A/N: Set in season four, after Dean's return from Hell. Pretend Ruby doesn't exist, and Sam never got addicted to demon blood. Nope, these days he's just hunting and taking care of Dean, who is slowly recovering from Hell. "Slowly" being the operative word, here.

Spoilers for anything through Season 4, though I think what I just said up there might be a bigger spoiler than anything in this story if you haven't seen the season. Anyway, also Wincest, though nothing explicit. Happy reading!

Dean is on fire. Blistered skin and blood slicking his fingers and fire, the air in his lungs is fire, shredding his throat and crackling in his chest when he tries to –

"Breathe, Dean, come on! It's ok, you're ok, just breathe, man!"

Sam's voice is panicked and very far away, almost drowned out by the hiss of Dean's skin sizzling off. He lets it go; it's not important. The poker in his hand, and the sobbing man on the table in front of him, are. Dean watches his dripping red hands shove the poker into the man's abdomen, and feels the skin between his shoulder blades split, his own blood stinging his raw back.

"Dean Dammit, please listen to me! You're ok, can you hear me? Dean?" There are hands on him, pulling at him, trapping him.

The man is wailing now, begging, and Dean wants to slap him, tell him the fire is everywhere and nothing ever stops it. Not even giving in. He can't tell him that, though, because he drips ash and blood from his ruined throat when he opens his mouth, chokes on it when he tries again to take a breath of air that isn't air. That's always been the worst part, the never being able to breathe, so of course it doesn't stop even after he breaks, and his hands are reaching into the wet red hole he's made in the man on his rack now. He wants to want to stop.

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:Six hours earlier:

Sam is trying really hard to stop the grin that wants to break out over his face, knowing he'd never be able to explain it without sounding insane or inducing a forbidden chick-flick moment. He glances at Dean, who is sitting in the passenger seat and drumming his hands on his legs in time to the soft Metallica coming from the speakers. Those beautiful hands; scarred and calloused and hiding freckles in the pale skin between the knuckles, hands that Sam had been convinced he'd never see again. Never touch again. He stops himself from grabbing them now by tightening his grip on the wheel.

Dean sees (or feels, with his creepy big-brother omnipotence) Sam's look and flashes him a smile in return. It's a manufactured expression, the laugh lines around his eyes not quite canceling out the slight sardonic tilt of his lips, but it's an effort, and Sam is beyond grateful. Hunt-happy, adrenaline-junkie Dean is a lot better than the guilt-crushed zombie he's been sharing a bed and a car with since Dean told him about Hell.

It's progress, and Sam's euphoric. Dean's trying to smile and eat and talk and generally be a functional person, which means he sees some value in those things. Even if that value is only the cessation of Sam's uncontrollable nurturing. It's progress.

"Should be a motel in another fifty miles or so," says Dean.

Sam nods, trusting his brother's encyclopedic knowledge of the road. "Sounds good. Wanna get food first or just order something later?"

"Order something. Don't wanna have to leave again when we get there." Dean grins and wiggles his eyebrows, the same way he did when he was twelve and just starting to call girls "chicks" and it's so adorable Sam can't help but reach over and pull Dean in so he can kiss him on the temple, which Dean allows with a minimum of scoffing. Just enough to maintain the image.

They wear identical smiles for the rest of the ride, Dean staring out the window and Sam watching Dean more than the road.

The motel is right where Dean said it would be, and Sam gets a room while Dean grabs their stuff. When he comes out of the office he is presented with Dean's ridiculous, denim-filling ass, sticking out of the backseat as he reaches for something on the floor. Dean straightens up and shoots him an evil grin, hoisting his duffel over his shoulder.

"You comin' or what, Sam?" He snatches the room key from Sam's hand on his way past, and Sam closes his gaping mouth, trying to look disapproving as he grabs his own bag and follows Dean.

They order pizza and clean weapons, sitting side by side on the bed with everything spread out on a towel over the comforter. Hands brushing and hips touching leads to Sam scraping his fingernails up the inside of Dean's thigh and then he's on his back, laughing as Dean growls and kisses his neck.

