Pairing: Sam/Dean. Sort of.
Warnings: Reference to non-con, bad language, angst.
Rating: R, for thematic elements
Summary: Of course things don't get swept under the rug that easily. A week or so after In Restless Dreams, Sam finally forces The Talk. It works about as well as can be expected.
Dean writhes in a way that makes Sam wonder if he's actually trying to get his head in a position where he can look at his own back. "Dude. I can do it."
"No, you can't." Sam brandishes antiseptic and needle in what he knows is a fairly threatening manner, but for God's sake, they've been doing this dance for the past twenty minutes, and even for Dean, this is stubborn. "I know you're flexible, but some things are physically impossible and stitching up your own back falls under the heading of physically impossible."
"Seriously, Dean, just let me stitch you up, okay? I'm not going to--" molest you, he doesn't say. It's been a week and the bruises are fading (not that Dean ever lets him get a look at them if he can help it) and so far they've been playing Dean's game and pretending it never happened.
Sam knows they're going to have to talk about it eventually, but he also knows that he's going to have to be the one to start that conversation. And right now, two hours off the hunt, still smeared with dirt and ashes and smelling like the kerosene they used to torch the wendigo, is not the time. Sam wrenched his shoulder when he went down, and Dean's got two deep, parallel gashes across his lower back that are still bleeding sluggishly when he moves. There's blood on the sheets and his hoodie was a total loss.
It was a bad hunt. Sam would love to blame it on the fact that neither of them has really been sleeping, but he knows that isn't it.
Dean's still for several long seconds, jaw tight, and then he lifts his shoulders slightly and swings his legs over the edge of the bed, presenting his back to Sam. The broad, freckled line of his shoulders is tense and he's gripping his knees, but his voice is light when he speaks. "Jesus, alright. Don't butcher me any more than you have to."
"I never have to butcher you," Sam says. The bantering tone isn't sincere, but it's a mindless habit, something familiar to hang onto while everything else goes to shit. "You do just fine on your own. Whiskey?"
Dean hasn't touched their liquor stash since it happened, but he accepts the bottle and takes two long swigs without gasping. Sam watches his throat work as he swallows, looks away.
"Sometime today, Sam."
"Right. Sorry." He takes the bottle back, glass sliding cool beneath his fingers as he sets it aside to thread the needle. His hands are shaking, and he has to take a minute to steady them before he starts.
He's stitched up at least half of Dean's scars, starting back when he was twelve and Dad got his fingers broken by the poltergeist that threw Dean through a plate glass window. He's done this so many times that he could probably do it in his sleep; he has done it half-drunk, strung out on pixie venom, concussed. Dean's body is as familiar to him as his own, has been for a long time. They've bled together, for each other, secret soldiers in their father's war for over a decade.
Now here he is, trying to calculate the best way to stitch Dean's fucking back up without touching him, and Dean's eyes are closed, his shoulders stiff, and this is the first time in the past week that he's been anything other than fully dressed in Sam's presence. Dean, who has been known to actually wander out into motel parking lots in his underwear and hasn't had so much as a nodding acquaintance with modesty for as long as Sam can remember.
It's all wrong in ways that twist his guts and set his teeth on edge. God knows they don't always get along, but this stilted awkwardness is worse than screaming matches or fist-fights, and he's give almost anything to believe that the small flinch Dean can't quite suppress when Sam touches him is because of the pain.
It takes twenty stitches, all told, to close up both wounds. Dean sits as still as statue the whole time, and Sam wants to remind him to relax but he can't think of any way it won't come out wrong.
There's a yellow-green bruise on his waist that's shaped like Sam's hand, five scabbed-over crescents where his nails dug in. A healing bite-mark on the nape of his neck. Sam wants to touch it, to smooth away the hurt, but Dean hasn't let him do that since they were kids. In this case, the very idea is obscene.
I did that, he thinks, and even though he can remember every last fucking minute of that night, he can't quite believe it.
"Sam?" Dean says, and he realizes he's been sitting there with the needle hanging in midair like an idiot.
"Sorry," he mutters, and ties off the last stitch. Snips the thread, and Dean's off the bed before he can even put the scissors down, rummaging through the duffel bag he dropped on the other bed. His handcuffs are still on top of the pile. "Dean," Sam starts, then stops. This is his job. Talking about things. This is the part he's good at.
