Disclaimer: These lovely characters aren't mine but I definitely wish they were.
Warnings: Spoilers through early season five, specifically 5x03.
A/N: This was written for the amazing pageavenue57's birthday and I'm glad to have had the chance to write it! Title is from Mahatma Gandhi and thanks to Blueeyedliz for the awesome beta. Also, the story starts while Sam's separated from Dean so he's still known by the name Keith. Hope that doesn't confuse anyone.
Summary: A tag to 5x03: Dean let Sam walk out this time but he realizes now just how wrong he was. He's not ready to let Sam go. There's too much that needs to be said, too much left to be fixed.
She's frightened and confused but what she does know is that Keith or Sam or whatever his name is has the disadvantage in this fight no matter how big he is. The guy may be extremely mysterious but she can tell that he's full of heart, a good fighter but afraid of hurting others.
The older man, the alpha leader—Tom she thinks his name is—takes Keith by surprise and knocks him to the ground, his head bouncing off a chair on the way down. She wants to scream out, to break free and somehow lend a hand but she knows she's useless. All she can do is watch.
Tom holds Keith to the ground but she silently cheers as it appears Keith begins to gain the upper hand. That is until the other guy, Reggie, steps in.
Fists are being thrown and from her point of view, none of them seem to be from Keith. She hears the sickening thud of flesh on flesh and her stomach churns at the sound of a bone snapping, which is made worse when she actually sees the way Keith's arm is twisted in the wrong direction.
She doesn't realize that she's screaming until Tom glances at her with a sick smile before turning back to Keith, whose struggles are growing weaker. The two men throw a few more punches before Tom stands up, apparently satisfied that Keith won't be much of a threat any longer.
Tom pulls a tube from his coat pocket and she can't see what's in it but she can just barely make out the look of fear on Keith's face. She's fairly positive he seems much more afraid of whatever is in that tube than any of the physical pain he's been through so far.
Keith shakes his head, his struggles gain a bit more power as he tries to escape Reggie's hold and make it more difficult on Tom. It doesn't matter how hard he fights because Tom easily grips his chin and pops open the tube, pouring the contents into Keith's mouth as he continues to struggle.
Once the tube is empty, Tom throws it to the floor and stands back up but not without sending his heavy booted foot into Keith's side. She's once again feels her dinner trying to make a reappearance as Keith's ribs undoubtedly snap under the kick.
She doesn't understand how Keith can still have any fight left in him but when Tom leans over one more time, he spits out whatever was forced into his mouth. The surprise gives Keith enough time to send a weak kick which luckily causes Tom to stumble into the table and bring Reggie to loosen his grip enough that Keith can slide out.
He pulls his good arm back and throws a sloppy punch, not nearly as precise as the ones she saw him throw earlier but it still does the job. Reggie falls into the other table but recovers quickly as he lifts a heavy chair off the floor.
She watches as Keith tries to pull himself up, his face twisting in obvious pain, and she yells out to him as Reggie swings the chair. Keith drops back to the floor with a loud moan and the chair ends up connecting with Tom's head, sending the jackass to the floor for good.
Reggie stares in shock at his downed partner and Keith slowly pulls himself up, using a chair for leverage. Lindsey quickly stretches her un-cuffed arm over the bar and reaches for one of the bottles of booze she knows is stored there, throwing it toward Keith who luckily is coherent enough to catch it with his good arm.
As Reggie leans over to check on Tom, Keith swings the bottle and smashes it against Reggie's skull. The impact sends Reggie to the floor beside Tom but also causes Keith to lose his already wearing balance and ends up falling sideways. His head once again stops his fall, this time connecting into the corner of the table.
She watches him lie still on the floor along with the other two men and begins to worry that he won't get back up, won't be able to get free her so they can make their escape.
Surprisingly, Keith rolls himself to his back and slowly pulls himself to his feet. It takes him a moment to get his balance but eventually he stumbles toward her, a red substance staining his face.
She realizes then what it is and a part of her becomes increasing afraid but the other part calms her own fears as she sees the self hatred in Keith's hazel eyes. She can't begin to understand what just happened, or even believe anything she heard, but she can see that the man before her is hurting and that's something she can relate to.
