Sam gulped, trying to think of a way out of this. He had nothing. He had no excuse at all.
“Sam,” Bobby said, lowering his voice, “if you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, I want you to get out quick. You hear me?”
Sam nodded, lips in a tight line.
“You know you can come to me for help, right?”
“Of course,” Sam said.
Sam stopped at that question. Was he hunting? Yes. Conventionally? No. Was he doing it alone? Also no. But he figured Bobby wouldn’t be happy knowing the truth either.
He paused for too long, Bobby could see right through him.
“Sam… Dean told me about Ruby. About you using your psychic thing. Now, I know you’ve been hole up here for months now, so I thought we didn’t have to worry about that anymore.”
“You don’t have to worry about me,” Sam sighed.
“Yes, I do. I always will, Sam.”
Sam felt warm at hearing the words.
“You didn’t “fall asleep in the car” today, did you?”
Sam looked down, answering the question without saying anything at all.
Sam could see Bobby shake his head in his periphery.
“Don’t you get it?” Bobby whispered intensely, “I’m trying to get you boys out. Don’t do something stupid and get yourself pulled back in.”
“I’ve said my bit, Sam. What you do next is your call.”
Dean woke up needing desperately to take a piss. He was still groggy from the meds but he managed to get himself up without falling flat on his face, and he considered that a win. He made it to his bathroom using the walls for support, cringing as his back tightened with each movement. He hung onto the rail next to the toilet as he took care of business. It had been Sam (and the doctor’s) idea to install handrails in the bathroom after his spinal surgery, and as much as Dean had hated the idea, it’d been a saving grace multiple times since then. He still didn’t like it. Because it was a disability bathroom now. And that implied he was disabled.
He washed his hands and splashed some water on his face, spilling it all down his front as he couldn't bend over the sink. His shoulder ached. He still had a splitting headache, courtesy of too much whiskey the night before. He wished he’d stashed a bottle somewhere. One nip now would make his headache back off at least. He couldn’t even think about his back right now. When Sam had hit the brakes suddenly, Dean’d been jolted. Just a little. But it was enough. Too much. It seemed like even just walking was too much of a jolt, each step rattling his bones. He felt it like a shockwave, every time his feet hit the ground. He was still breathing carefully too, shoulders curling in to make it easier. The deeper he breathed, the more it hurt.
“You have to take deep breaths, Dean. I know it’s going to be painful, but your pneumonia is only going to get worse if you don’t use your lungs properly.”
He coughed, and had to press the heel of his hand against his forehead. It felt like his brain was rattling around inside his head.
He managed to get back to bed on his own without alerting the whole household. It was still daylight. Late afternoon. But he went to sleep anyway.
Sam and Bobby had pretended like nothing happened and were back to civil, normal conversation. Bobby was in the kitchen, frying up some sausages, and Sam was sitting on the couch, computer on his lap and the news on in the background.
“Bobby, you looked up this pleural effusion thing?”
Bobby turned from the stove, “I was leaving the research up to you.”
Sam pursed his lips and rolled his eyes. Bobby smirked.
“What is it, son?”
“It doesn’t sound very good.”
“Well, I couldn’t imagine it is.”
“I’m serious. This says they usually have to drain the fluid by inserting a tube in between the ribs.”
Bobby grimaced, “Ouch.”
“It can cause all sorts of complications, collapsed lungs, medial shift…”
“Sam,” Bobby stopped him.
“Dean went to the hospital. He’s been checked, all right? We just gotta keep an eye on him, that’s all. Make sure he takes that medication.”
Sam sighed, “Yeah…”
“Maybe you should stop googling everything that’s wrong with your brother and just go and talk to him.”
“He won’t talk to me, Bobby. He won’t talk to anyone, that’s what I’m worried about.”
Bobby turned the sausages in the pan.
“Maybe I should take him somewhere.”
Bobby raised an eyebrow, “What are you on about?”
