There was the sound of splintering wood, the floor feeling unsteady beneath his feet, and then the whole left side of his body went numb.
Sam's voice was oddly loud amongst the cloud of noise floating around the room, his long legs tangling themselves as he stumbled forward in a hurry.
"Dean, are you—"
Large hands were reaching out to grab him when the lights went out.
Waking to the smell of antiseptic and rhythmic beeping only made him want to throw things. He figured he shouldn't though, at least not until he knew what bit of his body was broken this time. After that, well…
He caught the flash of a familiar flannel shirt out the corner of his eye and a part of him was able to relax a little, knowing that only one-half of them was out of commission. Still, he was too tired to deal with medical shit right now – Sam would have all that under control besides – so Dean pulled the mental blinds back down and figured he'd sleep it off.
But he couldn't sleep it off forever. Eventually they were poking and prodding too much, and Sam was talking too much, and he was waking too much on his own to keep avoiding the issue. The doc shining a light in his eyes didn't help matters, either. In fact, it fucking sucked. Setting off a stampede of pain in the back of his skull that had him digging his fingers into the side of his face to try and stave off the agony.
"That's to be expected I suppose," the doc said with barely a hint of sympathy, "You've sustained a moderately serious head injury, Mr Kowalski. You've been out for a few days and this is the first time we've found you both awake and alert. Due to the nature of the injury it's important we assess for any possible neurological damage."
Keeping his eyes mostly closed, Dean took a deep breath. It was a far cry from the first time he'd taken a hefty whack to the head, and not even the first time he'd ended up in the hospital because of it, so he knew how this crap went. Hell, he could probably even do the doc's job for him.
"Can you look to the left for me? Now the right?"
Dean did as he was told, catching his brother's figure in the background. The sooner they got through this, the sooner this schmuck could leave he and Sam alone.
"Now wiggle your toes. Good. And make a fist with each hand. Little bit shaky, but that's not an issue. Now smile, then clench your teeth. Good, good."
The doctor scribbled some notes on his clipboard then looked back up again.
"Now, can you tell me what year it is?"
The number came to the fore as easily as it ever did, but where he would have expected his mouth to have formed the words without a second thought, suddenly there was… something in the way.
"Two… tuh… tuh…twen-dee… sss…sssickss…tuh-tee…"
"And which state are we in?"
His knuckles were white where they gripped the bleach-white sheets, and he turned his head away in a huff, towards the side of the room that was empty of people. He could still feel their eyes on him, however, and only the fear of what might (or might not) come out of his mouth kept him from boiling over.
The scraping of pen on paper was like nails on a chalkboard.
"How about you write it for me instead?"
He grabbed the notepad and pen being shoved into his field of vision and scribbled down something along the lines of 'my writing's fine now fuck off' before handing it back to the nurse standing at the doctor's side.
"Well, you're clearly not aphasic, which is a plus. We'll get another MRI done to see if there're any changes, but there's going to be some inflammation and bruising for a little while yet. Once they've settled things will hopefully start to improve—"
Dean tuned out whatever mumbo-jumbo came next, leaving Sam to pick up the slack – he'd at least have an idea what the doc was on about and could translate it for him later. As far as Dean was concerned, he just wanted to roll over and pretend that everything would be back to normal in the morning.
Of course, it was too much to hope for. Three more days had passed before they'd finally agreed to let Sam take him home. Three more days of scans and tests and endless questioning, as if his failure to get more than a single word out at a time was going to change between one minute and the next. He'd been so goddamn close to punching someone. If Sam hadn't been hanging off to the side and hadn't stepped in just in time to talk him down… well, it would've gotten ugly. But finally he was back in safe and familiar territory, back in the Impala with his brother. He'd conceded to let Sam drive them back to the bunker, but only this one time and only because he'd just gotten out of the hospital and his head still hurt. Next time it would be him in the driver's seat – no exceptions.
"So I picked up enough meds to cover you for a couple of months. Though, knowing you, I guess that'll mean we'll have some leftovers for the first-aid kit."
Sam went silent, as if waiting for Dean's response. But Dean would wait him out all the way back to the bunker if he had to.
"And don't think that the not talking thing will get you out of taking your pills. You let those painkillers wear off and you'll be really fucking sorry, man, I'm telling you."
Letting his head fall against the window, Dean stared out at the highway as it continually rolled closer and passed them by.
