And Arbitrary Blackness Gallops In

A/N: So here's a sequel to And All The World Drops Dead. (Please read that first, but pay attention to the warnings.) I'm not entirely happy with it, mainly because I don't like trying to fit recovery from sexual assault into one story. It's basically impossible, ya know? But this is the first three or four days after the basement.

Please tell me what you think when you finish reading. Any kind of feedback is appreciated.

XXX

Dean sits in the drivers seat, thrumming with rage and useless energy, his mind racing faster than his baby and that's saying something because his baby is flying.

"Sammy, you still with me?" he demands, flicking his eyes to the rear-view mirror and back to the road he's barrelling down.

The mirror reveals Sam, curled in the back seat, a ratty old blanket from the boot thrown over him, face pressed into the upholstery.

"Sam!" Dean damn near shouts when he doesn't get a reply. He wishes Sam was closer, so he could watch both him and the road at the same time.

"Yeah," Sam moans finally, like talking is too much effort, like talking hurts. (It probably does.) "'m still here."

He's bleeding on the seat. Dean can see the crimson smears but for once he doesn't care. He knows Baby understands. He's just grateful he found her waiting impatiently outside, anxious, he feels, and with good reason to be, even if it meant that Gordon must have driven her there. He'll check later to make sure he didn't hurt her but for now he's just glad that she's not MIA and he didn't have to waste time boosting a car.

"Good, you're doing real good, Sammy. We're nearly there, just hang on." Encouragements come automatically. They always have when Sam's hurt. The dried blood on his arm itches as he spins the wheel, sluggishly welling up in the gashes circling his wrist but the ache is dull, pushed aside by necessity and adrenaline. They're nearly at the hospital and Dean remembers thinking what a bitch it would be to sew up his own arm. What a stupid thing to think. Of course they're going to the hospital. How could he think that he wouldn't be taking Sam to the hospital?

Anyway, someone there will sew it up. It's hard to think of cover stories while Sammy's screams are blasting in his head, while he's trying to split his attention between the road and the back seat, while he's trying really hard not to throw up, but they have to go to the hospital and they have to have a cover story. It's daylight now, before midday, and he has a vague memory of the sky growing dim before waking up in the Basement. A night must have passed. A whole night unconscious under Gordon's watch. The thought makes him shudder.

He'll have to say they were at a bar, they must have roofied, he doesn't remember, he just woke up and -

He swallows down the sourness rushing up his throat. The police are going to be involved, the hospital will notify them, no doubt, so he has to keep it simple. Can't have holes in his story. He's pretty sure whatever drugs are in his system will back him up. Hell, they probably were roofied, but how? Dean can't put the pieces together, can't remember enough of the pieces.

There'll be time for that later. For now he spins Baby into the hospital entrance and pulls her up right outside the doors. A man and woman in pale green nurses scrubs look up from their cigarettes, startled, as Dean unceremoniously staggers from the car.

"I need some help here!" he yells, cliché or not, right now he really does need some god damn help. He rounds the car, swinging the back door open.

Cigarettes hit the pavement and two sets of feet rush forward. The woman, who looks young enough to still be in high school, takes one look through the open door at Sam, bruised and bloodied and obviously not going anywhere under his own power, and turns sharply on her heel. "I'll get a gurney," she calls over her shoulder.

The man nods distractedly and gently pushes past Dean to kneel beside the open back door. "What's his name?" he asks over his shoulder.

"Sam," Dean answers promptly, torn between giving the nurse room and wanting to be as close to Sam as possible. "I think he has broken ribs, and a concussion. He needs x-rays and stitches and -"

"Okay," the man cuts him, off, firm but not harsh, and Dean stops his rambling, hovering awkwardly over the nurses shoulder. He can smell the sharp scent of tobacco.

"Sam, can you hear me?" the nurse asks, loud and clear.

"Mm," Sam manages, squeezing his eyes shut like the voice is too much.

"Good. Sam, we're gonna get you all fixed up, okay? Just try to relax."

What a stupid thing to tell Sam to do. Kid's as relaxed as he can be, staying as still and calm as he can. He knows the drill, even if this drill is all fucked up and wrong.

"Hey." The nurse catches Dean's attention. From the sound of it, it's not the first time he's tried.

"Yeah?"

"Tell me what happened. The more we know, the better we can treat him."

"I don't – he was..." He can't bring himself to say it. "He was attacked. I don't know... I think we were roofied."

He turns as he hears footsteps approaching and suddenly he's surrounded by people. The young nurse has brought a gurney and what seems like half the hospital staff, and they get Sam loaded onto it surprisingly fast. Everyone's calling out medical abbreviations that Dean's sure he should understand but there's too much noise, too much movement, and he finds himself pushed to the back of the group. He can't see Sam and someone's holding his arm and asking him something but he can't hear over the rush of blood in his ears. It's like now that he's got Sam to the hospital, he's shutting down. He feels himself stagger and tries to right himself but the ground's moving, spinning in circles, and it's easier to let himself fall.

XXX

Dean wakes to the sharp scent of bleach doing it's best to cover the smell of blood and vomit, the scent of rubber shoes and warm laundry, dozens of people in one place and even though his senses tell him hospital his stomach immediately goes to basement and clenches hard. He sits bolt upright, panic stirring through the disorientation and his head spins, something tugs at his hand.

He looks down, expecting handcuffs but it's a drip inserted in his hand. He follows it with his eyes to the bag of fluid hanging at his bedside. A look to his right shows him a heavily bandaged wrist.

Right. He forces himself to calm down, tells his stomach to chill the fuck out. He can't relax entirely because the absence of Sammy is like nails on a chalkboard, screeching down his spine. He's not entirely sure how he ended up in a hospital bed himself but that's really not important because he doesn't know where Sam is.

So obviously he's not staying where he is. He pulls the IV out gently and swings his legs over the side of the bed, realises then that his boots have been removed and finds them in the corner of the cubicle near the opening in the curtain.

Getting them on is a long and frustrating process. His wrist is bandaged tight enough that it's almost immobile and when he does manage to move it, he feels the sharp tug of stitches trying to tear.

He leaves them unlaced because screw these freaking boots, screw them for trying to keep him away from Sam, and tosses the curtain aside, marching out into the corridor with as little wavering as he can manage.

