Growing Darkness Taking Dawn

Sam stumbles into the bathroom and immediately turns on the water in the sink to cover the sounds of himself throwing up.

God he feels terrible. This night's hunt was routine— a double haunting in an old saloon-turned-bar, the ghosts linked to a cursed object— but it got rough near the end when the spirits suddenly seemed to discover the convenience of being in a room filled with glass bottles. Sam took a nasty jab to his left hip and a spray of shards to his right forearm. His shirt prevented them from sticking in his skin but they still cut and the cuts are still oozing blood. He can feel it, trickling sluggishly down his skin.

Leaning over the toilet, he throws up again, and then again though he has nothing left in him but bloody bile. Not his own blood, he reminds himself as if that makes it better when he knows deep down that is really much, much worse. Ruby's blood, from earlier when she'd cornered him in the gas station bathroom and offered him a hit in case there were more than just ghosts doing the haunting. Even though he didn't end up using the blood, he still feels the aftereffects, though they should be lessened, but these— God, Sam finds himself leaning against the toilet, cheek pressed to the cool porcelain— these are definitely not lessened.

Was he sick before this? He can't remember. There's something in his brain about Dean telling him to put on a freakin jacket, he isn't lifting a finger to help if Sam gets pneumonia, and then vaguely his own response about being too hot and not needing his own personal mother hen, thank you very much.

He also thinks maybe his vision has been blurring for a while now, but that might just be because he's tired. When was the last time he slept? He can't remember. Something tells him it was Tuesday, but that's not terribly helpful since he has no clue what day it is now.

His stomach lurches again and Sam rises over the toilet bowl just in case. The movement sends sharp waves of pain radiating from his right shoulder down his back and arm. He thinks he feels blood following in the pain's wake, but that doesn't make sense because the ghosts didn't hit him with any bottles there, and this was the first hunt he and Dean have been on for several days. Possibly since Tuesday, though that still doesn't help because Sam still has no idea when the fuck Tuesday was.

His stomach seems to have settled now into vaguely painful cramping so Sam pushes himself to his feet and shuts off the water. He doesn't look at himself in the mirror, but he know he needs to clean up and change. His shirt is dark and the lights had been off in the bar and the motel room when Sam and Dean had returned from the hunt so Sam has been able to hide his wounds pretty well until now. It isn't like Dean ever checks on him any more thoroughly than a grunted "Alright?" lately anyway.

It isn't like Sam would let him if he tried.

Now all he needs to do is go back out into the other room, grab some clean clothes, and come back in here to take a shower. With luck Dean will be already sleeping or at least dozing in front of the TV and Sam won't even have to grit his teeth to get himself to walk upright instead of hunched over the burning pain in his arm and torso.

Except, there seems to be a problem with just going back into the other room to grab some clothes, and that problem is Sam can't find his feet. He is sure they are still located at the ends of his legs, the ghosts hadn't cut them off or anything, but Sam can't feel his feet, can't move them, can't even see them. All he can see is an ugly puce-colored ceiling which doesn't make any fucking sense at all until he realizes he is lying flat on his back on the bathroom floor.

Huh. He doesn't remember even sitting down. As he hauls himself upright again he feels something wet slide away beneath him. There's blood on the floor, he realizes. A lot of blood. He stares at it for a minute, almost as confused as he had been with the puce ceiling. Then it sinks in. My blood. He stares for another minute. Shit, I'll have to clean that up too.

He points himself in the direction of the bathroom door and tries to make his way over to it, but the task is made extremely difficult by the way the floor is bucking and writhing under his feet and the room keeps sliding in and out of focus. Finally he gets there, and just when he's about to open the door— it took five tries for his hand to connect with the doorknob— it begins to shake and rattle like there's something on the other side trying to break in.

Sam thinks he should be worried, because it could be a demon and it could be something worse, and it must be pretty powerful if it could get past Dean without him making any noise, but all Sam can think about is how his head is pounding like it's about to explode, his chest hurts from the force of his heartbeat, and his stomach seems determined to display more of its contents.

