Set early Season 7
Dim room. Warm air. Ugly curtains. Stained ceiling. Stale pillows.
Sam woke up to the awful familiarity of nearly every motel room they'd ever stayed in his whole life. He was flat out on the bed, dressed, on top of the blankets. The room was dimly lit by daylight, so he was sleeping in the daytime, but he couldn't remember just why. Hell, probably. That would explain why his eyes burned, his mouth was dry, and a sharp ache thumped into his brain, keeping time with his heartbeat. More hell had probably flooded past the ruins of his wall.
How many times did this time make?
He opened his eyes just enough to glance around, trying to endure the muted sunlight scalding into his brain, just long enough to confirm where Dean was in the room, at the chipboard table next to the window and the closed drapes, looking at something on his computer. Just as soon as Sam confirmed that, he closed his eyes again.
How long had he been out this time? Not minutes, because Dean would've stayed right by his side for more than minutes. Hours then, or a full day even. Sam wished he could remember and he was glad he couldn't remember and hoped he never needed to try and remember again.
However long he had been out, he knew Dean had been right here, the whole time, and that always bothered Sam as much as it comforted him. Staying with Sam whenever he was down for the count was just what Dean did, watching him, guarding him. Dean would keep him in eyeshot and earshot however long it took to know he was okay, with no question, no complaint, with barely a thought. He could be at a bar with a pretty, willing woman if he didn't have Sam to worry about. Hell, he could be with Lisa right now, if it wasn't for Sam, if Sam hadn't ripped him away from the first and only normal life Dean had known since he was four years old.
Thinking that always made Sam sick.
Dean shouldn't have to be here, Sam thought for the thousandth time. Dean shouldn't have to stay with him every second of every day waiting for Sam to have the next 'seizure', the imprecise word they'd attached to what happened whenever hell jumped him from behind. Dean shouldn't have to worry about keeping Sam safe through each seizure, making sure that he didn't break a bone or crack his skull on anything as he seized, worrying that Sam might choke and suffocate before he could stop it. He shouldn't have to sit with Sam while he recovered from each seizure, with Sam deadened from exhaustion, needing Dean to help him with every little thing, useless to do anything for himself.
Sam hated it, hated himself, hated everything. He wondered if it was selfish to hope that one of the seizures would take him out. He supposed it was selfish; it wasn't like Dean could go back to Lisa, even if Sam died. Him dying would only leave Dean alone. But – wasn't Dean pretty much alone now, stuck with a brother who was forever one breath away from Code Blue? If Sam was gone, maybe Dean couldn't go back to Lisa, but he could still have some better life than being nursemaid from now until they were in their eighties.
And for about the thousandth time, Sam thought that maybe Dean should just bring him to an ER the next time he seized and leave him there. And then when Sam came around he'd tell the hospital staff the truth, which they'd interpret as psychosis and lock him away someplace safe and Dean wouldn't have to waste his life taking care of him anymore. He could go on and have a life of his own, a better life than he'd ever had, than he ever could have, with Sam tied to him.
Sam was just about to collect the energy and strength and wherewithal to finally say that out loud when Dean's phone rang.
"Hey, Bobby." Dean said, in a half whisper. He thought Sam was still asleep. "No, we're still in Oil City. Sam had a seizure this morning. Yeah, it didn't last long, not as long as it has sometimes, anyway. He's still sleeping it off, we'll see how he feels when he wakes up and gets some food into him. No, we're good. Bobby – here, your place, wherever, I can take care of my brother just fine."
There was a pause while Dean listened to whatever Bobby was saying to him. Bobby must feel the same way that Sam did – that Sam was a burden that Dean shouldn't have to be shouldering. He was probably offering to help take care of Sam, just to take some of that burden away from Dean. And really, if Bobby would install even just a chemical toilet in the panic room, Sam would willingly go there and stay there permanently. With enough food and water, with some books and his computer, he'd only have to be checked on every couple of days, or even longer if things came up. It didn't matter. He didn't matter, as long as Dean was happy and had a good life. That's all Sam wanted. He'd do anything to give Dean that.
"No." Dean was answering Bobby again, still in the half whisper. "We can't hole up in your house for the rest of our lives, Bobby. We need to be out on the road, attacking this whole 'Big & Bad' situation head on. No, I'm not going anywhere without Sam, what d'you think? Bobby -."
