Home Stretch

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Sam was bored out of his skull. With nothing to do but stare dully at the once pristine ceiling, he was honestly debating how long it might take for him to finally snap. He had already counted the tiles in every possible direction, even counted the tiny holes in each tile and multiplied it by the number of tiles in the room. Once he began calculating at what velocity the ceiling seemed to close in when he gazed long enough at one and the same spot, he started doubting his remaining sanity in earnest, fearing by the time he regained full range of mobility, he was a docile dimwit rightfully confined to a rubber room.

"Morning, sugar!" The elderly nurse with her heavy accent breezed into the room, saving him from his pointless musings. Her calm and friendly presence made him instantly feel at ease. "I heard Hank has been in. Said you were a quiet fellow." She busied herself with some equipment outside of his view, "but then, he talks for two anyway."

Stepping back to the side of Sam's bed, she looked intently into his eyes. "Now how are you doing today, honey? After the surgery yesterday you were pretty out of it for the rest of the day. I bet you don't remember a thing. No wonder with the heavy meds they dosed you up with. Poor thing!"

Hoping to finally learn the details of the operation, Sam's attention was focused on the motherly woman's every word. His heart rate picked up and she turned away momentarily to first study the screen then his face caught between curiosity and anxiety.

"Now, now," she soothed, "you need to calm down, sweet-heart, nothing to worry about. Everything went just fine with the surgery. You might set up the metal detectors at airports now but you'll be up and on your feet in no time, believe me. I'm sure Dr Weasly will explain everything to you when she comes in for morning rounds." The creases on Sam's forehead vanished, and she smiled at the obvious relief on his face.

"Anyway," she changed the subject, "I've had a little chat with Leony, a colleague, and she says your partner, what's his name again… um Plant, Bobby Plant, that's it. He's really worried about you, kept asking for you since yesterday." The nurse couldn't help but smile at the way Sam's face lit up at the mere mention of the name. There was something in his eyes that told her he had been equally concerned about the other man. "Are you alright with him knowing what's up with you?"

Sam wanted to jump out of bed for pure joy and make a dash for Dean's room. Eagerly he nodded as best he could with the stiff neck brace. He desperately wanted to see his big brother, know that he was okay.

"You must know your partner has been a little roughed-up himself. It was touch and go for a while, and he needed three surgeries but now he's on the mend. And from what Leony told me, he's giving the nurses and doctors a hard time." She chuckled at the thought. "Maybe we can even arrange a short visit after lunch when the both of you feel up to it. What d'you say?"

No words could have expressed the gratefulness Sam felt towards the nurse. He felt the irresistible urge to hug her, fiercely. And by the way she beamed down at him, the sentiment clearly wasn't lost on her.

"Good. Now that this has been settled, you try to get some rest while I change the bandage on your leg. After all, you would want to look presentable when he comes to see you, right?"

xXxXx

Dean was considering mutiny by the time Leony returned to his room with a lunch tray. "Do the words 'cruel and unusual' mean anything to you?" he scowled by means of greeting.

"Do the words 'I'm working' mean anything to you?" she deflected his not-so-subtle accusation. "I wasn't just sitting around polishing my nails, you know. Here is your lunch."

At least Dean had the decency to blush a little. Especially coupled with her kind heart, he thought her temper made her even more attractive. It painfully reminded him of his baby brother. For all the growing-up and independence Sam craved so much, his gentleness and empathy was really the essence of his soul. "Did you find anything out?"

"Yes," she hedged, making Dean's heart plummet.

"What?"

"First of all you need to know that everything is going to be fine."

"What is it? Please, I need to know," he implored, waiting for the other shoe to drop. His heart was racing so fast, it threatened to skip a beat, or a couple.

"Your partner sustained multiple fractures to his right leg but the doctors were able to fix the bones with screws and safe the leg. He also suffered from two dislocated vertebrae, which caused significant swelling along the spinal cord." Dean blanched at Leony's words, so she hurried to carry on. "At the moment he is paralysed from below the neck. He is on a ventilator, he can't breathe on his own right now." Although she wouldn't have believed it possible, Dean paled another few shades. "Don't worry though, the doctors are positive that the paralysis is only temporary, that he will make a complete recovery. The paralysis should slowly ebb away within a couple of days."

She studied Dean's withdrawn face for a second, seeing the devastation gradually melt away as he processed the information and the optimistic prognosis. "Does he know?" he whispered forlornly.

"Is he conscious you mean?" Leony clarified. When he nodded solemnly, she gave him an understanding smile. "Yes, he's awake." After a short pause she added, "I thought you might want to pay him a visit after lunch. Seems like he's as anxious to see you as you are."

"Well, screw lunch," Dean exclaimed, throwing back his blanket. "I'm ready to see him now."

