Title: Simple Man
Author: Still Waters
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural. Just playing, with love and respect to those who brought these characters to life.
Summary: It was the simple things from their lives before Hell, Lucifer, and Leviathans that Dean missed most. Like stitching up a bleeding Sam who wasn't hallucinating that the suture needle was a meat hook.
Notes: This story takes place within season seven. I got the image of Sam hallucinating a suture needle as a meat hook late one night before bed and knew I wanted to build something around it. This piece is the result – a look at the boys' times in Hell, how it's changed their lives, and the undeniable strength of the two of them when they're together, even in the worst of situations. I hope I did the characters and emotions justice. Just as I do not own "Supernatural", the movies "Psycho" and "The Godfather" do not belong to me either. Thank you for reading. I truly appreciate your support.
It was the simple things that Dean missed most.
Like when they weren't so dangerously exhausted that they could sleep through something like impaling their arm on a rusty car door.
"What the hell, Sam? I mean, seriously, how do you sleep through something like that?"
"'S just a laceration, Dean. Didn't go through," Sam countered wearily as Dean guided him to lay flat on the bed.
Friggin' semantics. "Yeah, just a laceration," Dean thrust a blood-soaked hand in Sam's face with a glare as he peeled back the makeshift shirt-bandage, eyes darkening as the ragged wound edges were promptly drowned in a surge of blood again. He folded three threadbare motel washcloths into a halfway adequate pad and pressed them against Sam's right upper arm, shoulders stiffening when Sam's jaw clenched against the sandpaper sound of grinding teeth as Dean cinched the bloodied shirt tight around the makeshift gauze. Nudging Sam over with his hip, Dean squeezed the uninjured forearm lightly in support as he perched on the edge of the bed, his other hand skimming rapidly through circulatory and neuro checks.
He missed the Impala.
"We never should've taken that damn car," Dean growled, sticky fingers leaving mocking smudges of color against Sam's pale wrist.
"It was the easiest one to grab, Dean," Sam reminded him, swallowing thickly as the nausea of waking up to ripping himself off an embedded chunk of metal finally began to kick in.
"Dude, Volvos suck on a good day, let alone when they're a hundred years old with freaking…..tetanus spears in the doors."
"Fine," Sam's eyes sank closed with a weary, practiced sigh. "Next time we're on the run from the reason Purgatory was friggin' invented, we'll make sure we take the time to steal a car up to your standards."
"Bite me, Sam."
"Go insult the car to its face. 'M sure it'll be happy to do it for me," Sam's head lolled toward his injured arm.
"Smartass," Dean's eyes narrowed from angry concern to a more fond, freaked out version.
"Car snob," Sam shot back weakly.
Dean pushed himself to his feet, reaching across to nudge Sam's good shoulder on the way up. "Stay awake and keep pressure on that. I'm gonna go grab the first aid kit from Norman Bates out there."
"Dude, I was sleeping…." Sam mumbled.
The flash of panic that Sam was already down enough blood volume to be delirious quickly faded as Dean picked up on the intended reference.
"Yeah, well we're gonna have to shower that arm in disinfectant. Who knows where that door's been?" Dean grumbled.
"I'm goin'," Dean threw his hands up, heading for the door. "No sleeping, Sammy, I mean it. And make that other hand useful," he pushed, lingering in the doorway.
Sam raised his left hand in a gesture that he thought was useful before flopping the arm across his chest to grip the sodden bandaging, eyes slitting open with a weary glare, nostrils flaring through the nausea.
Yep, definitely not loopy. Just bitchy. Good.
Dean reluctantly stepped outside, glaring murderously at the Volvo as he grabbed their stuff. "Soon as I find another car, you're toast, you hear me?" he growled at the bloodied door.
His baby never would have hurt Sam.
Turning his back on the machine's betrayal, Dean strode back inside, appropriated a kitchenette chair for a treatment tray, and began organizing the closest they got to a sterile field.
He missed when everyday life was about fighting demons from Hell, not the demonic memories of being in Hell.
When Dean got back, every chain link fence and spider web reminded him of the rack. And despite him never telling Sam about any of those embarrassingly irrational fears, Sam instinctively knew - effortlessly placing his body between Dean and the quietly panic-inducing offenders on suburban streets; subtly increasing distracting conversation to give Dean something to grab onto. It was the same instinct that pulled Dean's eyes from arranging the suture supplies to find Sam dropping the scarred left hand from the bandage to grip it tightly in his right.