So he yanks the door open and right on the other side of it is Dean. He's staring at Sam with a mixture of surprise and confusion and anger on his face, because everything Dean does towards Sam lately is mixed with anger, and yet Sam feels this great big breath of relief sweep through him at the sight. For a moment it's enough to calm the growing racket in his head and cool his hot-as-the-sun skin, and he thinks maybe he almost smiles.

Then his vision goes grey at the edges and he feels himself falling and he wishes Dean was going to catch him at the bottom but he's pretty sure Dean won't, and he actually thinks there might not be a bottom at all. And then he stops thinking, and just keeps falling.

.

Dean rolls his stiff shoulders in agitation, glaring at the bathroom door as if Sam will be able to sense it through the wood. Dean had been kinda excited for this hunt because the ghosts were haunting a bar, and Dean figured that must make them sorta cool because he was pretty sure if he were a ghost, he'd haunt a bar too. Or maybe a strip club.

But the ghosts weren't cool, they were just jackasses, and then they were jackasses with bottles, and one smashed Dean in the back of the head with such a bottle, and while that always looked awesome when Clint Eastwood did it to some cowboy thug in a bar fight, it kinda really sucked to be on the receiving end of it in real life.

So Dean ended up with a lump on his head and glass shards down the back of his jacket and he is pretty sure that alone qualifies him to take the first shower, not to mention the sibling seniority rule which basically meant he gets first dibbs on everything, forever.

But stupid I'm-too-cool-to-wear-a-jacket-even-though-it's-November-in-the-Midwest Sam practically bolted into the bathroom the moment they got in the room and he's been in there ever since with the water running, and Dean wonders if Sam got conked in the head too and is trying to take his shower in the sink.

The mental image of Sam trying to squeeze his Gigantor frame into the tiny porcelain basin amuses Dean for about .3 seconds, then he's had enough of this shit and he stomps over to the bathroom door and pounds on it, shouting at Sam to open up and get his ass out of there.

The door swings open almost at once and Jesus Sam is right there staring at Dean with this dazed look in his eyes and holy Christ he looks like a zombie, only worse. Sam mumbles something and then smiles at Dean, and it's one of the fucking scariest things he's ever seen in his life, and that includes things from Hell and that time he walked in on Bobby trimming his mustache in the nude, because Sam's eyes are unfocussed and far too bright and the grin is stretched too far and too tight across his face and there's traces of blood on his teeth. He kind of looks like that monster in the Spanish movie with the eyes in its hands who bites the heads off fairies except worse, way worse because this isn't a monster, it's Sam.

Sam sways on his feet and the grin disappears, and all of a sudden he's crashing to the ground like a felled redwood tree. Dean is pretty sure the walls of the motel shake from the impact. He stares for a moment, completely bewildered, before something catches his eye and he looks past Sam's comatose body into the bathroom, and it feels like he's moving in slow motion, only not cool about-to-deliver-a-heroic-killing-blow slow motion, but more holy-shit-the-bathroom-is-covered-in-blood slow motion. Because holy shit, the bathroom is covered in blood.

Sammy's blood, it must be, Dean thinks, because if the bathroom is covered in blood then it makes sense that Sam would be too. He nearly breaks his neck he moves his head so fast to look at Sam and now he sees the red smears on his hands and at the corner of his mouth and around his collar.

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Dean has been hit with a bottle tonight and thrown across a table into a wall and all he wanted to do was take a shower and go to sleep and now he's going to be stuck patching up his stupid brother who was too stupid to dodge a stupid ghost with a stupid bottle and now is unconscious and probably bleeding to death on the floor and— fuck.

Dean grabs Sam underneath the arms and tries to haul him over to the nearest bed, and it's like trying to move a fucking sack of lead, but he'd rather think about that then the sound Sam makes when Dean lifts him or the way his t-shirt feels completely soaked.

