Sam does his shirt buttons up slowly, fingers shaking. He glances down at his feet, wiggling his toes and realising that his boots and socks are still in the basket under the gurney.
He looks up to see the doctor writing something on her pad. She glances at him, expression blank, purely professional but her eyes are kind, sympathetic, full of pity.
Sam bends down to pick up his boots and goes through the laborious task of pulling them on, fastening the laces. When he finally gets up he is sweating and he begins to cough, hard, his chest aching with it.
The doctor waits, hands him a tissue and a slip of paper.
"These will help with the coughing, ease the pain. I can give you something to help you sleep as well."
Sam swallows, "Thanks," he says, but it sounds ineffectual and she nods, handing him another slip of paper.
"Your brother is outside," she adds, but Sam already knew that, already knew that Dean wouldn't have left the waiting area, let alone the hospital, knowing that Dean wouldn't go anywhere without Sam.
Maybe, when he was younger, Sam might have railed at the unfairness of the world. He might have shouted and screamed that he was entitled to some happiness, to normal, to the same things as everyone else had. As he had grown and events had overtaken him, he stopped questioning so much, stopped praying eventually, letting his body and, more importantly, his mind go numb, just coping, concentrating on just coping.
Sam had been special, a psychic, Sam had died, Dean had made that fucking deal and gone to hell. They had lost their father, their mother and most of their loved ones to that fucking demon and their lives had been, for the most part, pretty grim.
But Sam had gotten Dean out of hell. He had done it and he had his brother safe with him. It had taken two whole years for Dean to recover, for Dean to be Sam's big brother again, but now Dean was almost back to normal, he was eating again, hitting on girls, wearing that old, creaky leather and leaning out of the Impala singing Bon Jovi. They were hunting again, small fry granted, but they were back on the road, Sam and Dean, Dean and Sam.
Sam tucked the piece of paper into his jacket pocket and nodded to the doctor. She shook her head for a moment and opened her mouth to speak, but Sam lifted his hand to stop her, his own smile forced.
"Don't," he said, "just don't."
His brother was sitting on a black plastic chair. It looked uncomfortable, hard and much too small for Dean. He looked up when Sam came in and the relief in his eyes was palpable. Right there and then, Sam knew he couldn't tell him, couldn't, in all faith, open his mouth and tell Dean.
There were no deals left, but Sam was in no doubt that, if there were, Dean would be at those crossroads in a second, damning himself once again.
Sam sighed, he didn't want this for his brother, he wanted Dean to be happy, to maybe meet a girl, like Lisa or Cassie, to settle down, have kids – Dean loved kids – make a life for himself. Sam knew that Dean wouldn't do this, wouldn't ever leave Sam. Sam also knew that Dean couldn't, wouldn't go on without Sam, wouldn't, didn't want to be alone. It was Dean's greatest fear, the loss of his small, ever decreasing family and Sam didn't want to even think about what was going to happen when he was gone.
"Sammy?" Months ago, Dean would have tried to hide his emotions, would have put on a game face, closed himself off, but things had changed now, they had been through so much, seen each other in vulnerable situations, said goodbye more than once and not even attempted to hide their tears. Dean got up off the chair and took Sam by the arm, squeezing tight as if to make sure that he was real and whole, and "what did the doctor say?"
"Just a bad chest infection," Sam was aware of how hoarse he sounded, how tired he looked, his face too thin, his hair long and unwashed, dark shadows under his eyes, "she's given me some stuff to make it better," he smiled, trying to make it real, "told me to rest up for a few days, you know, nothing strenuous."
"Guess Bobby will be getting a visit then," Dean gave his arm another squeeze; the relief in his eyes growing with every word Sam spoke. Sam hated lying to his brother, hated it. He had thought all the lies between them were long gone, that they had confessed everything, that there would be no more secrets.
"Yeah, well, he told me he gets lonely at nights," Sam was relieved to have something else to talk about, to take Dean's mind off Sam and his illness, to stop Dean from asking further questions, to stop Sam having to tell lie after fucking lie.
"Are you sure you are ok to travel?" Dean was eyeing him up, biting his lip and shaking his head, "I mean, only two days ago you were coughing up blood Sammy, I can't tell you how worried that made me."
"Yeah, I told you, just a severe chest infection – give me a few weeks and I'll be fighting fit again," Sam swallowed through the lump in his throat, blinking away traitorous tears, wanting to give himself over to Dean, let his big brother hold him and make things better.
"Lets get the stuff and blow this joint then," Dean grinned, lighter now and ready to go, "hospitals make me nervous."
Sam slept in the car, head resting against the cool glass. He didn't dream anymore, hadn't had a vision since old yellow eyes died and the car felt like home to him, one of the few homes he had ever really known.
There was something comforting about the leather interior, the soft thump of mullet rock, the scent of gun oil and salt permeating every corner of the Impala. Sam had grown up in this car, done his homework in the back seat, and learnt how to drive behind her wheel had his first kiss pressed against her hood, the girl's hands on his waist, gentle and shy.
He opened his eyes when the engine cut out and Dean drew the car to a halt. He blinked, once or twice and felt Dean's hand on his forehead, stroking back his hair, that familiar face close to his, green eyes dark with concern.
"You're hot," Dean murmured, his hand still on Sam's skin.
"Thanks – so are you," Sam hoped that the joke would lighten the moment, but Dean wasn't biting. His brother shook his head, removing his hand and reaching inside the glove compartment for the pills that the nurse had given them.
"Take these," he handed them to Sam with a bottle of water and Sam took them, drinking the liquid gratefully, his throat easing with every swallow, "we'll be at Bobby's in about an hour – you ok with that?"
"Yeah," Sam nodded; he wanted to get to Bobby's more than he could say. He wanted to be able to tell someone, he needed to. Someone who could take care of his brother after – after – well who knew what Dean was like, who knew what Dean needed. He had to tell Bobby, to make arrangements, to make his peace with the world. He turned his head to his brother and smiled, "I'm ok with that."