Great. Because Sam apparently hadn't been attacked enough today.
They couldn't even bleed out from a stupid, non-supernatural injury without it becoming about Hell anymore.
"Sammy?" Dean asked quietly.
"Don't," Sam ground out, voice low, dangerous, vibrating with the tenseness of a cornered animal.
"Dude, what…." Dean barely kept his surprise in check as he brought his attention up to Sam's face. The hazel eyes had opened, the earlier muddiness of blood loss and pain replaced with a frighteningly clear, haunted focus directed just beyond Dean's left shoulder.
"You're not him." A tiny shake under the very real, unspoken threat as he pressed the hand tighter with a wince.
"I said….. Get. Back." Sam's voice was ice. "Where is he? Where's Dean?" he demanded.
"I'm right here, Sam," Dean pitched his voice for a combination of authoritative volume and brotherly assurance, moving a hand to Sam's forearm.
Sam jerked back as if burned. "Don't touch me." The husky voice was a feral growl. "You're not real. I know Dean was just here. Where is he?"
"Still right here, Sam," Dean reinforced, keeping his voice steady and his hands to himself, even as they itched to reorient his normally tactile brother.
Sam pulled back further and Dean felt him reach for his knife before Sam actually began to move. With a whispered, "sorry, Sammy", he grabbed the wound with one hand and both of Sam's hands with the other and squeezed. Hard.
Sam's cry was a gut-wrenching storm of rage, frustration, terror, and panic. Dean warred with triggered memories of that same scream coming from his own mouth years ago; a rough undertow to the flood of protective instinct from Sam bucking under his grasp. "Stone number one, Sam. This is real," Dean squeezed harder, "I'm real." He dared to let go of Sam's hands for a brief moment, lightly brushing his fingers against Sam's inner wrist even as he kept pressure on the seeping wound.
Sam bit off another vocalization, breath stuttering, eyes flickering with hope. "Dean?" he gasped.
"Yeah, Sammy, right here," Dean stumbled roughly.
Sam's eyes bounced around the room, throat bobbing uncertainly before landing on Dean with some semblance of focus. "You're here," he said carefully, the words an equal division of noting and asking.
"Yep," Dean kept it simple, waiting for Sam to get his bearings.
"Y'all right?" Sam's voice was thick with worry.
"I'm not the one bleedin' all over the bed, dude," Dean pointed out before softening his response to Sam's still muddled brain. "I'm fine, Sam. 'M not goin' anywhere."
Sam moved the scarred hand, dislodging Dean's fingers to place his own in a mirror position against Dean's wrist. Dean let go of the dripping bandage, laying the free hand on the inside of Sam's elbow, brushing the brachial artery. He watched as Sam's face slowly cleared, the fog of disorientation passing as reassuring pulses beat against their fingers.
"You with me?" Dean asked softly.
Sam nodded, the now recognition-filled eyes swiftly overrun with exhaustion as he sagged against the bed with a choked groan.
"Remember what happened?" Dean motioned to the bleeding arm.
Sam squinted. "Norman Bates car?"
Dean let out a relieved breath. Getting Sam back from one of those episodes would never stop feeling like, just for a moment, that something in the universe didn't hate them. "Yeah. Not sure how the car mistook a drooling Sasquatch in desperate need of a haircut," he flicked Sam's hair with feigned disdain, "for a hot," followed by closing his eyes in appreciative memory, "showering Janet Leigh, but…"
Sam swatted Dean's hand with a reflexive eye roll. "But what?"
"Just proves what I said before. Volvos suck," Dean grinned triumphantly.
"You suck," Sam muttered, a twitch of his lips betraying the fondness behind the retort.
Dean nodded at the unspoken equilibration. "Eloquent, Sam," he scoffed before gesturing to the injured arm. "You good if we start tryin' to keep some of that red stuff inside your body now?"
Sam grimaced as if just noticing the wound again, eyes blinking Dean back into focus around the dizziness of blood loss. "Yeah," he groaned.
"Good," Dean nodded. "Gonna have to be quick and dirty with this one. Thing's bleedin' like a bitch so once it's numb, I'm gonna pop a few stitches in first before cleanin' it, okay?"
"Okay," Sam breathed, eyes closed again.
"Hey, no sleeping, remember?" Dean nudged Sam's hip until the depleted hazel shuddered open. He reached over to the chair of supplies, double-checked the Lidocaine syringe, and removed the protective gauze he'd laid over the suture needles. "All right, Sammy. Need you on your side for this one."
