sam's nearly limp body so that he was stretched out on the ground, head and shoulders propped against Dean to ease the passage of those last wisps of air.
"Don't fight it, Sam," he curled forward to whisper into the damp hair. "It's okay if you can't stay awake—you missed the end of Jedi, too, you wimp, remember? I'll be right here."
Sam's eyes were growing heavy, his sight probably getting darker, but he stared doggedly up at Dean as he labored uselessly for air, no longer asking for help, just for his company. Dean clung to his hand and cradled his head and gave all he had, knowing it wasn't enough.
"Can I help?"
He almost pushed the soft voice away as interruption; there was precious little he could do for Sam now, but at least he could be with him. Then the words sank in. Dean tore his gaze away, blinked up at the speaker with perplexity and resentment.
It was an older woman, and that's about all he registered besides the cylinder she held up. "It's an EpiPen, for anaphylactic reactions. Can I…?"
Some corner of his mind knew what she was saying, but he was still on "help." Dean nodded. "Please." Then added helplessly, "He's my brother."
She did something to the cylinder, then jabbed it against Sam's leg, holding it there for long seconds.
Another sting, Dean thought absently. But Sam didn't react, eyes fluttering shut as the last squeaks of air faded.
"No," Dean muttered, then yelled it. "No!" He laid Sam down with hasty care, and, as his chest stilled even its trembling rise and fall, scrambled to kneel beside him and begin CPR.
"Wait." Again that voice, and Dean shot a hot glare at the woman beside them for distracting him when he was trying to save Sam. She flinched, but didn't back off. "That won't help—his throat's closed up. Give the epi a few seconds to work."
They were among the longest seconds he'd ever known, sitting there beside his brother's lifeless body. Sam's pulse still throbbed weakly under his fingers, but Dean braced himself to feel it stutter to a stop at any moment, too. "Insectophobia," he murmured, scoffing. "Freak."
And then Sam stirred. Another moment and he gasped, arching off the ground.
It was faltering, and any other time, Dean would have been scared to death to hear his brother sound like that. Now, the strangled gulps was incredibly sweet. "Sam? Can you hear me? Breathe, Sammy."
He did, because he never did disobey Dean, not when it counted. The second breath still stuttered and was wispy at best, but it was stronger than the previous, as was the one that followed.
Dean's eyes stung, and he found himself gasping, too. "Keep going, Sam. Small breaths." He rubbed Sam's chest, encouraging it to keep moving, and looked up at the woman still crouched beside him. Her fifty-some plain face was wreathed in a smile, and Dean thought she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. "Thank you," he said earnestly.
She smiled back, then stood, maybe to direct the ambulance. He'd just realized a siren was closing on them.
Sam's eyes fluttered open, cloudy with confusion, and searched exhaustedly before finding Dean and sticking. Even as Dean gave him a half-smile, his eyes shut again, all his strength seemingly needed for the slowly improving wheeze he was still calling breathing. But then his fingers moved against Dean's in what might have euphemistically been called a squeeze.
"S'okay, Sam." Dean rubbed the side of his neck, feeling the swell of bites on his brother's skin. "Hey, at least it got your mind off the itching."
Apparently, Sam could glare at him even with one eye and fuzzy vision.
Dean was laughing when the paramedics arrived, and hoped he was the only one who could hear how it cracked.
"So, he's gonna be allergic to bee stings now?" Dean ran a hand through his hair tiredly, glancing sideways at the bed where his brother slept, easily and quietly now. There wasn't even an oxygen canula present, and Dean kept turning back to drink in the sight one more time, like a man in the desert who couldn't get enough water.
The doctor nodded. "He'll need to pick up some EpiPens and carry them with him all the time, but the best treatment is avoiding bees in the first place."
Dean smiled humorlessly. "That might be a little difficult—we, uh, work outside a lot."
"I suggest you both learn how to use the injector, then. The one that onlooker had saved his life this time."
"Yeah." He'd have liked to get her name, too, buy her the biggest bouquet of roses he could find, but by the time Dean had thought to look, she was gone. Sometimes he forgot there were good people out there, too.