He finds the nurses station easily enough. It sits in the middle of the large room he appears to be in, surrounded by little curtained-off cubicles. Emergency department; they all look the same where ever he goes.

"Where's my brother?" he demands, stomping up to the station, trying to sound firm and non-negotiable, and ruining the effect by stumbling on his boot lace.

A frazzled-looking middle-aged woman glances up at him from her paperwork. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" she asks.

She eyes the pin prick from the IV, slowly welling up a drop of blood, and then his bandaged wrist. "Has someone seen you?"

"Yeah, sure," Dean lies distractedly. "Look, I need to know where my brother is. Please."

The woman looks like she might argue but then glances at her paperwork and seems to change her mind, probably too busy to battle with him. "Name?"

"Sam." For a frightening moment he struggles to think of their current alias. "Sam Barrett."

She tucks her pen behind her ear and taps away at her computer. "Sam Barrett... he's in room 415. Take the elevator up to level four and ask for Doctor Lindell. He can update you."

"Lindell," Dean repeats, committing the name to memory. "Thanks."

The woman nods, retrieving her pen and returning to her paperwork, and Dean has to stop himself from sprinting to the elevators.

XXX

It's a terrifying list of injuries. Doctor Lindell put twenty stitches in Sam's face while Dean slept (why, why did he have to pass out like that? He should have been with Sammy.), x-rayed and found three broken ribs, all on Sam's right side, booked him in for surgery to remove bone fragments and replace his shattered cheekbone with a metal plate and is monitoring Sam's concussion. There's more but anything below Sam's waist is his own fucking business and the kid deserves some God damned privacy, okay?

(And if Dean just can't bring himself to think about it, well, shut up, he's entitled.)

There's still a couple of hours until Sam's surgery (Sam needs fucking surgery. Gordon fucking smashed Sammy's face into pieces.) and Dr Lindell allows Dean to spend the time with Sam. 'Allows', ha. As if Dean would be anywhere else, permission or no permission.

The doctor leads him to the door of Sam's room and gives him a pat on the shoulder that's more robotic than comforting and leaves him to it.

Dean takes a deep breath, suddenly struck by panic at the sight of the white door before him. What is he supposed to say? What's he supposed to do? This is unfamiliar territory and he feels woefully unprepared. Despite his rush to be by Sam's side, he doesn't feel ready. What if he says the wrong thing? What if he doesn't say something that Sam needs to hear? What if he somehow unintentionally makes things worse?

Then he remembers Lindell saying that Sam's spaced out on the good drugs (to paraphrase the doctor babble) and will probably be sleeping. He can handle a sleeping Sam. Hell, he's supposed to be able to handle any kind of Sam so stop being a god damned wuss, Dean, pull yourself together!

So he inches the door open and slips inside and shit. He knew it was bad, of course, but seeing it...

It would be easier to describe where Sam isn't bruised than it would be to say where he is, but Dean will go so far as to say that Sammy's face is a fucking mess. There are four stitches in the kid's lower lip, six lined up above his eyebrow and ten curling a messy path across his cheek. Dean counts them carefully, filing the information away.

Sam's stitched lip is swollen and purple, trailing bruising down his chin. His left eye is swollen completely shut, the skin around it puffy and black. The shiner covers almost half his face, smothering the shattered cheekbone. Dean wonders where the surgeons will cut to replace it with metal. He hopes it's somewhere discreet. Sammy doesn't need any more scars on his face.

Sam's right eye is blackened too and though it's no where near as bad as his left, the bruises stretch over the bridge of his nose and up to his eyebrow, deep purple fading to sickly greens and yellows at the edges.

Dean stands frozen in the doorway and takes all this in and curses himself for all the ways he's let Sam down. For allowing this to happen. For still not being able to figure out how Gordon got the drop on them, because if he can't figure it out then what's going to stop someone else from having a go?

There's a single chair at Sam's bedside, one of those horrible plastic bowl things supposedly shaped to support a persons spine but all they really do is make your butt go numb and your back hurt, and Dean knows that that's where he should be right now. He should sit with Sam and wait for him to wake up and just fucking be there, but he can't because there's this pressure building up in his chest that's trying to suffocate him and then it's in his throat and he has to flee the room, and this horrible, horrible part of him has to acknowledge that right now it's easier for him to fall to his knees before the sterile hospital toilet and vomit than it is to go into that room and be with his little brother.

XXX

It takes about half an hour before Dean's ready to even begin to pull himself together and it's only the memory of the doctor saying that Sam's going into surgery soon that really drags him to his feet.

He washes his face, careful of his bandaged wrist, rinsing and spitting a few times but he can still taste the vomit as he walks back to Sam's room, taking slow even breaths. He opens the door as quietly as he can but Sam's awake this time.

"Hey," Dean's bashed up little brother says groggily when he sticks his head in.

"Hey," Dean returns quietly, like talking any louder would be obscene, and this time he does cross the room to slip into that god awful chair. "You're awake."

"Mm, so are you." Sam manages a small tired smile that doesn't match his eyes. "Saw you faint."

Dean puts on the best affronted face he can come up with at this moment, which admittedly isn't too great. "Dude, I didn't faint. I passed out. There's a difference."

"You fainted," Sam murmurs victoriously, but this is like some grotesque parody of normal, this banter, and Dean can't bring himself to play along.

He clears his throat, feeling awkward. "So, uh, how are you feeling?"

"Drugged," Sam says, with that same pale imitation of a smile, but he raises his hand to his face like he can feel something there. Dean's eyes travel along the swollen rows of black stitches. "How's'it look?"

Dean hesitates, because he's not exactly going to tell the kid that he looks like he got hit by a freaking bus but he doesn't want to lie to Sam either. "Nothing that won't heal given time," he says finally. He hopes it's true anyway. Dr Lindell was cautiously optimistic about whether Sam's face would scar or not. Honestly, all Dean wants right at this moment is for the swelling and bruising to fade. He wants Sam to look like Sam, not this beaten kid in a hospital bed.

"That bad, huh?" Sam sees right through him, as usual, and at least some fucking thing is usual about this because Dean feels like he's drowning and he'll grab on to anything that's offered. "The doctor said I'm having surgery."

Dean nods. "Yeah." And he's not sure what more there is to say about that.

He looks down at his hands. "Sammy-" he starts, but Sam cuts him off, thank God. He really had no idea where he was going with that.