"No!" Sam struggled to scramble back from Dean, a frustrated, wounded sound caught in the back of his throat as his weakened body refused to cooperate with the primal need to flee.
"Whoa, Sam!" Dean barely restrained himself from reaching for the shaking form hunching into the headboard. Dammit, the hallucinations didn't usually come that close together. What was this, a freaking hallucinatory aftershock? About turning onto his side? What the…..
Dean forced his focus back to Sam's face, to the terror-filled eyes of the toddler he had raised, fixated on the chair of supplies. Okay, so…..something there. "What is it, Sam?" Dean asked, the words a quiet calm he most certainly did not feel.
He wasn't sure if the resulting sneer that twisted Sam's panicked expression was horrifying or heartbreaking. "Like you don't know," Sam spat. He laughed, the half-manic crack before the final break. "What, you thought I wouldn't recognize them? That I'd forget?"
Dean's heart raced as he tried to figure out what Sam was seeing. His eyes ran over the supplies, cataloguing them as Sam began to mumble in a rush of disjointed memory.
Dean paled, nausea burning in his throat as some of the fractured, fearful rambling coalesced into recognizable words. He reached for one of the suture needles and held it up with a suddenly tremor-wracked hand.
Sam threw himself further into the headboard, listing to his left as he couldn't back up any further. "No, no, no, no, no, no," the repetition was a breathy mantra of denial and terror, slowly fading into a glimpse of present-day Sam struggling to fight back, moving his right arm to work the scarred left hand with a sharp wince. "It's not real," he struggled to control his breathing, twisting his hand roughly. "Those aren't here. You aren't here. It's just my brain leaking memories from the Cage again." He swallowed shakily, obviously still trying to convince himself, eyes locked with unwavering focus on his hallucination, jaw tight, chin raised. And damn if that bit of Sam Winchester defiance didn't make Dean ridiculously proud of the kid.
"That's right, Sammy. You tell that sonuvabitch," Dean encouraged.
Sam's eyes flickered. "Dean?" he asked, unsure, working the hand desperately.
Sam paused for a moment, eyes shifting from Dean to the suture needle and back again. Dean saw the moment Sam accepted his presence over Lucifer's, but the relief quickly lost to renewed heartbreak as Sam asked, voice small, "then why is that still here?"
Dean's eyes burned. "It's just a suture needle, Sam," he choked.
Sam's face knotted in frightened disbelief. "How….how can you be sure?" he stammered.
"I'm sure, Sammy."
"But the blood….the muscle….the sound…." Sam fixated on the needle with agonizing certainty.
Dean swallowed roughly. "Memories, Sam. Hallucinations. Not real, not now. I'll tell you what is real – you, me, a motel room decorated by a colorblind monkey, and a bleeding arm that should've been sewed up like an hour ago."
Sam frowned, working the words through the swamp of his muddled mind. He dropped the scarred hand and reached for the wound.
"Sam…." Dean tried to intercept, but Sam grabbed his hand instead, sandwiched it between the soggy bandage and his own, and dug deep into the sodden material.
"Dammit, Sam, stop," Dean pleaded as his hand was drenched in a fresh wave of blood. It was bad enough they'd had to do it once already, and Sam couldn't afford to lose much more. He looked at his little brother's face, the liquid eyes focused on the suture needle Dean had dropped back on the chair, face twitching with concentration, body vibrating with pain as he willed the truth to reveal itself, for the hallucination to break.
The familiar burn of rage overtook Dean's gut. Screw Hell. Screw Lucifer, right in the face. He hated the hallucinations as much as he hated anything that hurt Sam. But, asshole car or not, a bleeding arm used to be a simple fix – clean, stitch, bandage. Their biggest concerns had been blood loss and infection, and Dean knew how to handle those.
He missed stitching up a bleeding Sam who wasn't hallucinating the suture needle as a damn meat hook.
Thirty bloody, painful seconds later, Sam dropped Dean's hand and allowed his brother to catch him as he sagged to his right. "I see it now," he said, the words a choked half-step above a whisper.
"Just a suture needle?"
"Just a suture needle," Sam confirmed, eyes closing over the slurred words.
Dean moved swiftly, easing Sam flat, then onto his left side, adjusting the towels under the injured arm and scrubbing as much of the congealed blood off his hands as possible. He grabbed the Lidocaine, then eased back against Sam's spine, bracing an elbow on a bony hip as he lifted the edge of the bandage. "Okay, Sam, here comes the Lidocaine."
