Word Count: 5800
Rating: R (language)
Characters: Dean, Sam
Genre: gen, h/c, hurt!Sam, hurt!Dean
Warnings: refers to events up through 7X11.
Author's Notes: This is based on the following commentfic prompt on ohsam: Sam has food poisoning. Dean's trying to take care of him, but Sam keeps seeing Lucifer telling him that Dean's the one poisoning him, making him sick. As he gets weaker from being sick, he has a more difficult time resisting the hallucination.
Enormous thanks to my beloved beta reader, callistosh65. Thanks to embroiderama for the awesome prompt!
Summary: Dean knew his brother had been holding onto sanity by the skin of his teeth….or by the skin of his poor, abused palm.
Dean sincerely hoped that the poison control hotline didn’t keep records because if they did, he was pretty sure they were going to report him for negligence. Dean was on his fifth call over the past couple days, and he was about ready to salt and burn the next guy who gave him the same old advice….
Take your brother to the nearest emergency room. Now.
Like Dean didn’t know E. coli was serious and bad things happened to good people all the fucking time.
To make things much, much worse, the hotline insisted on playing “My Heart will Go On” in an endless loop every time they put him on hold. Dean was beginning to suspect Balthazar was in on it. What better way to torture someone who let his stupid little brother get poisoned by the spinach salad from hell?
At long last, the music clicked off, and Dean breathed a sigh of relief.
“Sir? I’m sorry, but my supervisor says the same thing. Your brother has all the symptoms associated with the recent E. coli outbreak, and he really does need to be checked out. The CDC is saying this strain is the worst they’ve seen in years, and they’re advising anyone who thinks they might be affected to go to the nearest emergency room immediately.”
Dean rubbed his hand over his face. “Is it gonna kill him?”
“Just give me the facts. What do I need to look out for?” There was a crash in the bathroom, and Dean flinched at the sound of moaning behind the closed door.
“Well…dehydration is the first thing to worry about, but my E. coli fact sheet says you can’t discount the possibility of kidney damage with certain strains—”
“Can’t you tell me something to give him? Gatorade?”
The poison control guy said with exaggerated courtesy, “Sir, we’re a hotline. I’m a volunteer, not a doctor, and we don’t even do food poisoning. We’re only trained to give advice if someone has ingested—”
“Yeah, yeah.” Dean scrubbed his hand over his swollen eyes. “You’ve told me. We don’t exactly have access to a hospital, and I can’t get any clinic to talk to me over the phone. Right now, he’s just puking his guts out. I know I need to get him to drink something, but…” Dean hesitated as he heard more retching coming from the bathroom. “I don’t know how to help him keep it down. Can I just give him a tablespoon of water at a time? Is that enough?”
The poison guy hesitated and then Dean heard him sigh. “So you’re absolutely unwilling to take your brother to a hospital?”
Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. “My brother’s an adult. He’s saying, ‘no hospital,’ so that’s what I’m working with. I swear if this goes south, I’ll switch to Plan B and knock him out and haul his ass to an ER. But I don’t really want to do that if I don’t have to.”
“I don’t blame you,” the poison control guy said, almost sounding amused.
“Look—if you can’t help me, just tell me, and I’ll let you get back to some kid who ate fertilizer or some other kind of crap.”
Dean could tell the guy was thinking it over, and he finally asked, “Is he keeping anything down?”
Dean stared hard at the closed bathroom door. “Nothing. Barely even water.”
“You could try a tablespoon at a time. Get him some Pedialyte. That’s what I use with my kid. You can even freeze it as popsicles. It works better than Gatorade, and you can but it anywhere.”
Dean rubbed his forehead. “Pedialyte. Got that.” The truth was Sam didn’t want him to even go to the ice machine, let alone the store. Sam always got needy when he was sick, and Dean had never seen Sam sick like this before.
The man paused. “If he keeps throwing up…if there’s any blood, then you might want to consider Plan B.”
Dean ran his hand through his hair. “Thanks, doc.” He hung up before the hotline guy could remind him he was no doctor—just an unpaid volunteer, probably sick and tired of giving good advice to assholes who wouldn’t take it. And it was good advice.
If only Sam would agree to go to the hospital…
Dean leaned back in the chair and stared hard at the closed bathroom door. He could fill up a sheet of cheap motel stationery with “if onlys.”