He gently examines her wrist and she smiles as he reaches for one of the recipe spike off the counter and carefully picks the lock on the cuffs. Just another thing about him that should scare her but only makes him more intriguing.
"I'm sorry," He whispers.
"You have a lot of explaining to do," She tries to sound stern but at the same time she smiles. "Let's just get out of here first. Get you to a hospital."
She startles at his protest but quickly agrees, reaching up to stop him from shaking his head and causing more damage. As much as she wants to argue, she seriously doubts she'll win and there's no way she's dragging him there.
"Okay," Her arm curls around his side gently, though she realizes she's not much support for someone of his size. "Then let's just get out of here."
This time he agrees as she pretends to help him slowly stumble out of the bar and into her car, both letting out a collective sigh once they're finally on the road.
She calls the police once they have a good distance between them and the bar and feeds them some story about a robbery she witnessed but was too afraid to stop. Luckily they bought it and even as her hands shake on the wheel she feels an odd sense of accomplishment for coming up with something creative.
Keith is barely able to give her directions but they eventually make it to a motel and it actually doesn't surprise her that he would be staying in a dump like this. As she carefully helps him get inside she tries to ignore the way his breathing sounds, amongst all the other obvious injuries, but she is seriously regretting not taking him to the hospital.
Still, she sits in silence as she watches him stumble about the room, easily fixing himself up like he's done it a million times before. Somehow, no matter how good he is, she doubts he'll be able to fix it all. When he falls into a coughing that has his arm tightening around his middle and his face twists in pain, she knows she's right.
He smirks at her but it quickly falls as he starts to sway even more on his feet and his knees begin to buckle. She quickly jumps up and helps him to the bed just as he collapses and his eyes roll to the back of his head.
When he wakes up he has no idea where he is and all he is really aware of is the pain coming from all over his sore body. He tries to open his eyes but they don't cooperate.
Someone is there with him; he can distantly feel their hand squeezing his.
For a moment he believes the hand belongs to Dean and he feels the pain slip for just a second until he remembers that his brother wouldn't be here. He doesn't want Dean here because Dean shouldn't have to spend so much time worrying about him.
"Keith," The name is oddly familiar but not his and the gentleness that it is spoken with certainly can't be directed at him. "You're okay, but you have to wake up for just a second."
Finally his eyes blink open slowly and he can just barely make out the people fussing around him, especially the one leaning in close to his face. She smiles at him and brushes a gentle hand through his hair, his head reflexively leaning into the touch.
"I need to know who to call, Keith." Her eyes seem sad and he remembers just briefly that she had been in the bar with him.
"Lindsey?" His voice is rough and the pain in his chest increases but he can see her smile and nod. "You okay?"
Tears slip down her cheeks and she chuckles but he doesn't see any humor in her face, "I'm fine, you big lug. You're the one on the stretcher."
"Just tell me who I can call, please." His eyes are growing heavy but he can see that she's holding his cell phone as she pleads for him to answer.
"Bobby," He whispers. "Bobby Singer. But, please…" His voice trails off as he begins to cough, excruciating pain rippling through his chest. "Tell him not to call Dean."
"Dean?" She stares at him curiously and he shakes his head, ready to dismiss the question but the doctors save him.
Suddenly she's pushed aside and he's rolled through the doors as a mask is strapped to his face and before he knows it, his eyelids are drooping and he's falling into darkness.
Every time his phone rings Bobby feels another gray hair forming—he doesn't have many hairs that aren't gray thanks to the Winchesters. Those boys are usually the only two that would be calling him and he dreads every call, waiting for the one that he hopes he never has to hear.
He flips the phone open and shakes his head, "Boy, if you ain't calling to tell me you've gotten your head out of your ass than I don't want to hear it."
There's silence for a moment before someone clears their throat, "Is this Bobby Singer?"
"Who is this? What are you doing with Sam's phone?" His hand grips his phone tighter in his left hand as he pushes himself toward the door and quickly pulls his coat on.
"My name's Lindsey," The girl sounds frightened but he can't find it in him to care. "I'm a friend of Keith's. He asked me to call you."
The boys have used him as back up to their cover stories countless times but this isn't one they've run by him so it takes him a moment to realize they are talking about the same tall, shaggy haired man.
