Part Three

Dean woke with a groan, rolling his shoulders and trying to work the kinks out of his neck. It was a testament to how exhausted he'd been that he'd managed to fall asleep at all; he couldn't remember actually managing to get comfortable in one of the chairs in this room and he'd been sitting in them for the better part of a day. He may have been viewing the world from a new vantage point, having dragged the chair across the room so he could read a magazine in peace, but still. Dropping off to sleep in one had not seemed a possibility.

The room was dim, the light source divided between the faint shaft of moonlight shining in from the window, and the glow coming from the TV against the far wall.

It was a long time since he'd woken up to the dull sound of an infomercial in the background, and he only had to glance at the overly cheery man demonstrating his new electric can-opener to know they hadn't got any better. It had been a documentary about ship building last he remembered. The grainy archive footage of Boston docks might have been the anaesthetic he'd needed to over-ride the muscle cramping effects of the chair.

He ran a hand across his eyes to wipe away the remnants of sleep and forced himself to his feet. He glanced over at his bed, shaking his head with a smile. Bobby was leaning against the headboard, head tilted back and baseball cap on his knee, fast asleep. The TV remote was still propped up in his hand.

Dean crossed the room and pulled the remote from Bobby's lax grip. When he flicked off the TV the room was plunged into near darkness. He was tempted to throw a blanket over the sleeping man but Bobby was already stripped down to his shirt sleeves. Dean didn't think he'd ever seen the older hunter wearing so few layers. Sam had turned the heat on when they'd got back from the warehouse and Dean hadn't touched the dial since. He'd already stripped down to his t-shirt by the time Bobby had arrived, and while the other man must have noticed the stifling heat the second he'd stepped in the room he'd had the tact not to mention it.

Dean set the remote on the nightstand and stepped away from the bed, cursing quietly as his bare foot sank into something soft and spongy. He lifted his foot gingerly and the remains of a half eaten muffin slid off his heel and back onto the floor.

"Great," he muttered, hopping slightly in an effort to brush his foot free of crumbs.

He threw a glare at the sleeping form on the other bed. The muffin had been on Sam's lap the last time Dean had looked over, but it had obviously dropped off the side of the bed at some point in the night.

It wasn't the only thing.

Sam had kicked the duvet down to his feet, half of it pooling over onto the floor. He was still wearing his hoody, and when Dean flicked the lamp on low he could see Sam's face was slightly flushed – not by fever so much as the external heat. He was sprawled on his side with his left arm in front of him, draped dramatically across the bed, as though he'd tried to turn over onto his stomach but been prevented by the IV, still providing the fluids his temperamental stomach had rebelled against.

Dean hesitated, unwilling to move away, to tear his eyes away from the steady rise and fall of his brother's chest. Since Death had returned his soul, Sam had been asleep more than he'd been awake. For a time Dean hadn't been sure he would ever open his eyes, but there was no dread or uncertainly in standing here. For the first time since he'd clapped eyes on Sam after the Djinn attack - no, since long before that, since kneeling at Stull - Dean finally began to feel himself relax, to feel as though maybe he was where he was meant to be.

Sam's back was to him. Dean rested his palm flat between his brother's shoulder blades, taking the time to feel Sam's chest expand beneath his hand with each deep breath. There was no crackle or wheeze, no stuttering, straining muscles.

Sam sighed softly and leaned into his touch, uncurling slightly to roll back into Dean, tilting his head to look over his shoulder. Without opening his eyes he issued one sleepy groan of a question.

"'s okay," Dean whispered. "It's just me."

Sam sighed a hum of acceptance and relaxed back into his original position.

Dean didn't move.

Sam huffed softly and dragged himself across the bed, fingers curling in the bed sheet as he pulled himself over.

Dean smiled and sat down in the space Sam had vacated.

"Hold that thought," he whispered, clambering back to his feet and crossing the room to flick off the heating unit. He hadn't noticed the faint hum until it fell silent.

By the time he'd flicked off the lamp and settled himself back on the mattress, Sam was sleeping too deeply to notice his return.

-0-

The next time Dean opened his eyes the room was suffused with the orange glow of morning. He stretched and pulled his face out of the pillow. The scent of bacon hit his nose and his stomach rumbled.

He groaned and flipped over onto his back, rubbing sleep from his eyes. The smell seemed to be coming from a grease stained paper bag on the nightstand by his head.

Dean propped himself up against the bed head and tore into the bag. The bacon sandwich inside was still warm. He'd demolished half of it in two bites before he realised he was alone on the bed.

He looked up to find amused eyes watching him from the other side of the room. Sam was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall directly opposite him, with an affectionate smile on his face.