1. If only Sam ate double bacon cheeseburgers like a real man.
2. If only the leviathan didn’t frequent hospitals like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
3. If only hospitals didn’t use a universally hackable computer system to keep track of their 6’5” male patients who were admitted, presenting with physical and psychiatric symptoms.
4. If only an ungrateful world offered up complimentary health care to its broken saviors.
5. If only Lucifer would stay in his damn cage where he belonged and out of Sam’s poor head.
6. If only Bobby was here…
Dean poured himself a day’s worth of whiskey and drank it down.
“Dean…what the hell’s happening?”
Lying on the bed, Sam rolled to face Dean, reaching for him like he always did when he was either very sick or very drunk.
“You ate spinach. Bad, bad spinach.” Dean let him grope all he wanted because if anyone was entitled to get what he wanted, it was Sam.
“This sucks,” Sam moaned, and Dean huffed a bitter laugh.
“It totally sucks. So you about ready to do something about it? How about just getting some fluids?”
Sam had his face scrunched up in a miserable frown. “I’m getting better.”
“You’re not getting better…and if you keep puking, you’re not gonna have a choice. That’s what the poison guy said.”
Sam blinked. “What poison guy?” he asked suspiciously.
Dean rolled his eyes—the worse Sam felt, the more paranoid he got. It had taken Dean all morning to convince him that Lucifer hadn’t poisoned him. “The hotline guy. He said you’ve gotta go to a hospital if you get dehydrated. C’mon, Sammy. This is a no-brainer. You would make me go if it was me, and you know it.”
But Sam just let go of him and rolled over to face the wall. He had taken his shirt off earlier because he said the fabric hurt his skin, and Dean knew from watching him that Sam just couldn’t get comfortable.
“No hospital,” Sam mumbled.
Dean hated this. He swore under his breath, stomped to the table, and yanked out his chair. He might as well clean his guns. Again.
But then Sam groaned loudly and tucked his knees up against his belly. “He won’t stop…he keeps cutting me open. I’m trying to make him…but he won’t stop.”
Dean winced and returned to the bed. This was how it had been all day, Sam slipping in and out of batshit crazy. Frowning, Dean pushed his brother’s sweaty hair off his forehead.
“Your guts are right where you left them,” Dean said, steadily. “You’re just sick. You ate a bad salad…always told you that crap was going to kill you.” Dean felt his own stomach turn…this was not going to kill Sam.
Sam was all he had left.
Sam managed a small smile. “Evisceration sucks, man.”
Dean managed to smile back. If you could joke about being occasionally crazy, that meant you weren’t…right? But it was never that simple.
Ever since Bobby died, Dean knew his brother had been holding onto sanity by the skin of his teeth….or by the skin of his poor, abused palm. Twice, Dean had caught Sam trying to open the old wound back up again with his jackknife. But the food poisoning seemed to have knocked down all his defenses. Like E. coli wasn’t bad enough.
Dean got up to refill the glass of water by the bed, but Sam reached out blindly for him again.
“Stay,” Sam moaned. “Don’t go.”
With a sigh, Dean sat down on the bed again, and Sam reeled him in even closer. This was getting ridiculous. Dean hadn’t had so much skin contact with Sam since he’d been a little kid, and Sam needed to keep something down.
Quietly, Dean said, “I bet they won’t even admit you. We can just do a couple hours in the ER, get you some fluids, and you’ll be good to go.”
“The leviathan are looking for us.”
“No way they could track us that quickly…not if we were in and out. Besides, for all we know, they could’ve moved on from hospitals. That fucking Dick knows I’m after him, so I wouldn’t blame them if they switched gears. They could be anywhere.”
“Not comforting,” Sam said.
Then he cried out, letting go of Dean to wrap his arms around his vulnerable belly. From what Sam had let slip, Lucifer had quite the way with meat hooks. Tears were leaking out of Sam’s tightly closed eyes—obviously, it just hurt too much. How fucked was it that Dean was glad his brother wasn’t completely dehydrated?
This really did suck. Without Sam’s laptop, he couldn’t even run a search to see how bad dehydration could get before it killed you. The poison guy had gone over it with him…dry skin, chills, lightheadedness. Check, check, and check.
Hallucinations? Double check.
