Here's the 4th and last chapter of this story. Thanks for sticking around, and I hope you liked it. For those of you who are interested, the sequel to "Whatever you do, don't let go" will be up here on my profile at some point this week. I think I'll start posting in two or three days, something like that. The story is called "The Darkness Within", and the first two chapter are already up on DeanDamage (dot) com. Now enough of the shameless self-advertisment, I promise ;-)
I tried to keep the characters true to themselves in this chapter, considering that the story is still set in season 1, where Sam and Dean's relationship was still a whole lot different than towards the end of season 3.
Waking up normally wasn't a disconcerting process for Dean. He was used to snapping to awareness from one moment to the next, and years of his father's training and living a hunter's life had taught him the necessity of instant awareness. But this time, it took quite a while for the last fuzzy clouds to clear from his head after he blinked his eyes open.
He was in a motel room that he didn't remember checking into. It was easy enough to identify that, seeing that motel rooms were their main lodgings, anyway. They all somehow looked the same in different shades of ugly, and the hideous décor of this one really topped most of what Dean had seen over the years. Also, he was lying on the left side of what he had quickly identified as a king size bed. Which was puzzling, since he and Sam always took two queen sized beds unless none were available, and he really didn't remember checking into any motel, queen or king sized beds.
Even more puzzling was that he was lying on the side of the bed that faced away from the door. That absolutely didn't make sense, because it was his habit to pick the sleeping spot closest to the door. Closest to anybody or anything which might come into their room at night. In between them and Sam.
What made even less sense than everything that had gone through his head up until this point – none of which had really made any sense at all, truthfully, was that while the other side of the bed looked rumpled and slept in, it was also empty. Sam was nowhere in sight.
Not immediately seeing his brother upon waking up sent an unreasonable spike of fear through Dean. They were grown men, Sam could take care of himself while getting breakfast or going on a run. True, Dean liked to know where his brother was, and though he might prefer to have Sam within sight, he normally didn't feel panicked when he didn't immediately have a clue where he was.
Only, now he did. An unreasonable amount of worry and fear spiked through his sleep-befuddled brain, and he tried to roll from his side to his back in an attempt to get a look at the entire room, to check if Sam was maybe in the bathroom. And if he wasn't, then Dean would just roll over entirely and get up out of bed to get to the bottom of this mystery.
At least that was the plan.
As soon as he rolled onto his back and his left hip came to rest on the mattress, a sharp spike of pain shot up his entire left side. It had come out of nowhere, completely unexpected, and it left him breathless and with dark spots blurring the edges of his vision.
"Whoa, easy there."
The panic withdrew and crawled back into the hole it had crept from, leaving the rapid breathing and frantic thudding of his heart as sole reactions to the agonizing pain that had shot up his hip and was only now slowly, excruciatingly slowly, ebbing away. The mattress dipped slightly and Dean opened his eyes, surprised that he didn't remember when he had closed them.
"You really shouldn't be moving around too much, Dean."
Sam was sitting just a few inches away from Dean, a worried expression darkening his hazel eyes. But it wasn't that Dean was seeing. No, what Dean's gaze was immediately drawn to were the dark shadows under his brother's eyes – his brother's bloodshot eyes – and the stubble of a beard that was covering his cheeks and chin around his mouth, a mouth with lips drawn into a tight, worried line.
The image just didn't make sense. It didn't really fit.
Sam looked as if he hadn't slept in a couple of nights, like he had been part of a blood donation that had gone seriously bad. Pale skin, exhausted eyes, tired lines all over his face. It looked all kinds of wrong. But underneath the fatigue and the worry there was a warm shimmer in his eyes as he regarded his older brother.
"How bad is the pain?"
Dean realized that he was staring dumbly up at his brother, and quickly gave a small shake of his head to tell Sam that it was nothing, the pain barely noticeable. Which is kinda was, by now. Except for a bone-deep pulsing that felt as if somebody was thudding and ice pick against his hip bone with every heartbeat. But he had been through worse. A little sting in his hip was no reason to worry Sam, after all.
Sam took the head shake in silently, then he shook his own head and laughed, without any mirth behind it.
"Cut the crap, Dean. The fact that turning over in bed makes you cry out in pain kinda ruins the whole macho bullshit façade."
Cry out in pain? He most certainly hadn't cried out in anything, much less pain.
