It was the sound of stone on stone that brought Sam back to his senses. It was just petering out, the end of a clatter. He was confused. For one thin, it was completely dark. For another, he could not think of a single reason that he was currently lying flat on his back on such a lumpy stone floor.
He groaned aloud when he remembered what they were hunting. It had been a cave troll, a nasty sonofabitch. They had wounded the thing and it had gone crazy, smashing at the walls and bringing them down on top of them. It had been lucky that Dean had been able to get that shot into its mouth before it brought the entire place down. It was the only place they were vulnerable unless you managed to lure it out into the sunshine. Speaking of Dean, Sam though, where the heck was he?
A sudden mental image of a chunk of wall the size of a football landing on top of Dean's head had him shooting upright, his first mistake. A wave of pain originated somewhere in his right shin and slammed through his body. He cried out sharply and cold beads of sweat popped out on his forehead and upper lip. He swayed, trying to maintain a sitting position, desperately fighting the encroaching blackness. He took deep breaths as the agony made him sick to his stomach. He forced himself to calm down and think about things rationally. He let the logic side of his brain take over, hoping that it would override the constant need to faint or puke, not necessarily in that order.
His first instinct was to figure out what was wrong, but he couldn't bring himself to touch it. Instead, he felt around for his light. Their weapons bag was thankfully within reach and with it, their spare flashlight.
He was afraid to look at first. The moment he did, he was fighting down his lunch again. It was bad, really bad. His jeans were torn and bloodstained, a small, thick, red puddle forming underneath his leg and poking through was a white and splintery mess. Sam's hands hovered helplessly over the bone, unsure where to even start.
One thing was for sure, he wasn't going to be able to do anything to it himself, not without passing out. Good thing he could always count on Dean to hover and pester and basically bully him back to health.
"Dean?" he yelled. "Little help here?" It was kind of odd that Dean wasn't already here and fussing over him. Sam flashed the light around. A dark form lay still on the ground. It was Dean and he wasn't moving. Sam couldn't even tell if he was breathing and a pool of blood was spreading out from under his head. "Dean!" he shouted.
Dean didn't respond. Sam cursed in frustration. He was probably about ten feet away but it might as well have been ten miles.
Sam shouted and pleaded for what felt like hours but was probably only a few minutes. Dean didn't respond.
Sam steeled himself. "Of course you pick now to check out. I get a paper cut and you're there with antiseptic and bandages but I bust my leg and you're freaking unconscious!" He took a deep breath, put his hands a little further behind him and gingerly slid himself backward. The first movement nearly sent him back under but there was no way he was going to let a broken leg keep him from getting to Dean's side. Once he got started, it was easier. He found he was able to keep moving if he tried it in three inch increments. Once, or twice, his jeans got caught on the bumpy rock floor, and Sam would sit there, vision tunnelling, trying to control his breathing until he could reach out, gently unhook it and keep moving. Every foot or so, he grabbed their duffel bag and pulled it along behind him. Once he reached his brother, there was no way he would manage to make this journey again.
He was shaking so hard by the time he reached Dean's side that he couldn't find a pulse. For one terrifying instant, he thought he was the last Winchester alive, but then Dean groaned softly and moved his head an inch or two.
Relief flooded Sam and he patted his brother's cheeks gently. "Come on, dude, wake up. I could really use a hand here." Dean moaned again, but showed no signs of waking.
"Yeah, I know, but seriously, I can't do this on my own." Sam rubbed his knuckles on Dean's sternum.
Dean's eyes blinked blearily open. His right pupil shrank to a pinprick when Sam shone the flashlight in his eyes but the left one was blown, fixed and staring. Sam cursed again.
"You really got your bell rung, big brother." Sam got a good look at his brother's face. There was a bleeding gash right up by his hairline but not enough to cause all the blood spread out on the floor. He shook Dean when his eyes started to close again. "No way, Dean, you gotta stay awake. Do you remember where we are? What we were doing?"
