Two Brothers, One Destiny
K Hanna Korossy

They wouldn't even let him in with Dean this time.

ERs were pretty liberal, actually, usually allowing one of them to accompany the other as long as they stayed out of the way. The presence of loved ones often calmed the injured party, and could be a useful source of information. Not to mention that Dean tended to be a bit…upset when Sam wasn't in sight. So unless one of them was dying or being rushed straight to surgery, the other usually got to tag along.

Sam hadn't even made it inside the doors that night.

He looked down at his hands, stained with rusty brown trickles, the color especially deep in the creases of his palms and fingers. Castiel had finally been good for something, transporting them to the hospital entrance, which was necessary because Sam had been busy trying to keep what was left of the blood inside Dean's body from ending up on the outside. All Sam had had to do then was yell for help, and they'd come and taken Dean away from him.

Again.

He pushed himself to his feet, stretching out to his full height, quelling the query that was obviously on the tip of the duty nurse's tongue. So far they hadn't bothered him with paperwork, and Sam wanted to keep it that way. He lumbered instead to the bathroom to clean himself up.

The water wasn't enough; it took scrubbing with copious amounts of liquid soap before the blood started to rinse away. Sam stared at the swirling red a moment, then squeezed his eyes shut, hit by a wave of vertigo.

He wished he could wash it all away.

He'd been frustrated when the angels had snatched Dean. Annoyed that the angels were once more pulling their strings. Ticked off that they considered his broken brother a better weapon against Alastair than Sam was. Aggravated that even now the "good guys" were holding back, interrogating instead of annihilating. Worried about Dean and what was being asked of him, yeah, but more angry than afraid.

He'd searched for Dean with the intent of shouldering him aside and ending this. Sam would save his brother from the walk on the dark side, because the dark didn't bother Sam anymore. He expected Dean to be a little quieter after, a little more hesitant and shell-shocked, okay, but Sam hadn't actually feared for his safety. Even when he'd finally gotten there, he'd seen only the demon and the angel locked in combat, that filth Alastair winning. Not even noticing the shattered body of his brother lying motionless to the side.

But afterward, Castiel had looked at him with such…horror. Sam had just saved him, and the angel stared at him like he was a monster, like the monster Sam had just killed. Alastair had deserved to die, not just for being a demon but for what he'd done to Dean in the Pit. Where was the wrong in ending such a vile creation? Heaven should've been thankinghim.

And then Sam had followed the shift of Castiel's appalled gaze to his left, and forgot all about angels and demons.

Dean's bones shifted under his hands in ways they shouldn't have. His breath bubbled in his throat, and there wasn't even a whisper of awareness as Sam had fluttered hands over him, suddenly powerless. Broken, weak, incomplete, vulnerable: all the things Sam had spoken and thought about Dean came rushing back to mock him, because Dean was literally all of those now, dying. And everything Sam was able to do, everything he'd risked, everything he'd sacrificed, was worth crap if this one fragile, helpless human being wasn't around to see it.

The water was running clear now, and Sam swiped out the crusty red from under a few fingernails before he turned off the stream. He hadn't meant to glance up at the mirror, but his gaze caught on the dark stains that spread across his dark button-down and jacket. Jaw bunching, Sam yanked off both, buttons bouncing off the tiles, and stuffed them into the trashcan. He pulled in a deep breath, then glanced at the mirror again, gaze skittering off his spotless tee, up to the darkness in his face, his eyes. After a minute, Sam finally looked away and reached for the door.

There was more sitting and waiting to be done. The few times before when he'd had to sit a waiting room vigil like this, he'd called Bobby, or jumped up every few minutes to pace, or sipped listlessly at coffee as he fought tears and panic. Now, he sat in stony silence, still, confined. The nurse tried again with the paperwork, but one hard glance was enough to send her scurrying back. Castiel didn't even show, and that was probably a good thing. He wouldn't have been welcome.

The doctor finally came out, surgery cap still on his head, and Sam shot to his feet, knowing instantly the man was there for him. He felt suddenly smaller, like when Dad would show up to mete out punishment, or when the angels had first bent their burning eye toward him. The way Dean had never made him feel, and Sam was pretty sure that should have told him something right there.

"Dean survived the surgery, but he's not out of the woods yet."

Sam swallowed, age regressing with every word, the rush of power he'd felt from Ruby's blood fading by the minute.

"His condition is serious…on a ventilator…induced coma…"

He remembered that electrical spark months before at seeing Dean—impossibly alive—in the motel doorway, then wrapping him in his arms. He didn't know how his brother had returned from the dead, and just then he didn't care. For the space of those few seconds, he'd been a child again, clinging to his big brother.

"…don't know if he'll make it through the night…monitoring him…"

Sam felt that way again, small and lost, orphaned.

No one to be little or brother to.

Powerless.

"…swollen airway…"

It'd been days after the extension cord had choked him in their old house before Sam could breathe freely. He sometimes started choking again, trying to gasp in air too fast or too much. Dean's shoulder became a sanctuary then, something for Sam to brace himself against as he caught his breath and rediscovered his rhythm. The one place he could breathe.

"…broken cheekbone…"

Sam's face had hurt and swelled after the skinwalker's attack. He suspected his cheekbone was cracked, and his nose was busted for sure, but there was nothing to be done but rest it. Dean made sure he had plenty of soft pillows and found him sunglasses for his inevitable black eye and fondly called him Elephant Man for a few days. And Sam had found himself smiling even when that was painful.

