Every Hour of My Life
K Hanna Korossy

"Hello?"

Dean's head lifted from the mattress a little and rolled to look at the doorway. Instead of the doctor or maybe male nurse he'd been expecting to see, however, a guy about Sam's age in a sweatshirt had stuck his head in. "Yeah?" Dean answered, cautious and low. He didn't want to wake Sam, and strangers—unless they were young, hot, and female—were rarely a welcome sight.

The guy seemed to take the response as permission to step inside. Dean's hand itched for a weapon even as the kid's face broke into a tentative smile. "You don't remember me, do you?"

Dean looked him over again. Good hiking boots, expensive jeans, a sweatshirt with some school acronym Sam would no doubt recognize and be impressed by, and a tousle of blond curls. Not someone Dean would care about on a good day, but especially not the day after he'd had surgery, with staples tugging at his side at every move. "Dude—"

"Sorry, I'm not trying to…" The guy caught himself with a shake of the head. "My name's Torv. I was one of the hikers who found you. I went on and got your brother." He nodded over at the slumbering Sam.

Dean's hostility thawed at that. Probably still wouldn't hurt to be careful, and there was some embarrassment in the thought of how he must've looked when the hikers came across him. But the fact of the matter was that the group of strangers had saved his bacon and gotten Sam back to him, and that wasn't something he could make light of. "Oh. Sorry, don't remember much, y'know? 'Cept this girl in this tight shirt…"

Torv's face broke into a grin. "Bethany. Yeah, I'll be sure not to tell her boyfriend you said that."

Dean's mouth pulled up; despite himself, he liked the guy. Torv's earnest, friendly demeanor reminded him of Sam, actually, before life had piled too much crap on top of his brother. "Thanks, man." He didn't mean about Bethany.

Torv got it, blushing a little bit—yup, just like Sam—as he tucked his hands into his back pockets. "Hey, no problem. Glad to see you're okay—you didn't look so hot the last time I saw you."

"Tore up my liver a little." Okay, so his stomach had looked like he'd swallowed a freakin' baseball from all the bleeding, but they'd been able to fix it which meant it didn't matter. He raised his free arm ruefully, indicating the thick bandage below it. "Docs stitched me up fine, though."

"Glad to hear it." Torv looked like he meant the words. He nodded over at Sam again. "How 'bout your brother—his arm okay?"

Dean automatically glanced down. He'd finally gotten Sam to try to sleep, which had ended up with the sasquatch sharing the bed with him. Sammy was angled in the chair so he was draped along the edge of the mattress from elbow to neck, his forehead pressed into the ball of Dean's shoulder and his upper body and brace-encased arm trapping the rest of Dean's arm. It felt a little like half of him was under a heavy, sweaty blanket, but Dean was okay with that. Sam had desperately needed the rest, running on pure adrenaline ever since the naga had come out of nowhere and wound its crushing coils around Dean. "It's fine, just a bruised bone and some swelling. Didn't even break it."

Torv shook his head, his expression suddenly grave. "I was kinda hoping that—the rock had him pinned just right, you know? He never woulda been able to move it himself. If I'd taken a little longer to get to him…" Torv had gone pale, and he swallowed thickly. "Just, makes you kinda wonder, you know?"

His head was still aching from the anesthesia the day before, he was sporting a mild fever from a small surgery-site infection, and the rest of his body was sore from the phantom pressure of the naga. It was hard enough for Dean to remember the name Sam had checked him in under, let alone figure out what Torv was rambling on about. He blinked, letting a little of his own exhaustion slip out and answered with more honesty than usual, "Not really, no."

"Oh, well…" Torv suddenly straightened, his face constricting. "Wait, you don't know?"

"Know what?" Dean asked impatiently. "Sam went looking for help, fell and messed up his arm, and you guys found him." Dean still wasn't sure how he'd been coherent enough to send them on after Sam, or even how they'd found him after Sam had tucked him into that hollow before hiking out for help. But then, there was a lot Dean was fuzzy on about that day, including Sam killing the naga and saving his life, and considering how Sam's face had painfully shut down the two times they'd both been awake enough to broach the issue, Dean hadn't pushed it.

Torv's expression, however, had Dean thinking maybe he should have.

"Dude, tell me." As Torv continued to hesitate, Dean uttered a low growl of frustration, cutting it off when Sam stirred a little against his side. "He's my little brother, for God's sake."

Torv deflated, hands coming out of his pockets to wave helplessly at his side. "He didn't…he didn't just fall. There was a rockslide, and his arm got…wedged between these two rocks."

Dean's brain was still moving a lot slower than he liked. He tried to figure out what Torv wasn't saying. "Okay, so…he was trapped until you got there." No wonder Sam hadn't wanted to talk about it: it must've killed him to know Dean could have died while he'd been unable to summon help.

"No, it's more than… You see that movie, 127 Hours? The one where the guy gets his arm caught and has to…" Torv broke off uncomfortably.

The wave of cold sweat that passed over Dean abruptly reminded him of the shock he'd been slipping into the day before. Only, the drop in blood pressure was purely emotional this time. "You telling me—?" he started numbly.

"He, uh, he had a knife, and some alcohol, and he made a tourniquet out of his t-shirt. Think he was just, you know, psyching himself up when I got there."

Dean closed his eyes, feeling the hammer of his heart against the inside of his skull. Sam had…Sam had almost…for him.

Sam, tuned into him on that weird brother frequency, muttered something in his sleep and dug his fingers further under Dean's forearm. His warm, intact fingers.

