Happy New Year and Happy Monday!

This is a little two-shot story to get the year rolling. Set during the difficult aftermath of Dean being cured from being a demon while he and Sam try to recover from the ordeal.


Healing Hands

Setting: Season Ten, shortly after episode three, "Soul Survivor"


It took almost a day and a half for Sam to find his brother.

A day and a half of calling his phone almost hourly. A day and a half of no sleep. No food. A day and a half of living a nightmare.

Again.

There had been moments in the past day and a half when Sam had truly considered the possibility that he might have lost his mind. Maybe it had all been an illusion. Dream, nightmare, hallucination.

Whatever.

Maybe Dean had smashed that hammer into Sam's skull and this was just his afterlife.

Forever trying to save his brother.

Forever failing.

A day and a half ago - the very morning after he'd cured Dean, settled him in his bedroom, and given him a huge bag of greasy food - Dean had walked out the door. Hadn't said a word. Hadn't left a note this time.

Sam had been hungover and not quick on the uptake or he would have started looking for his brother a helluva lot sooner. Without having a clue that his brother had vanished again, he'd spent the morning huddled over a cup of coffee trying to come to terms with the fact that his brother was no longer a demon.

A day and a half later, he was still trying.

Now, he stood in front of the nondescript motel on the edge of town. In his panicked state, it hadn't occurred to him for far too long to look so close to home. The Impala was parked in front of room number 12 and he was finding it difficult to draw breath.

A day and a half ago, Dean had disappeared yet again from the Bunker and Sam had lost his mind. Disbelief, fear, and anxiety had bubbled into a molten sludge that had nearly drowned him. His hand shook as he tried the door.

Locked.

He used the keycard his FBI badge had procured for him at the front desk.

The door swung open and he was hit by the smell of liquor before he caught sight of his brother, sound asleep on the nearest bed. The panic he'd been experiencing for the past thirty-six hours morphed into something else entirely. It was partially relief and partially unspeakable thankfulness that Dean was alive.

Mostly, though?

Mostly it was anger.

"Dean!" His voice was hoarse because he'd done a lot of shouting during the past thirty-six hours.

Dean sat up, gun in hand and panic written all over his face. He was unsteady and obviously half-asleep and hungover. It took a few seconds, then he lowered the gun.

"Sam? What's...what're you…" his words tangled, slid together. Smacking his lips, he rubbed his eyes, then asked, "What time's it?"

Sam opened his mouth, tried to answer. Tried to come up with something to say. He'd just spent thirty-six hours searching for his brother, terrified out of his mind that the cure hadn't worked after all. Terrified he'd lost his brother again. And here he was, holed up in a motel drinking himself silly.

Sam couldn't think of a single thing to say.

He turned around and walked out of the room, slamming the door as hard as he could on his way out.


Dean flinched when Sam slammed the door.

He sat there, trying to get his sluggish brain to engage. He'd screwed up. Big time. No doubt about it. He'd just needed...time. And Sam had needed time, too. At least, that was what he'd convinced himself of when he'd left yesterday morning.

The truth was that, even though he'd been human again, the Mark of Cain was like a third degree burn on his arm; painfully reminding him that everything wasn't back to normal. The power still flowed through his body. The evil still fought to consume his every cell. The memory of what that evil had led him to do - what it had made him become - had overwhelmed him to the extent that he'd been terrified to be anywhere near his brother.

There was a hole in the wall made by a hammer he'd aimed at Sam's skull that said he had good reason to be terrified. He hadn't wanted Sam anywhere near him until he could gain some level of control over the curse. Take a few days to get his head screwed on right. A few days to convince himself he was in control. To convince himself he wasn't a danger to his brother.

So he'd let Sam's calls go straight to voicemail. Hadn't looked at his texts. In hindsight, it had been a stupid decision.

The look on Sam's face...Dean's heart sank and he rested his head in his hands. Sam had stood there just inside the door and had looked so near to tears that Dean had almost laughed. It was ridiculous for Sam to be that upset.

Dean didn't deserve it. Didn't deserve Sam's concern. Didn't deserve to have his brother find him. Again. There was no reason for Sam to even care anymore.

But he did.

Dean spent a foolish moment trying to convince himself that maybe Sam had just come to find him to make sure he wasn't going off the rails and turning into a monster again. But that wasn't why Sam had come to find him.

