Rating: R (normal sailor-mouth shenanigans, explicit drug use, whump)
Characters: Dean, Sam, mentions of JDub
Spoilers: Season One, set between Bloody Mary & Skin
Disclaimer: It’s Kripke’s world, we’re all just living in it. *snaps fingers, points*
Summary: Sometimes the echo off the hills is louder than the shot.
A/N#1: Shameless, unabashed Dean!whump. Delivered with love and in honor of this weekend’s birthday fangirls, kayto1 and riverbella . You guys have been around since the very lj-start for a Dragons, and I think you're both the bomb. *smishes you guys* She’s a three-day gig, gals, so it’s a little rough and ready. But I hope you enjoy.
A/N#2: Beta’d by the Whump Chef D’equipe herself, kimonkey7 . Poked, prodded and taste-tested by the ever-lovely chocca2 . Thanks guys, you keep me relatively honest, which is so much more fun than medically accurate. *titters into fist*
~Henry L. Stimson
Sam stopped Dean at the car, popped the trunk and told him to “Hold still, damn it,” while he got a look at the damage. The dark made it tough. The angle from the streetlight was all wrong, and Dean was in enough pain that he’d quit trying to hide it. Sam’s exploring fingers were less than appreciated. Dean got pretty vocal as he arched away from the contact, and the slung cuss actually brought some heat to Sam’s face.
It’d been a while since anyone had called him something like that.
“Sorry,” he offered, screwing up his nose as he lifted Dean’s ripped shirt higher. “Jesus.” The gash dog-legged around Dean’s right side like a giant fishhook, deepened up through the muscle of his back. As far as Sam could tell, it stopped short of his shoulder blade, but between the light on offer and the liberal blood supply it was hard to be sure.
Either way, it was a lot worse than Dean had let on. Always was.
“If that’d been my jacket? Oh, man…”
“Yeah. ‘Cause we need to be worried about your jacket right now.”
“I’m just sayin’. I’m glad it’s not cold.”
“Okay, I think this is a hospital run.” Sam bent to find the first aid kit in the trunk.
“Why?” Dean sounded annoyed.
Sam yanked on the kit’s zipper, flipped it open. “Because it’s bad, that’s why,” he snapped. “This’s gonna hurt.” He let that pass as fair warning, pressed a gauze pad along the deepest section of torn flesh.
Dean’s knuckles whitened on the lip of the truck and his head snapped up. He grunted, buckled a little.
Sam grabbed at the back of his brother’s jeans, kept him on his feet. “Breathe,” he suggested, when it seemed the reminder might be necessary.
Dean obliged noisily. “Oh, you sonuvabitch,” he groaned. “You can’t stitch it?”
“No, it’s pretty clean, it’s just… man, this is really deep. You’re really bleeding. A lot.”
“So, stitch it.”
“Dean, I haven’t--”
“No hospitals. You forget?”
“Yeah. No hospitals unless.”
Unless the situation gets unmanageable.
“You should have waited,” Sam told him on the way back to the motel, while the intermittent streetlights raked their sallow pall over the Impala’s interior.
Dean lifted his glistening temple from the passenger window. He turned his face to Sam as though his head was weighted. “No, you should have moved faster.” The grin was more of a grimace, had too much tooth. “You know, you’re slower than I remember.”
“Yeah?” Sam elbowed the driver door, curled a twisting finger tightly in the hair behind his ear. He frowned through the windshield down the darkened street. “Well, you’re stupider than I remember.”
It seemed the problem might be an innate character flaw; Dean couldn’t wait at the motel, either. Sam had barely rounded the front fender, en route to the passenger side, when Dean stumbled free of the car door and straight to the pavement. His groping hand slapped ineffectually off the Impala’s hood on the way down.
“Whoa, hey!” Sam lunged forward, caught Dean’s flailing wrist, and took almost none of the weight out of his brother’s fall. Dean swung like a pendulum and bounced his cheek hard off the front wheel arch. Sam winced, instinctively released, and Dean hit the deck, face-first.
“Shit,” they chorused.
Unless you’ve got blood loss you can’t control.
Beside the bed, Dean mumbled “Towel,” into Sam’s ear. When Sam froze in confusion, he added: “Use a drop sheet.”