"You should go to the nurses station. One of them has your jacket... can't remember her name, she said she'd look after it. Wouldn't let them cut it off."

Dean blinks. He hadn't given a single thought to his jacket since putting it on Sam. He hadn't even realised it was missing until now.

This fucking kid of his. Beat to hell and thinking about Dean and his jacket, Dad's old jacket. It must have hurt like a bitch to take it off, would've been so much easier to let them cut it, and fuck, he's meant to watch out of Sammy but instead he fainted and left the kid alone. If he'd been there he would've told the nurses to just cut the thing. He's seen Sam in enough pain today.

"Jesus, Sammy," he chokes out, and that's it. He raises his hands to cover his face, to try to push the tears back into his eyes. Everything's happened so fast but yesterday feels like a million years ago. He can't wrap his head around it. How did everything go so wrong so fast? How did Gordon get the drop on them? How could Dean not have had a back up plan? How did they end up here with Sammy, fucking Sammy, lying there a fucking brutalized mess, bruises and stitches and chopped hair and fucking surgery, and fighting to keep Dean's jacket intact? How could something like this happen to someone like Sam?

Dean wants to bring Gordon back to life and beat every inch of him, use every weapon in their arsenal on him and listen to him scream, listen to him beg and kill him anyway, then bring him back and do it all over again. (Until what? Until time rewinds?)

"Dean," Sam murmurs, and Dean jumps when Sam's hand touches his, clenched in the bedsheets at Sammy's side. "Don't. Please."

Dean swipes a hand down his face and looks at his battered little brother. "What am I supposed to do, Sammy?" His voice cracks and he doesn't give a shit.

Sam looks dangerously close to tears himself but he does a better job of composing himself than Dean. "Tell me the cover story. The doctor was asking me... I haven't said anything but they'll call the cops..."

"Right, yeah, of course." So Dean fills him in on what meagre lies he's managed to come up with and they run through it until they both know it backwards and forwards, which is all kinds of horrible, and then the doctor comes and tells Sam it's time to prep him for surgery.

XXX

The surgery takes forever. Dean paces and chews his nails until he has nothing left to chew, fiddles with his bandages and flips through a couple of magazines without reading a single word, badgers the nurses for updates and drinks a fuck ton of crappy hospital coffee.

Somewhere in the middle of this, his hands are shaking from all the caffeine so he chucks the magazine he was flipping through onto the small coffee table and a voice says, "I'm guessing this is yours."

Dean looks up to see the young nurse who's smoke break he interrupted, holding out his leather jacket.

"Uh, yeah." He reaches for it automatically. "Thanks."

The nurse smiles, the same smile all medical professionals give when someone you love is hurt or sick or fucked up in whatever way; sympathetic but detached. "No problem. Sam was quite insistent that you get it back."

Dean's lip twitches at the girl's slight emphasis on 'quite insistent'. Yeah, he can imagine how insistent Sammy was.

"All right," the nurse – Kelly, her name tag informs – says a little too brightly. "Well, I'll just give you these pamphlets to look through-" They appear in her hand as if out of no where but then, Dean wasn't really paying attention. "-and I'll leave you to it."

She hands them over, three thick sheets of paper folded into thirds in varying pastel shades. The title of the first one is written in black capitals across the front.

HELPING YOUR LOVED ONE RECOVER FROM SEXUAL ASSAULT

Jesus. Well, there's the end of his denial. He can't exactly avoid thinking about 'it' with that staring him in the face.

Kelly's gone by the time Dean looks up.

XXX

Dean reads every damn word while he sits at Sam's bedside, waiting for the anaesthetic to wear off. The incisions are discreet, thankfully. Six stitches by Sammy's ear and a neat row of staples at his hair line. Sam sleeps so deeply that Dean's thankful for the monitors that assure him that the kid's still alive.

The pamphlets are good at distracting him from his thoughts, which mostly involve images of surgeons peeling Sammy's face off. Though the pamphlets just put other images in his head and he can't decide which are worse.

He glances up every now and then to keep track of any changes in the monitors as he reads the pamphlets cover to cover, and then again, because honestly, he needs all the help he can get. He has no idea how to deal with all of this. Suddenly it's like Sam's this foreign creature that he doesn't know what to do with, what to say to.

It's like Sam's this 'victim' that the pamphlets refer to him as. It makes Dean angry because Sam shouldn't ever be a victim but as much as he hates to admit it, that's what Sam is now and Dean needs to know how to help or fix it or at least what to fucking say to make this better because he's coming up empty. Nothings going to change what happened in that Basement and nothings going to make them forget.

And if all he has right now is some fucking pamphlets, then he's damn well going to read them.

He's at the part about supporting the victim through the court process (again, and yeah, there's not going to be a court process for them, whatever) when Sam starts stirring.

Dean shoves the pamphlets into his jacket pocket, like they're something he has to hide from the kid, and leans forward.

"Sammy?"

Sam's head twitches towards his voice.

"Hey, kiddo, that's it. Come on back."

Sam twitches again and suddenly his heart monitor speeds up, beeping shrill and fast, and Sam jerks on the bed. "D'n," he moans.

"Sammy, hey, calm down." Dean grabs Sam's hand and squeezes, and Sam's eyes fly open. He yanks his hand back with as much strength as he can muster, which isn't much but Dean lets go anyway, and stares up at Dean with unfocused eyes that lack all emotion other than fear.

"Whoa." Dean pulls back and raises his hands as if in surrender. "It's okay, Sammy, just me. It's just me."

Because Dean knows exactly who Sam expected to see upon waking, drugged and confused. A person would have to be an idiot not to figure it out and that's why he's so pissed off when Kelly comes bustling into the room brandishing a syringe.

"Look who's awake," she smiles vaguely. "I've got a little something here to help you calm down."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Dean says as she goes to insert it into the IV connected to the back of Sam's hand, at the same time as Sam shies away and croaks, "What is that?"

"Just something to help you rest," she says, like it's no big deal and, hello lady, can you not tell that Sam is fucking terrified? That drugging him is only going to make it worse? That this is a big fucking deal?

"No," Sam gasps. "No drugs."

"You heard him," Dean says firmly when Kelly hesitates.

"It's important for patients to stay calm-" she starts, clearly unsure.

"He's not going to calm down with you waving a fucking needle at him!" Dean damn near yells. He only just remembers to keep his voice down so that he doesn't get kicked out.

