This arose from a burning need to see the brothers together - at their best - again and therefore a revisit to Season 1. I've always thought it amiss that Dean is obviously injured in one scene and then smiling/relaxed in the next. Then I remembered just who we're dealing with ...
Usual disclaimer applies. Opening scene transcribed from episode.
"Man, I hate camping." Dean offered, shaking his head wearily and watching with tired eyes as the ambulance moved off into the night.
Perched beside him on the Impala's hood, Sam quirked an eyebrow. "Me too." He quietly agreed, letting his head nod down as a disquieting reminiscence and understanding washed over their heavy shoulders.
Glancing towards his equally grim-smeared brother, Dean took in a breath. "Sam … you know we're gonna find Dad. Right?"
Swallowing back the sudden lump in his throat, Sam nodded quickly and husked an affirmative. "Yeah … I know …" Clearing his throat and inhaling the chill air, he forced his worn face to lighten a little and leaned closer to Dean. "But in the meantime …" A smile danced on his lips and he turned to look at his disheveled brother. "I'm driving."
Without comment or reaction, Dean shoved his hand into his jacket pocket and fished out his keys. He tossed them to Sam and watched him deftly pluck them from the air. Unspoken agreement brought them to their feet in unison and they made their way round to open the car doors and climb inside. The first time Sam had ever sat behind the wheel of the cherished Chevy marked only with the slightest of glances between them and the small, concealed grin Sam allowed himself as he started her up.
He didn't drive far. Barely a few minutes beyond the edge of the forest, a slumped Dean had grown worryingly quiet. Sam had nudged his brother gently and grown even more concerned with the weak murmur of protest Dean had managed in return.
Avoiding the main highways kept them under the radar but also meant negotiating some of the winding roads that slithered amid the trees and hills of the back of beyond. Sam was weary from their forest adventure and finding it hard to focus on the two beams of light sweeping the empty tarmac.
Unwilling to pull over and check the map again in the midst of the eerie woods - and all too aware of just what might be lurking amid the trees - Sam gave a determined sigh and took the next available track back towards where his homing senses told him civilization might be.
The Impala rumbled over the uneven road, her wide tires seeming to find every bump and hole despite Sam's careful weaving. He heard Dean hiss in pain and chanced looking over at him. Even in the almost black that shrouded the car, he could see his brother was trembling and Sam shook his head in dismay.
Convincing Dean to let the paramedics take a look at his injuries had taken time and a level of patience that Sam had surprised himself with. Then one of the attending EMTs had suggested his brother was checked over at the hospital and Dean had practically bulldozed his way out of the vehicle. Assuring Sam that there was analgesia in his pack and that he was definitely sure he was okay, Dean had continued his determined retreat and Sam had been too tired to argue.
Now he worried that relenting had been a mistake; in the glow from the dashboard instruments Dean looked deathly white amid the bruises and his face was tight with pain.
It seemed an age before something akin to life appeared beyond the windshield and Sam sighed in relief as he continued past the gas station in the direction of more lights on the horizon. The thumping pulse in his head slowed a little when he saw the flickering neon of a motel sign and he pulled into the lot beside it.
It wasn't exactly the Hilton but when had they ever been? Sam thanked the bleary-eyed manager and took the key. The night air was icy against his tired face as he jogged back to the car and round to the passenger side.
Dean woke with a start as the door was opened and he slid sideways, almost toppling out. He grunted a rebuke as he was quickly caught and steadied but within seconds was wide awake and alert, scrambling to his feet. "Dude? What the fu - " Suddenly doubling over and choking on a sob, Dean leaned gratefully against his brother as he fought to gain control of the pain once more. When he did, he was all but upright once more and resolutely moving free of any evidence of the embrace.
"I needed to stop." Sam offered quietly, stepping back as his brother shrugged from his grip. "Sorry, man. I'm tired." He continued, eager to not let his concern for Dean be noticed and yet all too aware of the way his brother stooped a little and held his right arm close.
