Title: Ripple Effect
Season: 2 – set between the episodes Simon Says and No Exit
Category: General, Action
Tagline: ...and the effect spreads outwards, like ripples on a pond when a stone is dropped...
Total Word Count: 43,131
Total Chapters: 7
Chapter 5 Word Count: 5729
Story Banner: Chasidern
“Good Lord!” The doctor’s eyes widened as he took in the trio of hunters standing in a loose knot on his front porch. His sharp grey-eyed gaze roamed over the two younger ones and he reached out, grasping their shoulders to tug them gently inside. “Follow me.”
Casting a glance over his shoulder as he led the way to the small surgery at the side of the house, he frowned at the bearded hunter. “Two of yours, Bobby?”
“You could say that,” Bobby responded wryly. “John Winchester’s boys – Dean and Sam.”
The doctor spun on his heel, studying the two tall young men with narrowed eyes. He nodded once, his gaze flicking to Dean as he held out a hand. “Saul Collins. You’d be Dean. You favour your mom.”
Dean blinked in surprise, drawing his head back a little. His eyes narrowing in suspicion, he glanced at his equally puzzled brother before shaking the doctor’s hand. Moving closer to his sibling, he stepped into the surgery, his shoulders bunched in wariness. “You knew our Mom?”
“Nope. Saw her picture a few times when Bobby brought John in to be patched up better than he could manage. John carried a few photos in his wallet. Showed them to me.” Saul glanced at Sam’s swollen, splinted right hand and grasped the young psychic’s shoulder in lieu of a handshake.
Dean exchanged another puzzled glance with Sam. “Yeah?” he asked doubtfully. That didn’t sound like his dad.
Saul nodded, a grin tugging at his thin lips. “Yep. Of course, he was out of his head on morphine at the time – your father never went to a doctor unless he was practically in pieces.”
Nodding, the elder Winchester relaxed a little. That sounded more like his father. He reached out as his knee almost gave way, holding onto Sam’s shoulder until he regained his balance. The psychic took a half step closer in response.
“And it helped that I’d lost my wife, too. Water-wraith got her – Bobby killed it. That’s how I met him.” The medico flicked on the overhead lights and surveyed his two newest patients with a critical gaze. “So, who’s first?”
“Him.” Dean gently shoved Sam forward, earning himself an exasperated glare.
Saul studied the battered young psychic and smiled. “Big brother’s in charge, huh?” he asked in wry amusement.
“Uh, yeah,” Sam whispered, a tiny grin tugging at the corners of his mouth despite the pain and weariness hammering at his body.
“Well, you’re both ambulatory and coherent, so that’s a good sign. Shower first, Sam, then we see to your hurts. I’ll get you some clothes to wear – I should have something here to fit you, although the pants will be a little short in the legs. You need a hand in there?”
“No, thanks – I’m good.”
“Can get your shirt off okay with a broken hand, huh?”
Sam glanced down at his arm, and a blush rose in his pale, grubby cheeks. He was saved from answering by his brother, who limped to his side and grasped his bicep.
“Where’s the bathroom?” Dean’s wide green eyes followed the doctor’s pointing finger, and he steered his sibling from the room without another word.
The medico turned to Bobby with a grin. “They’re John’s boys, all right.” He sobered for a moment. “What happened? A bad hunt?”
“Car accident,” Bobby replied shortly. “Truck rolled down a slope for about two hundred yards – young Sam was thrown from the passenger side. Dean hit the steering wheel – he’s got cracked ribs, a twisted knee and concussion. Sam broke his hand – again – and there’s that throat injury from yesterday. A chain snapped on my engine lift – the end of it hit him. God knows what other hurts he’s carryin’. They’re both suffering from exposure – they were out there all night and half the day in the rain and the cold. Sam’s dehydrated as well. And Dean’s got a fever.”
“Thank you, Doctor Singer.” Saul looked at the clock on the wall. “Well, you wanna leave them with me or stick around?”
Bobby scratched at his beard as he eyed his friend. “How long?”
“Few hours at least. Need to find out how bad the young one’s wrist is, and whether I can plaster it tonight.”
“I’ll go back to my place – get them some clean clothes. I’ll come straight back.” Turning toward the door, the demon hunter hesitated, one hand on the doorjamb as he glanced back uncertainly.
