That word - or sound perhaps - came from Sam. We had passed the third day of his malaise and he had finally regained nominal coherence and control of his bodily movements and functions, so Dean removed his fetters, assisted him to a seated position on the edge of his bed, and placed a fresh blanket around his bowed and tremulous shoulders.


His skin was pallid, and as translucent as alabaster. He was shaking, drenched in his own sweat, and rather befouled as well, as might be expected after three days spent alternately manic and insensate. He seemed barely able to raise his head high enough to meet his brother's gaze as Dean crouched in front of him.


"Zoaver?" Sam asked and as I took inventory of several ancient languages hoping to discover a translation, Dean tugged the blanket closer around him and said,


"I guess you'll have to tell me."


He spoke gently. Indeed I was quite intrigued by how gentle Dean could be with Sam. With how gentle he was being with him. His own physical condition was scarcely any better than Sam's, yet he had been infinitely patient and gentle every time in these three days that he'd tended to his suffering brother, when outside of this small room he had been by turns angry, morose, enraged and disconsolate.


It was as though close proximity to Sam swept all emotion from Dean but affection.


"Bzing." Was Sam's next communiqué.


"That's dehydration. You haven't had any water in three days. Your insides must be dried up like prunes." Dean turned to me, briefly. "Cas - water?"


I filled the glass that waited next to the pitcher on the table, and handed it to Dean. He didn't relinquish it to Sam, who indeed didn't even attempt to gain control of it. Dean held it at the proper angle for Sam to sip from, until the sip became a gulp and Sam began to choke.


"All right, all right." Dean set the glass on the floor and repositioned himself to be able to reach around and firmly tap Sam's back with the flat of his hand. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Never too much all at once, hunh?"


Sam choked and coughed against his hands fisted in the blanket, and Dean continued his tapping. The force of his coughing briefly brought some color to Sam's face, but it drained away just as quickly when his efforts ceased.


"All right now? Okay?" Dean queried his brother. Sam nodded but rested his forehead against his fisted, blanketed hands. Dean rubbed Sam's arms and for a few seconds let his hands rest on Sam's shoulders.


"Zoaver?" Sam asked into his hands.


"You're gonna have to tell me."


"Hot. M'hot." Sam said, even though he was shaking as hard as if he were in a blizzard. Dean put his hands on Sam's face, raising his head, gazing intently into his eyes. I wondered what he sought there.


Sam met Dean's gaze, and returned it, but when Dean offered what I believed to be an encouraging smile, moisture collected in Sam's eyes and sheeted down his face.


"Hey, c'mon. If you're gonna leak out all we just put in you, you're gonna have to drink some more water." Dean said and lifted the glass of water to Sam's lips again and held it while he drank. This time Sam did not choke.


"Zoaver?" He inquired yet again when Dean took the glass away.


"You have to tell me, Sammy."


Sam closed his eyes and exhaled a breath that seemed rather forceful for the condition he was in.


"D'no." He sounded resigned, even wary, though I don't know what he might've been wary of. Certainly not Dean, who changed his position again to sit next to Sam on the questionable mattress and put his arm around Sam's shoulders.


"That's all right, we can work with that."


Sam leaned toward Dean and though he is of a larger size, he was able to rest his head on his brother's shoulder. They stayed that way for several minutes; both brothers with their eyes closed and their breaths matching, in and out, in and out.


"Zoaver?" Sam asked after those several minutes had passed.


"It's looking better." Dean told him. "Have some more water."


He held the glass and Sam sipped the water and even though Sam wasn't looking at him, Dean offered him another encouraging smile.


"Think you could eat something?"


Sam shook his head and pulled the blanket more tightly around himself and fitted himself once again to his brother's shoulder. Dean responded by increasing the pressure of his arm around Sam.


"Shrr." Sam said.


"I think we can work that into our schedule. You ready to head upstairs?"


That question took Sam a moment to consider, and Dean waited.




"Okay, good. Angel Express, or your own two feet?"




Though that word - or sound - sounded remotely Egyptian, I ceased attempting my own translation of Sam's gabble and decided to rely on Dean's responses.


"All right. Let me know when you're ready."


Since Dean did not address me after that, I gathered that my services were not, at the moment, required.


And so another several minutes passed of the brothers waiting, sitting on the cot, leaning against each other. And every time Sam shifted or sighed or simply breathed deeply, Dean would bestow his smile on him and attempt to hold him even more closely.


"Mreddy." Sam said at length, and sat up and away from Dean's shoulder, but not from his encircling arm.


"You sure?"


"Mmm." Sam answered with a decidedly weary nod.


"Okay, here we go. Feet first, and then the world, hunh?"


Dean stood and offered a hand to Sam who peered up at his brother and echoed my own thoughts:




Dean smiled again. For the condition Sam was in, I felt Dean was smiling an inordinate amount.


"Never mind. C'mon, let's get you standing. Ready? Up we go."


Dean stood in front of Sam and put his hands on his arms and I don't know if it was physical strength or emotional, but in a moment Sam had gained his feet, unsteady though his legs seemed to be. He leaned into Dean's hands for several moments, marshalling his strength, his eyes closed and his breathing deep. He still had the blanket around his shoulders.


"You're okay, Sammy. You're doing fine." Dean spoke softly, calmly, I could barely hear him though I stood not ten feet away. "This is all your call, you tell me what you need me to do."


Sam nodded with a breath so weary, I wondered if my help would be needed after all.

Then he lifted his head and his eyes were the clearest they had been in many days when he met Dean's gaze.


"Ready. Mreddy now."


Dean's smile of pride broadened into a grin.


"All right then. Let's get upstairs and see if we can't empty Bobby's hot water tank when you take that shower."


Sam offered a shaky smile of his own and shuffled a few steps that brought him even with Dean, who turned and wrapped a strong arm around his shoulders. Together they made slow progress out of the panic room and toward the upper floor and daylight and fresh air.


"Zoaver?" Sam asked of his brother one final time as they crossed the iron and salt threshold. Dean stopped and looked back into the room.


"Yeah, Sammy. It's over."


The End.