Five Minute Warning
Sam's whole body aches.
He tries to sit up, but his head swims. Before he can collapse, though, he feels his brother's hands catch him on the shoulders. "Don't move yet, you idiot," Dean growls, but his hands are gentle as he eases Sam back down until his head's pillowed on Dean's thigh. Sam wonders if Dean's sitting on the ground with him and opens his eyes to check, but Dean's hand is on his forehead now, smoothing his hair away from his face, and it's all he can see. His brother's fingers are warm, and he lets his eyes fall shut again.
It's quiet, he realizes. Before, the roar of the wind and the shrieks of the trees breaking and splintering all around them had drowned out everything, even Dean shouting. He can still hear little sounds, the buzz of insects and Dean's breathing, but otherwise it's blessedly still. Which can only mean one thing, but he has to make sure.
"Is it dead?" he mumbles.
"Yeah, it's dead," Dean confirms. "You wouldn't think so, but turns out throwing a silver knife straight through it kills it. I thought you said this thing took the form of a hawk, dude."
"It does. It did," Sam protests, risking opening his eyes again. This time he can see more than just Dean's hand, though his brother is still idly stroking his hair. He can see branches above him, most of them broken and hanging at odd angles and leaves sticking every which way, and the sky beyond, an incongruous cheerful blue. He can also see Dean's face on the periphery, angled down to give him a disbelieving look.
"Most hawks don't turn into freaking tornadoes, Sam," Dean pronounces. His hair's actually mussed, tufts sticking out in little clumps, and Sam kind of wants to laugh. But he's pretty sure if he does, he'll hurt more than he does already.
"Whirlwind," he says instead. "It was a whirlwind. But it was a hawk at first."
"For a second, maybe," Dean mutters. He shifts a little, leans back, and Sam can see now that Dean's sitting with his back up against a tree trunk, one that's too thick to have broken and too sturdy to have fallen. It's probably the same one Sam hit. His back throbs at the memory, and he lets out a little gasp of pain. Dean looks down at him. "You doing okay, Sammy?"
Sam nods, which turns out to be a bad idea as it sets his head pounding even harder. He groans a little and reaches up with both hands to press his fists against his temples, which sets his back protesting again. It's already a mess of bruises, he can tell. "Ow," he mumbles.
"Serves you right, you moron," Dean says. "What the fuck were you thinking?"
"I'm thinking," Sam says, pressing his eyes shut, "that I should have done more research before we came out here. Then we'd have known about the whirlwind thing."
Dean snorts. "You know what I mean. Goddamn it, Sam, you shouldn't have done it. I'd've been fine, dude."
"Your head—" Sam starts, but Dean cuts him off.
"I worry about that, not you," he growls.
"Yeah, well," Sam says, tipping his chin until he can see Dean's face, "suck it up, because I'm going to worry about it whether you like it or not."
"It's been over a year since the last one, Sam," Dean snaps, "and that was because I ran out of meds, not because I hit my head on a goddamn tree."
"I'd still do it again," Sam murmurs, which actually shuts Dean up for a minute.
He closes his eyes. There's a rock digging into his ass, and his legs are starting to go numb from being splayed on the dirt, but Dean's thigh is a solid warmth under his head and his headache's starting to ease a little. His back, which took the brunt of the blow, is still throbbing, but it's all over, a generalized pain that means he's just badly bruised up and not actually injured.
But even if he were, it would still be worth it. Dean was the one hurled at the tree by the whirlwind – raróg, if Sam's remembering right – and if Sam hadn't thrown himself between his brother and the tree, Dean would have hit the trunk headfirst. No matter what Dean says, there wasn't anything else Sam could have done. If one of them has to get a head injury, it should be him.
Sam's not the one who gets seizures.
Sam's an idiot, and Dean by all rights should just leave his enormous ass on the forest floor and go see if he can find the car himself. But despite everything he's an awesome brother, so after Sam's finally fully awake he helps him to his feet instead. Sam's wincing and making faces but he gets up easily enough. "How's your vision?" Dean demands, waving a hand in front of Sam's eyes. "Blurry? Seeing double? How many fingers am I holding up?" He extends his middle finger.
Sam screws up his face at him. "One, you asshole."
"You deserve it, bitch," Dean says, and manhandles his baby brother around until Sam's facing the tree. He still catches a glimpse of the bitchface before Sam's all the way turned, though. "How's your back?" he asks, getting Sam out of his flannel as gently as he can and then pushing up his t-shirt. Sam's back is already mottled with bruises, and he hisses in pain when Dean presses his palm flat against the biggest one, which is ugly and purple and probably the size of both of Dean's hands together.