"Hey, I'm sorry, maybe I shouldn't've told you."

"No." Dean worked to push heavy eyes open. His throat felt like he hadn't drunk anything in days. "No, man, I'm…" He locked his eyes on this stranger in front of him who'd saved Sammy from something Dean couldn't even contemplate. "Thanks. Thank you."

Torv blushed again. "Oh, hey, no problem. I'm just glad we were there."

"Yeah. Me too," Dean said dully. Sam mumbled in his sleep again, eyelids scrunching against the bangs that were stuck to them with sweat, and Dean absently pushed the hair back out of his face. "Thanks, man, seriously."

"Sure thing." Torv fidgeted. "Listen, the others are waiting for me—we just wanted to make sure you two were okay. Say hi to Sam for me, huh? Tell him I'm glad he's all right. And you, too. He was really worried about you."

Of course he was. Dean gave the guy a sick smile. Sammy had been ready to cut off his own arm—literally—to save his brother's life, and still all he would have been concerned about was Dean.

Torv said another quick goodbye and beat a hasty retreat. Poor guy probably hadn't counted on dropping any bombshells when he'd come to check on them. Dean snorted softly at the thought, rubbing a shaking hand over his mouth and then across gritty eyes. He knew too well the hurt of loving your family as intensely as he did, but it still shocked him every time how much it could hurt to be loved like that in turn.

Sam made a soft, unhappy sound in his sleep, probably the beginnings of a nightmare, and Dean suddenly had had enough of this hospital and being alone with the awful images crowding his head. He wriggled his shoulder gingerly, nudging his brother. "Hey. Sam. Wakey-wakey."

Sam started, lips smacking together and face pulling into a grimace before his eyes fluttered open. Discovering they were just a few inches from Dean's, he groaned and pushed up, a blush shading cheeks that were already sleep-flushed and creased from the sheets. "Wha—? Y'okay?"

Dean huffed again, not about to touch that one. "You were drooling." He watched, blindsided by a rush of fondness as Sam automatically reached up to wipe at his mouth. "Hey, whaddaya say we bust out of this joint?"

"What?" Sam blinked, suddenly a lot more awake. "Did the doctor—?"

"I can take it easy in a bed that doesn't cost, like, a thousand bucks a day and where nobody keeps waking you up to make sure you're resting okay—oh, wait. You'll be there…"

Sam, fully upright in his chair now and suddenly so much bigger than when he'd been curled next to Dean, gave him a pinched, unamused look. "Dean, you had surgery yesterday—"

"—and that was a whole day ago, dude. If something was gonna go wrong, it would've already." Okay, yeah, there was still the fever, not to mention—please don't, actually—the catheter. But none of that was anything they hadn't dealt with on their own before. "Sam," Dean threw in his own version of the dewy-eyed, small-furry-animal look, "I just wanna get out of here."

Sam blew out a breath, surrendering as Dean knew he would. "Yeah, all right. Uh, I'll get some stuff together and come back for you, okay? Try to see the doc one more time first."

"Yeah, fine, whatever." At another of Sam's bitchy looks, Dean raised a hand. "I will, okay? Geez."

Sam nodded, rising to his feet and absently brushing a hand through hair that stuck straight up on the side he'd been sleeping on. His brace caught in a few strands, and he gave it an almost bewildered look before dropping it to his side. There was a flash of…something in his eyes, but it was gone just as fast, leaving only fatigue and lingering concern about Dean.

"Maybe we can rent a couple of movies while I'm laid up," Dean ventured as Sam found his jacket under his chair and struggled into it. "Watch them on the laptop."

"I can download movies now, remember?" Sam answered absently. The sleeve of the jacket was ripped near the cuff, probably where the rock had gotten it.

Dean tore his eyes away from the damage; he needed to watch Sam's face as he continued. "I wanna see that one that just came out, the true story with that Franco dude? Heard it's good, you know? Realistic."

He saw exactly when the penny dropped. Half turned away from him, Sam froze. All except his fingers, which flexed against his side like he wasn't even aware of them.

"Dude, seriously," Dean said, quiet and deliberate. "Can you imagine being stuck like that, desperate enough to be ready to cut off your arm?"

Sam's gaze darted up to him. He'd gone pale, throat bobbing, eyes dark and frightened and silently begging.

He looked…trapped.

Dean swallowed. He took a breath, managed half a smile, and gave Sam's nearest hand, the braced one, a backhanded swat. "Hurry up, man. I'm expecting you back here soon with something to wear that isn't slit up the back."

Sam stared at him a moment longer. Dean stared back, not making light of this, but not calling Sam on it, either. They'd been through too friggin' much for him to hold his brother's loyalty against him. Didn't have to be happy about it—Sam would know that, too—but…Dean couldn't bear to punish him over it, either. He just…he needed Sam to know.

Sam took a shaky breath and nodded back. "Yeah. All right. Get some sleep while I'm gone, okay?"

Dean made a face but didn't argue.

Sam gave him one more long look, then left.

Dean dropped his head back onto the mattress, staring at the ceiling. Sleep, right. Like he hadn't just added to the stock of nightmares that waited on the other side of sleep. God, Sam…

He gave his head a shake. They always joked about the Winchester luck, but despite a couple of deaths between them and a family history that made the Borgias look warm and cuddly, they'd also had more than their share of near misses like this one. If Torv and his friends had come along a little later, if they hadn't stumbled across Dean, if they hadn't found Sam in time…

Watch out for your brother, Dad had always told Dean.

He couldn't help wonder sometimes, though, who had told Sam.

The End