"No!" Sam jerked violently out of the needle's path. Dean swallowed a curse as he pulled back and recapped the syringe.
"Dammit, Sam, we can't put this off any more, man" Dean's insistence was a frustrated plea. "You lose much more and we're talkin' blood transfusions…..and the last place we wanna be with Lucifer hangin' around is a damn hospital." Of course, if Sam had to go, they would go. But Dean would much rather avoid that route until he came up with a plan to protect Sam from locked wards and continuous antipsychotic drugs.
"No," Sam choked out, clarification this time instead of knee-jerk fear. "Don't numb it."
Dean felt like one of those cartoon characters skidding to a stop with a comical question mark over its head as he stumbled around a response to Sam's statement. "What?"
"Don't….numb it," Sam ground out through a gasp.
Dean stiffened as he saw where Sam was going. "No. No way, Sam."
"Dean…." Sam groaned, left hand clenching into a white-knuckled fist.
"We're not talking three or four stitches here, Sam. That door was aiming for bone. I wanna puke just thinking about peroxide hitting the thing. No way we're not numbing it first."
Sam's left hand moved to tangle the sheets in a death grip, his right flailing back to find Dean by feel, latching onto a corded forearm. "Dean…."
"Dammit, Sam, no," Dean choked, even as he understood.
"Dean, I…." Sam went quiet and rigid with a hastily cut off intake of air. Dean gently rolled him onto his back, smoothing the long hair back to find his brother's eyes; eyes that finally focused on Dean again after ten seconds of heart stopping blankness. Sam tightened his hold on Dean's arm, picking up where he left off. "…I get it. And it's not like I want to, it's just he keeps….." he swallowed hard, shuddering and turning his head closer to Dean, shrugging away from an unseen touch. "He won't stop, Dean," Sam admitted wearily, voice cracking, "and you're right. We can't risk a hospital. So either you knock me out and hope I don't wake up until you're done, or you do this. Because…." Sam's throat bobbed as he closed his eyes.
Dean chewed his lip, blood bitter on his tongue. Dammit. The kid was practically translucent, but he was right. Lucifer had wasted too much time already and Dean had been the one to introduce Sam to the reality-grounding properties of pain in the first place. He'd heard the unspoken plea in the exhausted silence, seen the quiet self-assessment and decision in the murky, lidded eyes…..and knew what Sam was really saying: The pain, I can handle right now. Lucifer, I can't.
"D'n, please…." Sam slurred.
Dean fought back the wild urge to start throwing punches at the universe as a whole; a universe that had brought them to where his little brother pleaded for pain to keep him sane.
He missed when taking care of Sam didn't mean hurting him.
"All right, Sam," Dean managed to find the words. "But we do this my way."
"'K," Sam whispered.
"First things first, we gotta get you on the other side of the bed," Dean patted Sam's arm lightly, disengaging himself from Sam's fingers so he could stand up.
Sam's eyes shot open in panic at the loss of contact, hand flailing for purchase.
Dean swallowed. Definitely the right call to move him. "Easy, Sam. Just moving the supplies to the other side. Be right back."
Sam nodded shakily, too exhausted to feel embarrassed at the childish need.
"Okay, all set," Dean returned to Sam's side. "Ready to shift?"
Sam made a small sound of acknowledgement and helped get himself to the other side of the bed, his left arm now hanging over the side instead of his right.
"Not so far," Dean chided, easing Sam back a bit. "Now, on your side," he pulled Sam onto his left side, readjusting the towels under the exposed right arm, and evaluated his position as he sat on the edge of the bed. Good. Before, he had been sitting at Sam's back, his brother turned away from him with eyes focused on empty space easily filled by Lucifer, and nothing to grab onto but cold motel sheets. Now, Dean was sitting so Sam could curl around him and look up at his face or grab his leg, providing Sam with a tactile and visual reassurance; an external weapon for his internal fight.
Dean laid down the ground rules. "All right, now if you gotta pass out, you go ahead and pass out. But if you're gonna hurl, let me know so you don't friggin' aspirate, got it?"
"Mmm." There was barely any sound behind Sam's acknowledgement.
Dean drew in a shaky breath. "Okay Sam, here we go." And despite how he felt about their supposed Heavenly Father, the next words still came unbidden.
God forgive me.