"Hurts," Sam pants. "But I'm okay, Dean, it's just bruises." Dean ignores that pronouncement, because Sam's an idiot, and carefully checks everywhere, feeling for anything broken and watching Sam's reactions carefully. But Sam really does seem all right, if bruised to hell, so Dean gives him his shirt back.
"What time is it?" Sam asks as he cautiously shrugs back into it. His hair's hanging in his eyes again, but Dean doesn't reach out to brush it back this time. The moron can get his own hair out of his face now.
"A little after four," Dean says without checking. He spent the few minutes Sam was out staring at his watch slowly tick the seconds by to four o'clock, and the bitch has only been alert and orientated for a few minutes at most. Dean is seriously going to kill him if he ever tries something like this again.
Sam looks alarmed. "Don't you need to take your—"
"Not till five," Dean interrupts, knowing what Sam's driving at. Figures Sam would still be worried about Dean and his fucking meds right now. "I'm good, dude. We just need to get back to the car. Can you walk?"
Sam nods, then winces. "Wish you had some painkillers on you," he mutters, rubbing at his temples again. "Any chance you have some Vicodin in that box of yours?"
"Sorry, just Depakote," Dean says. "That's not going to do a damn thing for you." He pats his jacket, right over the pocket where he keeps the damn pills.
The box isn't there.
"Fuck," he mutters. He checks the other pocket, in case he put it on the other side for some reason. Not there either. So he checks his jeans pockets, front and then back, and then the outer pockets on his jacket, even though he knows he didn't put it either of them because shit falls out of those pockets too easily and he's learned that lesson. Nothing in any of them. No pills, no keys, nothing.
"What?" Sam asks. "What is it, Dean?"
"Nothing," Dean says. He looks down at his feet, checks around the trunk where he was sitting with Sam for the last few minutes, but he doesn't see anything other than splinters of branches and torn off bark and a few dozen handfuls of leaves. He kicks at them, searching for a glimpse of silver amongst all the forest debris, but all he sees is dirt, more dirt, and still more dirt. He pivots, scans the whole area around them, and sees a silvery glint flash over by a downed sapling a few yards away.
He strides over, bends, and unearths his knife from under a chunk of bark. The blade is streaked with some sort of reddish tarry substance, which surprises him – who knew whirlwinds bled? – but worrying about what that dead son of a bitch would bleed isn't too high on his priority list now. "Fuck," he says again, louder this time.
Sam's followed him over. "What is it, Dean?" he repeats, sounding worried now. "Is it your pills? You do have them, right?"
"Of course I had them," Dean snaps, grabbing a leaf and wiping the knife blade off. He shoves it back in its sheath and stands back up, mentally promising it that he'll clean it off better later, once they're back at the motel.
"But you don't now?" Sam demands, and trust him to have picked up on the tense change.
"They're around here somewhere," Dean says, waving a hand around them. "We just have to find them."
Sam's getting that antsy look on his face again, which means any second he's going to start bleating about Dean's condition and freaking out about a possible missed dose. Dean turns his back on that face in favor of resuming his search of the ground. "You lost them?" Sam says behind him. "But after last time I thought you made sure you wouldn't—"
"I lost everything, Sam." Dean wheels around to face him. "Phone, keys, pills, emergency stash of M&Ms, everything in my pockets, okay? Now shut up and help me look."
Sam starts patting at his pockets. "I've still got my phone," he says, fishing it out. Part of it breaks off and falls to the ground. The look on Sam's face is hilariously guilty, and Dean would laugh at him if he weren't too busy mentally cursing the entire situation. "I guess it got crushed when I hit the tree," Sam mumbles, starting to bend over and then gasping in pain.
Dean grabs it and hands it to his idiot of a brother. Sam takes it and tucks it into his side pocket with the other two pieces. "Just look around here and yell if you find anything," Dean instructs. "I'm checking over there." He turns and heads back towards the big tree and then beyond it, kicking leaves and twigs out of his way and searching the forest floor for any hint of a metallic gleam.
He finds his keys next. They're lying partly under a pile of leaves and glinting in a patch of sunlight about ten feet from the big tree. They've also apparently managed to impale a leaf on their way from Dean's pocket to the ground, as he discovers when he picks them up and part of the leaf pile comes with them. He pulls the leaf off, tucks them back in his jeans, and checks around them for any sign of his pills or his phone. Nada. "Got the keys," he yells, and turns around to check on Sam.
