The Wounded
K Hanna Korossy

"How's it look?" Sam asked hesitantly.

His brother barely spared him a glance before resuming his examination. His voice was tight when he answered. "How do you think it looks?"

"Can you fix it or do we need to take—"

"No." But he sounded uncertain.

"I'm really sorry, Dean."

"Just…shut up and let me think."

Sam obeyed, leaning against the side of the patient and burying his hands in his pockets. He'd expected to find the other bed empty when he'd woken; Sam had practically had a room of his own this job, with all the time Dean spent at Cassie's. But this morning he also hadn't been surprised to look out the window at first light and see the battered Impala in the parking lot, Dean looking it over with all the worry of a parent with a sick child. Some things took precedence even over brothers and old lovers. Sam had swallowed his smile before joining his brother outside to commiserate. He was in enough hot water with Dean as it was.

"Hand me the ball-peen," Dean finally said.

Sam glanced around his feet at the tools laid out with surgical precision, and picked up the hammer. Dean took it without looking. Experimentally, he began tapping at a ding in the fender.

Sam craned to see him work, and to take in the damage on his own. It wasn't too bad, actually, considering a ghost truck had rammed it the night before. "These old cars are pretty solid—it could have been a lot worse," he offered. Dean would take that as reference to the car, but Sam was still grateful Dean was okay. The car's solid steel bumpers hadn't been built to crumple and he'd nearly been rammed off the road. A few dings seemed a small price to pay in exchange.

Dean shot him a poisonous glare, and Sam quickly subsided. So much for the positive approach.

He watched again in silence as his brother operated, marveling at Dean's manual dexterity and precision. Sam had wondered before how good an engineer or surgeon or even mechanic Dean would have made if school would have been an option for him. Instead, he plied his skills by keeping his car and his brother in one piece, and Sam couldn't say he wasn't grateful for that. But sometimes, especially when they ran across someone like Cassie, he couldn't help but speculate.

Sam shifted, straightening away from the cold metal. The weather had been freakishly cold for April in Missouri, although it was warmer that morning. Maybe the cold had somehow been part of the apparition, too? Sam tried to think of a similar case before giving it up as unimportant. By nightfall they'd be in another state, anyway.

The light tapping ended in a frustrated sigh. Sam looked over the trunk again. "You really can barely see anything, man," he said helpfully.

Dean's jaw shifted. "If you don't can the Little Mary Sunshine act right now, Sam, you're walking to the next job."

He held up his hands in surrender until Dean turned the glower back to his car. But the mention of their next job stilled a nervous flutter inside Sam. They'd already found another case, a haunted house people were disappearing into in Oklahoma, but it had passed through Sam's mind a few times that Dean might put it off, wanting to stay with Cassie. He'd given Sam that option once with Laurie Sorenson, but Sam hadn't been able to bring himself to make the same offer. As many problems as he had with what they did, right now the job—and Dean—were all he had, and he was a little afraid of his brother's answer. If the banged-up Impala had kept him from his lover on their last night, however, maybe Sam hadn't had as much to fear as he'd thought.

An angry mutter came from Dean, and Sam tried to look sympathetic instead of amused as he stepped around to the back of the Impala and crouched beside his brother. It really wasn't bad: two larger dents and an assortment of smaller dings were the only signs Dean had nearly been run down the night before. The paint wasn't even damaged, only the steel bumper. Sam studied the damage, licked his lips. "I think I can fix this."

Dean turned to give him a half-disbelieving, half-annoyed frown. "Since when do you know anything about cars?"

"Not cars," Sam said with a grin and stood. "Chemistry. I'll be right back."

There were several fish markets in the area, and it didn't take him long to find what he was looking for. He came back bearing his prize wound in several layers of paper, unwrapping the smoking chunk under Dean's skeptical gaze.

"What is that?"

"Dry ice," Sam said, and knelt beside the car. He pressed the ice against the worst of the dings and waited.

"You'd better not—"

With a tight popping sound, the ding smoothed out, the metal unblemished and frosty. Dean's jaw went slack. Sam grinned and moved on to the next one.Pop. "The cold makes the metal contract and the dents spring back into place," he explained. Pop. "See, it's not that bad." Another ding bit the dust.

"Says you," Dean grumbled because he was expected to, but he sounded more amazed than irritated.

"It did save your life, Dean."

"No thanks to you." Okay, now he was irritated again.

Sam swallowed a sigh. "I said I was sorry. I really was sure the church ground would work."

"No, you said you thought maybe it would work. You weren't the one staring at two tons of metal coming right at you."

He hadn't exactly had a lot of time to work out a foolproof plan, but Sam winced as one of the larger dents succumbed to the ice. Dean had almost decked him the night before, and while Sam knew he hadn't seriously damaged his brother's trust in him, he had at least stretched it.

Sam looked over at him earnestly. "For whatever it's worth, I'm glad you're okay, man."

Dean all but rolled his eyes. "Forget it," he muttered, and edged Sam lightly aside with one shoulder to try the dry ice himself. Sam obligingly handed it over, watching the hard edge of his brother's face fade as things smoothed back out again.

The bumper was nearly back to its pre-ghost truck shape. Dean ran a loving hand over it, then looked up at Sam, clearly impressed. And Dean didn't impress easily. Sam savored it for all of five seconds, until came the inevitable question.

"You learn that in college?" Dean asked.

Sam made a face, scuffed at the light snow on the ground. "Uh, MacGyver, actually."

A laugh broke out of his brother. "You're kidding. See? I told you you could learn everything you need to on the road."

"Does that mean you're not gonna kill me?" Sam asked wryly.

The laugh settled into a complacent grin. "This time, but you mess with the car again, Sam…"

"I know, I'm toast." He shook his head. "Your priorities are seriously skewed, Dean—you worry about your car being in danger but not your life?"

Dean wrapped up the dry ice, chucked it into a nearby trash can, and shrugged. "I know you wouldn't risk my life." He tilted his head. "The car, I'm not so sure about." Dean gathered up his tools, and patted Sam's chest as he strode past him. "I'm gonna take a shower. Cassie's meeting us at the docks in an hour to say good-bye."

Sam turned to watch him walk away, still digesting the offhanded show of faith. Just in case he had any doubts about those dings, apparently. He glanced down at the bumper, running a hand over the now-smooth metal.

And smiled.

The End