Dean's bleeding hard. Fat drops hit the pavement. He clamps a hand over the gash in his side, and with his free arm he supports Sam, half-dragging him toward the motel room door.
Blood puddles beneath their feet as the key slips in Dean's hand and he smears blood around the door handle. Yeah, like that's not gonna draw attention.
They can clean up later. Right now they've got to get inside where it's safe. They've gotta wash off the blood—and whatever this fucking gloopy bug guts shit is. They both need stitching up, and fast.
"Bathroom," Dean says. He pulls his brother in, drops the toilet lid and dumps him unceremoniously onto the improvised seat. "Hold it," he says, clamping Sam's hands over the wound on his leg. Sam would be dead already if it had got the right artery, but he's still oozing blood in a terrifying way.
Dean staggers out to grab the first aid kit. On his way back he fishes out a bandage, and wraps it around his guts in record time. Sam is the priority.
Sam is always Dean's priority.
He cuts Sam's jeans away and the denim comes off in sodden strips. They hit the floor with wet squelches. Too much blood. "You stay with me, Sammy," Dean says, panic setting in. "Get down here." He drags Sam onto the floor, where he should have put him in the first place. Dean's not thinking because he's lost too much blood himself.
So much for getting clean. Dean makes do with a wet washcloth and a good dousing of whiskey into the wound. Sam doesn't even twitch.
"I got you," Dean says, as he preps the needle and floss. "Gonna have an awesome scar, Sammy. It'll go great with the story of how you almost got eaten by a giant roach."
Why'd it have to be roaches? Dean fucking hates roaches. He's seen some big ones, they go with the territory when you grow up in fleabag motels. These were taller than Sam, though, and walking around on four legs, the other two waving in the air and slashing at them like massive machetes. Now Sam might be dying, might be dead already—
Dean's gotta catch his breath. Sam's not dying. Not on Dean's watch. Not while Dean's still breathing.
Dean ties off the last stitch, satisfied that the bleeding has stopped.
Sam's chest rises, and falls. It's almost imperceptible, but it's there. He's breathing. He's gonna make it.
The room spins and Dean passes out.
When Dean comes around, the first thing he's aware of is that he's gonna barf. He retches, but all that comes up is enough stomach acid to sear his throat and make him whimper. He squirms, and there's a sharp tug at his side where the roach got him.
"Don't move too much," Sam says. "You got a mess of stitches."
Sam's pale as death, but he's breathing, and talking. He must be doing okay if he dragged Dean out of the bathroom and onto the bed and got him fixed up.
"I thought you were dead," they both say at once.
Dean shakes his head. It hurts like a motherfucker. "Can't get rid of me that easy."
"I didn't know if you were gonna wake up," Sam says.
There's horror and fear in Sam's expression, and Dean feels it. That would've been him, if he hadn't passed out cold as soon as he had done all he could. "It's okay," he says. "I'm okay. I'm not going anywhere."
Sam's still covered in blood. He ditched his destroyed jeans for a pair of sweatpants, but there's dried gore crusted on his arms and he's still wearing the shirt he was wearing on the hunt. It used to be blue plaid. Now it looks like it's been sitting at the bottom of a swamp for a hundred years.
"Why don't you grab a shower," Dean suggests. He can't keep his eyes open, but he forces himself to sit up, even as the stitches in his side pull. Sam could probably do with some more painkillers, too, but that's gonna have to wait. When they're clean and know they won't get interrupted they can take all the drugs they need and sleep it off.
When Sam moves, Dean knows he hasn't taken anything yet. "You okay, Sammy? Not gonna pass out in the shower, are you?"
Sam shakes his head as he pushes through the bathroom door, but he can't even hold himself upright.
Dean follows him. He'll hover on the other side of the shower curtain. He'll make sure Sam doesn't brain himself on the edge of the tub if he goes down.
There's a faint glow through the curtains and the birds are starting to sing. The trail of blood they left outside is gonna get noticed. If Dean doesn't do something about it soon they'll wake up to the police busting through the door.
That's the last thing they need.