He'd come to find Dean because he was worried about him.

"Damn it," Dean muttered.

Struggling to his feet, he crossed the room and yanked the door open. The afternoon sunlight was blinding and he shielded his eyes, searching the parking lot. Other than the Impala and a blue Saturn at the far end of the lot that had been there when Dean had arrived, the lot was empty.

Sam was already gone.

Dean cursed again, slamming the door then heading for the bathroom. After a cold shower, he was a little more alert and a lot more ashamed. Staring guiltily at his phone, he pulled on fresh clothes. He grabbed his phone and called his brother. Sam didn't pick up when he called - go figure. Dean didn't bother leaving a message.

He threw what little he'd brought with him into his bag and hurried out of the room. After checking out, he hit a gas station for an extra large coffee with plenty of espresso, then hit the road home. The entire drive was spent berating himself and hating himself and trying to figure out how the hell he was going to fix things with his brother.

Greeting card manufacturers didn't exactly make cards saying I'm sorry for nearly bashing your brains out with a hammer.

Fists tight around the steering wheel, Dean gritted his teeth. Sam had fought so hard to bring him back and Dean was grateful. He really was.

He just wasn't sure he was worth it.


Sam wasn't exactly calm when he got back to the Bunker, but he was a little less emotional.

He'd spent most of the trip fighting back ridiculous tears and hating himself for being so weak. It had been stupid of him to leave without even attempting to hold a conversation with his brother. But he'd known if he'd started talking right then, he would have lost whatever control he had left. Every bit of what was left of his soul was worn ragged and the emotions were too close to the surface.

By the time he walked into the Bunker he was so tired he couldn't see straight.

The place was a mess. Books and files scattered everywhere. Kitchen piled high with unwashed dishes, trash, and cold coffee. Broken pieces of plaster still on the floor in the hallway along with a hole he hadn't been able to look at let alone patch.

He walked past it all.

His bed was as much a mess as the rest of the Bunker. Wasn't like he'd been sleeping well lately. He shoved a pile of papers and hundred year old books off onto the floor. Gingerly settling himself flat on his back on top of the tangled sheets, he closed his eyes. Couldn't even remember the last time he'd slept more than an hour or two at a time. He doubted he was going to be able to sleep now, but he couldn't handle being upright for even a moment longer.

Sleep didn't come, but he managed to drift into that twilight zone just under awareness and just above sleep.

That's where he was when Dean knocked on his half-opened door.

"Sam?" Dean asked very quietly, like he wasn't completely sure Sam was awake.

Sam debated pretending he was asleep, but what was the point? They couldn't ignore each other for the rest of their lives. He had gone searching for his brother. And Dean had followed him home. He should probably talk to the guy.

"Yeah?" He kept his eyes closed. It would be easier on both of them.

Dean cleared his throat. Shifted his weight. Didn't speak.

It was sad, this uncertainty between them. Sam hadn't intended for this to happen. He'd been so unbelievably relieved when Dean had been back to himself. Had been overjoyed to buy him a burger and give him a six pack. Had wanted to spend the night celebrating, but it had been hard. A lot harder than he'd expected. He wasn't scared of his brother, something he should probably assure Dean of sooner rather than later. But, scared or not, he hadn't had a clue what to do so he'd allowed his brother to eat and recuperate on his own while he'd gone and tried to drown the past few months in a bottle of tequila.

"I'm sorry," Dean finally said, breaking the tense silence.

"It's ok."

"Nothing's ok."

There was so much despair in his tone that Sam struggled up on his good elbow and met his brother's gaze and said, "It is ok."

And it really was. As he said the words, the knot in his chest loosened a little bit.

"I'm still pissed at you for leaving and not answering your phone," Sam said, settling back on the bed and putting his free hand over his eyes. "That was a shitty move."

"Yeah. It was. I'm sorry."

"I know."

Silence fell again, but it wasn't filled with fear or anger or despair.

"Sam?"

"Hmm?"

"Are you ok?"

Sam gave him a thumbs up.

Dean snorted, then cleared his throat. "You, uh...you need anything?"

A three week nap would be great, thanks.

Sam shook his head, utter exhaustion dragging him down. "I'm just going to...stay here...for awhile."