“I’ll take care of your boys, man,” Saul assured his friend quietly. He frowned; puzzled at the guilty flinch Bobby gave before he walked out of the surgery.
* * * * *
“Dean, I can –”
“Shut up.” Closing the bathroom door with his foot, Dean directed his sibling to the toilet, flipping the lid down and pulling on Sam’s arm until the psychic reluctantly sat. He pressed his forearm briefly across his ribs and winced, before inclining his head toward his brother’s boots. “Think you can get them off?”
Not bothering to answer, Sam gingerly leaned down and picked up his left foot, pulling off the boot and his sodden sock. He repeated the move with his right foot, and flicked his gaze up to his hovering sibling without moving his head. His eyes narrowed as he caught a grimace of pain that his big brother tried to hide. “Dude…”
“Stand up.” Trying to control the shivers wracking his body, Dean carefully untied the makeshift splint, dropping the bundle of sticks and cut off shirtsleeve into the sink. He grasped his brother’s tattered shirt and tee shirt, slowly easing off the wet garments, taking care as he slid them over Sam’s swollen wrist.
“I can do the rest,” Sam whispered, wincing. He pressed a hand lightly to his throat before cupping his chin and gazing worriedly at his brother. “Dean – what’s going on with you?”
“What? Nothin’.” The elder Winchester bit down a gasp as he tossed the wet, muddy shirts onto the floor near the doorway. He glanced back as Sam turned toward the shower cubicle, and started in shock when he caught sight of his brother’s back. “Holy crap!”
Sam stiffened, tossing a startled glance over his shoulder, only to flinch as his throat tightened painfully. Turning his whole body, he faced his sibling, frowning in confusion. “What?”
“Your back…” Dean trailed off into silence. Sam’s lower back was a mass of multi-coloured bruises, with a raised welt – red and angry looking – running diagonally across the middle.
“Door got me when I fell out.” Sam arched an eyebrow briefly before dropping his good hand to unbuckle his belt.
“I’m sorry…” The green-eyed hunter was still staring at his brother’s bruised torso, his face pale under its smattering of freckles. “God, I’m…”
“For what?” Swallowing painfully, Sam took a step closer to his sibling. “Dean – talk to me, man. What are you sorry for?” He blinked slowly in understanding as his brother chewed on his lip and glanced guiltily away. “The accident? That wasn’t your fault, man.”
Dean shook his head briefly, refusing to make eye contact with his brother.
“Dean – look, I don’t know crap about cars and stuff – but I do remember there was some kinda jolt just before we rolled – like something gave way. It wasn’t your fault. It must have been the truck.”
Glancing up, Dean took a shaky breath and balled his hands into fists. “You know what? You’re right – you don’t know crap about cars.” He limped from the bathroom, slamming the door on his way out.
* * * * *
Saul Collins glanced up from his instrument tray, a pack of gauze swabs in his hand, as Dean limped into the surgery. “Your brother okay?”
“Fine,” Dean gritted, sinking down onto a chair near the wall. He hissed in pain, wrapping one arm across his ribcage while the other hand grasped his leg just above his bandaged knee. Glancing around the room, he scowled when he saw that the doctor was alone. “Where’s Bobby?”
“He went back to get some proper clothes for you boys.” Saul continued his interrupted task, laying the gauze down beside a bowl of antiseptic wash. He turned to a nearby cupboard and pulled out a set of tweezers, an empty kidney dish and some suture thread. The new items were added to the tray before the doctor glanced up, scrutinising his reluctant patient. “Possible broken ribs, twisted knee, concussion – anything else I should know about?”
“Thought you were gonna fix my brother first.”
“Doesn’t hurt to be fore-warned. Fore-warned is fore-armed. As a hunter, you should know that.”
Dean grimaced, dropping his gaze to stare at the floor a few inches beyond his outstretched right foot. He kept his head turned slightly toward the door, listening to the sound of the shower running.
“So – anything else?” The doctor’s grey eyes flicked from the instrument tray to the injured hunter.
“No,” Dean replied shortly.
“I’m not your son!”
Collins raised an eyebrow.
