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you put up your defenses when you leave

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dean is exhausted and can barely keep his eyes open. they’ve been driving since early morning and it’s close to midnight. sam is curled up in the passenger seat, feverish, but thankfully asleep. dean can’t drive for much longer, even if they are in the middle of nowhere, but he’s not about to put sam behind the wheel of his baby, not as sick as sam is. he parks the impala on the side of the road and turns the engine off. resting his head on the steering wheel, dean takes a deep breath. he should’ve stopped at the last town they passed, but he’d figured on there being another one soon enough.

he gets out of the car, coaxes sam to lie down on the front seat. sam protests, half asleep, but dean knows that if he stays upright, he’s just gonna bitch about it tomorrow and dean really doesn’t want to deal with that. sam’s asleep before dean can cover him with his jacket.

he remembers when he drove sam to college after sam yelled at dad “last time i ask you for a favor!” when dad refused to acknowledge that he’d drunk away the little bit of money sam had stashed away for college when he found it shoved under the mattress, much less give sam anything for the starting bus fare. dean had tried his best, he had, but the fight after that was massive. dad was a drunk old man who couldn't see what he was doing to the family, sam was a selfish child abandoning his family to run away, and dean was stuck in the middle.

when dean got back from california, meeting dad in a small town in texas, dad didn't speak to him for weeks. he hated it, but they'd been in fucking wisconsin chasing ghosts and there was no way in hell dean had done what he’d done in alleyways and bar bathrooms for years to keep sammy safe to watch sammy do the same. he and sammy had made the trip in little over two days, pushing the car and themselves to the limit, sleeping in the impala to save on money, washing up in gas station bathrooms.

dean curls up in the back seat of the impala, his jacket rolled up and shoved under his head, gun within easy reach. he shifts around until he feels comfortable, ending up on his side because his back hurts like hell.

he falls asleep to the sound of sam’s breathing, and it feels like old times again.

when he wakes up, it's because sam sounds like he's trying to cough up a lung. dean stays sprawled out on the back seat for a while, eyes closed, counting the seconds between sam's coughs. it's early morning in the arizona desert, and dean shivers. dean finally sits up, walls firmly in place to face the day.

they stop at the first gas station dean can find and wash up, sam going back to the car to sit while dean picks up breakfast and enough cold medicine to get sam through the rest of the drive.

when they finally get to small town nevada, dean is so fucking grateful. he dumps sam's ass on the motel bed and sam curls his lanky frame into a ball, coughing. dean leaves him there to listen to day time television while he interviews witnesses and talks to the local police force.

dean hasn't had a good, decent solo hunt since stanford happened and he hadn't realize how much he's gotten used to having sam around until he talks to a couple of witnesses and keeps wanting to turn and let sam fill the silences with his fancy, college educated word only to remember that sam isn't there.

this hunt is nothing but a wild goose chase. not worth the gas money.

when he gets back to the motel, bearing groceries and cold medicine from the corner pharmacy, sam is conked out on one bed, laptop up and running next to him. dean sets the groceries down on the table, pulls out the cold medicine. he puts it and a glass of water on the bedside table within easy reach of sam when he wakes up. he takes the laptop to the other bed and sits, pouring through page after page of local news sites, looking for a potential hunt. just because he let sam do most of the research, didn't mean he couldn't do it to. he'd survived without sam before, it wasn't going to kill him to pick up a book or the laptop, no matter what sam seems to think.

sam wakes up in a couple hours, and dean makes sure he gets the meds and water down before he drifts off again. the room is paid for the night, and it doesn't make sense to leave when they haven't got another hunt and he doesn't want to spend more time than he has to in his baby with a sick, exhausted, drugged up sam. he'll go out and hustle pool later, make the last few days on the road worth something.

he's still so tired, though. he strips to his binder and boxers, makes sure the salt lines are still in place and the door is locked, crawls under the blankets. sleeps.

when he wakes up, his head is pounding. it's morning, though, he's slept too long, and sam's up and about. sam looks a lot better, is dressed and packing up his things, so dean rolls out of bed and heads for the shower. by the time he gets out of the shower, he's awake and focused, walls firmly in place.

sam found a case in oklahoma while dean was sleeping, says it looks like a banshee. dean just wants to go back to bed, to sleep until he feels human again, but there's a hunt and this is what he's good at.

he turns the music up loud once they get to the highway, and he keeps his eyes firmly on the road.

this is what he's good for.