"Had the colt? Dad? Yellow eyes? We get hit by a truck?" Dean slurred. Sam's blood went cold.
"Dean, that was months ago. We are hunting a cave troll. He brought the walls down. You hit your head."
"You gonna tell me a ghos' sry Sammy? Y'r face s'all…shadowy." Dean reached up and grabbed Sam's chin. Sam batted his hand away.
"Just frigging great," he muttered to himself. "Well I can't let you lie here in your own blood, and I have to take a look at the back of your head. Let's see if we can get you sitting up." Sam carefully manoeuvred himself until he had his arms under Dean's head and shoulder blades. He had one leg crossed underneath him and the other stretched out along Dean's body. He gave one good heave and Dean sat there, blinking in the dim light.
"Sammy?" Dean asked.
"I don't feel so good," Dean groaned right before he lost his lunch all over Sam. Sam screamed as vomit flooded his leg, feeling like lava in his veins. He crushed Dean into his arms with all his strength and held on, panting harshly until the pain settled somewhere in the realm of bearable. He scrunched his eyes tight, hoping that his pain had reached Dean's addled brain and that he would perhaps be able to take over the rescue, but when he opened his eyes, Dean was unconscious again, head lolling on Sam's shoulder.
"Crap," Sam breathed deep a couple of times before grabbing the first aid kit. He couldn't see very well, but he found a large gash and goose egg on the back of Dean's skull. Thankfully it didn't need stitching so Sam just pressed a wad of gauze to the cut and held it firmly. When the bleeding had stopped, Sam wormed his way out of his jacket without dropping Dean and placed it as a pillow on the hard stone. He felt like he could breathe again once he had Dean lying down in front of him once more.
Sam took a moment to assess their situation. There was no way they were getting out on their own steam. However, since John's death, Bobby had been really good at keeping tabs on them. He knew what they were hunting and where and how long it was supposed to take them. If he didn't hear from them, he would come looking. All they needed to do was survive until then. Hopefully it wouldn't be more than three or four days.
Sam pulled the bag closer to check out its contents. The usual weapons were there. He had his lighter, but there was nothing to burn, so a fire was out. There were two granola bars in a side pocket and one milk jug of holy water. The first aid kit needed to be stocked again. They were down to gauze squares and generic acetaminophen tablets. Sam dry swallowed four of them before continuing. There were no antibiotics, definitely none of the good stuff and nothing that he could see that would help with his leg.
He looked at the jug of water critically, trying to figure out how much they could spare. They would survive without food, but not water. He really needed to clean the vomit from his leg but after a moment of though, he realized he couldn't spare any. Bobby might not find them right away and he needed to give Dean every chance.
He roused Dean long enough to get him to drink a few mouthfuls before lying down beside him to share body heat. He was shivering without his jacket.
He dozed a little while until he was woken by thirst. He drank just enough to wet his lips before trying to get Dean to drink again. Dean was even less coherent this time around. He was rambling about Dad and Sam's Stanford days and once he even called for Mom. Sam had never felt so helpless in his life.
His head was pounding. He wanted to take more Tylenol but even that would run out soon and Sam couldn't bear the thought that Dean would wake up and be in pain. Every time his head throbbed, an answering spike of pain shot up from his leg. He was still frozen, chills shaking him violently, but a fire was building in the broken bone. He was sure he was feverish by this point, but in some twisted way, he was thankful. It meant that there would be a decent heat source to keep Dean warm. He snuggled back up beside his brother and time continued to pass.
He had no idea how long they were there, conscious thought was soon swallowed up in a haze of pain. He could break out of it long enough to give Dean more water. Sometimes he drank a little himself, more times he didn't. He wasn't sure when he decided that Dean would survive at the cost of his own life. In his fevered state, he imagined Dean would be relieved. Now he wouldn't have to make up his mind to kill him. Dad's burden would be taken off his shoulders. Now his only goal was to live long enough to keep Dean from dying.