Scowling, Dean wrapped his arms around his torso as a shiver wracked his frame. He stared at the floor in uncomfortable silence. The soft hiss of the shower across the hall was a welcoming distraction from his chaotic thoughts and wildly swinging emotions. Vaguely aware of Saul’s movements as he finished setting up the tray before leaving the room, Dean squirmed in embarrassment, kicking himself for letting his anger get the better of him – again. A warm blanket was suddenly draped around his shoulders and he glanced up in surprise, to see the doctor looming over him. “Uh..”
“You don’t have to thank me, boy. You don’t even have to like me. You just have to tell me where you’re hurt so I can fix you.”
The chagrined hunter did something he rarely did – he blushed. Dropping his gaze to his boots again, he nodded jerkily. “Sorry.”
“Don’t mention it.” Saul inclined his head toward the bathroom as the running water was cut off. “You want to change places with your brother and get out of those wet clothes? You don’t want to add pneumonia to that list of stuff that isn’t wrong with you.”
“I’ll wait.” Dean’s jaw tightened stubbornly.
Shrugging, the doctor disappeared down the hall, returning a few minutes later with another blanket. He flicked a switch on the wall to turn on the air-conditioning unit, adjusting the thermostat to heat the room.
Finally, the bathroom door opened, emitting a cloud of steam that curled into the hallway, sending its warm moist tendrils creeping into the surgery. Sam appeared in the doorway, trying to wrap a towel around his lean hips with one hand.
Dean forced his usual smirk when his brother almost lost his grip on the damp towel. “Need a hand, there, brother?”
Sam’s lips tightened in exasperation as he glared at his sibling. Damp tendrils of dark chestnut hair straggled into his eyes and he squinted, unable to toss his head or raise a hand to flick them aside. Thrusting out his bottom lip, he tried blowing them out of the way, but only succeeded in amusing his elder brother even more.
“That’s an interesting look – even for you.”
“Bite me,” Sam whispered, gingerly lowering his nearly naked frame down onto the exam table the doctor indicated. He sighed gratefully when Saul draped the spare blanket around his shoulders, appreciating the warmth of the soft material.
Collins swiped his hand across the psychic’s bangs, moving them out of his eyes. “Okay, let’s see what we’ve got. Now, let’s keep the talking to a minimum till I assess that throat injury. So – one word answers if you can, okay? What hurts most?”
“Okay.” Gently, the doctor slid his hand underneath Sam’s swollen fingers. Uneven footsteps sounded behind him, and he shot a quick grin at his patient just before a shadow fell across his arm. “You’re in my light, Dean. If you want to watch, that’s fine – just move over a little.”
Dean scowled at the medico before limping forward another few steps, coming to a halt at Sam’s side.
“Well, it looks like you have re-broken it. Come into the next room – I’ve got a portable X-ray unit in there.” Saul shrugged at Dean’s surprised look. “Got to be prepared for any emergency – I’m over three hours away from the nearest hospital.”
The elder Winchester’s face twisted into a snarl. “Good freakin’ thing, too,” he muttered darkly.
Saul’s eyebrows rose in curiosity. “Bad experience over there?”
Sam’s face blanked – a startling contrast to the storm of rage growing on his brother’s pale countenance. He peered up at the doctor, a silent plea in his eyes.
Nodding his agreement, the doc patted Sam’s left shoulder. “Well, let’s just get you fixed up. Come on.”
As the young hunter got to his feet, Saul grabbed the ends of the towel and wrapped them firmly around Sam’s waist, tucking them in securely so the towel wouldn’t fall off. He smiled at the grateful glance he got in return.
Dean stepped back, watching as his brother left the room. He wanted to pace, settling for resting on the end of the exam table and jiggling his good leg instead. The last thing he wanted was to have his knee give way and Sam find him face planted on the floor. He fidgeted; hearing the muted sound of the doc’s voice from the next room, then a faint whirr and thump, which he figured was the x-ray machine. The minutes dragged by, punctuated by the machine whirring twice more. Finally, Dean heard a door opening, and his brother re-appeared to sit on the table next to him, their shoulders just touching.
Sam glanced inquiringly at his sibling. Swallowing painfully, he cradled his wrist in his left hand and nudged Dean’s leg with his knee until the troubled green eyes turned his way. “Hey.”
