“Hey, Dean,” Sam says with a weak, scratchy voice.
Dean looks up and studies his brother’s face intently for a moment. “Who are you?”
Sam looks surprised, eyebrows shooting up. “It’s me. Sam.”
Dean sits up straighter and grabs onto the bed rail with both hands. “Sammy! Is it just you?”
The look of surprise is gone from Sam’s face, replaced with one that spells irritation. “What the hell, Dean? Yeah, it’s just me, unless you stuck another angel in me again.”
Dean makes a face like Sam’s just slapped him across the cheek. Then he answers quietly, “I’ve just been…well, it’s been a weird coupla hours. You weren’t quite yourself.”
“Who was I?” Sam asks, confused now at his brother’s responses.
“All the other yous that you’ve got in there,” Dean answers, gripping the bed rail until his knuckles turn white.
“Look, I know I’ve just had a head injury, but dude, you’re really not making much sense here.”
“It was freaky. I was just sitting here, waitin’ on you to wake up, and you did finally. But it wasn’t you, first it was like I was talkin’ to the soulless you.”
Sam swallows several times, not looking at Dean. “He’s still around huh?”
“So, uh…you think of him as a separate person?” Dean asks.
“Yeah, kind of…maybe? I don’t know if I ever told you this, but remember when I was out cold, after Cas zapped the Wall? I was running around in my head, and I had to kill the other parts of me. He was a real jerk, thought he should be the one in charge. So I shot him, and then he kind of absorbed into me, and I remembered all the stuff I did when I was soulless.”
“Huh. You shot him. Good. Yeah, he was pretty much 100% grade-A asshole. He uh…told me some stuff.”
“Oh god..like what?” Sam asks with a little wince when he moves to sit up a little higher on the hospital bed.
Dean stands up and helps Sam rearrange himself, and then stays standing, hands resting on the bedrail because he’s not sure Sam wants to be touched. “That you don’t think I listen to you, or treat you as an equal. And that you think I only see takin’ care of you as bein’ my job. Is that true, Sammy?”
Sam looks up at him, face gone a bit pale, his eyes glowing with intensity, that spark that is the real Sam’s. “Yeah, it’s kind of harsh the way he put it, but yeah.”
“I don’t, though. You’re…” Dean trails off, sitting down as his words escape his control.
“I’m what, Dean?” Sam asks in a soft voice.
Something about that soft, vulnerable voice gets Dean past his usual internal censor. A version of Sam just told him that Sam needs to hear this, and he said he would, so here goes. “I don’t know how to put it. But you mean a hell of a lot more to me than just a job, okay? And I’m sorry about not treating you like an equal. I know we got there, right before you took on Lucifer, and I actually liked it. It felt good, like that was how it was always supposed to be. But Sammy, it’s been a tough coupla years, ya know? Between the soullessness, the hallucinations, the Trials, and Gadreel. You haven’t even been close to running at 100%.”
“Not all of that was my fault, though,” Sam protests, with a weak cough, struggling to sit up again.
Dean leans over to place a hand on Sam’s chest to stop his struggle to sit up. That’s the last thing Sam needs to do right now. “I know, it’s not a blamin’ thing, I swear. I’m just sayin’, you’ve been hangin’ in there pretty damn strong considerin’ what’s been goin’ down. But it’s been one thing after another, and I’ve been just barely holdin’ on for the ride. Now that you’re okay. Well, after the concussion is all healed up, I swear I’ll work on the equal thing again, okay?”
Sam pushes at the hand Dean is still holding on his chest. “Yeah, okay.”
“Is that a ‘yeah, okay’ like you actually believe me, or just to shut me up?” Dean asks, knowing that the answer is important and unsure what it’s going to be.
Sam doesn’t answer or react for several long moments. “Who else did you talk to?”
“I met the other one too, the Hell memories one. He said you knifed him so you could get out of your mind and come help me. That you said something like you didn’t want to leave me alone out there. That’s fuckin’ amazin’ that you did that.”
“What are you surprised about? That I could do it?” Sam asks, sounding like he’s about to work up to being pissed-off.
“No, of course not. You’re way stronger than I am, you always have been, I know that. I’m just amazed that you’d do that for me.”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Sam asks, confusion apparent all over his face, brow knitted into the usual expressive tangle.
Dean shrugs and thinks about it for a moment. “I don’t know. Staying in your mind, in your good memories, of Jess or somethin’, that coulda been a lot better than what came after, you know?”
“Dean. C’mon, listen to yourself. Why would I ever want that? It would be like a living death. I couldn’t do that to you, leave you with a vegetable for a brother. Maybe that would have been easier for you, though.”
“Oh shut up. That’s not cool jokin’ about somethin’ like that. But uh…thank you, for doin’ that.”
“You’re welcome,” Sam says, leaving it at that, and not pushing further. He reaches his hand out towards Dean. It bangs into the bedrail a few times before Dean gets the message to lower it. Then he encloses his brother’s too-warm hand in both of his.