"Dean." Sam's hand reaches for him. "'s okay... 'm fine. Please don't..."

The end of the sentence is directed at Kelly and Sam makes a show of controlling his breathing. The heart monitor slows down a fraction.

Dean sees the moment when Kelly relents, her face changing to understanding (took her fucking long enough) and then embarrassment.

"Sorry," she stammers. "Sorry, I..." She busies herself checking the monitors. "Right, well, just press the call button if you need anything."

She scurries off. Dean watches her go, as if she might leap on Sam with a needle if he turns his back before she's out of the room.

"You okay?" Dean asks, turning back to Sam.

Sam still seems to be focusing on his breathing. "Yeah, I just... anaesthetic, I guess? Di' I have th' surgery?"

"Yeah." Dean has to take a calming breath of his own. "Yeah, it went fine. You want water?"

Sam nods, and lets Dean hold the little cup to his lips. Dean takes it away after a few mouthfuls and puts it down, but now he's not sure what to do and seriously, after all these years he should be able to do better than yelling at a nurse and giving Sam water, but this is all so off. Almost surreal. He still can't believe this is really happening. He stalls by picking up Sam's water and taking a sip.

"You don't have to talk," Sam says, because the kid knows him so well and even now can see that he's floundering for something to say. "Just don't go anywhere."

As if Dean has anywhere else to be.

XXX

He ends up getting kicked out at the end of visiting hours, after Sam's been relocated from Recovery to a ward, which is complete and utter bullshit, which he tells Kelly but she just says, "Rules are rules," arms folded over his chest, and Dean just barely stops himself from causing a huge fucking scene. He bets she was the try-hard suck-up of her class at nursing school, determined to do everything by the book.

So Dean promises Sam that he'll be back in the morning and forces himself to walk away. The Impala reeks of Sam's blood and he can't stop his eyes from skittering to the rear-view mirror the way they did on the race to the hospital. He's grateful when he pulls into the motel parking lot.

It feels like a very long time since he was last at this motel. There's no sign of struggle but Gordon probably took them from here. Probably. Maybe. He doesn't know and the blank spaces in his memory are driving him crazy.

He does a thorough search of the room, looking for anything suspicious. He finds nothing.

He can't sleep so he goes out and scrubs the blood from his baby's upholstery, trying not to think or feel, but come on, it's Sammy's blood he's mopping up and Sammy's not here. Sammy's in the hospital all alone.

He keeps checking his phone, in case he's somehow missed a call from the nurses telling him Sam needs him, get down here now, and everything's still utter bullshit because he knows that Sammy needs him. He shouldn't have to wait for some stupid phone call from a stranger.

Somehow, he really doesn't know how, he falls asleep on the damp seat, the scent of blood replaced by the smell of cleaning fluids, and has some messed up dream about trying to wash the blood off of his brother, but Gordon's there and Dean feels like he's running through quicksand when he tries to chase him, then Gordon vanishes and Sam still needs his help, but when he turns Sam is gone too and Dean stumbles around in a panic searching for him until the alarm on his phone wakes him to announce that visiting hours start soon.

He feels hungover, though he's sure he didn't drink anything last night. It's probably from the fumes. He stumbles from Impala to motel room and drags his duffel into the bathroom with him. He showers, awkwardly holding his bandaged arm out of the spray, and shaves automatically, trying to forget about his dream. Nightmare. But it's hard without Sammy here to assure him that he hasn't actually disappeared.

Once he's dressed he steps out into the room and is immediately overwhelmed by the need to get out. Not just get to the hospital, but get out of this room where Gordon probably had his creepy hands all over him, all over Sammy, so he shoves their stuff into duffel bags with ruthless efficiency, picking up wayward socks, wondering if that empty take out coffee cup over there was behind their drugging, or maybe that one on the night-stand, and how the hell did Gordon manage to do this? How did he slip them drugs? How did he find them?

Is there even any point in wondering about it now?

Dean tosses the duffel's into the Impala's trunk, takes more care with Sam's laptop, and has just enough time to stop for coffee before visiting hours start. He feels like he should be suspicious of his take away coffee but Gordon's dead and come on, he needs coffee. He chugs the last of it back before entering Sam's room and tosses the empty cup in the trash.

Sam's awake when he walks in but looking out the window, face unreadable. He doesn't seem to notice Dean's arrival so he allows himself a moment to look Sam over.

If possible, the kid looks worse than yesterday. Clean of blood, yes, but the bruises have darkened to pitch black overnight, sickly yellow spreading across Sam's swollen face. The staples look harsh and painful and the way he holds himself, even lying down, suggests that his ribs are bothering him.

He's so caught up with his inspection that he doesn't notice that Sam's switched his gaze from the window to him until the kid speaks.

"I guess I shouldn't ask for a mirror then."

Dean actually jumps. "Huh?"

"If seeing me makes your face look like that, I'm thinking that a mirror isn't a good idea." He's trying for casual but Dean can tell he's looking for some kind of confirmation on how bad he actually looks.

Dean immediately tries to wipe off whatever look it is he has on his face but he gets the feeling that he's just doing weird things with his eyebrows and lips. Sam gives him a tired smile.

"Just stop. You look ridiculous."

"It's gonna heal," Dean finds some words and latches on to them. "Your face, it, once the stitches come out , it'll be... well, and the staples, and when the swelling goes down, and then, then-"

"Jesus, Dean," Sam cuts him off. "Shut up, okay?"

There's no heat behind the words, just, vaguely fond exasperation maybe? Dean shuts up. Sam could tell him to do pretty much anything right now and Dean would do it.

So Dean takes his seat and waits until he thinks of something less rambling to say.

"So, uh, how was last night? Did you sleep?" Okay, less rambling but still a stupid thing to say because Sam's face kind of closes off.

"A bit." Sam runs his tongue over the stitches in his lower lip, clearly not willing to expand on the topic, but Dean can guess what the problem is. Nightmares. He wonders briefly what went on in Sammy's subconscious last night and then decides he'd rather not think about it.

"Yeah, me neither," he concedes, and they leave that topic to die an awkward death, which leads to an even more awkward silence, and silence shouldn't ever be awkward with Sammy. God, he hopes this hasn't changed them forever.

"The police are coming today," Sam says finally, fiddling with his IV. "One of the nurses told me."

"Oh."

