Consciousness came back before Sam opened his eyes. He was on his side, his right, and the room still felt a little iffy. His head felt light, as if his brain was simply a lead mass floating around, which didn't make any sense at all.
Soft voices that weren't next to him caught his attention, and he tried to listen in and focus.
"-remember, Dean. And even if he did-"
"No. He doesn't need to remember...god, Bobby, his face..." Dean sounded wrecked, and Sam's chest tightened at the sound. Like it always did lately whenever Dean broke a little more, and he hated Dean being broken. "I don't ever want to see him look like that again. And then he went backwards and he just disappeared-"
"I know, Dean," Bobby said softly, softer than he'd ever sounded before, and it was fine for Bobby to know, but what about Sam? Sam wanted to know, too. "You're not going to tell him, then." Statement, not a question.
"No," Dean said firmly. "I'm not gonna do that to him. It's bad enough I remember what happened. If Sam doesn't remember, then good."
"He has a right to know-" Thank you.
"If he finds out what happened, or if he remembers, I'm gonna see that look on his face again, and I...I can't. I can't, Bobby." There was a long pause, long enough that other rustling sounds came in, before Dean's voice returned, soft and broken. "There's been enough things that've happened between us lately that we can't forget about. If I'm getting the chance for this to be forgotten, then I'm taking it."
Sam tried to search his mind again, but nothing emerged. Absolutely nothing. Even the memory of the newspaper earlier was fading into nothing. When he tried to chase after it, his head began to ache, and continued to ache, even after he'd let it go. He couldn't stop the groan, and tried to roll onto his back to put his head flat.
His side exploded into a world of pain, and things whited out for a little bit. Only briefly, because when Sam opened his eyes again, there were still tears blurring his vision, and Dean was just reaching his side. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" Dean said furiously, but his hands were gentle as they pressed against his left side. The pain abated, and Sam breathed a sigh of relief. "Don't do that again; I thought we'd established that this morning."
Morning. Sam glanced towards the curtains, but no light came through, leaving him disoriented again. "It's around six in the evening," Bobby said, and Sam managed a small nod of thanks, then turned back to Dean.
"I'm guessing my left side isn't looking good," Sam rasped. Dean glared at him, but it was half-hearted at best, and faded as he slid down to his knees next to the bed. It put him near eye level, and for the second time in a week, Dean met his eyes.
"It'll probably scar," Dean admitted, and without the worried anger, he just looked...drained. Pale and barely staying with it. "We didn't have time for small stitches."
Sam blinked slowly, and a hand rested against his forehead briefly. Even though it'd been months since the last time the hand had checked his forehead, Sam still knew who it was. His big brother was impossible to mistake.
Of course, Sam wasn't entirely sure Dean was still his big brother, and that thought made him keep his eyes shut a little longer. Of all the memories he wished he could forget, it'd be the Siren induced fight, and all the words they'd hurled at the other. Of all the words Sam wished he could take back, it'd be the ones that had been spat from his own lips. It had mattered so much, at the time, to say them, because they'd been true then.
They didn't matter, anymore. Not in the harsh light of day, not when reason and the memory of twenty-four years and four months of loneliness had slowly sunk back in. Not when he'd had to live with the effect of his words for a week, and found that he hadn't liked it.
Maybe Dean hadn't enjoyed the past week, either.
"You still with me?"
Sam nodded and slowly opened his eyes again, feeling drowsy once more. Dean managed a small smile and withdrew his hand. "You don't feel feverish; I'll come bug you again in a few hours. Just to make sure."
"How many stitches?" Sam asked, right before he yawned. It pulled on his side, and the yawn was cut off with a wince. He blinked a little to clear the remaining moisture in his eyes, and Dean looked tense again. "Dean?" Sam asked, softer than before.
Dean pursed his lips but muttered, "Thirty-two." He paused, about to say something else, then shook himself briefly and said, "Get some sleep. I'll be right here if you need me."
Thirty-two. The last time Sam had had that many stitches, he'd been ripped open by a banshee, and their stoic dad had frantically driven Sam to the hospital, with Dean holding Sam and the wound tight enough to cramp his hand.
Maybe Sam didn't really want to remember what happened.
He let his eyes drift shut, and the last thing he saw before he drifted off completely was Dean still kneeling next to him, watching him, his hand resting over Sam's.
