Mistakes and Misery
Summary: After John's death, Dean makes the mistake of rushing into a hunt and Sam pays the price.
Warnings: Swearing. Vague LOST spoilers.
A/N: Finally, new fic from me! I finally got a chance to finish this because... **drum roll** I finished writing my very first eBook! You guys like poetry, right? I really hope so because I would be so super thrilled if you'd go check it out! You can either find the link on my profile or google search for Verona Darlton Our Darker Days. Thanks everyone! I couldn't have done it without you!
"Okay, just stay calm. It's gonna be fine."
Sam's lip twitched in amusement. "I am calm, Dean. You're the one freaking out."
"I'm not freaking out," Dean denied distractedly, risking another glance at Sam. Or rather, at Sam's arm, and it is a risk, seeing as they're barreling down the highway at speeds the Impala hasn't seen in years.
Blood was seeping through the towel, splattered on Sam's shirt and jeans, but that's not what's worrying Dean. Oh no, that's definitely not what's worrying Dean. Sam's not in danger of bleeding out. What Dean is worrying – but not freaking out – about is the poison that he knows is infiltrating his little brother's bloodstream as they sit uselessly in the car.
They had been unprepared. If he was honest, he had been unprepared, willing to ignore Sam's concern in favour of a hunt he could sink into, something to distract him from the hideous ache in his chest that was a constant since their father died. But really, the thing was a snake, a lower form of Basilisk. Deadly but simple to deal with. The power of it's gaze couldn't kill you and all you needed was a silver blade to behead it.
Just don't let it bite you.
Dean had been sure that they could handle it. Unfortunately, they had grossly underestimated it's size. Most of these things were small, barely the size of an average python – maybe because they weren't smart and left an obvious and easy-to-track trail of bodies in their wake, killed before they could grow – but this one would have given the snakes in Anaconda a run for their money.
So they'd been piddling around the old farmhouse, watching their ankles, when the damn thing had leapt through a wall. In a shower of plaster dust and debris the fight, a very short one, began.
It moved with astounding speed and dexterity, dodging their strikes with ease. It lunged at Dean's face, hissing, fangs bared, and he didn't even have time to verbalise the 'Oh shit' that jumped into his head before he found himself shoved to the floor.
In truth – and he wouldn't be admitting this out loud any time soon – Dean wasn't sure whether they would have been able to kill it. It was too big, too fast, had taken them by surprise. They simply hadn't been ready for it, a mistake that lay solely on Dean's shoulders. But as Dean crashed to the ground, he heard Sam scream. It had him back on his feet in an instant and, as the snake-like creature distracted itself by burying it's poison-filled fangs into his brother's arm, Dean swung the knife forward and the monster's head slid from it's body, detaching from Sam and thudding to the ground.
Dean watched the serpents body writhe for a moment before it stilled, then turned to Sam, who was on the floor, staring at his bloody arm with the same kind of horror that Dean knew was reflected in his own eyes. There was a drawn out pause as, stunned, the brothers struggled to catch up with reality.
So now, here Dean was, speeding towards Bobby's as if the fired of hell were on his ass and cursing his own stupidity. There was an anti-venom, complicated, with rare ingredients, but if he'd had any sense he would have had it ready – if not concocted, he should have at least made sure they had everything they needed for it. As it was, they were missing two key herbs. Now he had three hours to get to Bobby's or Sam...
The Impala groaned as he forced his foot harder on the accelerator. Dean patted the steering wheel, muttering a barely-audible, "Come on, baby, you can do it."
Sam shifted in his seat.
"You okay?" Dean couldn't help but jump down his throat. "How you doing?"
Dean's gaze darted over to his brother in time to see Sam roll his eyes.
"My arm hurts," he said, in a tone that firmly implied a 'duh' at the end. "And no, I don't feel sick or dizzy or have double vision or... anything. Just drive, Dean."