"…three fingers broken on his right hand…"

They'd had serious breaks before, but something about the cast on Sam's hand had Dean obsessed. He checked regularly to make sure it wasn't too tight, slipping a finger between the plaster and Sam's skin and checking the color of his fingers. He made sure Sam took his meds, and subtly gave him the lighter loads to carry. And it took Sam a little while to realize that, in his fussing over Sam, Dean said what he hadn't been able to in so many words after their dad's death: I'm here for you, too.

"…deep cuts, and oddly, there seemed to be salt in several of the wounds…"

Sam had only been shot with rock salt once, in an effort to rid himself of a wraith's influence. Having subjected Dean to the same experience only a year before, Sam had tried to be stoic, to downplay it. The tears and sweat Dean wiped away told him how well that was working. And he'd have been lying if he'd said it wasn't a relief when his brother talked him gently through picking out the stinging salt and cleaning the wounds. Treating him in spirit as well as body.

"…internal bleeding…"

He hadn't even realized how badly he was injured when "Father Casey" threw him into the car, not until Sam went to sleep in the motel and woke up in the hospital. Dean's look of weary relief was one Sam knew too well, but that didn't stop Dean from camping out in Sam's room until he was released, or taking his hand when the pain beat him down. It never had.

"…dislocated right kneecap…"

He'd hurt himself badly a few times, too, trying to save Dean in the time loop Hell the trickster had shoved them into. Once, it had been throwing himself in front of the car that had mowed Dean down in previous loops. Sam's legs had been mangled, broken and dislocated, but Dean's distraught face, the tears that shone in his eyes, had hurt even worse than Sam's legs. He'd clutched on to Dean until everything faded to black, Dean presumably got himself killed again, and the day started over. And even a little bit after.

"…serious concussion. We're keeping an eye on the intracranial pressure…"

It had taken days after Jack's—the rugaru's—attack before Sam finally stopped seeing double and swaying when he stood. Dean was also concussed but seemed to bounce back faster, maybe because of his reset post-resurrection body. Didn't matter, he still took it slow for Sam's sake, and one night even slept next to Sam when Sam kept waking up disoriented. And for the first time in days, Sam didn't feel abandoned.

"…broken ribs punctured his right lung…"

Cracked ribs sucked. Cracked ribs in the back sucked worse. And your brother having been the one to crack them? Sucked beyond belief. But despite all they weren't talking about in the wake of the siren's influence, Dean still left him out meds, let him have first shower, and carefully felt down Sam's spine when he thought Sam was asleep. And for all his lingering anger and hurt, Sam had to admit, the concern felt…good.

The doctor had finally ended his long list, Sam realized, and was looking at him expectantly. Sam swallowed and nodded, clearing his throat before he tried his voice. "I want to be with him." Not asking.

No one argued. He tried not to see that as the sign it was of how serious Dean's condition was.

The body in the bed was Dean in the spiky, wheat-colored hair, the peek of the tattoo above the top of his gown, the curled, callused fingers. His ring and amulet were in Sam's pocket, but the tan line from the former and the angry friction burn of the latter's cord marked his skin. His six-one frame, sizeable compared to everyone but Sam, stretched almost to the end of the bed despite one tractioned leg and the other tracing a gentle bow under the covers. It was unquestionably Dean, but his face was swollen, discolored and filled with fluids, a ventilator forced an unfamiliar rhythm of breathing, and the spark of life, of rebellion and determination and humor and furious love that made up Dean Winchester, was missing. For all Sam had complained about part of his brother being left behind in Hell, it truly was a shell lying in front of him now.

Being right had never tasted so bitter.

Why hadn't he been more apprehensive about Dean facing Alastair? Sam's eyes stung as he sank into the seat by the bed, but he forced the feeling away. Alastair was a monster, one who'd carved damage deep into Dean's psyche. The mind games alone should have made Sam scared for his brother, not to mention the physical risk. He wanted to claim that he'd trusted the angels to keep Alastair restrained and Dean safe, but deep down Sam knew that wasn't it. He just hadn't thought. So focused on his mission to kill Lilith and all her kind, so sure he knew what was best, so angry that his neutered brother had been chosen for this task, it hadn't even occurred to him to worry that Dean might splinter completely under the task, let alone possibly not survive it.

Sam's chin trembled a moment before he firmed it. Why do any of this if Dean wouldn't live to reap the benefits? No matter how low Sam sunk, how disgusted he was with what he was doing or how much he gave up, he'd at least been able to console himself that it was for Dean, that he was saving Dean like Dean had saved him. Even if Dean hated him in the end, at least he'd be alive to do so. But if Sam lost his brother in the process, or even his feelings for Dean, what was the point?

He choked on a laugh, the sound out of place amid the quiet noises of the machines keeping Dean alive. Sam should've felt so powerful, sitting hale and whole next to this battered, broken body, the brother he'd saved from certain death. But while Sam had thought, had prided himself on being so much tougher than Dean, really he was only as strong as his brother was. How was that for irony? Knock one down and they both fell; it'd been true when Sam died, and then when Dean did. His brother had always been his weakness and always would be, because there was one sacrifice even Sam wasn't willing to make for his cause.

At least, not knowingly. And if Dean died now, because Sam had been too proud to see the danger…

Well, Sam's grip tightened in his lap, then Heaven and Hell hadn't seen anything yet.

The End