Dean reminded himself he’d need to sneak a look the next time Sam needed to take a leak. Dark urine was a danger sign. If only he could call Bobby….he was the one who knew what to do with this kind of thing.
Dean would be fine, as long as he didn’t have to talk about him. Most of the time, he could tamp down the grief. But just like Lucifer with the slicing and dicing every time Sam let down his guard, Dean could feel sorrow hacking away at him because he was so worn out.
No. Dean couldn’t think about Bobby now—could even say his name. He was just so tired. He wanted to lie down next to Sam and consider never getting up again. He was so fucking tired.
But stupid, stubborn Sam was trying to get up off the bed.
“Keep your ass where it is,” Dean said wearily, but he tossed a pillow on the floor just in case. Sam could use all the soft landings he could get. Dean reached for the glass by the bed. “Here. Drink this. There’s just a little water left…you can handle it.”
But Sam pushed the glass away, splashing water over his chest and the sheets.
“Damnit, like that was really necessary,” Dean complained, but stopped when he saw the look on Sam’s face. “Sammy, what is it?”
Eyes wide with terror, he was scrambling back away from Dean, knocking his head against the wall. Frantically, he gasped, “Get it off me! Dean! Get it off!”
“It’s just water, Sam,” Dean said gruffly. “You’re fine—you’re just wet. Knock it off.”
But Sam was breathing hard, fingers digging into his scarred palm. God only knew what he was looking at. “No. Can’t. NO!”
“Stop it!” Dean barked at him and grabbed hold of Sam’s hand. “You hear me?” Trying to get Sam’s attention, he dug into Sam’s palm with his own thumb, wondering how hard he’d have to push to cause pain through all that scar tissue.
It worked though. It always worked. Sam’s breathing eased into something like a regular pattern. But Dean didn’t let go, even though his own hand was shaking.
Finally, Sam nodded and gently pulled his hand out of Dean’s punishing grasp. He leaned against him, staring at his damaged palm like a slightly unhinged fortune teller.
“Thank you,” Sam whispered.
Pressing his face into Sam’s unwashed hair, Dean flat-out refused to say you’re welcome.
Sam was worse the next morning, and this time, there was a woman on the other end of Poison Control who practically threatened to have Dean arrested if he didn’t get Sam to the hospital immediately. She told him that yes, she did have a note from the last guy who manned the hotline, and yes, she did know how long this had been going on.
“You know what to do—otherwise, you wouldn’t keep calling,” she chided him. “So do it.”
Dean shut off his phone, swearing under his breath about over-zealous hotline volunteers on power trips, but she was right. He’d waited long enough, and yet, the worse Sam got, the more he refused to go to the hospital. Even saying the word out loud sent him into a hallucinatory tailspin.
Tough shit. Dean was running out of options and out of supplies. He wished he had some kind of sedative…it would be next to impossible to haul Sam’s unconscious ass out to the car, but he’d done it before. Maybe the ER could give Sam some anti-psychotic drugs, along with a boatload of fluids and anti-emetics.
He went into the bathroom to see how Sam was doing. Maybe, he could just drag him out.
Sam was still camped out next to the toilet bowl. The poor guy had stripped down to his boxers. He claimed that even sweat pants felt like they were rubbing off a layer of skin.
Dean took a deep breath and came to a decision. It was time to call this one. Whatever it took, he was getting Sam to a hospital.
He tried the easy way first. “C’mon, Sammy. Let’s get you dressed.”
“Who? Why…why are you here?” Sam barely managed to pant out the question. It sounded like he was breathing through freakin’ cheesecloth.
Dean didn’t like the vacant look in Sam’s eyes. “Sam. Sammy. Look at me.”
But Sam was looking right past Dean. “Don’t. Don’t you go near him.”
Great. On to Plan B. Dean wondered how hard he would have to hit Sam to knock him out. Sam had already maxed out his concussion quota.
“Just me here, Sam.” He took a step forward.
But Sam’s eyes were getting wider and wider, and he was creeping back like he could fit in the space between the toilet and the shower if he had to.
“Just kill me then—go ahead. Try!” Sam said defiantly, and despite himself, Dean was almost proud of the fact that Sam wasn’t taking any shit from Lucifer.
Dean took a step forward and then another. “Okay, c’mon, dude…time to go. You need to get some clothes on.”
Sam was looking past him. “D…don’t. Don’t drink it.”