Dean decides that he needs to continue, he hasn’t gotten it all across to Sam yet. “And he said I don’t trust you, which really bothers me. Because I do. I’ll admit I didn’t for a while there after Ruby and all, but Sammy, I trust you with my life, okay? I really do. And I trust you with what you decide for your life too.”
“You do?” Sam asks with true surprise, eyebrows traveling further and further towards his hairline in an adorable scrunch.
Dean squeezes Sam’s hand in a kind of pre-answer. “Yeah, I do. I’m not just sayin’ it, either. I really do. And I’ll try to show you that more somehow. Maybe it’s part of the whole treatin’ you like an equal partner thing.”
Sam nods slowly, looking a little bit dazed, gaze going from Dean’s face down to where their hands lie tangled on the blue thermal hospital blanket.
“Hey, you feelin’ okay? You look a little spacey, dude,” Dean asks, seeing how his brother’s attention seems to be scattering.
Sam smiles, eyes gone liquid warm. “Just taking it all in. ’s a lot to process.”
“You wanna hear more?” Dean asks, a little hesitant, because all of this is hard to talk about, and maybe it’s too much at once for Sam in his current state.
“There’s more?” Sam rolls his eyes and smiles, wincing at the movement. “Of course there is. Go ahead, who’s next?”
“Naw, I’m gonna let you get some rest before we talk about anything else. Just go ahead and sleep, I’ll be here when you wake up again. Just don’t be gone so long this time, okay?” Dean says, untangling their hands so he can rub Sam’s shoulder gently.
“‘kay. Thanks for being here, Dean,” Sam says, words fading to nothing as he drifts off to sleep.
Dean thunks his head down onto the bed next to Sam’s hip, so relieved that his brother seems to be coming out of this latest head injury intact. Except for all the company he’s got in his head. It’s crowded in that big Sam brain of his, Dean thinks to himself. And how the hell did I get this strange chance to talk to all the parts of my brother I never knew existed? He sits up and looks at Sam’s face, less relaxed now that he’s back and inhabiting his body again. And he’s thanking me for being here? After all I’ve heard today, I should be the one thanking him.
That gives him an idea. He stands up, stretching up towards the ceiling, hearing all the vertebra crackle and re-settle. He slowly puts the bed rail back up, trying not to wake Sam, then walks over to his bag, rummaging around for the current journal they’ve been using. He finds a pen and sits down with the rolling tray table readjusted down to his chair level and starts to write. He notes down what each Sam told him, and what his responses were, as close as he can remember.
At first he’s writing it out, just so he can remember, it really was like a to-do list, and it’s damn important. But then he starts thinking to himself. There has to be a reason that this even happened beyond it being related to the case they were working. There was a lot that I didn’t know about Sam and now I do. It was a fucking gift from the universe, a gift I can’t just ignore. That’s when it turns into something for Sam. He thinks, maybe I’ll give it to him if he doesn’t want to talk about all this stuff when he wakes up.
He writes until his hand cramps, and then he writes some more, ideas about how to make the changes he sees are necessary, a list of priorities for getting this stuff worked out, even a short rambling muse on why he’s thankful for Sam. All of it in his neat I’m-writing-in-the journal handwriting, different than his usual scrawl, like it’s meant to last. Eventually he falls asleep on top of it, too tired from the days of worry, and nights with no sleep, exhausted beyond endurance, he’s out.
Dean’s so deeply asleep that he doesn’t notice when Sam wakes up and sees his brother passed out in the chair next to the bed. Dean doesn’t even mumble or flinch when Sam gently pulls the journal out from under his curled arm. He doesn’t stir one bit while Sam reads, and his tears begin. He only wakes up when Sam is struggling to find some kleenex on the bedside table. Without any real consciousness yet, he automatically moves the box within Sam’s reach, then begins to wake up, sorting himself out. When he realizes the journal isn’t where he’d left it, he begins to search frantically for it.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it,” Sam says, sniffling into a wad of kleenex.
“Guess you’ve been readin’, huh?” Dean asks after taking in the red nose and watery eyes of a Sam who’s just finished having himself a good cry.
“Yeah, sorry. I probably shouldn’t have,” Sam says, looking a little ashamed at himself for prying.
“No, it’s okay. It’s better this way. Now you know it all,” Dean answers quickly,
“Doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk about it, though,” Sam says.
“I know. That’s fine, we’ll talk. I swear we will. But you have to get better first, and get outta this place, okay?”
“Okay, sounds like a plan,” Sam says. “But, Dean, can I at least tell you why I was crying?”
“Sure, Sammy, of course. Go for it,” Dean says.
“Reading what you wrote…makes it seem so official…like you’re really intending to do all that stuff, make all those changes, just for me. For us. And it was very touching, and maybe it’s the meds I’m on making me sappy. But, I…well, it made me really happy,” Sam says.
“So happy that you were bawling?” Dean asks, trying so hard not to tease when he can see all the tears still on Sam’s face.
“Yeah, can’t you tell my happy tears from my sad ones by now?” Sam asks.