“You all right?”
Dean suppressed a tremor, pulling the blanket tighter around his shoulders and back. “Great.” He fell silent, turning his gaze away from his brother’s sympathetic eyes, not willing to let himself be comforted – or forgiven. “Where’s the doc?”
“Developing the x-rays.”
“Went back to the house to get our clothes.” Dean pursed his lips, his gaze roaming the room.
“What did Bobby mean before? When he said he’d left me?”
Dean stiffened, moving subtly away from the warmth of his brother’s shoulder. “I don’t –”
“Dean – look at me.”
No, Dean thought desperately. I can’t…
“He found you first,” Sam guessed, his scratchy whisper and Dean’s ragged breathing the only sounds in the quiet room. “And he thought I’d been killed by that bear. So he got you out.”
The elder Winchester pushed up from the table and limped a few steps away, his back toward his brother.
“Dean, it’s okay.”
“It’s not okay!” Whirling on his heel, Dean flailed out a hand when his knee buckled under the strain. He inadvertently smacked Sam’s right forearm, causing the young psychic to suck in an agonised gasp. Sam’s left hand darted out and closed around Dean’s upper arm in an iron grip, steadying the older man.
Dean’s left hand made contact with the edge of the exam table and he staggered back to its solid frame with Sam’s help. Shrugging off his brother’s grip on his arm, he leaned against the table, his chest heaving. “Get off me!”
Sam dropped his hand, staring at the floor while he cradled his throbbing wrist. He couldn’t understand the wildly swinging moods his brother was going through. It seemed that each time he tried to help Dean, it only made his brother angry. Not knowing what to do to make the situation better, he stayed silent, withdrawing into himself.
Noticing the silence, Dean risked a glance at his brother. A fresh wave of guilt threatened to choke him when he saw the confusion and hurt in his sibling’s expressive face. Tentatively, he reached out a hand partway toward Sam’s shoulder, but he let it fall without completing the move. Dropping his gaze to his brother’s wrist, he frowned, seeing a small red mark on Sam’s forearm that hadn’t been there before. Memory returned with a rush and he briefly closed his eyes, recalling his wild flailing a few moments ago, and the sharp smack of flesh meeting flesh. Dean slowly stretched out his hand and brushed his brother’s elbow. All I do is hurt you, he thought bitterly.
Glancing up in surprise at the contact, Sam stared into his brother’s anguished eyes, and his heart broke. “Tell me how to help you,” he whispered raggedly, his gaze pleading.
Dean drew back, his mouth dropping open in shock. Before he could think up an answer, the doctor returned to the surgery, the x-rays clutched in one hand.
“Well, young Sam – it’s broken again, all right. I’ll have to re-set it before…” Saul looked from one Winchester to the other, and his brows drew down into a frown when he realised he’d interrupted something. He came to a halt halfway across the floor and made as if to turn back around, but a quick headshake from Dean had him moving forward again.
Stepping to the other side of the table, Dean stood behind his brother while the doc went through the x-rays and gave Sam a shot for the pain. Resting his hands on Sam’s shoulders, he squeezed the tense muscles in a silent reassurance while Saul re-set the broken hand. He then held his brother’s arm in position as the doctor began wrapping it in Webril before applying the plaster. The room fell silent again – the doctor intent on his work, one hunter in too much pain to talk, the other not knowing what to say.
The doctor finished with the cast, trimmed off the excess around the psychic’s thumb and wiped a small spattering of plaster from his arm. Saul stripped off his gloves and donned a fresh pair before turning his attention to Sam’s throat. “Okay, Sam – just tilt your head back a little – not so much that you can’t stand the pain.”
Sam winced as he let his head fall back, only to blink in surprise when he felt a firm hand cradle the back of his head. Dean’s other hand kept squeezing his shoulder and he relaxed, letting his brother take the strain off his neck. If it helped Dean to do this, then Sam wasn’t about to push him away.