When the pizza comes, Dean answers the door shirtless and messy-haired, and Sam watches from the bed and tries not to laugh as the delivery girl stares at his brother's bite-swollen lips.

The rest of the evening passes in a soporific flow of familiarity. They eat, watch TV, and try again to finish cleaning the weapons on the table but Dean's presence is just too distracting so Sam puts down the shotgun and picks up his brother's hands, rubbing his thumbs over the knuckles which always seem to be scraped raw from punching something. Dean watches him silently, eyes huge and slightly wary, biting his lip and blinking rapidly when Sam starts kissing his palms and the tips of his fingers.

Later, as they lie tangled and smelling of each other's sweat, Sam sees that same wariness creep back into his brother's expression, feels the slight shift of Dean wanting to pull away from Sam's arms, and he tightens his hold.

"You're not going anywhere." He whispers into the top of Dean's head, lips brushing soft spikes of hair. Maybe the words will sink directly into Dean's brain and the meaning behind them will finally penetrate that thick skull.

"Wasn't…" Dean mumbles against Sam's chest, but Sam can see the nervous lip-chewing, the twitching of fingers that want to curl into fists.

"Good. I need you to stay here, right here. Ok?" Praying hasn't really seemed like an option for a while, but Sam sends up a prayer that Dean will hear the most important part of that sentence and believe it, for once: I need you. You're important. Imperative.

With a sigh, Dean curls around Sam's torso and shuts his eyes, every line of his tense muscles begging Sam to drop it. Unable to argue with the pain on Dean's face and in doing so shatter the illusion of contentment Dean is trying so hard to hold up, Sam just kisses the top of Dean's head and strokes a hand down his back. He'll convince him someday. He has time, now.

"Hey," says Sam after a long, quiet minute. "Hey, you asleep?"

"Was about to be, Sammy, what?" There's no real irritation behind the words.

Sam smiles. "We never finished cleaning the guns."

This makes Dean slump against him, then sigh and raise his head. "Ok, I'll finish up. You go ahead and get some sleep."

"Woah, nope, come back here!" Sam wraps his arms around Dean's neck and waist and stops his escape. "I'll do it. You're the one who needs sleep, De. Just… let me take care of it, ok?" Without waiting for an answer Sam slides out of the bed, pressing a hand to Dean's chest to keep him there. The dim light from the window paints Dean in diffuse pastels, gold for his skin and jade for his eyes and a residual rose over his face and neck.

"There's not that much left to do." Sam says, and kisses him, slow and gentle, feeling almost unbearably protective. If he could, he'd buy a house with a huge soft bed and keep Dean in it forever, try to make up for three decades of the world's cruelty with lavish comfort.

But he can't, he knows Dean would punch him for that thought, so he makes his brother stay in bed and pulls the inadequate blanket over him and sits down at the little table to finish cleaning their guns.

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Sam is jolted awake by an elbow thumping into his stomach. He lets out a grunt and feels for Dean, finding him twisting and shivering in the tangled sheet.

"Dean? Wake up. Come on, it's ok, wake up." Sam clicks on the lamp by the bed, filling the room with thin yellow light, and reaches again for his writhing brother. If he can wake Dean up in the beginning of his nightmares, it's usually ok, but if not, they're both in for another long night. This one can't have been going on very long, because the screaming hasn't started. Sam hates that he knows this.

"Nn… no… stop it, stop it, stop it, stop… please," Dean whimpers, tears leaking from his shut eyes. He arches, choking out a sob. "Did it, did what y'wanted… don't…"

Holding back tears of his own, Sam carefully gathers Dean into his arms, rubbing his back, brushing at the tears with his thumb. "Dean, Dean, wake up. I've got you, you're ok, you're ok, I promise. Just wake up, man, please," he keeps up the soothing words as Dean shivers in his arms. Shaking or slapping him never works, just sends him deeper into the nightmare. All Sam can do is try to coax his brother awake, hoping his voice and his touch are enough to draw him out.

Not tonight, apparently. The shaking is getting worse, and Dean's sobbing, taking huge, heaving gulps of air as he squirms to get free. It's clear he can't hear Sam over whatever is happening in his head but Sam needs to calm him down now before he starts hyperventilating.