Having taken in their surroundings and apparently deciding the level of threat was less than he had first thought, Dean's shoulders relaxed a little. "Okay." He met Sam's hesitant gaze and nodded. "Sure. A few hours rest might be a good idea."
Hiding a smile of relief, Sam hurried to the trunk to grab their bags. He searched the disarray of weapons and talismans for anything resembling a first aid kit and groaned as he saw the dented old tin that hid in one corner. Hoping that the contents were a little more up to date than the rusty box itself, Sam grabbed it and followed Dean into the room.
"I'm gonna take a shower." Sam prompted, his tone suggesting that his brother ought to do the same.
"Sure." Dean grated, perching gingerly on the edge of one of the single beds and grimacing as he slowly swung his feet up. His face tight and his breath caught behind his teeth, he rested back against the pillows and groaned wearily. "Knock yourself out."
About to pursue the issue, Sam saw his brother relax into slumber and decided better of it. Watching Dean for a moment and still dazed by his sudden return and the whirlwind of chaos he had brought with him, Sam was also aware of a growing fondness for his brother's company. Despite his determination to stay far away from his family and the life they had led, he was glad his brother was now back beside him. And he was sure that, in his own inane way, Dean seemed pleased to be there.
For all it's other innumerable faults, the room did have an amazing shower. Sam happily forgot the moldy grouting and stained linoleum as he stood under the spray and leaned his head back into the massaging heat. He would have stayed in there longer were it not for a desperate need to be lying horizontal for at least an hour or two, and he turned off the water with a sigh of dismay.
A wall of billowing steam followed him from the bathroom and clouded his view as he padded across the room. When he could, he shot a glance at his gently snoring brother and studied him for a second. Pulling on a clean t-shirt and combing his dripping hair back from his face, he moved a little closer to Dean's bed and frowned in concern.
"'M'fine." Came the grumbled objection.
Sam's frown was unchanged.
Dean squinted one eye open to peer up at his hovering brother and sighed noisily. "Thought you wanted sleep …?"
The apparent annoyance comforted Sam and he relaxed with a smile. "Fine. G'night."
Clambering beneath the thin blankets and finding them surprisingly cosy, Sam wriggled into a comfortable curl and switched off the light. Listening to the gentle almost snore from somewhere in the darkness, he smiled again and closed his eyes.
Unsure what had woken him Sam was suddenly alert, his heart galloping and every muscle tense with anticipation. Aware of the yellow glow striking a path across the ceiling, he lifted his head and looked towards the partly open bathroom door. Quickly turning to see the empty bed beside him, he swept back his covers and hurried to his feet. "Dean?"
A strangled gasp was the only reply and Sam made for the bathroom in quick strides. "Dean? You okay?" He urged, peering into the room and blinking at the stark brightness.
"Yeah!" Sam confirmed, smiling in sudden amusement at the query. He pushed open the door and stepped inside. "Who else - ?" He was brought short by the sight of his brother perched on the edge of the toilet, leaning heavily against the edge of the sink. "What - ?" His eyes moved swiftly from Dean's ghostly pallor to the trembling of his limbs and then to the blood-soaked flannel in his grasp.
Dean slowly lifted his head and managed a thin half-smile of apology. "Sorry … woke you …"
"Shit, Dean! I don't give a crap about that!" Sam retorted in annoyance, crossing the room to peer at the blood pooling in the sink. "What the - ?" He gasped, spinning at his brother. "I thought they looked you over?"
Closing his eyes, Dean let his head sink back down and groaned further remorse. He then shuddered and bit back on a moan of pain.
"Hey …" Anger fading quickly into worry, Sam sank to his knees and placed a careful hand on Dean's arm. "Where?"
Dean almost seemed to consider his options for a moment before then pushing himself up from the sink and turning carefully. He leaned back and kept his eyes closed as he moved his arms out away from his chest.