Dean rolled his eyes in return. Trust Sam to know exactly what he was going to ask. "Put some more-"
"Holy water on it, I know." Another sideways glance showed that Sam already had the flask in his hand. Setting it between his knees, he carefully unwrapped the towel from his right forearm, wincing as he peeled away the bits of fabric glued to his skin with dried blood.
The wound was nasty. Two puncture wounds, flared a deep, dark red on it's way to black at the edges, still leaking bright crimson blood. Sam twisted the cap off of the flask with his teeth and Dean pretended not to notice his brother's apprehension as he held it over his arm, tilting until-
Sam let out an involuntary gasp as the holy water hit his flesh, bubbling and hissing out steam where it touched the wound.
Sam's free hand curled into a fist, head down as he fought to control his breathing. Dean knew the technique all too well – it had been John's order whenever one of them was injured; breathe through the pain until it became manageable. It worked, to a degree, but it had always been torture to watch Sammy go through it.
Dean's own hands clenched around the steering wheel. Dad would be so pissed at him if he knew he'd taken Sammy on a hunt unprepared. He wished Dad was still there to give him the bollocking he deserved. Hell, he just wished Dad was still here. "Sam?" he asked again.
"I'm okay," Sam finally managed, shakily replacing the cap of the flask and curling the towel back over his arm.
"Don't worry," Dean reassured him firmly. "We'll be at Bobby's before you know it. He'll have everything sorted."
Sam nodded, resting his head back on the seat and closing his eyes.
They had to stop for gas. Dean fumbled and cursed at the pump as he rushed through it. It was so stupid, being forced to stop for such a mundane task, using up precious minutes. Damn it, did pumps always take this long or was this one doing it deliberately just to piss him off?
He no more than threw his money at the startled attendant, without even counting it, and scrambled back into the drivers seat, stomping on the gas and squealing away from the station.
"How you doing, Sammy?" he asked anxiously.
Sam's eyes flickered open. A sweat was breaking out on his forehead but he was lucid enough to give the standard Winchester answer. "I'm fine."
Which was bullshit, of course, but Dean didn't call him out on it.
"How's it looking?" he asked instead.
It seemed to take a moment for Sam to figure out what Dean was asking, then he slowly took the towel away from his arm. Dean slowed down just enough to look at it without crashing.
Worse. Definitely worse. The skin around the punctures had turned black and it was spreading. Sam stared at it with a sort of numb detachment.
"It doesn't hurt so much any more," he said quietly.
Dean decided that was a bad thing. The skin looked like it was dying.
"Good. That's good, Sammy," he said anyway, pressing his foot back down flat.
"It's Sam," Sam corrected, dropping the towel back over his arm and closing his eyes.
"Oi!" Dean reached out an arm to slap Sam's shoulder. "No more of that. Stay awake. Talk to me."
Sam's head rolled towards him on the seat rest, "'bout what?"
"Anything," Dean says firmly. Sam was starting to fade, he could tell, the poison sapping his strength, and it had barely been an hour. "Anything you want to talk about, school or how to kill a zombie or, I don't know, LOST."
"You watch LOST?" Sam asked doubtfully.
"No, you watch LOST, you weirdo." Dean forced light-heartedness.
"LOST is awesome," Sam said defensively, "It's the best show in the history of television. Not like the stupid stuff you watch."
"At least what I watch makes sense."
Sam shook his head, huffing an exasperated sigh, the one that plainly said 'My brother is an idiot.'
"How can you say it makes sense?" Dean insisted when Sam offered nothing more. "I mean, what's the damn polar bear doing there?"`
Sam shot Dean an incredulous look. Dean got the feeling that he'd just upgraded from idiot to moron. "Dean, that was in the first season. If that went over your head then there's no point in me trying to explain the smoke monster or the time travel."
Well, at least Sam was talking and focussed, even if it was on a show that Dean had long ago conceded defeat to. "Time travel? What the hell? I thought they were just stuck on an island."
"A magic island."
"Oh, like that explains anything," Dean scoffed. "Come on, Sam, you can't tell me that you understand it."