"What the hell, Sammy," Dean snarls as he dumps him onto the bed in a heap which he so doesn't care about now that there's blood on his hands and his shirt too. He pulls out his penknife and slits Sam's shirt from hem to collar rather than bother trying to wrestle it off him, and he bets Sam will be pissed because he likes this shirt, but it serves him damn right for getting himself stabbed or whatever and now maybe he'll start wearing some lighter colors that so people can actually see when he's bleeding all over the place and maybe do something about it before it reaches passed-out-on-the-floor-stage.

Dean doesn't think about the way Sam's been doing a lot more than wearing dark colors to hide his bloodstains lately, or about just how many bloodstains there have been. Instead he tries not to have an aneurysm at the amount of blood covering Sam's chest and searches for it's source. He finds a jagged gash near the waistband of Sam's jeans on his left hip and a collection of shallow cuts on his right forearm. Both look like products of the bottle-happy ghosts, but while the gash on his hip looks particularly painful and Dean wonders how Sam wasn't bitching and moaning about it during the car ride back— he ignores the voice that tells him he hasn't heard Sam bitch about a wound in long time— both wounds have mostly stopped bleeding, and Sam's shirt was fucking wet.

Noticing the concentration of blood on Sam's right shoulder, Dean shoves him onto his side, and there it is, a deep, thick cut like a licorice whip, slashed from the top of his arm down his shoulder blade, the surrounding skin red and furious. This isn't a wound from a ghost with a bottle. Sam got this wound several days ago, almost certainly on their last hunt. Sam got this wound several days ago, and he didn't treat it. Sam got this wound several days ago and he didn't treat it and now it's infected.

"What the hell, Sammy!" Dean practically shouts, dropping Sam onto his back again, not trying to be anything but rough with him because Sam clearly doesn't care if people are rough him. He doesn't care so much he'll let someone give him a serious knife wound and he'll let that go untreated until it becomes infected and he'll probably be totally happy to let the infection move to his blood and then go around his body and destroy his organs and cause brain damage, he'll probably be fucking chipper about it because what the fuck.

He knows better than this, Dean thinks as he leaves Sam on the bed and rips into his duffel bag, looking for bandages. Dad taught us better than this. Infected wounds are Serious-with-a-capital-S and that's why they were taught how to bandage and stitch and tape and sterilize, to prevent it from being a problem, because what the Winchesters most certainly did not need ever was another problem.

And Sam knows this, he knows it. He's stitched Dean up countless numbers of times, freaken anal retentive perfectionist that he is his stitches are the best, small and neat like piano keys. Dean glares at him as he swabs alcohol over the cuts on Sam's arm and hip, which is kind of stupid because Sam is unconscious and can't see Dean glaring, but it's better than the alternative of digging his fingers into Sam's wound until he wakes up then punching him in the gut. It's not like this is the kind of cut you can forget to treat. Dean knows from experience a cut like this pulls and stings and feels like it's on fire for a week.

Sam must not have felt the pain. Or he felt it, but he didn't care. Dean doesn't know which option is worse. He finishes bandaging Sam's forearm and moves to stitch up his hip, trying not to notice the blistering heat pouring from Sam's skin. The infection in his shoulder can't have spread to his blood yet, it can't. Blood poisoning is more than Serious-with-a-capital-S, it's Serious-with-a-911-call-and-a-trip-to-the-emergency-room-where-the-doctors-ask-too-many-questions-and-don't-move-fast-enough-and-Dean-chews-his-fingernails-till-they-bleed-and-punches-an-orderly-in-the-throat. Dean does not want this to be blood poisoning.

Arm and hip taken care of, Dean jerks Sam onto his side again and examines the infected cut, probing the red skin around it, hand skittering in the sweat and the heat he finds there. Dean seizes Sam's wrist to feel for a pulse and finds it beating fast, too fast. He scans every inch of Sam he can see for a rash, but there's still too much blood on him to tell for sure, and that probably means there is one and it's blood poisoning and Dean is going to have to call the paramedics and spend the night in the emergency room when all he really wanted to do was take a shower and why Sam, why—

"In the trunk," Sam grunts, and Dean nearly falls off the bed.