A tight coil of prehistoric rage unleashed, flashed like lightning across Sam’s innerscape. He eased Dean to the bedspread, guided him down onto his left side. “Fuck the sheets.” He looked around. First aid kit. Still in the trunk. “Stay there, don’t move.”
Sam retrieved the kit, pulled over a chair from the breakfast table in the kitchenette. When he sat down, Dean was still having trouble letting it go.
“Shoulda got a towel or somethin’,” he chastised. “This is gonna be messy.”
“What are you, Martha Stewart all of a sudden?”
The access wasn’t great with Dean on his side. Sam pulled at his shoulder, got him semi-faceplanted into the pillow. He ran the scissors up the back of Dean’s shirt, cut away enough of the fabric to angle the lamp in and get a good look at what they were dealing with. Jesus Christ. He found another spark of ire to beat back his fear. “You really have to shut up about the sheets.”
“Well, don’t. Okay, what do I do?”
Dean’s cheek shifted on the pillow, chin angling up to look at him. For a second, his expression was completely blank, and then he let out a high-pitched keening sound that could have been laughter. His teeth chattered shut on the end of it. “Are you kidding me?”
“Dean, seriously, I haven’t done anything like this in--”
“Four years,” Dean finished. “Oklahoma.”
The shake wasn’t just confined to Dean’s clacking jaw. He’s in shock.
“Black dog,” Dean reminded him. “You put eighteen stitches in my leg. Hardly scarred. You’ll be fine. ‘S like riding a bike.”
Sam dipped his eyes from the reassurance in Dean’s pain-etched face, fumbled in the kit. “You’ll need something. This’ll hurt.”
“Yes, and yes. Thank you.”
Sam’s fingers closed on a vial of morphine, and he hesitated. Such a different world to the one he’d made, as horrifically familiar as it was foreign. The strongest thing in his medicine cabinet back at Stanford had been the No-doze Jessica preferred he didn’t use around exams. And now what? Sam turned the vial in the palm of his hand, checked the tiny label for instructions he knew weren’t there. The instructions were in his head, just where John fucking Winchester had left them.
You want fast results, you shoot the stuff direct. Intravenously, carefully, and very, very slowly.
Sam sure as hell hadn’t had cause to do any precision needle-work at college. And rusty didn’t strike him as an appealing trait when you had a syringe in your hand.
“Have we got anything in here I don’t have to stick you with?”
Dean’s brow furrowed, like he was thinking about it, but Sam could tell he was beyond any effective contribution to the topic. “I dunno. Nothin’ quick.” He lifted a heavy hand from the pillow beside his cheek, flapped it. “Load her up. I’ll do it.”
Sam snapped a needle onto a syringe and jammed it into the vial, drew back. He paused when his memory failed him, felt his cheeks flush as he asked Dean how much. He didn’t know if his brother was being conservative with the request or not, hoped he was. He remembered the constriction band; slid it between the bedspread and Dean’s arm, and tied it tight.
The angle was awkward. Dean came up on his elbow, had to curl some to find a position that would work. He was already tapping the energy reserves, and it clearly hurt. Sam moved to get an arm behind his shoulders, take his weight and keep him off his back. Dean’s eyes scrunched shut while the pain flared and evened out, then his clumsy blood-slick fingers were seeking out the syringe. Sam passed it over.
“You okay?” The question fell unbidden from his lips, immediately regretted.
Dean was about to give himself a field shot of morphine. If he could get any further from okay, Sam couldn’t see how. But his brother nodded.
“Yep.” Dean fisted the fingers of his left hand a few times. He concentrated; lips pressed into a thin line and forced a few noisy breaths down through his nose.
Sam didn’t doubt the physical control his brother could muster by sheer dint of being stubborn. He’d seen it in action enough to know. But it was clear from the jump the tremor in Dean’s hands had become too violent. Two flirtations with needle against flesh and Dean knew it, too. “Fuck me, I can’t get it.”
“Okay.” Sam covered Dean’s hand with his own, took back custody of the syringe. He felt himself filling with a deep dark pool of shame. Pull it together, Sam. “I’ll do it. I can do this.”
Dean sank back in relief, and Sam had to pull him sharply forward. “W-whoa. On your side.” Dean’s temple crash-landed back to the pillow, and he exhaled an apology into the motel linen.