"Why doesn't he call me himself?" A part of him doesn't want to know the answer and when he hears the girl sigh on the other end it confirms that he's not going to like it.
"There was—well I don't know what you'd call it, but he was hurt pretty bad. I tried to get him to go to hospital right away, I did, but he wouldn't listen."
"Sounds like him."
"Anyways, the doctors won't tell me anything and he doesn't have any ID on him. I don't even know if his name is really Keith."
"Okay," He doesn't bother answering the hidden questions in her statement. "I'm on my way."
"Wait!" Her voice stops him from ending the call but he doesn't say anything, just waits for her to continue. "He asked me to tell you not to call Dean."
"I can't do that."
"Please," She begs. "He seemed very adamant about this Dean person not knowing."
"You don't know Dean." But Bobby does and there is no way he is keeping this a secret.
"No, I don't, but Keith looked scared. I don't know what he's running from but if it's this Dean guy, I don't want him coming here."
"Listen," A part of him admires the girl for trying to protect Sam but another part wants to scream at her for sticking her nose in something she doesn't understand. "I will tell Dean, but not until I see Sam for myself. You just keep your mouth shut till I get there, understood?"
He hears her grumble on the other line before the call is ended and he's left staring at the phone, fingers itching to dial Dean and make the stubborn fool go see his brother. Bobby understands the boys need time apart but that doesn't mean he likes it.
By the time Bobby gets there it's well into the afternoon and he has no idea what to say since he doesn't know what name Sam is using beyond the girl on the phone mentioning the name Keith. He scans the ER waiting room until his eyes fall on a pretty blonde, sitting close to the swinging doors with her knee bouncing aimlessly and head bowed.
"You're Bobby?" She asks as her legs suddenly fall still and she looks up, eye level with Bobby. "I didn't tell them anything but that his name is Keith Sam, that's what those men at the bar said anyway."
He stares at her in confusion but then quickly shakes it off with a nod as he strolls over to the nurses' station. He tells them that Sam is his nephew, gives them his own last name and is kindly asked to fill out all the paperwork, which is not a job he enjoys.
Lindsey watches him closely as he stretches the truth on the forms, telling them all he can and giving them his own insurance, which he will figure out later. Once he's finished, the nurse promises to send a doctor to speak with him and he thanks her halfheartedly before returning to the waiting area.
Lindsey jumps at the question but shakes her head and wrings her hands nervously in her lap. She takes a deep breath and then turns to him with a sad smile.
"These three guys came in claiming to be hunting buddies of Keith's dad," Bobby cringes, knowing exactly who she's talking about. "They only stayed for a few minutes the first time but then they showed up later. I was just getting into my car when the one grabbed me. Then they attacked Keith, forced him to drink this stuff and then beat the poor guy."
"I don't think I heard them right but they said it was blood, demon blood." She shook her head, tears starting to roll down her already streaked cheeks.
"Did he drink it?"
"No! God no!" The girl looks disgusted but Bobby can tell it's directed towards him, not Sam. "He didn't want anything to do with it. He spit it out."
"Good," Bobby sighs and thanks the lord for one positive out of this whole situation. "Thank you for looking out for him."
"He's a good guy."
"Are you his family?" She stares at him and the heat in her glare would frighten Bobby if he didn't have over 100 pounds on the girl, even if he is in a wheelchair.
"How could you let him go out on his own? He needs his family and you just bail on him?"
"It's a long story, Lindsey, you don't understand."
"I know that Keith showed up looking wrecked, like he didn't have a single person in the world on his side and now his buddies show up, nearly killing him. He deserves better than that."
"You're right," He agrees sadly and feels the weight of his phone in his pocket, desperate to call and tell Dean the exact same thing. "I didn't let him run but as I'm sure you can tell, he's a grown man. I couldn't stop him. He's been through a lot and he needed to figure things out on his own."
"Who is this Dean guy?"
"Did Dean hurt him?"
"They had a fight, yeah, but Dean would never hurt the kid, not intentionally."
"Then why would Keith be afraid of him?"
"Because they're both stubborn as mules." He smiles and Lindsey's glare softens just a bit. "Look, Dean loves his brother but he can be quite the jackass. Don't go around judging until you know the full story though."