Dean twisted his fingers in his sibling’s damp chestnut locks, supporting Sam’s head while the doctor cleaned and redressed the abrasion. The sharp knife of guilt twisted in his gut at every wince and gasp his brother let slip. I did this, he silently berated himself. If I hadn’t pissed Sam off, he wouldn’t have gone over to help Bobby, and he wouldn’t have been anywhere near that freakin’ chain when it broke. Then I wouldn’t have had to go to the hospital, and listen to that smug son of a bitch accuse me of beating up my baby brother. I wouldn’t have lost my temper – we wouldn’t have crashed – he wouldn’t have had the crap knocked out of him…this is so messed up… Unconsciously his hand tightened on Sam’s shoulder, his fingers digging into the muscle until he felt Sam twitch in pain.
“Ow – Dean,” Sam whispered, shrugging his aching shoulder. He sighed in relief when the vice-like grip loosened, settling his head more firmly against his brother’s other hand to let Dean know he didn’t want him to back off completely. He just didn’t want a dislocated shoulder to add to the long list of injuries he already had.
“How’s the pain?” Saul inquired.
“Can you swallow?”
“Hurts, but yeah.”
“How about turning your head?”
“Do I have to?”
“Well, that’s not too bad. Try not to talk too much for the next day or two, okay?” Chuckling softly, Saul got to his feet and left the room, returning moments later with two bottles of water. He handed one to each of the young hunters. “Drink it slowly, both of you. Don’t want you passing out from dehydration and blaming me for a whole new set of bruises. Speaking of which, Sam – when you’ve finished that water, do you think you can lie on your stomach for a little while so I can see to your back? That’s some pretty impressive colour you’ve got going there.”
With the help of his brother and the doc, Sam manoeuvred his tall frame onto the bed, lying at a slight angle so he could let his chin rest on the edge to avoid turning his head. He felt his broken arm being lifted, and a stool was slipped under his elbow, allowing him to rest the arm without banging the still-drying plaster against anything.
Saul whistled in awe as he pulled the blanket from Sam’s back, revealing the multi-coloured bruises. He tugged at the towel, pulling the edge down past the base of the psychic’s spine, and gently probed the area. “Okay well, the x-rays didn’t reveal anything broken, but I’ll just check to make sure there isn’t anything else lurking there. Any sharp pain, or just the usual ache you feel when some inconsiderate son of bitch pokes his finger into the middle of a really big bruise?”
Sam huffed in amusement, which turned into a gasp of pain as the doctor’s fingers pressed the skin around the welt. “Uh – ow – just – the – last part.”
“I gotta say – you’re one lucky guy, Sam. What hit you, do you remember?”
“Door.” Sam gestured to his left leg with his good hand. “Landed on a rock.”
“Hmm. Bobby said you got flung out. You must have been falling when the door hit you. If you’d been on the ground when it hit, we would have been having a whole different conversation.”
“What do you mean?” Dean demanded roughly.
Saul’s gaze was solemn. “His spine would have been smashed. He probably would have ended up in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.”
Dean sagged, nausea welling up in his stomach. His face drained of colour, and he heard a roaring in his ears. The voice of the doctor seemed far away. A hand grasped his arm, pulling him forward, and he stumbled blindly across the floor. The roaring subsided a little as he found himself being pushed onto a chair and he dropped bonelessly, barely aware of the sharp stitch of pain in his side. A firm hand grasped the back of his neck, guiding his head down toward his knees, and he bent as much as his taped ribs would allow.
“Deep breaths, Dean – as deep as you can get ‘em.” Saul kept his hand on the young hunter’s neck. He dropped his other hand on Dean’s shoulder, squeezing in reassurance, in much the same way as Dean had done for Sam. “That’s it, son, just breathe.”
Saul turned his head at the soft, tremulous whisper. “Give him a minute, Sam. He’s okay – just a little dizzy.”
“M’kay,” Dean gasped. “See to – Sammy.”
“Sam’s fine. He’s not going anywhere. He’s safe where he is.” Saul hit on the one thing he thought would make Dean relax – Sam’s safety. He’d seen the colour leech right out of the young man’s face when he’d mentioned the worst case scenario and he’d lunged around the table as fast as he could, grabbing Dean before the hunter could fall to the floor. He suspected there was a whole truckload of guilt packed into that tall frame – for some reason Dean blamed himself for the accident. Saul frowned, remembering the guilt on Bobby Singer’s face just before he left. He found himself wondering what had really happened out there.
“I’m – okay.”