Sam shook his head emphatically. “No, no. I’m sorry. I’ve got it.”
“Just do it slow, man. Real slow. Or you’ll gimme a fuckin’ heart attack.” Dean closed his eyes, sent a couple of deep breaths through the closed trap jaw of his teeth. Sam lowered the needle to Dean’s blindly offered arm and felt his gut churn. He hesitated, and Dean blinked open pain-bright eyes. “This’s gonna fuck me up. You got any questions, ask now.” No fear or disappointment behind the statement. Just a final offer of assistance he shouldn’t have to make.
“No.” Sam kept his tone even. “I’ve got it. Try to relax.”
And that got a huff of a laugh.
Sam leaned down hard on his brother’s forearm, told himself it was to still Dean, not his own quaking hand. The needle slid in easy, same gentle pop he remembered as the point breached skin. Dean was right. It was like riding a bike. He retracted the plunger and blood swirled through the barrel like raspberry oil.
He timed the dose out over the course of a minute. A little at a time, eyes darting between the syringe and Dean’s face. He was about halfway through when Dean’s eyelids fluttered and he groaned.
One long low word, more mild surprise than prayer, and then Dean passed out cold.
Unless temp spikes one-oh-three, or drops below ninety.
He should have used a drop sheet. Sam realized when he’d finished up the last of the stitches, and Dean started to shiver again. His brother was lying in a cooling pool of blood and saline solution, riding a morphine high that had left him barely this side of conscious. He was pale and sweat-slick; looked shattered and vacant and utterly drained. Sam was pretty sure that, medically, this was the pictorial definition of DO NOT MOVE.
But Sam didn’t use a drop sheet, so he was going to have to shift him someplace dry.
He dumped the stitch kit into the first aid box with a force indicative of his frustration. It was a wide swath of rage, enough to encompass himself as well as their absent father. Enough to blanket Sam’s horror at the neat row of evenly spaced stitches he’d just laid up his brother’s back.
He moved up the bed and tapped Dean’s cheek until his eyes cracked open.
“Hey, you awake?”
“No,” Dean slurred.
“Sorry. I gotta get you on the other bed.”
Dean frowned, nose scrunching, and he made a noise that sounded like protest.
Sam felt himself growing hot again. “Sheets are wet, and you’re cold, Dean. You can’t stay here.”
Dean’s tongue made a slow round of his lips, oiled the admission that slipped past them. “I can’t get up.”
“No, I know. Don’t move. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to do this.”
Dean was wracked by another shiver, and it set his teeth off on a rapid-fire clack that got Sam to his feet. Dean needed to get warm, and Sam needed this to be over.
So, get it over with.
Sam had a few inches on his brother, but Dean was still six-foot-one of muscle-on-muscle. He was heavy, completely fried, and Sam couldn’t see any way of getting Dean on his feet without doing more damage. He thought while he untied Dean’s bootlaces, worked his shoes off his feet. He knew he should lose the bloodied pants, too, but he wasn’t all that comfortable popping his brother’s jeans and getting him that kind of naked unless he had absolutely no choice. He convinced himself they weren’t that wet. They’d dry with body heat once Dean warmed up.
Sam dumped the lamp onto the bedspread next to Dean and dragged the bedside table out from between the two beds. He kicked and shoved at the empty ensemble until the stubborn wheels gave and he could butt the two beds together.
He stripped back the fresh covers, stopped long enough to grab a towel from the bathroom and lay it out on the mattress. Now that you don’t need it anymore.
He climbed up on the bed, hooked two fingers in the belt loop at the back of Dean’s jeans, and worked his other hand between the sheet and Dean’s shoulder until he had a grip.
“Okay, on three,” Sam said, and then yanked on the count of two anyway. Dean made a wasted sound that Sam felt in his chest as much as he heard. He pulled and prodded and coaxed Dean into the recovery position, and scooted back off the bed.
He pried the ensembles apart again, replaced the bedside table and righted the lamp. Stood between the beds with his hands on his hips for a while, feeling like a shit for all seasons. He wondered if he should tape some gauze over the stitches, or let the wound breathe. After a minute or two of indecision, the only thing of which Sam was certain was that he had no clue what he was doing.
According to the first three sites he dug up, the correct protocol was immediate evac to the nearest medical facility, preferably before he killed his brother.
