AN: I think that all of the angst/strife of season four has given me clinical depression. So, consider this story a nice homeopathic remedy for "Season Four Affective Disorder" and enjoy. No angst, little plot, but loads of H/C and pure, unadulterated brotherly shmoop. A thousand thank-yous to Faye Darthmouth, who generously Beta'd this for me. I did my best to implement her terrific suggestions, but as always any and all mistakes are my own. This will be a two-chapter affair, with the second chapter a Dean POV. Feedback is always appreciated.
Warnings: A teensy bit of course language (one or two swears) because, come on - they were raised by an ex-marine, and they're boys!
Disclaimer: Not mine, sadly. Just roughing them up a bit, but I promise to return them (relatively) intact when I'm done.
Well, he just was. For a while, at least.
There was a vague, distant sense of self , that there should be more to him than just drifting in this void. Everything else was an unknown. He felt a brief surge of anxiety, the helpless realization that he had no idea where he was, what had happened, who he was.
Maybe I'm dead… Am I dead?
But his fear, with everything else, faded out and he was buoyed by a terrible emptiness.
For an indeterminable amount of time, he swung dizzyingly between oblivion and hazy awareness. Then the world began to seep into the edges of the emptiness, and with it came pain.
It raced along his limbs, mapping out his body with over-firing nerves, before pooling behind where he supposed his eyes were. For a long time, it was the only awareness he had of his body. A rough sketch of growing discomfort.
Gradually he found that he could hear himself breathing.
Not dead, his fuzzy brain supplied helpfully.
His body pulsed in a rhythm, slow and inexorable, in time to his heartbeat.
Really not dead… but still he felt disconnected and adrift – unable to tell which way was up. Had he been hurt?
Confused and more than a little afraid, he searched desperately for the one person who could make it all better.
His brain supplied the name, but his mouth didn't seem to be working.
He thought maybe he was moving, or being moved. The space around him seemed to swim and lurch, tilting around him dizzyingly. His brain seemed to press at his skull, and he was reacquainted with the sensation of nausea. Muscles he'd forgotten he had clenched and spasmed, and suddenly he couldn't breathe as burning bile surged up in his throat and choked him. He felt his body jerk helplessly, white light lancing through his skull as his head lolled. Instinctual panic left him fighting for air.
Then he was moving, rolling, and vomit dribbled down his cheek as he coughed and gagged, fighting for air past the vileness in his mouth. He felt rough fingers in his mouth, sweeping an obstruction out and letting sweet oxygen in. For some time all he was aware of was the influx of air into his heaving lungs. Slowly, he realized he could hear someone talking to him. But it was as though he was underwater, and all he could make out was the frantic tone.
He may not have known anything else at the moment, but he would always know his brother.
He wanted to call out to him, to ask him what the hell was going on, but his nerves were apparently working as one-way streets at the moment – all sorts of unpleasant sensations were flooding his brain, but no commands seemed to be making it out. He pictured his skull like a water balloon sealed over a faucet, getting fuller and heavier and closer to bursting, and wanted to puke again.
Dean, what happened to me?
Instead he tried to focus on his increasing awareness of his body – there was dampness seeping into his right hip and leg, and he could feel dewy grass pressed against his cheek. There were rough pebbles under his left hand where it lay against the ground. He focused on moving his hand, and thought maybe his fingers curled a little.
Dean's distant voice was still buzzing in the background, fading in and out, still tense with fear. Why was Dean scared? Dean was never scared. The idea filled him with foreboding and growing confusion – something was clearly very wrong. He needed to help, to get up and do something. What if something were hurting Dean?
He put all his effort into trying to move, and managed to twitch his legs and moan. The sound of his own voice was startlingly loud and sent shockwaves through his skull. The movement reverberated up his spine and straight into his brain, which he was beginning to suspect had been pulverized into mush.
'M here, Dean…
What was he trying to do, again? Was his brother here? Why did everything hurt so bad?
"-ake up, plea-"
Snippets of words drifted through the fog around him, and he struggled to understand. He felt his brow furrow in confusion, and something thick and tacky pulled against his skin. He could smell blood. Was someone hurt?
Dean was calling him. He should answer. Dean hated being ignored. Once, when he was ten, he'd been pissed at Dean and refused to acknowledge him all afternoon. Dean had put an entire bottle of hot sauce in his-
"Dammnit, Sam, open your eyes! Don't do this to me."
Oh, yeah… he had eyes. Were they closed? That would explain why it was so dark. Focusing all his will, he struggled to remember how his eyelids worked. Nothing. Maybe Dean could help?