Sam was quiet for long enough that Dean got worried. He was manoeuvring around two other cars that were rudely taking up his road so he couldn't just turn and give him a once-over – not at this speed – but finally Sam spoke.
"It's about faith and redemption," he said quietly. "It's about destiny verses free will."
Oh. Well, that was horribly familiar. He stared out at the road, silent for a moment, reminded that the venom wasn't the only thing infiltrating Sam's veins and that saving Sam now didn't guarantee rescue from his supposed destiny and the yellow-eyed demon's plans. Finally he forced a smirk, "And here I thought it was just about a plane crash."
His attempt at humour was lost on Sam, who, Dean saw when he got a chance to look at him, had closed his eyes again, head tilted back against the seat.
"Sam!" He flung a hand out to shake his brother back to consciousness. "Stay awake!"
"I can't feel my arm."
Sam's voice had faded to a murmur. Dean tore his eyes away from the endless river of asphalt, cursing the Impala for not being able to go any faster and himself for getting them into this mess to begin with.
Sam was slumped down in his seat, his eyes open but dull and glazed. His hair was damp with sweat. Kid was deteriorating and there wasn't a damn thing Dean could do about it.
"Put some more holy water on it," Dean ordered, but Sam just looked at him uncomprehendingly.
Swearing and glowering at his watch as if he could make time slow down by threatening it, Dean jerked the Impala to the side of the road. He yanked the towel from Sam's arm, probably harder than he should have but time was running out and if Sam felt any pain he did nothing to let on.
Dean couldn't help his gasp. Sam's arm was black from his elbow to his wrist and even as he watched Dean could see it creeping onto his hand. The wounds weren't bleeding any more, though that was of no comfort. Dean allowed himself only a moment to take in the horrific sight, to panic, then he ripped the lid off of the flask and drenched the arm, including Sam's jeans and the seat of the Impala, with the remaining holy water. Again the wounds sizzled and steamed but Sam didn't seem to feel it, watching Dean's actions with vague interest. Dean barely paused to throw the towel back in place before he was skidding out onto the road.
"Just hang on, Sammy. Nearly there."
Sam's head rolled against the seat so he was looking at Dean through half-lidded eyes, fever bringing a flush to his pale face. "Where're we goin'?" he asked, a small frown creasing his forehead.
"To Bobby's. Remember, Sam?" he asked desperately. God, the poison was spreading so fast. "Come on, kiddo, stay with me here."
Sam blinked a few times, trying to sit up straighter. He shook his head slightly. "Yeah. Sorry, I..."
"It's okay. Just... you need to stay with it," Dean said, almost pleading. "Not far to go now."
Sam blinked some more, glazed eyes turning to look out the windscreen. "Now I have double-vision."
Dean's stomach sunk. "Feel dizzy? Sick?"
"Yeah," Sam said.
"Both?" Dean questioned, dread deepening.
"Yeah," Sam agreed
Dean chewed on his lower lip. "You're gonna be fine, Sam. We're making good time. We'll be at Bobby's in just over an hour." He hoped.
"Is that... is that soon enough?" Sam asked faintly.
"Yeah." Dean set his mouth in a hard line. It was going to have to be.
"I can't play I Spy if I can't see straight."
"You need to keep talking," Dean insisted.
Sam sighed. "Dunno what to talk about..."
Dean's ankle was aching from pressing on the accelerator so hard for so long, his hands stiff around the steering wheel. A glance showed that Sam's eyelashes were fluttering, his grip on consciousness unsteady.
"This is all my fault," Dean blurted out. That sort of thing always got a reaction from his little brother.
Sure enough, Sam's eyes opened and he turned to look at Dean, frowning. "Wha' are ya talkin' 'bout?"
Dean turned back to the road, speeding around a large logging truck that honked at him angrily. "I should have made sure we had everything we needed for the antidote before we went in, or at least done some more research so we could've known what we were up against. You didn't want to go and I forced you." Shame squirms in his stomach as he remembers Sam pleading with him to just wait a day or two, and his stubborn reply, 'I'm going now. You can either come or stay here, whatever.'