"They want to talk to you too."

"Yeah, of course." Because of course the police want to talk to him. "You need to go through the cover story again? You were pretty drugged up when we talked about it."

Sam won't look him in the eye, which is kind of okay 'cause Dean can't really bring himself to meet Sam's eye either. He just can't imagine how this must be for Sam, making up stories to tell the police about how he ended up beaten and fucking raped in this fucking hospital bed.

"No, I remember," Sam says. Thank Whoeverthefuck.

They don't really talk much after that, aside from the odd comment. Sam's still woozy on the meds and falls asleep for a while, so Dean takes the opportunity to stretch his muscles, take a walk down the hallway to the vending machine he saw yesterday but didn't touch. Couldn't touch 'cause how could he eat after that? But man cannot exist on coffee alone forever and his stomach's reminding him so.

He stands and stretches his arms above his head, cracking his neck. He walks to the door and opens it just as a police officer is about to knock.

They have the initial moment of startle, during which Dean notes that it's a woman, in her early thirties, fairly attractive with her shoulder-length curly blonde hair.

He glances at Sam and back. "He's sleeping. Can we...?" He makes a motion outwards.

The officer steps back. "Are you Dean Barrett?"

"Yeah, that's me."

She is Officer Maria Middleton, and he follows her to a room that must be either some kind of small waiting room or a room that doctors take patients families to tell them that there's nothing more they can do. There are a couple of couches and a coffee table with a box of tissues in the centre, and yeah, none of that is very comforting but what can he do?

They go through the standard stuff for giving a statement, like his name (fake) and address (he gives Bobby's, uses the old story of a road trip) and then they get down to the hard stuff.

Officer Middleton is sympathetic but focused. She apologizes for making him re-live this so soon after the fact but assures him that the faster they get the details, the sooner they can catch the man who did this, which would be more comforting if he didn't already know that the man who did this is dead in a vacant house several blocks away. He makes a mental note to call Bobby, get him to burn the body 'cause there's no way he's going back there and the last thing they need is a pissed off ghost version of Gordon haunting them. He should have sorted this already but he guesses he hasn't been thinking too clearly lately.

"So, start at the beginning," Officer Middleton says, pen poised over her note pad.

"I don't really think I can tell you much. I was drugged too."

"Just tell me whatever you remember."

It's not hard to be convincing. Even going through the cover story is horrendous because, of course, it ends the same as the real version of events.

He and Sam agreed to keep it simple, so Dean tells the officer that they went to McClarens, a pub they actually did stop in at briefly, and had a few drinks. They weren't planning to stay long and he doesn't remember talking to anyone or seeing anyone acting suspicious. He thought they'd been keeping a good eye on their drinks as they played a game of pool but everything blanks out after that so they must have been distracted.

Officer Middleton presses for more details but Dean doesn't give her any. He's not willing to accidentally incriminate anyone so he says he wasn't really paying attention when she asks about who else might have been at the pub.

"Okay, go on."

This is the worst part, and it's not even anywhere as bad as what really happened. "So... next thing I know, I'm waking up in a motel room. You know that one on the outskirts of town?"

Officer Middleton nods, scribbling away. The motel he's talking about is so run-down and nasty-looking that even he and Sam decided to look for a different one. "What was the room number?"

"I didn't look. After I woke up and saw Sam... I just got us out of there." Dean tries to look stricken, like he's upset that he's lost this valuable piece of information.

"That's okay, we'll figure it out. So go back to when you first woke up."

Dean runs a hand over his face, blowing out a breath. "Okay, so I wake up and my wrist-" He lifts his bandaged arm, "-is tied to a bedpost-"

"Wait, can you describe the motel room for me?"

He gives her a quick description of a generic motel room and covers for any mistaken details by saying, "But we've stayed in a few motels since we started our road trip. I could be getting some details mixed up." Perfect.

"All right. Go on."

"So I get up to my knees and Sam's on the bed just fucking – oh, sorry – freaking covered in blood, still passed out, and I figure whoever took us is gonna come back so I go nuts trying to get my hand free. I watch horror movies, you know? I didn't want us to be there when the nut case came back... And that's about it really. I got untied and got us out of there. Came straight here."

He's struggling to get the words out by the time he finishes with the statement, and he keeps getting flashes, fucking horrible flashes before his eyes of Sammy bent over that Desk, bloody and screaming and sobbing.

His nightmare that night is so vivid. Gordon, more snake-like than human, and his knife sliding through Sammy's clothes, teasing his inner thigh and throat, slicing through clumps of hair, and through it all Dean can't make a sound. It's as if his vocal chords have been severed. He's forced to watch, his own silence ringing in his ears, paralysed.

He can smell the basement, damp sour air, blood and sweat and sex. It's so wrong. He wants to be screaming, doing something to stop it, and he knows somewhere in his head that this is a dream but that's less important than what's going on right in fucking front of him.

He wakes before it goes any further, sheets damp and twisted tight around his limbs, shaking hopelessly.

He stumbles from bed and to the bathroom. He has to give himself a moment to breathe, leaning against the sink.

He splashes water on his face, getting his bandages damp. He's still tired but sleep isn't all that appealing right now. He avoids looking at himself in the mirror, thinking about Sam's comment about it being a bad idea. He doesn't want to know what he'd see in his face right now.

He ambles out of the bathroom, turning on the TV and snatching up the remote. His bed's gross so he gets in the one that would be Sam's, if he was here, which is strangely comforting in a way he can't explain.

It's three in the morning and there's only infomercials playing but it doesn't really matter. He lies there and thinks about Sammy in the hospital.

After Officer Middleton finished with him, he made his way back to Sam's room with her. Sam was awake so it was his turn to give a statement.

"Can you... go get me a smoothie?" Sam had asked him, always without meeting his eyes. "One of those ones from that place when we first got into town. Do you remember?"

"Yeah." Dean had remembered, though it felt like years ago. Dean had seen the sign for ice-cream and they'd been in the car for so long they were practically stuck to the seats. Ice-cream had sounded awesome, and it turned out the place did the sort of drink with berries and other assorted fruits that Sammy always raved about. They sat around and joked about stupid things and generally had a good time. Now Dean can't stop wondering if that was where Gordon first laid eyes on them, or if it went further back than that.