"It's not that bad." He rasped out, regretting his decision to speak as soon as the first syllable made its way up his throat, sliding on sandpaper and razorblades. Sam leaned forward and reached for something on the bedside table. A few seconds later, a glass appeared in Dean's line of vision, filled with a clear liquid. Chances that it were vodka or gin weren't particularly big, and admittedly the idea of drinking something against the scratching in his throat seemed appealing, but Dean had no idea how Sam imagined him drinking the water, prone as he was lying on the bed.
The answer came just as Dean tried to push his hands into the mattress for leverage, pain in his hip be damned. A large hand reached for the back of his neck, lifting his head clear off the mattress effortlessly. Dean was startled at being manoeuvred around like a rag doll, and his immediate reaction was to swat at his brother, trying to dislodge his Sam's hold on him and tell him that he was old enough to sit up on his own while drinking.
His hand hit something solid, the metal of his ring clinging against glass, and Sam shot up from his perch on the edge of the mattress as the water sloshed up at him.
"Damn it Dean, what the hell are you doing?"
Sam was glaring down at him, wiping at the wet stains on his shirt, and the look in his brother's eyes only served to confuse Dean even further. Sam was angry, major-league pissed, and while Dean would be the first to admit that his brother was big on the whole mountain out of a molehill thing, looking ready to start throwing punches because of some spilled water definitely was a slight overreaction.
So he did what he always did when he had no idea why exactly Sam was irritated – he answered with a healthy dose of irritation of his own.
"I was trying to sit up, what did you think I was doing? You might enjoy playing Florence Nightingale, but you'll have to find somebody else to practice with."
Sam stared at him, fury sparking in his eyes, and for a moment Dean thought that he was about to end up on the receiving end of an outbreak worthy of John Winchester. Because no matter how much Sam denied it, he could match tempers with their father easily. But the moment passed without anything happening, and eventually Sam took a step back from the bed and crossed his arms over his chest.
"So turning over in bed puts you in a world of pain, but you want to sit up all on your own? Fine, be my guest."
Yeah, the pain. Dean hadn't forgotten about it, couldn't possibly have because his hip was still throbbing, but he really hadn't thought it would be a problem. It was only sitting up, after all. And it wasn't as if he could back out of this one now, anyway. Dean knew a challenge when he saw one, and right now Sam was challenging him to try and sit up on his own, without the help of Samuel Winchester, MD.
Well, better peel those eyes Sammy, because big brother is about to show you how it's done.
The dull throbbing in Dean's hip increased ferociously the moment he pushed his hands into the mattress and tried to lever his body up into a sitting position. Something was pulling at his side, a tight and uncomfortable feeling that he immediately associated with stitches. Only, he didn't remember being stitched up. The pain was definitely worthy of at least 10 to 15 pokes of needle and thread through his skin, and it was only with gritted teeth and a lot of suppressed groaning that Dean managed to lift his upper body from the mattress.
His arms were feeling far less reliable than they usually felt, too. Dean was hard pressed to just sink back into the mattress and admit defeat, to try and drink something later when the mere act of sitting up no longer seemed comparable to the effort it took to scale the Rocky Mountains. But Sam was watching him, watching him with that expression in his eyes that clearly said the biggest of all I told you so's was about to hit him if he gave up now.
No, if Dean Winchester wanted to sit up, it was going to take more than phantom pain in his hip and a pair of weak arms to stop him from sitting up.
It took ages, and it left him pale, sweating and breathing hard, but finally Dean managed to push himself up into a sitting position on the bed. He didn't say anything as Sam non-too gently stuffed another pillow behind his back and pushed the refilled glass of water into his hand. The anger was still there in Sam's expression, smouldering just underneath the surface in every of his movements, but for now he seemed to be holding it back.
Dean struggled to keep the glass steady in his shaking hands and bring it up to his lips without spilling the water. He knew that Sam was watching him closely, searching for the obvious sign of weakness that would be the starting point of his lecture.
Dean thought he managed the whole process of drinking well enough for the fact that he was feeling ready to drop and sleep for a week. His hands were barely shaking when he wrapped both of them around the glass, and he managed to drink a few sips of water without causing a flash flood. Okay, so some water ran out of the corner of his mouth and dribbled down his chin, but not even Sam could start the big tirade because of that.
