A/N: This fic is for apieceofcake who won me in the fics4books auction. The auction was for a minimum 5000 words Gen H/C fic. She didn't really have a prompt. I watch entirely too much Mystery Diagnosis on Discovery Health Channel. So, this is what I came up with. There's obviously more to come.

Warnings: Language. That's about it. Also, not betaed and not yet finished.

Summary: Dean's had a lot of concussions. He always bounces right back. This time is different. Hurt!Dean, Comforty!Sam. Brotherly angst and schmoop. For apieceofcake.

Disclaimer: Not mine. I got no right. I do it anyway. Somebody stop me. No defamation or infringement intended in this work of fiction.

Cracked

It's nothing new, really. Just a variation on a theme. Twenty-something years in the life, and he's nearly got being thrown into things down to a science. Of course, it's the variation, the 'nearly' that's probably going to get him killed one of these days. He's not entirley sure today isn't the day when, instead of a nice, flat wall, his forehead makes a beeline for the open door. Not the doorway. That would be way too convenient. The door itself. And the thing about two inches of steel to the frontal lobe? It hurts like Hell.

"Dean!" It's the Sam Winchester fight song, a sure sign things have gone downhill fast.

Dean knows he's expected to respond with the U-rah-rah portion of the cheer, something snarky and Dean Winchester patented. All he manages before the world goes from white to red to black is, "Not the face, bitch!" He chokes on something pooling in his throat before he finishes the sentence, and passes out to the blessed sound of Sammy's Glock somewhere close by.

--

It's not his first concussion, not by a long shot, so when the staticky fizz of consciousness starts to bubble up behind his eyelids, he's in no hurry to break the surface. In his experience, blissfully shrouded in darkness is, by far, the best way to spend his recovery time. Just about anything's preferable to putting his head in a vice and letting beams of light drill through his eye sockets into his brain while blood pounds and crackles in his ears like a beat boxer with a vendetta.

He approaches the surface three or four times, just enough to be sure he's still breathing, and lets himself slip back under. In his mind, the entire process takes a few minutes, an hour at the most, but the white-painted walls and daylight streaming through the hospital room window when he finally cracks an eyelid suggest it's been longer than that.

"Two days."

Dean turns his head toward the sound of the familiar voice, immediately regrets that decision, or lack thereof as his skull gives a throb that reverberates through his guts.

"Whoa, whoa. Just take it easy, You've scrambled your upstairs brain a little bit. It'll take awhile for the downstairs one to pick up the slack." Ah, the banter of the thinly disguised mother hen, no doubt hovering over her nest and driving the nurses crazy with its clucking.

Dean raises a hand to his forehead, the familiar drag of i.v. lines sending a cold tingle down his arm. His fingertips brush a thick patch of gauze and tape in what feels like an x-shape just over the bridge of his nose. The area beneath it feels tender like maybe his skull's been replaced with ground beef and silly putty. Fucking zombies. If the bitch messed with his face...

"Don't worry, dude. You're still pretty enough for Shrek."

"Jackass," Dean grumbles, and damn if he can't see the soundwaves against his eyelids.

"That's Donkey," Sam corrects, his fingers cold and clammy against Dean's wrist as he pulls it away from the bandage. "And I wouldn't be stirring up the old grey matter if I was you."

"I can't believe you brought me to a hospital for a concussion."

"Your nose was gushing blood, man. I couldn't stop it, and you wouldn't wake up. I was afraid you'd choke," Sam clears his throat, and even though Dean's sure he doesn't realize how loudly he's doing it, he can't stop himself from recoiling away from the sound of his brother's voice. "And it's good thing I did. You swallowed so much blood, you threw up all over the E.R." He says that like it means something, then clarifies. "We'd have never got the deposit back on the room."

"Good to know you're looking out for our bottom line," Dean huffs between stabs of pain.

"Be nice if you'd look out for yours," Sam says.

"I would if you'd stop wearing that zombie pheromone cologne you're so fond of. What the fuck was that?" He hears Sam laugh, a relieved exhale he's probably been holding for the whole two days.

"You remember, then?"

"You tried to take out a zombie with your bare hands. Of course I remember," he grouses. "It was a stupid-assed thing to do." He coughs a little from his tongue sliding back in his throat. Lying flat on his back has never been a good position for him. At least not for sleeping alone. "Thought I taught you better."

"I was trying to sneak up on her, and I would've done it, too, if you hadn't got your Superman tights in a bunch."

"And you were going to do what when you caught her? Poor salt on her tail? It was a zombie, Sam, not Heckyl and Jeckyl." He blinks his eyes open, squinting enough so all three of Sam's heads migrate front and center, but refrains from raising an eyebrow when the muscles in his forehead give a twinge of protest.

"I had a plan," Sam says, and now that Dean can see the dark circles under his eyes, the complete lack of humor in them despite the inflection of his voice, Dean's tired for him, sorry to be so much trouble.

