Disclaimer: Neither the Winchester brothers nor anything you recognise do not belong to me.
It's been six days since Dean went missing and two hours since Sam found him, huddled in a damp corner, shaking in fear. Sam doesn't know what his brother is so scared of. He can't see anything in this cellar but Dean is still refusing to move away from the wall. Sam can't begin to imagine the horrors Dean must have gone through down here and Dean can't manage more than two words at the moment.
The damp is starting to seep through Sam's clothing now and he can't repress the shudder that courses through him. He feels Dean flinch away from him at the sudden motion and tentatively reaches a hand out towards his brother. Dean eyes the hand worriedly, not quite ready to be touched but desperately needing Sam there, to ground him, to reassure him, to let him know he's not alone any more.
Sam lets his hand drop gently on Dean's shoulder, ignoring the tension in his muscles and the feel of bones too near the surface. He's worried that Dean feels so fragile and wishes the light was better down here so he could get a good look at his brother. He tried to light a flashlight when he first found Dean but the distress evident on his face that it caused, made him switch it off almost immediately again. It had cast enough light for Sam to see dark shadows where there should be none but he doesn't know the cause of them. They could be blood, or bruises, or just plain dirt.
He's relieved to feel Dean relax into his touch slightly and decides to try to get through to him again.
"Dean." He's gentle, not wanting to startle or scare his brother. "I need to see where you're hurt. I'm going to put the flashlight on, okay?"
Dean's reaction takes Sam by surprise. He reels away from Sam's touch, pressing himself into the corner even further than Sam thought possible. A frightened whimper that breaks Sam's heart escapes from his lips. Sam raises his hands placatingly.
"It's okay. It's okay." He reassures Dean. "I'll leave the light off, okay?" He can just about make out the nod Dean gives through the gloom. He really does need to check for injuries though. He's left it long enough, too long really.
He slides forward slowly, not wanting to worry Dean any more than necessary, but in his head, he reluctantly acknowledges that he's not going to be able to do this without causing some upset.
"I'm just going to check your head, Dean. It's just me, okay. You're safe." Sam talks Dean through what he's about to do as he ghosts a hand through Dean's hair. He can sense how much Dean wants to move, to pull away, to hide. He knows how hard this is as he applies a little more pressure to his fingertips, pushing down through Dean's short hair till he can feel his brother's scalp beneath his hands.
Dean's breathing hitches as Sam's gentle ministrations find a lump at the base of his skull. Sam can feel dried blood below the bump and feels a flash of rage in his gut. He softly works his fingers down the back of Dean's neck, coming to rest with one hand on either shoulder.
"How long has that been there?" he asks, not really expecting an reply. He's surprised when Dean suddenly drops his head down, coming to rest on Sam's forearm.
"Sam?" His voice is barely there, just a husky whisper, nothing more. Sam feels a moisture on his arm and is shocked to realise Dean is crying.
"Yeah. It's me, dude," he answers and lifts his free hand to rest on the side of Dean's face. Dean nods weakly, unable to do much more.
"Knew you'd come," he manages to whisper before sagging heavily into Sam, lost to an unconscious oblivion.
Sam feels a guilty relief as he gently lies Dean down, groping behind him for his abandoned flashlight. The light he shines on Dean's body reveals nearly a week's worth abuse and Sam has to fight hard to suppress a gag reflex. Dean is filthy from head to toe, a mixture of blood, sweat, dirt and other bodily fluids Sam is sure Dean would rather not have mentioned. His clothes are torn and Sam doesn't think he'll be able to save this particular shirt. He knows it's a favourite of Dean's – he wears it enough – but he doubts Dean will want any reminder of his ordeal here.
Working quickly before Dean stirs again Sam runs his hands gently but firmly over his brother's body. He can't feel any broken bones although both Dean's wrists are swollen and weeping sluggishly from what Sam assumes are rope burns. Sam has nothing here to clean Dean's injuries and the flashlight doesn't afford enough light for anything more than a cursory examination. He knows they need to get out of here. Not because he's worried they'll be interrupted – they won't, he took care of that – but because Dean needs more than he can give him here.
