In Fear of the End
Disclaimer: The Winchesters belong to Kripke et al. The love belongs to us.
Beta'd: By Phx and Muffy. Thank you so much for the late Sunday night edits!
Timeframe: Just a short gapfiller for Mannequin3. We got as much of a brother moment as we could hope for on-screen, but that's what fanfic is for, isn't it?
Dean scanned his brother's face for a response of any kind, but Sam's face remained still, not even a flutter of awareness.
He grasped Sam's collar with numb hands and tugged lightly in his desperation. "S-Sam?"
Dean pressed three fingers against Sam's cold neck searching, not without a great deal of trepidation, for a pulse. One hand flew up to cup his brother's head, to reassure himself that Sam was still alive, still here, and that he would open his eyes if Dean just willed it hard enough. "Sammy!"
He muttered a litany of pleases and noes under his breath. "Come on, damn it," he demanded in his best big brother voice.
Sam's eyes popped open, the light of the fading sun reflecting like fire in the hazel depths. He gasped for air, his gaze roving wilding in what Dean recognized as a feeble attempt to defend himself against the fear still swimming in Sam's eyes.
"Hey, hey, hey, you with me?" Dean asked, knowing that if Sam was back in control of his senses he'd respond, and Dean wasn't disappointed. The shaggy head nodded, a hand reaching out to almost touch Dean's shoulder before it dropped to the floor again. "Come on. Come on, we have to get you the hell out of here."
Dean pulled Sam off the floor by his jacket and hauled him to his feet, ignoring the grunt of pain from his younger brother. Sam had scared the shit out of him, and he wasn't spending a second longer in this crap, backwater town. He wrapped one of his brother's long arms around his neck and staggered slightly as he took nearly the full weight of his not-so-little, little brother. "You can do this, Sammy."
Sam nodded and murmured something incomprehensible, but he stumbled beside Dean out of the house and to the car. Dean pressed his brother with one hip against the cold steel of the Impala and opened the passenger door. In a controlled slide, he guided Sam onto the seat. "Wait here. I'm just going to grab our stuff."
Sam blinked at him for a long moment and then nodded cautiously, wincing at the movement.
"You'll be okay?"
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, closed his eyes, and nodded again.
Dean patted him on the shoulder. "I'll be right back." He closed the door as softly as he could manage and still get it to latch tightly before he ran to the house. It took him less than a minute to finish packing Sam's and his bags before hightailing it back to the car, but each second that ticked by ratcheted up his concern and fueled his pressing need to get Sam out of town.
Opening the driver's door, he flung the bags into the backseat and slid into the car. He didn't miss the way his brother flinched when the door shut. "Is it bad?"
Sam's Adam's apple bounced, but he didn't risk another head nod.
"Next town, when I stop for gas, you're taking something for it," Dean said, matter-of-factly. If Sam was really hurting, he was more compliant than his usual stubborn streak, and sometimes he'd do what Dean said without the obligatory 'I'm fine.'
Sam grunted in what could have been disapproval, but Dean chose to ignore it. "We'll stop before it gets too late, Sammy. I promise."
Sam grunted again, but this time he didn't even move. He shivered, and winced as the movement caused him to bump his head softly against the window. Dean frowned, started the engine, and cranked the heat. He reached into the back and snagged the old quilt, laying it over his brother. "Try to sleep," he repeated.
Sam shifted restlessly in the seat, but didn't open his eyes or reply. Dean took it as a good sign and pulled out, turning the Impala east at the fastest speed he dared that wouldn't jostle his passenger too much.
The road was nearly deserted, but every passing car seemed to disrupt any sleep Sam might be getting. He'd groan, squeeze his eyes shut tighter, and turn his head away. The third time it happened, Dean pressed the accelerator until the speedometer hit seventy-five. A migraine meant a motel room, or Sam would be a wreck by tomorrow.
So for now, Dean bypassed the gas station and stopped at the first place that was far enough from the road to be free from traffic noise. It didn't take long to get them checked in, but Sam was wide awake by the time he returned, looking around frantically until he caught sight of Dean.
Dean opened the passenger door and squatted down beside his brother. "Hey, you okay?"
Sam nodded and Dean narrowed his eyes.
Sam's skittish gaze landed on Dean and his eyebrow quirked.
"Hey, you sure you're okay?" Dean placed a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"Yeah," Sam replied, the sound slurred and sluggish.
Dean swallowed down his fear. It could just be a migraine or the seizure that was affecting Sam. He didn't want to consider the worst of all: that he was right about a section of the wall falling and that it not only let hell in, but stole a piece of Sam as it blazed a trail through his brain. "Let's get you inside, okay?" Dean was amazed how even his voice sounded, the years of practice paying off when he needed it most.
"Yeah." Sam's voice was stronger, but it still lacked its normal clarity.
Dean levered his brother out of the car and together they stumbled to the room. He fumbled with the lock and when the door opened, they practically fell inside. Sam collapsed onto the bed, his head lolling even as Dean stripped him of his jacket and helped him lie down. The shoes came off next, then Dean covered him with the blanket.
