I made up the problem, the issue and the cure/answer….
Bear with me, ya'all!
Dean slanted his eyes sideways, glancing over at his brother as he tried to decide whether he was asleep or merely slouched against the door with his eyes closed. Sam had grown silent some ten minutes ago and when Dean jerked the wheel, making the car swerve, his head rolled on the window but didn't come off the glass. So, asleep then.
Dean fiddled with the radio, searching for a clear station, the music merely background noise that no longer held his attention. The last month or so had been mostly quiet and uncomplicated; no one had chased them, tried to trap them or attempted to kill them. The few hunts that had found them had been dealt with simply and quickly. Sam had been agreeable and content; he hadn't argued with Dean or outright did the opposite of what Dean wanted.
Not even when Dean had told him he was taking a vacation. He'd offered Sam the car and told him to come back and pick him up. Sam had shrugged, and said he'd go with him without asking where they were going or why. All Dean wanted was some down time and he didn't mind having Sam with him, he wasn't what Dean wanted to escape from and avoid. The last several months had been hectic, stressful and emotional. They could both use some time to deal.
Dean's definition of vacation meant renting a cabin in the hills of North Dakota without electricity, phones, an internet connection or TV. There was no cell phone reception either, one had to go into town six miles down the road and use the payphone at the local general store. The one-room cabin consisted of a sofa, coffee table and two arm chairs arranged near the fireplace. Across the room were a stove and a table with two chairs. Along the back wall was a double bed. There was a small bathroom with indoor plumbing though the hot water wasn't very hot or plentiful. A fire in the stove in the small kitchen heated a tank of water that fed the shower and kitchen sink.
Sam was sleeping on the couch, and good thing he hadn't complained 'cause he wasn't even supposed to be there.
Two days of rustic living had been all Dean managed before he'd headed to the nearest city to catch a movie. Sam hadn't minded, he could pick up some new magazines and check the web while Dean satisfied his coffee addiction at a local coffee shop that offered free Wi-Fi.
They were on their way back to the cabin and Dean decided to stop for dinner. Sam knew when the car stopped and he didn't need to crack his eyes open to know they were parked in front of a restaurant. He didn't move, hoping Dean would decide to leave him alone and go in and eat by himself. Truth be told, he wasn't hungry and didn't much feel like moving, wondering how close they were to the cabin. If anything, he would be happy to crawl into the back seat and lay down.
"Sam?" Dean's voice was quiet, Sam waited for the nudge in the shoulder that never came, letting one eye slit just enough to see what Dean was doing. He was playing with his phone. "You awake?" by the time Dean finally turned to look directly at Sam, both eyes were once again, closed.
Dean hesitated, not sure whether to wake him or not. It wasn't unusual for Sam to sleep in the car; they both got plenty of sleep while the other drove, but Sam usually woke up on his own when the car stopped. Dean sat for a minute then decided to leave Sam be, got out of the car and went into the restaurant. Sam sighed, he'd wanted to be left alone, and now that he was, his feelings were hurt that Dean would just leave him. There'd been a time when Dean would have teased him awake to go in with him. Well….shit.
Dean looked up when Sam slid into the booth opposite the table and gave him a cheery grin. "Well, hey there sleepy-head, you hungry? I just ordered." Dean waved at the waitress who made her way over. "This is Darlene."
"Cudda woke me up." Sam said grumpily, reaching for Dean's glass. "Coke?" he made a face.
"If I had, you wudda bitched that I did." Dean said easily. "So? You ordering?" he held out a menu, Sam finally took it and ordered soup. He wasn't hungry, but perhaps if he ate something, he'd feel better or at least be in a better mood. He should have stayed in the car; he didn't want to talk or be entertained and could only hope Dean was observant enough to notice his aloofness. Dean didn't try to carry on a conversation, nor did he push Sam to reveal how he felt or ask him what his problem was.
"What?" Sam's attention was caught and his head came up. "Huh?" he may have disliked Dean's choice of soda, but he hadn't given the glass back, prompting Dean to order another to replace it. He gave Dean a thorough visual go-over, searching for any physical signs that would tell him what Dean had said.
"I said you look ready to fall asleep waiting for your soup." Dean offered him a fry, he shook his head. "Head hurt?"
"No, why?" he looked around the diner, then looked at his watch. Nearly 8:30. Later then he'd thought but still early. Dean had mentioned hitting a bar before returning to the cabin.
"Cause again, you look like shit, what's up with you anyway? You've been a downer for a week now, cranky as all hell. You didn't get hurt on our last hunt, did you?
"No, get off my back." he snapped. Head lowered, he missed the look to cross Dean's face. "Sorry." he rubbed the back of his neck with one hand, realizing he had bitten his brother's head off. "I dunno, just tired."
"Get you some Midol." Dean muttered. "Get you back to the cabin and put your ass to bed, cranky ass." he was irritated, both his tone and his look and he didn't bother to try to hide either. "I'm being flat-out honest here Sam; I think you need to take a daily nap."
Sam shrugged. "Sure, whatever."
Dean hated when Sam went silent, hated being blown off but let it go so he could eat his meal while it was hot. Sam's soup came with a side of garlic bread and Sam picked at it, eating slowly, getting up to go to the bathroom before he was even half way done. Dean got to flirting with Darlene and didn't realize thirty minutes had passed until she made a comment asking if Sam had left.
"Huh." Dean glanced at his watch. "Great." he left enough cash on the table for the bill and to cover the tip and went back to the men's room. "Sam?" he pushed the door open, finding two stalls, two urinals and no Sam. Panic hit him first; Sam had up and disappeared on him before. Then anger, figuring Sam had gone out to the car without bothering to say anything. "I swear, I'm gonna kick his ass." he muttered, turning around to head out to the car, the door nearly closed behind him when he heard his name called.
"Dean?" a knocking came from one of the stalls. "Dean?" his name was said again, a little stronger, and a little louder.