The web pages warned against infection, and sent Sam back through the first aid kit until he found a couple of blister packs of broad spectrum antibiotic. He punched out three into his hand, thought about a fourth, then decided that was probably overkill. But what the hell would he know?
Dean proved disconcertingly hard to wake, and was far too doped to follow a simple instruction like “swallow these”. Sam fetched a Sprite from the vending machine beside the motel office, crushed the antibiotics, and spent the better part of thirty minutes forcing half a glass of pill-bitter soda down Dean’s partially- conscious gullet. One slow sip at a time with breaks in between, or Dean retched and they had to start again.
Afterwards, he took Dean’s pulse and counted out his respiration rate, wrote the horrendous results down on some motel stationery, along with the time. 1:42a.m.
When he’d done everything he could do – short of the right thing, short of calling 911 – he pulled the blankets over his brother’s abused body and retreated to the bathroom.
He washed his hands six times, and they still felt odd and slippery, like Dean’s blood was clinging in his pores. He stood over the john for a while, thinking he might puke, but the feeling passed.
He sat woodenly on the edge of the bathtub, stared at the tiles until his fingers made their own way to his cell phone in the pocket of his jeans. He worked it loose, clutched it too tightly in his lap, as if holding it hard might undo something.
He got through three aborted calls before he let it ring.
This is John Winchester. I can’t be reached. If this is an emergency, call my son Dean…
When the tone invited him to leave a message, he let his dad have it, short, sharp and straight up.
“Dad, it’s Sam. I’m with Dean. We’re at a motel on West Galena in Freeport, and he’s fucked up. Like, shot-of-morphine-unconscious kind of fucked up. And he really needs you to get your ass here. So, I don’t know what you’re doing or where you are, but you need to drop it and get here. We’ve left a couple of messages the last few weeks and I don’t know if you’re getting them, but you really need to get this one. Dean needs you. Get here.”
He slapped the phone shut before he said anything else. Before he said what he actually wanted to say.
Sam waited. Stared at the cell in his hands and waited. Because this was going to be when he called. Surely, he had to call. His dad would call.
Ten minutes passed, found Sam with his back to the wall, knees hiked up and elbows resting on their peaks. The phone in danger of being shattered inside his fist. His heart was pounding in his chest, a painful wild thump borne of neither anger nor fear; begat by something more hybrid, tinged with an awful grief.
Call. Call, you goddamn son of a bitch.
Another ten minutes, and he started to let himself think it. He let the possibility seep in, slow the throb of his pulse, make him calm. He let himself imagine the ways his father might have bought it. Suddenly. Violently. Alone and unaided.
Let that make this forgivable.
He knuckled the bathroom floor, rose to his feet. Swiped at his face, where the surprise wet was reflected in the mirror.
Unless you can’t raise ‘em.
Just before five a.m., Dean came to; asked for water. He was shaking despite the multiple blankets, and Sam didn’t know if it was shock or cold.
Sam crouched beside the bed. “Dean, I really think I should take you to the hospital.”
Dean’s face scrunched in groggy confusion. “What? Why?”
“Dude, I dunno. You don’t look so great.”
“Whassamatter, Sammy? You forget about all this fun stuff?” Dean cracked a weak smile that didn’t get anywhere near his pain-dulled eyes. “’S okay, man. ‘M alright. Just gimme some water, lemme sleep.”
Sam felt another rise of ancient wrath. “What’s this, the John Winchester pain management program? Suck it up and sleep it off?” he asked sharply.
Dean’s brow knitted, as though he was trying to follow. “What?” The enquiry was earnest, and his caught, baffled expression was more than enough reprimand. “Sammy, Dad’s not--”
“Nothing. Never mind. I’m sorry. You want some of those pink things? I found some of those pink things. They’re good for pain, right?”
Dean wanted to know what he’d already had, and how long ago.
“Um.” Sam’s eyebrows shot up, and he checked his watch. He didn’t know whether to be impressed or disgusted that Dean was collected enough to ask.
His brother mulled over the information when Sam gave it, dragged the back of a sleep-clumsy hand across his mouth. He turned his face into the pillow, wiped his nose against the cotton slip. “Gimme one. And water. Then get lost.”