"I should've made you..." Sam started, trailing off vaguely. "I could've... should've..."
Sam moaned, "Gonna be sick..."
Dean fought the impulse to stomp on the brakes. "Shit. Um..." He slowed enough to cast his eyes around the Impala, searching for a suitable receptacle. Too late. Sam crumpled forward, barely getting his good arm out in time to stop a head-on collision with the dash, and threw up in the foot well.
"Damn it," Dean cursed to himself. It took forever to get the smell of vomit out of the car and it was going to be a bitch to clean up... and then he realised that Sam was throwing up blood and in an instant he decided that, right now, he couldn't care less about his car.
"Almost there now," Dean said reassuringly, for the seventh time in the last half hour, "Just a little longer and we'll be at Bobby's."
"Mm," Sam murmured, and Dean wasn't sure if he was really hearing him or not. He hadn't thrown up any more blood, though the Impala reeked of it, a metallic tang infecting every breath Dean took. He bet it would take a long time for the scent to fully evaporate, even after he cleaned the foot well, which he'd do as soon as he knew Sam was going to be okay. He didn't need the reminder of his terrible mistake staring at him from his baby's floor every time they got in the Impala.
Consciousness, however, seemed to be getting harder and harder for Sam to achieve and any lucidity he had just an hour ago was gone. His eyes were at half-mast, hazy and far too blank for Dean's liking.
"Sam," he snapped, reaching out a hand to click his fingers in front of Sam's face. "Front and centre, dude, come on."
"Hm?" Sam rolled his head towards him, blinking slowly.
"Stay awake," Dean ordered, enunciating clearly in hopes of getting through to his brother. "When we get to Bobby's you can sleep as much as you want, I promise."
"'kay..." Sam mumbled, but straight away his eyelids dropped, head lolling forward.
"Sam!" Dean reached out and shook the kid's shoulder, jostling him awake roughly. "Hey, I'm counting on you here, Sammy. You hearing me?" He spared a glance from the road to check that Sam was following. His eyes were fully open again, watching Dean blearily. "I need you to stay awake, Sam. This is really important, you got that? Stay. Awake."
"Stay 'wake," Sam echoed.
"Attaboy." Dean grinned a little, not that his heart was in it. There was still a fair amount of driving between here and Bobby's house and Sam was getting worse by the minute, but at least he was still semi-responsive, not passed out or choking on his own blood or worse. "You can do this, kiddo. I know you can. Just a little longer."
"My arm..." Sam trailed off, turning his confused gaze on the appendage.
"What?" Dean demanded. "Is it worse?"
Stupid question. Of course it was worse. But he had to check. He had to know how much worse. Leaving one hand on the wheel, he snatched up the towel.
A wave of nausea washed over him. The poison had spread to Sam's hand, the skin pitch black. His fingernails were starting to peel off and the darkness was reaching the sleeve of his t-shirt on his upper arm. Soon it would reach his chest and once it spread to his heart...
He was not going to think like that. They would be at Bobby's before it spread that far and the antidote would take care of it.
The sight of his arm seemed to snap Sam back to reality, a little. He stared at it, dumbstruck, for a moment before looking over at Dean.
"'m in real trouble, aren't I?"
Dean grit his teeth. If he could have pressed any harder on the accelerator, he would have. "You're gonna be fine. Almost there, remember?"
"Where?" Sam frowned.
"Bobby's," Dean reminded him yet again. "Almost at Bobby's. He's got the antidote."
"You're going to be fine," Dean repeated firmly, trying to push the doubts from his mind. Even if they got there before the poison reached his heart, would the antidote be enough to save his arm? It looked... dead. What if it was a lost cause by now? What if Dean had cost his brother his arm?
"Can you move your fingers?" he asked, a little desperately. If he could move them then the arm couldn't be dead, right?
Sam's heavy gaze turned back to his arm.
"Uh-uh," he muttered, after a moment.