“Okay. Just sit there, okay? I’m gonna put some arnica on Sam’s bruises, then he’s good to go. He’s all fixed up.” Saul felt the bunched muscles slowly relax under his hands. “He’ll be fine in a few days. Just don’t let him talk for another day or two, and don’t let him yell for a week. Can you do that?”
Dean nodded jerkily.
Sam’s gaze was on his brother while the medico rubbed the soothing liniment into his back and thigh. He chewed on his lower lip, vaguely aware of the slow, delicious heat working its way through his bruised flesh. He watched carefully as Dean slowly pulled himself together. The lightly freckled face was still pale, and a light sheen of sweat had broken out on his skin, but his breathing was slowly deepening. He flicked his eyes to the side when he felt a light tap on his shoulder.
“You want me to go see if I’ve got something to fit you, or do you want to wait for Bobby to bring you your own clothes?” Saul smiled down at the young psychic, crouching a little so Sam didn’t have to move his head to see him.
“Good enough.” Saul draped the blanket over Sam’s body, making sure the psychic was warm and comfortable. “Will you be okay there for awhile, Sam? Comfortable enough? Nothing hurting too much?”
Sam’s concerned gaze flicked from his brother to the doctor, and he blinked slowly in understanding. Dean needed to hear that he was really okay. “I’m good.”
“Your turn now, Dean. Go get a shower.” The easy-going smile fled from the doctor’s face as he confronted the second of his two patients, staring the young man down. “That wasn’t a suggestion.”
Dean blinked in surprise – for a moment the man reminded him of his dad, and he found himself responding as if to an order. Which it was, he guessed. Climbing unsteadily to his feet, he swayed for a moment before heading across the hall, banging the bathroom door shut behind him in a petulant act of rebellion.
Sam wished he could shake his head. Rolling his eyes up to meet the doctor’s now amused gaze, he sighed softly. “Sorry…”
“It’s all right. I’ve handled worse than him. Your father, for one. If John Winchester couldn’t beat me, Dean certainly won’t.”
Blinking once in acknowledgement, Sam let his gaze drift toward the open door and the bathroom beyond. He relaxed, settling onto the thin pillow the doc slipped under his head while he waited for the shower to turn on. Slowly the minutes ticked away on the clock hanging on the opposite wall. When five minutes had passed without the sound of running water from across the hall, Sam frowned in concern. “Doc…”
“I’m on it.” Saul headed to the bathroom, pausing to knock softly on the door. “Dean? I’m coming in.”
Pushing open the door, the doctor found the young hunter sitting hunched over on the edge of the toilet lid. Dean’s lower lip trembled, his hands fisted against his knees while he gasped for breath. Looking up as the older man closed the door behind him, Dean felt a blush rise in his cheeks.
“Can’t – get my – boots – off,” Dean gasped, his shoulders slumping in defeat.
“With a couple of cracked – or at least badly bruised ribs? I’m not surprised.” Dropping to one knee, Saul unlaced and pulled off Dean’s boots and socks before patting the distressed hunter on the shoulder. “You okay to take it from here?”
Dean nodded wordlessly, biting his lip as the doctor slipped out the door. He carefully got to his feet, peeling off his shirt and tee shirt, dropping them on top of Sam’s muddy clothes. With one hand pressed to his aching ribs, he undid his belt with the other and dropped his jeans and boxers, steadying himself against the sink while he kicked them toward the sodden pile. Pulling the tape from his ribs, he balled it up and dropped it into the sink before turning the shower on.
Stepping inside the tiled recess, Dean rested his hands against the wall and let his head drop forward into the stream of hot water. He let the soothing jets pummel the knotted muscles at the back of his neck, enjoying the delicious warmth after being out in the rain and the cold. He ignored the soap – he wasn’t dirty, despite sliding around on the muddied ground looking for Sam. Bobby had done a bang-up job of cleaning him up a few hours earlier, and his clothes had protected him the second time around when they’d gone back out to rescue his brother. He just needed to get the chill out of his bones.
The sound of the shower was almost hypnotic as it cascaded across his shoulders and down his arms to fall in a glittering curtain onto the tiled floor under his feet. Dean opened his eyes, watching the water swirl away down the drain, wishing he could sluice off the guilt just as easily. The image of his brother’s bruised back rose in his mind and he closed his eyes, leaning against the wall with a soft moan. The water flowed in a soothing stream down his back and legs, soaking the bandage around his knee.