"What? Sam? What the hell?" he pushed open the door to the handicapped stall. Sam sat on the floor, back against the wall, elbows on his drawn knees, hands supporting his forehead. "Sammy?"
Sam looked up, eyes glassy and though he focused on his brother, it was as if he looked right through him. His face was flushed as Dean squatted down on his haunches next to him, snapping his fingers in Sam's face. Dean easily placed the look on Sam's face. He'd seen his brother after vomiting often enough, whether it be the flu or being hung over or some other ailment, to recognize the signs.
"Why are you sitting on the floor? It's disgusting Sam." he glanced towards the toilet, either Sam had flushed or he hadn't been sick. "Man, get up."
"I don't feel good." he pushed his hair off his forehead, palm slick with sweat. Dean got up to wet some paper towels with cold water. "Mmmmmm."
"Come on, get off the damn floor." Dean hauled him to his feet and let him sit on the toilet, pushing him forward to keep his head down and pressing the wet towels to the back of his neck. "What the fuck dude?"
"Dunno, bad garlic?" he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, shivering. He fought the urge to lean towards the security Dean represented. Dean wouldn't understand Sam's desire to be close and though Dean wouldn't leave him, he wouldn't tolerate Sam clinging to him either.
"Okay, the bill's paid, let's get outta here and get back to the cabin."
"Thought you wanted to go to the bar." Sam weakly protested. He wanted to lay down, preferably in the dark but if Dean insisted on stopping off at a bar for a beer, he wouldn't argue.
"Not an option now dude, you need to lay down and I really don't want you pukin' in the car."
"I'm ok, can play a game of pool with you." he offered half-heartedly, he made to gain his feet then sat where he was. "Maybe not." he lowered his head and thumbed his closed eyelids. "I'll take a nap, maybe lay down on the backseat, you'll find some company."
"And then what?" Sam let Dean pull him to his feet even though he didn't want to get up. "You spend a cold night sleeping in the car?"
"Sorry." Sam sighed, letting himself be led out to the car. "Can leave me here, I'll find a motel and you can go do whatever, you can pick me up in a couple of days."
Dean stopped and let him go so suddenly that Sam lost his balance and fell against a parked car. He reached out with his hands to brace his fall. Had the car not been there, he would have hit the pavement.
"What the hell goes through your mind?" Dean kicked his toe against a tire on a nearby car. "We're past all that Sam! Christ, I wouldn't leave you alone in a motel in a no-name town in a state you can't name even if you hadn't been sitting on the floor of a public bathroom puking into a toilet." he grabbed the back of Sam's jacket and hauled him away from the support of the car, holding on even as Sam twisted around to face him. "We are going back to the cabin and we are staying until you feel better." he gave Sam a shove forward. "Can you for once, just be honest with me? I don't ask for much, not anymore." he muttered, shaking his head. "Christ, think I'd learn, I mean, what's it gonna take to get it through my head."
Sam gathered himself and broke free from Dean's grasp. Sudden anger gave him the strength to stand on his own and face his brother even if he swayed a bit unsteadily. His arms pin wheeled until they found support on a nearby truck bed.
"I'm trying to do what you want Dean! I told you I didn't feel good. I didn't let you leave me in the bathroom. What the hell do you want from me? I offered to go with you, I offered to let you go without me, I offered to stay in the car. I don't know anything else to offer you so stop yelling at me." yelling made him dizzy and short of breath.
"I'm not yelling." Dean got out between clenched teeth. "You are. I just don't understand how the hell you think these days. I didn't ask you to come with me Sam, you asked to come. I just wanted a couple of days alone. Spend time fishing or rowing a boatand swimming. Go on a hike to look for a freaking eagle, just have the opportunity to do nothing. No cell phone, no web, no newspaper, no omens, no signs, no nothing. I've begged you in the past to give me that and you … well, you didn't." he rubbed at his forehead, eyes squeezing shut as he winced. "I know it's a lot to ask, but dammit I can't keep doing this without taking some time for my sanity Sam. Maybe you don't like it that I decided to do this whether you agreed or not, I don't know, but either deal with it and stay with me or go away and leave me alone."
Still needing the support of the truck, Sam let him walk away. Dean wouldn't go far nor would he stay mad for long. He'd never before walked away from the life he led, not as long as Sam had been alive. Sure, Dean had asked him in the past to take a trip, go anywhere and forget their worries and concerns for a short while, but when Sam said no, Dean hadn't made plans to go without him like he had this time. Dean was right; Sam didn't know what to make of that.
"Are you coming?" Dean called impatiently. He was ready to hit the road and eager to reach the cabin. He wanted to take his boots off, put his feet up, nurse a beer and read the latest issue of Guns and Ammo; not argue in the cold in a parking lot.
Sam sighed, fingers laced together with his hands holding to the back of his neck. "Yeah." he started to walk towards the car when a loud buzzing engulfed the immediate area around his head. Before he could open his mouth to call out, he hit the pavement, out cold before he finished falling.
Dean didn't hear him; he reached the car and got in, turning the engine over and flipping the radio on. He expected Sam to open the passenger door, rolling down the window to yell for him when a minute passed and he didn't show, frustration lacing his voice.
"Sam?" he called for a third time. "Sam? Dammit Sam! Come on!" he got out of the car, leaving it running and started back to where he had last seen Sam. "What the….." he ran the last few feet, sliding to a stop on his knees beside his brother. "Sam…. Sammy….hey! Sam,…..come on here kiddo." he gently shifted Sam's head from the ground to his knees, fingers combing through Sam's hair to find the source of blood that trickled down the left side of his face. "Sam?" he pulled a flashlight from his pocket and found the source of the bleeding, a cut over his left eyebrow. Dean inspected the wound, trying to determine what had taken Sam down.