Sam grips his shoulders and squeezes cautiously, hoping this doesn't make things worse. "It's ok, come on, you're ok! Please, Dean…"

Suddenly Dean's eyes fly open and his whole body stiffens, and Sam feels a thrill of hope. But Dean is staring straight through Sam, tears still dripping down his face, his trembling lips and wide eyes saying terror rather than relief.

"Dean…? Can you hear me?" Sam cups Dean's chin, strokes his hair. "It's ok, it's just a dream."

And then Dean screams.

The sound rips out of his throat like it's being dragged with a meathook, which, Sam thinks, it actually could be. Frantically shoving at Sam's arms and kicking at the sheets, Dean is staring at the air behind Sam and screaming. He finally extricates himself from the blankets and Sam and falls out of the bed, scrambling desperately backward until he hits the doorframe of the bathroom.

"Dean! Hey, hey, hey, no, it's ok, it's ok, I promise, come here," Sam feels like he's been spouting the same reassuring nonsense for years. He tumbles out of bed and crouches down in front of Dean, who has curled into a tight ball and is clutching the doorframe, breathing like he's just finished sprinting a mile and still choking out screams.

"God dammit!" Sam runs a hand through his hair in frustration. Helplessness washes over him in a sickening wave as he watches Dean's face twist in agony and his hands scrabble at the wall like it can save him from whatever his mind is doing to him.

The fluttering of Dean's pulse in his neck is clearly visible against the pale skin. He's hyperventilating, shallow breaths hissing in and out, and a blue tinge is creeping over his lips.

"Breathe, Dean, come on! It's ok, you're ok, just breathe, man!" Unable to do nothing, Sam decides he can't make it worse and sits beside Dean, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and bringing his head down to Sam's shoulder. Weakly, Dean slaps at Sam's arms but he's going under, panting for breath, hands clutching ineffectively.

"Dean Dammit, please listen to me! You're ok, can you hear me? Dean?"

Then, just as suddenly as it started, it stops. Dean collapses against Sam's chest, eyes slamming shut. The quiet presses like a solid force against Sam's ears, broken only by Dean's gasps for air.

"Dean? Can you hear me?" Gently, Sam lifts his brother's face, wincing at how pale it is. He rocks them both, and suddenly realizes with a shiver that they're both still naked. "Come on, I've got you. Dean?"

A strangled noise falls from Dean's lips, and a tremor runs over his body. "Ss… Sammy?" he whispers.

"Oh," Sam breathes and pulls Dean closer, relief making heart pound and skin tingle. "Yeah, baby, it's me. You're ok. It's ok."

A shaking hand slowly reaches up and runs over Sam's face, brushing his lips. "S-Sammy… wh-why are y-you… nn… oh, God – " Then Dean is fighting himself free again and throwing himself down in front of the toilet, where he gags and vomits, clutching the bowl with white-knuckled hands.

With a sigh, Sam stands and snatches the blanket from the bed, then returns to the bathroom, switching on the blinding fluorescent light. He kneels beside his brother, wrapping an arm around his chest to keep him upright as he heaves. Soon Dean is coughing and dry heaving, letting out a moan every time he convulses and nothing comes out. Sam clings to him, desperately kissing the back of his head and shoulders, rubbing his stomach, willing this to be over.

Finally, Dean goes limp in Sam's arms and Sam peels him away from the toilet, wrapping them both in the blanket as they lean back against the wall. Dean is panting and shaking, and Sam can feel tears running down his chest. "Shh, sh, sh," he whispers. "It's ok now."

"Nn – " Dean chokes and coughs, then tries again. "N-no, s'n-not ok, Sammy…" Wet, despairing eyes blink up at Sam.

"What? What is it?"

"Y-you… I've g-got blood… all over m-me, S-Sammy, s'everywhere and n-now it's all o-over you, oh G-God, Sammy, you shouldn't be t-touching me, sh-shouldn't – " Sam is once again fighting to keep his brother in his arms as Dean grows more and more agitated, pushing to get away.