"D'ungh…" he slurred, dismayed at the mangled word that emerged. That wasn't what he'd wanted to say at all. At least his mouth was working now…
"Sammy," Dean replied, sounding closer, his voice thick with relief. "Come on, little brother. Wake up for me. You need to wake up."
…Not asleep, he protested, but what came out instead was: "H'rts."
"I know, kiddo. We're gonna take care of that, okay? I'm gonna take care of you. But you hafta open your eyes. Please."
It must really be important, Sam decided. Dean never begged. If it was important to Dean, he had to try harder.
Open your eyes… open your eyes…open…
A sliver of dark grass and dirt suddenly appeared. The visual reference oriented him - the world stopped spinning and lurched to a stop, with him and Dean at its center.
His brother was crouched low to the ground, one hand bracing Sam's shoulder, his face tense with worry and anger. But Dean wasn't angry at him – that was just how fear looked on his brother.
"No, Sammy, I'm not angry," Dean sighed.
Had he said that out loud? He couldn't remember. Couldn't remember a lot, come to think of it.
The rest of his question slipped away before the words could make it to his lips, but Dean understood.
"We're still in the graveyard, Sam. Leroy Buffont's spirit didn't want to go quietly, sent you on a little flight into a mausoleum, head first. Do you remember?"
"Nu- No…. Dean?"
Dean scrubbed a hand over his face, a muscle in his jaw twitching. "Yeah?"
Sam stared at him blankly, unsure what he'd planned on asking.
"Jesus, Sam," Dean huffed. "You're seriously scrambled, aren't you?"
Another sigh and a gentle squeeze of his shoulder.
"Yeah, bro, you are. But we're gonna get you fixed up. You're gonna be fine, okay?"
If Dean said so, he wasn't all that worried. Dean would take care of it. As some of the anxiety receded, he felt his eyelids droop with exhaustion.
"No, no, no, Sam! No sleeping, keep your eyes open."
Sam blinked heavily, the ground rolling like the deck of a ship under him. He moaned and gagged, eyes watering.
Dean's face scrunched up in concern and more than a little disgust.
"You gonna be sick again?"
Sam considered the possibility for a moment, then grunted a negative response.
"Good. I don't want to have to clear chunks out of your mouth again. My fucking fingers stink now."
"Nevermind, Sammy. Listen, we've got to get out of here, okay? The grave is still dug up and freshly desecrated. I'm going to get you to a hospital, but we can't call an ambulance here or we'll end up on the local law enforcement's naughty list."
"Uh-kay," Sam agreed, though he only followed bits of the conversation. He trusted Dean implicitly, though, and would pretty much agree to anything his brother asked of him right now.
"Super," Dean said tightly, no trace of humor in his voice. "We'll go slow, okay? Let's just get you sitting up first and go from there."
Dean hooked his cold hands under Sam's arms and braced his torso.
"Good, then. Here we go."
The graveyard and the night sky wavered and blended together as Dean pulled him upright, a fiery rod of pain searing up his spine to explode behind his eyes. He gasped, and was distantly aware of his head lolling back and his eyesight graying out. Then Dean's calloused palm was cupping the back of his neck and drawing his head down to rest on a muscled shoulder. Pins and needles numbness rushed through his arms and legs, and he would have collapsed back to the ground if Dean hadn't been holding him up.
He gagged again and heaved weakly, nothing coming up but bile and spit that drooled from his lax mouth onto his shirt.
"Dude, nasty…" Dean admonished, but his voice was all worry and gentleness.
Sam's stomach continued to clench painfully, his back arching and shaking under his brother's gently moving fingers. It was an agony on top of an agony, and he gasped and sobbed in between heaves, praying for it to end.
"Easy, kiddo, easy… just breathe, okay? I gotcha…"
Dean's soothing tone slowly penetrated, and he became aware of comforting circles being rubbed between his shoulders. The familiar scent of leather and gun oil slowly pushed back the nausea. Sam sagged against Dean's chest, exhausted, and sucked in a shaky breath. Tears leaked down his cheeks, and he was ashamed to hear himself whimpering softly.
"Rough night, huh, dude?" Dean murmured, fingers carding through the hair at the base of Sam's skull.
Sam didn't have it in him to answer, but it hadn't really been a question in the first place.
"Wanna g-go home," Sam stuttered, surprising himself. He wasn't sure what he meant – the motel, the Impala. Hell, sitting here in the protective circle of his brother's arms was about as close to home as he had. He just wanted to be somewhere other than in a dark graveyard in wet grass, the smell of recently burned bones and blood thick in the air.
"We hafta get to the car, little brother. You're going to have to help me out."