Sam was silently watching him, taking the empty glass when Dean handed it over with a triumphant expression on his face.
"See? Told you I was fine."
Sam put the glass away with a snort. "Oh yes, of course. You've grit your teeth and looked as if you were about to pass out from the pain, but you were stubborn enough to sit up even though your own body told you that it was no good idea. Now you're probably in even more pain, just because you had to prove a point. Yeah, you've got me convinced that you're fine. I hope you're happy now!"
Dean was taken a little aback by the sharpness in Sam's voice.
"Dude, what is your problem?"
"What my problem is?" Sam took a step closer to the bed, his 6'4'' frame looming over his brother and blocking everything else from sight. "That attitude right there, that's my problem!"
Sam spread his arms, making himself even larger, if that was possible. "You know exactly what I'm talking about, Dean. Your damn stubborn streak, the fact that you'd much rather be in serious pain than let anybody help you, that's what I'm talking about."
Dean crossed his arms in front of his chest, meeting defiance with defiance. "Dude, I was just sitting up."
"I'm not talking about your masochistic attempt at sitting up!" Sam threw his hands in the air in exasperation, then let them drop to his sides again. "I don't care if you try to sit up, you can do jack-knives and push-ups for all that I care."
Dean raised an eyebrow, his internal alarm bells ringing loudly. This was way out of the usual scope of Sam behaviour, and in all honesty Dean had absolutely no idea what was going on with his little brother.
"Okay Sam, you lost me. What the hell are you talking about?"
There must have been a trigger word somewhere in those two sentences, even though they sounded innocent enough in Dean's ears. But as soon as he had said them, Sam lurched back towards the bed in two big leaps, back to looming above his older brother.
"I'm talking about the fact that you didn't say that you were hurt, Dean! I'm talking about the fact that those daevas sliced you open from navel to hip, but you didn't say a word about it. No, because everything else was so much more important! It was so much more important to split up with Dad and get the hell out of dodge! So instead of saying anything you drove for over four hours, silently dripping A-positive all over the front seat because being injured just didn't fit into your itinerary, right?"
Dean drew a breath to reply something, even though he had no idea what he was going to say, but Sam cut him off with a sharp gesture.
"No Dean, you'll listen to me now! You nearly crashed the car because you were tired and beat up and bleeding and too damn stubborn to admit it! Do you even remember what happened after we left Chicago and you nearly crashed the car? The next thing you did was take a face-plant on the motel room floor, that's what you did. You fainted, from the blood loss, and from the fever you were running by the time I found out that something was wrong with you in the first place."
Sam pushed his hair out of his eyes with one hand, pointing the index finger of his other hand accusingly at Dean, who was starting to feel more than just slightly uncomfortable under his brother's gaze.
"Oh yes, the fever. Let me tell you about that, because that's the real highlight of the story. Because you were too much of an idiot and let your wound go untreated, you were running a high fever. I washed out your wounds with holy water, which wasn't pretty by the way, I stitched you up, and then I spent the next couple of hours trying to get your fever down. But since you never do anything halfway, you just had to get the frigging kind of fever that doesn't go down the normal way! I drenched you in cold compresses, and when that didn't help with anything but moisturizing the air, I dragged your heavy ass into the bathtub to get you under a cold shower. And you want to know what the result of that was, Dean? You had a seizure! Cramping, eyes rolling back in your head, clenched jaws, the whole works. I had to hold you down while you convulsed on the bed, hoping that you wouldn't bite off your own tongue!"
Dean frowned as he tried to remember any of what Sam was talking about, the fever, the ice bath, the seizure, but his brain came up with nothing at all. Sam, however, had talked himself into a full-blown rant, and he didn't seem finished by a long shot. He was pacing up and down in front of the bed, casting the occasional glare at Dean as he ranted off what seemed like quite a heap of frustration.
"That seizure scared the crap out of me, Dean. The only good thing about it, and I use the term good very liberally here, was that after it was finally over, your fever dropped. And I don't know what it is with you man, but the moment that I started to relax, after hours of worrying that the fever was going to fry what little brain cells you have left in that big skull of yours, you start shivering so hard that I thought you were going to fall off the bed from it! One moment you're burning up, the next you're freezing as if you had been left outside in a Michigan mid-winter night! For over two hours! And guess what happened once that was over?"