"Whatever. I'm letting you off the hook for now 'cause you've got a goddamn head injury, but I'm not letting this go."
His brother Sammy – ever the dog with the bone. Surely he'd almost be disappointed if Sam didn't eventually start nagging him like an old wife. Not that he was precisely looking forward to it either, but still.
"This silent treatment is getting tired, Dean."
Dean looked up from the decades-old car magazine he was flipping through, finding Sam standing in the doorway with his arms folded over his chest. He looked away again, though probably more out of shame than defiance, if he were being completely honest. Sam continued to try to get him to talk, constantly asking him questions or saying stupid shit about him to try and rile him up, but Dean continued to be a stubborn asshole about it. Sure, he hated seeing that disappointment on his brother's face, but he hated himself more for being 'damaged'. He'd tried saying things out loud to himself when he knew Sam wasn't around to hear, but still he could barely get through more than a couple of words at a time without stammering. And of course his brother's name had to start with an 's'. It was the one sound that never failed to trip him up.
"It's not like you're an actual mute. You can't just not talk for the rest of your life. You gotta at least try."
A common occurrence over the past couple of weeks – Dean flipped his brother the bird once more.
"Real mature, man. You'd think I was looking after a moody teenager. And I know what you've been up to."
Slamming the magazine to the table, knowing Sam wasn't going to let up this time, Dean got to his feet, jaw set.
"I know you've been researching, looking for small fries nearby. But there is no way in hell we're hunting anything if you're not even gonna attempt to interact to me."
Yeah, and Sam wasn't even gonna attempt to shut up, was he?
"It's a liability, Dean. Things might be quiet at the moment but that doesn't mean we can afford—"
So Dean shut him up with his mouth.
It took a few moments for Sam to get with the program, struggling a little bit, trying to push Dean away, but he held firm. Held his brother close by the shoulders. And soon enough Sam was kissing him back. It was a rough exchange at first, with Sam taking charge, as if finishing whatever he was trying to say but without words. And Dean wondered what would be so wrong with that – perhaps they should have more conversations with their bodies. Maybe they'd get somewhere for once.
So Dean just let himself go along for the ride, soaking up Sam's irritation with his mouth and his tongue. He felt the drag of his own three-day beard against Sam's clean shaven face, and pulled back for just a second to bask in the raw-pink glow highlighting Sam's lips and chin.
He threaded fingers through long hair, pulling them back together, keeping his brother's agenda at bay. No doubt Sam knew exactly what he was doing, avoiding the 'conversation' with an (albeit extremely effective) distraction, and he'd keep rolling with it as long as it worked. For all his smarts, Sam was still a hot-blooded guy and therefore still at the mercy of his dick, and Dean could work with that. Obviously it wasn't the noblest of solutions, but he'd never claimed to be the noble type.
Sam's hands wrapped around his waist and suddenly they were moving. His brother's cock was hard – he could feel it pressing against his hip through the layers of their jeans – and his own wasn't far behind, gaining a little more excitement with every bump of Sam's thigh. But were they even going to make it to the bedroom? Or would they only make it as far as the hallway? It was a while since they'd done it somewhere besides a bed or the sofa.
He got his answer when his heel met the skirting board, sending him falling a bit too quickly back into the wall, his head connecting with the wallpaper. Pain bloomed in the back of his skull and an agonised groan left his throat unbidden. Of all the things…
"Fuck. Fuck, Dean. Are you alright?"
Gentle hands curled around the back of his head, cradling it. He could feel Sam's sigh.
"Pretty sure this is how karma works. Nice try, though."
The next morning found them in bed together, Sam's sleeping face mere inches away from his own. Things were a bit fuzzy up top (thanks to the painkiller he'd been made to take by Nurse Winchester) but his libido was feeling far too perky for anything to have happened that he didn't remember. Just having that too-hot body crushed up against him was enough to have his cock ready, eager, and on high alert, desperate for some action even despite his lingering headache.
"Mm, somebody's awake," Sam mumbled, stifling a yawn. He shifted and Dean felt his answering hardness nudging against his side, but unlike the night before Sam seemed disinclined to do anything about it.
Things went still, and Dean could sense it coming – 'the talk'.
"That knock on the head hasn't made you forget who I am, right?"
Dean glared in response.
