Summary: For a prompt by familybizness: "Dean has a post-hell nightmare. Sam has an asthma attack. They both need to calm down and breathe a little." It got sad.
Warnings/Spoilers: This takes place somewhere in Season 5.
Author's Note: Sammyverse, just a little one. Season 5 isn't a fun time even for BFF Winchesters.
Sometimes Dean dreams about screams like sirens.
They're not the anguished screams, not the throat-scraping, toneless, impossible guttural cries (Dean is used to them, Dean hears them sometimes when he's eating). They're the musical ones, the ones that the demons make, the ones that rise and cheer and ring.
They happen over a backdrop of snapping bones and strung up wrists, and they make Dean feel singed hairs on the back of arms that aren't his and scratchy remains of five o'clock shadow because once everybody was human.
Sometimes he dreams about hands rooting in his stomach like he's looking for something.
Sometimes he dreams he can't breathe, but that never happened in Hell.
That's never happened to him.
Sometimes he wakes up and the screams are wheezing and it's the most beautiful thing to ever happen to him, except for that little problem of his little brother not feeling good.
And sometimes wheezing is just wheezing; Dean gets that. Sam has lungs like lock boxes and sometimes the air won't leave and Sam has to be the fucking oxygen-bouncer, kicking this shitty stuff out of him. It's all the damn time and sometimes it makes Sam dizzy and sometimes it makes Dean close his eyes while Sam is asleep and try to breathe like he does, matching Sam's slow, shallow breaths, but always Dean ends up gasping after two minutes and hates himself too much to try again for a while.
He wakes up tonight and the screams turn into wheezing, but tonight it's not okay because his little brother really doesn't feel good.
Sam's on his bed, still, half-awake and half-sitting against his pillows. He's on his side, both arms around his chest and eyes screwed up in pain, and there's really nothing comforting about this (except there is, and Dean hates that).
He gets up--his fucking legs are shaking--and sits down on the bed next to Sammy. He's fucking drenched with sweat, but not feverish, just shivery and weak and working so fucking hard.
"Hey," Sam squeezes out.
"You poor fucking thing, you couldn't wake me up?"
Sam shakes his head, because he couldn't; Dean was too far away and Sam couldn't make enough noise and Dean was sleeping.
Dean looks at the nightstand, where the inhaler's sitting on Dean's side because Dean remembered after Sam went to sleep that it was practically empty, and practically empty always translates out to going to bitch out and run out on you at the worst possible time and he'd changed the canister out and left it sitting next to him instead of nudging it back towards Sam, and Sam couldn't breathe and it was too far away.
Dean grabs it and gives it to Sam and kisses his forehead while Sam sucks on it all damn anxiously. He's still fighting for air after the first hit, and Dean isn't surprised, but Sam looks freaked.
"Hey, it's okay. Sit up a little. I'm going to set the neb up."
Sam clings to Dean's sleeve.
"Hey. Hey. You're fine. I know, you're so fucking tired." He sits Sam up and wipes the sweat off his forehead. "And it's making you kind of confused. But you're okay. Really. This sucks, but it's not that bad."
Sam pants, scratchy and painful, and nods a little.
"That's my boy. You just watch me while I set it up, okay? I'm right here."
Dean stands up, and the second he's out of Sam's reach, he regrets it.
He needs his brother right now.
"Sam," he says, and God, his voice is fucked up, but right at the same time, Sam says, "What did...you...dream about?" all fucking soft. Whistling.
"Later, okay?" Come on. Dean can do this. He measures out Xopenex and snaps the pieces of the nebulizer together. This thing needs a legitimate cleaning and not the half-assed hot water soaks Sam does every morning.
Sam starts coughing, which sounds like shit, but at least he's moving some air. "No," he says when he can. "Now."
Dean's chest hurts. Just sympathy pains. It's nothing.
"You can't breathe right now, Sammy."
"Neither can you."