"What?" he demands, grabbing Sam's arm and sinking his fingers in like he can hold Sam in consciousness, force him to explain everything.

"Antibiotics," Sam slurs and his eyes aren't even open, but Dean is pretty sure he's lucid and not dreaming because who the hell dreams about antibiotics? "In the trunk."

"Okay," Dean says, but he doesn't move because it seems wrong to just leave Sam here like this, pale and bleeding, which is apparently is Sam's default state whenever Dean leaves him alone for two seconds, and he doesn't want to think about how he did just that for four months and if that's why there are antibiotics in the trunk and new scars on Sam's skin. Then Sam starts to shake like a fucking washing machine in the shitty laundromats they frequent and Dean is snatching up his car keys and out the door in less than a second.

He finds the antibiotics in a plastic bag tucked into the bottom of the trunk beneath an axe dipped in kelpie blood, and Jesus it's like traveling ER or something because there's a fucking arsenal of them. Dean has a brief flash of panic wondering how the hell he's going to know which pills to stuff down Sam's throat before he sees the post-it notes wrapped around every bottle. They're purple— Really, Sam, purple?— and covered with the tiny, freakishly neat writing of the compulsive psychopath that is his brother. None of the post-it notes say the name of the drugs, however, which Dean expects them to with Sam's obsessive need to be technically correct about everything. Instead they list injuries or complications, then doses and methods for use. Dean finds one marked infections (wounds), one marked poisoning (blood), and a tiny bottle with a torn post-it note that just says Emergency. He stuffs all three in his pocket then hustles back to the motel room.

Sam is lying exactly how Dean left him, twisted on his side, legs bent over the edge of the mattress, the blood on his skin and the comforter made garish and unnatural by the terrible motel lighting. Dean goes into the bathroom and soaks a washcloth in the sink, ignoring the smears of blood on the floor, ignoring the way his hands are shaking and most definitely ignoring the screams and pleas echoing in the back of his head.

He wipes Sammy down like he's the Impala or a gun, swift and efficient. Once all the blood is gone from both Sam and himself he throws the washcloth back in the bathroom and closes the door. He sterilizes and bandages Sam's infected cut with the same brusque, practiced motions, not picturing his hands buried wrist-deep in the chest of some shrieking soul, not remembering the feel of a still-beating heart crushed between his teeth, not thinking it's remarkable he even knows how to patch a person up anymore when he's spent a decade ripping them apart.

Emptying his pocket, Dean selects the bottle labeled infection (wounds) and shakes out two pills into his palm.

"Sam," he says, using the other hand to shake his unconscious brother. "Sam, wake up. Come on, man, you need to take these."

Sam twitches and his mouth opens with a little groan of pain and Dean figures that's good enough. He drops the pills into Sam's mouth then pushes it closed with one hand and uses the other to stroke Sam's throat, coaxing him to swallow, forcing away the bile that's rising in his own throat with the knowledge of everything else he can and has done to mouths and necks and their owners.

Wound cleaned and bandaged, medication administered, Dean sits back on the bed and just looks at Sam. He knows there was a time when he'd wrap Sam up in a blanket next, situate him better on the bed, make sure he was sleeping peacefully. But he can't bring himself to do that now, because he doesn't have the right to pretend he's still a protector of any kind, and there's a small, blacked part of himself he hates that isn't sure Sam has the right to be protected. He thinks briefly about the shower he had so been looking forward to before, but the bathroom is still covered in blood and as much as Dean can't make himself help Sam any further he can't make himself leave him either.

He looks down at the medication scattered across the stained comforter with their meticulous post-it note labels, except for the one bottle, the small one with the word Emergency written and nothing else. Dean picks it up, examines it closely like he's on a case and this is a clue, not like he's sitting next to his possibly blood-poisoned brother and this is a secret. There's liquid in the amber bottle, but not much, and Dean doesn't want to think about the emergencies that have required the use of the rest.