“God…” he muttered raggedly. What the hell would he have done if his brother had ended up a cripple? Waves of guilt, anger and worry crashed into him in a never-ending procession. He had to fix this – somehow he had to make it up to his brother for the hurt. Not just for the last forty-eight hours, but in the weeks since their dad had died. He had to stop being an ass and try being a big brother again. Even with the secret his dad had told him screaming inside his head like a trapped banshee.
Pushing away from the wall, Dean turned around, letting the stream of now lukewarm water flow over his chest. He glanced down, wincing as he studied the riot of bruises across his ribcage. The colours almost matched the ones on his brother’s lower back, and Dean gave a ghost of his usual grin. “Sammy’s gonna freak,” he murmured softly. “And then he’s gonna give me that pissed puppy look…at least he can’t yell at me for another week.”
Sighing heavily, he shut the water off and reached for a towel, carefully drying off where he could reach without blacking out from the pain. Slinging the towel around his lean middle, he made his way back to the surgery.
Sam’s eyes clouded in concern as he watched his brother slowly sink back down onto the chair, a hand held to his side. Dean’s chest was covered in bruises, and his knee was swollen to twice its size. Sam knew his brother must have been in a lot of pain, but Dean as usual had brushed it aside. Wishing he could shake his head, he settled for giving his stubborn sibling an exasperated glare instead. He owed Dean a lecture for downplaying a serious injury – again.
Dean endured his brother’s scrutiny and avoided the accompanying glare, his stomach churning as the doctor began his examination. Hissing in pain as the doc cut off the bandage around his knee, he glanced down at the swollen joint and grimaced. “How bad…”
“Could have been worse,” Saul observed philosophically. “X-ray to make sure – damn, that machine’s getting a workout with you boys – and then we’ll see. The cut’s pretty shallow, so you won’t have to worry about sutures.”
When Dean finally came back from the next room, Sam had fallen asleep, his newly plastered arm dangling at an awkward angle down the side of the exam table. Saul guided Dean toward the chair and carefully picked up Sam’s arm, resting his elbow back on the stool beside the exam table, cushioning it with a pillow. The psychic stirred, muttered his brother’s name and settled back into an exhausted sleep.
“Sleep will do him good.” Saul stepped back after straightening the blanket over the sleeping hunter. “Sleep will do you good, too, Dean.”
Dean shrugged; wincing a little while the doc gave him a shot for the pain and taped up his ribs after rubbing arnica across his chest for the bruising. Saul cleaned the cuts on his head and knee and re-dressed them, confirming that neither wound needed stitches. He nodded gratefully, trying not to jerk his leg as the doc re-bandaged his twisted knee. The first aid done, Dean was hauled gently to his feet and steered closer to his sleeping brother.
Saul positioned the chair close to the head of the exam table and pushed Dean onto it. Grabbing a footstool from his living room, he slid it under Dean's knee and calf, propping up the injured leg before wrapping ice packs around the knee. Finally he draped the blanket over Dean's tall form and shook out two Tylenol, handing them to the hunter with the half-empty bottle of water. "For the fever."
Saul smiled affectionately and checked the time on the wall clock. “Get some rest. Bobby should be back in about an hour. When he gets here you can both get dressed and go home.”
Nodding, Dean leaned his head back, listening to the doctor’s footsteps fade away down the hall. Another sound intruded on his senses – one that loosened the tight knot of tension in his gut; the soft, drawn-out huff of his brother’s breathing. Turning his head, he encountered a messy mop of chestnut hair and grinned faintly. “Move over, Sammy.”
Sam murmured softly, the fingers of his right hand twitching a little before he settled back down. Dean pushed the chair back so his head could rest on the edge of his brother’s pillow, and tugged the blanket up around his shoulders. Closing his eyes, he let himself drift off to sleep.
Five munites later, Saul tiptoed into the room to check on his two young patients. They slept peacefully, faces serene, heads pressed together on the thin pillow. Gently, Saul straightened the blanket over Sam's long legs and adjusted the ice packs around Dean's knee before turning out the light, shutting the door on his way out.
* * * * *