Dean's eyes flew open, immediately aware what had awakened him (!#&^ shoulder!), but as clueless as ever why. Nothing had clawed him, bitten him, or even thrown him into any walls for weeks. And yet, lately, he couldn't sleep through the night without a sudden piercing pain deep in his shoulder, like someone had stabbed him with a rusty pitchfork.
He panted, wide-eyed, as the pain vibrated through him like a tuning fork and finally began to fade. Not enough to let him fall back asleep, not even enough to risk rolling over, but enough that he could swallow the moans and stay motionless and silent.
The room was dark. He heard the creak of bedsprings and then a shadow moved – Sam's silhouette unfolding and then standing between their beds, running a hand through his hair, and moving away on bare feet.
Dean closed his eyes. Waited for the sound of the bathroom door opening and closing, but it didn't come. Instead, a moment later, his mattress sank with the weight of a small moose, and he felt a large hand wrap around his shoulder. "Don't move," Sam said, his voice rough with sleep.
"Like I needed you to tell me that!" Dean growled, cranky; didn't care.
He felt the fingers of Sam's other hand skating across his shoulder blades, pressing down as they went.
"Where does it hurt?"
"Dude, what are you – ah!"
"Here?" Two fingers poked deeper, and Dean just nodded, lips pressed together.
Sam reached a long arm across the span between their beds, grabbed both his pillows, and set them in front of Dean, stretched out on his left side. He lifted Dean's right arm slowly, holding the shoulder joint steady, and carefully propped Dean's elbow on the pillows. "That okay?"
Dean realized he'd stopped breathing and exhaled. "Yeah. Hey! OW!" The 'hey' was triggered when Sam slipped a hand under Dean's tee-shirt and skimmed it up his spine. The 'ow!' naturally resulted when Dean flinched indignantly away.
Sam's free hand pushed Dean back into place. "Stay still, dumbass."
Dean sagged against the pillows. "If I play dead, will you go away?"
"You think I haven't noticed you wincing when you have to reach with that arm, Dean? How long has it been buggin' you?" Sam started rubbing his hands together.
Dean had already figured out that trying to shove his brother off or crawl up the headboard would set the muscles in his shoulder on fire, so he lay still. "I dunno. Since I got so freakin' old?"
"I bet it's from that time the poltergeist tossed you down the stairs – just never healed right. And now it's getting worse. Classic chronic rotator cuff symptoms." Sam's hands had crept under Dean's tee shirt again; they were warm and oily now. Dean cracked an eye open and saw the tube of Arnica gel sitting on the pillows beside his arm. Then Sam's fingers started pressing in, long light strokes following the fibers of his muscles, and Dean positively purred.
"Where the hell did you learn to do this, Phoebe?"
"It was Jess." Dean could sense Sam's fond smile even in the dark. "I played a little racquetball at Stanford. A little too much; tore my rotator cuff. The doc at the university clinic told us massage would help. Improves the blood circulation to promote healing, helps breaks down the scar tissue." Sam had started kneading with his thumbs and when he explained about the scar tissue, he really dug in, right at the point that had made Dean yelp before.
Dean caught his breath this time, breathed through his nose, and in a moment it actually started to feel better. "So Jess was into massage, huh? This your idea of foreplay, Sammy?" Dean lifted an eyebrow, grinned when Sam's fingers stuttered.
"Shut up!" Sam went back to the slow steady rhythm of his strokes, pushing along the grain of the muscles. After a few minutes he mused, voice low and soothing, "I still remember Jess memorizing the names of the muscles that make up the rotator cuff. Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, Subscapularis…"
"Pretty geeky pillow talk, little brother."
Sam gave Dean's shoulder blade a light slap and eased his hands out from under Dean's shirt, smoothing it back against Dean's skin. "You want some ibuprofen?"
"Nah. I'm good." He sucked in a breath to get ready for the jarring move when Sam took his own pillows back, but Sam left them where they were. He just crawled back under his own blankets, rested his head on his forearm, and was lightly snoring in minutes.
Dean sank deeper into his pillow fort and let himself drift back to sleep, too. After angling his head first, of course, so that the pillow he drooled on would be Sam's.