Grateful that Dean is still unconscious Sam debates the best way to get him out of here. The Impala is round the back of the house and Sam is sure there's a back door. Only thing is, that route will take them past the carnage Sam wrought on his way in. While this doesn't bother him, he doesn't want Dean to wake to that sight. He decides to go for the front door. He can leave Dean on the porch while he gets the car.
Decision made, he carefully hooks his hands under Dean's arms and hoists him over his shoulder in a classic fireman's lift. Grunting as he takes the strain of his brother's weight, he steadies Dean's legs, wrapping an arm round them to prevent him swinging into a wall and hurting himself further. He can feel the reassuring rise and fall of Dean's chest so he knows his brother is hanging in there. The warmth radiating through his jeans and shirt though are disturbing. Realistically, Sam knows there's a high probability of fever, if not more serious complications and the best place for Dean right now is a hospital.
He makes it up the stairs to the ground floor. The sun is just starting to rise above the horizon but the winter air is still bitterly cold. Out on the veranda he puts Dean down as carefully as if he were a piece of antique glass. He looks around for something to cover his brother with, albeit temporarily. He knows he'll be back with the car in less than five minutes but with a fever lurking, Sam doesn't want to take any risks with Dean's health. He can't see anything suitable though. The only thing in view is an old blanket but the smell of it is enough to turn his stomach. There's no way he's putting that thing anywhere near Dean.
Sam takes a last look at Dean, reluctant to tear himself away. He knows it's silly. He's only going round back to get the car. There's no one here and Dean isn't going anywhere. But it's taken him six days to find Dean and to be away from him now – it feels like he' s tempting fate. He can't help resting his hand on Dean's brow, just to check. Dean is warm, too warm for Sam's liking and it spurs him on.
He's back with the car in the predicted three minutes. As he bounds up the steps to the porch, Dean stirs. Sam stops abruptly when he hears his brother's moans. By the time he reaches his side, Dean is trying to open his eyes. But he's been in darkness for six days and the light is hurting his retinas. Tears leak, unbidden, from beneath his lids and Sam isn't convinced he's not still crying. He doesn't know what Dean is conscious of, so he announces his presence quietly.
"Dean? Let's get you to the car, man. Can you walk?"
Dean jumps, startled by the voice but, unlike earlier, he relaxes as soon as he recognises the sound of Sam's tone. He reaches out a hand, eyes shut tight still, and waves it around until Sam catches it in his.
"Sammy?" His own voice hasn't improved much and Sam has to lean forward to hear what's being said. "Knew you'd come. Knew you'd come for me," he repeats and Sam realises Dean isn't as lucid as he'd thought.
"I'll always come for you, Dean. It's what we do." He looks to the car and wonders if Dean is going to make it that short distance. Dean's grip on his hand is tightening to the point of being painful and his breathing has speeded up. Sam doesn't know what's causing it but he's watching his brother on the verge of a panic attack. He doesn't have the facilities to deal with that here. He needs to get them both into the car and to a safe place, one that Dean knows and recognises.
"Dean," he catches his other hand and holds both of Dean's hands firmly in place. "I'm going to get you to the car now. It's time to go." He pauses and looks around. The area is deserted and that's the way he wants it to stay. "C'mon, man. I need you to help me here."
It's hard work but, together, they make it to the car in a respectable time. Dean passes out again as soon as Sam gets him comfortable in the back seat, lulled by the familiarity of the leather and the scent of engine oil and gasoline.
Sam settles into the drivers seat and pulls out his phone. Watching Dean in the mirror, he dials the number from memory.
"Bobby? I got him. We're on our way."
A/N: So, I'm happy with this as a one shot although it has potential to be more. I'd be interested to hear what everyone else thinks. And if you're waiting for But is it Art? it'll be back soon.