Sam woke up over an hour after the alarm went off. He pushed himself up in the bed and scrubbed at his face before looking around the room with bleary eyes.
"Look who finally woke up." Dean said from his own bed, where he was sitting reading a magazine. The motel room was quiet and a shade of olive green that was even worse in the daylight than it had been by lamplight the night before.
"What time is it?" Sam asked. He looked and sounded tired and confused.
"Going on nine. I thought you were gonna be gone for the rest of the day."
"Un hunh." Sam tried to stand up but sat down again immediately. He rubbed his forehead with the heel of his good hand. Dean sat forward to get a better look at him.
"Tell me you didn't take those pills on top of the painkillers you got for your hand."
Sam looked at the cast on his right hand like he was seeing it for the first time.
"Uh – yes?"
"Dude – seriously -."
"No – maybe not. I don't remember. You said that –um," Sam waved his casted hand, clearly still too tired or too drugged to think. "- what's her name said those blue pills were good for stress headaches. And that's what it felt like I had. Anyway – that's the best sleep I've had since -." He broke off and looked away. He tried standing up again and though he was unsteady, he made his way toward the bathroom. "Probably be taking naps all day though."
At the door to the bathroom, he stopped and turned back.
"Hey Dean?" And he waited for Dean to look at him before he continued. His voice was soft. "Thanks for not making fun of me last night."
"What – about you being drugged out of your head? I was laughing on the inside Sammy. Go on, get dressed so we can get some breakfast."
"No – I mean – the other stuff. Thanks for treating that seriously. And for what you said about Dad."
"Hey, I was just telling the truth." Dean picked up his magazine again and started reading. A signal that he didn't want to talk about Dad.
"So was I." Sam told him.
"Yeah I know – you love me." Dean grinned.
"No – I mean yeah – but – what I said about Dad too. You and Dad."
"Sam -." Dean said. It sounded like a warning.
"No, you don't have to believe me. We don't have to talk about it. Forget it." Sam growled out, sounding frustrated. He turned to go into the bathroom. "You never let me do anything for you."
"Whoa – whoa. What're you talking about, I don't let you do anything for me?"
"Nothing. I'll get dressed. We can go."
"Dude, I wanna know what you're talking about." Dean said. He got up and walked over to Sam.
"Nothing." He started to go into the bathroom but Dean held the door.
"What don't I let you do for me?"
It seemed for a minute that Sam wasn't going to say anything, then the words flew out.
"Protect you? Watch out for you? Take care of you? Listen to you?"
"When don't I let I you listen to me?" Dean was thoroughly confused.
"When you don't talk to me?"
"Sammy, if this is about Dad -."
"What? What if it is? Dad loved you. You don't want to believe it, fine. You won't let me help you the way you helped me, fine. Let me just get dressed. We have to check out by eleven, don't we?" He pulled the door out of Dean's grasp and shut it hard.
Dean went back to his bed and sat down. He didn't know if he should be confused, amused, concerned or what. Sam was still on about Dad and that was just – painful. Sure Dad loved him, sure Dean knew that. He just couldn't deal with it right now. He'd spilled his guts about losing Dad by the side of the road yesterday; that was all the spilling he intended to do on the subject. He wanted to help Sammy deal with his grief and he wished he felt more up to that challenge, but he had to push his own grief someplace behind him for now because he had more important things to worry about.
The bathroom door opened, and Sam came out. He didn't say anything, only went into his duffel for his clothes and then back into the bathroom, slamming the door again. Dean didn't say anything either, just watched him. Maybe being pissed was part of a Fiorcet hangover. But with Sam it could be hard to tell what was influenced by outside sources and what was just Sammy pushed to his limits.
Sam came out of the bathroom in a little while, dressed. He shoved his t-shirt and sweat pants into his duffle and tied on his sneakers. But then he didn't move, he didn't say anything, until finally,
"For pushing you. I'm sorry, I forgot."
"I forgot -." Sam looked at Dean for a bit. "Nothing. You ready or what?"
"Well with an invitation like that." Dean rolled his eyes and stood up to slide his gun into the back of his jeans. But Sam still didn't move.
"I want to help you Dean. I want to be there for you."
"I know you do. And you are."
"When I think about you being there for me, I think how –." Sam gestured like he was looking for the words or the right way to say them. "- how you listen to me when I need to talk, and you get me to talk when I don't want to. You tried to help me with my nightmares, even when all you could do was be up early with me when I couldn't sleep. You drive anywhere I say we need to go when I have a premonition. Anything I need I have, because you get it for me almost before I know I need it. And when I'm feeling really rotten because it feels like the world is collapsing down around me, you make it stop. So when I thought about being there for you, that's what I thought I had to do for you."
Dean sat on the edge of his bed, facing Sam, so close their knees almost touched.
"So – what is it you 'forgot'?"
"I forgot – everything I guess. I forgot how to be there for you. Or maybe I never knew."
Out of anybody else, that would sound self-pitying or accusing or just plain whiny; but Sammy was apologizing for something he never did wrong.
"I mean you told me – yesterday, before we went to the hospital -." Sam gestured to his cast. " – you told me how you felt about losing Dad and I forgot or I didn't want to think that – that – you don't need to talk about things the way I do. You work everything out on your own, by yourself, and when you say something, that's it. That's all you need to say. But -."
"But you asked me a question and I really thought I was answering it last night. I mean, like you said I was drugged out of my skull," he tried to smile, tried to make light of it, but Dean could see it was forced. "But you asked me what I thought I could say to make it better and I thought – I thought – what I said would make it better."
"It did." Dean said, simply and honestly. Sam only shook his head like he didn't believe him. "Sam – I know I don't make it easy on you. That's just a family trait I guess." He thought of Dad. "What I said yesterday -."
He thought about that too. To be honest, he had asked Sam a question. And to Sam, a question was a puzzle, a challenge, a request that needed to be addressed as soon as possible. Dean had asked a question; of course Sam had answered it, in his own way, as soon as he could.
"You're there for me just by being there, for me. It doesn't matter if we're talking or not talking or driving or saving people or – or – whatever we do." Dean figured that was easier than listing everything they did together. "You're there. That's what I need, that's all I need. To me that just encompasses everything else."
While he was talking, Sam had dropped his head and when he didn't answer, Dean said,
"So help me, if you fell asleep while I was talking -."
"No, I'm awake." Sam lifted his head. His eyes were shining with tears and with gratitude.
"And?" Dean finally had to ask.
"And – I think this is too much talking before I've had breakfast."
"Thank God." Dean said, mostly kidding, knowing that was Sam's way of saying, OK, I get it, that's what I needed to hear. "Let's hit it then." He stood up and moved away from the beds, turning to watch that Sam gained his feet without any trouble. He seemed steady enough so Dean went to open the door. "Just to let you know though – I've hidden the pills somewhere you won't find them."
"Right Dean. In the bottom of your duffel, in the bottom of the old metal bandaid box, under all those teeny round bandages we'll never use but you'll never throw out anyway."
"Okaaaay." Dean said. "Time for a new hiding place." He let Sam out the door first, then shut it and made sure it was locked.
"Any chance we can stay here 'til tomorrow? I'm serious about needing to nap the rest of the day."
"All set Sammy. I already got us the room for another night." Dean said and smiled. Nothing made his world so right as knowing Sammy was okay. "Now – let's go get us some pie!"