When Sam got back with the pill and a bottle of water, Dean was out. Sam stood beside the bed for a ridiculously long time, trying to figure out what his brother needed more: the water and the drugs, or rest.
Found it hard to believe there was ever a time this sort of triage came easily.
Unless the situation doesn’t improve.
Sam didn’t try to sleep. A little after eight in the morning, he tested the back of his hand against Dean’s cheek, couldn’t tell if the tacky warmth was from the heaped blankets or fever. He peeled back the layers, peered at the gauze covering the wound. Inspected the patches of crimson seep that told him the bleeding had all but stopped. Sam had a thumbnail working the tape at the corner of the dressing on Dean’s back when his brother shifted.
“Fuck off, Sam.” Dean didn’t open his eyes.
“I just wanna take a look.”
“Looks bad an’ it hurts. ‘M tryna sleep here.” Dean’s voice was a rough mumble.
“Does it feel like you’ve got a fever?”
“No, it feels like you won’t fuck off.” Dean’s hips twisted and Sam grappled at the waist of his jeans, stopped him before he rolled.
“Nonono. Stay off it. Stay this side.”
“God, you’re an annoying bitch,” Dean whispered fiercely, face awash with sudden agony.
Sam ignored the spat venom. “Think you can get some water down? Take a couple of those pills now? You fell asleep. I didn’t wanna wake you.”
Dean mouthed as though his tongue was covered in clag. “’Kay.”
Sam’s cell rang when they were halfway through the water. He nearly took out Dean’s front teeth on the lip of the bottle, sent a slosh of H2O to the floor en route to the bedside table in his haste. He didn’t check the caller ID. Couldn’t bear to slam shut that window before the call began.
He headed for the bathroom as he flipped the phone open. “Dad?” He couldn’t keep the hope out of his voice, hated himself for the concession.
It wasn’t his father.
“No, Sam. It’s Kate. Long time, no speak. Andi’s here. We’re making breakfast and talking about you.”
Sam blinked hard at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He heard Andi clanging pots in the background - the completely ordinary sounds of Jessica’s friends scrambling eggs - and had to clamp his jaw shut against the sudden shuddering of his chin.
“I can’t talk right now.” He forced the words out low and hard, the only way he could trust them to happen.
“You haven’t called in a while. We were worried.”
“I can’t talk. I’ll call you back.” He clapped the phone shut, dropped it onto the vanity, and leaned on the laminate top. It was a thousand miles short of the reciprocation their concern deserved; added another barb of guilt to the cyclone wiring inside.
He gripped the edge of the bathroom cabinet, let the bunch of the muscles through his arms slowly leach the frustration and disappointment away. Took a few deep breaths until he felt ready to face Dean again.
His brother watched him, face somehow expectant, despite the weary and the grim. Sam sat back down beside the bed and took up the bottle of water again.
“You called him?”
Sam sniffed, shook his head. “I tried. Yeah.”
Sam got a few hours in while Dean dozed off the benefits of the pink pills. His brother was still sleeping when Sam woke mid-afternoon. The blankets rose and fell with the too-fast push and pull of his breaths, but when Sam got close enough to try a hand against his brother’s face, he was relieved to find him no more or less warm to the touch than he had been that morning.
He curled two fingers beneath Dean’s jaw and pressed his fingertips to the pulse he found there. Dean roused at the physical intrusion, shifted. His face creased in discomfort, lip curling, then his features smoothed and he drifted again.
Sam gazed at the second hand of his watch as it completed a half-sweep of its relentless circuit, multiplied Dean’s pulse rate out and decided he was only mildly appalled by the result. One-twelve. It was high, but infinitely less terrifying than the thready, irregular stutter the morphine haze had produced.
He peeled back the blankets, tried to remember where and how much blood had seeped through the gauze. It didn’t look worse, but it was hard to trust his memory, and if Dean was still bleeding, he needed to know. Sam got up, fished a marker out of his duffel and - carefully, lightly - traced the port-dark patches on the taped dressing.
Dean shivered, a full-body spasm that forced a soft shuddering sound from his lips, and Sam hurriedly pulled the blankets back up. He tucked them attentively into the space between his brother’s shoulder and chin.
Keep him warm.
Sam thought about coffee. He should make some coffee if he planned on staying awake. He rubbed his eyes, dragged his fingers down his face, and stared hard at Dean.