“Dean hates being in the one place for too long… maybe we should, I dunno, take a trip.”
Bobby pushed his hat back and scratched his head, “Sam, I dunno if he’s up for going anywhere just yet. Can he sit in the car for longer than 20 minutes?”
“He can lie down in the back.”
“It’s a nice thought, son, but I think he needs a bit more time.”
Sam sighed again and closed his laptop, moving it to the coffee table.
“When’s this going to start getting better, Bobby?”
Dean woke again at after eight in the evening. He could smell something amazing. His stomach roared and he realized he was so incredibly hungry. He pushed himself up to sit on the edge of his bed and ran a hand through his hair. He coughed, loud and thick. He took a moment to take several painfully deep breaths, pressing a hand against his chest. When he was quite satisfied that he could stand up without passing out, he pushed off his mattress and caught himself on the wall, slowly straightening.
He stopped by the bathroom to take another piss. The new pills he was on were going to make that a common and annoying need.
By the time he had lumbered down the hall he could feel the sweat on his forehead and his body shaking from exhaustion. His self-loathing kicked it up a notch and he wasn’t quite sure how he could hate himself any more at this point.
When he passed through into the open kitchen/living room area and saw Sam and Bobby sitting there, Bobby in the armchair, book in hand, Sam stretched across the lounge watching TV, and two clean plates with knives and forks haphazardly thrown on top of them sitting on the coffee table, he was filled with more despair than he’d care to mention.
“You saved some for me, right?”
Sam and Bobby were already looking at him, not surprised by his presence. He didn’t exactly have ninja stealth these days.
“Course I did, boy,” Bobby snorted, and Dean felt overwhelming relief.
Bobby was already up and heading for the kitchen before Dean could move again.
“Come sit down, man,” Sam said, immediately followed by, “How you feeling?”
Dean coughed into his elbow as he shuffled over, “I’ll live… I think,” he smirked. “What’s for dinner? It smells good.”
Sam moved his legs so Dean could sit down.
“Sausages, mashed potato and gravy,” Sam raised his eyebrows at Dean.
Dean’s eyes widened in approval.
“I know, dude.”
“Don’t skimp out on the gravy,” Dean called to Bobby.
Bobby snorted in the kitchen, “Since when have I ever skimped out on gravy?”
“Once,” Dean said, straight faced, “And I’ll never forget it.”
Bobby crossed the room with the steaming plate, handing it to Dean, “Idjit.”
“You gonna be here in the morning?”
Dean had been pretty quiet that evening so it took Sam a little by surprise when he opened his mouth. Bobby had gone to bed and it had just been the two of them for the past half hour, watching an old black and white movie on TV.
Sam looked at his brother, who was still looking at him, waiting for an answer.
“Uh, I leave for work at 9:30.”
Dean’s expression didn’t change, “Can you give me a ride?”
Sam furrowed his brow, “Give you a ride where?”
Sam’s eyebrows went right up, “Katie’s?”
Dean shrugged, “Yeah. What?”
“You just spent the night at Riley’s.”
Dean rolled his eyes and looked back at the TV, “Well, if you’re going to be a dick about it, forget it.”
“No, Dean, come on.”
“Her parents are out of town. She’s making me breakfast.”
Sam paused, “… awww.”
“Whatever. It’s my car anyway, I want it back.”
“Dean, I’ll drive you, all right?”
Dean smiled, although it looked like he was trying not to.
“You know, you tried the whole dating two girls at the same time thing in high school. If I remember correctly, it didn’t work out for you,” Sam smirked.
Dean glared at him, “That’s not gonna happen, because I’m not dating either of them.”
“Really?” Sam raised an eyebrow, “’Cause I think you’re dating both of them.”
Dean looked back at the TV and folded his arms across his chest, “Whatever.”
Sam sighed a little but tried not to be annoyed. He was the one that had pried in the first place.
Dean coughed and leaned forward, bracing his hands on his knees. He looked pale and groaned when he’d finished.