Figuring he should really know better, Dean snuck a glance over his shoulder—Sam was damn convincing when it came to his hallucinations. But there was nobody there. Behind him was only the empty motel room and nothing else.
He looked back at Sam and said, “I’m not drinking anything, Sammy.” He pointed to an empty beer bottle he’d left by the sink and said half-jokingly, “See. It’s already empty.”
Sam glanced over at the bottle and said, “It’s not beer. He’s trying to trick you.”
Torn between worry and exasperation, Dean shook his head. What? Was Lucifer offering him a cold one now? This hallucination seemed kind of lame…maybe Hell was giving Sam a breather since he was so freakin’ sick. He closed the space between them, crouched down, and gripped Sam by his bare shoulders.
As reassuringly as he could, he said, “Look at me—I’m fine. I’m not drinking poisoned beer. Lucifer’s not here…he’s just messing with you cause you’re sick. It’s just me, I swear.” He shook Sam a little. “Look at me—not at him. That’s an order—look at me!”
Sam made eye contact for just a moment, and then glanced away. He said, “He wants me back. He says I’m dying…maybe, I should be with Bobby.”
Dean’s heart started pounding with something more like anger than grief. He tightened his grip on Sam’s shoulders and shook him a little. “Fuck that shit. You’re not dying. I’m calling 911. You can’t keep this up.”
Without warning, Sam shoved Dean back. Caught off balance, Dean fell on his ass, and Sam pushed up to his feet.
“I know who you are,” he whispered. “And I won’t let you hurt him.”
Dean stayed on the floor, not wanting to spook Sam any more than he had to. “Push down on your palm. Break the scab if you have to. C’mon, Sammy, you gotta remember what’s real.”
But Sam was panting and shaking his head. “Stay back.”
Determined to knock his brother out, Dean pushed to his feet and started to move forward. But Sam grabbed the empty bottle and smashed it against the counter. Glass exploded everywhere, and Dean groaned at the extra complication. Sam wasn’t even wearing shoes.
“Great. That’s just great. Okay, don’t move. I’ll help you. Shit, am I gonna have to carry you?”
But Sam looked resigned and said, “You can’t hurt him…I won’t let you.”
Sam drew back and then plunged the broken bottle into Dean’s stomach with brutal accuracy.
Dean didn’t even have time to react before he felt the pressure of the bottle piercing through his shirt and skin. It was a shock, but it didn’t hurt. He just looked at Sam, so surprised, and pulled his hands away from his stomach. They were streaked red with blood.
“Huh,” he said.
Sam dropped the bottle with a sob. “Dean?” Apparently, Lucifer had left the building.
“It’s okay, Sammy,” Dean slurred, more out of instinct than anything else. And then he stumbled. Sam caught him before he hit the floor.
He could hear Sam sobbing and calling his name. Thank God, the kid sounded sane. Maybe they were finally catching a break.
The world faded to black, as Dean realized it was probably time for Plan C.
Dean opened his eyes to bright lights, soft beeps, and pain that morphine couldn’t touch. He lifted his head off the stiff pillow and tried to assess his surroundings. He was hooked up to an IV and had a monitor attached to the index finger of his right hand. Other than that, he seemed to be in an ordinary hospital room, lying next to an empty bed.
Fear made his chest clench up, and he started coughing, which hurt like a bitch. Obviously, the movement triggered something that made some alarm go off. He pulled the blood pressure monitor off his finger, and the alarm stopped.
A nurse appeared at the door. “You’re awake,” she said cheerfully and firmly slipped the monitor back on his finger. “Let me check your stitches.”
She began lifting up his hospital gown, and he blinked at her. “Where am I?”
The nurse pulled back the enormous bandage he was just noticing for the first time. “You’re out of recovery,” she told him. “The surgery went well, and the doctor was able to save your spleen.” She nodded at the wound. “The incision looks good, no signs of infection. That’s good news. Now we just need to watch your fever.”
Dean tried to sit up, ignoring the familiar nausea he always felt after coming out of anesthesia. There was something taped to his leg…a bag.
“My brother…where…?” He hated being drugged. Could hardly get his mouth to form the right words.
“Mr. Harrison? You have to sit back down. You’re still in recovery, and you don’t want to pull those stitches.” Her firm hand on his shoulder pressed him gently back down. But Dean needed to know why Sam wasn’t lying in the empty bed.
