Author's Note: Because this image would not leave me alone after the episode. These boys still manage to break my heart week in and week out.
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
Lay Your Weary Head to Rest
When they get in the piece of shit car of the week, they both sit in silence for a long moment in the parking lot. Leaving a newly restored Castiel behind at the mercy of a Lucifer only he can see weighs heavily on both of them despite everything in the past that stands between the brothers and their former angel like a gaping chasm of betrayal.
And then Sam yawns.
He glances at Dean sheepishly—or at least tries to, but he's so overwhelmingly exhausted that the look falls apart completely. They hadn't wasted any time getting Sam out of the hospital after Cas had taken on his Lucifer-sized burden, so Sam was still running on nearly a week without sleep. The sooner they get moving, the sooner Dean can find them somewhere nondescript to hole up in and let Sam finally rest.
Dean rolls his eyes and reaches into the back seat, pulling out one of his spare jackets and drops it into Sam's lap before starting the car. Sam blinks at the jacket uncomprehendingly and after the confused seconds stretch on, Dean feels the need to slap him gently on the shoulder and pull him out of it.
"Hey," he says to his bleary-eyed brother. "Get some sleep." You've earned it, kiddo.
Sam frowns. "Where're we headed?" His words are slurring a bit.
Dean shrugs. "Doesn't matter. Anywhere that's not here." They have demons, minus Meg, on the lookout for them and Dean would like to let his brother sleep for about a week without any black-eyed or big mouthed interruptions.
And here means Cas, means facing a former friend who…
Dean shakes his head to shove the thoughts aside. He can't think about that right now. Not when his little brother is sitting in the front seat next to him, alive, and aware of what's real again. For the longest time, Dean thought the worst thing he'd ever see was Sam falling into Hell—it's a sight that still haunts his nightmares. But his unshaven, pale-skinned, bruise-eyed, battered and broken brother lying in that bed, unable to tell Dean from Lucifer, staring into space at something that wasn't there was so much worse in so many ways.
It's only now that Dean can let himself dare to believe the words he'd told Sam in that warehouse all those months ago: "We got you out, Sammy."
And he's never letting him go again.
"Dean?" Tired as he is, Sam clearly notices Dean's hesitation.
"It's nothing, Sammy," he tells his brother before cranking on the radio. Because it really is nothing with Sam there. Clearly not in the mood to push the issue, Sam instead watches him curiously as he runs through the dial until he finds what he's looking for. "Aha!" Dean crows triumphantly.
Sam stares at him for a moment with an unreadable look on his face before breaking out a smile; it's small and it's exhausted, but it's real. It's not one of those fake, sad half smiles Sam was giving him only days before when he thought he was dying that made Dean want to gouge his eyes out. If he never sees one of those smiles again it will be too soon. No, this is the genuine Sammy article that Dean's been seeing since the kid was in his crib and, well, Dean thinks he can be excused if his heart skips a beat at the sight.
Dean pulls the car out of the parking lot as Sam bundles the jacket into a makeshift pillow and curls up with his head against the passenger window. The hospital isn't far from the highway and it's not long before they're pulling onto a stretch of four lane asphalt that disappears into the horizon like a promise.
Sam's breathing has evened out in the gentle embrace of a mercifully dreamless sleep before Dean has gotten the car up to speed, and the sounds of soft rock follow them as they limp, always forward and always together, into the setting sun.
- fin -