Sam's got his head tipped back and is peering up at the broken branches above. "What the hell are you doing?" Dean calls to him.
"Stuff was flying in all directions, remember? It might have gotten stuck up in a tree," Sam yells back.
The kid's got a point, so Dean joins him, scanning through all the treetops he can see and investigating any gouges on the trunks. He finds a few rocks embedded in the bark of a couple of the trees and what he thinks was an egg from a nest crushed onto the big tree's trunk, but no phone and definitely no silver pill box. Sam finds the M&Ms bag though, upside down and caught in the crook created by a branch bent nearly in two. "Empty," he calls to Dean after reaching as high as he can and batting at it.
"Figures," Dean mutters, and goes back to searching.
They search for almost half an hour before Sam leans against the big tree and, panting, asks, "You've got more in the car, right?"
Dean doesn't bother answering. Ever since that seizure a year ago, he's kept most of his meds in the glove compartment, some in his duffel, and a couple days' worth on him, just in case. So yeah, there's some in the car, but Sam's obviously still suffering the effects of his head injury because he's kind of missed something vital about their surroundings.
"Dean?" Sam says. "Come on, let's forget these and go find the car instead."
"Which way's the car, Sam?" Dean spreads his arms out wide, encompassing the whole damn forest as best he can. "Which way do we go to get back to the lot?"
"Didn't we come that way…" Sam starts to point and then trails off, his eyes getting wider as he turns his head back and forth as quickly as he can. Dean can see the moment he finally gets it: he squinches his face up a little and lets out a huff of air. "Oh," he says softly, and makes his worried face.
"That's the problem with taking on a goddamn whirlwind," Dean says, returning his attention to searching under all the downed tree wreckage on the ground. "You piss it off enough, it ruins the whole damn landscape and makes it impossible to figure out where the hell you are."
"I was keeping track," Sam says, an edge of panic starting to bleed into his tone. "I was watching for landmarks—"
"Yeah, well, landmarks are kind of useless when they all get destroyed." Dean kicks at a particularly heavy branch that's obviously broken off the big tree. The branch slowly rolls over, but nothing's under it other than more leaves and what looks like the smashed remains of the nest that egg must have come from. "Come on, Sammy, don't just stand there," he says without looking at his brother. "Help me look."
He can hear Sam start scuffing his feet on the ground, shoving away the rubble They search in grim silence for a few more minutes. Dean doesn't look at his watch, but he can see its numbers ticking down in his head anyway, moving inexorably towards 5:00. The sun's starting to get lower, making what light is getting through the trees burnish the whole area in gold. He goes further and further out, searching high and low all the way to the edge of the destruction, because the pill box is light and might have gotten thrown farther than his keys or the M&Ms. Behind him Sam's systematically searching the area in ever-widening circles with the big tree as the base.
Sam finally breaks the silence. "It's after five," he says, coming up behind Dean and touching him on the shoulder. "We need to look for the car, Dean. Maybe one of the other landmarks is still intact."
Dean kicks a small branch. "Son of a bitch," he seethes, punching at the air. "I was hoping we'd at least find my goddamn phone. Then we could've called the fucking park service or something."
Sam rubs him on the back between his shoulder blades for a second before dropping his hand. "We'll get you a new phone too, man," he says. "Come on, we've wasted enough time here. Let's go." He hasn't starting pleading, but Dean can hear it lurking behind what he is saying. Any more resistance on his part and Sam's going to break out the puppy dog eyes and the 'please's until he gives in.
He's torn. The pills have to be here somewhere. It's possible they'll find his pill box before they find his baby, and the sooner he gets the damn Depakote down his throat the better. But Sam's right too; they could be searching for hours and not find the damn box, and then they'll still have to look for the car after that. By then, Dean's pretty sure his year of being seizure-free will be over. The last one came only a few hours after he missed a dose, and if he doesn't get dinner soon, that's not going to help either. Fasting sets him off too, as he discovered the week Dad forgot to leave any food money and he tried to subsist on nothing but water and ramen so Sammy wouldn't miss a meal. His stomach's already starting to complain, too – he and Sam ate lunch early, around eleven, and he doesn't usually go this long without food. The forest is unlikely to provide any of that either, at least not without a lot of effort on their part, and he doesn't even have his M&Ms anymore.