"No?" Shit. But okay, well, it wasn't like that proved anything. It would be hard to move your fingers while your arm was full of poison, wouldn't it? Yeah, it would. As soon as he and Bobby got the poison out it would be fine. Sam would be fine.
Then, maybe because Sam liked to be a contradictory little bitch, he picked that moment to keel over and throw up again.
Bright red blood splattered over the foot well, staining everywhere that wasn't already marked with the drying blood from earlier.
"Damn it!" Dean yelped, barely resisting the urge to beat the steering wheel in frustration. "Sam, shit, I can't pull over now. You okay? Talk to me, kid."
The heaving took longer than the last time, more – far too much - blood coming up this time. Finally Sam leant back against the seat, swallowing convulsively. He swiped a trembling hand across his bloodstained lips. "Sorry... 'bout the car..." he murmured faintly.
"I don't care about the damn car," he exclaimed incredulously. "Sam, are you all right?"
It took too long for Sam to answer.
"...think 'm gonna..."
And that's all Dean got before Sam slumped over again, this time losing consciousness rather than blood.
"No, no, no," Dean gasped, reaching over to shake Sam's shoulder. His skin was hot to the touch, his hair now soaked in sweat. "Wake up, Sam!"
Sam didn't wake up.
"Sonuvabitch!" Dean swore to himself as Sam's head rolled limply on the seat rest in response to his shaking. Was it just him or did the kid seem paler all of a sudden? He swore he could see the colour leeching out of Sam's face, his pallor fading to a frightening grey. "Sammy, I swear to God, if you die on me, I'm bringing you back so I can kick your ass!"
Sam paid no attention to the threat, and Dean let out a shaky sigh as he forced himself to turn his attention back to the road, running a hand over his face. "Or maybe so you can kick mine."
The last fifteen minutes of the drive passed in a blur, simultaneously stretching far longer than fifteen minutes should and somehow rushing by faster than possible. Panic, Dean told himself, that was why his idea of time was all messed up.
Bobby was waiting anxiously on his porch when Dean finally - finally – pulled up, and he barely gave Dean enough time to stop before he was rushing to the car and pulling open the passenger door.
"He's still alive," Dean snarled defensively, when Bobby's crestfallen face seemed to indicate otherwise. "Help me get him inside. You better have everything ready."
"'course I do," Bobby growled back, already working to get Sam out of the car as Dean leapt from the drivers seat and made his way around.
Together they managed to get Sam up and supported between them, his arms slung over their shoulders while their arms snaked around his back, holding him as upright as possible. Dean shuddered at the feel of Sam's poisoned arm against the back of his neck. In contrast to the fever burning through Sam, the arm was cold and clammy, most of the fingernails completely missing now, only two hung on, peeling and black.
"Now would be a good time to wake up, Sam," he grunted as they carried him to the porch.
Sam gave no sign that he heard, head lolling forward while his feet dragged in the dust.
"How long has he been unconscious?" Bobby asked, voice tight from worry as much as from the strain of taking half of Sam's weight.
"About fifteen minutes," Dean replied anxiously, looking at Bobby over Sam's head for his opinion of that time frame, but Bobby's face was devoid of any clue, fixed in determination as they climbed the few steps onto the porch.
"That's not long, right?" Dean found himself asking. Pleading may have been a better word but whatever.
"We've got time," Bobby replied, but he didn't sound too sure of himself.
Dean bit his lip and concentrated on getting the three of them through Bobby's front door without getting stuck or banging Sam around.
"Put him on the couch," Bobby directed. "It's all ready. Don't bump the coffee table."
Of course he wouldn't. He'd already taken in the array of herbs and vials on the table and there was no way he'd be so careless as to risk the antidote.
Carefully, the two of them lowered Sam down onto the couch. He flopped bonelessly and his head rolled to the side, hair sticking to his forehead. His face was white aside from the blotches of fever on his cheeks.
"What do I do?" Dean asked as soon as Sam was situated.
Bobby passed him one of the vials. "Get him to drink this. It'll help reject the poison. I'll take care of the arm."