"Wh – no! No, Dean, there's no blood! There's no blood, I promise, I promise, ok? Look at me, please, Dean? Look at me." Putting his hand to Dean's cheek, he brings Dean's pale, tear-streaked face around to look at him. Dean shakes his head, squeezing his eyes shut and pulling at Sam's arms. "No, baby, please," Sam begs, and Dean's red-rimmed eyes meet his. "There's no blood. There's no blood, and I wouldn't care if there was."

This elicits a sob, which Dean grits his teeth to try and suppress but it slips out anyway, along with fresh tears. "No… Sammy, d-don't say that, you don't… you really sh-shouldn't touch me, it's everywhere…"

Sam tucks Dean's head under his chin and rubs the back of his neck, saying "Shh, sh, sh," over and over as Dean cries, assuring him there's no blood. Sam's heart is breaking. He can feel the cracks spreading in his chest, sharp and angry. Not knowing what else to do, he holds his brother tighter.

Gradually the sobs dwindle and Dean settles into Sam, hiccupping a few times. They sit in the quiet, bright bathroom and Sam listens to Dean breathe, feeling completely wrung out.

After a while, the cold starts to numb his bare ass and legs, and he squeezes Dean's shoulder. "Hey, you asleep?"

"Mm…" Dean huddles a little closer. "Was about t'be…" he mumbles. "Gotta… f'nish cleanin' th'guns?"

Sam chuckles softly. "No, I just thought you might want to be almost asleep in a bed. What do you say?"

"Um… y'comin' with me?" The question is so soft it takes Sam a minute to figure out what he heard.

"Yes," Sam pulls Dean's face up and plants a gentle kiss on his forehead, then brushes his lips over Dean's. "Yes, I am definitely coming with you."

"…'kay then. Thas' good." Dean blinks slowly and Sam helps him up, keeping him steady as they walk the few feet to the bed. The sheets take a minute to untangle, then Sam climbs in behind Dean and pulls him close, covering them both. Dean is asleep in minutes, while Sam watches him, lacing his fingers through Dean's.

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Dean wakes in the morning slowly, like floating to the surface of a lake. When he breaks the surface, he opens his eyes, trying to figure out why he feels like he spent the night getting kicked in the stomach by angry bikers – did he screw up a pool hustle yesterday?

Then a dark flood of images rushes past his eyes – fire, bleeding flesh and his own hands covered in mostly not-his-own blood, sharp dirty metal and faces wailing at him – and there are big warm hands running over his back and chest, and someone talking to him.

He rolls over to face Sam, who is all worried eyes and tight mouth and sleep-tangled hair falling in his face. Without a word, Dean silences Sam's flood of "are you ok?" by capturing his mouth in a kiss, and pushes a hand into Sam's stupid hair, loving the feeling of it silky between his fingers.

The kiss is slow; Sam seems reluctant to demand anything of him, so Dean deepens it himself, licking and biting gently until Sam opens his mouth and moans quietly around Dean's tongue. When they pull back for air, Sam searches Dean's face.

"I'm ok, Sammy, really," Dean smiles. It's mostly not a lie, the crap from last night and all the nights and some of the days before it is still roiling around in his head, but it's no match right now for the feel of Sam's skin under his hands, the warmth of his mouth. Sam is the one thought stronger than Hell, always has been. Sometimes Dean wishes he knew how to stay stuff like that, knows it would make Sam happy, but he has no idea. So he settles for another kiss, trying to make Sam understand how grateful he is, how impossibly lucky he feels to be back here with him.

"Hey, hey," Sam breaks the kiss and stares at him, somehow managing to make wide clear puppy-eyes look stern. "You don't have to say thank you. I don't ever want to be anywhere else but right here, ok? Not ever." He presses his lips to Dean's again before Dean can reply.

They don't leave the room that day, and they don't leave the bed until almost three in the afternoon, when Dean has finally had enough of sleeping, though Sam apparently has not had enough of watching him sleep.

A/N: Well. I hope you liked it! I decided to write something that was the exact opposite of my other Supernatural piece, haha. Apparently I'm over the first-time-Wincest jitters. Anyway, thanks for reading, and pretty please with Dean on top review!