"Ok. Uh...well, if you need anything, I'll be around."

"Ok."

Dean hovered in the doorway for a bit longer, then walked away.

A little more tension drained out of Sam's body and, had he taken one of the prescription painkillers sitting on the nightstand next to him, he might have been able to fall asleep. Instead, he drifted back into the twilight and decided it would have to be enough.


It was after seven that evening before Dean saw his brother again.

Since leaving Sam half-asleep in his room, Dean had cleaned up the mess in the hall and patched up the hole in the wall, trying not to think about how it had gotten there. He'd washed all the dishes in the kitchen. Not an exaggeration. He'd washed all the dishes in the kitchen. Sam had used every single item they owned and Dean really wanted to ask why Sam had needed to use the 16 quart stockpot.

Since there had been no food - again, not an exaggeration - he'd left a note taped to Sam's door and made a quick run to the store. He was finishing a sandwich and planning to go try to make sense of the chaos in the library when Sam walked into the kitchen.

"Coffee?" Sam asked, glancing around the kitchen.

"Sit down and I'll grab you a cup," Dean said, getting to his feet and heading for the coffee pot. "I can make you a sandwich."

"Coffee's fine."

Dean bit his lip to keep from saying anything stupid. Or bossy. Given how there had been no food in the kitchen when he'd looked around earlier, he wanted to force his brother to eat. Except he didn't want to force Sam to do anything. So he kept his mouth shut and just gave him a cup of coffee.

"Thanks."

Dean nodded and sat down across from his brother. He returned to what was left of his sandwich and looked everywhere but at Sam.

"I'm not mad at you," Sam said after a moment.

"You sure?" Dean glanced up, trying to smile.

Sam stared at him over his coffee cup for a few seconds, then nodded.

"If you were, I wouldn't blame you."

"Well, I'm not." Sam smiled. It was genuine, but tired. "I'm not scared of you either, so stop looking at me like I'm going to have a nervous breakdown if you sneeze."

"If you were, I wouldn't blame you," Dean repeated, trying to be funny but feeling nothing but anxiety deep in his gut. The Mark on his arm nagged at him like an itch he needed to scratch, but he occupied his fingers by tearing the remains of his sandwich into small pieces.

Sam smiled. He didn't comment, though, just went back to drinking his coffee. Dean finished his sandwich, then got up to wash the plate so he'd have something to do.

Once he'd dried the plate, he turned around and studied the brace on Sam's shoulder. It was more than a simple sling for a sprained wrist or a broken arm. It was a serious injury and he had no clue how Sam had managed to hunt him down. He also had no clue how he was able to get the thing on by himself in the first place.

Clearing his throat, he asked, "How's the shoulder?"

"Sore."

Dean hadn't expected honesty. Frowning, he asked, "You take anything for it?"

"It's not that bad." Sam drained his coffee cup and said, "I'm gonna go work on the files."

And then he was gone.

Staring after him for a few minutes, Dean had to admit things were going a little better than he'd expected. Things were still off -- the Mark on his arm refused to allow him to pretend everything was back to normal - and he had been a demon a few days ago, so it kind of made sense. He debated going to help Sam with the files, but decided against it.

Small steps. Small steps.

Instead, he went to his room and opened his laptop to see what he'd missed.

He was half-zoned out when he heard the sound of breaking glass. Startling to full awareness, Dean glanced around the room, trying to remember where he was and what was happening. It was possible he'd been more asleep than awake because almost three hours had passed since he'd sat down. Setting the laptop aside, he pushed himself to his feet and went in search of whatever Sam had just broken.

He started with the kitchen, found it empty, and continued on to the library. At first, he didn't see anything, then he caught a glint of glass on the floor and walked around the table.

"You broke one of the lamps?" Dean asked incredulously. "I thought you were rearranging files."

Sam looked up from his position on the floor. "Knocked it over."

Dean narrowed his eyes and then closed the distance between them.

"You're bleeding," he said, heart in his throat at the sight of bright red blood all over the floor. "Where?"

"Hand." Sam shook his head, his left hand fisted and held close to his stomach. "It's fine."

"It's not fine." Dean grabbed his arm to find the source of the blood.