“Jesus,” he gasped, pressing a hand to his chest.
Sam clicked his tongue a few times, thinking, “I googled it.”
Dean did a double take, rubbing his hand down his face, “Googled what?”
Dean gritted his teeth, took a slow breath and finally leaned back in his seat.
“How bad is it?”
Dean shook his head. He looked tired.
“It’s not too bad, Sammy. I didn’t bust out or anything… the doc let me go.”
“So, it’s gonna be fine.”
“How’re your ribs feeling? You doing okay at work?”
Sam smiled a little, “I’m okay, Dean.”
“You don’t have to work there if you don’t want to.”
Sam looked over at his brother but he wasn’t looking at him.
Dean cleared his throat, “I don’t want you working too hard, Sammy. I know… I know I’m a lot to deal with right now but… you don’t have to do it for me. We can find another way.”
Sam almost laughed, “Dean… it’s a bar job, it’s not rocket science.”
“But it’s not just that,” Dean sounded exasperated, “It’s a lot, and it’s me and my shit you have to deal with too. And you’re not 100% yet, I can see that.”
“Dean… is this about today?”
“I’m worried about you, Sam.”
Sam looked down, feeling a lump in his throat.
“You don’t have to worry about me.”
Dean rolled his head on the back of the couch to look at Sam, brow drawn in. It was obvious. Dean was always going to worry.
“Do you miss it?” Sam asked, feeling Dean’s eyes on him.
Sam looked up, just to see Dean swallow. He paled.
Dean looked back at the TV, his jaw working. Eventually he put his hands either side of him and pressed up off the couch to his feet.
Sam nodded, tongue tracing the line of his teeth. He should have known that would make Dean shut down.
“Are you alright to get to bed? Do you need something?”
Dean smiled, “No, Sammy, I’m good.”
Sam nodded, and watched the back of his brother disappear down the hallway.
Dean woke up at 3am, literally covered from head to toe in sweat. It was rolling off him. His pillow soaked under his head, sheets damp around him, feeling heavy, pushing him down. He was panting hard, images from the dream still flashing through his head. He had to pull the sheets off him, just to make sure his chest wasn’t in ribbons, blood spilling out of him. He put a hand on his chest and closed his eyes, feeling the hellhounds claw into him, ripping the flesh from his bones. He clamped a hand over his mouth, trying not to yell or sob, let out any sound that might wake Sam or Bobby. They’d seen him pretty bad the last few months but he didn’t want them to see him like this. After a few calming breaths he began to relax, heart beat slowing beneath his hand. He wasn’t in danger right now.
You’re okay. You’re okay. You’re okay.
“Dammit,” he whispered, noticing how wet everything was around him.
He shivered. The sheets were cold and damp.
He gasped as he pushed himself up, back clenching. He winced as searing pain rippled through him.
Slowly, quietly, carefully, he pulled the sheets off his bed. He pressed a hand to his mattress. It was a little damp but the majority of the moisture was in the sheets. He tucked his wet sheets and pillowcases under his arm and shuffled down the hallway in the dark, other hand feeling his way along the wall.
He got to the laundry and flicked the light on, depositing his soaked linen in the washing machine. He realized, looking down at the machine, that he had no idea how it worked. He found some detergent in the overhead cupboard and tipped some of that in, pressed a few buttons and hoped for the best.
Dean jumped, hand going to his chest, “Jesus.”
Bobby was standing in the doorway, eyes squinting against the light.
Dean braced himself against the laundry bench, “Yeah, I, uh…”
Bobby furrowed his brow, “Weird time to be doing laundry.”
Dean cleared his throat, “My sheets were wet.”
Bobby opened his eyes a little more and took in Dean’s appearance. He softened.
“Come on, son. You have a quick shower and rinse off. I’ll get some clean sheets.”
Dean sighed. He felt like a little kid, but, man, it felt good to be taken care of.
Bobby patted him gently on the back as he walked past and followed him back to his room.