Dean looks away, smoothing the sheet over his chest to busy his hands. "For future reference, let's clear all plans with each other before going off half-cocked."

"Do as you say and not as you do, right?" This time, there's a hint of exasperation in his voice, but that's as far as it gets.

"You know it," Dean mutters, "bitch."

"Jerk," Sam retorts, sinking into the chair a little further. His skin's tacky from two days of not leaving Dean's side, sticks and stutters against the vinyl as he slumps lower. Each juddering squelch twangs off the thin veil of consciousness like ping pong balls bouncing off Dean's brow bone. This has got to be the worst concussion ever.

Screwing his eyes shut against the outside world seems to have just enough of a dampening effect to make it all bearable, that and breathing through his mouth so he can't hear the whistling in his sinuses. It's not the most comfortable sleep, but they both sink into it together.

--

"Sam, I swear, if you don't stop hovering, I'm gonna knock your ass out." Dean pushes the glass of water away, shakes the motel endtable with his fist when he slams the three Tylenol down on top. It's his best self-righteous indignance, though it's not entirely genuine, considering he just swallowed four Tylenol himself while Sam was out getting groceries. The only thing worse than Sam worrying and forcing meds on him is Dean knowing the worry is justified and self-medicating behind his brother's back. "I'm fine."

"You got out of the hospital two days ago, and you're still sleeping more than waking up. Yesterday, you watched a Dora the Explorer marathon because the remote wasn't within arm's reach, and you don't get up at all except to go the bathroom. I don't think you're fine."

"Me duele la cabeza, Sam," he says with a glare. "See? Educational t.v. is educational. Don't knock the Dora. She totally rocks."

"I'm not laughing," Sam says arms crossed as he glares across the span between the two beds. Dean can only see him from the corner of one eye, because the throbbing between his eyes is only bearable if he keeps one forearm laid across them, and turning his head is completely out of the question.

"Well, you should. That scowly thing you got goin' on is not a good look on you."

"And pain isn't a good look on you."

"That's a lie and you know it. Every look is good on me. I'm irresistible." He makes the mistake of grinning. It's a habit. "Ah!" He should really work on breaking that one, 'cause whoa.

"Here," Sam says with a sigh. "I got you some of those rapid chill ice packs." Something cold thumps against Dean's shoulder and sends a jolt through his collar bone, up his neck, to inner ear, and then forehead. It's true what they say, the ankle bone is connected to the leg bone, and so on and so forth. At this point, Dean would be willing to fund scientific research that would allow for concussed heads to be detached and packed in some of that space foam and reattached once the brains have unscrambled themselves.

Sam must see him wince just from the jarring of the soft ice pack. "I think we should take you back to the hospital." It's almost whispered, obviously something Sam's been thinking for awhile but hasn't been able to speak out loud. Dean knows he must look like shit to force it out of him. "You've never been laid out like this from a concussion before. I think there's more to it."

"No, Sam. The doc said that the injury was in a sensitive spot, so it might take longer." He squashes the ice pack in his fist a few times and lays it on his forehead as gently as he can, but still can't stifle the grunt of pain at the initial contact like an icicle pounding through his skull. "And you know, the second we go back in there, they'll order more tests. Our fake insurance doesn't cover MRI's. We barely sneaked by with the CT scan they ordered when you brought me in."

"Dammit, Dean, I don't care."

"Well, you should." Dean's more than aware of how husky his voice is, his throat still convulsing a little from the brain freeze. "This'll go away. It always does."

"One of these days it won't."

Dean gives up on waiting for the ice to actually feel good and drops the pack to the floor with a thud. "Thanks for the advice. Is this coming from psychic!Sammy or just his pissy counterpart? Nice to know you have so much faith in me."

"I'm just saying..."

"Well, don't."

"You're... rrgh, you're an ass, Dean."

"Just don't be bouncing any nickels off me 'til the headache goes away, and I can live with that."

Sam slams the bathroom door as he leaves in a huff. Dean makes a mental note to put a trash can over his head and hit it with a wooden spoon next time he has a headache.

Payback's a bitch.

--

"What are you doing?" Sam passes between Dean and the television, his shins at eye level as Dean lays with his head hanging off the foot of the bed.

"Looking up Jennifer Love Hewitt's skirt," Dean says. And it actually doesn't hurt. Things are looking up. Literally and figuratively.

"Do you really think you should be doing that?" Sam asks. "Seems like all the blood rushing to your head would make it hurt worse."

"Yeah," Dean harrumphs, "You'd think."

"So, it doesn't?"

"Would I be doing this if it did?"

"I dunno. I'm starting to think you have a pain kink." Dean hears him sliding his shoes on from the other bed. "Seriously, that's really helping?"

"Are you kidding? It's the first time I've had both eyes open in three days without having to guess which of you I was talking to. I like to think of it as traction for my head."

"I should've known it was dislocated, since you were talking out of your ass."

"Good to know my suffering inconvenience you. There'd be no fun in it otherwise."