"Holy - !" Sam saw the tearing to the bloodied cotton and could just see part of the damaged skin beneath. "Oh, hell, Dean! Why didn't you say?"
Dean sighed and shook his head slightly. "No hospitals."
"Fuck that! Look at this!" Sam urged, lifting his head to see his brother now looking down at him warily. He saw sorrow in Dean's bloodshot eyes and something close to fear. Realization suddenly hit and Sam's throat tightened. He edged closer and reached out towards the hem of the shredded t-shirt. "Let me?"
Dean's lack of protest was permission enough and Sam cautiously took hold of the damp material, lifting it steadily upwards. His stomach turned as he saw the dried blood that was smeared across most of Dean's torso and he raised the t-shirt higher to see brighter, fresher blood gathered at the base point of a shallow cut.
Gritting his teeth, Dean let Sam slide the t-shirt up over his shoulder and hissed as he maneuvered his arm free. One side of his chest now bare, the full gore of the wounds was revealed and he watched the horror that filled Sam's face.
"Shit …" Sam breathed, tasting bile and swallowing it back dryly.
Sam looked back up and met renewed panic amid Dean's tears. "Bad enough." He replied quietly.
Dean took a few seconds to absorb this and then nodded slowly. "Can you - ? … I mean … do you - ?"
"Stitch you back together?" Sam offered, managing a small smile. "Yeah. I think I remember how."
A corner of Dean's mouth twitched and he gave a small sigh. "Good. Cos I can't quite see it and - ?"
"What? You were gonna do this yourself?" Sam scoffed, leaning back on his heels. Dean's unflinching, miserable expression gave Sam his answer. And suddenly he remembered that in their father's warped mind this was normal. At once, Sam was a teenager again, dumfounded by the coldness of his father's reality and the matter-of-fact, necessity of contact that the man had called affection. Scrapes were mended and forgotten in their childhood; no hugging or kissing it better for the Winchester family.
Age old anger and resentment was bubbling to the surface and Sam tried to keep it at bay by focusing on the task at hand. He grabbed some clean towels and a wad of gauze and was silent as he shuffled in close to his brother.
"Fu - !" Dean recoiled with a cry of pain as Sam wiped at the gashes with warm water. Without thinking, Dean grabbed the edge of the sink with one hand and the other clawed into Sam's shoulder as he crumpled forwards.
"Sorry. Sorry." Sam urged quickly, stopping his cleaning to allow Dean to catch his breath. He waited patiently and listened to his brother panting above him while he took a closer look at the cuts. Three jagged gashes had torn into the flesh on the side of Dean's chest, close to his underarm and down across his ribs. The outer two were shallower and shorter, already sealing at the edges. But the centre gash was oozing bright scarlet droplets and gaping to show the tissue beneath.
Sighing out a shaken breath, Dean lessened his grip on Sam's shoulder and sat back up a little straighter. "Dude, I'm so glad we toasted that fucker."
Nodding in agreement, Sam leaned back to meet his brother's small, determined smile. He took the hint and began the cleaning anew, trying to ignore Dean's flinching gasps.
The skin cleared of dirt and clotting blood, the wounds looked a little less gruesome and Sam found renewed confidence in his ministrations. He grabbed a clean towel and padded the area dry, frowning in thought. "I wonder if Dad knows."
"That we killed it."
Dean quirked an eyebrow in interest.
"I mean, he sent us there. We have no way of contacting him. How will he know if we succeeded?" Sam grabbed the medical kit and hunted out suture thread. "Or if we're okay?"
"I'm not sure."
Looking up from preparing the suture, Sam found renewed sorrow in his brother's face and it made his chest ache. Caught up in his own anger and confusion, it had not yet occurred to him how Dean must be feeling and he was filled with remorse.
"But he has his ways, his contacts." Dean stated calmly, "He knows."