"Where did you get these, Sam?" he mutters as he sets the little bottle back down, not expecting an answer but managing to only jump a little when he gets one.

"Raided a hospital." Sam tries to open his eyes this time, gets them to flutter to the barest slits. "Found this nurse. She was cute— Dean woulda loved her."

Something inside Dean goes cold at the use of the third person, which surprises him a little because he didn't think he had anything left inside at all, but he's too busy seizing Sam's shoulders and putting himself right in front of Sam's face to dwell on it.

"Sam," he says, loud and slow. "Sam, it's me. It's Dean."

Sam groans and his head rolls back in a really creepy Bride of Chucky kinda way, then he's pushing at Dean's hands and trying to sit up.

"Stop it," Sam says, and he actually sounds angry and almost scared, like Dean is the one who gave him an infected wound instead of the one who fixed it up. "Let go of me."

"No." Dean grips Sam's shoulders harder, trying to force him to lie back down, and it feels a bit like wrestling when they were kids, but even though Sam is weakened by the blood-loss and his fever trying to pin down six-and-a-half feet of struggling muscle is not as easy as it used to be when Sammy was eight and weighed less than a hundred pounds. "Knock it off, Sam! It's me!"

"Stop it!" They are definitely wrestling now, Sam surging against Dean, doing everything he can to throw him off. "Dean is dead! He's dead!"

The raw, broken hurt in Sam's voice catches Dean off-guard and he falls back, breath leaving his body like he's been punched. Sam seizes the opportunity and pitches himself sideways off the bed, landing hard on the floor. Dean knows that hurt and he's pretty sure Sam's just torn some of the stitches in his hip which, fucking great, that's gratitude for Dean's hard work in putting them there, but Sam doesn't seem to notice, he just flounders around like some gigantic beached fish, trying to sort himself out enough to stand.

He gets to his knees before Dean lunges at him and grabs his arms and Sam's going to have bruises there tomorrow but Dean couldn't care less about that right now and he actually tightens his grip, hauling Sam to his feet and roaring his name like curse and a prayer.

Sam continues to struggle as hard as he can in his current state, thrashing about with an utter disregard for his own safety. If Dean didn't adjust his grip he likely would have snapped Sam's wrist the way Sam is wrenching himself about, keeping up his own steady stream of shouts that consist mostly of "I'm not listening to you!" and "Get away from me!"

It takes about two more seconds for Dean to decide he's had enough and punch Sam in the face. And yeah, maybe the best plan for dealing with your brother's fever-induced delirium is not trying to realign his jaw, but like calling an ambulance or something, only Dean just couldn't take anymore of Sam twisting away from him or that look in Sam's eyes or the utterly wrecked sound of his voice.

Sam collapses for the second time that night the moment Dean's hand makes contact, landing hard on the bed then curling in on himself, and how the hell is it possible for him to get those freakishly overgrown limbs tucked up so tightly that he actually looks small, like he's a kid again, trying to shelter himself from all the things that go bump in the night.

Dean sits down heavily next to him, feeling suddenly exhausted in every bone of his body. Who are you, Sammy? He wants to ask. Who am I? What have we become? He reaches out a hand and lays it on Sam's bare back, right between his shoulder blades. He can feels every shudder and hitch of Sam's body, and knows he is crying.

"Sammy," Dean says but that's all he's got, and really, that's all he's ever had, in Hell and before. The one thing he's been given and is going to keep forever. He brings his free hand up and traces some of the scars and still-healing wounds on Sam's back and arms, the ones he doesn't recognize, and Jesus there shouldn't be so many of them because to Sam they were only apart for four months. Except Dean is starting to think maybe it was more like forty years for Sam too.