Dean took the vial and perched awkwardly on the edge of the couch at Sam's waist, giving Bobby enough room to stretch Sam's arm out over a footrest. Uncorking the vial, a pungent, rotten scent reached his nostrils. He pulled a face, "Jesus, Bobby, what's in this? It smells disgusting."
"Well, be grateful that you don't have to drink it and get on with it," Bobby snapped, selecting a scalpel from his carefully arranged coffee table.
"What are you doing with that?" Dean demanded.
"It'll take a hell of a long time to drain the poison through those puncture wounds. I'm just speeding it up a bit," Bobby explained. "Now are you going to give him that or do I have to do it?"
"I'm doing it," Dean replied quickly, gathering himself together as much as he could given the circumstances.
His hands were shaking as he lifted Sam's head and raised the vial to his brother's lips.
"Okay, Sammy," he muttered, "Doctors orders. Help me out here and swallow this down like a good boy."
Tilting the vial, he let the foul-smelling liquid dribble into Sam's mouth, careful not to go too fast. Sam swallowed on reflex and Dean felt a little relief trickle through his veins for the first time since Sam got bitten. Finally they were at Bobby's house, dealing with the poison, and Sam was still alive so surely he was going to be okay.
"Good, you're doing good, Sam," he murmured quietly, for Sam's ears only, and was rewarded by Sam's face screwing up slightly. He bet the liquid tasted as bad as it smelled, strong enough to filter through unconsciousness.
"Just a little more, kiddo," Dean said, pouring the rest of the concoction into Sam's mouth as he moaned an objection and tried to move his head away. "That's it. You did it."
"Dean, give me a hand here," came Bobby's sharp order and Dean snapped his attention away from Sam.
"Hold this," Bobby instructed shortly, motioning to the compress he had pressed to Sam's arm. "I gotta make a new one."
"Is it working?" Dean asked anxiously.
"If it wasn't working, I wouldn't need to make a new one," Bobby replied, pausing for just a second to clamp his hand on Dean's shoulder, giving it a quick squeeze. "Just keep applying pressure, it's drawing out the poison."
"Okay," Dean said, taking Bobby's position and pressing down on the compress. He watched as Bobby set about making a new one, adding herbs and liquids from the vials.
"It's had a lot of time to spread," Bobby said as he worked. "When I'm done with this, you're gonna have to hold him down. It'll start to hurt soon."
"Hurt?" Dean questioned, shooting a concerned look at Sam.
"Yeah," Bobby replied grimly, "Enough that it'll probably wake him up. There's a battle going on inside of him right now, the anti-venom fighting the poison. It ain't no walk in the park, kid."
Dean bit his lip, turning his worried gaze on Bobby. "His arm's going to be okay, right? Once you've drawn the poison out? It's not...?"
"It's not a lost cause, if that's what you're asking," Bobby said as he nudged Dean out of the way to take over. Dean watched as he swapped the compresses, catching a glimpse of thick, black poison oozing out of the neat slice Bobby had made in Sam's arm. "But we'd be damn lucky if there ain't any damage."
"What sort of damage?" Dean asked, feeling sick. He had to know what they were looking at, had to know... what he'd done to his brother.
"Hopefully nothing permanent," Bobby said, "With some time and some exercises, it might be good as new."
"Do I look like a doctor to you? We have to wait and see."
On the couch, Sam gasped out a strangled moan and Dean leapt back into position, perched on the edge. He leant over, brushing Sam's hair out of his face as his eyes flew open.
"Hey," Dean said quickly, making sure Sam knew he was there, he wasn't alone, it was going to be okay, but Sam didn't seem to get the memo. Dazed eyes filled with panic, going wide with pain as they ignored Dean in favour of searching for the cause of the agony.
"Nuhh!" he managed, trying to pull his arm away. Bobby's hand clenched around his forearm, holding it in place.
"Damn it, Dean, I said hold him!" Bobby exclaimed. "I gotta get this finished."