"First food then visiting hours!" she ordered. "I'll come to pick you up in 30; and the plate better be cleaned by then."

xXxXx

"Hey, dude," Dean said softly as Leony pushed the wheelchair to the side of Sam's bed, so that they could see each other. Much to his displeasure the nurse had insisted on him being wheeled to Sam's room. At first he had thrown a temper tantrum but when she had threatened to cancel the trip altogether, the heated discussion had died down instantly. Halfway up the long hall of the ICU Dean had already felt exhausted. He was still weak, his body battered and bruised. Just sitting upright in the wheelchair was slowly but surely wearing him down. He had to admit that he certainly wouldn't have made it to his brother's room under his own steam; yet, this secret he would take to the grave.

A myriad of emotions washed over Sam's face when he finally saw his big brother. The older hunter looked a little worse for the wear but otherwise in one piece. Tears pooled at the edge of Sam's eyes, threatening to spill. Gently Dean stroked his brother's cheek, wiping away the wetness when tiny rivulets made their way down the side of the younger man's face. Dean's heart ached for Sam trying to lean into the touch as best he could.

Feeling utterly out of place, Leony was still unable to draw her gaze away from the scene that unfolded before her. The intimacy between the boys was mesmerizing, and she had a hard time pulling herself away. "Um, I'll leave you alone now," the nurse muttered, sensing she was nothing but an unwelcome intruder. "If you need anything, just press the call button." Neither of them paid attention to her retreating steps. They seemed to be in a world of their own, shutting out everything else.

"Sammy, you poor bastard," Dean sighed regretfully while combing through his younger brother's long hair. "I'm so sorry I couldn't come sooner but I'm here now. Don't worry, Sammy, everything's gonna be fine, I promise. I promise."

How Sam had missed being called by that nick name! It held all the brotherly love in one simple word. 'Sammy' was protection and comfort and family and Dean.

xXxXx

With Dean's presence and reassurances cradling him, Sam had eventually drifted off. His waking though was somehow peculiar even if he couldn't place it at first. There was something heavy on his arm and a tingling sensation made itself known in his fingertips.

Suddenly his eyes flew open when an idea dawned on him. It was the first time he'd felt anything below his neck! Thank goodness the paralysis was finally receding!

Sam tried to pull his hand away from the heaviness but the weight wouldn't budge. After a few seconds' delay, it lifted ever so lightly, then Dean's head shot up. At first there was alarm in his eyes, the question what had happened to his little brother before the same realization hit him. The movement had been feeble but it was a huge step in the right direction. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Dean cautiously patted Sam on the shoulder, hoping he was able to feel that as well.

"Do you think we should let your doctor in on the secret, Sammy?" the older brother said cheerfully, pressing the call button excitedly.

xXxXx

The next morning found Sam bitching like an old woman. For all the joy Dean had felt when his little brother was finally able to come off the ventilator, he sure was already rolling his eyes at Sam's constant complaining. In spite of the doctor's advice to not talk too much because of his irritated throat from the breathing tube, the younger hunter's continuous stream of words hadn't failed yet.

Completely ignoring Dean's sour looks and blissfully oblivious to his big brother's desire to shut him up with a strip of duct tape over his mouth, Sam kept moaning about the ever-increasing tingling sensation throughout his body, the lingering weakness, how weird it still felt to breathe without the support of the respirator, the scratchy voice and the occasional coughing fits, which according to Dr Weasly were exclusively due to his incessant ramblings.

Just as Dean considered fratricide, the one-sided conversation took an unexpected turn. "We ganked it, didn't we?"

"The spook? Yeah, we did," he said confidently, recognizing his brother's need to know that their job was finished, that they hadn't been run over by a friggin' stampede on the godforsaken cattle farm for naught. "I have to admit my memory is a bit sketchy on the details but I'm pretty sure it was the screeching of the ghost when we torched its ass that made all the cows go wild."

"Pretty sure?"

"Really pretty sure," Dean added with a wink.

He noticed Sam's eyelids were slowly drooping, and each time they closed, they were taking longer to open again. A smile crept onto his face as he saw his brother relax and snuggle deeper into the comfort of the bed. Sam stretched his limbs contently, relishing in the fact that he could.

But before he finally succumbed to sleep, he squeezed his brother's hand and opened tired puppy-dog eyes. There was a seriousness and sincerity in them that Dean hadn't seen in years. "Thank you."

"What for?" he asked stunned.

"You know, for being there." 'Being you' remained unsaid when the silence stretched and Sam's breathing finally evened out.

Hesitantly Dean pressed the call button and with baby steps slowly shuffled over to the waiting wheelchair to be picked up by Leony, ready to return to his own room for a quick nap, giving his own over-taxed body a chance to heal.

FIN


A/N:
Thank you for bearing with me and take care!