Before she can say anything else, the doors beside them swing open and Sam's doctor motions for Bobby to follow him. He's thankful to get away from Lindsey, not really wanting her involved anymore and tired of explaining something even he doesn't fully understand.
They come to a stop outside one of the rooms and Bobby's eyes immediate find Sam lying beneath the stark white hospital sheets. For all the times he's seen the boys in the hospital, it'll never get any easier.
"We'll be moving him to ICU once he's been stable for awhile. His condition is rather critical but he's young and healthy, I don't see why he won't make a full and quick recovery." The doctor gives him a reassuring smile but his attention is focused on Sam and all the machines around the boy.
"What's wrong with him?"
"He took quite the beating," There's more questioning in the tone but Bobby ignores it. "Two of his ribs are broken and one punctured the lung, causing it to collapse. We had to insert a chest tube but he is breathing on his own and the oxygen is only there to help make it easier. Right now we have him on a heavy sedative so that he's more comfortable. He suffered from two blows to the head but luckily there isn't any swelling, though he could experience some memory loss when he wakes up. We were able to set the break in his forearm and I'm positive that will heal nicely. We'll know more once we get take him off the sedative and he wakes up."
"So it's a waiting game?"
"There are always possible complications, Mr. Singer. Once he's moved to ICU, a nurse will be monitoring his lung very closely. As long as the lung heals correctly then your nephew will be just fine."
"Thank you doctor." He shakes the man's hand but continues to watch Sam, disgusted by the cuts and bruises marring his pale face and the tube unnaturally sticking out of his chest. "Can I sit with him?"
"I will have a nurse come and get you as soon as he's situated in his room."
Bobby nods and thanks the man once more before heading back down the long hallway and out into the awful waiting room. Of course Lindsey spots him the second he's through the door but he holds his hand up and rolls right past her, through the automatic doors and into the cool air.
He knows Sam will pull through this just fine. Like the doctor said, he's young and healthy so there's no reason for him to have any complications.
But Bobby's not taking the chance.
He'll never forgive himself if he keeps this from Dean and something happens. Hell, he's already feeling guilty for keeping it this long. Dean should be the one filling out paperwork and making medical decisions. It's Dean's job, not Bobby's.
As the phone goes on the third ring, Bobby becomes increasingly frustrated, sure that Dean's ignoring his call, but finally a gruff voice answers. He takes a deep breath, working through the words in his head even though none of them sound right.
"Dean," He hears the boy groan and doesn't miss the sound of rustling sheets as Dean obviously pulls himself out of bed after one of his late night escapades. "Anyway you could get to Oklahoma?"
"What he do this time?"
Bobby clenches his fist in his lap, biting back the urge to scream at the younger man. This uncaring attitude of Dean's has gone far enough and Bobby knows damn well it's an act, he can hear the concern beneath it but it's not enough.
"He's hurt." His words are clipped and spoken through clenched teeth.
"So you're there, can't you fix him up?"
"No I can't fix him up, Dean." He pulls the phone from his ear, ready to throw it into the nearest wall but instead he takes another deep breath and continues. "He's in the hospital. They say he should be okay but they won't know—"
"He willingly went to the hospital?"
"He was brought here by medic."
"So it's serious," He doesn't answer because he can hear Dean sigh and mentally picture the boy running a shaky hand through his short hair as he comes to his own realization. "Why didn't I get a call?"
"I'm his emergency contact. I should have been called!"
Bobby sighs this time, rubbing roughly at the scruff on his face, "He doesn't have any ID on him. He started fresh."
"What? Then how did you find out?"
"Sam managed to give someone my name."
"He called you first?"
"Dean," He leaves out that Sam specifically asked for Dean not to be called. "Can you get here or not?"
"It'll take me at least a day."
"Just get here as fast as you can."
The call ends there and Bobby wonders if he should have handled things differently but the worry and concern was definitely better than anger right? He knows Dean's going through just as rough of a time as Sam but he can also see that Sam's trying, the kid hates himself more than anything or anyone else and Dean is certainly not helping.
He rolls back into the hospital just in time to hear his name being called by a nurse standing at the double doors ready to take him to Sam's room. Lindsey stops him once again, her eyes filled with concern and as much as he wants to ignore her, he can't. If it weren't for her, Sam might not have made it to the hospital at all.
