The scratchy sound was barely more than a whisper, but it startled Dean straight out of his doze. He shot up from where he'd been slouching in the chair to find that Sam's eyes were open and focused on him, but only just.
“Sam?” Dean gripped his brother's hand, probably too tightly to be comfortable, but he didn't want Sam slipping back into unconsciousness. “Sammy? Are you all right?”
Sam nodded faintly, as if even that much movement were a monumental effort. “Think so,” he mumbled.
“Hang on, I'm gonna go get the doc,” Dean told him before hustling down the hall to the nurses' station and letting them know Sam was awake.
A few minutes later, Dr. Fisher joined them in the room, poking and prodding at Sam, shining lights in his eyes, and asking him questions. By the time she was done, Sam seemed to be more alert but still weak. She finally announced that they were going to do a few more tests just in case, and he had to stay overnight for observation, but overall he seemed to be fine.
“You're a lucky man, Mr. McCafferty,” she told him with a smile. “Now personally, I'm not one to believe in miracles, but this is about as close as I've ever seen. I'm very glad to see you awake, Sam.”
Sam gave her a tired smile in return. “Thanks. Me, too.”
The doctor left them alone, and Sam's smile faded.
As soon as she was out of earshot, Dean hissed, “Dude, you scared the shit out of me. What the hell happened?”
“The Woman in White. I went to torch her.” Sam sighed, clearly expecting a lecture.
“Dammit, Sam! What were you thinking going out there by yourself?”
Sam glared. “Screw you, Dean. I had to.” He fumbled at the bed railing to find the button to sit him up a bit. “You didn't answer your phone, you dick.”
“And what – you couldn't have waited until morning? She could've killed you!” Dean snapped.
“Matter of fact, Dean, I couldn't wait. I found a pattern in the old papers at the library – seven kills over seven days every twenty years exactly. Had to gank her before midnight or we'd lose her for another twenty years.”
“Well...” Dean's argument died on his tongue as guilt reared up and sucker punched him in the gut. His fault. This was all his fault. “What the hell did she do to you, anyway? Doesn't sound like any Woman in White I've ever heard of.”
With a slight shake of his head, Sam answered, “She wasn't one – not really. I think she was a witch when she was alive. There were spells carved into her casket and all kinds of creepy-ass stuff inside with her body. Whatever she was, she could do things I've never seen before. I got her all dug up, covered in salt, and lit on fire, but the bitch just would not die. I fought her off for a while, but she finally chased me down and did... something, I don't know what, but it hurt like a bitch. Last thing I saw before I passed out, she had her hands in my chest, and then poof – she went up in smoke. Bones must've finally burned enough to kill her before she killed me.”
Exhausted from so much talking, he fell back into the pillow, pale and shaky.
“Okay, Sam, just take it easy. You're gonna be fine.”
Sam's face went stony, and he turned away to face the wall. The guilt gouged at Dean some more.
“Sammy,” Dean began, but then floundered. Apologies never came easily, but Sam didn't wait for one.
“Just leave it, Dean. I don't want to hear it. Look, I know you feel bad because I got hurt, but you know what? Sometimes you should feel bad just for being an asshole.”
All the air left Dean's lungs, and he couldn't seem to draw any back in. He already knew it was true, but that didn't make it hurt any less to hear. He was an asshole, and he deserved every bit of Sam's anger. He deserved a lot worse than that.
“I'm sorry, Sam,” he said softly. “I--”
“Yeah, you're sorry. Whatever. You know, I was at the library for five hours? I busted my ass, while you went out looking for a hook up. And then when I called you for help, you wouldn't answer. Why? Because you were too goddamn busy railing some sleazy barfly.”
“I wasn't...” Dean trailed off and kept his eyes firmly on the floor.
Sam scoffed. “Right. Huge hickey on your neck, but you weren't banging some girl.”
Dean tugged the collar of his flannel up and swallowed hard. He'd wussed out on the phone yesterday – he couldn't do it again today, even if he was kind of afraid of Sam's reaction. But if he didn't have balls enough to own it, he shouldn't get to have it. “I was with Cas.”
“Well, then why the hell'd you call a Code White?”
“It was a Code White,” Dean said, looking back up again to hold Sam's eyes, his stomach twisting with nerves.
The moment Sam put the pieces together was obvious and at any other time would have been hilarious – his expression went from super pissed to gaping goldfish in half an instant.
“Code White. You and Cas,” he repeated, clearly not sure he'd heard Dean right. His eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Really?”
Dean gave a helpless sort of shrug. “Yeah.”
Dean looked away again. He didn't think he could stand seeing Sam look at him in disappointment or disgust. Sure, the guy was all in favor of gay rights, yadda yadda, but shit might be a whole lot different when it was his own brother.
“So, is this...new?” Sam asked.
