And then there is the night that Dean falls asleep at the wheel.
There is a little bit of good news: he wasn't driving particularly fast, and instead of some six-lane it was on county route somethingorother at oh-dark-thirty in the morning, and it wasn't a very deep ditch, really. But the sudden stop banged Dean's forehead into the wheel, hard enough to split his eyebrow, hard enough to knock him out for a minute, and turned Sam's usual nightmare (with its shades of red and orange and black) into a swirl of white and blue.
We should fight about this, Sam thinks while Dean circles the car with an oilrag pressed to his brow, while Dean runs his hand over the scrape on the fender, and hunkers down to look at the axle, his jaw clenched. I should shout at him for being an idiot, for not pulling over when he knew he was too tired to go on. I should remind him that Dad always said, if you're dead alongside the highway, there's not much good you can do. I should.
The blood runs down Dean's cheek like a tear.
We should get going, Sam says. Will it run?
Dean's throat ripples, but he nods. It isn't too bad, he says, Could've been a lot worse, he says. He is talking about the car, but Sam thinks of how Dean's face is going to look in the daylight tomorrow, angry black scab and sick purple bruise, and Sam nods. Close, he agrees in a soft voice.
And it is dawn before they find a motel, and the car looks worse in the sun but it doesn't sound too bad, and Dean's jaw glitters with a gilt of stubble as he pulls into the parking space outside door number eight. Sam goes in and comes out and goes in again, and it's almost an hour later when Dean lifts his head from his folded arms and eases himself out of the driver's seat.
Sam has that sick empty stomach feeling, that thin skinned aching feeling, the kind you get when you're on the brink of falling apart, and he sees Dean move like an old man, sees scars and busted knuckles that he never noticed before, he sits on the end of the bed and sees.
Dean crosses the room, stripped to his shorts, and cups the back of Sam's head. In the cyanotype dim, only Dean's eyes are bright. You're hurt, he says, and his palm moves to cradle the bump on the side of Sam's head. The window, Sam agrees, and Dean's mouth tightens.
I'm fine, Sam amends, and his fingers close around Dean's wrist. The pulse there beats hard and fast.
You need to sleep, Sam says, and he tugs at Dean's arm. You need to sleep for about two days, and I know you can.
That gets a little smile, and a bob of Dean's Adam's apple. I'll sleep if you sleep, he says, a challenge with no edge. His thumb presses against Sam's temple.
Come on, Sam says, and he lets go, he moves away from Dean's hand to stretch out on his back. He curls his fingers in invitation. Come on, he repeats.
So Dean settles with ginger movements, banging hips and knees and chin against Sam's; he settles with soft pained noises, exhausted aching noises, and Sam tucks Dean's head under his chin and Dean tucks his hand under Sam's shoulder.
Sam may never really sleep but Dean never really rests, and Sam thinks that it will be ironic if they die not in the line of fire but when Dean nods off and puts the car under a semi. Sam thinks it would break Dean's heart if it ended that way, and then Sam thinks that haunting I-80 in Utah for all of eternity would be something beyond ironic. Possibly justice.
Stop thinking, Dean says, and butts his forehead against Sam's shoulder.
Stop moving, Sam says, and he shrugs, an awkward wriggle. Do you want to try to find a hospital?
Dean's answering shrug rubs against Sam's chest. No, be fine, he says, his voice low and muddy. Just lemme sleep awhile. Sleep awhile, Sam.
And Sam breathes in, and Dean breathes out, and there is a little bit of good news.