He looked calm, lying there in the aftermath of hypovolemic shock, thirty stitches in his back. Sam actually thought his brother looked peaceful.
It was raining when Sam woke again. He lay in the darkness of the motel room, scrubbed his knuckles deep into his sleep-crusted eyes as he twisted toward the pewter glow of the window. He brought his watch to his face. Ten past one.
When did it start raining?
It wasn’t raining. He realized the same time he registered that Dean’s bed was empty. He lay there, blinking himself awake and trying to calculate the chances that Dean was stupid enough to be showering. Decided the odds were actually pretty good. Sam wondered how long Dean could possibly remain upright, if he’d collapsed in there and Sam had slept through the pitter-patter of water on tiles for hours.
The thought got his socked feet to the carpet. Just as he was levering off the night table, the water shut off abruptly. Sam froze, waited.
A few long minutes passed, with the gentle taps and scrapes and sounds of Dean moving around in the bathroom. Some soft cursing, bitten-back grunts and heavy breathing, and then the door opened and Dean limped out.
He’d only got as far as pulling on a sagging pair of sweats, but Sam was inclined to think even that must have been a major feat. Dean palmed his way along the wall back toward the beds, didn’t notice Sam until he spoke.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Dean started guiltily, brought a stiff hand to his hair and rubbed the damp mess. “I had some of that ectoplasm shit in my hair. Stuff stinks. ‘S making me feel sick.”
Sam shook his head, mouth an incredulous ‘O’. “Dean, you have thirty stitches in your back. I don’t think it’s your hair making you nauseous.” He rose, moved to help, and Dean glared at him.
“I got it. Back off, Gigantor.”
“You should be in bed.”
“And I’m gettin’ there.” Dean pointed, face indignant. “A lot faster if you’d shut the fuck up.”
Sam watched his slow progress, kept his distance and his mouth shut until he saw the water glistening off Dean’s back. “Oh, man, did you get those stitches wet?”
Dean regressed about twenty years in one word. “No,” he lied petulantly.
Sam huffed in frustration, headed for the bathroom. “The hell you didn’t,” he muttered as he hooked a fresh towel from the rail.
Dean was sitting on the edge of his bed, looking decidedly dazed, when Sam came back with the towel.
“When’s check-out?” Dean asked drunkenly.
“Um, in about four days, by the look of you.” Sam tested the damp gauze with the back of his fingers, sighed heavily. “I’m gonna have to dress this again.” He lifted the tape, carefully pried the gauze away from the stitches. Stole the opportunity for an uncontested examination of the wound. For a revoltingly deep back laceration, it didn’t look too bad. At least, it didn’t look infected. Yet.
Dean grimaced his way through Sam’s attentions with the towel. “Can you please stop that before I throw up?”
“I dunno, can you stay in bed?” Sam countered angrily. He threw the towel down onto the carpet. “Dean, I’m not Dad. You don’t have to--”
“If you were Dad,” Dean drawled loudly, dragged the title out pointedly, “we’d be halfway to our next gig by now.” He punched a finger at the door. “I’d be sleeping this off in the backseat of the Impala.”
It wasn’t the words, so much as the look on Dean’s face as his flare of anger abated. So much judgment thrown up in those words, and Sam could see his brother had less than no clue where it should fall. He looked so goddamned lost. Dean cut eyes away from Sam’s sudden scrutiny.
“Okay.” Sam backed off. “Alright. I’m really tired. Let me get a dressing on this, and then I’m gonna get some rest. We’ll see how you are in the morning.” Sam moved to find some fresh gauze pads. He waved a hand towards the pill bottle on the nightstand as he returned. “You should take another couple of those pink things. They’ll help you sleep.”
When Dean started to protest, Sam cut him off. “Which’ll help me sleep.”
Dean’s mouth clamped shut again, and he didn’t say anything else. Sam dressed the wound, got his brother back into bed.
Sam lay in the dark, one arm hooked up behind his head, the other draped across his belly. After a while, Dean said, “We’re gonna find him, Sammy. We are.” His voice thick with the onset of sleep.
Sam’s fingers tightened around his phone where it rested on his stomach. “Uh-huh.”
Unless you can’t get hold of me. You got that, boys? Unless I don’t answer my cell.