Dean dumps a bucket of water onto the pavement outside the room. A gallon of Winchester blood runs into the gutters. A wet rag fixes the smears on the door.
When he comes back in, Sam is out. Already fast asleep. Dean glances over at his own bed.
When Sam dragged him up there, Dean must have still been bleeding. The blankets are soaked in blood.
He turns back to where Sam is sleeping like the dead. "Budge up," he says, and even in his sleep, Sam rolls to give Dean space. That was their deal when they were kids. When there was one bed, or two and they had to share a room with Dad. Sharing the same bed was nothing.
Then Sam had that big growth spurt at sixteen and Dean started seeing him different.
Dean tries to shut down his thoughts, but he can't. Not when he's curled around his brother after coming so close to losing him. He clenches his jaw and shuts his eyes against the tears that want to come pouring out and thank god Sam's out cold. He won't feel the way Dean's chest is contracting with the pain, and fear, and grief that has nowhere to go.
Sam's still alive.
It's a couple days before either of them are up for going anywhere. Two more nights curled together in the same narrow bed. Two days of Dean making brief trips for food because Sam can't drive with that leg. He can hardly walk on it.
As soon as they can, they get in the car and get the hell out of Dodge, like they should have done as soon as the job was over.
They need somewhere they can hole up for a while. Sioux Falls is too far. Dean can't drive all night, not on the good painkillers. They make it as far as Illinois and spring for a slightly less crappy motel than they usually get.
"Two clean beds," Sam says, as he limps into the room and collapses on the one farthest from the door. He starfishes and closes his eyes. After the last couple nights waking up with Dean wrapped around him like a goddamn limpet, he deserves it. Dean's gonna miss knowing Sam's breathing, right there beside him, but it's for the best.
Shit Dean's pushed down for years is coming back up. Sam leaving for college was good, actually, as pissed as Dean was at Sam for abandoning them. It gave Dean space, allowed him to think. He always blamed himself, because at least half of why Sam left was probably him. He hadn't been as cool as he'd thought. He hadn't done enough to hide the way he felt about his brother.
Sam knew. He knew.
"Can finally get a decent night's sleep," Dean lies. "You take up too much space."
Sam opens his eyes, and there's something there that Dean has dreaded seeing. Knowledge. Dean waits a little too long before he looks away and reaches for his duffel. "Time for your meds, Sammy." He pulls out a couple of pill bottles, a bottle of water and puts them on the cabinet between the beds. He can still feel Sam's eyes boring into him.
"You too," Sam says as he pulls himself up and reaches for the antibiotics, ignoring the painkillers. "You gotta let me look at it. I know you pulled a stitch today, don't try to tell me you didn't.
Dean sighs and involuntarily reaches for his wound. "I'm good. I'll take a look in a bit, Sam, no—"
He tries to twitch away but he's not quick enough. Sam grabs the edge of Dean's shirt and pulls it up. It exposes the bandage Dean bled through during the drive.
"Sit your ass down, Dean," Sam says. "Pass me the kit."
Dean sighs and pulls off his shirt. The room is cool, the heating hasn't had a chance to warm the air yet. Goose bumps spread over his skin. He can blame the cold for the way his nipples pebble when Sam touches him. He can thank the whiskey Sam pours on his stitches for the pain that gives him something else to focus on.
Stanford fixed it, or Dean thought it had. Since they'd started hunting together again, he'd kept his eyes to himself. He'd kept his cool, he hadn't woken up sweaty and hard after dreaming about his brother.
But it's back. Dean woke up on that blood-soaked bed in Michigan, his first instinct to reach for Sam. To pull him close and inhale him.
Sam's next, and he's gotta take his pants off to let Dean change the dressing on his thigh. Dean keeps his eyes averted, and it's a goddamn wound. Sam's wounded, but seeing Sam like this still makes him breathe heavier. It makes his heart beat faster, makes his palms slick with sweat.
He's a fucking mess. It got bad before Sam left for college. Then he left and Dean was angry. He was heartbroken. Then he realized that Sam knew, and he couldn't blame Sam for taking the opportunity to put some distance between them.