Sam flipped onto his side, pulling the blanket up tighter. Dean hesitated for a moment, waiting until he was sure his brother was settled in before he stood and turned to head out the door. He didn't make it far before he heard the soft rustle of blankets.
"Dean?" Sam's tremulous question was punctuated by a long, shaky breath.
"I'll be right back, Sammy," he said softly, turning around to make eye contact with his brother. "I won't leave you alone, okay?"
Relief flared in Sam's eyes and he offered a wan smile.
Dean's jaw muscle bunched as he headed to the car. He knew. He understood exactly how terrifying it was to wake up from nightmares of Hell, alone, and wonder if you were really back or if it was just another trick designed to cut in the deepest of ways.
By the time Dean returned, Sam was asleep. His chestnut hair was sweat-dampened, curling slightly around the nape of neck and the tightly bunched creases in his forehead spoke of pain. Bright patches of pink fever burned high on Sam's otherwise pale face. Dean tugged on his lips, worry thrumming through his veins with unresolved questions. He knew it was irrational, but it didn't stop him from crouching beside his brother. He cupped the side of Sam's neck and if his fingers shifted just enough to feel for a pulse, well, that didn't mean he was scared.
Except, he was.
Dean partially stood and sat back onto his own bed. He scrubbed a hand down his face before curling forward, arms resting on his knees. His head hung low, shoulders bowing, as his throat constricted. He couldn't lose his brother again, not so soon after he finally had him back. Tears built behind dry eyes, pressure building into a headache born of emotional denial. He sucked in a deep breath and noisily blew it out, trying to regain control.
Dean quickly looked up when Sam moaned. "Sam?"
Hazel cat eyes opened to mere slits and blinked uncomprehendingly. "D'n?"
It was more of a sound than his name, but Dean understood. "Yeah, Sammy, I'm here."
Sam shook his head weakly against the pillow. "Shouldn't be," he said, his voice hoarse and raw even at a whisper.
Dean swallowed hard, Sam's voice sounded strained as if he'd been screaming, instead of silent and still on a dirty hardwood floor. Dean leaned forward, curling a hand around his brother's shoulder. "Sammy, we're at a motel. We're both okay." He scooted closer to the edge of the bed and bent down lower until he was nearly eye level with his brother. "You understand?"
Sam's eyes opened wider to look around the room and that's when Dean saw it, the barest hint of a fiery flicker in the hazel depths. There was no way it was a trick of light this time, it was Hell—Hell reflected in his brother's eyes.
"Yeah, just a motel room." Dean swallowed hard. "How's the head?"
"Hurts." One of Sam's hands came up and he pressed the heel of his hand to his eye.
"I bet." Dean sat back. "Do you remember anything?"
"After you flopped around on the floor like you'd been electrocuted," Dean clarified.
Sam shook his head and winced, squeezing his eyes shut tightly. He wrapped an arm around his stomach.
"You gonna hurl?" Dean asked, reaching for the wastebasket.
"No," Sam groaned.
"Can's here if you need it," Dean said, thumping it against the floor. He walked over to his bag and rifled through it looking for the good painkillers. He stopped in the bathroom on the way back to Sam to fill a cup with water. He shook two out into hand and held them out to his brother. "Here, take these."
Sam didn't even ask. He simply palmed the pills and dry swallowed them before sitting up far enough to take a couple sips of water. "Thanks." He lay back down, his eyes fluttering closed.
"Sam, do you remember anything?" Why he was pushing his brother for a response, Dean couldn't say. Remembering had been exactly the thing that triggered Sam's seizure, the crack in his wall, but Dean had to know what he was up against.
In his annoying younger brother way of avoidance, Sam asked his own question instead. "How long?"
"Two to three minutes." Arguably, the longest two to three minutes of Dean's life.
Sam's eyes popped opened and he looked up at Dean. "Two to three minutes?" he asked, incredulous disbelief ringing through the most words he'd said since it had happened.
"Yeah." Dean set the cup on the nightstand and sat down on his bed. "How long was it for you?"
"I—I don't," Sam stumbled over slurring words, confusion clear in every line of his face. "Dean?"
"Hey, it's okay," Dean said, placing a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Just sleep, Sam. We'll talk later."
"Okay," Sam uncharacteristically acquiesced without argument. "Later."
"Just sleep," Dean repeated. He didn't sit back until the tension bled out of Sam's muscles and his breathing evened out. Dean shifted until he was sitting with his back against the headboard. He stared out the window, his mind whirling too fast for sleep. They'd tried doing this Sam's way, but no more. The past year and a half needed to stay in the past. Poking around in his brother's subconscious felt like playing with the pin on a grenade.
Dean watched as the sky slowly lightened, orange and black clouds dotting the horizon and sighed with relief. Sam would probably sleep most of the day, maybe well into the night, but at least he was alive, his mind (and soul) intact.
Everything else could wait.
AN: I started this schmoop weeks ago (obviously) and finally finished during a few quiet moments today. It's not much of a showing after months of not posting, but hey—it's something. Finally!
Happy (admittedly, belated) Mother's Day, all (Fanfic was being temperamental)!