Dean was shifting, getting his feet under him and wrapping an arm around Sam's back. Sam's arm was pulled over Dean's shoulder, and Dean paused.
"On three, okay? Let me do most of the work, just try to keep your balance if you can."
"Can't," he gasped, suddenly overwhelmed. He knew how pathetic he must sound, but couldn't find the energy to care. He just couldn't.
"You can," Dean said gently but firmly. "You have to. You're strong enough, Sammy. You can do this. Okay? On three. One, two, three-"
Dean heaved him upright, leaving Sam's stomach somewhere in the vicinity of his ankles. His vision exploded into stars and a roaring filled his ears. Despite his best efforts, he was distantly aware of his legs folding under him and Dean struggling to keep him vertical.
"Come on, Sammy, stay with me."
Sam fought to get his feet under him and his knees locked, but only caused himself to stumble and lurch into Dean's chest. Panting with exertion and pain, he clutched at his big brother's jacket and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Sammy…" Dean called, his voice getting louder with worry. "Sam!"
Using his fistful of jacket as a grounding point, Sam took deep, shuddering breaths and managed to support some of his own weight on shaking, coltish legs.
"Good," Dean praised gruffly, using the arm around Sam's back to hoist him up a bit more. "Now you have to open your eyes again, Sam. Don't drift off on me, dude."
Wearily, Sam did as he was told. Blinking hard, he waited for his brain to catch up with his eyelids.
Dean gave Sam a grin that came nowhere near to reaching his eyes and moved him slowly forward. Sam's feet seemed determined to catch on every pebble and lump in the grass, but he stayed upright as they wobbled their way between headstones.
The night around them hummed with nocturnal insects and the rustling of leaves, and Sam became aware that he was cold. His damp jeans clung to his thighs and the chill air raised goose bumps on his arms. He shuddered hard enough to unbalance himself, and was once again saved by his brother's sure grip.
"What – where are we going?"
Dean shot him an assessing look.
"We're going to the car, Sam, so I can bring you to the hospital."
"Don' wanna go to the hospital," Sam protested weakly. "Why're we… where're we going?"
"Definitely going to the hospital," Dean muttered.
Things sort of grayed out for a while. Sam was peripherally aware of moving, knew that his brother was with him and was leading him. He tried to ask questions, figure out what was happening, but the answers wouldn't stay long enough for him to make sense of them. Pain was throbbing between his ears, behind his eyes, at the base of his skull.
He was hurt. That much he was certain of.
When he came back to himself, Dean was bracing him against the cool dark metal of the Impala.
"Hm?" Sam thought maybe it wasn't the first time Dean had called his name.
"Can you hold yourself up for a sec? I gotta unlock the car and I can't hold your gangly ass up while I do it."
What was the question again?
Dean let go of him carefully, and Sam somehow managed to stay upright. Then Dean was fumbling at the car door and Sam found himself listing lazily to one side.
Hard hands grasped his arms and steadied him.
"Christ, Sam, you're a mess…"
Sam thought maybe he should be insulted.
"Yur a mess," he slurred. Ha! That'd show 'im. The effect was somewhat ruined by another violent shudder wracking his frame.
Dean chuckled humorlessly as he maneuvered him into the waiting passenger seat of the Impala, rubbing Sam's arms briskly to generate a moment of heat.
"Well, I guess we're both fucked then," Dean huffed gently.
The seatbelt was carefully fastened over him, and Sam winced as the door slammed shut. Seconds later, Dean was sliding behind the wheel and the Impala was roaring to life. Dean twisted a knob and quickly-warming air blasted from the vents. Sam watched him with unfocused eyes.
"Where're we goin'?" He really wanted to know. Why couldn't he remember?
"Hospital," Dean grunted, in a tone that implied he'd answered the question several times already.
"Why? Because you've clearly got a severe head injury, bro, and I'm not taking chances with that."
"Taking chances with… uh… with what?"
"Nevermind, Sam. Just hang on and try not to drool on the upholstery, okay? You're gonna be okay. You've got to be okay…"
The last was said under Dean's breath, and Sam thought he probably wasn't supposed to have heard that part. Oh well. He would probably forget it in a moment anyhow…
The road stretched out before them empty, dark, and winding. Sam found himself transfixed by the way the headlights reflected off the yellow divider lines. The heat from the vents was making him feel boneless and tired.
Was he supposed to stay awake?
He thought he probably was. But he was so weary, and his eyelids felt heavy and uncooperative. With every slow blink they drifted lower and lower, until the last sliver of light was gone and he drifted.
