"Dude, you alright? We've only made it halfway down the hallway," Sam said, playfully.
Dean breathed heavily, leaning a hand on the wall, and smiled.
"Was the hallway always this long?"
Sam laughed, "Yeah, dude. Need me to bring you a chair? Maybe we should just move the couch in here and..."
"Shut up," Dean groaned and started forward again.
Sam laughed and followed his brother.
"Ah, son of a bitch," Dean moaned, reaching out for the wall again but still maintaining forward momentum.
"You good?" Sam said, softly.
"Yeah..." Dean broke off coughing and pressed his other hand to his chest.
"Alright, almost there."
Dean sunk down onto the lounge, letting out a long groan. Sam crossed the room and got the box of tissues from the bench, placing them on the arm of the couch next to Dean.
"Thanks, Sammy," Dean muttered, ripping one from the box.
"You want a heat pack?"
Sam got the heat pad and helped Dean get settled on the lounge before he headed into the kitchen to start making breakfast. He looked over at Dean while he grabbed the frypan out of the cupboard.
“What you doing over there?”
Dean was staring at his phone with a smirk on his face.
“Nothing,” he grinned.
“Oh, really?” Sam raised an eyebrow at his mischievous brother.
Dean swiped the tissue under his nose, then balled it up in his hand, “Riley texted me.”
“I don’t want to know what it says.”
“Oh, Sammy,” Dean chuckled, “Don’t be so delicate.”
Sam laughed, trying to remember when he’d last had a morning this easy.
Sam and Dean bantered as normal that morning, and Sam had really missed being able to talk like that. He’d heard movement in Bobby’s room. Dean’s cough was pretty loud so he knew Bobby would know Dean was now awake. He wondered why he hadn’t come out to see Dean yet, and then he remembered.
“You’re not our father.”
Sam sucked a breath in, remembering the heat behind the words. He knew Dean didn’t mean to say it. He was just sleep deprived and pain rattled. There was no meaning behind them. But still, after all Bobby had done, all he’d sacrificed, all he’d paid… it was a really awful thing to say.
“Stop pretending to be.”
Bobby entered the room.
“Dean,” he said, looking to him on the couch.
Dean smiled, knowing he needed to offer some sort of olive branch, “Hey.”
“How ya feeling, kid?” Bobby gave him a sideways look as he crossed the room towards the dining table.
“I feel better actually.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear it.”
Dean saw Sam look between the two of them, then back down at the bench where he was cutting up bacon.
“Listen, Bobby… I know what I said to you. I was just cranky, you know? I’m sorry.”
Bobby didn’t smile, “I, uh… I gotta take off. Caught a hunt.”
Sam looked up, “Wha - now?”
Bobby nodded, pulling his boots on.
“Well, do you want to wait for breakfast at least?”
Bobby grabbed his bag and threw it over his shoulder, “Naw, Sam, don’t worry about it. I’ll eat on the road.”
“Bobby, come on,” Dean said, standing slowly and facing him.
“I’m glad you’re feeling better, son.”
The boys watched Bobby leave and Dean slumped into the barstool, leaning forward onto the bench.
“I screwed up, Sam.”
Sam paused in front of him, “Don’t worry, Dean. This is Bobby we’re talking about. He’s put up with a lot of crap from us. I’m sure he just needs a little time on his own.”
Dean massaged his forehead. Sam’s hand was on his shoulder, “Hey.”
Dean looked up, “Yeah, I know.”
“You can’t beat yourself up over this,” he said, giving him a little squeeze.
Dean looked up at him through his fingers, “Have you met me?”
Sam huffed, “It’ll blow over, man. He’ll come around.”
Dean folded his arms across the bench and rested his head on them.
Sam gave him another pat on the back and went back to cooking.
Despite the fact Dean had slept for however many hours, he still wasn’t exactly sure, he was exhausted. Just getting up and getting to the lounge in the first place, and then Bobby… He already wanted to go back to bed. He actually almost fell asleep on the counter, then he felt Sam’s hand on his shoulder.
