He's drowning. It's a weird sensation, and to be honest, it kind of pisses him off. Things weren't supposed to go like this. Then again, when did anything ever happen like it should? They were in Louisiana hunting a rougarou, and it should have been fairly straight forward as far as hunts go. Hunt it down, kill it, burn it, leave. Seemed simple. They hadn't counted on it turning on Sam, hadn't counted on Dean's getting in the way, hadn't counted on the rougarou slamming into him and sending him into the swamp.
He hopes Sam's okay. The drowning itself wouldn't be so bad if he didn't know that Sam was left alone to finish the damn thing off.
He remembers learning to swim. He'd always hated the water, had kicked and fought his parents when they tried to teach him, panicked when his head even touched it. His mom had been patient with him, more patient than his father, and had just started to get him to try it when, well, when everything had gone to hell in a nursery in Kansas. After that, he had been even more adamant in his refusal to go near the water.
When Dean was seven and Sammy was three and getting into everything, they'd gone to a motel in some rundown place with sweltering temperatures and a stickiness to the air that made him sweaty and uncomfortable. Sammy squalled, screaming and crying, and none of Dean's usual tricks did anything, not the funny face or the peek-a-boo or the hand puppets he had made with Pastor Jim once when his dad was gone.
His dad had been sleeping that day, tired and grumpy, though Dean hadn't understood why, knew only that his dad had gone out late at night and come back early in the morning, and the change had occurred sometime in that interval, something that made him stumble and talk funny and get angry and yell at Sammy to stop crying.
So Dean had taken Sam by the chubby hand, had half dragged his screaming little brother outside, walked around in the shade of the building. There was a pool, empty of people despite the heat because their motel was a dump, but Dean walked them around it without even pausing, and Sammy screamed some more before finally quieting down.
It happened fast.
Dean had turned his back for just a second (because he didn't see anything wrong with peeing in the bushes if no one was around to see, and he'd really had to go) and then he heard a yell and a splash and knew instinctively that Sam had fallen in, was drowning in the pool because he'd left him alone. Running back, Dean had stood there for the briefest of moments, the paralyzing fear of the water overwhelming his brotherly instincts for a split second.
Then he was leaping in, floundering aimlessly and splashing towards Sammy, seeking arms finding flailing limbs, somehow managing to haul Sam to the side of the pool, helping him grip the ladder to climb out. By that point, his strength was gone.
He could hear Sam crying somewhere above him as he tried to keep his head up, but it kept bobbing under and he was getting more and more tired, taking longer and longer to pull his face out of the water. It stopped hurting eventually and he just floated, darkness covering his vision until he was surrounded by a black warmth…
He didn't remember much after that. He woke up cradled in his father's arms. His dad was crying. He'd been forced to learn how to swim, after that, but he hadn't minded. He didn't want to fail Sammy again. It was only luck that had allowed him to shove his brother out of the pool, and he couldn't risk not being able to help him next time. Dad had drilled him until swimming was natural, and easy.
Seemed like all of his training had left when the damn rougarou had snapped his head to the side with one blow, his temple connecting with something- the ground? A rock?- before he tumbled into the bog. Now he just felt calm, serene, that familiar dark haze beckoning him.
The black swallowed him up whole before he even knew what it was doing.
Dean's drowning, and it pisses him off. If his damn stubborn fool of an older brother hadn't insisted, again, on acting as Sam's personal bodyguard, then Dean wouldn't be in the damn bog and Sam wouldn't be fighting the damn rougarou when he should be helping Dean.
He hated hunting sometimes. Now qualified as one of those times.
When he had finally gotten the rougarou dispatched, moments that felt like ages later, he dove into the bog, hands waving blindly through murky water, hoping for some sign of his injured brother. It didn't take them long to feel something, to grasp desperately at familiar leather, to drag it up to the surface.
Dean wasn't moving. His head lolled forward, chin drooping to his chest, and Sam tilted his head back to rest on his shoulder, flipped onto his back so that he could support Dean better. He didn't have to check to know that his brother wasn't breathing, the familiar cadence of his brother's breaths starkly absent.
"Damn it Dean," he muttered as he neared shore. He tried not to think about time, about how long Dean had been under, about the blood that trickled from his temple.
Sam was relieved to get to land for a minute, but then the panic resurfaced and he was laying Dean's limp body on the ground, tilting the chin back and then breathing, centering his hands and then pumping, muttered counts and pleas and please don't do this to me, Dean and then the cycle started all over…
Dean was drowning. So was Sam.
Dean could hear Sam somewhere through the haze. His brother was muttering under his breath in that tone he always got when something was really, really wrong and he was trying not to freak. He wondered vaguely what was going on that was panicking Sammy so bad and wanted to help, but he couldn't see anything and he was tired and he didn't know what was going on.
It took him a minute to realize that Sam was pressing rhythmically on his chest, and then everything clicked into place. He tried desperately to inhale, to take a breath and reassure Sammy, but nothing was responding and he couldn't do anything, and he was so tired…
Dean coughed weakly, water dribbling from his mouth and down the side of his face before Sam tilted his head to the side, but there were no huge inhales, no heaving gasps for air, just weak breaths that rattled in his chest and scared the crap out of Sam. If Dean had inhaled water, there was a huge risk for secondary drowning, and that was not something Sam was going to mess around with.
"Okay Dean, I'm gonna get us back to the Impala and then we'll get you some help, okay?" Dean blinked sleepy, unfocused eyes open, peering blearily at Sam for a second before mumbling something and falling unconscious again. Even that much contact was reassuring.
As gently as he could, Sam hoisted his brother up and into his arms, settling the limp head onto his shoulder and tucking the dangling arm up, before leaving at a quick pace, his gait made slightly awkward by his brother's dead weight.
The Impala looked beautiful in the moonlight as Sam finally loped into the clearing where they'd parked, and he knew it was not a moment too soon. Dean's breaths had gotten increasingly harsher and more labored, and it kind of pissed Sam off. Dean wasn't supposed to keep drowning. He was supposed to be okay.
The hospital was more like a clinic with a few extra people, but they seemed to know what they were doing and took Sam's precious burden from his arms with as much care as any medical personnel Sam had seen. He sank down into a chair that had at one point been amply cushioned, but that had been worn down over the years and that now left Sam sitting on a hard metal surface. He was pleasantly surprised when someone brought him a cup of steaming coffee, but he was too tired and worried and scared to really acknowledge the gesture.
A few hours later, Dean was settled into a room, oxygen mask on face and bandage on head and IVs running, and they brought in a fairly comfortable chair for Sam, and as he drifted to sleep, he could only think that as screwed up as this situation was, he never felt so at home as when he was with his brother.
Dean woke up in a hospital bed, a high pitched beeping counteracted by a low rumbling that Dean recognized automatically to be Sam snoring. Looking down, he registered with no surprise that Sammy's head was resting just next to his hand, hot breath tickling his fingertips. For a second, Dean remembered why he was there, how he had saved Sammy but gotten injured, how it had been totally and completely worth it. He remembered Sam's pleas with him, was relieved when he realized that since he was here, he hadn't let Sammy down, hadn't left him all alone to face the world and all the nightmares that came with it.
He scratched idly at the bandage on his head, fiddled briefly with his IV, carded calloused fingers through Sam's hair. He left his hand resting on his little brother's head, smiling softly in amusement when Sam snorted loudly before resuming his normal rhythm of gentle snores.
As messed up as this situation was, it was better that he be in this bed than Sammy, and as messed up as this situation was, he felt at home here, with his brother at his side. He finally drifted off to sleep, feeling safe for the first time in a long time.