“My brother? He was sick…”
She looked decidedly uncomfortable. “I’ll have the doctor come in and speak with you.”
Not what Dean wanted to hear. “I need to see my brother. Where is he?”
She flipped open the chart. “You’re talking about the young man who came in with you? It says here that he’s the one who called 911.”
Dean bit his lip against the pain in his gut. He couldn’t let it show, couldn’t risk being drugged up. “He was sick. Food poisoning.”
“And you have different last names?” she continued, looking puzzled. “The other man told the paramedics his name was Nate Jacobs.”
“Half brothers,” Dean gritted out. “Different fathers.” He looked her in the eye. “Tell me he’s not dead.”
She put the chart down. “He’s not dead. Listen…I’m not supposed to be talking to you about this, but from what I understand, your brother is in custody. The police said he confessed.”
Dean looked pleadingly at her. “He was sick. They can’t arrest him…he’s all dehydrated. The poison guy said he needed to be in the hospital.”
The nurse pushed the button by his bed. “I’ll get someone in to come and talk to you, but you have to calm down. Your brother is here…here at the hospital, but I don’t have any information about his condition.”
Dean willed her to understand. “He didn’t stab me. He was sick, and I was trying to help him, and we both fell. The bottle fell and broke. It was just an accident.”
“I’ll let them know you’re awake. The police will want to talk to you.”
“In jail?” He didn’t want to leave the hospital, didn’t want to leave Sam. But the world was beginning to blur, and Dean was having a hard time understanding what was going on. He suspected she’d increased the pain meds in his IV.
She smiled. “No, not in jail. Here. They said they’d come back to take a report once you were awake.”
His eyes felt heavy-lidded and he fought to keep them open. “My brother….”
She patted his arm. “I’ll check for you. Just get some sleep.”
Dean hated trusting his brother to anyone. But Bobby wasn’t here, not any more. A stranger would have to do. If anything happened to Sam, Dean would always be alone…
It took every ounce of bullshitting talent he had, but Dean finally persuaded the cops that he had managed to fall on a broken bottle while helping his sick brother get dressed. They weren’t buying it at first…supposedly the idiot had confessed in the ambulance. But Dean insisted that confessions from patients suffering from hallucinations weren’t exactly airtight.
In the end, he wasn’t sure they believed him, but he made it very clear he wasn’t pressing charges against his brother.
The cops had barely left the room before Dean told his favorite nurse, “I need to see him. Now.”
She looked skeptical. “You can barely sit up. Your colostomy bag…”
Dean really didn’t want to think about that. “The other nurse already emptied it. Strap me to a wheelchair. I’m going.”
She shook his head, considering. “I’m not really supposed to leave this floor, but I’ve got a break coming…fine. I’ll take you myself.”
Dean frowned, not wanting her to miss her break. “Someone else could take me.”
She looked amused at herself. “I’ll do it. Let’s just say you remind me of my oldest son.”
Dean really didn’t want to hear about the nurse’s son, but he spent the trip across the hospital to the ICU, hearing about her thirty year old who had a new girlfriend every other week, smoked like a chimney, and couldn’t hold down a job. Whenever he spent time with civilians, it always struck him how simple their lives were…how incredibly uncomplicated it must be to only worry about themselves.
But once she pushed him through the doors of the ICU, Dean stopped thinking about the nurse and her son.
Because nobody had prepared him. For all the people who wanted to know about the fucking broken bottle, nobody had bothered to mention the fact that Sam was hooked up to a ventilator. Dean could hardly even see his brother’s face underneath the mask and all the tubes and wires.
Furiously, he turned to the nurse and asked, “Why didn’t you tell me he’s on a vent?”
A woman in a lab coat walked up to him. “This must be the brother—I heard about you. I’m Nate’s respiratory technician. Believe it or not, he’s actually doing a lot better than he was. All his numbers are improving. Yesterday was a whole different story, which is why we put him on mechanical ventilation in the first place.”
Dean couldn’t take his eyes off Sam’s pale face. It was too much like Bobby’s. He couldn’t forget the moment before Bobby died, watching him take his last breath, and then just—nothing. “He had food poisoning…I thought he just needed fluids.”