Sam laughs what sounds like a genuine laugh. The first one since Dean met the door. It's kinda better than Tylenol. "I'm going out for food. You wanna come along?"

"I'd love to," Dean says, rolling onto his side and then sitting up slowly, "but whew," he says wafting a hand over the sweat stain on his t-shirt, "I think any decent establishment would toss me out as a code violation."

Sam grins, and Dean's completely aware of the way his eyes crinkle at the corners, studying every twitch and movement Dean makes for obvious signs of pain. He's just glad he doesn't have to try to hide anything. He actually feels pretty decent.

"Since when do we eat at decent establishments?" Sam asks.

"Good point," Dean smirks, "but still, I only talk outta my ass. I don't care to go around smelling like one."

"I can wait if you wanna shower first," and there's something pleading in his eyes that makes Dean unable to brush him off.

"Yeah, sure. Just gimme fifteen minutes." He stands, slowly, puffs out his bottom lip appreciatively when the room doesn't try to slide out from under him.

Sam rolls his eyes and mimics Dean's fanning hand gesture. "Make it half an hour. You just killed my appetite."

Dean just smirks and takes off his t-shirt. If it lands on Sam's freshly showered head when he tosses it over his shoulder, he's okay with that.

--

He ends up taking a lot longer than thirty minutes. He knows, because Sam's been pounding on the door for at least ten already. It's just, hot water and steam, fresh pink skin emerging from under day sof muck, has got to be the closest thing there is to sex, and man, Dean's got some frustration going on.

It feels good just to be able to breathe through his nose again. It's been like cleaning out his sinuses with sandpaper and a dremel tool. Sam's been complaining about the snoring, and Dean's tired of having to flip his pillow to avoid the growing puddle of drool. Now, the steam's soothing, goes in soundlessly, which is a definite plus, drips down the back of his throat where he's all dried up and wrung out. Even the strong water pressure pelting the shower droplets against his forehead is more like a massage than water torture.

Pore all over his body open up and take their first breath in days with a collective sigh... Oh, fuck, he needs to get outta there. The bliss seems to be messing with his higher functions. No way in hell did he just muse about pores breathing. He turns off the water, the faucets squeak, squeak, squeaking into the closed position, flicks the moisture out of his eyes with his fingertips just as Sam pounds on the door for the third time.

"Dude, you all right in there?"

"That depends," he shouts back.

"On what?"

"You feel like washing my back? I think I missed some."

"Fuck you." That's a definite laugh. It's good to hear Sam laughing and relieved for a change. Dean can't wait to get out of this room.

He smears the fog off the glass, can't help a small wince at the sight of the green and yellow bruise in the center of his forehead, spreading in colored streaks across the bridge of his nose and around both eye sockets. He's actually had worse, but not much.

He makes it through his entire routine without a hitch. The three 'S's as Dad always called it. He's halfway through the last one, 'shave' when the steam saturates his sinuses and starts to drip out one nostril. He sniffs and swallows long enough to finish shaving, then reaches for a handful of toilet paper.

The second he starts to blow his nose, there's an explosion between his eyes, and his knees buckle. He catches the edge of the sink on reflex alone, because he can't see it, can't see anything, the entire room spinning and then whiting out while a tone like the off-air color bar siren on a television set splits the pleasant numbness wide open again.

One hand catches on the hot water faucet as Dean slumps down between the sink and the toilet, causing the water to gush out in a rush, the pipes quaking and groaning at the sudden shift in pressure. "Nnnnngghh." He cracks the back of his head against the tile, pressing the heels of his hands against his temples while stifling a scream.

Agony rolls over him in waves, every muscle spasming simultaneously, bracing against an attack from within. When his stomach convulses, he barely gets his head over the toilet before his throat's burning with acid. He's breathless by the time the heaving subsides, unable to breath through his nose, panting between each painful retch. By the time it's over his eyes are leaking as much as his nose but not for the same reason.

He sits, drenched in cold sweat, waiting for the room to feel still again before he even attempts to open his eyes. He's still there when Sam pounds the door again.

"Dude, you could've shaved King Kong by now. C'mon, I'm starved."

Spreading his fingers one at a time to peek through his eyelashes, Dean breathes a sigh of relief. The vertigo seems to have passed, the pain settling into a dull thud in his forehead as opposed to the wooden stake through the third eye sensation of a few moments ago.

Bracing shaking arms on the toilet tank and the sink, he drags himself to standing.

"You all right?" Sam asks, both the laughter and the impatience gone from his voice.

Dean raises his face to the mirror, elbows trembling but locked against the sink ledge, looks himself right in the watering, bloodshot eyes, and says, "Yeah, fine. I'll be right out."

That sucked. But Dean's had worse.

Sam doesn't need to know.

TBC

A/N: Er, okay, so that last bit was a little cliche. *is ashamed* But if people didn't like it so much, I wouldn't be inclined to do it, and besides, it just fits with my mystery diagnosis. *pets Dean*