It was a rhetorical question, and Dean had absolutely no intention to answer, but nevertheless Sam made a pregnant pause as if he was just waiting for Dean to dare and say something.
"Your fever went through the roof again! Back over 104°, right where it was before you started convulsing. So I lugged your heavy ass right back into the bathroom where we had a repeat performance of me trying to get your fever down with a cold shower. You've been out of it for the entire day yesterday and all of last night, with your fever constantly going up and down again. One half of the bed is drenched because of all the water I've sloshed on you over the past thirty hours, and I haven't slept for more than a few minutes at a time since we arrived here because I was too damn scared that the moment I fell asleep you were going to have another seizure, or stop breathing or something equally horrifying. I called everybody I knew asking for help, and if Bobby hadn't called back a few minutes after you had that seizure, your ass would be recovering in a hospital right now, because I was at my wit's end and ready and willing to call that ambulance.
"So I don't frigging care whether you think you're ready to sit up on your own. Do whatever the hell you want, but don't give me any crap for trying to help you, okay?"
Sam kicked at the wastepaper basket that was standing at the foot end of the bed, and for a few seconds Dean simply stared at his brother. He still didn't remember what exactly had gone down over the past day. Pretty much everything after they had split up with their Dad was hazy, but he had a vague recollection of being in pain, of feeling first too hot, then too cold. It must have been bad for Sam to react that way, really bad, but it wasn't his fault that neither of them had known what a wound by a daeva could do if it was being left untreated.
As the silence stretched on, it became clear that Sam had gotten those things he felt he needed to say off his chest for now, and Dean thought it a good idea to try and steer the conversation back into safer waters.
"What did Bobby say?"
Sam looked up, frowning as if he had no idea what Dean was talking about. When his brain caught up with the question, he shrugged.
"That you're an idiot for letting a wound go untreated for so long. And that as far as he could tell after some research, if it hadn't killed you after a few hours, you'd probably be fine, you just had to ride it out. You know Bobby. It won't be pretty, but that's what you get for being an idiot."
Dean could hear the older hunter's gruff voice say those exact same words, and he couldn't help the smile that tugged on the corners of his mouth. That was Bobby for you.
The smile died very quickly when Sam, who had been walking over towards the small table on the other side of the room, suddenly spun around again.
"But you know what the real kicker about all this is?"
Dean didn't, but he guessed that if he admitted to that, it would only make things worse. So he waited for Sam to continue, and he didn't have to wait for long.
"All of it, the near-accident, the fever, the seizure, the ice baths, the shaking, all that wouldn't have been necessary if you had just said that you were hurt. The wounds on your forehead weren't that bad, and if you had said something about the wound in your side it would have been fine. Just one word, just a few minutes for cleaning out the wound and stitching it, then none of this would have happened."
"No, I get it. I do, Dean. You and Dad had a plan, and you needed to go through with it, at whatever cost. Just like always. And just like always, there was no need to involve me in any of it. Well, I hope you're happy. Your whole splitting the family up plan worked just brilliant. Because of all the people I called for help, Dad is the only one who hasn't called back yet, if only to ask if you were still breathing. So congratulations on that, Dean. I hope you're proud of yourself."
The words stung, more than Dean was willing to admit. Dean told himself that he knew his father's reasons for not calling, that John surely was worried about him, but that he was even more worried about all their safety. But still, none of that knowledge could quite keep away the sting.
Besides, Sam was missing the whole point. The real reason why he hadn't wanted to tell his brother about his injury for as long as they hadn't left Chicago and their father behind.
"Dad wouldn't have left."
Sam's head snapped up, a frown marring his features. "What do you mean?"
"If I had told you about the injury, before we split up. Dad wouldn't have left if he had known that I was hurt worse than he thought. You heard him Sammy,"
"It's Sam," Sam interrupted, and the tone of his voice added to the sting that Dean was already feeling.
"You heard him, all right? He was against splitting up at first because we were banged up so bad."
"Yeah, and you told him that we'd be fine. This…" Sam gestured around the room. "This isn't fine, Dean."
"No. And I know that you didn't want to split up so soon after meeting Dad in the first place. But you saw how easily Meg and those daevas got to us. That risk is too big, we can't take it for as long as we don't know what we're dealing with here. What's behind all this. And I promise you that I won't rest until we find Dad again and get all the answers we need, but for now this was the best solution. If we can't keep ourselves safe, we're never going to find the thing that killed Mom and Jessica."