"Right," Dean acknowledged quickly, lending one of his hands to the struggle of holding Sam's arm still and squeezing Sam's good hand with the other. "Sammy, it's me. It's just me and Bobby. I know it hurts but you need to stay still."
Sam's glassy eyes turned on Dean, breath hitching, "Wha'...?" he choked out.
He gave Sam's hand another squeeze. "Remember the snake? It did a number on your arm but you're gonna be fine. Bobby's getting the poison out."
He watched Sam slowly put that together in his head, the panic easing a fraction in his eyes though he stayed tense, face pinched from the pain. His gaze flickered to Bobby and back.
"Hurts," he whimpered finally, looking up at Dean beseechingly.
"I know, kiddo," Dean replied sympathetically, working to stop his face from crumpling. If Sam saw how worried he really was it would be a lot harder for the kid to stay calm. "Not for much longer though."
He hoped, anyway. He could see the black leeching out of Sam's arm, his shoulder and fingers had returned to their normal colour, albeit paler than usual, and the second compress was on it's way to needing a replacement. Bobby pressed a little harder and Sam let out a yelp, squeezing Dean's hand hard enough that he thought it might just bruise but he didn't complain. Before his eyes the black receded to centre palm.
"Sorry, kid," Bobby said sympathetically. "Faster we get this done, the better."
Sam nodded tightly in wordless acknowledgement.
"Dean, can you hold this? One more should do it."
"Sure. Sam?" He waited for his brother to focus on him. "I'm not going anywhere, okay? Just gotta help Bobby with your arm."
Reluctantly, Sam released his grip on Dean's hand.
"Almost over, kid," he said reassuringly, giving Sam's shoulder a quick pat before shuffling down to hold the compress while Bobby prepared another one.
"'s not your fault," Sam murmured unexpectedly.
Dean looked up sharply, surprised by the new lucidity in Sam's eyes. The fever seemed to be easing. He opened his mouth to say otherwise but he couldn't find the words so he just shook his head in disagreement, looking away.
"'s not," Sam insisted.
"It's both o' you idjits fault," Bobby cut in gruffly, "Going off on a hunt without a contingency plan. You know better than that."
"Sam wanted to wait until we had everything for the antidote," Dean fired back, leaping to his brother's defense. "But I thought we could handle it. I didn't think the damn thing would be so big."
"Cut that last sentence off at 'I didn't think' and you might have it right," Bobby grumbled, pushing his way in to take over with the compresses. He wasn't really angry, Dean knew. He was worried and probably exhausted, just like him. "But accidents happen. It's no use blaming yourself for things you should've done. All you can do is learn from your mistakes and take this as the warning it is."
Dean nodded dumbly and resumed his position on the couch, giving Sam his hand to squeeze again as Bobby went back to work.
"Oww..." Sam moaned, watching the darkness creep down his arm.
"Don't look," Dean instructed. "It always hurts more when you look."
Sam responded by clenching his eyes shut. Dean chewed his lip, regret flaring hot and sickly in his stomach.
"I'm gonna make this up to you, Sammy, I swear," Dean promised quietly.
Sam huffed out a small, pained laugh that held no humour. "Jus' stop tryin' to get yourself killed and we'll call it even."
"I'm not-" Dean started defensively but the argument died on his lips. Of course that was how it would look to Sam – it's not like he'd even bothered to really talk to the kid in the time since Dad died – but getting killed was never the plan. Staying on the move, ganking as many evil sons of bitches as he could so that he wouldn't have to focus on the empty hole grief was tearing in his chest, that was the plan, and today it almost got Sam killed.
He cleared his throat a little awkwardly, aware of Bobby purposefully looking away, eyes on his work. "I'm not, okay? I screwed up, and it won't happen again."
"Promise?" Sam asked quietly, wincing under Bobby's ministrations. "I can't... can't lose you too."
Dean clenched Sam's hand tight in both of his, letting sincerity fill his face rather than regret. He couldn't change the past, but he could take care of the future. "Promise."