Sam hissed and tried to pull away, but Dean didn't release him. He stared at the slices on his brother's palm and then was dragging him upright and hauling him to the kitchen. Sam protested and muttered the whole way. He was all but tripping over his own feet and Dean could smell the whiskey.

"Since when does rearranging files call for alcoholic assistance," Dean asked, shoving Sam into a seat at the table and yanking a clean dishrag from the drawer.

"Maybe since you took off without a word and left me here wondering what the hell happened to you," Sam spat, his eyes bloodshot but clearly communicating his anger.

"Thought you weren't mad at me." Dean carefully pressed the cloth against the bleeding cuts.

"I'm not mad at you."

Dean raised an eyebrow at the shouted words. "Could've fooled me."

"How could you do that to me?" Sam tried pulling his hand away again. "Leave me here thinking-"

"It wasn't about you." It came out much louder and angrier than Dean had intended, but maybe they both needed a moment to vent their frustrations. "I needed to -"

He cut himself off before he could admit he'd been afraid he still might have been a threat to his brother. Taking a deep breath, he pressed more firmly on the wounds, not out of meanness, but because the bleeding wasn't slowing down.

"I needed a minute, ok?" he said softly. "I needed some time to think."

"And you couldn't do that here?" Sam stopped pulling away and stared at the floor. "If you needed space, I would've left."

"I didn't need you to leave."

"I didn't need you to leave, either." Sam sighed.

Dean closed his eyes for a minute, then shook his head and carefully peeled the rag back from Sam's hand. There were several small, superficial cuts across his fingers and two larger gashes lower on his palm.

For a moment, it was as if they were back in Bobby's house and he was stitching up a similar gash. A gash that he'd showed Sam how to use as a method for grounding himself in reality. Stomach flip-flopping, Dean pressed the cloth back against the wounds and looked up at his brother.

"Sam, did you do this on purpose?" he asked, mouth dry as he stared at his brother's pale face.

"What?" Sam frowned, shaking his head. "No. Why would you…"

His voice trailed off and, drunk or not, realization dawned in his eyes.

Dean held his breath.

"No," Sam said firmly. "It was an accident. Was trying to pick up a file I dropped and bumped the lamp then tried to catch it and lost my balance."

Relief flooding him, Dean nodded. Better a drunk, clumsy brother than one who was doubting reality. He said, "Gonna need stitches."

"Wonderful."

Dean smiled a little. The urge to tease his brother was there, but under the circumstances, he couldn't bring himself to do it. Because less than a week ago he'd been a demon and tried to kill his already injured brother in their own home. Sam was already down an arm and now his good hand was a mess.

"Stay put and I'll grab the kit." Dean wrapped the rag around Sam's hand.

Sam nodded, pressing his hand against the table to hold the rag in place.

Twenty minutes later, hand freshly washed, stitched, and bandaged, Sam was snoring in bed. Having discovered the narcotic painkillers in the bathroom, Dean had given Sam no option but to take two. He'd been out as soon as his head hit the pillow.

Dean stood in the doorway watching him sleep for a few minutes, then headed for his own bed. As keyed up as he was, he'd expected to spend the night tossing and turning. Instead, he fell asleep almost as quickly as his brother had.


The next morning, Sam struggled his way through one of the most frustrating showers of his life, then headed to the kitchen for coffee.

Taking a shower while trying to keep his freshly stitched hand dry would have been frustrating enough, but given how he had limited range of motion with his right arm, it was enough to make him want to punch something.

If he had a hand he could punch with.

In the end, he'd given up trying to wash his hair. He still wasn't supposed to lift his right arm higher than shoulder level and by the time he'd struggled through everything else, washing his hair didn't seem that important anymore. Wasn't like he was planning to go anywhere today, anyway.

Sam's mood lifted dramatically when he smelled fresh coffee in the kitchen. The hangover wasn't terrible, but he didn't feel good and coffee would do wonders for his sluggish brain. At least he could pour a cup of coffee with his stitched up hand even if it hurt like heck to do so.

He sat down at the table and took a sip, then saw the note in the middle of the table.

Wasn't sure what you'd want to eat, but there's some scrambled eggs in the fridge. I bought some fruit and milk yesterday if you want cereal. I'm working on the car. Holler if you need anything.