Sam shook his head, his lower lip jutted forward in a way that reminded Dean of a pouting younger version of his brother. He knew that Sam didn't share his take on things, the reasons why he had made those decisions. But Dean would never forgive himself if something happened to their father, or to Sam, just because he was afraid to make a decision that might hurt him. That wasn't ever going to happen.
"Listen Sam, it was a mistake not to tell you that I was hurt. I know that, all right? But I couldn't tell you while Dad was still around, and to be honest, things got fuzzy pretty soon after that."
"You were driving for more than four hours, Dean."
"Yeah, and I remember maybe ten minutes of that time. It…it was a mistake, okay? I know that, and it won't happen again."
"You're damn right it won't." Sam was drawing himself up to his full height, and for a reason Dean couldn't quite grasp, a primal fear started to spread through him. Not fear of Sam, never that, but of what he was going to say next. Because from somewhere, unbidden, came the thought that Sam was leaving again, that he was steeling himself for telling Dean exactly that, and if that was the case Dean didn't know what he'd do.
"It won't happen again Dean, because if this here," he gestured between them with the index finger of one hand, "with us on the road together, hunting together, if that's going to work, you need to start treating me as an equal. You might be my older brother, and I might have been away from hunting for more than three years, but I've learned the same things that you did. I'm in this just as deep as you are, and there won't be any more decision making over my head. I'm not a kid anymore, and it's about time you stopped treating me as one."
Asking Dean to stop looking out for his little brother, to worry about him and try to keep him safe, was like asking him to stop breathing. He couldn't.
But Sam was right in a way. Dean hadn't even listened to his brother's protests against splitting up. And no matter what Sam thought, on a hunt there wasn't always enough time for democratic decision making. But Sam was a good hunter, he had good instincts, and he definitely wasn't stupid. Besides, he looked like hell and Dean most certainly didn't want to push him into another rant right now. So he nodded.
Sam moved his head back and raised his eyebrows. "Okay?"
Dean should have known that giving he obvious answer was going to work just as well as disagreeing would have.
"What? It's what you wanted to hear, right?"
"I don't want you to tell me okay because you think I want to hear it, I want you to agree with me only if you mean it."
"And I do. You're not a kid anymore. I get that. It doesn't mean we're going to discuss each and every little detail about everything from now on, but I get what you're trying to say. So okay."
Sam looked at him for a few seconds, as if trying to judge whether Dean was sincere, then he nodded.
He turned around again and walked towards the small kitchenette where he started pulling some bread, some other stuff Dean couldn't see clearly, and a carton of orange juice out of a cupboard. Dean didn't remember checking in here, and he most certainly didn't remember stopping for food.
"Where does all that stuff come from?"
Somehow, Dean couldn't see Sam going on a supply run, not if his fever had really been as bad as his brother had described. Sam only shrugged, his back still turned towards Dean.
"The kid who runs the night shift at the reception. I caught him as he was about to leave, and gave him a twenty to run some errands for me."
Dean put his foot in his mouth rather often, but even he knew that right now was not the best of time to berate his brother for spending their hard-earned money that way. Besides, probably had been the best solution in a less than ideal situation, even though Dean thought that ten dollars would have bought them a supply run just as well as the twenty had.
"What did you tell him?"
Another shrug. "That you had an altercation with a jealous husband and were out of it. After I gave him the twenty, he wasn't too curious anymore."
Dean nodded. He hated involving other people in their daily business, but sometimes it couldn't be avoided, he knew that. Better than having Sam starve himself while he was watching Dean go through his fever. Though judged by the full look of the bread package, Sam probably hadn't eaten much until he had know that Dean was out of the woods. Dean knew he wouldn't have, if their situations had been reversed.
For a few minutes, Dean watched in silence as Sam busied himself fixing up sandwiches. He felt exhaustion creep up on him again, but for now it felt good to just be awake and not fighting, or listening to his brother yell at him for things he didn't even remember. Sam's next words, when they were spoken, hit him completely out of the blue.
"I'm not going to leave, you know?"
Dean blinked and focussed his eyes on his brother's back, not sure he had heard right.
Sam turned around and carried the sandwiches and the box of orange juice over towards the bedside table. He put the food down and shrugged uncomfortably, not really meeting Dean's eyes.