"I know, and I promise I'll keep this short, but I'm your brother and I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to judge you. You're allowed to fuck up in front of me, you know? And I don't want to never hear your voice again just because you're scared. Your brain's still healing – that's gonna take a while yet – but as far as I'm concerned that's no longer a good enough excuse for your self-imposed silence. I'm actually a pretty patient person, Dean, and I wanna help you. You just need to try."
Nodding, Dean let the silence drag on.
Another week went by with nothing to show for it.
He purposefully left out stuff about potential hunts, but Sam just filed it away for later or passed it on to one of their contacts. They'd barely left the bunker except to go and get food and supplies, and even then Dean had made a point of avoiding anything or anyone that might have resulted in his need to speak. He was still trying in his room late at night, or alone in the shower, but he didn't feel any real improvement so far, still couldn't get Sam's name out with anything less than half a dozen tries.
Until one night it clicked. One very particular brain-bulb flicking on, making him see what an almighty dumbass he was being. It made something open up inside his chest, inside his gut, made him want, he just needed to see if...
It was hours past midnight and they'd gone back to sleeping in their own beds, so he slipped down the hall to his brother's room, quiet as a mouse. Sam was asleep, his long limbs taking up the whole of the king-sized bed with ease. Dean knelt at his side and focused.
"Ss...Ssam-mmy. Wuh...w-wake up."
At any other time Dean might have been disappointed at Sam's slow reflexes, but feeling his sleep-heavy arms curl possessively around his waist and pull him down onto the bed kinda made up for it... It had been months since they'd last fucked. Actually, possibly more like a year. And a bit. Maybe. But the way they always seemed to fall back into their usual habits, even after such a long break, there was just something comforting about that.
"Mmwhat's goin' on? Is... wait." Sam sat up with a start, eyes wide and wide awake. "You...?"
Taking the initiative, Dean planted a palm in the centre of his brother's chest and pushed him straight back down to the bed, moving himself over so he could straddle Sam's waist. Sam's hands slid put up length of his thighs, stopping just as his fingers met the edge of Dean's boxers, and Dean could tell he was waiting for something.
"P-puh... P-please Ss... Ss-sammy. Nn...nneed you."
"That's all I needed, Dean. It's all I needed to hear, okay?"
Sam exhaled like the weight of the world had suddenly lifted. And Sam was the one to pull them together this time, tugging Dean down until their lips met, and suddenly he was drowning in Sam's mouth, falling into each humid breath, each brush of his nose on Sam's cheek. Sam had them locked together, wouldn't let him up for air, and the light-headedness only had his dick hardening all that much faster.
With a few practiced moves Sam managed to kick his own sleep pants out of the way, and then he was tucking the elastic of Dean's boxers under his balls, not willing to relinquish Dean's legs from around his hips. But Dean could get with that program like nobody's business, and all too eagerly he was pushing himself against Sam's stomach, the tip of Sam's cock catching on the bunched-up cotton caught up around Dean's thighs.
"Shit, shit. Hold on."
Sam pushed him down until their cocks lined up, each of them giving up one hand to the cause, until they were pressed tight together, hot sweaty hands stroking burning flesh. The drag was almost too much in itself, but then Sam apparently had other ideas, his free hand worming its way into Dean's boxers and sliding down over the curve of his ass. Spit-slick fingertips circled the ring of his hole, flicking and tapping against the crinkled muscle. Dean beared down and they eased their way inside, dancing at the rim, but only enough to tease, yet still enough to practically kill him.
"Mm... mma cuh-come, Ss-sammy."
Even in the near-dark, things greyed out as Dean spilled over their entwined fists, and it left him sensitive enough that he could feel the throb of Sam's cock against him as his brother fell over the edge, adding to the mess between their hands.
He planted his face on Sam's chest, unwilling to move, unwilling to let the moment go.
Dean hadn't forgotten his brother's words from the week before - that he was allowed to fuck up in front of him, that Sam just wanted to help. He knew all that, he did, but sometimes he needed the reminder, and sometimes the vulnerability just got to him like a kick to the balls. But he was trying. Initiating that first kiss has been a distraction and a coping mechanism, admittedly, but if only for his brother's sake, he was going to try.
"Ss... Ssah-mm...mee, I-"
Sam squeezed his shoulder.
"I know, okay? Even if you'd lost your voice completely, I'd know."