The note relaxed him a lot more than the shower had. He finished his cup of coffee before pursuing breakfast. Microwaving a plate of eggs seemed easier than even putting cereal in a bowl. After another cup of coffee and the eggs, the headache had faded a little and he debated his next move.

There was a strong pull to go check on his brother, but he opted to work on the mess in the library. Things were more or less on an even keel and Sam wanted to keep it that way. He didn't want to put any pressure on Dean or make him feel like he was being watched for any errant behavior.

The library looked the same way it had last night. Messy. Dean had cleaned up the broken lamp, though. Sam grimaced as he stared at his left hand. Of all the idiotic things to have done. He sighed and sat down to begin shuffling through the paperwork.

The rest of the day went surprisingly well. Dean appeared at what he deemed appropriate meal times and they ate in easy companionship even if the conversation was still a bit stilted. Other than that, they mostly stayed out of each other's way.

Sam didn't think he needed the space, but he had flinched once when Dean had walked into the room. In all fairness, he'd been half-asleep in front of his laptop and not paying any attention. He probably would have flinched any other day, too, but apparently Dean was still a little sensitive. Sam had assured him, again, that he wasn't afraid of him. Dean had nodded, but not looked convinced.

It was going to take time. That's all there was to it.

The next day was more of the same.

After Dean had made lunch and then found an excuse to disappear yet again, Sam decided something needed to change. The strain was wearing on both of them despite their efforts to act like everything was fine. From the dark circles under his eyes and the fatigue dragging his shoulders down, it didn't seem like Dean had been getting any sleep. At least no quality sleep; if he was even trying. Sam hadn't been sleeping great, but at least he was trying.

Sighing, he stared around the library. It was put back together and he'd run out of things he could do. Searching for a case didn't seem feasible or reasonable at this point in the game. With his brother barely comfortable being in the same room with him, there was no chance they were going out on a hunt. Besides, his right arm and left hand were out of commission, and he was completely useless.

He didn't have a clue how they were supposed to come back from something like this. They'd spent most of their lives trying to come back from one crisis or another, but having your brother turn into a demon and then nearly kill you kind of took things to the next level.

They hadn't really talked about it and Sam wasn't sure how to even start the conversation. He was beginning to think he needed to figure it out, though, because nothing was changing. He knew his brother well enough to know Dean was torturing himself over everything that had happened. Despite his efforts to the contrary, Sam had clearly been failing on his mission to reassure his brother that they were ok.

Sure, he had a difficult time walking past that freshly patched hole in the wall.

Yeah, he was having nightmares and flashbacks.

Ok, so maybe he had flinched that one time. But he'd been half-asleep. Really.

He wasn't angry with his brother. Just worried out of his skull.

What if the cure hadn't worked? What if it was only temporary? He couldn't go through it again. He couldn't. Couldn't bear to see his brother become someone he wasn't. And the Mark. It was still there and what the hell were they going to do about that?

Fine. He wasn't sleeping any better than his brother was apparently.

Sam turned around and headed for the garage. They'd survived this long because they stuck together even when everyone and everything was trying to pull them apart. There was no way this was going to be the thing that would destroy them. He refused to allow it.

He didn't have a clue what he was going to say when he found his brother, but he was going to find Dean and pull him back from the brink. Even so, he approached the garage quietly. Cautiously. Not because he was scared this would be the time Dean would turn around with black eyes and point a gun at his head. Nope. Not because of that.

The thought sent a chill down his spine and he shook his head to dispel the image.

Taking a deep breath, he peered into the garage.

At first he didn't see his brother. The garage was quiet. No music, no tools clanking under the hood of the Impala, no hammer pounding into his brain, no movement at all. Swallowing hard, he took a step into the garage, wondering if Dean had gone for a walk. No, if he'd gone for a walk, he would have left a note or said something. He'd been pretty careful about being up front with where he was after the fiasco that first day. So he was here somewhere.

Sam frowned, trying to find him. All he had to do was open his mouth and call his brother's name. Why was that so hard to do? Why did his throat feel so tight and his mouth refuse to open? Why didn't I bring my gun? He shook his head, stunned at the thought and hating himself for it. About to back away and give up altogether, he finally caught sight of him.

Dean was at the far end of the garage, back against the wall. Drinking. He might have been working on the Impala at one point, but today it looked like the only thing he was working on was getting drunk.