"You were talking. After the worst was over, around the time that your fever started breaking, you were talking in your sleep."
Dean groaned and sank back against the pillows. "Please, kill me now."
He didn't remember talking about anything, and he absolutely didn't want to rehash whatever emotional baggage he had tried to talk off his chest while in fever-induced delirium.
"Sam, I really don't…"
"We need to talk about this." Sam finally looked up and met Dean's gaze straight on. Dean was surprised at how tired Sam looked. Earlier, there had been that underlying anger shining through, but now that was gone and it had left his brother radiating exhaustion from every pore. And only at that moment Dean understood how much that past day had really taken out of Sam. He had reamed himself out, way past the point of exhaustion, just making sure that Dean's physical wounds weren't going to kill him. And as an added bonus, Dean had also thrown him another bone to work himself up about. Nothing worked Sam up like emotional distress, especially if he sensed that distress in his brother.
"Listen Sam, I was feverish. I don't even know what I said. I…really, it's not that big a deal."
Sam stuffed his hands into the pockets of the grey sweatpants he was wearing and shook his head.
"It is. I…we need to talk about this so that it's clear, once and for all. What happened in Burkitsville, that's not going to happen again. I'm not going to just walk out on you during a hunt, or in between hunts."
For a moment Dean was baffled by the reference, and the question why Sam would bring up something that he had thought put behind them. But he remembered the situation only too clearly, and he wasn't too sure Sam was entirely honest here.
"Not even if we disagree on what our next move should be?"
Dean had his doubts that when it came down to another situation like the one that had led to them splitting up, Sam was going to be able to keep his temper in check. But Sam only shook his head.
"No. I meant what I said back then. We're in this together. I want answers, and I can only get those answers if we find Dad, at a point when it's safe for us to be together again. I want to know what killed Mom and Jess, and I want the thing dead. And until then, you're stuck with me. So whether or not we disagree on how to get there, I won't leave until we do."
Dean heard the big fat but that was about to come being set up right from the start of Sam's little speech, and it tightened his throat a little. Sam nervously ran his fingers through his hair before he looked back at his brother.
"But once that is done, whether that's gonna happen in a week or a year, once I have those answers and the thing that killed Jess is dead, you're going to have to let me go."
When this is over, you're gonna have to let me go my own way.
It was like a blow to his gut, to hear Sam say the words that had been echoing in his head for hours, or even days. But Dean struggled hard to keep it from showing on his face, and shrugged as nonchalantly as he could.
"You said that before, it's nothing new."
Sam nodded, Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed.
"I know. But after what you said…listen, I know that you hate all this emotional pep-talk, so we don't need to rehash every word you said while you were busy setting a new record in frying your brain cells with a fever. But I need you to know that when I went to Stanford, it never was a decision against you, or Dad. Maybe not even a decision against this life, but a decision for another life. One that makes me happy. But that doesn't mean I don't want you or Dad in it, too. Just…"
"Just on your terms," Dean interrupted, and on any other day Sam would have risen to the bait. Dean wanted him to, he'd much rather be fighting again than have this talk. But Sam only shook his head.
"You're my brother. Dad is my father. You're the only family I have, and I want you in my life as just that. My family. And I don't want you to change, or pretend to be something you aren't around me, but I also don't want you to try and change me. If I decide against a life of hunting, then I want you to accept that. So what if I'm no longer the fellow hunter then? I'll always be your brother, right? And Dad's son, whether or not I lead the life he wants me to."
He shook his head and tiredly rubbed his eyes. "That's all coming out wrong. I just…Dean, if I want to go back to Stanford, you'll have to let me go. But I won't be going because I want to get away from you. We'll always be a family, you, Dad and me. A weird and dysfunctional family, but a family. And kids grow up, they move out and lead their own life, without breaking contact entirely. It happens all the time."
Dean shook his head, an uneasy sense of déjà vu settling in the pit of his stomach. They had had a similar conversation before, back when Sam had first announced that he was going to leave for Stanford. "We're not like every other family, Sam. You said it yourself, we're all that we have. We can't let each other down."
"Yes, and I'll always be there if you or Dad need me to. But in between that, I want to live my own life. The life I chose for myself. And even if there's no hunting in that life, I really hope that there'll be a brother and a father in it, and not another three years of silence."