There was definitely light the next time Sam woke up. The curtains were slightly parted, and it was easier to open his eyes. He glanced around the room, noticing the lack of the first aid kit and the bloody towels. Bobby was missing, but Dean was there, sleeping in the chair near the window again, across from Sam. He still looked exhausted, and the dark circles under his eyes were starting to look more like they'd been put there with a permanent marker.
Still, he was asleep now. Sam was taking what he could.
The door opened, and Sam turned his attention in time to see Bobby close the door behind him. A part of his mind registered that if it'd been anyone else, they'd have been sunk, because Dean hadn't even stirred. And Sam...well, he was guessing that he wasn't in any condition to do anything except lay around.
Bobby caught his gaze and gave him a quick grin. "Look who's awake," he greeted, then glanced over in Dean's direction. "And who's not," he added, but he kept his voice soft.
"When's the last time he's slept?" Sam whispered, then tried to clear his throat as quietly as he could. Better than before, but still not right.
"Yesterday, right before you woke up," Bobby said. "Was only for a few hours, though. Otherwise than that, he hasn't really slept at all the past five days. I've bullied him a few times, but-"
"Five...?" All he could do was stare at Bobby, then glance over at Dean. No wonder he looked exhausted.
And no wonder Sam felt so out of it, so in pain. If he'd been out for five days...god.
Bobby winced but nodded. "Today'd be day six. It's about nine in the morning; I left 'bout half an hour ago to get breakfast." He tilted his head towards Dean before snorting softly. "Your brother was awake when I left."
"Then we'll let him sleep," Sam decided, and tried to clear the catch in his throat again. Better than before. Still sounded like crunched gravel, but five days of not talking would do that to you.
The image of Dean hunched over him, eyes wide with relief and smile wide with happiness, popped for a moment, and Sam had to close his eyes. Five days. Sam didn't know how much of those five days had been the actual hunt, either, because he couldn't remember anything about it.
"You up for food?" Bobby asked quietly. "Nothin' hard, but you need to eat somethin'. Otherwise, all that morphine on an empty stomach is gonna make itself known."
Sam's eyes slid down to his elbows, and...there. His inner left elbow had two red, slightly bruised circles. He'd always bruised with needles.
"Food would be good," he answered softly. He turned his gaze to Bobby and managed a small smile. "I think I'd have to sit up, though."
Even as Bobby was wincing, there was a rustle to the left. "I got it," Dean said, his own voice rough. Bobby's wince turned into a narrowed gaze, one which Dean promptly ignored. One swipe of his hand over his face seemed to wake Dean up all the way. He didn't even stumble when he pushed off from the chair and made his way over to Sam. His smile was weary, but still genuine. "How you feelin'?" Dean asked him.
"A little sore, still completely memory-less, but..." Sam blinked and took stock. "I'm fine," he finally said. The room wasn't spinning as much, but the possibility lingered on the fringes of his mind. His side was simply a distant ache, for the time being. His headache had faded, but one wrong move and it'd slam into a migraine. So it wasn't a complete lie, but Dean's look told Sam he knew the masked truth for what it was.
"If you can't handle sitting up, we won't," Dean said firmly. Sam bit his lip but finally nodded. Dean extended a hand, and Sam raised his right to meet it. His fingers were trembling, and Dean grasped them, holding them tight enough to still the tremors, but gently enough that Sam tightened back because...because he could.
"Ready when you are," Bobby said softly from Sam's right, and Sam still hadn't heard or seen him approach. It'd be awhile before he was hunting again, and he was willing to bet that Dean's date of when they'd start hunting again was much further back than Sam's.
The thought made something twist in his chest, even as something that'd been there for months finally released.
"We're going slow," Dean told him, and Sam hadn't even nodded before Dean began to pull. Bobby's hands were immediately behind his shoulders, and Dean's other hand reached to curl against his side, where the wound was. They were turning him towards Dean, in order to keep the stitches from being pulled, and Sam didn't do anything in the way of getting himself up.
Even still, by the time they had him sitting up, and Dean was carefully pulling his legs over the side of the bed, Sam was panting, sweating, and his eyes were stinging. There was a ringing in his ears that left him feeling disconnected and shaky, but it began to fade away, and Dean's voice cut through.
"-breathe, Sammy, just breathe, we gotcha, m'right here, okay? I gotcha Sammy, promise. Just breathe for me."