"Ow!" Sam hissed, raising a hand to swat weakly at Dean's. "Mmmm, stop." his breath caught as forced his eyes open. "Don't." the rough probing fingers felt like he was repeatedly being stabbed with a needle.
"Ok, ok, relax." finding dirt and gravel imbedded in his skin, Dean was satisfied that Sam hadn't been shot or attacked; he'd simply cracked his head when he'd fallen. "Hey, lay still for a bit, car's warming up." he held Sam down when he gathered himself to sit up, moving the beam of light up and down the length of Sam's body.
Sam wanted to sit up and the longer Dean kept him down, the more agitated he got. He'd wanted to stay down in the bathroom and Dean had forced him to get up and now that he wanted to get up, Dean was forcing him to stay down. Sam's fingertips swiped at the blood that had made it to his mouth, wiping the back of his hand across his cheek. "Let me up." he muttered, if Dean followed the beam of light with his hand, he was gonna get punched.
"Let it bleed." Dean forced his hand down. "It's not deep, won't even need stitches. You ok? The world spinning?" he let Sam sit up, ready to stop him if he tried to stand, but Sam decided he was quite happy to sit for a bit. Suddenly he didn't feel so good anymore and he attributed that to having sat up. He swallowed hard; Dean's hovering no longer so annoying.
"No, and don't even hold up a finger and ask me how many." he fell back on being defensive. He'd already freaked his brother out by getting sick in a public bathroom and passing out in the parking lot; he didn't dare add to that by seeking comfort. His shoulder ached; his hands had been behind his neck when he'd hit the ground, so he must have fallen hard on his shoulder before cracking his head.
"Tell me you at least tripped." Dean cracked a grin. "Over your too large feet if nothing else." he moved back, giving Sam room to gain his feet. He held a hand out to rise with Sam but he didn't offer to take it, not ready to stand up.
"No." San shook his head, stopping with a wince and a moan. "Shit, stupid Sam." he whispered to himself, fingers pushing against his eyebrow. He started to lie down but stopped when he saw his brother's reaction. Dean's grin faded and he studied Sam with such a serious look that Sam realized he had voiced the words out loud.
"Dude, did you faint? Seriously? Like, you know, a girl? You fainted?" Dean stared at his brother with wide eyes. "What the hell, Sam?"
"I dunno Dean, guess so. Can you wait and make fun of me later?" he bit his lip. He wanted to wipe the blood from his face, wanted to hold and massage his aching shoulder, wanted to lie down and hold ice to his pounding head. What he didn't want to do was deal with Dean.
"Since when do you faint?' Dean demanded, taking the hand Sam held out and pulling him to his feet. Sam's weight wasn't distributed, making his movements jerky and un-coordinated. He let Sam lean against him for support, not wanting to risk him taking another dive to the hard ground. "Come on." once at the car, Dean handed Sam a clean towel to wipe his face and hold against his head. "Just hold it lightly, don't press it, you're gonna have to clean out the dirt and gravel once we get to the cabin."
Sam was quiet, noticing Dean had said, 'you'. He took the towel and wiped the blood from his face, then folded it over and held it over the still bleeding cut. His left arm soon protested its raised position and he switched hands with a grunt of discomfort. Dean glanced at him but said nothing, Sam wasn't acting like he usually did when he was hurt or sick and Dean wasn't sure how to respond to his behavior.
"Good to go?" Dean waited for the nod of agreement, and pulled out.
Sam followed Dean into the cabin and headed straight for the bathroom. He didn't feel good and the longer he stayed vertical, the more nauseated he felt. He closed the door behind him, convinced he was going to lose the contents of his stomach for the second time in less than an hour.
Dean started a fire, both in the fireplace and in the stove. He heard the unmistakable sounds of Sam's vomiting and tried to decide whether the nausea was the result of the whack on the head or the earlier soup. He should have followed his instinct and ignored Sam's protests and checked for signs of a concussion when he'd had Sam flat on his back.
"Hey." he looked up when Sam finally came out of the bathroom. He'd cleaned his face and headed for his duffel, digging for the clothes he usually slept in. "Nuh-uh, come over here." Dean pulled out a chair from the table and patted the seat. "Need to let me see."
"I'm ok." Sam didn't move, unsure whether to curl up on the sofa or obey Dean. "I washed up." he pulled his shirt out of the bag, tossed it aside and continued to search for his pants. All he wanted to do was curl up in the blankets and let himself go to sleep.
"That wasn't a suggestion Sam, sit your ass down." Dean growled. "Need to see if you have a concussion, determine if getting knocked on the head is what made you si….ck." he frowned as he completed his sentence, seeing Sam's shoulder for the first time since reaching the cabin. "What the hell did you do?" he demanded angrily.
"What?" perplexed, Sam looked around the room to see what had pissed his brother off this time.
"What? What do you mean what? That, your shoulder Sam. What the hell did you do to your shoulder? When?"
Sam twisted his head then contorted his upper body in a futile attempt to view his back. Giving up, he walked over to the mirror and turned his back. "Huh." he flexed his muscle, rolling his shoulder, hunching his back, not able to hide the wince when his body protested.
"How, Sam." Dean demanded, peroxide and gauze held forgotten in his hands. "Jesus Christ!" he tossed the bottle and dropped the gauze, and stalked over to Sam. "Anything to say?" he watched Sam try to work his shirt over his head with one arm. He knew by the way Sam averted his eyes and kept his gaze cast down that he didn't know what to say. "When." he bit out. "That has to hurt, Sam. Let me see."
"When I fell." he found his pants, pulled them on and tied the strings. He looked between the chair and the sofa, no more sure what to do now then ten minutes ago. "It's just sore, no big…..ow….quit poking."
"When you fell? When, tonight? You seriously expect me to believe that? Sam, come on, stop treating me like I'm stupid. I've had enough of that from you." he picked up the bottle of peroxide and kicked the chair. "Sit."