Dean didn't want to have this conversation. Not here, not now. Not while he was too weak to even move around. He looked up and met his brother's eyes. "That was beautiful, Sam. If you can get it to rhyme, you have one hell of a poem."
Sam stared at him for a moment, then he shook his head. "You're such a jerk."
It was easy to fall back into that. And it was the kind of conversation Dean was used to. Sam, too, seemed grateful for the change in topic and relaxed somewhat. He nodded his head at the bread on the bedside table.
"Go eat that sandwich, you need some food in you. And then you're going to get some more rest, I don't want any repeat performances of the last day."
Sam ordering him around normally would have required a comment, but for once in his life Dean bit his lip and kept silent. Instead he nodded at his brother's haggard appearance.
"You should grab some shut-eye yourself, Sam. No offence, but you look like death warmed over."
Sam ran a hand over his face and sighed. "Yeah, well that's what you get if your brother is an idiot."
Dean picked up the sandwich, took a bit out of it and nodded his head to the other side of the bed. "Get some sleep. I won't even comment on your choice of a king sized bed for once."
"They were out of rooms with two queens. And in case you didn't hear it earlier, the other side of the bed is still soaked from the compresses, and from lugging you back into bed after your beauty baths."
Yeah, Dean kinda had forgotten about that part. He sighed and gestured towards the middle of the bed, in between himself and the wet spots. Well, most of the wet spots, at least he hoped so.
"Lie down before you fall down."
"Dean, I'm not sure…"
"If you don't get into bed right now I swear I'm going to scoot over, stitches be damned. Now stop being such a princess and get your ass in bed." He stuffed the last bite of the sandwich in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "I'm kinda beat myself, and I don't want the sound of you dropping to the floor to wake me up."
Sam gave Dean a one-fingered salute, but after a short moment of deliberation went around the bed and climbed in. He scooted over the wet and damp spots until he was lying next to his brother in the middle of the bed.
Dean pulled the second pillow out from behind his back and tossed it at Sam. He was grateful that lying back down was a hell of a lot easier than sitting up had been. A lot less painful, too.
True, the fact that half the bed was wet gave him and Sam a lot less room to move around, though Dean sincerely doubted that with his stitches he was going to do much of that, anyway. But still, he knew his brother. And after the conversation they just had, combined with the close proximity, Dean thought it warranted an extra word of caution.
"Don't even think about cuddling up after all that caring and sharing you've just forced me through. If as much as a finger touches me, I'll use my elbows. Understood?"
Sam pulled the blanket up to his chin with a sigh. "Yeah, whatever." His voice already sounded half asleep, and Dean didn't doubt that it was going to take long for Sam to be out of it completely. He gave the blanket a tug.
"No blanket hugging, either."
"Hmmhmm. Night Dean."
Dean smiled. "Night Sammy."
This time, no rebuke for the nickname was forthcoming, and for a few long moments Dean listened to his brother's deep and even breathing beside him as he fell asleep. Dean too felt exhaustion creep up towards him, but for a few minutes longer he kept staring at the ceiling, thinking about their conversation.
Sam was going to leave.
That was nothing new, even if his brother had just confirmed it in the clearest possible way. Sam didn't want them out of his life, but he didn't want their life either. Not wanting them out of his life already was a step forward compared to the time he had spent in Stanford before. But Dean wasn't too sure that he was willing to settle for that.
Because there was one thing Sam hadn't thought about. Maybe something he wasn't even aware of, or wanted to be aware of. And that was that Dean couldn't let Sam leave again. Not after getting him back. He had no idea what was going to happen, or how he was going to make sure that Sam stayed, but he was sure that he'd find a way.
He needed to.
Because it was a simple fact that Dean couldn't go through everything his life was tossing at him on his own. And before, there had always been Dad. Until Dad had split and left him. And besides, Dad was…well, he wasn't Sam. Dean loved the man with all his faults and all the mistakes he made, but he wasn't Sam.
Dean needed both of them around because they were all that he had, everything that was grounding him in a life of drifting.
He didn't care what it was going to take, but he was going to make sure that he wouldn't lose Sam again. Whatever it took.
But the main thing was that Sam was here now. Everything else he was going to deal with when the time came.
For now, he was going to sleep.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed. As always, please let me know what you think.