He could tell that Sam was telling him to fuck off in the nicest way possible but he also knew that Sam was still on liquid food and he'd tasted the hospital shakes and they taste like powder and water, so if Sam wanted a smoothie he was damn well going to get a smoothie.

Officer Middleton was gone by the time he returned, leaving Sam alone in a huddle on the bed that Dean thought probably shouldn't have been possible with his broken ribs, or at least must have been painful, but Sam didn't move when he walked in. Dean had to help him with each tiny sip of the smoothie, holding the cup, bringing the straw to his lips, pretending not to notice the stains of old tears on his brother's face.

Dean lies in Sammy's bed at the new hotel, that Sam hasn't even slept in and won't get a chance to, which makes the comforting feel of it even stranger but what the hell, he'll take what he can get, and thinks about tomorrow. It'll be the end of the hospital stay. He's already discussed it with Sam because surely their fake insurance won't hold out much longer and it's easier to ditch before the suspicion starts.

Sam had been keen to leave, aside from one quick regretful glance at the morphine pump he'd been installed with. They both knew that their pilfered supply of painkillers couldn't compare. It's going to be rough for a while.

He stares at the TV until infomercials turn into early morning cartoons, then drags himself out of bed. He showers off the rest of the nightmare, opting to take his bandages off this time, replacing them when he's done. He changes the sheets on his bed, bundling up the sodden ones and tossing them in the corner. He's not entirely sure why he bothers, seeing as they won't be coming back here. He figures the faster they get out of town the better, and they should do it while Sam's still loaded up on hospital grade painkillers.

There's only his duffel to pack and take out to the Impala, Sammy's bag's still nestled in the trunk, so he's still got an hour to wait before visiting time starts, and that's one thing he's not going to miss, having to wait until some stupid rules say he can see his brother.

He gets some takeaway coffee and a muffin that he doesn't feel like eating. He forces it down though, because he needs something other than coffee in his stomach, then he parks up in the hospital's parking lot, as close to the exit as possible, and reads through the pamphlets again.

Finally, his watch tells him that it's time to make a move. He grabs Sam's duffel and then hurries through the hospital corridors. He gets to Sam's room just as that nurse, Kelly, walks out.

"How is he?" Dean asks. "No... complications? Anything I should worry about?"

Kelly shakes her head. "No, his recovery is going well. It's really just the pain we have to manage now. And Doctor Williams is going to come down this afternoon. He's our resident psychiatrist."

"Oh." He doesn't quite know what to say about that. "Okay then."

Dean walks into Sammy's room, relieved that all he'll have to deal with is pain management. No infections that require liberating antibiotics, and then, of course, he remembers that there's still stuff beyond the physical that he's going to have to somehow work through.

"Hey," Sam says in greeting. Dean shuts the door behind him and closes the little shade over the window.

"Hey," Dean returns, dumping Sam's duffel on the floor.. "You ready to ditch? Or do you wanna wait a few hours?"

Sam looks fragile and no where near ready to leave the hospital. Dean thinks that the swelling might have gone down a little overnight, Sam can almost open his eye, but the bruises are dark as ever.

"Lets just go," Sam says. "One of the nurses just checked on me so we should be clear for a while."

Fine with Dean. He whips out a change of clothes from Sam's bag, soft sweatpants, boxers, socks and a t-shirt. "Okay, where do you wanna start? Top or bottom?"

Because they've done this too many times before, sometimes with the rolls reversed, and he doesn't question the fact that Sam's going to need help, but Sam hesitates, pushing himself into a more upright position.

"Um, actually... can you wait outside? I can do it myself, at least the pants. I might need help with the t-shirt."

Dean blinks, taken aback by this change of routine, and then he looks closer, sees the way Sammy's hiding behind his hair, the heat in his bruised cheeks. The kid's embarrassed.

"Uh, yeah, sure." Dean stumbles over his words, trying to downplay this turn of events but failing miserably. "Whatever you want, kiddo."

He puts the clothes down on the bed. "I'll just... wait outside. Just... call me when you need me."

He doesn't know if he should touch but he needs to give Sammy something, so he grabs his hand in a quick squeeze and leaves before he can see the kid's reaction.

He waits, leaning his back against the door, for about ten minutes before he hears Sam call him, then he's back in a flash, ready to help.

But the sight of Sam's bare chest stops him in his tracks. The kids sitting on the side of the bed, feet on the floor. He's removed the hospital gown and managed to get the sweats on but he's breathing hard like it took all his energy (it probably did) and his chest...

Dean hasn't seen it since before the basement, and he knew it was bad, like everything else, but seeing the thick boot-shaped bruises over Sammy's ribs takes his freaking breath away. Shit but Sammy's been beat to hell.

(How are they ever going to get passed this?)

"Dean?" Sam says, and he realises that he's been staring for far too long and Sam looks far too uncomfortable under his gaze.

"Yeah, shit, sorry." He steps forward and takes the t-shirt from Sam.

"'s okay," Sam mutters, and Dean bites his lip to stop the sudden sob that wells up in his throat.

He pulls the t-shirt over Sam's head, careful not to let it catch on the stitches or staples, and, as gently as he can, guides Sam's arms through the sleeves. It's still horrible though and when he's finished Sam sags against him, forehead pressed to his chest, and Dean wants to hug him, so badly wants to just fucking hug him, but he's scared that he's going to hurt him so he rests one hand lightly on the top of Sam's head and the other on Sam's back, so fucking gentle that he's not sure if Sam can even feel it.

After a minute he takes his hand from Sam's back and uses it to push the button that releases the morphine. They agreed to wait until the very end to use it, so Sammy gets as much pain relief after they leave as possible. When Sam goes limp as it hits his bloodstream, Dean gently slips the needle from the back of his hand and untangles it from Sam's t-shirt. Sam must have removed all the other things he was hooked up to while Dean was out of the room.

"Okay, there we go, it's okay." Regretfully, he pushes Sam back upright and, as an afterthought, rummages around Sam's duffel until he finds a pair of socks. He slips them over Sam's bare feet.

"You gonna be okay for a minute?" he asks and Sam nods so he takes off and grabs the first wheelchair he sees, hurrying back to Sam's room.

Sam's got his head down, like he can't find the energy to hold it up, looking closer to unconscious than anything but he helps hold his own weight as Dean shifts him to the wheelchair, so that's something.

One final check to make sure the coast is clear, and then he's wheeling Sam into the hallway and is in the elevator before anyone shows up to wonder what they're doing.