"Mr. Singer, is he okay?" She has one arm wrapped tightly around her waist, eyes red from crying.
"He will be. Thank you."
She smiles and backs away but he can tell she wants to follow. Maybe once he knows Sam's okay and Dean's been here, he'll find out how to contact her but right now, they need to be alone. These boys are his family and he's going to take care of them.
Dean frantically rushes around the room and shoves his clothes into his bag without worrying about folding them in any way. He scans the room quickly before he shrugs his coat on and turns to leave; only making it a few inches before he's suddenly face to face with Castiel yet again.
"Where are you going, Dean?" Castiel moves aside slightly and allows Dean to push past him but the angel follows close behind.
"Apparently Sam's hurt." His voice is low, frustrated with the angel's typical untimely visit. "It's already going to take me too long to get there so if you'll excuse me I really have to get go."
"Can I help?"
"No…" Dean stops short of pulling open the Impala's door and looks up at the angel, frustration turning into appreciation. "Actually, you can. You could zap me there, Cas. Please?"
"You refused last time. I don't want to keep you from having bowel movements."
He wants to laugh at how serious Castiel is because he's never known someone who could say such things with a straight face, even Sam would have smirked, but Dean can't. They're wasting time already; time he really doesn't have.
"Just do it. I don't care."
"Okay," Castiel rounds the car and reaches a hand toward Dean. "Where is he?"
"Oklahoma?" For the first time in his life, he doesn't know what city, motel, apartment, or in this case, what hospital his brother's at. "Can you get me there?"
Without a word, the angel presses his fingers to Dean's forehead and the air around them suddenly changes. In a blink of his eyes, Dean's standing outside a busy ER, people rushing past him and luckily not noticing his sudden appearance.
Castiel is gone but he can't seem to care at the moment as he rushes through the doors, frantically looking for Bobby amongst the crowd in the waiting room. He has no idea what name Sam's using or what name Bobby gave them. He doesn't know anything except that his brother's hurt and he wasn't there for him, again.
He pulls out his cell phone and moves into the corner of the room, away from the crying and yelling. It takes a few rings before Bobby answers in a hushed tone, but Dean gets the information he needs after promising to explain his speedy arrival.
Quickly and easily, he slips past the nurses' station and hurries through the hospital halls until he eventually finds the floor he needs. The nurse at the desk eyes him curiously and her sex appeal definitely isn't lost on him but she'll have to wait till later.
When he finds the right room he bypasses the door and instead stands outside the window, taking in all the machines his brother is attached too. Bobby had said Sam would be fine, that the doctors weren't too concerned but Sam most certainly does not look alright lying completely still, and shockingly pale, in the hospital bed.
He takes a deep breath and slowly pushes the door open as Bobby rolls away from Sam's side and meets him halfway, keeping him from his brother. It didn't matter if Bobby was disabled, the older man could still take control, and Dean could tell Bobby wanted answers.
"I was touched by an angel." He smirks humorlessly but Bobby backs up slightly, shockingly satisfied with his answer, and lets Dean move to Sam's side. "What happened to him?"
Sam doesn't look any better up close. The bruises on his face stand out and Dean can hear the labored breaths, he knows exactly what the tube in Sam's chest is for. He doesn't have to ask what's wrong with his brother. After years of taking care of Sam, he knows just by looking what injuries Sam is suffering from. Now he wants to know why.
"Tom and Reggie."
He turns toward the older man with his fists already clenched at his side, "Dad's friends? They did this?"
"Sam called me about demon signs in a town nearby, said he wasn't hunting so I sent Tom." Bobby shakes his head and Dean knows guilt when he sees it. "Apparently things must have gone south and they found out about the blood—"
"Damnit," He runs a hand through his short hair and drops into the chair beside Sam's bed. "They tried to kill him?"
"No. I don't know the whole story, Dean, but they tried to force him to take the blood again. I think they wanted to use him, not kill him."
"They fed him demon blood?"
Dean is out of the chair again in a second, pacing beside the bed but his eyes stay focused on Sam. His brother is over that, Dean knows it. He may have been giving Sam a hard time but only because he worries about temptation, and isn't that the kicker, considering he's the one that sent Sam right into it.
