Do you remember that day you fell out of the window?
'Course I do, you came jumping out right after me.
Louder than the rest of his bemoaning for Sam to improve his taste in music as soft Jason Mraz sifts, barely audibly, through the Impala's speakers, louder than his whining for Sam to crack a window so Dean can breathe the fresh winter air in comparison to the warm heat Sam has circulating in the car, and louder than his puling about the speed, or rather, lack thereof, Sam has the tires rumbling along to on the abandoned streets, Dean is complaining about his ass.
Not just mild whimpers and the usual stifled moans of pain Dean keeps pinned in his mouth. He's groaning about it as though it's the worst agony he has yet to come across in his decades of hunting, as if his ass is truly the most prized possession on his body and without it, he'll suffer an assless lifetime that wheedles the quality out of breathing. Sam would assume that the irritated spots on his palms or the impact his back took as much as his behind would be the prominent object of Dean's complaining, but it's his rear that gets the must attention.
Dean is rocking back and forth on his side to avoid angering his backside, one hand curled around his hip white enough to resemble a ghost's hue as he curls his fingernails into the skin exposed from his shirt riding up his stomach. Sam tries to mumble therapeutic shhh's and relax's into the general direction of the backseat, but Dean isn't very responsive. Whether he's decided his childish need for whining trumps calming down to Sam's cooing or he can't even hear his brother's gentle words, Sam doesn't know, but he isn't about to prod at the subject when there's a good puddle of blood that's marring the cushion of the backseat.
He's honestly surprised that Dean hasn't freaked out about it yet. He's assuming that there's a residue of tears that Dean's been muffling by the rapid blinking of his eyelids blurring his vision and that with the agony supposedly shooting up and down the swollen, raw skin, torn in some areas, on his behind, he's not focusing on the appearance of his car, beloved possession or not. Still, even if he can't see it, Sam's surprised he can't feel the stickiness underneath him as Dean continues to shift and rearrange himself on the generous pool of blood soaked into the fabric.
There was more blood on the pavement, now that Sam recalls it. It was an urban area, but a quiet region at that. On top of that, it was a dull and cloudy day, so the amount of passerby was noticeably less than on an afternoon without promised hailstorms. To be frank, Sam is glad. It's the first time in years Dean has ever demanded a hospital, but the last thing they needed at the time was the gasps of the onlookers and the rushing, inadequate aid of the public crowding around Dean as though he was a museum artifact. They're a good four hours away by now, and if the weather forecast proved to be correct after all, the rain should have served as a clean way to wash away the vaguely Dean-shaped puddle of blood trickling into the cracks on the pavement.
It had been, at best, a clumsy afternoon. Dean has reflexes honed to near perfection after years of paranoia and practice, and while dodging a bullet might not be a feat he can flawlessly execute routinely, Sam certainly did not expect Dean to go soaring unceremoniously out a window after a poorly-timed slip on the musty carpet on the attic floor they were snooping around in, leaving nothing but a jagged hole of glass in the window.
Sam went jumping after him as though the ocean was awaiting him, and even though it wasn't a logical move, he had enough grace to aim himself into the bushes. The thorns were sharp and the raw, scratched skin on his arms are proof of the pain, but the landing he suffered in comparison to Dean's was miraculous.
It's the worst fall he's ever taken and Sam's surprised that after diving unwillingly out of a two-story window, he's still walking. With groans escaping his throat one after the other and a severe limp to his ankle as he leaned onto Sam's side, Dean proved his survival to be successful, but the dark crimson stain on his pants still portrayed the blatant injury his body suffered.
Dean's going to live and he's going to walk and Sam's not going to have to make any discreet stops at a wheelchair speciality store anytime soon, but he's in pain, and that's enough to make Sam break the speed limit by at least sixteen miles per hour.
"Y'know what they always say, Sammy?"
Dean's gone from sprawling out over the expanse of the backseat to leaning against the window with his forehead on the cool glass as his eyes languidly attempt to follow the line of trees whizzing by as Sam continues to drive through the steadily darkening night despite the way his mind is pleading him to stop for both exhaustion purposes, Dean's necessary medical attention, and his eyes are filmed over from the glare of his headlights. Dean's shoulder is jammed up against the car door as though he's cuddling into a bumpy, peculiarly shaped stuffed animal instead of a only mildly padded car door digging awkwardly into the small of his back and his hipbone. He's got a ratty cigarrette with a peeling filter from the emergency stash Sam didn't know existed in the glove compartment in his fingers, fingertips trembling from the loitering shock and agony of his fall and the pain in his rear, threatening to drop his cigarette straight into the floor of the Impala. Sam would've protested, but it's Dean's emergency stash for a reason, not his stack of addictions. Dean's face is pallid and the hue of his flesh has paled considerably from the last time Sam's taken a glance into the backseat, and even though he's almost sure that Dean isn't heading headfirst into an early grave thanks to the pain in his ass, Dean isn't convinced. The car is a little smoky and the low, broken coughs Dean's mouth keeps emitting don't sound healthy, but he isn't about to complain at a situation like this. There's a time and a place.