Dean took a deep breath, like he had something hard to say. Guilt, probably. Misplaced guilt and family responsibility and the Winchester Code of Sacrifice. Sam didn't want to hear it.
"I hate that this happened to Sam," Dean said to Bobby. "I hate that these seizures keep hitting him and we can't find a way to stop them, and I'm going to keep looking for a way to stop them, but – we're brothers again, for the first time in I don't know how long. After everything we've been through, after every evil, twisted, malignant, lethal thing we've met that's kept us fighting each other as much fighting it, Bobby – Sam needs me, and I need that. Call me selfish, call me whatever, but being able to keep Sam safe while he seizes and get him to a bed when it's over, give him a glass of water and some painkillers and know that they'll help him, when I can keep him grounded in the here and now, or when he tells me what's going on and how he feels and I can help him through it –Bobby, I finally get to be the Big Brother again and there's no way I'm giving that up or even sharing it. Not even with you."
There was another pause and it was all Sam could do to keep his breathing shallow and even like he was still asleep so that Dean wouldn't know he'd heard anything.
"Okay, yeah. I'll call when we're on the road again. Okay, bye Bobby." Dean ended the call and Sam heard him stand up from the table and stretch, and then go into the bathroom.
When he came out again, Sam blinked his eyes open and looked over at him, and it felt like he was looking at Dean for the first time in forever. Yeah, he looked worried, but not broken, tired but not dead. He didn't look as burdened as Sam had been expecting he was feeling.
"Hey." Dean answered. He sounded happy. He always sounded happy when Sam came back. Sam always figured it was relief that the waiting this time was over and Dean could get their day started again. But maybe – maybe he was just happy that Sam was awake and nothing more. "How's the head?"
"Feels like sludge." Sam said. He put his hand over his eyes to block even the dim daylight. "Like sludge that's on fire."
"Yickk, here, I'll get you something."
"Is there ginger ale?"
"Yeah. Flat or fizzy?"
Sam considered the condition of his stomach before he answered.
"Coming up." Dean said and Sam felt him sit on the edge of the bed. "Can you sit up?"
"Yeah, just – give me a second." Sam pulled himself to sitting. When he opened his eyes enough to accept the pop can and tablets from Dean ~ "thanks," ~ they burned so much it stung tears out of him and he had to press his hands against them again.
Dean took the pop can and tablets back out of Sam's hands.
"All right, here, c'mon. Open up."
Not moving his hands from his eyes, Sam opened his mouth and let Dean feed him the painkillers and flat ginger ale.
"Okay?" Dean asked when Sam had swallowed. "Want some more?"
"No, not right now. Thanks."
They stayed that way for a few minutes, Sam hunched over, covering his eyes, waiting for the painkillers to start kicking in, and Dean right next to him, not saying anything, just waiting, until Sam sniffed in a long breath against the burning and tearing and misery. Then Dean tapped Sam's arm and stood up.
"Be right back."
Sam nodded, though he didn't know if Dean saw it or not, and waited for Dean to come back. He was probably going for a cold washcloth for Sam's eyes, judging from the sound of the bathroom sink turning on and off.
"All right, c'mon, lay back." Dean was back, sitting on the bed. He put a hand on Sam's shoulder and guided him down to his pillows. "Here, take your hands away, I've got this for you." And when Sam pulled his hands down from his eyes, Dean put the cold wet washcloth across them.
They'd done this a couple of dozen times or more, after pretty much every seizure. Sam bearing the pain, Dean bearing the painkillers, whatever form they came in. Sam's muted agony and Dean's calm reassurance. Blatant fear and blatant comfort. Taking and giving and taking some more and every single time Sam had thought he was taking too much from Dean and not giving one thing back.
Every single time, every single seizure, Sam thought Dean dreaded it and tolerated it and hated it as much as Sam did.
Every single time until now: 'I get to be the Big Brother again, I need that.'
Suddenly, the looming, threatening, ogre-ish specter of the seizures shrank into nothing. They were still going to happen and Dean was still going to have to help Sam get through them and Sam was still going to hate them. But he didn't have to fear them.
He didn't have to fear them driving Dean away.
Dean needed Sam as much as Sam needed him.
Sam sniffed in another long breath and Dean put his hand on Sam's forehead.
"Bad one, hunh?" He asked, but Sam shook his head.
"Not as bad as I thought it was going to be."