"Shut up, okay?" he says, softly. "You've got a fucking lung disease, Sam. It's not a metaphor."
"And you...went to hell. Neither's that." He chokes on the next cough. "It's...legitimate, Dean."
Dean drags the machine back to Sam's bed and hands him the mouthpiece.
"We'll talk tonight," Dean says. "I promise."
Because sometimes Sam lets him get out of it.
But sometimes isn't tonight, and Dean doesn't want it to be.
He says, "But first I want you to breathe for a little while, okay?"
Sam nods and sucks down his medicine and holds into Dean's shirt.
Dean's filled with six and a half feet of whistling kid and the smell of Sam's sweaty hair and every single noise from this kid's chest reminds him that it was worth it.
Asthma attacks make Sam teary and Dean sappy and they're like the worst superheros ever, but the thing is that Sam crams his forehead under Dean's chin. So.
"The scariest part was that there was no fucking hope," Dean says. "I hadn't ever...you know? There had always been something. Even that last night, I thought...maybe..."
"But down there, I never thought it was going to end. I never thought anything was going to change." He presses his lips against Sam's hairline and doesn't kiss him, just stays there and speaks into him. "I guess you know a thing or two about that, huh?"
Sam moves against him, just a little. Not a nod or a headshake. Just an acknowledgment.
"And then Alistair kept offering, and...and I just fucking needed something to change."
"Demon blood," Sam croaks out.
"Yeah, not really a fuck-up of the same degree, Simba."
"Asthma isn't hell."
Dean's just burying his nose in the kid's sideburn. "Sammy?"
"What does it feel like?"
Sam's quiet. "You've never asked that before."
Sam straightens and shifts so he's facing Dean.
"It's...it's probably not as bad as you think." Sam rakes his hand through his hair, heaves out a breath. "It's just...exhausting. And since the demon blood...I know the difference now, you know? Between breathing and..." He gestures at his chest.
"Do you wish you didn't?"
"God, yeah. I wish I'd just done this forever. It just...I don't know. It hurts. It burns my throat. It makes me dizzy and air hungry and I still feel like crying all the fucking time, and I can't even believe that." He looks down at his feet, blinks a lot. "You know I used to like who I was? Before all of this shit. I'd feel like shit about what I put you and Dad through, but when I was a kid, and when I was at Stanford, you know? I mean, I had my shit, and God knows I hated myself when exams rolled around--" he laughs, wheezy and fake "--but I thought, okay, Sam, asthma is a huge part of how you turned out the way you did, and that's fine, because you're here right now and there's good in that. And you're doing fine. And your brother and your girlfriend and your dad love you so fucking much even though you put them through all this shit, and you are so fucking in love with all of them and the whole universe and you're going to get married and make money and take care of Dad and Dean and..." he stops and wheezes. "And you're going to finally make it up to everyone, and everyone will see how strong you can be. I was going to see how strong I could be, you know?"
Dean pushes the mouthpiece into Sam's hand and doesn't let him talk anymore until he's taken a few breaths.
Sam says, "And then Jess died. And I found out that Yellow-Eyes fucked with me. And you made--" He stops and shakes his head hard. "And I fucked around with Ruby. And drank the fucking blood. And started the fucking apocalypse. And then Lucifer told me I'm his soulmate."
"You're not Lucifer's soulmate. Come on."
"And all I can think is how fucking badly I want this fucking asthma out of me."
Dean swallows. "What?"
"I hate me," Sam says. "I hate every fucking bit of me, so I don't have to love asthma anymore."
Sometimes Dean can't process how many things he hates.
Most of the time, Dean hates a lot of things.
He hates Hell and Ruby and Azazel and Lucifer and Uriel and Zachariah and Michael and monsters.
Sometimes Dean hates asthma.
But most of the time he doesn't. He can't.
Because it's a part of his kid.
Because this is why we fight, Sam. To love you.
Dean falls asleep cursing at Heaven and shaking from Hell and cradling the most perfect thing in the world into his chest.