"Dean, I'm telling you the truth, I landed on my shoulder when I fell." he sat down on the chair facing Dean, resigned to suffering through his brother's attempts at doctoring. It was obvious Dean wasn't taking his word that he had cleaned the cut himself.
"Less than an hour ago? Yeah right." Dean said scornfully. "You expect me to believe that?"
"Yeah." Sam said simply, eyes searching his brother's face for understanding. Dean poured peroxide on the gauze and started to clean the cut on Sam's forehead. He wasn't exactly gentle, but he wasn't rough. Sam had done a well enough job but he felt better seeing for himself that Sam had indeed been thorough.
"You're serious." Dean searched for a band-aide large enough to cover the wound, settling for taping gauze over it instead. "Sam, come on, that bruise and the swelling are too severe to have happened an hour ago."
"Dean, I swear to you, my shoulder was fine this morning, no bruise, no swelling, no pain, nothing." he got up, kept his unsteady balance from his brother's notice and crawled over the arm of the sofa and laid down. "Can I sleep now?"
Dean rubbed his hands over his face; he was tired, ready for bed, and racking his brain to recall when Sam may have gotten hurt. He didn't know what to make of it and he wanted the night to sleep on it before addressing it. He approached Sam with a flashlight and ordered him to look at him. His eyes were focused and didn't react negatively to the flashlight so Dean deemed it safe to give him some ibuprofen and let him go to sleep.
"You good? I'm gonna go grab a hot shower."
Dean frowned at the tentative way Sam said his name, as though he was afraid of the response he would get. "What, Sam?" he detoured to hang over the sofa. "Go to sleep."
"Yeah, I'm gonna." he yawned. "I'm good." he said finally, deciding what he wanted wasn't worth pissing Dean off over. It'd been a moment of weakness that had him calling to his brother anyway. He'd rolled over and felt his back twinge in protest and his automatic response had been to seek his brother and ask for his help.
"You need something?" Dean asked impatiently, anxious for a hot shower in the hopes it would relieve some of the tension he couldn't shake. "Sam?"
"I'm…ok." he meant to let it go, knowing Dean would go if he said nothing but his tongue seemed to obey his desires, not his intentions. "Um…sorry… but….. I..… could….you….?" he licked his lips then sighed. "Ice?" he'd thought about getting up and going after it himself but when he'd lifted his head from the pillow, nausea had convinced him lying flat was the better idea.
The cabin was at a campground, and the cabin rentals had full use of the amenities offered to the campers: restrooms with showers, ice, vending machines, Laundromat and propane refills. Anything else could be purchased from the general store six miles away. That Sam knew that and wasn't willing to fetch his own ice and yet was reluctant to ask made him feel like crap. That he hadn't thought Sam would benefit from ice made him feel like an ass. That Sam had asked despite his fear of what Dean's response would be, told Dean he was in more discomfort and pain then he had admitted to.
"Be right back." Dean retrieved a bowl from a cupboard over the sink and headed out to the ice machine that sat next to the vending machines so he bought two bottles of ginger ale and headed back to their room. He made an ice-bag out of a towel and offered it to Sam who only had eyes for the ginger ale.
"Sorry, no crackers." Dean poured some soda into a cup and handed it to Sam who raised himself up with his elbow resting on the cushion to take it. Long as he kept his eyes locked on one thing, the room didn't spin and his stomach was settled.
"S'ok. You can get some tomorrow at the store." he spoke without thinking, used to Dean getting him what he wanted. He lowered his eyes, hand shaking slightly as he took a drink as he realized what he'd said.
"Sure." Dean said easily in a tone Sam hadn't heard him use with him in ages. A tone that was tolerant and supportive, a tone not heard in so long that it brought tears to Sam's eyes. If Dean noticed, he paid no attention, taking the empty glass and setting it aside when Sam refused a refill. "Need anything else?" Dean asked quietly, all attitude and impatience gone. Sam didn't get sick often and he never faked an injury being worse than it was.
Sam eased down, trying to pull the blanket up over his shoulder so he could settle the towel of ice on his back.
He let go of the towel when he felt Dean's hand on his, letting him situate both the blanket and the ice. Dean sat on what served as a coffee table, facing his brother, watching him as he fell asleep, knowing when he was no longer in a state of consciousness by his even breathing.
"So, what the hell?" Dean sighed and went to take his shower.
When Sam woke, the room was quiet and bright with sunshine. The curtains were open and Dean was asleep in the armchair, feet up on the coffee table. Rolling to his back, he decided he didn't feel so good. The ice slid off his back and he picked it, taking note it was ice and the towel was dry; Dean must have changed it.
He pushed himself and looked around the room for a clock, nudging Dean's feet to the floor. Wow, Dean had made no attempt to clean up; clothes, books, weapons, first aid kit, pop bottles and vending machine snacks, along with the computer and iPod's were strewn across every available surface. It never ceased to amaze him the short amount of time it took Dean to create a mess.
"Hey." Dean rubbed eyes that were gritty from little sleep. Sam frowned as Dean blinked open swollen, red-rimmed eyes as he sat up in the chair and stretched. "How you feeling?"
"Why were you sleeping in the chair?" Sam asked instead of answering. "Did you sleep at all last night?"
Dean shrugged. "Yeah. So, you feeling any better?"
"Any hot water for a shower?" he poured soda into a glass, gingerly rotating his shoulder to test how it responded, grimacing when it protested the slight movement. "Ow, man, mmmm." how hard had he fallen? Christ, he'd been tossed, thrown, pitched, pushed and dropped harder than he had fallen and never had his body felt like it did now.
"Yeah, fire's been going all night." Dean wasn't going to be ignored a third time. "Last time, how do you feel?"
"Lousy, did you get any sleep last night?" he countered.