"All right, let's go," he grunts.
Sam wrinkles his brow and looks around them helplessly for a few moments, then tentatively points. "Let's try that way," he says. "I think maybe I recognize that fern."
They set off. It's hard going, as not only is the ground full of obstacles, but Sam's having trouble moving, limping and wincing with every step. He's trying to pretend he's fine by putting his determined face on, but Dean knows him, and after pointing out that they'll move faster if Sam lets him help, Sam allows Dean to put an arm around his waist. After that they make better time.
It's almost six o'clock when the forest floor abruptly drops away, and they find themselves standing on the edge of a small precipice. Below them they can see a sea of green treetops, touched by the setting sunlight and not broken by anything except a faraway river. The sky is a riot of oranges and reds with the moon down low, a pale disc above the trees. "Not one of your landmarks, huh, Sammy?" Dean asks wryly.
"No," Sam says, sounding defeated. "Pretty sure I'd remember a cliff. Let's go back to where we started and try the opposite direction. Dammit, I wish I had a compass."
"Add it to the list," Dean grumbles, and they turn back. The sun's even lower now, and the gold's slowly shifting to red. "When does the sun set, anyway?"
"Around seven thirty," Sam answers promptly.
Dean nudges him with his shoulder, gently. "You're such a geek, dude."
"I looked it up," Sam protests, which does nothing to invalidate Dean's argument, but he's generous enough not to point that out right now. They keep walking, or in Sam's case hobbling, following the new landmark trail back to the area of devastation the whirlwind caused. It's starting to get cold, and Dean pulls his jacket tighter around him. Sam does the same, shivering into his flannel, and Dean wraps his arm around him a little closer.
The sun's almost set, and the shadows are lengthening all around them when they make it back to the big tree. Sam sinks down onto the ground next to it, breathing hard. "Just a minute," he wheezes. "Just a minute and we'll go." He peers at his watch and his face crumples. "It's almost seven," he whispers. "God, Dean—"
Dean crouches down next to him and slings an arm around his shoulders. "Hey," he says, "You know I get five minutes' warning before it happens. I'm still good, dude. Fucking starving, but no funny smells."
Sam breathes out and then back in. "Next time, we're definitely doing more research first."
Dean snorts, and Sam actually smiles back. Then he insists they start moving again – "We need to keep going as long as we have light." – and Dean helps his brother back up. Sam's moving stiffly now, and the encroaching cold can't be helping. Dean gets his arm around him again, and Sam wraps his around him back, and they start walking.
It's barely three minutes later when a strange, familiar smell hits him. He abruptly stops walking, and Sam nearly trips on something, a rock maybe. "Dean?" he asks, voice hushed and a little scared, and his hand on Dean's shoulder tightens. Dean breathes through his mouth, his heart pounding in his ears, but he can still smell it. He's never been able to accurately describe the scent to anyone, but burnt rubber is close, and it's all around him now.
Five minutes, he thinks.
He hastily lets go of Sam and stumbles a few steps away, already fumbling with his fly. "Dean?" he hears Sam bleat behind him, but he can't focus on trying to talk and trying to piss at the same time, so he ignores him until he's finished. Too many times waking up soaking wet in the past have taught him that the first thing to do when he knows a seizure is coming is empty his goddamn bladder.
The second is find somewhere to have it. He zips back up and looks around them in dismay. They're surrounded on all sides by tree trunks; they've just made it past the edge of the destruction, and this part of the forest is untouched and growing in close quarters. There's barely room for the two of them to walk side-by-side. There's no way he can go down here and not hit something.
"Sam," he says. His tongue feels heavy in his mouth, and it's a struggle to make it cooperate. He tries again. "Sammy, I." Five is too much right now, so he just mumbles, "Is coming."
"Five minutes?" Sam asks, sounding absurdly young. Dean barely manages to nod. The smell's getting stronger. It's sour, and he can almost taste it now too. Scratch five minutes; it's more like three now. Dean manages to mumble that, or at least something that sounds like three. It comes out more, 'thee.'
Sam hitches a breath. "You can't here," he says, mostly to himself. "We need to go back." He reaches for Dean, swings them both around, and starts pushing Dean back towards the big tree. Dean stumbles forward, but he doesn't fall, and Sam starts guiding him past trees and over branches, breathing hard in his ear. "Almost there, Dean," he's babbling, "almost there. Just a little more."
Dean's mouth is dry, and anxiety's starting to worm its way through him. "Two," he says, and then, "Sammy."