The technician regarded him calmly. “He was pretty bad off when he came in. He was severely dehydrated, and his kidneys were shutting down. It was close…if you’d waited any longer, there might not have been much we could’ve done. We were concerned about decompensation. The ventilator gives his body a chance to rest.”
Dean muttered, “A rest from breathing sounds kind of like overkill.”
She didn’t look amused. “Your brother is very lucky.”
Dean wasn’t sure if he should laugh or cry, thinking how fucking ironic it was that Sam had been the one to call 911. Thank God. Dean had never been so glad to be stabbed in the gut by his psychotic little brother in his life.
The nurse pushed his wheelchair to the bed. He didn’t look back to see whether she’d left. He couldn’t take his eyes off Sam.
The technician continued, “You can stay with him for a while. It might help if you talk to him a little, let him hear a familiar voice. His pulmonologist will be in to update you soon. The nephrologist was just here, but he’ll probably be back in a few hours, when he’s doing his rounds. We’re hoping Nate won’t need dialysis. Like I said, his numbers look good.”
Dean didn’t even want to know what a nephrologist was.
She left to check on another patient, leaving Dean in the wheelchair next to his brother’s bed. And damnit, Dean didn’t even know what to think.
Sam was surrounded by tubes and wires and machines… IV bags—five of them—were attached to various parts of his body, and Dean knew what some of the rest was for—heart monitors, the tube with the balloon inflating and slowly deflating again. There was a catheter and what looked like a feeding tube, not to mention some dominatrix-black panty hose on his legs that Dean planned to give him hell for once Sam was awake enough to be embarrassed by it. They had matching colostomy bags…now wasn’t that fun?
Ignoring the pain in his gut when he moved, Dean leaned forward and took hold of as much of Sam’s hand as he could get, being careful not to interfere with the tubes and wires. He remembered his own thumb pushing through scar tissue to bring his brother back to sanity again.
“This real enough for you, Sammy?” Dean whispered.
Leaning forward like that hurt like hell, and Dean was sure he’d get yelled at for it later. But Sam wasn’t the only one who needed grounding in pain. Ever since Bobby died, Dean couldn’t figure it out. How the hell were they were supposed to live this life? The nurses kept calling them lucky.
Dean didn’t know about luck, but knew this was his shot. This was real. Sam was real, and he was still alive. Like he’d told Sam months ago, this regular, crappy, stupid this wasn’t nothing. It was something worth fighting for.
He was so tired. Dean closed his eyes, put his head down, and listened to machines breathe for his brother.
Dean’s own heart was pounding, as he watched the respiratory technician remove the vent. Sam was fucking terrified—Dean could tell. He’d come out of the coma, panicked and disoriented and had only calmed down after they’d wheeled Dean back in.
They’d better not screw it up—Sam had been unconscious for days. But Sam didn’t even seem to be paying attention to the procedure. Instead, Dean realized that Sam’s eyes were laser focused on the bandages that were peeking out underneath his own hospital gown.
The technician was explaining to Sam, “We’ve been weaning you off the ventilator for the past few days, but it’s going to be hard at first. That’s normal. Your body has to remember how to breathe again.”
Dean glared. “Why the hell are you taking him off it, if there’s a chance he might not know how to freakin’ breathe?”
The technician looked over her shoulder and rolled her eyes. They’d had a love/hate relationship over the past few days.
The procedure didn’t take too long, and finally the tube was out. They didn’t let Sam try and talk before he took a sip of water and practiced breathing for a while on his own.
Afterwards, the technician told Dean, “Not too long. He’s going to be worn out.” She walked away, giving him a pointed look.
Dean would take whatever time he could get. He aimed a shaky smile at Sam, who was still staring at him, and Dean was about to make a joke about stealing his jello, when Sam’s eyes filled up with tears.
Dean panicked, looking around for a doctor. Freakin’ typical, they were never around when you needed them but always around when you didn’t. “You okay, Sammy? I can get someone—“
In his raw, raspy voice, Sam said, “I…I stabbed you.”
Dean let out a quick breath. “I don’t want to hear it. Everyone here knows it was an accident.”
Sam looked sheet-pale and worn out. “Are you okay?”
Dean smiled and meant it. “I’m fine. Seriously, man, I’m fine. It was no big deal. Typical day at the office.”
Sam didn’t smile back. “Tell me.”