He released the makeshift bandage and slapped a fresh towel against the tide, dropping the sodden cloth to the plastic bags lining the floor with a sickening squelch. Wiping the freed hand on the towel under Sam's arm, Dean reached for a suture needle and began wading through the flood, tying several messy sutures in an attempt to mildly stem the flow. Sam curled into him a little more, his left hand lightly gripping Dean's knee. With six sutures placed, Dean reached for the peroxide, bile in his throat. "Sorry, Sammy," he whispered.
And flushed the wound.
Sam let out a guttural scream, hastily cut off by a choking, wet hitch.
"Shit," Dean swore, clasping the towel back against the wound as he pulled Sam to the edge of the bed, hanging his head down over the side and opening his mouth. Sam shuddered violently, muscles tense to the point of shattering as he vomited. Dean moved a hand from Sam's spasming abdomen to grasp the hand that had fallen from his knee. "Easy, Sammy," he soothed, struggling to keep his own emotions in check. "I gotcha, you're gonna be okay."
God, he wished for that to be true.
Forty-five agonizing seconds passed before the vomiting died down to short, gasping sobs, tears hitting the dirtied floor in a syncopated rhythm to the ragged breaths. Bracing Sam with the one hand on the wound, Dean squatted alongside the bed, grabbed a flashlight from the chair and gently coaxed Sam's mouth open. "Let me see, Sam. Just wanna make sure you're clear."
Sam visibly worked to subdue the gasping shudders so Dean could look.
"Okay, you're good," Dean pronounced, tilting his head ruefully at the laugh muffled within the pained sound serving as Sam's response.
"Yeah," Dean chucked darkly, leaving a diluted smudge of red under Sam's left eye as he brushed away the tears. "You ready to move back?"
"No," Sam sobbed as he began to push himself back into position.
"Right," Dean rolled his eyes, glad to see his stubborn brother was still with him. Sam adjusted his shaking body to curl toward Dean again, sniffling roughly as he tried to stop vibrating so Dean could work.
"It's okay, dude, you're good," Dean assured the unspoken concern. He took Sam's left hand and put it on his knee again. "Just don't dislocate it, okay?" he tried for a grin.
Sam sniffled wetly, curling closer with another half-sobbed laugh.
"No more cleaning – just dry and stitch," Dean laid out the plan, squeezing Sam's hand supportively before letting go and picking up the suture needle again. Sam moaned low in his throat as Dean pulled back the towel, air hitting raw tissue. Dean threw the towel on the floor, grabbed a new one, and patted the length of the wound dry, silently cursing the continued blood flow as he packed the towel into the wound, and peeled back a small area to begin stitching.
It was the longest sewing job of his life. Twenty-eight agonizing stitches of trembling, dry-heaving little brother breathing in gasping, sobbing moans, curling himself desperately around Dean, long fingers alternating between bruising his brother's knee and fisting distressed handfuls of his shirt as the tears silently coursed down his cheeks, the red-tinged tracks from Dean's earlier touch a diluted memory of Bloody Mary.
Whether it was Lucifer screwing with him so he'd have to fight the whole time, or Sam stubbornly holding on so Dean wouldn't have to do it alone, he didn't pass out until Dean announced the final stitch. It was only then, with a weak grip of gratitude on Dean's throbbing knee, that Sam finally went limp.
Dean tied off and snipped the last suture with a hastily controlled breath and wet two washcloths with lukewarm bottled water to gently wash Sam's face and scrub what dried blood he could from the stitched arm. Patting the injury dry with the last of the motel's unraveling washcloths, Dean tossed the towels under Sam's arm to the floor, then dragged himself to the bathroom and washed his hands, studiously avoiding looking at himself in the mirror by turning his head to watch an unconscious Sam instead. Drying his hands, he returned to Sam's side, spread a liberal coating of antibiotic ointment to the puckered skin, and bandaged the wound before cutting Sam's bloody T-shirt off and gently easing him onto his back. With a final check of bandage tightness and vitals, Dean supported the injured arm with pillows, pulled the covers up to Sam's chin, and forced himself to walk away long enough to clean the rest of the room.
With the garbage bundled into a dark bag to throw in the car in the morning, Dean finally sank onto his bed, scrubbing his hands through his hair and down his face, surprised to find them wet with tears. He recognized the adrenaline crash for what it was, in the fine tremors starting through his hands. He didn't know whether Lucifer had been trying to hold off treatment so Sam would bleed to death or if he was just being a dick as usual, but either way, Dean's bed was suddenly too damn far from Sam; the eerie quiet in the wake of his brother's pain too much for his racing mind. Dean trudged over to Sam's bed, turning the TV on low for distraction along the way, and carefully climbed under the covers. He sat braced against the headboard and watched his little brother sleep, weary eyes filled with the intense focus and subconscious need of his four year old self in the days after the fire, before he could even pronounce "adrenaline crash" let alone know it was why he was so drawn to keep Sammy in sight. He swiped at stubbornly persistent tears before they could soil Sam's bandage and tried not to think about how pathetic he must've looked until, blessedly, he too, passed out at his brother's side.