Turning around, Sam left him alone and wandered back to the library. The library still held no answers so he tried the kitchen. Of course, there were no answers there either. Halfway to his room, though, he had a spark of inspiration.

He went back to the kitchen and dug around for a package of popcorn. Grateful for his brother's commitment to keeping them stocked with snack food, he threw the popcorn into the microwave and grabbed a couple bottles of beer. Once the popcorn was ready, he got everything set up in his room, then went hunting for a DVD. They had a couple movies they'd picked up somewhere along the line but had never gotten around to watching.

Selecting one, he tried to open the shrink-wrapped plastic and gave up in less than a minute. It was too tight around the DVD and too difficult to manage with one arm in a sling and his other hand sore and bandaged. Dropping it next to the TV, he fumbled for his phone and texted his brother.

You busy?

Obviously Dean wasn't because he texted back a couple seconds later.

No. What's up?

Need a hand. Sam smiled at the irony.

B rite there.

Sam set his phone down, not bothering to tell Dean where he was. It wouldn't take his brother long to find him.

"Sam?"

Not long at all. Sam smiled. He called out, "In my room."

A few seconds later, Dean appeared at the door. He must have been running, jogging at least, because his breath was punching in and out in short bursts and his face was slick with sweat. He'd been drinking heavily which Sam would have known just from looking at him even if he hadn't observed him in the garage earlier. All in all he looked terrible.

"What's wrong?" Dean asked, still huffing and puffing. He gave the room an assessing glance. No danger found, he narrowed his eyes and turned his assessment to Sam.

"I never said anything was wrong," Sam said, tapping the DVD. "Can't get it open."

Dean sucked in a huge breath - and really, how fast had he been running? - glancing at the DVD then up again. For a moment, Sam thought (hoped) he was going to get an earful about making Dean think there was something wrong when he was just too much of an invalid to open a package. Then the befuddlement vanished from Dean's face and something else, something more apologetic and humble took over.

"Sure, ok, yeah, I got it."

Sam forced himself not to move when Dean stepped forward. He watched his brother struggle with the stupid plastic wrap for a moment. When it was clear he wasn't getting anywhere either, Sam turned and fished his pocket knife out from under one of the piles of paperwork on his desk. He held it out for his brother.

Dean flinched.

Mouth dry, Sam stared at him. He'd never expected that and he didn't know what to do now. They had a long way to go if they kept jumping every time the other one moved. He was still trying to figure out the right thing to say when Dean cleared his throat.

"Thanks." He took the knife and sliced the plastic open. Once the case was free, he set it and the knife down and turned to leave.

"Hey," Sam said, hating that he didn't have a hand to reach out with to grab his brother. "I've got beer and popcorn. Thought we could watch the movie."

Dean stood frozen in the doorway. Kind of like a trapped rat. Sam held his breath.

Come on, man, we gotta get past all of this.

"Yeah. ok." Dean nodded, some tension relaxing out of his posture. He even managed a brief smile. "You did say beer, right?"

He was trying to act normal. Trying to be funny.

Sam smiled and said, "I did."

"And popcorn?" Dean asked, putting the DVD into the player while Sam got settled on the bed. "Well, I'm sold."

Once the movie was in, Dean tossed him the remote - unheard of - and accepted a beer. Then he sat down in the hard backed chair rather than on the other side of the bed like he usually did. It stung a little, but at least he'd agreed to watch the movie and hadn't run to the garage to hide again.

As the movie progressed, things got a little better. Dean made some of his usual mouthy comments and they laughed over the hysterical parts and critiqued the stupid parts. It was all a little strained, but they were both making the effort and it was a good step forward. Dean even suggested watching a second movie and popped another bag of popcorn.

Sam fell asleep somewhere toward the end of the second movie and it was when he woke up that the reality of exactly how far they still had to go hit him full strength.

It was the little things, really.

His shoulder was screaming because he should have taken the muscle relaxant and maybe even a painkiller. Usually Dean would ask if he needed anything for the pain.

He'd fallen asleep sitting up. Usually Dean would bully him into lying down before he fell asleep.

He was sprawled on top of the covers and the spare blanket was still in the closet. Usually Dean would throw it over him.

Sam woke up to an empty room and missed his brother.

to be continued...


Hope you enjoyed! More to come!