Dean closed his eyes and didn’t pretend not to understand what Sam was asking. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Surgery to stop internal bleeding, fifty-seven stitches, a perforated intestine. He’d be wearing a colostomy bag for at least the next few weeks.
“They saved my spleen,” Dean said encouragingly.
But Sam wouldn’t drop it until Dean told him the truth. It never worked out well, keeping secrets from each other, so Dean laid out all the gory details. Sam wouldn’t even look at him after he was finished.
“I…I think you should have me committed. I’m too dangerous on my own.”
“Shut up, you’re not on your own,” Dean said. “You’ve got me, and I don’t want to hear it. Do you have any idea how sick you were…how close you came to kicking it? I could kill you for not letting me bring you in earlier. I swear, Sammy, this martyr crap you’re pulling? It’s got to end and I mean now.”
“You’re one to talk,” Sam said, his voice not more than a whisper.
“Well then, stop talking. You’re not even supposed to.”
With his free hand, Sam wiped at his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.”
Dean leaned forward until his face was inches away from Sam’s. “You can apologize for eating the fucking spinach when I warned you not to and you can apologize for being so fucking stupid about the hospital. But you can’t tell me you’re sorry for the rest of it. We’re not going to waste our lives feeling guilty about things we can’t help—we’re just not. We owe Bobby that. You got me, Sammy?” Dean took a deep breath, wishing he hadn’t mentioned Bobby.
Looking like a little kid again, Sam bit his lip then nodded. “I’m sorry—”
“Goddamnit, Sam. I’m gonna have them stick that tube down your throat if you don’t quit—”
“For the spinach,” Sam finished and almost smiled.
It was ridiculous—what Dean would do for that smile.
Dean grinned. It hurt his face, he was so out of practice. “You should be sorry, dumbass. I always told you that organic crap would kill you.”
“Probably wasn’t even organic,” Sam muttered, but he was clearly exhausted, and his eyes were starting to close.
Dean was getting pretty worn out himself. It still hurt to sit up for too long. His own doctors were always bitching at him about infection and wanted to keep him in the hospital until his low-grade fever was gone. Hell, they had him on the kind of antibiotics used to treat Anthrax, which he was pretty sure was an over-reaction.
But Dean didn’t want to go back to his room yet. Sam had been out for so long, it felt good to sit just sit there and listen to him breathe. Dean had learned all about the numbers on the monitors, and he could see for himself that they were good. It was all good. Sam was getting better.
“Dean?” Sam could hardly keep his eyes open.
“You need to sleep, dude. They’re going to kick me out if they think I’m keeping you up.”
Sam swallowed and winced. He gestured for the cup of water and took a small sip from it. Then he looked back at Dean and said, “When I woke up, I forgot he was gone.”
“Lucifer?” Dean asked, feeling his gut clench again.
Sam tilted his head. “No. Bobby.”
Dean could forgive Sam for the broken beer bottle and for the spinach, but he wasn’t sure he could forgive this. “Don’t talk about him,” Dean said, in warning. “Not now.”
Sam stuck his chin out defiantly. “I almost died—I can talk about him if I want.”
“You stabbed me,” Dean retorted, and Sam looked like he was going to cry again. “And yes, I forgive you, so just shut up about it. But you scared me to death, and that means I get to be the one to decide when and if we talk about him.”
Sam frowned. “That makes no sense.”
“It doesn’t have to make sense. I’m the oldest.”
“We’re going to have to talk about him sometime,” Sam said.
Dean sighed. “Okay, I want you to listen to me. We will talk about Bobby. We will. But not here, not now.”
“And you’ll stop drinking so much?” Sam prodded, manipulative little bastard that he was.
“You are such a bitch,” Dean retorted, but he reached for Sam’s hand because he felt like it.
But Sam mumbled, “If I go to sleep, will you stay?”
Dean wasn’t even going to dignify that with an answer.
Sam’s breathing evened out, and the monitors confirmed that he was asleep. Not in a coma, just resting. Normal.
Dean turned to look around the ICU, but nobody seemed to be paying him any attention. It was as good a time as any.
“Bobby,” he said, in a voice that wasn’t much more than a whisper. It hurt, and Dean hated it, but he’d promised Sam. And who knew…Sam could be right. Maybe grieving would get easier with practice.
He tried again.