Finally, as he shivered, arms wrapped around his unconscious brother, the sound of clattering stone came once again and a familiar bearded face hovered above them. Sam looked up and smiled, accepting that it was now time for the changing of the guard, and allowed himself to fall completely into unconsciousness.
It was much harder to wake up this time. The first thing Sam was aware of was a beeping noise, and a whooshing and clicking also nearby. His mind was in the familiar fog of extremely strong painkillers. It took him a long time to open his eyes but when he did, his brother's face was right in front of him.
Dean was a wreck. He hadn't shaved, hadn't showered. His eyes were blackened and there was gauze wound round his forehead. He looked tired.
"Dean," Sam whispered in relief. "You're ok."
Dean just looked at him, eyes wide and frantic. Sam had never seen him look so vulnerable. "What the hell, Sammy?" His voice broke on his brother's name.
Sam just looked up at him, confused. "I don't…"
In answer, Dean picked up something from the floor, setting a milk jug on the bed beside Sam. It was still over half full.
"What the hell were you thinking? Do you have any idea how close we came to losing you? You were so dehydrated you lost nearly half your blood volume. You went into septic shock because your leg got infected. And why was it so bad? Because I freaking puked on it and you didn't even try to clean it off. You see this jug? You could have taken care of yourself too, Sammy. Seriously, what were you thinking?" Dean ranted furiously.
Sam shrank back into the bed, his voice small. "I was thinking about Dad, about what he told you and I just thought it would be easier. I know it's a huge burden on your shoulders. This way, you wouldn't have to do it yourself when the time came."
"How many times do I have to tell you, Sammy? Dad said I MIGHT have to kill you and only if I couldn't save you. And as far as I'm concerned, saving you is the only option. And how would this be easier anyway? Do you know how it feels to watch your brother lying in a hospital bed, needing help just to breathe? Do you know how it feels to know your brother's heart stopped and they didn't know if they were going to get it going again? Do you have any idea how helpless I felt? Especially knowing I had been unconscious when you really needed me."
"Yeah," Sam whispered. "I do."
"Exactly, and that's why I can't believe you would do this to me. You know how it feels. If you had died…well maybe I would have been like Dad and done something really stupid, or maybe I wouldn't, maybe I would just have followed you," Dean could hardly bear to look Sam in the eye.
"Dean, no. Don't do it. Not for me. I'm not worth it," Sam reached out and grabbed Dean's wrist.
Dean closed his eyes and from the expression on his face, Sam wasn't sure if he was going to punch something or burst into tears.
"I'm sorry, Sammy," he finally spoke. "I'm so sorry."
"For what, Dean? You have nothing to apologize for."
"Yeah, I do. For not telling you that you are worth it, that you are worth everything. For not telling you that I love you more than anyone else in this whole freaking planet. You are my little brother and I am not losing you, not now, not ever."
"Dean," Sam began to speak, but that was the only word that made sense to him, the only word that he could force out. He wanted to say he loved his brother. He wanted to say that he would never be so stupid again. He wanted to say he needed Dean too, but it was all jumbled up in the painkillers and the haze of exhaustion he couldn't seem to pull free of.
"Yeah, I know," Dean said softly. He moved Sam's hand from his wrist and wrapped it in his own hand. "Go to sleep, Sasquatch. And if you ever even think of doing something this stupid again, you remember this. This is the truth. I don't tell you enough and I can't promise I will. There is something about hospital beds that brings out the chick flick in me and personally, I would prefer that you never end up in one again. So you are not going to hear this from me all the time, but please remember it and take care of yourself. I can't save you if you don't want to be saved."
Sam nodded, drifting off already.
"One more thing. You did keep me from freezing to death and I wasn't dehydrated at all. All they had to do by the time they got me here was change the gauze and let me sleep it off. That's cause of you. I know it wasn't easy, but you took care of me. I'm so lucky to have a brother like you.."
"Lemme sleep," Sam whined. "I'm gonna have to start calling you Deanna if you don't shut it."
"Bite me, Bitch," Dean smiled fondly.
Sam managed to stave off sleep just long enough to reply. "After my nap, Jerk."