A year, he thinks bleakly. A whole frigging year and some goddamn monster goes and fucks it up. Dean hates those sons of bitches. He kind of wishes he could kill the damn thing again, some more. Maybe if it was a hawk. It wouldn't make him lose his meds if it was a hawk. Then he wouldn't have less than two minutes left.
The big tree comes back into view. Sam's panting frantically now, and that's right, this area's almost cleared thanks to the freaking whirlwind. Dean wants to tell his baby brother good thinking, but he can't. His tongue's totally not cooperating now, and that means he's used up all his time.
Zero minutes, he thinks, and then he doesn't.
Step one, get your brother to the ground before he collapses.
Dean's standing stock-still in the middle of the clearing, blinking rapidly. His mouth's kind of slack, but tense at the same time, and his expression has gone utterly blank. Years ago one of the doctors, the one who actually witnessed one of Dean's seizures, told them that this part, the blinking, is called a partial focus seizure, meaning it's only occurring on side of Dean's brain. For a lot of people they stop there, stay on one side and then end, but not for him. The next part's still coming.
Sam knows from experience that the blinking phase is only going to last a few more seconds, and he has to act before it's over. He reaches out, gets his arms around his brother, and as gently as he can pulls him off his feet. Dean's weight nearly makes Sam drop him; pain shrieks all along his bruised back, but he doesn't let go. He just sinks to his knees, taking Dean with him. Dean's still pliant, still blinking when Sam lowers him to the ground. He's just in time.
Step two, turn him onto his side so he doesn't choke if he vomits, but don't ever reach into his mouth.
Dean's eyes roll up and his whole body stiffens as Sam reaches for him again. Tonic phase, a disconnected part of Sam's brain recites, the part that spent hours reading everything he could get his hands on about epilepsy and seizures. This is the second, or third if you count Dean's five-minute warning aura, phase of his seizure; now it's spread to both sides of his brain. Sam has about forty-five seconds, and two more steps to get through, until the next phase starts.
Panting, he pushes at his brother until his stiffened body finally rolls. His arm's pinned under him, but there's nothing Sam can do about that. Dean's lying on his side facing the big tree now, about three feet away from it. It's enough space for what Sam has in mind.
Step three, make sure anything your brother could hit or that could hurt him is moved or taken away.
Sam crawls over and pushes at the big branch Dean kicked earlier, rolling it a bit further so that it's far enough away that Dean won't hit it even during the rapidly approaching clonic phase. Then he crawls back to the big tree and plants himself in front of it, sitting sideways so that his thigh is what Dean will bang into if he thrashes towards him. He doesn't want Dean bashing his head on Sam's knee, not during a seizure. Not when bashing his head on something all those years ago is what started this whole thing.
He can't actually move the trees, but at least there's only the big one to worry about, and he's between it and Dean again. That's where he'll stay until it's over.
Step four, put something soft under his head, like a pillow.
Sam doesn't have a pillow, so he pulls off his flannel shirt and hastily folds it up so all the buttons are on the inside. The cold bites at him through the thin fabric of his t-shirt, but he grits his teeth and carefully slides the folded cloth under Dean's head. Then he leans sideways until his shoulder's resting against bark and wraps his arms around himself.
Now all he can do is wait.
Step five, don't try to move him or touch him during the last phase. This is very important, Sammy. Just wait it out until it's over. Don't call for help unless it lasts for longer than five minutes.
Sam shivers as a soft breeze kicks up, blowing his hair into his eyes and sending a few leaves spiraling around them. It's almost full night now, but there's just enough leftover ambient light for him to see it when Dean starts convulsing. Clonic phase, he thinks, biting his lips and hugging himself even tighter. The second phase of a grand mal seizure, characterized by violent jerking and shaking, and the fourth phase Dean goes through.
This part only lasts about thirty seconds, but it always feels like forever.
One, he thinks, two, counting with each slow breath he takes. He knows he can't touch Dean during this – he can still hear his father's voice practically yelling that at him – but it's hard not to, watching what he's going through. Counting out the seconds helps keep Sam focused.
Dean's whole body is shaking now. It reminds Sam of the way the kitten they had for two months when he was eight would move in its sleep; Dean's twitching and jerking but Sam can tell just by looking that it's not under his control. His hand brushes Sam's thigh, over and over again, but it's just his fingertips. It shouldn't hurt him, so Sam doesn't try to move out of range. He just watches.