These are years worth of scars after all, and there are years worth of suffering and loss in Sam's eyes, and Dean's supposed to be the one who is empty and messed up, because yeah, Hell, that was the deal, but Sam— Sam is supposed to be one who was saved. He is supposed to be alive and breathing and smiling because that was the whole fucking point of the thing, to keep Sammy, like Dean will do until the end of time, and probably even after because he's stubborn like that.

"What have you done to yourself?" Dean asks softly, still feeling the tremors of Sam's sobs through his back. He slides his hand up then down an inch, half to see if he is even still capable of touching someone gently, and Sam draws in this big breath then curls into Dean like a cat seeking warmth.

Sam's skin is still burning hot but he's covered in sweat and shaking like he's cold so Dean bends his back until he can reach the comforter on the other bed, dragging it over and wrapping it's ridiculous bulk around him and Sam both, and it really is like Sam is a little kid again, dwarfed by the comfort and safety Dean is so desperate to offer him.

They sit like that for a while, one of those whiles that could be an hour or several days, Dean feeling Sam's breath with every rise and fall of his back, Sam twisted ridiculously around Dean's legs and waist, mumbling in his sleep, and it's feels almost right because Sammy has always been tangled up in every part of Dean, and Dean has always felt bestwhen he knows Sam is breathing.

Eventually Sam stirs, and Dean shifts away to allow him to unfurl his undoubtedly cramped limbs, then his brain kicks in and he climbs off the bed entirely and moves over to the room's kitchenette, selecting a relatively clean looking glass and filling it with water. He turns back around and goddamn, he wishes he had a camera right now, because Sam struggling to emerge from the oversized comforter, hair rumpled and face scrunched with drying tear tracks on his cheeks is equal parts adorable, hilarious, and disturbing. He looks exactly like a five-year-old waking up from a nap, only trapped inside the body of a ginormous man who's apparently started taking steroids in the last four months.

"Dean?" Sam says, slurred but urgent. "Dean, are you—"

"Right here, Sammy," Dean answers, pushing the glass of water into his hand. "Drink."

"Dean." Sam takes the water but he doesn't do anything more with it, staring at Dean like he expects him to sprout wings or spit fire or something. "Are you okay?"

"Am I—" The burgeoning smile disappears from Dean's face. "Am I okay?" He takes a step forward, wanting to wipe Sam's look of anxious disbelief out of existence. "Jesus, Sam, I'm not the one who bled all over the bathroom floor and passed out and fucking hallucinated because of an infected cut that's probably actually BLOOD POISONING!"

He bellows the last two words, wanting to hurl them at Sam, make them press into his brain with their seriousness because Sam clearly still isn't getting it, he's just looking around at the bottles of medication scattered over the dried bloodstains on the bed and the bandages on his shoulder and arm and hip. One of his hands rises absently to rub his jaw and Dean feels a brief flash of guilt for slugging him before, but that evaporates pretty damn quickly when Sam says in the flat, empty voice Dean hates,

"It's not blood poisoning."

"Oh, and you would know," Dean spits, furious and hurting, wishing Sam would just fucking talk to him like he used to, even if all Dean is used to listening to now are screams.

"It's not blood poisoning," Sam repeats with sickening certainty that confirms to Dean he knows exactly what blood poisoning feels like. "Just an infection. The antibiotics will take care of it by tomorrow."

"Well if you're such a goddamn doctor now, you'd think maybe you could've taken care of that cut before it became just an infection." The sarcasm in Dean's voice is biting and he wants to see Sam flinch from it, see Sam react in some way besides the little shake of his head that implies everything Dean is saying is unimportant, as easy for him to brush off as his wounds had been. And Dean can't take that, he can't.

"Fuck, Sammy!" he snarls, and he wants to continue with What the hell were you thinking? or Why are you doing this? or Don't you even care?

But he's pretty sure he doesn't want the answer to any of those questions, so he just launches himself at Sam instead, not knowing if he's going to hit him like before or hug him or— god, fucking no, but part of him knows a way to get reactions out of people, knows every way, and if he wants to see Sam react to pain he— but no, never, Dean would never, not ever, because this is Sam, this is Sammy, his—

Dean doesn't realize his legs have given out until his knees hit the floor hard and his face is on the way for some pretty intimate contact with the bed frame. But hands grab his shoulders and stop his fall, grab and hold on like it's what they were made to do, tugging him up until he's sitting on the bed, still holding on as he finds Sam, right there, Sam.