“Come on, man. Go and lie down.”
Dean pushed himself upright, black dots dancing across his vision. He couldn’t believe he was still rocking this killer of a head cold. It was ridiculous at this point. He’d given up booze, so what the hell?
Yeah, that had to be it. Although there wasn’t much to be stressed about at the moment, since they’d just taken a knee on the whole apocalypse thing all together. God, he couldn’t believe Cas. At least this time he’d come and actually done some good. Now that Dean had slept he could see things a little clearer, and at this point he knew they were kidding themselves. Hunters didn’t get out. Hunters didn’t walk away. Something would pull them back in. It always did.
“Dean, you okay?”
Sam had puppy eyes firmly in place and Dean smiled, snapped himself out of his internal monologue.
“Breakfast’s almost ready but I think you should lie down for a bit.”
Dean coughed into his fist, a jackhammer setting off in his head.
“God,” he winced, massaging his throat and swollen glands. He glanced to the couch, then back at Sam, “Don’t think I’ll make it that far.”
His voice was rough and he started coughing again.
“You want a cough drop?”
Dean nodded, saving his voice, and Sam disappeared quickly down the hall. Dean envied how fast he moved.
Dean must have had his eyes closed, because he had to open them to see Sam. He took the cough drop from him and stuck it in his mouth, letting the sugary sweet sooth his throat, and tamper down the almost constant need to cough.
“Alright, I’ll help you up. Come on.”
Dean slung his arm over Sam’s shoulders and leaned on his as he got off the chair. Sam grunted.
“Unngh, geez, you’re heavy.”
“Pussy,” Dean smirked and focused on getting his feet to work as he made his way over to the couch.
Sam made more groaning sounds as he bent over to help Dean sit without face planting.
“Out of practice, are ya, Sammy?” Dean laughed.
“Says you, dude.”
Dean grinned and leaned back, letting his eyes close.
Dean drifted in between being asleep and being awake. Sam came over to him with breakfast and they both sat next to each other on the couch, eating bacon and eggs and watching some renovation show on TV. Dean didn’t know what the green stuff was smeared on his toast, but Sam gave him a hard stare until he ate it. It actually wasn’t too bad, but he pretended not to like it.
After that Dean had fallen off into a doze, and when he started awake an hour later Sam was no longer sitting next to him. Dean stretched and clambered stiffly to his feet. He walked gingerly down the hall and passed in front of Sam's open bedroom door. Sam was standing in front of the mirror, his back to Dean, his shirt pulled up.
"What are you doing?" Dean asked, pushing Sam's door open all the way.
Sam startled and spun around, dropping his shirt, "What? Nothing," he said rapidly.
"You checking out your abs?" Dean joked dryly, "Dude, you can tell me."
"Dean, I wasn't..." Sam stopped mid sentence and huffed, hands flopping by his sides.
"What's going on, Sam?" Dean stepped closer, sensing something more serious was going on than vanity.
Sam chewed his lip.
Sam sighed and pulled his shirt up. Dean took a slight step back at the shock of seeing at least a third of Sam's chest mottled with bruises.
"Jesus, Sam," Dean went close in to inspect his brother's chest, touching his fingers to the bruised area. "When did this happen and when did you plan on telling me?"
"I broke a rib working that case, remember? Bobby fixed me up... but the next day it starting bruising."
"Sam, that was like 2 weeks ago!"
"I know," Sam frowned, "I thought the bruising would go down but it hasn't."
"Are these new bruises? Is it still bruising?"
"No, no. I mean it took a few days to appear but nothing more has happened."
"Are you sure?" Dean eyed him, "because if something is bleeding in there, I need to know about it."
"No, that's it. That's the truth."
Dean flicked his eyes from Sam's chest to his face.
"I bet it hurts, huh?"
Sam cleared his throat, "Its not so bad."
"You're a liar, Sammy. You're a good liar. But you are a liar."