“Not always, no,” Dean says. “It’s not like you cry all that much, you know?”
“I guess I’m sad, too. I feel like I missed something by not hearing you say all that stuff. I wish I remembered it myself,” Sam says.
“Maybe the different parts of you I was talkin’ to needed to hear it before they’d let you come back together and wake up,” Dean suggests.
“You are so damn smart sometimes, it’s scary,” Sam says.
“Comes from hangin’ out with you, Professor,” Dean answers him with a fond smile, leaning in for a kiss.
Sam groans with pleasure at the feel of his brother’s lips, but then moans in pain when he moves his head too much. Dean backs off quickly with a worried look that he can’t hide.
“Sorry, guess I’m not up to much yet,” Sam says, sounding sadder than is really necessary.
“It’s okay dude, I’m not goin’ anywhere. I just want you to get better so they let you outta this joint.”
“Tired of cafeteria food already, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s been a few days.”
“Sorry for what? If you hadn’t distracted that ghost long enough, I’d be where you are, or worse.”
“I know. I’m just…well, I wish we could…you know. Because of all we were just talking about.”
“If you can’t say it, shouldn’t be doin’ it, Sammy,” Dean teases.
“You are such a jerk,” Sam says with all the fondness he feels for his brother, especially now.
“And I’m all yours, you lucky bitch.”
Sam watches his brother puttering around their bedroom, bringing in more pillows, a fresh carafe of water, some fruit on a plate along with a couple of new paperbacks. When he sees Dean lighting about fifteen candles, he can’t contain his curiosity another minute longer. “Why are you doing all this stuff?”
Dean sets down his lighter and faces Sam from across the room. His face looks so beautiful in the candlelight. “What stuff?”
Sam gestures around the room with one hand. “All the…you know…romantic stuff.”
“Oh yeah, that,” Dean says, grabbing the back of his neck with one hand and looking away into one of the dark corners. “I was…uh…reading this thing your doctor sent home with you. And I was just trying some of the suggestions.”
“It suggested breakfast in bed every morning, with flowers on the tray? And candles lit up at night? I mean, I’m not really complaining or anything, it’s just weird, that’s all,” Sam says with a confused half-smile lingering on his lips.
“The pamphlet was about sex after brain injury, and finding a different way to express all that without, you know…re-injuring you.”
“Was it really that bad?” Sam asks, like he’s all of a sudden considering that possibility.
Dean crosses the room and sits down next to Sam’s hip on the bed. His hands pluck reflexively at the bedspread between them, then he smooths it out, hand coming to rest on Sam’s shoulder. “Yeah, Sam, it was. Maybe you don’t remember, which is normal, by the way. But yeah, you’ve got a ways to go before we should even try anything too exciting. I was just trying to show you.”
Sam reaches up to hold the hand that Dean has on his shoulder. He circles his thumb on the thin skin of Dean’s wrist. “Show me what, Dean?”
Dean finally meets Sam’s eyes, and it would knock Sam over if he wasn’t already lying down, seeing all the emotion laid bare on Dean’s face. “All the stuff I never say, ‘cause I suck at it. But I promised you, all the versions of you, that I’d try harder, so this is me trying harder. And if you say another word…”
Sam leans up and kisses Dean, softly at first, then a bit more deeply. “Words are overrated if you ask me,” Sam murmurs into Dean’s ear, kissing and biting it until Dean shivers above him.
Dean pulls away, reluctance written on his face. “They said we need to take it real slow, Sammy.”
“It’s been weeks. I need you.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Dean says, eyes begging for Sam to hear him.
“You won’t. Just this, like this,” Sam says, big hand slipping into Dean’s sweatpants and wrapping around his quickly hardening cock.
Dean can’t speak for a long moment, just giving into the feeling of his brother’s touch.
“You’re such a brat sometimes.”
“Only sometimes?” Sam teases, speeding up his strokes. Dean’s breath starts coming in short panting bursts that increase when he sees Sam palming himself under the blankets. He reaches over to lend a hand and smiles when Sam groans with pleasure.
They draw it out longer than hand jobs usually go for them, just because it’s a milestone or whatever. The mess is the same as ever, but the smiles they share and the kisses they give each other feel like welcome-home banners and confetti.
“What’re you making me for breakfast tomorrow?” Dean asks as they’re snuggling down in the bed together after cleaning up.
“This you telling me I’m off of mandatory bed rest?”
“Hey, if you’re up to a handy like that, I figure you can probably get up and make me some pancakes tomorrow, right?”
“I’ll make you the best damn banana-bacon pancakes you ever had, just you wait and…” Sam’s murmurs fade out as he falls asleep before finishing his thought.
Dean gets up to blow the candles out and looks back at their bed, Sam a long hilly landscape under the covers, his hair fanned out on the pillow, his lips still a bit kiss-swollen. He thinks back to that strange day in the hospital, talking to all of the different Sams that are inside his brother, and murmurs a thank-you to any and all powers-that-be that happen to be listening. A fervent thank-you for giving him back his Sam.