When their paths converged again, Dean found it easier. For a while, he hoped that's all he'd needed. A little distance.
But they lost Dad, and Sam became the only thing Dean could count on. Sam was all the family Dean had anymore, and it'd been creeping back in. Dean would like to say unnoticeably, but Sam's not fucking stupid.
Then Dean had watched in horror as the last of the bugs pinned Sam to the cave floor like a butterfly in a shadowbox. He thought he was watching Sam die. He dashed forward, determined to kill that fucking thing or die trying.
It got him, and he didn't care. He got speared in the side but his machete slid between the armored plates of the belly of the bug. It died quick and collapsed on top of him.
Dean wanted to die right there with it. He can't imagine living in a world where Sam doesn't exist, and he'll do anything, go to any lengths to avoid it.
Sam's voice is a croak. Dean's mind wandered and he's been staring down at Sam's inner thighs. Sam's probably wondering if Dean's about to break and try something.
Dean clears his throat. "I'm done. Looks good. Keep taking those antibiotics, though."
They make it to Bobby's and the relief is palpable. Dean's getting it from Sam in waves. It's not just that they can rest and recuperate. There's another presence, another human being, a buffer that'll keep Dean at a distance.
They get real food here, and good beer, and shitty whiskey. They get soft beds—the same twin beds in Bobby's upstairs room they've been sleeping in since they were kids. Only difference is now Sam's feet hang over the edge if he tries to stretch out.
The morning after they arrive, Dean wakes well after the sun is up. Sam is still sleeping, and he needs it, so Dean creeps quietly out of the room.
Bobby looks up when Dean comes down the stairs. Dean's still moving slow but feeling better for a decent stretch of shut-eye and a hot shower. "Hey," Bobby says. "So I got everything from Arachne to Zorapteran in these here books but I can't find anything about giant roach monsters. You sure they were roaches?"
Dean shrugs. "They looked like roaches. Scurried like roaches. Waving their creepy antlers like roaches—"
"—just, big, you know?"
"Big? What, like Godzilla big?"
"Like human-sized big. Way bigger than your average roach."
Bobby stares back at him for a beat and then shrugs. "I don't know what to tell you, Dean. I can't find anything."
"Could be something new." He pulls up a chair and sits down on the other side of Bobby's desk. "How many nuclear power plants they got in Michigan?"
Bobby looks like he used to when he'd catch Dean smoking cigarettes on the porch years ago. Right before he smacked him on the back of the head and called him an idjit.
Dean flinches out of habit.
Bobby laughs. "Oh, you're funny."
"I'm hilarious. Be cool though. Radioactive roaches. Glow in the dark. It'd make them a lot easier to hunt."
"Well if they're roaches, least we know how to kill 'em."
"Slice and dice did the trick. It would'a been a walk in the park if that last one hadn't gotten Sam."
Dean's voice breaks as his mind replays that moment again for him. The blade-like foreleg of the creature sliding through the meat of Sam's thigh and pinning him to the cave floor. The echo of Dean's wordless cry ringing off the stone walls as, without thinking, he plunged headfirst towards his own death.
The bug only missed his vital organs because Dean twisted to slide his own blade home.
"I almost lost him," he croaks, and he needs to shut up, but he can't. "God, I thought I'd lost him forever."
"Sounds to me like we almost lost you both, Dean. You got lucky. You got real lucky."
Dean nods and wipes moisture off his cheek but he'll never ever admit to it being a tear. "Yeah, we did." He should take the win, but deep down, he believes he kept going—got Sam out of the cave, stopped the bleeding, got him sewn up—out of pure stubborn refusal to accept any other outcome. Once he'd done all he could, he was out cold, and from the headache he woke up with the next morning, he must've clocked himself good on the bathroom tile.
"So," Bobby says. "Your daddy really never even taught you how not to kill a roach, did he?"
Dean looks up from scrubbing at his eyes with the back of his sleeve. "Huh?"
"You can't squish 'em, Dean. We're gonna have to go back there and blow the cave. Else that town's not gonna be dealing with a pack of giant roaches, they'll be dealing with hundreds of baby ones."