Sam looked down at the ground.
Dean couldn't believe he hadn't noticed this. Sam broke a rib, probably several ribs if he was being honest, and Dean was too caught up in his own selfish head to stop and think about him. To start looking out for him again. He'd slacked off. He'd forgotten his one, most important job in the world. Watch out for Sammy. He'd failed. Again.
"You alright?" Sam asked, putting a hand on Dean's shoulder.
"Me? I'm fine," Dean said, snapping out of it, "Which I can't exactly say the same for you. You know, I'm not above throwing your ass in the car and driving up to the hospital?"
"Dean," Sam let out a breath, "It's fine, really. It hurts a little... but it looks worse than it is."
Dean narrowed his eyes, "Well, you can take some painkillers and take it easy for the next few weeks. I don't want you lifting anything, and that includes me, okay?"
Sam looked down and smiled with one side of his mouth.
“Does that mean you’ll use the crutches?”
Dean cocked his head, “This was part of your evil plan all along, wasn’t it?”
Sam pursed his lips.
“Fine. Yes, I’ll use the crutches.”
Dean took half a step back, trying to ease the pressure on his lower back.
"Speaking of taking it easy, let's get you horizontal," Sam put a hand on Dean's shoulder.
“Hang on,” Dean gripped Sam’s forearms, getting a handful of flannel, as he felt the blood drain from his face.
“Okay, sit down on the bed, quick.”
Dean let Sam push him until the backs of his legs connected with the mattress and he let himself sit back on Sam’s bed.
“Lie back. Breathe, Dean.”
Dean was taking shallow shaky breaths. He made a conscious effort to deepen them as he lay back sideways across the bed.
"You're alright," Sam said, patting Dean's chest.
Dean fixed his eyes on the ceiling concentrating on breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
Sam sat down heavily beside him and Dean felt the mattress shift. Dean slid his eyes over to his brother who was lying on his back beside him.
"Promise me you're okay," Dean said, looking at the hand Sam had resting protectively over his ribs.
Sam furrowed his brow, his face serious, knowing how important this statement was.
"I'm okay. Really."
Dean sighed, tried not to cough. Breathe in, breathe out.
"When did I stop being the big brother?"
Sam was looking at him in shock so Dean looked away.
"Dean... you never stopped. You never have and you never will. You're my big brother. I know what you would do for me... I know what you have done for me..."
"Yeah, but really. Now who's looking after who?"
Sam shook his head, "Dean, we look after each other. You don't seem to get it."
"You think it's your job to look out for me. Well, my job is to look out for you."
"I don't need you to -"
"Yes, you do. It's okay to need help sometimes."
"Did we grow up with the same father?" Dean joked.
Sam sighed, "Yeah. But you listened and I didn't."
Dean laughed which made him cough, and it was painful while he was lying on his back.
"Don't hide anything from me again."
Sam looked hurt, "I'm sorry. I won't."
"Need someone in this world I can trust."
Sam had puppy eyes.
"Alright, don't give me that," Dean whinged, "Now, more importantly, how are we gonna get up?"
Later that day Sam woke up on the couch. He’d taken some of Dean’s painkillers, mainly because he insisted, but also because it really did hurt. He’d done a good job of hiding it so far but now he realized, hiding it was the worst thing he could have done, and he felt a sense of relief knowing that Dean knew now. The house was quiet now. Dean must have turned the TV off, and he was no longer sitting beside him. Sam got up, stretching gingerly. He poked his head into Dean's room. Dean was asleep on top of the covers on a few pillows, arms folded across his chest, mouth slightly open, snoring softly through the congestion. He looked peaceful.
Sam startled as a banging came at the front door. Dean sighed and smacked his lips but stayed asleep. Sam rushed down the hallway hoping to get there before it started again.
He opened the door and almost slammed it back closed at the shock of seeing Ruby on the other side. She was leaning on the door frame, hand on her popped hip, mouth pursed.
"Can't hide forever, Sam.”