Dean blushed and took a more sedate bite of his breakfast, pausing to actually chew before swallowing. He'd barely eaten the previous day - Sam hadn't been able to stomach the smell of food and Dean himself had not had much of an appetite.

His stomach roared in anticipation of the next mouthful.

That had obviously changed.

"Where's Bobby?" he asked, noting the silence in the room.

"Town." Sam spoke slowly, as though it was an effort to force out the words. "He wanted to see if there was any news from the warehouse… the missing people…" he trailed off, his eyes slipping closed.

The chair Dean had fallen asleep in that night was sitting two feet to Sam's left.

"Why are you on the floor?" Dean asked him.

Sam opened his eyes and breathed out a short laugh. "Honestly? It was closer."

"Want me to..?" Dean half put down his sandwich with some reluctance and made to rise from the bed, but Sam waved him off with a slightly uncoordinated hand.

"Nah, I'm good here. I've got space." As if to demonstrate his words Sam lowered his knees and extended his long legs in front of him, sighing happily.

Dean shrugged and resumed his breakfast. Sam had been curled up under a dozen blankets for a day; bed was probably the last place he wanted to be and he'd be cramped and uncomfortable in the chair. Dean knew that from experience. Sam probably wanted to feel like he was back in control of his own life, so if he wanted to sit on the floor who was Dean to stop him?

Dean studied his brother while he finished his food. Sam must have been aware of the scrutiny but chose to close his eyes again and bear it in silence.

Sam's hair was slightly damp and curling at the edges, suggesting that he'd recently showered. He was wearing clean clothes too; old baggy jeans and a loose t-shirt that were a step up from sweats, but said he still wasn't feeling up to looking more presentable. He was playing with a half empty take away plastic cup of orange juice in his hands. When Sam raised the straw to his mouth to take a sip he had to use both hands, and that still didn't stop his arms from shaking.

When he lowered it again, Sam sank back into the wall with a sigh of relief.

Definitely not back to full strength then. But he was voluntarily drinking and didn't seem to be worried about keeping it down. In fact, the IV was out of Sam's arm; the plaster covering its site stood out sharply against his pale skin.

"How long have I been asleep?" Dean wondered.

"A while. It's a little after ten."

"You should have woke me."

Sam shook his head. "You needed the sleep."

The door creaked open and Bobby slipped back into the room. Dean squinted against the bright shaft of sunlight that followed the other man in. Bobby gave a flinch of surprise when he saw Dean sitting up in bed.

"The police are out in force in town after a mass of people never made it home the other night, but the warehouse is clear. There's no way of linking the missing people back there."

Dean nodded. Bobby did a double take when he noticed Sam sitting on the floor but Sam just waved in acknowledgement. His eyes flicked over to Dean's face, but when Dean shrugged Bobby shook his head and chose not to say anything, stepping over Sam's legs as he made his way to the other side of the room.

"I figure it wouldn't hurt to clear out anyway," Bobby continued, picking up his bag from the other bed. "We don't want people looking too hard, they might start asking questions."

Dean nodded in understanding. It never paid to stick around after a job, especially given the number of casualties on this one. Sam looked like he was up to being moved. They could maybe grab a room a couple of counties over, rest up for a while until he was sure his brother was up to anything more. Perhaps for a while after that.

"In was thinking we should head back to Sioux Falls. You guys can rest up there for a while," Bobby offered casually. "There's still a lot of ground to cover researching this 'mother of all' business. It's a lot of books to go through, I could probably use Sam's help if we're gonna gain any headway."

"Sure, Bobby," Sam agreed quietly, smiling softly behind the other man's back.

Dean looked up in surprise. Bobby was watching him warily. He may have been extending the olive branch to Sam, but it was Dean he was looking at to take it. Dean's forgiveness he was looking for over the way he'd reacted to Dean's little brother.

Dean nodded and smiled, swallowing down the lump in his throat. "We'll follow you back. Might take us a couple of days to get there."

Bobby nodded. Sam looked at him curiously but didn't object. There'd been no lay-over on the way down here and they usually avoided the expense where they could, but Dean figured they were entitled to splurge. Sam would most likely want to hit the books the moment they arrived, arguing that he was tired not useless, and Dean would be faced with the reality of what they could be up against. The enormity of the task in front of them.

Sam had almost died. Again. They'd gone through too much to get here; Dean wasn't going to take anything for granted. He'd been without Sam for too long, they were going to do things right this time. And if that meant taking a day to just kick back and appreciate what they had, then he would do it.

A year without his brother had given Dean too much time to think. There had been so many things he'd wished he'd done differently. This time there would be no room for regrets.

END