"Apparently he fought them off, didn't take the blood."
"Dean," Bobby shoves his hand out toward the bed, frustration evident. "How is this good? It doesn't matter whether he did or didn't take the blood. What matters is your brother is here, right now, because you both are too stupid to admit you need each other!"
"I didn't make him leave, Bobby."
"Well, you sure as hell didn't make him want to stay."
Dean glares at him as he finally sits back down, biting his lip to keep from telling Bobby off but he doesn't even have a good argument. The older hunter's right.
He had let Sam walk away, let his brother go off alone in a middle of a war that Sam was definitely a part of. When he looks at Sam, he realizes he could have kept this from happening. He should have made Sam stay, but he had been too caught up in his own problems.
Unable to forget what his brother did, he couldn't look past it, couldn't forgive Sam for the mistakes he made yet Sam had already forgiven Dean. Sam hadn't thought twice about forgetting what Dean had done in hell, didn't even care what Dean had done for the angels and really, wasn't it just the same?
Dean's mistakes started everything but Sam had forgiven him, tried to convince him it wasn't his fault, that Sam would have done the same thing. In a way, Sam had done the same thing but when Dean found out, he didn't forgive his brother. Instead, he's been holding it over Sam's head until his brother had enough and finally left.
He's sorry for a lot of things that have happened, but he's especially sorry that it took something like this for him to realize he still needs Sam. He shouldn't have been worrying about Sam giving into temptation, he should have been worrying about keeping his brother safe, just like he used to.
The sound of Sam's labored breathing brings him out of his thoughts and he finally looks Sam over, really looks him over. Beside the cuts and bruises to his face, Sam's right arm is casted and his chest is bare so that there's no interference with the chest tube.
He stares at the tube, following the length of it until he sees the drainage canister, held up just below mattress level. Dean's not sure what makes him pay attention to the fluid level in the water vessel but he just knows something's wrong. He's spent enough time in hospitals to know a few things.
When air bubbles continue to form, even as Sam inhales, he finds himself standing up, moving closer to Sam and studying his brother's features. Sam's face and neck are swollen, something Dean hadn't noticed when he walked in, and breathing was obviously becoming more difficult.
But it's Sam's heart monitor that finally gets Dean moving, quickly reaching for the call button before running toward the door, calling out through the hallway just for good measure.
Suddenly Dean and Bobby are being pushed from the room as the doctor rushes in. Dean tries to argue and fight to stay in the room beside his brother but it doesn't work.
"What the hell was that?" Bobby's hand grabs his wrist, forcing his attention away from the chaos in Sam's room.
"I don't know."
It's the truth. He isn't a doctor and he doesn't know all the fancy medical terms. All he knows is that something went wrong. The doctors had said Sam would be fine, he knows he heard Bobby say Sam would be alright, so Sam shouldn't be struggling. This isn't supposed to be happening.
Then again, when did anything ever go in their favor?
Dean's known fear all his life but he'll never get used to the feeling that twists in his chest and nearly stops his heart every time he realizes how close he's come to losing the most important person in his life. If he hadn't forgotten that person was Sam, then he probably wouldn't have been here in the first place, but he is, and it seems someone is looking out for them, despite all the trouble they've been causing.
It's been almost thirteen hours since Sam's lung collapsed again and the doctors tell him it's because of his quick response that the damage hadn't been worse, but he feels more responsible for his brother's pain than Sam's lucky recovery.
However, he's not denying the relief that the doctor's were able to clear the clog in Sam's chest tube quick enough that his brother's heart wasn't affected. He's thankful that it hadn't been too late for him to flip on the big brother switch and jump right back into his rightful duties.
Sam's been breathing better for the past couple of hours and has woken up a few times, even though he was completely unaware of his surroundings. The doctor lowered the dosage on Sam's pain medication and warned Dean it would take some time for the affects to die down, but Dean has no problem waiting.
He's been glued to the seat since the herd of medical staff finally left Sam's room and allowed him and Bobby back in. His hands been attached to Sam's the whole time and he tells himself he'll deny it later until he suddenly feels a weak squeeze and forgets all about his image, focus back on his little brother.