"Dean, can you please just focus on trying to relax?" Sam says, and he sounds like a fussy nurse from the war even to his own ears. The seemingly interminable driving has made him cranky and the fumes of the cigarette smoke adjoined with the sound of Dean's groans has not enhanced his drive down the road or made it any more tolerable.
"Everyone says your life flickers before your eyes when you're about to die," Dean's voice is low and gravelly like his throat is covered with a thin sheet of smoke, which it probably is, "do you believe it?"
Sam never knew that his brother is capable of getting thoroughly philosophical as though he's channeling a dying Chinese wise man when he's faced with a severe loss of blood and a potential of death. Dean takes another long drag of his cigarette and blows the smoke out the crack of the window. His cigarette never seems to reach its stub.
"You're not dying."
Dean looks straight into the rear-view mirror to where he knows Sam can see him, half-lidded eyes challenging him in silent mockery. He brings the cigarette back to his lips and hollows his cheeks around it, as though it proves a point. He tries to flick the tower of ash resting precariously atop his cigarette out his window, but his wrist falls a little short in reaching outside the window and it instead lands and crumbles on the seat.
"Answer the question."
"I really can't..." Sam pauses and tries to articulate his word in a manner delicate enough to not insult Dean's once in a lifetime contemplative rumination over life and death, "...speak from experience."
It isn't an adequate answer in comparison to what Dean was clearly hoping would could out of Sam's mouth, but he takes it as it is. Whether by this point he's too worn or disoriented for a proper retort or he's truly under the impression that his time is limited and he doesn't have the time for thoughtless bantering isn't something Sam is positive about. He prays for Dean's optimism to crawl out of the hole its gotten itself into, preferably without the help of firemen or steel ladders.
"...I think you should make sure it's a life worth watching," Dean says, and it's in a quiet, speculative voice, as if he's not sure it's an opinion worthy of vocalizing, "So when you die, it's not just... stupid."
Sam averts his eyes from the long stretch of road, instead directing them onto Dean in the backseat. His brother swiftly wraps his lips back around his cigarette, dwindling down into a stub of nothing but ash and smoke. He doesn't inhale, but rather just leaves it resting on the pillow of his lower lip.
"Dean, you're not–"
"I need to throw these pants out."
Dean seems to have collected enough vestiges of lucidity to finally notice that his pants are stained red and sticky as he runs his palm down the side of his thigh and comes back up shiny and wet in the moonlight. He pulls the filter from his mouth and smacks his lips before wiping his hand off on his knee. He stares at the remainder of the cigarette in his hand before letting out a lengthy, weathered exhale and tossing it out the sliver in the window. He looks at the rear-view mirror again as if waiting for Sam to say something because Sam always has something to say, especially when Dean is blatantly running away from his inner turmoil and psychological storms. To be fair, Dean thinks he just threw the last cigarette that will ever have the satisfaction of charring his lungs out onto the asphalt of the road. A walking and breathing dead man with a time bomb on his shoulder measuring every droplet of blood slipping out into the cushioning of the Impala isn't going to be sitting down to decipher the hardships of his life to an extent that requires acknowledging their existence.
Sam doesn't know what to say pertaining to the underlying pleas for motivation embedded in Dean's words. So he murmurs, quiet to match Dean's uncharacteristically small voice, "Are you hurting?"
"No." Dean says instantly, like a reflex, and Sam looks at him.
He's hunched in on himself, back bowed and lips parted, every deep inhale paired with an exhale that follows shortly after to fog up a circle surrounding his lips on the window his forehead is pressed up against. If Sam didn't know better he'd assume him to be sleeping, finally succumbing to slumber despite the pain of his wound, but the agony portrayed on his face, even stifled, is tugging on his lip and drawing the wrinkles out of his face, dismissing the theory of exhaustion taking over Sam's brother for the duration of the drive.
He's sitting in a puddle of blood that squelches like juice every time he shifts his body. There have been other injuries, and Sam knows there will be more. There will be more blood, more wounds, more moaning in the back of Impala. Whether it be Sam or Dean, there will always be more encounters with death because they practically play hide-and-seek with reapers as their hobby.