The doctor jotted a last note on Sam's file and let the clipboard drop. "He'll be asleep for a few hours now while his body recovers—why don't you come back for him this evening?" A wry smile. "Hospital charges a lot more for an overnight."
Dean managed a weak smile at that; apparently they'd already figured out he and Sam weren't exactly rolling in money, but it hadn't kept them from taking good care of Sam. He knew because he'd been there for every minute of it, including when they'd declared Sam stable and out of danger, and Dean had taken his own first deep breath in a long time. "Thanks, Doc. A few hours? You're sure he's not gonna wake up before then?"
"Definitely not for at least two hours. Choking takes a lot out of you." Another ironic look, and the doctor left the cubicle.
"Yeah, you and me both," Dean mumbled, and glanced back at Sam. Other than the swollen bee stings and a lingering paleness, he just looked asleep. It would've been easy to forget he'd almost died that day, if it hadn't been so hard to forget. Dean took a deep breath. "Two hours, huh? Just enough time to go find some water babies." He patted Sam's foot, grinning at the sleepy murmur he received. "Be back soon, bro."
Sam slept on.
Dean hesitated, reluctant to leave him defenseless like that, even in a hospital. Then again, maybe he was just getting maudlin in his old age. Dean grimaced, turned away, and walked out.
He was about a dozen feet into the thicket when he stepped on something hard and slender. Dean frowned at his feet, then bent to tease Sam's battle axe from the brush. Huh, he'd forgotten all about that. Sam had probably dropped it on their way out, and maybe that wasn't such a bad thing considering people might have been a little more reluctant to help them if they'd been armed with medieval weaponry. Dean hefted the axe comfortably and kept going.
The nest was just ahead, an above-ground warren of marsh and branches and dirt. Last time, there had been four water babies in it, and he and Dad together had made short work of them. What were these, replacements? Second cousins inhering the family home? Dean shook his head and slowed, moving as silently as possible through the greenery.
The green hair blended in with the bushes, but the pale skin of their faces was what he counted. Three this time—small favors—and asleep, their foot-and-a-half bodies curled around each other. He and Sam must've been nearly upon them the last time, and if Sam's sudden wheezing had disturbed them then, they'd settled down since.
Sam probably would have thought they were cute.
Dean moved a step closer, taking aim with his silenced pistol. Just as one of the babies stirred and blinked up at him.
Dean shot it without hesitation, but its death didn't go unnoticed by its nestmates. The other two water babies fluttered into motion, revealing a fourth sleeping beneath them. "This just keeps getting better and better," Dean groused as he reaimed.
He only winged that baby, though, and the other two were already charging him. Their small size was misleading; he knew they could drown a full adult, and at least one of their victims this time had been a healthy young man in his twenties. Dean stepped back, bringing the gun around, and shot one of the advancers, then swung at the other with Sam's axe. It jumped aside, then pounced on his face.
Dean went down under the force of its leap and rolled, yanking the baby off and throwing it as hard as he could. It flew through the air with a squeak, rising and charging him again as soon as it hit the ground.
He really missed Sam on the job.
Growling now, Dean grabbed the pistol from the ground where it had been knocked and shot the water baby in the face just as it was about to lunge at him again.
With an outraged cry, the last, injured baby attacked from the other side. This was so much easier with two, Dean gritted his teeth, as the baby's nails scored his side under his jacket and through his shirt. He clipped it on the side of its head with the butt of the pistol, sending it crashing away from him, then neatly chopped its head off with the axe.
Actually, he really missed Sam, period.
Dean stood there a long minute, panting amidst the carnage, eyeing each baby to make sure it was really dead. But as vicious and fast as they were, they were as vulnerable to bullets and blades as any animal, and they were quite dead. One final deep breath, and Dean lowered his weapons, the gun going back into his waistband, the axe wiped carefully on the grass before he tucked it out of sight under his jacket. Then he fingered his bloody side, wincing as he felt the ragged edges of his skin. Not too deep, just enough to hurt like blazes. With those disgusting water baby nails, he'd probably need a double dose of antibiotic cream, too.
"Rest in pieces," he said disgruntledly to the bodies around him, then turned away, one hand pressed to his side as he picked his way through the dense vegetation.
He had a brother to go see.