"Couldn't sleep." Dean said evasively. He hoped Sam didn't push because he had no intentions of saying anything more on the subject. Sam hadn't been at all settled. He'd tossed and turned and muttered and groaned until Dean had gotten out of bed and crossed the room to make sure nothing was attacking the kid on the sofa. Giving up any hope of a decent nights rest in a comfortable bed, Dean had pulled a chair close to the sofa and gotten as comfy as he could to spend the remainder of the night. "Got up every couple hours or so to keep the fires going"
"Wait, why'd you let me sleep so late?" Sam frowned. A chair pulled up to the sofa and his feet resting on the table didn't spell out 'accidentally fell asleep here'.
"Cause how do you really feel Sam? You look like shit, what the hell else are we gonna do today?"
"Whatever." he muttered, pushing the blanket aside and getting to his feet. "I'll shower, then we can go get something to eat."
"Sure, hey, do me a favor?" Dean tossed Sam an unloaded shot gun. "Catch." Sam reacted instinctively, reaching out with both hands to catch it, his right arm cooperated, his left didn't and the gun hit the floor. "Thought so." Dean walked over to pick the gun up. "Can you raise your hand over your head?"
"I doubt it." huh, he must really look like hell if Dean could tell how he felt just by looking at him.
"Will you let me see?" Dean asked quietly. "Ice should have brought the swelling down."
Sam crossed his hands over his belly to take hold of the hem of his shirt and pull it up over his head. He got no further than lifting the shirt to his chest when pain flared down his back so sharply he stumbled, reaching out with his right hand to stop himself from falling. Once he was steady, he pulled the shirt off with his right hand, turning to let Dean see his back. His left arm was all but useless; he had strength in his hand, but couldn't raise his arm.
"Ok, that's it." Dean tossed the gun onto the sofa, curbing his desire to throw it against the wall. "The truth Sam, and this time, don't lie to me. I am so sick of you keeping shit from me."
Sam's eyes went wide and he turned his head to stare at his brother with a slack jaw, stunned that Dean was mad, freaking pissed was more accurate and he had no idea why. Dean's hands were fisted by his sides and the look he leveled on Sam made the younger brother step away and put distance between them.
"Oh no you don't, you aren't running away from me either." Dean hissed, he started after Sam but stopped when he realized Sam was only going to look in the mirror so he could see for himself. Sam simply raised his right hand to hold his shoulder, unable to say anything in his defense. "So, you 'fell' on your shoulder when you fainted." Dean sneered. "Honest, Dean." he mimicked Sam's tone from the previous night.
"Dean." Sam tried but Dean cut him off.
"Falling on your shoulder wouldn't bruise your back like that. Hell, it wouldn't even cause the swelling in your shoulder. At most, it would cause soreness, maybe some bruising, but nothing like that."
Emotion emoted from Sam's eyes and crossed every feature on his face. Dean swore the kid was trying hard not to cry and just like that, he deflated, letting his shoulders sag as he walked over to Sam who stood his ground, tense and unsure.
"So?" Dean thumbed the bruise, applying pressure until Sam squirmed. "No clue, huh? Sam, come on."
"Dean, I swear to you, I don't know how this happened. I didn't get hurt and hide it from you. I didn't lie to you. I have no idea where this came from."
"But it hurts?"
"Bit, yeah." he nodded. He didn't even notice the slight pain from his head, his back ached that badly. It hadn't hurt like this when he'd woken up and it sure as hell hadn't looked like this last night.
"Yesterday morning, you were fine, by dinner time, you were nauseous and dizzy. You puked and passed out. You admit to cracking your head and landing on your shoulder when you fell but deny having any idea what happened to cause your back to look like that. This doesn't add up Sam."
"What do you want me to say Dean? I don't know what happened!" he fought to keep his voice from rising. "I don't Dean, I can't explain this." he didn't want to argue, not up to a verbal confrontation.
Dean believed him, there was no way Sam would have been able to hide the pain he was in. Every movement of his arm or shoulder would have made him wince or cringe. The bruising was too severe to have come from a simple fall the night before and the swelling along his shoulder was not consistent with a fall at all.
"Ok, ok, ok." Dean rubbed his hands through his hair, blowing his breath out. "Go get your shower and we'll go eat." he waited until Sam had entered the bathroom and he heard the water before gathering what he would need for his own shower and knocked on the bathroom door. "Sam?"
"I'm heading over for a shower; gimme twenty minutes and we'll go eat, 'k?"
"Sure." he called back. What else could he say? Dean, I don't feel right, don't leave me alone?
"Yo! Sammy! I'm back!" Dean charged through the front door thirty minutes later. "Sam?" he looked around the room as he walked towards the open bathroom door, eyes alert for any signs of foul play or the presence of an unwanted visitor. "Sam? Hey?"
Sam was on the bathroom floor, dressed and wet hair dripping down his back. He sat with his knees drawn cradling his left arm. He didn't raise his head or acknowledge Dean standing in the door way. The small bathroom had a toilet, a wall sink and a stand up shower and there was no room for Dean to kneel on the floor next to Sam so he straddled the toilet, knee bumping Sam's shoulder.
"What the fuck's with you?" Sam was quiet for so long, Dean didn't think he was going to answer. Just as he started to reach out to force Sam's head up, Sam held his left arm out for Dean to see, keeping his head down. "How did you do this?" sucking his breath in, Dean took hold of Sam's arm by his fingers, palm up. "Sam, Christ, that's at least a 2nd degree burn, what the hell did you do?" he didn't touch the blistered skin that stretched from wrist, half way to elbow. "Sam, talk to me, how did you get this?"
"I took a shower." he said thickly. "It…. hurts."
"I bet it does." Dean murmured reaching over to turn the cold water on in the sink. He knew damn well, Sam didn't get the burn from the water in the shower or the sink. The blistered skin looked consistent with a burn caused by being splashed with a hot liquid.