"Dean." It comes out small, barely a whisper, not an apology and not a plea but somewhere in between, and Sam seems like maybe he's crying again, and his hair is still all messy and he looks young, so young and scared and vulnerable. Finally, he looks breakable, not like he's already been broken.

It isn't a victory for Dean, it's just enough, enough for him to bring his hands up to cover Sam's and to whisper, "I'm here, Sammy, I'm here," over and over. They both know it's not entirely true, that things are different between them, that neither of them are really here because part of Dean is still in the pit with a million screaming souls that fill his insides and pulse in his skin, and part of Sam is somewhere dark and secret that turns him into a stranger with cold eyes who lets himself get stabbed and doesn't even try to fix it.

But Dean keeps on repeating "I'm here" like he can make it true for both of them, and when Sam crashes forward into his chest Dean wraps his arms around him and runs a shaking hand over his too-long hair. His words fall away into soft breaths that they share, chests moving in the near-perfect rhythm of them that's been missing for a while, rise and fall. Rise and fall.

.

When Sam wakes up, he feels terrible.

His throat is on fire, his head is a lead weight, and there's a hot band of iron pressing on his ribs. He shifts around, trying to get out from under it, before realizing it's an arm. Dean's arm. Sam turns his head and finds the arm attached to the rest of Dean, sprawled face down in the pillows next to him.

Sam closes his eyes, suddenly feeling the stickiness of the dried tears on his cheeks, the pull of the stitches in his hip and the bandages on his arm and shoulder. He breathes in deep, feeling the weight of Dean's arm move with his chest. His mind has been a battleground, fever and blood-loss and all the nightmares of the past six months making for one hell of a mess.

He wants to get away and he doesn't, because Dean is next to him and Dean is alive and Dean isn't in Hell and Sam is pretty sure the nausea and the cramping muscles and the faint smell of Dean's morning breath mean this isn't a dream.

But Sam didn't get Dean out of Hell, he didn't do anything except wrong, and he's still doing that, and he knows deep down in all honestly it's him who deserves to go into the pit. He doesn't have any right to lay here and soak up his brother's presence, especially not when there's work to do.

Sam moves without making up his mind, and it's not towards or away from anything, but it earns him a hard smack from the heavy arm across his torso.

"Take your meds," Dean growls without any other movement, not even a flutter of his eyelids. "And go back to sleep."

Sam yelps a little as a pill bottle is suddenly pushed none too gently into his side. He doesn't want to be told what to do even when his head is swimming and he can't quite see straight, but the arm seems to anticipate his contrary response because it lifts free again for a moment then comes crashing back down.

"Sammy," Dean says over Sam's hiss of pain, and that's something he's missed, so much it reaches right down into his chest and yanks out all his breath. The pill bottle digs into his side again and he wrenches it away, shaking out two pills and swallowing them dry to cover the fact that those two syllables nearly caused his lungs to collapse.

"Happy?" he rasps at Dean, getting only a grunt in response. And Sam really should get up, he should. Ruby is probably waiting to hear from him and she's probably found another demon, another miserable Hellspawn Sam can send screaming back to where it belongs.

But Dean's arm is still heavy on his chest and Sam won't move it, can't move it, not for another few minutes at least. He settles his head back against the pillow and feels the smallest trace of Dean's breath, warm and even against his neck. Ruby can wait. The demons can wait. Lillith and the whole goddamn world can wait while Sam takes a moment to feel his brother breathing, snoring, twitching, living next to him.

Sam closes his eyes and there's the vertigo, the icy drop in his stomach and the sensation of falling, except Dean has got Sam this time, and Sam has got Dean, and he doesn't think either of them will fall very far.