On the ground floor it's easy to push Sam out the front doors. No one so much as bats an eyelash at them, which is probably because Sam still has his head down. Dean's sure Sammy's battered face would draw some attention from curious onlookers. But they make it to the Impala, no problem.

"Front seat or back?" Dean asks. The back would probably be more comfortable for a long drive but whatever Sammy wants.

"Front. I don't wanna... have to lie down and then get up again... my ribs..."

The morphine's making Sammy drowsy. Drugged up Sam usually rambles and Dean kind of sometimes loves seeing Sam on pain medication. Not because the kid's hurt – hell no – but because Sammy tends to be fucking adorable when he's drugged, sloppy, sappy conversations that are half complete nonsense and a tendency to be clingy that makes Dean feel totally un-manly things about how does he love this kid so damn much, why is Sammy so totally awesome, the little bitch.

Also, there's often a lot of stuff to tease Sam about in his out-of-it ramblings.

He can't take any enjoyment out of this though, and the thought of making fun of Sammy about anything he says during this drug trip, or even any time in the future, is repulsive. Sam's not clingy and adorable and talkative. Sam's holding his arms around himself like even the morphine can't help what hurts inside him, he's a fucking mess of bruises and stitches and chunks of missing hair and even if Sammy wanted to talk, Dean wouldn't know what to say. What the fuck is he supposed to say about this?

So Dean doesn't say anything and he helps Sammy into the passenger seat but, despite his attempt to move him as smoothly and gently as possible, the kid ends up needing to sit sideways with his feet on the concrete, bent over with his elbows on his knees and his hands clenched in his remaining hair, trying not to throw up.

"Sorry," he moans quietly.

"It's okay, just breathe." Dean's crouched down in front of him, directly in the splatter zone but he really does not give a shit. He's kind of worried about hospital staff coming looking for them but what can he do? "It'll be better in a minute."

Sam shakes his head miserably. "No, been feeling sick since I got dressed... might throw up in your car..."

Dean rubs Sam's arm. "I honestly do not give a crap if you throw up in my car right now."

Sam does throw up in his car, just as they're pulling into a motel parking lot too, and if Sam had done this a week ago Dean would have been freaking out and saying, 'Jesus, Sam, you couldn't have held it for two freaking minutes...!' but now he just rests his hand briefly on the back of Sam's neck after he's stopped the Impala. Sam's got his head in his arms, leaning forward on the dash.

"Sorry," he whispers.

"It's fine, don't worry about it," Dean soothes. He knows that Baby's worried about Sam too. She won't hold a grudge about the vomit, and he's too busy being grateful that the pamphlets were wrong about Sam not wanting to be touched to care about it. He'd be lost without these little physical gestures of support, more lost than he already is.

He gives Sam a minute to compose himself. "Okay, I'm gonna go get us a room. Will you be all right for a minute?"

"Yeah."

Dean jogs to the front office, after locking Baby's doors, just in case someone thinks Sammy's an easy target while he's gone. They've only been driving for a couple of hours, so they're not as far away as Dean wanted to get them but Sam needs a bed now and it's far enough, so Dean slaps down a credit card and pays for a week because he doubts Sam's going to be up to leaving before then. He jogs back to the car to find Sam in the same position he left him in.

"Number seven," he says, just so he can say something normal, and moved the Impala so it's parked right outside the door.

"You ready to move? You can lie down as soon as we get inside. It's not far."

Sam looks up at the door, the look on his face showing that their definitions of 'far' differ at this moment, but he nods, because it's not like they're going to stay in the car all day.

So Dean crosses to the passenger side and opens Sam's door. Sam turns himself so he's got his legs out of the car without help but that's where his strength ends. Dean gets him up and wraps an arm around his back, lifting Sam's arm over his shoulder and locking his knees, thinking to himself that he should have kept the damn wheelchair.

He tries to get them to the room smoothly, without jostling broken ribs but it's really impossible to do anything without hurting Sam so he gives up on smooth and just gets them there as fast as possible.

"There, all done, it's okay now, no more walking," he rambles assurances as he guides Sam down so he can sleep, because Sam's gone a ghastly shade of pale and he can't do anything to help but talk. "You can sleep now, it's okay."

"Don' wanna sleep," Sam murmurs but his eyes are slipping closed.

Dean goes and shuts the curtains but it doesn't do much to dim the lighting. They're too thin and it's barely noon out there. The sun's bright and the sky is cloudless.

It's as if it were mocking them. The only thing missing is some freaking birds chirping or it would be the perfect day, except that Sammy's crashed out in that bed over there and now that Dean has him back he just doesn't know what he's going to do with him. He remembers feeling like this after Jess died and Sam didn't go back to Stanford. Sam has always been his world, okay, and when Sammy hurts everything fucking stops and he knows Sammy so freaking well, how can he not know what to do with him?

For now, he puts the TV on mute and sits down on his bed, the one closest to the door. Anything that wants to get at Sammy now is going to have to go through him first.

XXX

It's barely an hour later that Sam stirs. At first Dean thinks he's waking up but the faint move of his head turns into thrashing and by the time Dean has bounded over, the kid's screaming.

"Sam!" Dean grabs his shoulders and gives him a shake, just a small one, and Sam's eyes fly open, his arms raise up and shove at Dean. Dean grabs his wrists awkwardly, straining his own stitches, and holds them firmly so the kid can't hurt himself.

"Whoa, it's me, just me, we're at the motel, it's over, just you and me here."

Sam blinks a few times and his ragged breathing turns to sobs.

"Aw, hey, it's okay." Dean wants to haul him up into a hug but it'll hurt him, so he puts his hands lightly over the sides of Sam's face, feeling stitches rough against his palms, and thumbs the tears away. "Just a nightmare, Sammy, that's all."

Sam nods, a little too desperately, like he knows but it doesn't make any difference, still shuddering. "M' ribs," he chokes out.

"You need something?" Dean's already getting up, heading for the first aid kit he retrieved from the car, along with their duffel bags, while Sam was still sleeping.

"Yeah. God, yeah."

"Coming right up." He shakes two of the strongest painkillers they have into his hand and hurries to fill a glass with water. He leaves them on the night-stand while he helps Sam into a sitting position, propping the pillows up behind him.