Dean was not an expert on burns, couldn't judge the difference between a 2nd and a 3rd degree burn, but he sure as hell knew the difference between a minor burn and a serious one. Both 1st and 2nd degree burns were painful, could cause infection, took a good month or better to heal and could leave a nasty scar and 3rd degree burns were severe enough to require medical attention.
"Okay, on your feet." he pulled Sam up who willingly rose to stand in front of the sink and let Dean pull his arm under the running water. He hissed, jerking back, trying to pull his arm free from Dean's hold, settling down when the cold water offered him some relief. The water pressure didn't break any of the five bubbled blisters and Dean blew his breath out, grateful for that.
Sam sniffed, but remained still and quiet.
"Keep your arm under the water. I'll be right back." he went to search for a clean, soft cloth to wrap the arm. He had antibiotic ointment and non-stick gauze in the first aid kit, but no bandages. "How's it look?" he pushed his way in next to Sam at the sink. "Let me see. Yeah, 'k, keep it under there a while longer, so um, were you adding wood to the fire? In the stove, maybe?"
"No." he was shaking, whether from his wet head and dripping hair, the cold water running over his arm or pain, Dean didn't know nor did he ask. It didn't seem all that important at the moment.
"You didn't get this burn from the water in this bathroom Sam." Dean said carefully, not wanting to outright accuse him of lying again.
"I dunno Dean, I got out, got dressed, I picked up a comb and…. my arm hurt and…."
"Sit." he guided Sam down onto the toilet and patted his arm dry as carefully and as lightly as he could.
"Is…it, um, bad?" Sam was all but on his toes, his butt left the toilet, he'd relax and ease back only to tense and come off the seat again. "Ow, god." he groaned. "Dean stop, that….hurts."
"Aaah, yeah, Sam, it's not good. Guess I'm hurting you, huh?"
"Um, I'm really not hungry anymore," he wiped tears from his cheeks with his right thumb. "Kinda just wanna go lay down." he jerked with a soft whimper. "Ow."
"Sorry, sorry, shit…..I'm sorry." Dean wiped his hand on a towel, the ointment rubbed in as well as he was going to get it. "Shudda shaved your arm, tape's gonna rip the hair out when you take the bandage off." he ripped a pillow case into strips and made a loose bandage around Sam's arm, tying it off. "Okay? Too tight?"
"It's good." he started to get up but Dean blocked him with his knee. He glanced up in confusion, all he wanted was to go lay down. "Dean? I wanna …"
"Take these." Dean's voice was soft. Sam blinked – pain meds. "Sam."
Sam forced himself to focus on Dean's outstretched palm and the pills that rested there. "No."
"Sam, I know you don't like to take pain meds, but you're wiped. Your back, your shoulder, your head, and now your arm. I'll give you a couple hours to sleep then I'll take another look at that arm, if any of those blisters broke, you're going to see a doctor." he filled a glass with water when Sam took the pills from him. "You might have to anyway."
Sam was too dazed to argue. He obediently swallowed the pills and gave Dean back the glass. They hadn't been orange so he guessed they were something stronger than ibuprofen.
"I know you aren't hungry, but try a piece of toast." Dean suggested. The pills would knock him out for a couple hours and Dean intended to drive down to the small town and use the payphone to place a collect call to Bobby. He also needed to pick up some more first aid supplies, ask where the nearest hospital was and get some groceries, might as well do it all in one trip. Sam nodded, hugging the blanket as he settled down on the sofa.
Bobby truly hated it when his home land line phone rang, it was usuallya solicitation. He couldn't honestly say why he even kept the line active.
"Hullo?" he heard the clicks that told him he was talking to a computer and was in the motion of hanging up when he heard an automated voice announce he had a collect call and ask if would he accept the charges. "Who the hell calls collect anymore?" he waited for the announcement to provide the name. Dean. "Yeah, yeah, sure." Bobby replied and waited for the call to connect. "A collect call? Are you kidding me? What the hell are you bothering me for?"
"Yeah, hello to you too." Dean cut in. "Look, I don't have a lot of time here, Bobby."
"I'm the one paying for the call." Bobby replied dryly.
"It's a pay phone, other people are waiting to use it." Dean explained impatiently. "I'm out of …"
"Yeah, like, whatever, where's your cell?"
"I'm at a campground miles into the mountains, no cell reception. Look Bobby, I…"
"Ok, ok, so, what do you want?"
"I'm trying to tell you. Sam….." Dean began only to have Bobby interrupt him again.
"Sam? Haven't heard from him. Last I heard from either of you was you telling me you were taking a vacation. I assume you know where you left him."
"He's with me."
"Then why are you calling me?"
"Cause something ain't right Bobby. I don't know what hell is going on, but something's up with Sam."
"Again?" Bobby sighed. "What is it this time?"
"I dunno, we were on a hunt before we came here, I didn't think he'd gotten hurt, but….."
"Now Dean, you do tend to over react where he's concerned. I'm sure he's fine."
"He fainted last night."
"He what? Oh now, come on!'
"Dammit Bobby, stop interrupting me!" Dean flared up. "He fell on his shoulder and you should see the freaking bruise on his back and this morning, he burned his arm and I have no fucking idea how he did either. We don't have hot water in the cabin, and he said he wasn't trying to add wood to the stove."
"He fell on his shoulder?" Bobby repeated. "How? And where?"
"When he fainted." Dean snapped impatiently. "In the parking lot of the diner."
"You were serious about that? Well damn Dean, bruises happen, and I'm sure he didn't take a cold shower, the water.."
"Is heated by a freaking wood stove, it doesn't get hot enough to cause a burn that blistered."
"Ok, ok, so he burned it on the stove, what do you want me to do?"
Dean sighed. "Do some research or something! I just…guess, I …he's got me on edge."
"He always does. I'm sure he's fine but let me pick a book and do some reading. Can I reach you on your cell?"
"How much longer are you doing the rustic thing?"