Sam woke the way he always did when it wasn't from a nightmare: slowly, sighing, face contorting comically before he truly became aware of his surroundings. A little sloppy and off-guard for their way of life, maybe, but Dean had always been too amused to mind much.
Sam stared at the ceiling, frowned, then turn to look at Dean.
"Hospital. Bee sting," Dean said evenly.
"Right. Because the two dozen I got earlier weren't enough." Sam's voice was still off, probably remnants of having his throat swell shut, but Dean wasn't feeling too picky just then.
"Actually, the doc said that happens sometimes after you get stung a lot—it pushes you over the edge and you get allergic, then one more sting and…" His hands did a little poofing motion.
Sam rubbed his eyes. "Great. Maybe we should have researched that along with all the monsters and spirits."
Dean pursed his lips; he'd had the same thought more than once those last few hours. "I guess I kinda figured," he twitched his head to one side, "if the curse didn't kill us, we were home free." His smile died half-formed.
Sam stared at him, hard enough to make him duck his head. "I'm sorry. This wasn't your—"
He held up a finger, then a hand to forestall whatever mush Sam was about to unleash on him. "Just buy me a card, okay?"
Sam smiled. "Yeah, don't hold your breath."
Dean's head shot up at that, and Sam looked chagrined enough to open his mouth, only to shut it again at Dean's glare. Then he frowned at Dean, his head lifting from the pillow.
"Are you bleeding?"
"Shh." Dean put a finger to his mouth, glanced at the cubicle doorway. "It's nothing," he said, pulling gingerly at his shirt, "just a scratch."
"Dean, you're bleeding." Sam reached for the call button, and Dean winced as he lunged to stop him.
"Cut it out, Sam—I can take care of it."
"Well, then, take care of it, don't just sit there leaking all over the chair."
Dean stared at him. "Four hours ago you were choking to death, and now you're freaking out over a little blood?"
"That was me, and that's not a little blood. You went out after the water babies alone, didn't you?"
"I didn't exactly have a back-up in case my brother landed in the hospital because of a bee!"
They subsided, glaring at each other. Sam broke away first, staring up at the ceiling again. His jaw worked a moment. "Fine, whatever. What matters is you're okay. Besides the bleeding."
"I was just thinking the same thing about you and breathing," Dean said more neutrally than he felt. He relented a little at the sight of the hard, flat line Sam's mouth was drawn in. "It would've been a lot easier with you there, okay, is that what you want to hear? I just didn't wanna take the chance of anyone else drowning in the meantime."
Sam expression also thawed, and he glanced at Dean, then away again. "This means I'm allergic from now on."
"Sorry," Dean said, sincere.
Sam shook his head. "So it might happen again, when you do need back-up."
Dean eased back down in the chair he'd staked out. "You saying you wanna quit?" he asked cautiously.
"Are you saying it doesn't bother you I have this weakness?"
Dean snorted. "I'm not crazy about you having something else that can kill you, but we all have our weaknesses, Sam. It just means we have a new addition to our gear." At Sam's look, he clarified, "Those injector pens. I bought a bunch of 'em."
"I thought we were broke," Sam said wearily.
"Not for this, we're not," Dean answered, in a tone that didn't invite questions. Sam didn't ask any, still staring up at the ceiling. He did that too much. Dean softened. "You wanna get out of here? There's an oatmeal bath waiting for you back at the room," he said enticingly. "I'll even make sure there aren't any bugs in the bathroom first."
"You're a jerk, you know that?" Sam said without heat.
"Yeah, but I have a great sense of humor. Is that a yes, or you wanna stick around here and play nurse a little longer?"
"Yes." He turned to pin Dean with a look. "After you take care of your side."
"Geez, Sam, who's the big brother here?" But he headed for the cubicle door.
He stopped, turned back.
Sam nestled his head back into the pillow. "Thanks."
Dean considered telling him to save it for the card, asking him what exactly for, and informing him what he could do with his thanks. But in the end, he just flashed Sam an answering smile, saw his brother mirror it. Then Dean disappeared out the door before things got too saccharine. He had to go find some first aid supplies to liberate.
And maybe one of those rubber spiders while he was at it, too.