"Okay, here." Sam's hands are shaking too much to hold the glass so Dean does it for him.

Sam sags on the bed when they're done, eyes closed. Dean sets the glass back on the night-stand and rubs his knuckles lightly over Sam's arm.

"Guess that's why you didn't want to sleep, huh."

Sam huffs out a small mirthless laugh. "Nurse at the hospital told me I kept the whole ward awake last night."

"Yeah, well, I haven't been sleeping too well either."

And that's about all there is to say about that.

Slowly, Sam relaxes as the medication sinks in. It's not enough to take all the pain away but it can take the edge off at least.

"You feel like eating anything?" Dean ventures.

"Nah." Sam turns his head to look at the bathroom door. "Needa take a leak."

"Oh." Dean follows his gaze. "Um, you need help?"

"Just getting there," Sam says quickly, and Dean doesn't miss the way he ducks his head as if embarrassed, the renewed tension in his body. This use to be so easy, them helping each other out, and they've done it so many times that there's no need for embarrassment, but it's different now, apparently.

"All right then."

It's another slow shuffle to the bathroom. Dean lets go only when they're right in front of the toilet.

"I'll just wait outside the door, okay?"

"Yeah."

So Dean waits, the door slightly ajar, really hoping that Sam doesn't collapse mid-piss, until he hears the toilet flush.

He waits a few seconds, then pushes the door open, to see that Sam's got both hands on the sink, leaning heavily on the porcelain as he regards his face in the small square mirror. Dean watches Sam's eyes trace the paths of stitches.

"Wow," Sam says finally, shock and horror at war in his voice. "I guess you were right about not looking in the mirror."

Technically it was Sam who surmised that he shouldn't look in a mirror. He was right about it too.

Sam reaches up a hand to run his fingers through a short clump of hair, sucking in a breath.

"It'll grow back," Dean offers, suddenly wishing that he could smash this mirror and somehow erase the part where Sam had looked in it. "Your hairs always grown ridiculously fast, right? And the stitches will come out in a couple of weeks..."

Sam swallow, closing his eyes.

"Lets get you back to bed, yeah?" Because they can't stand in this bathroom all day, Sam's legs are going to give out sooner rather than later and he really, really wants to get the kid away from the freaking mirror.

"Yeah."

Dean does most of the work this time and when he sits him down on the bed Sam curls up on his side and lies there, wide awake, and runs a finger softly over the stitches in his cheek, the gash Dean thinks is going to scar.

"You shouldn't touch it. It might get infected," Dean points out.

Sam ignores him, eyes focussed somewhere else.

Okay, then. Dean turns to go do... something, something other than staring at his bashed up little brother, but Sam's voice stops him.

"I don't really remember... the beginning, when I was in the chair... I only remember the end of it."

Dean doesn't want to turn around. He doesn't want to have this conversation. He can already feel the remnants of his helplessness churning in his stomach.

"You were pretty out of it," he forces out, because it's Sammy. He turns because tough shit if he doesn't want to, and sits down on the side of Sam's bed, staring at the floor.

"I don't..." Sam makes a noise that might be a sob. "This is really fucked up."

Dean nods, feels a burning start behind his eyes, something building up in his chest that makes it hard to breathe. "I know, this is, is just..." Whatever it was welling up in his chest bursts and he can't stop the words from tumbling out. "Fuck, Sammy, I can't believe he did that to you. I'm so so sorry, Sammy, I tried to get free but I couldn't slip those fucking cuffs and I couldn't do anything. I thought he was going to fucking kill you, Sammy, and I watched him fucking hurt you like that and I couldn't stop him. I should've known he was out of prison, should've watched your back, but I fucked up. I fucked up and look where we are now."

He wants to jump up and punch the wall, wants to throw things and smash things and yell and scream but he can't find the energy so he just sits there on the edge of Sam's bed and drops his face into his hands and uses the bandage around his wrist to soak up his tears.

"Dean..." Sam says softly, after a long pause. Dean feels the kid's fingers latch on to his shirt sleeve but he can't bring himself to look up. "Dean, it's not your fault. We had no idea..."

"I should have known, should've had some idea."

Sam's fingers suddenly clench down, pinching his skin. Startled, Dean looks at his brother..

"You don't get to do this," Sam hisses, eyes dark and desperate, "You don't get to play 'what if' and 'should have' because I don't get to, because there's no fucking point. This happened."

Sam's voice wavers and he takes a gulp of air. "This happened and you can't change it by feeling guilty, so don't. I need you now."

Dean stares at him, stunned. He feels a tear slide down his face. How can he not feel guilty after what happened to Sam, after he watched it happen and did nothing?

"What do you need me to do?" he asks finally, voice cracking, because he doesn't know. He doesn't know what to do or say or how to help or how they're ever going to get over this.

"Just stay with me," Sam says, as if he's pleading. "Don't stay in that basement. I don't want us to stay in the basement. We're out and we're alive and I need you to convince me that we can deal with everything else, okay? I can't do this without you."

Dean untangles Sam's fingers from his sleeve and grasps the kid's hand between his own, the closest he can get to a hug until Sam's ribs heal, and squeezes like he can somehow transfer all the fucking love and admiration and amazement he feels for this kid into Sammy's skin. How can Sammy be so strong after all this? To be honest, Dean kind of expected Sam to be a sobbing mess huddled in a corner, but this kid here, ordering Dean to get his head out of his ass, this is 100 percent his little brother, and Dean realises that he's always known exactly what to do and say to this kid.

"You're not doing this without me," he promises. The most important promise he's ever made, maybe. "I'm right fucking here and I'm not going anywhere. We're gonna get through this."

Sam takes a few shaky breaths, visibly calming. "You're not just saying that 'cause I want you to, right?" he asks. "Do you really think so?"

He looks up at Dean and Dean gets this flash, of Sam before all this happened, superimposed over the stitched and bruised version, and he realises that he's been looking at this whole thing wrong. Those pamphlets don't know shit about Sammy because he's not a fucking victim. He's a survivor. He always has been.

And for all that Dean's been tearing himself up and freaking himself out over this, the answer is surprisingly simple.

"Of course I think so. You and me, kid, we're fucking superheroes."

Sam huffs a watery laugh. "If that means you're Batman, who does it make me?"

Dean leans over and brushes Sam's damp fringe off of his forehead. "Just this once, Sammy, you can be Batman."

END