Dean's face is in shadow, tipped back on his neck and thrashing like the rest of him. There's nothing behind his head other than leaves, so Sam resists the near-overwhelming urge to move and make sure he's not hitting it on something. Step five, don't interfere, he reminds himself, though it nearly makes him lose his count.
Twelve, he resumes. Thirteen.
Once, the first time Sam saw Dean having a seizure, his head smacked into the leg on their rickety table over and over again until Sam was afraid the whole thing would collapse on him. It was the third time it had happened since Dean had gotten the head injury that Sam is still convinced caused the epilepsy, and the time that made their father finally take Dean to a doctor. While they did tests and ran scans on his brother, Dad made eleven-year-old Sam memorize all six steps until he could recite them back word for word. A few weeks later, Dean had a diagnosis and a prescription for Depakote, and Sam had a new responsibility.
Take care of your brother, Sammy.
It was the first time he got even an inkling of what Dean must have gone through at four years old.
It'll be over in less than ten seconds. Sam's seen enough of them to know that Dean's seizures always follow the same pattern. He's been counting how long this phase lasts since he became the one who took care of Dean during them, and this part has never gone on for fewer than thirty seconds or longer than thirty-five. Sam hopes tonight it won't last that long. He wants it to stop right at thirty.
It's not over.
Just when Sam's starting to feel the first threads of panic, Dean's body suddenly relaxes. His breath comes out in a long drawn out sigh, and his head comes back forward, throwing his face into relief. His eyes are closed now, and his features have smoothed out. As Sam watches, barely daring to breathe himself, Dean's breathing evens out and becomes steady, slow and deep. He's asleep.
It's the last phase, postictal if Sam's remembering right, which basically means post-seizure. Now Dean will rest for awhile. He's usually out for about twenty minutes, but this part varies; he's woken up after only nine minutes before, and occasionally will stay out for almost thirty. Either way the seizure's over, and Sam can touch him now.
Step six, after it's over, check your brother over for injuries, clean him up, and make sure he's comfortable while he sleeps it off.
Sam unwinds his arms from around his abdomen and gently touches the back of Dean's head. Even though he knows nothing was there, he has to make sure. There are some shreds of leaves and a couple twigs caught in Dean's hair, and Sam brushes them out. But no injury.
Next he checks Dean's mouth, tipping his chin up as gently as he can so he can use the very last of the light to see if Dean's bitten his tongue. He has a couple times before, and if so Sam will make sure he doesn't swallow too much blood while he's sleeping. But there's no blood, at least not as far as Sam can tell, and Dean hasn't vomited either. He has drooled though, so Sam uses the corner of his shirt, still folded under Dean's head, to wipe his brother's face clean. Then he flips it over, lays Dean's head back down on it, and leans back against the tree.
The sun's gone now. Sam's shivering almost ceaselessly, his bare arms covered in gooseflesh. He rubs briskly at them, keeping his eyes on his brother. The moon's still up, its pale light illuminating just enough for Sam to see his brother and the tree next to him and not much else. It's not doing anything to make the forest any warmer, though.
He wonders, suddenly, how Dean coped while he was at college. Was he ever alone? Driving? The meds keep him mostly seizure-free, so maybe he didn't even have one while Sam was gone. Or maybe Dad was there to handle it. Sam's never asked.
He was probably fine, Sam reassures himself. He knows it's what Dean would tell him if he asked, right before telling him to shut up and stop hovering.
Dean's breathing suddenly falters, and Sam snaps back to the present. There's a rustling, and Sam realizes that Dean's started shivering too. Sam starts towards him, then hesitates. He hasn't done this since Dean was seventeen and snapped at him that he was too fucking old to need his baby brother cuddling him.
Then he uncurls himself and crawls the couple of feet to Dean's side. His whole body aches now, more from the cold and from the adrenaline crash than from his bruises, and it's hard to move. His back protests the most as he lays himself down next to his brother and then scoots the few remaining inches forward, until he can get his arms around Dean's shoulders.
Dean's trembling. He's not awake yet – it's only been seven minutes by Sam's watch – so Sam pulls him close, wraps his arms around him so that Dean's hands are trapped between them, and lays his cheek against Dean's. He closes his eyes. He's cold and uncomfortable and his head is cushioned by nothing but dirt and leaves, but Dean's warm and solid against his skin. Sam can feel his own body starting to relax.