"Til Saturday, but we might have to find a hospital. Those blisters break, I'll have to take him in."
"The burn Bobby!" he exclaimed. "Will you listen?"
"Don't yell at me, I heard you the first time, I just assumed – as you are wont to do when it involves Sam – that you were exaggerating." Bobby huffed. "Is he ok?"
"I dunno, maybe, there's no concussion, but he…"
"Concussion? You didn't say anything about him being concussed. When did he hit his head?"
"When he fell."
"When he fell?" Bobby repeated.
"Yeah, you know, when he fainted."
"I thought you said he fell on his shoulder."
"And hit his head?"
"You aren't making any sense." Bobby said. "Cut your vacation short and bring him here."
"Yeah, yeah, look let me go." he'd thought talking to Bobby about Sam would make him feel better, it hadn't.
"Dean, tell me where you are." Bobby said with a patience he didn't feel. "If I can't reach you to check in on how Sam's doing, and I don't hear from you, I need to know where to find you."
"Yeah, ok, we rented a cabin near Devils Lake."
"In North Dakota?"
"Yeah, um, this payphone is at a store. I can give you that number and you can leave a message. They won't take it to me, but I come into town, I can pick it up, ready?"
"Go ahead." Bobby wrote the number down. The last call he'd gotten from Dean had been to tell him he was going off on his own for a while and wouldn't be in touch for at least a week. He hadn't said Sam would be with him. When Bobby had pushed him for more information, Dean had said good-bye and hung up. Now, not only was Dean telling him where he was, he was also leaving a way for Bobby to get in touch with him. "Make an effort to call me in two days."
Dean went back to the cabin, expecting to find Sam still asleep so finding him sitting in a chair at the kitchen table, right hand holding a towel to his nose with his head tilted back, was a surprise.
"Sam?" he let the door close with a bang, walking over to put the bag of groceries on the table. "What are you doing up? Thought you'd be asleep?"
"You went out?" he mumbled from behind the towel, lowering his head to give Dean an accusatory look.
"Um, yeah, went to the store to get your crackers and raspberry ginger ale. I was only gone like, an hour Sam." he took the towel from Sam. "Now, what did you do? You went out for ice? Dressed like that?" he hid a grin.
Sam touched one finger to his swollen, bleeding nose. "Ugh, nose bleed." he was pale, eyes hooded with fatigue. "I have pants on."
"From what? You were asleep Sam, how the hell did you manage to hit yourself in the nose?" he cupped Sam's chin to hold his head still. "And hit yourself hard enough to cause that swelling?" he looked at the towel. "And to cause it to bleed that heavily?" he gently poked and prodded the swollen nose. "Hell. Does this hurt? Can you breathe ok?" he pinched the bridge of Sam's nose, causing him to stiffen and jerk his head away.
"OW! I dunno Dean, I was asleep, woke up, and my nose was bleeding." Sam swatted Dean's hand away. "Can't feel much of anything, what did you give me anyway?"
"Uh-huh, just like that, huh?" Dean wet a towel with cold water and handed it to Sam. "Bleeding looks to have stopped. Eat some crackers and go back to bed and I'll get you some more ice." he gave Sam two ibuprofen. "Take the bed."
When Sam woke up again, it was close to 4 o'clock. He was somewhat disoriented because he expected to see either the fireplace or the back of the sofa and seeing a wall with a window gave him a fleeting moment of panic. He didn't feel good at all, his back still ached and his shoulder was sore but it was his arm that caused him to stifle a cry; his fingers were swollen and stiff, protesting his attempt to wiggle them and make a fist.
While his hand didn't hurt, his arm sure as hell did, hurt all the way to his shoulder that was already giving him fits. He blinked in an attempt to clear his vision, but the room remained blurry and off-tilt. He sat up slowly, right hand holding to his left arm, biting his lip against the sudden flare of pain. He thought about taking the bandage off to see why his arm hurt so much but decided he just wasn't up to dealing with the self-inflicted pain it would cause. The pain meds had obviously worn off. He'd get up and search out Dean who was sure to be somewhere close by and let him do it.
It wasn't until Sam was out of bed and standing that he became aware his belly hurt and he found he couldn't straighten up and that was how Dean found him; standing next to the bed, doubled over, left arm held against his stomach, right arm holding to the dresser to keep himself from hitting the floor.
"Hey?" Dean hung out in the doorway. "Going somewhere?
"Uh, to…find..you." Sam gasped breathlessly. "My…arm…hurts."
"Yeah, gonna for a while. It's what happens when you burn yourself."
"I did what?" he shook his head, groaning when his knees buckled and he hit the floor, "Dean…I, um…don't…feel good." he wiped the back of his right hand across his lip. At first Dean thought he'd taken another shower, his hair was that wet, but when he walked closer, he realized that it was sweat. He'd crawled into bed in only his t-shirt and underwear and both garments were now wet. Sam tried to stand up, but settled for sitting on his right hip, head down as he fought his rebellious stomach.
Dean went to the kitchen sink to wet a towel. Had he gone directly to Sam's, he might have been there soon enough to hand Sam the trashcan before he vomited all over the floor.
"Great!" Dean threw his hands up and turned back to the kitchen. He wondered what Sam had left in his belly to bring up. He hadn't eaten much of anything that day and had only had a bit of soup the day before which he had already lost to the toilet at the restaurant. He'd had time to sleep off the painkillers and Dean didn't think they were responsible for Sam sitting in a heap, vomiting on the floor. "What did you do this time? I swear, every time I let you out of my sight you end up hurting yourself somehow."
"Nooooo." Sam hunched over, bangs brushing the floor as his belly heaved again. "Gawd, I hate this." he groaned.
"Hey, keep your head up! Don't get your hair in….." Dean broke off as he pulled Sam upright by his good shoulder and Sam raised his head to wipe his palm across his chin. "Blood? Is that blood?" he leaned closer. "Sam? Are you pukin' blood?" Sam looked at his hand, wiggled his fingers and raised panicked eyes to meet Dean's.