The wrinkles on Dean's face show age and agitation and all of the times he's frowned or grimaced until it's finally etched itself permanently onto his face. Now the wrinkles that are there are a default, like permanent marker immune to soap, forever a part of his flesh. Sam knows he has them too and he doesn't need to trace the curves and dips of his face to confirm that. They age faster in the same way that he and his brother bleed more. It's extreme and unhealthy and the sort of lifestyle that people would label as unstable, and Sam knows that it is, especially during the moments when the only remains of his family is whimpering in the back seat with serious blood loss.
But the blood will dry up and the injuries will heal. Dean will get another jagged scar, Sam will administer more expert stitch work, and Dean will spend at lest four minutes locking himself into the bathroom to freak out about the battered state of his car at the sight of the blood soaked into his precious seats, his precious leather, his prized possession of a car.
And then, maybe a year from now, maybe a month, maybe a day, Sam will go toppling out of a window and splatter on the ground and peel himself off the pavement just like Dean did, begging for relief while an endless drive ending in painkillers and iodine sets death back on the hood of the Impala, looming over them like an umbrella. It'll happen. It always does. Every eight minutes, the average individual gets hit by a car speeding down neighborhood roads, every seventy years, someone dies from a lightning strike on their skull, and everyday, someone wins the lottery. Sometimes, Dean and Sam beat the odds like anyone else with a secure job in a cubicle and a wife and dog does, and sometimes, the odds beat them first. And as someone who is still in one solid piece and alive and breathing, Sam's okay with that fact.
He looks back at Dean again, the whining reduced to silence and hands not clenching marks into his hips anymore. He's pale and and almost resembles a freshly made snowman in the ghostly light of the moon, hair disheveled and plastered in cumbersome directions, shirt ripped at the sleeves and pants stained like homemade spaghetti sauce. His lips are chapped and raw from his teeth digging into them and his eyes are shut as though if he opens them, he'll come face to face with a coffin or the flames of Hell instead of the soft hum and bumps of the Impala rumbling along the roads.
It's nothing Sam hasn't seen on his brother before, whether it be the trickle of blood or the pallid complexion of his face, but the average person would squeal in horror at the sight, as if Sam had welcomed a hitchhiking zombie into his car. This is the part of Dean, whether it be his lifestyle or his appearance, that he can't show to any girl. It doesn't matter if she undoes her bra with one hand or can blow him in thirty seconds flat. This is the part that only Sam gets to see. Only Sam gets to fix the dislocated shoulders, only Sam gets to whisper the words of encouragement like sweet, nonsensical nothings in the vague direction of his brother's ears, only Sam gets to wipe away the crusty aftermaths of his blood. Only Sam. This, this falling out of windows and almost dying, it's just theirs to have.
Sam is irrevocably, unequivocally, undoubtedly in love with him.
So he'll play the poker he doesn't understand until he works up the money to buy Dean clean jeans. He'll peel the shirt off of Dean's back when he has to do the medical work he can't bare to do without a grimace of repulsion when he brings Dean to the nearest motel. He'll tuck him into bed and watch him for at least two hours to make sure he's sleeping soundly, not even bothering to turn on the television to the lowest volume to the point where it's just white noise to keep himself entertained through the duration of minute after minute ticking by. He'll make him the waffles he overcooks or under-cooks no matter the amount of practice he squeezes in when morning comes. He'll be the family Dean needs, so no matter if he he can't walk, can't talk, can't pull on his own socks, Dean can always feel like he's coming home.
"Sammy, gimme an'ther cigarette, would you?" Dean grunts in the croaky, beaten voice of a long day's work and a long smoke milked for what it was worth.
Sam ponders it, the crushed carton of the remaining cigarettes with one peaking out over the flap still resting in the passenger seat. And then he shoves them back into the glove compartment and looks over the back of his seat to meet Dean's eyes, half-mast with his irises in the barest of views.
"No, Dean," Sam says, "You'll need your lungs to breathe properly once you heal and start hunting again."
For a second, Dean looks irked at the rejection of his request, because even though he's not a chain smoker, he wants to rush and the smoke and relief, but the trace of agitation vanishes as rapidly as it came. And then he looks at Sam, tilting his head upward as he leans his forehead against the cool of the smudgy glass and manages the tiniest of pleased smiles, nothing but a gentle curve of his mouth.
"Yeah," Dean mumbles in quiet agreement, and readjusts his body on the seat again to avoid digging the seat belt fasteners into the mottled, bloody mess that is his backside, "That shit'll kill you."
Sam smiles, and Dean manages a nod, barely there.
They're going to be just fine. They're together, so no matter where they sleep for the night or how much blood they shed on their hands, they're home.
While you were in the backseat smoking a cigarette you thought was going to be your last, I was falling deep, deeply in love with you, and I never told you until just now.
Home is wherever I'm with you.