Gradually Dean stops shivering. Sam unwinds one arm and gropes for the folded shirt, figuring that it's big enough for them to share, especially since Dean's head is mostly on Sam's shoulder now anyway, and Sam's headache is getting worse.
It's while he's scrabbling in the dirt next to Dean's head that he comes across a small round object. It doesn't feel like a rock – it's too uniform – and there are several others lying nearby, as he discovers. He scoops them up and brings them up to his face, trying to see what they are in the moonlight.
Then he realizes they're M&Ms.
Sam looks up, and even though he can't see anything more than a sliver of the moon through the broken branches, his memory paints the picture of the M&Ms bag, caught upside down in the branches above their heads.
He starts searching for more.
By the time Dean stirs, twenty-one minutes after his seizure ended, Sam's got an entire handful.
"Sam?" Dean mumbles. He sounds raw, his voice rough and unsteady. "Sammy?"
Sam hastily shoves the M&Ms into his pocket – they've been on the ground for hours, so his pocket can't be any worse – and starts to unwrap his arms from around Dean's shoulders. Then he feels Dean's hand touch his cheek, almost tentatively.
"Hey," Sam says.
"Hey," Dean replies, his voice a little stronger now. His other hand comes up, touches Sam's other cheek.
"Is – is this okay?" Sam asks, awkward.
Dean lets out a breath and buries his face against Sam's neck. "Cold," he murmurs, and the tip of his nose definitely is. Sam heroically doesn't pull away. "Where are we, Sammy?"
Sam closes his eyes again and starts rubbing circles on his brother's back. "In the forest," he says. "What do you remember?"
Dean's silent a minute. Then he says, "Trees. And I think I had a seizure. My head hurts like a fucking bitch. Did I have a seizure?"
Sam nods. Dean sighs again and mumbles, "Feel like shit."
"Can you eat?" Sam asks. Sometimes Dean is nauseated afterwards – in fact, there's a distinct possibility Sam's going to get vomited on soon – but sometimes he's not. He'll risk it.
"Kinda hungry," Dean says after a minute. "Did I eat already?"
Dean's confused, but that's normal. "No," Sam tells him, and fishes out the M&Ms. It's not ideal, and Sam really wishes they had some water on hand, but low blood sugar is another of Dean's triggers, and while Sam can't do anything about getting him meds right now, he can do something about that.
Dean can only manage one at a time, so Sam spends the next few minutes gradually feeding them to him. "Taste like dirt, dude," Dean bitches after the first one, but he doesn't put up a fight. They have to separate a little to pull it off, and by the time Sam's meager handful is gone, Dean is shivering again. "Cold," he mumbles, and gets both his arms around Sam's waist.
Sam lets his head rest on top of Dean's and closes his eyes. The shirt's under his head now, and Dean's head is on his shoulder again. He's as comfortable as he's ever going to get lying on the ground in the middle of the forest at night with only a t-shirt while it's fifty frigging degrees. It's only a little after eight, and sunrise isn't until almost six am. They still have to find the car in the morning, and there's a possibility Dean's going to have another seizure by then as he'll have missed three doses and as many meals, but right now, he's okay, and so is Sam.
"Where are we?" Dean asks again, but his voice is fading now, and Sam can tell he's going to fall asleep again.
"Does it matter?" Sam murmurs.
When Dean wakes up, really wakes up, it's morning. Sunlight's dappling on his face, and he squints. His head's throbbing like a motherfucker, and why the hell are there tree branches above his head?
Then he remembers.
"Fuck," he mutters. His streak is now officially over. He tries to sit up, but he can't move, and it rapidly becomes clear why. Sam's wrapped around him like a freaking octopus. The kid's still out, mouth breathing louder than the fucking birds are singing, so Dean pokes him in the back. "Wake up, bitch," he orders.
Sam jerks awake with a snort and blinks at Dean a few times. Then he hastily lets go of Dean and rolls away. "Hey," he says. "How are you feeling?"
"My head hurts, I'm fucking starving, I'm thirsty as hell, and I need to take a leak," Dean answers. "Oh yeah, and I'm lost in the woods."
Sam looks down at his watch. "It's only a little after six," he says. His hair looks ridiculous, all wings and curls sticking up on one side and plastered to his head on the other side.
Dean snickers. "You should see your hair, dude," he says. "Guess you didn't get your beauty sleep last night, huh?"