“Yeah,” Dean mumbled. “It just sort of happened.”
“Huh.” The noise Sam made was a mix of surprise and amusement.
Dean frowned and demanded, “What?”
Sam raised his hands innocently, even though he couldn't move them very far with the tubes and wires attached. “Nothing! Just a little unexpected is all. I assumed you weren't interested – I mean, Cas has been mooning over you forever.”
“Excuse me?” That came out as more of a squeak than Dean would ever admit to.
The incredulous look on Sam's face told Dean he must be the stupidest person on the planet. “Uh, yeah. Even you can't be that oblivious.”
Dean felt a blush heating his skin. “Shut up.”
“Seriously? How could you not realize he's head over heels for you? Even if you were straight as an arrow, you should've seen that. I mean, jeez.”
The blush progressed into a full blown wildfire on his face. “'Even if'? What's that supposed to mean?”
“Dean, come on. I've known you're...heteroflexible since we were teenagers. I'm not blind. And you aren't exactly subtle.”
Stunned, Dean dropped into the chair by the bed. Sam knew? Dean had only had a few rushed encounters with male partners before – a quick blow job in a bar bathroom or maybe a handy in the parking lot. It wasn't something he went looking for, but occasionally it happened. But he'd thought he'd kept it on the down low.
Sam put a hand on the bed rail to get his attention. “You know I'm fine with that, right?” he offered softly.
Dean looked up at Sam's earnest expression, and a weight seemed to lift from him. “Oh. Um, thanks..?”
“It's no big deal, Dean.” Sam paused. “So, you and Cas, huh? Are you guys, like, a thing now?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Dean tried to play it down, but an idiotic grin sneaked out anyway.
A less idiotic grin spread across Sam's face. “Cool. New rules, though. You guys get your own room on the opposite side of the motel from me. I don't want to hear it, and I sure as hell don't want to see it.”
“Aw, Sammy, you're no fun.”
“And no PDA, either.”
Dean made a rude noise, but didn't actually have any objections.
“And you should re-think the hickeys. Doesn't really scream FBI, does it?”
“Shut up.” He covered the bruise with one hand self-consciously. Maybe he really should talk to Cas about not leaving visible marks. A shiver ran through him as he thought about all the places he might leave them instead.
“I'm happy for you, Dean, I really am. But none of this means I'm not still pissed as hell at you for ditching me last night.”
The grin faded from Dean's face as the guilt crushed down on him again. “I know.”
A while later, a woman wearing scrubs with kittens on them came to take Sam for some more scans and tests or whatever medical voodoo they do, so Dean went down to get more coffee and a sandwich in the cafeteria. Now that Sam was awake and he knew things with Cas were good, he was freaking starving. What he could really use was a beer, but he was S.O.L. on that.
After he ate, he wandered back to Sam's room. His brother was back in bed and seemed to be dozing, so Dean parked himself in his chair again.
But apparently, Sam wasn't completely asleep. “Hey, Dean. Was Cas here earlier?”
“Did he heal me?”
Okay, now Dean's curiosity was piqued. “He did what he could, but he said he couldn't fix everything. Why do you ask?”
“Just wondering,” Sam said. “I kind of remember him being there, but more like a feeling than a memory, you know? Like a... comforting presence, I guess.”
A little flare of jealousy sprang up in Dean's gut. “Hmm,” he grunted in acknowledgment. “He said your soul was all mashed in on itself, but you'd have to un-Rubik's Cube it yourself.”
“Weird,” Sam observed, then blindsided Dean with, “Do you love him?”
“Castiel. Do you love him?” Sam repeated.
Now it was Dean's turn to do the goldfish impression. “I-- What? Why the hell would you ask me that?”
Sam leveled a serious glare his way. “Because Cas loves you, jerk, and if you break his heart, I'll kick your ass from here to next Thursday.”
Indignant, Dean squawked, “Hey! You just mind your own damn business. I'm not talking about this with you.”
“I'm just saying.”
“Well, just shut up.”
Dean slouched back into his chair, outwardly sulking, but inside was having a private panic attack. Did he love Cas? Like, love him? He'd been trying so hard not to put any labels on any of this. Don't people say that naming something gives it power? If he named what he felt for Cas 'love', then that left him vulnerable, and he freaking hated that.
But then again, when he thought he'd lost Cas earlier, that had felt an awful lot like heartbreak. Maybe it was too late. Maybe it didn't matter whether or not he called it love, because he was vulnerable all the same.
Dean was so lost in his thoughts, it startled him when Sam yawned massively.
Standing and picking up his jacket, Dean said, “Hey, visiting hours are almost up. I should go and let you get some rest.”
Sam already looked half asleep. “See you in the morning?”
“Yep, bright and early. Then we'll blow this popsicle stand.”