"Um, maybe. I guess." he sighed, the brief moment of alarm gone. "Oh."
Dean didn't panic, attributing the presence of blood from the earlier nosebleed. "Here." he closed Sam's fingers around the wet towel and guided his hand to his face. Sam pushed it away, shoving with some force at Dean's hand.
"What the hell is your problem?" Dean demanded. "It's just a wet towel, ok?"
"Where were you?" Sam let his weight fall against the dresser, his left arm was useless and his right held the towel. "You left." he swallowed hard. "Again."
"I was just sitting outside, I heard you get up." Dean straightened up. "Come on, get off the floor so I can clean it up."
Sam buried his face in the coolness of the towel then rubbed it through his hair before dropping it and taking hold of the dresser to pull himself to his feet. Dean watched him struggle, waiting to see if he would ask for help. Sam didn't want to get up, what he wanted to do was curl into a ball on the floor, ask Dean for more of the pills he'd taken earlier, close his eyes, and pass out. He didn't think Dean would go for that idea but getting up just wasn't in his immediate plans so he let go and slid down to the floor, no longer caring what his brother thought.
"Oh no, no you don't. You ain't staying on the damned floor. Come on, get up." Dean stopped him from lying down. Sam gulped, more of a choked cry, taking a breath as he gathered himself to rise when Dean took hold under his arms and pulled, gaining his feet and holding to the dresser until he gained his balance. "Back to bed?"
"Um, bathroom." he waved weakly towards the small room, shuffling slowly towards the wall, meaning to hand walk it's length for support.
"You need help?" Dean had let him go to get paper towels to clean up the floor. Sam hadn't moved. "Sam?" he sighed, dropping a wad of towels over the mess on the floor. "Okay, come on. Wanna look at your arm anyway."
"Shi-it, it….hurts." he whispered. "Need…um…some clean…clothes."
"Sure." Dean gave him an arm to lean on. "Sit, you can change when I'm done, maybe wash up a bit and, God, pease tell me you won't need help." Dean wedged himself on the floor in front of Sam. "Lemme see."
"Hard doing anything one-handed." he sat on the toilet and held his arm out to Dean. "We aren't going anywhere, are we?"
"No." Dean un-wrapped the bandaged and removed the gauze. Sam flinched with a hiss. Dean didn't like how swollen his hand and wrist were, the bandage hadn't been tight enough to cause the swelling. "Not for a couple days." his eyes widened at the angry, raw burn on Sam's arm. He got up for the Neosporin but when he got back down and Sam saw the tube, he knew he was in for a fight.
"You want to touch it?" Sam asked nervously. "Dean, it hurts bad enough without you poking it…"
"You don't want an infection Sam." he waited until Sam nodded then squeezed the gel on his fingertips. "Ready?"
Sam tried, he truly tried to sit still and let Dean hold his hand and rub the ointment in, but he couldn't do it. He tensed, and winced and jerked, whimpering until tears pooled and he bit through his lip. Dean gave up, Sam was going to need to see a doctor and have the burn treated properly.
"Sam, if you won't let me or do it yourself then you'll have to see a doctor…"
"No. I don't need to." Sam shook his head. "Do I?" he asked with a sigh. "You think?"
"You can't stand me touching it Sam." Lord knew they both could handle more pain than any normal Joe, but pain wasn't the only problem. Infection could kill a person and Dean was not going to wait until the infection became life threatening.
"Tomorrow then, can we wait and go tomorrow? I just don't feel up to it now." the thought of riding in the car for any length of time had him pleading to get his own way. "Please, Dean." his eyes glimmered with emotion, cutting into Dean's firm resolve not to give in.
"Okay, ok, fine, tomorrow." Dean rubbed the ointment onto the gauze. It wasn't the best way to apply the medicine but it was his only way for now. He taped the gauze over the burn, re-wrapped the arm with the make-shift bandage then pressed his palm down with considerable force against Sam's skin. Sam cried out, coming off the toilet, but Dean didn't let go until Sam went limp, slumped down and pitched forward. He'd been expecting Sam to squirm, maybe try and break the hold, hell, even cry but not pass out.
"Son-of-a-bitch." Dean muttered. "Whoa, hey." he caught Sam and tried to hold him up, but there was no room to maneuver and Sam was limp and floppy. Dean had always marveled how limp Sam could go when asleep or unconscious, how limp and loose-limbed he could be when he didn't want to do something, it was like his bones ceased to exist. Dean managed to keep Sam from falling into his lap and somehow gained his feet, Sam conscious but unresponsive. "Sam, come on, get with it." he kept Sam on his feet with sheer strength and help from the wall.
Sam heard his brother's voice but couldn't understand one word he was saying. He felt tugged and pulled in different directions. His shoulder wanted to be rubbed and massaged, his stomach threatened to crawl up his throat and choke him, his nose refused to inhale a deep breath and his arm, oh god, his arm. The pain that radiated from his arm caused his toes to curl, his knees to knock together and his thighs to clench. He couldn't get on top of it, couldn't get a hold of it, tried and failed to understand what Dean wanted from him but years of obeying his older brother made him struggle to respond.
"Sam? You still hafta piss?" he gave Sam a gentle shake, causing his head to bob but eliciting no other response. "Fine, piss the bed."
Sam stumbled but with Dean's support, made it back to bed where he roused enough to take more pain meds. He mumbled something that Dean translated into Sam wanting Dean to have the bed but willingly went to sleep when Dean told him to stay put. Once Sam was finally down, Dean went outside to sit on the porch to watch the sunset. He made up his mind to take Sam to a doctor the next day and depending on what the doctor said, head on home to Bobby's. If Sam was going down from an infection, Dean wanted him in a familiar setting, with all the comforts of 'home' while he recovered.