Sam treats him to a bitchface and then reaches out and picks up his flannel, which Dean has just noticed he's not wearing. He's only got his t-shirt on, and it's probably like sixty degrees at best. Dean almost says something, but then he gets it. Sam was following the goddamn steps, and step four is to put a pillow under Dean's head. He promises himself that he and Sam will have another talk about hovering later, preferably after they've found the car and Dean's taken his meds so Sam doesn't have to do it all again.
Sam unfolds the shirt and pulls it back on. It's dirty, smeared with dirt and leaves and something unidentifiable that Dean figures probably had something to do with his seizure. But he doesn't contemplate it too hard. He just struggles to his feet, his body protesting every move. His head swims. He closes his eyes and breathes, and the world steadies again. He can smell the trees and the dirt and taste his own mouth, which is nine kinds of unpleasant, but he doesn't smell burnt rubber. Awesome.
He and Sam both take care of business, and then Sam says, "Let's try that direction again," and points at the opposite one to the way that took them to the cliff. "If we're going in the right direction we'll find the stream in about ten minutes, and we can get a drink," he adds.
"Sounds great," Dean says dryly, and they set off. Sam's still hobbling like an old grandpa, but Dean's not exactly walking pain-free, so he doesn't say anything.
They find the stream ten minutes later. "Halle-fucking-lujah," Dean says, and they both kneel on the bank and cup their hands in the water. It's icy cold but it's awesome on his throat, and Dean drinks handful after handful.
"Only another fifteen minutes," Sam says when they're finally done. He's looking confident now, despite his outrageous hair. "How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, bitch," Dean says, and they set off again.
Fifteen minutes later they finally stumble out of the woods and into the parking lot where they left the Impala. Dean makes a beeline for his baby. She's looking none the worse for wear, except for a few leaves scattered across her hood. "Miss me, baby?" he croons, stroking a hand down her flank before fishing in his pocket for his keys.
He can hear Sam rolling his eyes behind him, but he doesn't care.
He unlocks her doors and then goes for the glove compartment. The bottle's right on top. He snags it and slams the compartment shut, then circles around to the trunk. There's a bottle of water and a few bags of chips and jerky stashed in there. Dean grabs the water and then pops the top on his meds. He swallows the Depakote dry and then takes drains half the bottle.
"There," he says.
Sam's digging in his duffel next to him. "Eat some of that," he says, voice muffled, "and then we'll get breakfast before going back to the motel." He emerges with one of his hoodies, which he trades for the flannel. Then he tosses Dean one too, the big dark gray one – charcoal, Sammy calls it – that he likes. Dean makes a face at it, but he's cold and achy and the thing is soft and comfortable and, more importantly, warm. He takes off his jacket and pulls the hoodie on.
"Drink some water," Dean says, giving Sam the water bottle. Then he breaks open the chips.
They eat and drink in silence for a few minutes – Sam opens the jerky after Dean threatens to call him Princess Samantha for an entire week if he doesn't eat something too – and then Sam says, "Come on, let's go get real food."
"By real food, you'd better mean McDonald's," Dean says, slamming the trunk shut.
Sam actually laughs. "That's not real food," he argues, "but yeah, let's go through the drive-through. I seriously need a shower, dude. And a real bed. And some painkillers. Hey, open the trunk up again."
"Sorry, no Vicodin for Sammy yet." Dean tosses Sam the keys. "Take us to McDonald's, bitch."
Sam raises his eyebrows.
"I'm still low on this shit," Dean says, shaking the Depakote, "and I'm not risking my baby, even if I get a warning. You're driving, man."
Sam nods. "Okay," he says. "Get in, let's go."
They get in the car. Sam turns the engine over and puts the car in gear, and they rumble out of the parking lot and towards the McDonald's a couple miles down the road. Dean settles back, shoves his hands in the front pocket of Sam's hoodie, and lays his head against the seat. He still feels off, like he's been put through a wringer, and he's still pissed that this stupid goddamn monster ruined a year-long stretch. His head's hurting and his stomach's still jumpy, and he needs a shower even more than Sam does, not to mention a new fucking cell phone. But he's good too. They've found his baby, and he's getting food soon, and even though Sam's an annoying hovering bitch, he's here and he's got Dean's back.
"Sammy?" he says.
"Yeah?" Sam asks.
Sam's quiet a moment as they pull into the McDonald's drive-through lane. Then he says, "No problem, man. You want sausage or bacon?"
Dean looks at his watch. It's nearly seven am, and from what he remembers, his seizure started a little after seven last night. So he's got twelve hours done already. Only twelve more hours and three hundred and sixty-four days to go.