About to argue the point and question his brother's faith in the man even after having been all but abandoned by him, Sam caught the hesitation that crossed Dean's face and decided to stay silent.
"You think I could go lie down?" Dean then ventured quietly, "I don't feel so good."
Sam was quickly on his feet and helping his brother stand. They made a slow, unsteady transfer to Dean's bed and he stretched stiffly out along the mattress. He shifted across to allow Sam to perch beside him and watched warily as Sam leaned in to begin sewing the wound closed.
Sensing the tension in the body beside him, Sam shook his head and moved back from Dean. "You know, in the ER they have local - "
"But - "
"I'll be fine, Sammy. Just get it over with, already." Dean pleaded, turning his face away and gritting his teeth.
"Okay …" Sam conceded, reaching out to pinch the centre of the deep gash and forcing himself to keep breathing as he punctured the skin edges with the needle and pulled the suture thread through. He felt his brother tense in pain and heard the small grunts catching in his throat and it made Sam shudder. It wasn't that he was at all squeamish about the procedure but he remembered all too well how much it hurt. And how seemingly unsympathetic his father would have been.
It only took a few minutes for Sam to place enough sutures to close the wound and he was quietly impressed with his handiwork. Smearing a thick line of antiseptic cream over the area, he covered it with gauze and tape and gave a satisfied sigh as he sat back.
"Thanks." Dean offered quietly, his face coated in a sheen of sweat and his eyes heavy with fatigue.
Sam nodded and stood from the bed. "When did you last take any painkillers?"
"A while back."
Figures. Sam shook his head and crossed to his duffel. "Here." He placed a bottle of water and a packet of tablets on Dean's bedside table. "And no hiding shit like this again." Sam chided. "We need to look out for each other."
"Yes, sir. Scout's honor, sir." Dean smirked. He caught the warning glare Sam shot him and Dean's expression became serious once again, enough to let Sam know that he understood.
Sam returned to the bathroom to wash his hands and sighed wearily. "You said 'no chick flick moments', right?" He headed back towards his bed and was aware of his brother watching him in interest. "Well, no damned stubborn bleeding out, either."
"Oh, you're no fun." Dean whined playfully.
"Go to sleep."
Sam reached for the light switch and then paused, peering across at his brother and seeing him grimacing as he tried to get comfortable. Dean seemed suddenly so vulnerable and Sam was filled with a confusing blend of fear and relief, at once glad to feel needed and yet afraid of what tomorrow might bring.
Switching off the light, Sam snuggled down into the bed that was too short for him and tried to calm his mind. Hearing the small groans and sighs from the fidgeting brother across the room, he took a deep breath. "Hey, Dean?"
"Wake me if you need anything."
"I mean it, Dean."
"So do I, Sammy."
Silence seemed to gather around them, broken once more by Dean's tired hisses of pain. Sam listened for a moment and had to fight the urge to cross the room and gather his brother into his arms. Knowing his advances would be more than unwelcome, he thought of an alternative way to offer comfort.
"We will find him."
Sam could sense his brother relaxing a little more and listened for a moment to Dean's breath evening out and slowing. This in itself was its own comfort and Sam smiled.
"I'm glad I'm here, man."
"Great. Me too. Go to sleep."
Sam heard the trademark groan of elder brother frustration and it was familiar and warm. His smile grew and he closed his eyes, tapping into one of the happier memories of a childhood with Dean for company. Biting back on a giggle, he could not resist taking one more chance.
"I have a gun, Sam."
Sam gave a small snort of delight and pulled the covers tightly up under his chin. Yawning wearily, he rolled onto his side and gave in to approaching sleep.
Dean listened to the gentle purring of his brother's slow breaths and was soothed by the steady rhythm. His mind loud with worry and his side alight with burning pain, he was nonetheless comforted by the fact that Sam was safely tucked up across the room from him. He reckoned it was a small price to pay. "Love you, too." He whispered into the darkness.