His brother's eyes blink open slowly, much like they have previously, but this time Dean sees recognition even if it's not exactly what he had been hoping for.
The hand in his pulls away as quickly as Sam can manage while confusion and fear take over the weariness on Sam's face. He tries to move closer, lifting his hand slowly toward Sam's shoulder but his brother flinches, causing him to wince in pain.
"Sam, calm down." It's Bobby's voice that breaks the silence and Dean wants to tell him to go away but when Sam visibly relaxes, he realizes that he's the one that shouldn't be here.
"You weren't supposed to call him." Sam grimaces as he turns slightly toward Bobby. "Lindsey said she would tell you not to."
"And she did, but I chose not to listen."
Dean holds his fists at his side and shakes his head when Bobby turns to him with pity that he definitely doesn't need. Before he can do something else he'll regret, Dean turns on his heels and makes his way for the door.
The only thing that stops him from walking out is the sad, broken quality in his brother's voice that he hasn't heard in years—that he never wants to hear again.
"I didn't think you'd come."
He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes for a second, pushing back his own hurt before turning toward Sam. His brother still doesn't look at him, eyes focused on the rough hospital sheets, but Dean can still make out the tears shining in those hazel eyes.
Bobby pushes himself from Sam's bedside and rolls passed Dean, giving him a light pat on the lower back as the older hunter exits the room, leaving the brother's alone for an overdue conversation.
"I didn't want them to call you because I didn't want to face the fact that you wouldn't come."
"Why wouldn't I come, Sam?"
"I didn't think you'd care," Sam rubs at his slightly swollen face. "Especially after you heard about the demon blood."
"No, it's okay. I get it. This is what you've been worried about. I'm glad I left before —"
This time it's Dean's turn to interrupt, his fists clenched tightly as he moves beside Sam and stares down at his brother. He can see Sam starting to panic and he softens his stare slightly as he drops into the chair.
"I shouldn't have let you leave, Sam."
"You had to."
"Shut up for a second." He sees Sam flinch but he doesn't react. "We shouldn't have separated and I'm sorry that I made things so hard on you, made things so tense between us that we both thought that was the answer."
"It wasn't your fault."
"No, it was both of our faults this time, but Sam," He loosens his fists and reaches out to pull Sam's hand back into his, giving a quick but firm squeeze. "Drinking demon blood was a really stupid and sick thing for you to do but I know you realize that. I just wish I had been able to understand before now."
"Understand? What's there to understand, Dean?"
"When the angels recruited me as their demon torturer, you didn't give up and turn your back on me. You saved me and Cas."
"Using powers I got from being high on demon blood."
"It doesn't matter, man." He shakes his head with a sad smile. "I mean it matters but not as much as the fact that you stood by me. Torturing was my demon blood, Sam, and when I messed up you had my back but I couldn't do the same for you."
"I thought it was too, but it's not."
"I wasn't helping the good guys."
"You thought you were."
"I wasn't in hell being tortured."
"I bet it felt like you were."
"Even so, that doesn't make it okay."
"Then what makes what I did okay, Sam?" He stands up and repositions himself on the bed besides Sam's hip, hand now resting gently on his brother's shoulder. "We both made mistakes but you forgave me and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to do the same."
"I don't deserve forgiveness though."
"What you didn't deserve was to be played by heaven and hell. I owe you a lot more than forgiveness, Sam."
"Yeah?" He feels the tightness in his chest loosen when Sam gives a small smile, eyelids starting to droop once again. "What else could you possibly give me?"
Dean returns the smile and for the first time in months, the smile actually reaches his eyes and he can feel the happiness behind it as he squeezes Sam's shoulder. His other hand reaches up toward his brother's face, pleased when Sam doesn't flinch this time, and he gently pushes sweaty bangs off Sam's forehead.
"I can give you your big brother back, Sammy."
Sam's smile widens as his eyes fall shut and his head presses into Dean's hand. The chest tube beside the bed is working properly—bubbling only as his brother exhales—and after months of not understanding what it was he was missing, Dean finally has it back. He only wishes it hadn't taken him so long to see that no matter how big Sam gets, no matter the mistakes he makes, his brother will always be Sammy; the brave little brother with a giant brain, which he doesn't always use, and an even bigger heart.