He didn't think he'd whited out completely like he had before, but Dean had his arms wrapped around him now, one hand cradling Sam's head and keeping it rested against Dean's mid-chest. Sam tried to breathe in, and the breaths slowly began to lose their franticness of before.
"You got him?"
"Yeah, I got him," Dean said quietly, and his arms shifted to take more of Sam's weight and pull him even closer. Two pressures that Sam hadn't even realized were there pulled away, and he slumped a little without them. Dean kept him close, though, and then a door shut somewhere behind them. Rushing water was heard a moment later.
"You're a mess, kiddo," Dean said softly. "Bobby'll bring back some washcloths, and you'll feel better. Worried you've got a fever again, too."
He'd answered Sam's question before Sam had even thought to ask it. Dean had always been good at that, when they'd been connected, but they hadn't been connected lately. But he'd done it now, so maybe they were connected again, and maybe they could fix it all, and maybe Sam could explain-
Sam shut his eyes tight and brought his hands up, clutching at Dean's shirt. Only the t-shirt, and it was rumpled already, and Sam didn't care. Dean's voice this time was concerned enough that he might pull away. "Sammy-"
"I didn't mean it," Sam croaked, his forehead pressed hard against faded cloth and solid muscle. "What I said, I...you're the strongest person I know, Dean. You always have been, and I need you, always need you by my side and you're strong and safe but I have to be strong too and I didn't-"
It wasn't making sense, he wasn't making sense, but when Dean slid down and Sam's forehead was pressed against Dean's, he knew that Dean still understood him. Finally understood him. "Hey," Dean said, voice low and sure, and when Sam opened his eyes, Dean was right there, gazing back at him. Solid, strong, and stubborn with that strength for the first time in ages.
"It's okay, Sammy," he said, and Sam searched his face for any indication that it wasn't, but all he got was Dean, determined and sure of himself. His eyes moved back to Dean's, and Dean let his lips trail up into a smile. "I figured you didn't mean it. Little brothers are notorious for talking big and not meaning any of it." He paused for a moment, and the hand curled around the back of Sam's head slid forward to cradle Sam's cheek. "Especially mine," he added, and Sam's eyes slid shut, the breath he hadn't known he was holding exhaled with a stuttered, laughed sob.
Dean just tightened his grasp, unmistakably there and definitely all Dean, and it made Sam want to cry like he really hadn't in months. Because god, things finally felt right between them like they hadn't been in far too long. Sam felt like a little brother again with a larger than life big brother who didn't give up on him and wouldn't leave him to face the world alone. He hadn't been able to be that little brother for so long that honestly, Sam thought he'd never be that person again.
Guess he could, and it made him clutch at Dean's shirt all the harder.
Both sides of his face were cradled, and the gentle press of lips against his forehead felt like an apology and absolution all at once. Sam opened his eyes and gave his brother a smile, and Dean looked relieved again, this time for a completely different reason. Dean had regretted the past week, too.
Okay, past two weeks. But it was the first week Sam was mostly worried about.
Dean's smile slid back up, before he turned towards the bathroom with raised eyebrows and called out, "How long's it take to get a washcloth?"
The door opened, and out of the corner of his eye, Sam could see Bobby standing there, a single washcloth in hand and a small smile on his face. "Long as it needs to," he said, and the knowing look on his face wasn't missed. Eavesdropper.
Dean rolled his eyes, and it was so Dean that Sam huffed a laugh. His side promptly reminded him that while things emotionally were fixed, physically he still had a ways to go. When he blinked his eyes open again, Dean had him propped against a solid shoulder, Dean's hands and arms wrapped around him. "Let's skip amusement for awhile," Dean said, and Bobby was back at the table, shaking his head.
"Yeah," Sam agreed, feeling out of breath again. He coughed to clear his throat, and when he spoke this time, his voice wasn't rough, but smooth, leaving him sounding decidedly more like himself. "The food doesn't require a utensil, right? I don't think my arms'll work."
"Don't worry about it," Dean said without hesitation. "I gotcha covered, Sammy."
The first touch of the washcloth gently slid over his face, and Sam closed his eyes, Dean's shoulder supporting him, Dean's fingers guiding the cloth, and his big brother wrapped all around him, keeping him safe.
A/N: The sequel, "Remember and Redo", is up; if you'd like to find out what happened to Sam, you might want to check it out. If not, thanks for reading the fic, and I hope you enjoyed it!