Dean's voice is muffled when he pulls a long-sleeved shirt on. "Oh, no." His head emerges, tousle-haired and scowling. "We are not doing this now."
"Dude, it's the middle of the night, I'm covered in extra-crispy monster guts, and my back is killing me. I want to sleep."
"Dean, you've been too paranoid to sleep for the past week." He doesn't even think about it until it's out of his mouth, and by then it's too late. It's true, of course, but like a lot of true things about Dean, that doesn't mean it ought to be said.
Dean's face shuts down. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"I'm not actually an idiot, you know," Sam sighs. "Look, I get that you don't want to talk about it--"
"And yet you keep bringing it up."
"--but this is not healthy," Sam finished determinedly. "Shutting it out like this. It's not going to just go away."
"Fine," Dean snaps, dropping onto his bed like a sack of bricks, jaw hard, eyes furious. "Hi, everybody, my name's Dean. Last week my kid brother got on the wrong side of a nasty hex that made him beat the crap out of me and fuck me up the ass. It sucked." He pauses, then adds, in a voice still dripping sarcasm, "Gosh, thanks, Dr. Freud, I feel so much better now."
Sam closes his eyes. "I'm so--"
"Jesus Christ, Sam, would you just shut up?" He yanks his duffel bag into his lap and starts pulling guns out. His favorite Colt 1911, the big Desert Eagle in its hard plastic case, Dad's old .45. Lays them out on the ugly orange bedspread, moving with a kind of jerky tension that makes Sam think of wind-up toys.
"I'm sorry," Sam says again, quietly. He stands up and walks to the bathroom on legs that feel like they're made out of wood.
He locks the door and throws up until his throat is raw and his stomach is twisted into a painful knot, and when he's done he curls into a ball against the cool porcelain side of the bathtub. His eyes are burning, but the tears don't come.
There's a quiet rap on the door, and Dean's voice. "Sammy."
He doesn't answer.
"Sammy, I'm sorry. I don't--" A low sigh, and then a soft thud, like Dean just dropped his forehead against the door. He sounds exhausted. "I don't know what to do with this, man."
"Me neither," Sam admits in a small voice, because it's true, because there's only so many times he can apologize before it stops having any meaning at all.
There's a rattle, a click, and the door swings open. Dean steps inside, reaches down to give Sam a hand up. "Come on, Gigantor. Bedtime."
Sam lets himself be pulled to his feet as Dean pockets the paperclip in his other hand. "You know, most of the time when people lock the door, it means they don't want you to open it."
"Sue me," Dean says wearily. "I was poorly socialized as a child."
In the bedroom, he kicks his shoes off and flops onto his bed fully dressed. The guns are lined up neatly on the dresser, his duffel bag is on the floor, and though Sam can't see it, he's fairly sure that Dean's bone-handled Bowie knife is tucked under his pillow.
He sits down on his own bed and pulls his bag toward him, digging through the jumble of books and dirty clothes for his handcuffs. It's become his nightly ritual; it's just a good thing all the places they've stayed at so far have had sturdy bedframes.
"Leave them," Dean mumbles.
Sam looks up. Dean's got his face buried in the pillow, one leg cocked up under him. It's an aggressively casual pose. "What?"
"The cuffs." Dean lifts his head, just enough to squint over at him. "Dude, sleeping in those things can't be doing your shoulders any favors. Leave them."
Dean grins. It's crooked and tired and doesn't quite reach his eyes, but it's a smile. "I trust you, Sam. Leave the damn cuffs and go to sleep."
He doesn't know how late it is. Late enough that it's probably flipping over into early, actually, but their room's paid up for another night and there are no irate locals on their tail, no Feds, no reason to bail at the first hint of morning.
In the other bed, Dean's sprawled out ungracefully, loose-limbed and mumbling through his dreams the way he always does, dead to the world. One hand is curled awkwardly under his chest, the other dangling over the edge of the bed. The knife under his pillow seems to have been forgotten.
Sam's head hurts, his shoulder is aching, and his side is one giant bruise. His throat is sore and his stomach is still twisting with nausea. He feels like shit, actually, but that's okay. For the past week he's been telling himself desperately that things are going to get better, and this is the first time he's actually come close to believing it.
A/N: So, I know this was a long time in coming and I'm still not sure I got it how I wanted it. It's just been sitting on my hard drive for the past week, so I figured I'd just throw it to the wolves :). Be merciful.