Dean woke up two hours later to a terrifying emptiness. "Sam?" the sleep-thickened voice sharpened with worry as he confirmed the feeling, reaching over to find Sam missing.
"S'okay Dean. Go back to sleep," Sam's weary, slurred voice came from across the room.
Dean bolted upright to find Sam shakily making his way to the TV. "Yeah, sure, Sam, you're doing great. Definitely not about to crack your head open," Dean huffed angrily as he threw back the blankets. "Dude, I swear, if I have to put another stitch in you tonight…." He swallowed thickly as he stalked to Sam's side, the knee-jerk anger already dissipating into pure concern as Sam carefully tried to shift his white-knuckled grip from the bed to the TV stand. "What the hell are you doing up?" he demanded, reaching Sam's side and getting an arm under his left shoulder for support.
"Turnin' off the TV," Sam's voice was heavy as he swayed toward the monitor.
"I'm sorry, man. Did it wake you?" Dean immediately felt chagrined as he hooked an arm around Sam's waist, wincing at how quickly his brother gave into the added support.
"No," Sam replied, fumbling for the power button.
Dean frowned at the seemingly nonsensical response, brushing a hand over Sam's forehead, unsure whether to be relieved or worried at the lack of fever. "I got it," he finally interrupted Sam's continued drunken attempts to turn off the TV, eyes landing on the screen for the first time as he pressed the power button.
Sam hadn't woken up because of the TV; he had woken up because of what was playing. The same instinct that had put him between Dean and chain link fences had pulled him from pain-induced unconsciousness because The Godfather was starting on the late night movie channel. And even when he could barely string three words together, Sam had forced himself to his feet, because he knew Dean couldn't listen to Brando's Don Corleone anymore without hearing the eerily similar pitch and cadence of Alastair.
Dean swallowed thickly, moving his eyes from the darkened screen back to Sam's face. Fuzzy hazel struggled to bring Dean into focus, but even a half-step from unconsciousness, shaking with exhaustion and blood loss, Sam's meaning was undeniably clear: You're m'brother, Dean. Just 'cause you're helping me with my Hell right now doesn't mean I stop helping you with yours.
God, he loved that kid.
Dean hid suddenly shining eyes behind a quick quirk of the lips and hitched Sam closer, pulling the uninjured left arm over his shoulders. "Okay Janet, back to bed."
Sam leaned into Dean appreciatively even as he groaned, "Dude, if I wasn't about to throw up on you…."
Dean guided them slowly back to the bed. "Yeah, I know," he acknowledged whatever creative way Sam wanted to tell him to screw himself. He sat Sam down and eased him forward. "Breathe through it, kiddo," he soothed, rubbing Sam's back lightly.
Sam shuddered through careful breaths until the nausea finally passed, listing against Dean's side with a muted cry as his injured arm took the weight. Dean eased him up to take pressure off the wound while still maintaining the needed contact. "Think you can handle some meds?" he asked softly.
Sam nodded drunkenly, all previous energy long since exhausted. He let Dean put the pills in his mouth and hold the water bottle when it became apparent that his own hand-eye coordination was non-existent, swallowing the antibiotics and pain meds without protest, then quietly allowed Dean to settle him back down, readjust the pillows around his arm, and tuck him in.
"Right here, Sammy," Dean assured him, moving around the bed to climb back under the covers. He settled in at Sam's side and squeezed his hand gently. Moments later, with a soft, satisfied sigh, Sam relaxed back into sleep, long fingers curled loosely around his brother's.
Dean sighed. Hell, Lucifer, and most of the universe could still go right ahead and blow him; he'd always miss what they had taken away. But at his core, Dean was a simple man. Despite everything, he and Sam were still together.
And really, that was all he'd ever needed.
So Dean allowed himself to close his eyes to the comforting lull of Sam's even breathing. And even though instinct would tell him if something changed with that kid from halfway across the country, let alone the other side of the bed, he kept his hand in Sam's anyway.
Just so he wouldn't miss anything.