He thought he heard Dean calling his name, but it was dark and warm here and the pain was fading. Soon, Dean's insistent voice did, too.
For the second time in less than 24 hours, Sam Winchester found himself slowly surfacing from the depths of unconsciousness. Last time, there had been confusion and discomfort. This time, well, there was still confusion, but the pain was more of a dull ache than the all-encompassing sensation of before. He sensed that he should be hurting more than he was, and recognized the blurriness of meds coursing through his system.
Data slowly filtered through his fuzzy thoughts – he was lying in a bed, warm, and he could smell plastic and antiseptic.
And, again, his brother was talking to him. This time, though, there was no fear in his voice, no urgency. Just weariness and concern.
"-elling you, she dropped that emesis pan on purpose, just so she could bend over to get it. Not that I'm complaining, mind you – she had a really sweet ass – I'm just sayin. The ladies love me. So why is it that you get all the hot nurses? Plus, you're unconscious – still- so it's not like you can appreciate the view. It's getting pretty old, sitting here while you snore and my perfectly sculpted ass goes numb."
"Don' snore…" Sam sighed, lips curling a little in response to his brother's rambling.
"Sammy? You with me?" Dean's voice shifted from bored and sarcastic, to focused and eager.
"I'm taking that as a 'yes.' Hang on, let me page the nurse. They wanted to know when you decided to grace us with your presence."
The mattress shifted slightly as Dean leaned to reach the call button, and Sam dared to crack open his eyes. He was met with the expected view of institutional white walls and a hospital privacy curtain, and his brother watching him intently.
Dean looked exhausted, his face stubbly and his eyes red-rimmed and dull. But when Sam met his gaze, he smiled, and it was the genuine, open smile his brother reserved just for him.
"'Bout time you woke up," Dean huffed with false annoyance.
"What do you remember?"
Disjointed images painted a confusing picture – digging, the smell of lighter fluid, sudden weightlessness. Combined with the fuzziness and slightly blurred vision, it all added up to one thing: "Uh- we were doing a salt and burn? I hit my head?"
It was still more of a question than an answer.
"Understatement of the week, little brother. Spirit tossed you headfirst into a marble mausoleum. Gave you a minor hairline skull fracture and one hell of a concussion."
"Skull fracture?" That was bad.
"Minor," came a new voice from the doorway. "Barely visible on an x-ray. Still, you're lucky. It's good to see you awake, Mr. Helsing."
The petite blonde nurse smiled warmly at him and moved to make a notation in his chart. Sam shot a look at his brother and mouthed 'Helsing?' Dean smirked.
After the requisite post-head-injury questions and neuro tests, the RN checked the row of 17 stitches in his scalp. Giving Sam a pat on the knee, she promised to send his doctor along as soon as possible. This, Sam knew from experience, meant that he'd see the MD in about four hours.
When they were alone again, he sighed and darted a look at his brother.
"Did we finish the job?"
"No, we did not. I did, while you were lying in a heap, bleeding from the head. It was the quickest way to help you."
Dean's voice was tight with guilt, and Sam could imagine how hard it must have been for his brother to finish the salt and burn before coming to his aid.
"I know, man. Wouldn't have done me any good if you'd been hurt too."
Dean shifted uncomfortably and braced his elbows on his knees, staring at his feet.
"It was bad, man. By the time I got to you, you were choking on your own vomit. If I'd taken any longer-"
You scared me, Sam.
Sam heard the underlying fear as clearly as if it had been spoken aloud, and knew that his brother was shouldering the guilt for imagined worst-case-scenarios.
"You didn't take longer, Dean. I'm okay."
Dean chuckled humorlessly and grinned at him.
"We have a seriously fucked up idea of okay, bro."
"Yeah," Sam smiled, "I guess we do."
"Plus, it's not a total waste of a trip to the hospital. You should have seen the nurse you had earlier – Damn! Talk about filling out her scrubs. I might have to admit myself, see if I can get a little 'sexual healing.' Some mouth-to-"
"Dude, you are such a prude. I know librarians more sexually liberated than you. Actually, remember that hot little redheaded librarian in Mississippi ? The one with the lip ring? Man, I would have loved to have seen her Dewey Decimals…"
Rolling his eyes at his brother's lecherous reminiscing, Sam relaxed and let himself drift. The painkillers were making him drowsy, and he felt his eyes drifting shut.
This time when he drifted into the dark, it wasn't emptiness that embraced him but the warm, reassuring rumble of his brother's voice.
Keeping watch, keeping him safe.
Sam slept, and healed.
NOTE: Updated 3/13 to repair a few typos and to add a discalimer