Sam whipped round, dropping the razor into the bowl; his heart swelled to bursting as he crouched down beside the bed; "Dean … hey man, talk to me."
Dean blinked slowly, lifting his face towards his brother. "S'mmy?" His voice little more than a croak.
"Oh God," Sam' rubbed a hand over his face, biting back tears as excitement and relief swelled in his chest; "Dean, thank God!"
He grasped Dean's clammy, trembling hand; "how'd ya feel, dude?"
"Like I been run over by a freigh' train …" Dean swallowed hard, shivering slightly.
Sam climbed onto the bed to sit beside his brother. Gathering him up, he propped Dean against his shoulder, hesitating as he groaned quietly at the movement. "Sshhhh, dude, you're okay … you're okay …" He whispered reassuringly, hugging his brother as tightly as he dared, "C'mon man, have a drink."
He held the glass of juice to Dean's lips and smiled as his brother drank greedily.
Unable to contain himself any longer; he yelled at top of his voice, "BOBBY ... TOM …" regretting it instantly as Dean flinched in his arms, spilling orange juice into his lap.
"Sorry, dude!" Sam smiled sheepishly as he thumbed orange droplets from Dean's chin.
Within seconds, two figures thundered into the bedroom, blind panic etched across their faces.
"Look who's awake!" Sam grinned, unable to disguise the overwhelming relief in his voice.
"S'is real?" Dean looked up into his brother's face; weakly clutching a fistful of Sam's T-shirt; his glassy eyes betrayed his devastating, bone crushing exhaustion. Sam grasped Dean's clammy hand, "Yeah dude, no more dreams; it's all real. That's all me."
Bobby stood stunned into silence; smiling broadly as tears glistened in his eyes. "Jeez, boy, you've no clue how glad I am to see ya better."
Tom crouched down beside Dean, "How ya feelin' Dean?" he asked softly, resting a reassuring hand on Dean's shoulder.
Confusion blanked Dean's hollow-eyed face. "Hurtin'," he whispered, looking at the doctor.
Tom squeezed his shoulder, "Where Dean, where does it hurt?"
Dean leaned heavier against Sam, struggling to keep his eyes open; "ev'rywhere; stomach mos'ly."
"That'll be the wound where the thing originally bit you" Tom spoke softly to his patient, "I had to keep the wound open so that I could administer the medicine;" he patted the young hunter's shoulder. "I'm afraid it's gonna smart for a while."
Dean glanced up at Sam.
"Trust me," smiled Sam; "you don't wanna know."
"Apparently, I don't wanna know …" Dean repeated hesitantly for Tom's benefit.
"Nah, probably for the best!" smiled Tom, shaking his head.
Sam continued to hold Dean tightly, watching his brother blinking woozily, biting his lip against his pain as he traced a fingertip along one of the grey streaks across his pale stomach.
He hesitated, clearly deep in thought before glancing up at Sam, "You been drawin' on me?"
Sam looked up at Bobby with a chuckle; "Uh, we've kinda been a bit busy for that sort of thing, haven't we?" Bobby nodded his head in agreement; the broad smile still plastered across his face.
"Good; 'cos my belly's jus' fine just the way it is, don't need no decoration!" Dean tried to laugh, but sucked in a sharp breath instead.
Tom smiled kindly, "those marks are where the poison has spread out from the bite."
Dean's nose wrinkled in disgust. "Ew!" He drew a hand over the grey marks as if he were trying to rub them out. "S'my; my life ain't improved for knowing that."
"They'll fade as the venom leaves your system" Tom reassured, "but you gotta rest Dean. You ain't out of the woods yet – not by a long shot."
Sam stroked Dean's head as he looked across at Tom; "I'll make sure he looks after himself."
"Do I get a say?" Dean snorted, "all you lot fussin' and frettin' aroun' me ain't gonna be good for my nerv ... GAAAAH!"
Even Sam jumped at Dean's yelp when Tom, crouched at the end of the bed, pinched him sharply on the big toe.
"Hey, Doctor Crippen" snorted Dean, "what was that freakin' for?"
"When you first got here, Dean, you were saying you couldn't feel your legs and feet. I take it you felt that!"
"Uh, yeah!" Dean looked warily at the Doctor.
"That's fantastic." Tom smiled.
Dean turned to Sam, not taking his eyes off the Doctor, "Sammy, get him to come up this end of the bed where we can keep an eye on him – I wanna see where his hands are goin' next."
Tom tried and failed to stifle a laugh. "You won't be seeing anything," he said firmly, "because you are going to sleep."
"'m not tired …" Dean slurred through a massive yawn.
"Sure you're not, bro'," Sam grinned, hooking an arm across the back of Dean's neck and gently laying him down.
"B-but I wanna …" Dean's eyes flickered and slowly drooped closed; his body went limp as sleep overtook him.
"Wow," said Bobby with a grin, lifting his cap to scratch his head; "how does anyone go to sleep that quickly?"
Tom looked at his watch as he held Dean's wrist, checking his pulse; when he was satisfied, he turned to Bobby. "Easily; if they're wrecked and exhausted enough!"
He pulled the blankets up over Dean and turned to Sam, "and on the subject, a good few hours shut-eye wouldn't do you any harm either." Sam looked down at his sleeping brother and up at Tom. "I'm not getting a choice here, am I?"
"Nope!" said Tom, pointing his thumb at the other bed.
Bobby patted the younger man on the back; "You've done good, kid. Get some sleep."
Sam nodded and sat on the side of the bed, tugging his shirt off over his head.
Tom and Bobby strolled slowly down the stairs.
"The kid won't stay there" smiled Tom, "we'll go up there in a while and find his ass parked beside Dean, won't we?"
"They can't help it," Bobby stopped on the stairs and turned to his old friend, "the life those boys have had; it would just break your heart." He pondered silently for a while, looking down at his feet.
"I once turned a shotgun on their Daddy;" He shook his head with a smile, "the way he treated those boys. I just couldn't bear it; he didn't mean them any harm, but he was so wrapped up in his own purpose, he may as well have not been there."
He continued with a sigh, "He never let them know how much they meant to him until the day he died; by then it was too late. You've only got to look at Dean to see the damage was done. That boy never had a moment's childhood; not a hug or a kind word a from the day his mother died."
Tom looked at Bobby and smiled, patting him on the shoulder; "they're lucky they've got you, buddy; although I must say, I never had you pegged as such a soft touch!"
Bobby snorted with laughter. "Normally I'm anythin' but; but I don't mind to admit it, those boys, they're like my own – I'd shift heaven and earth for them!"
Bobby continued, warming to his theme; "an' that's exactly why you're gonna find Sam sittin' with his brother; they stick together, through thick and thin. Nothin's ever straight forward or easy for those boys, and Sam'll be frettin' that it can't be this simple. Dean's just gonna get better and then carry on as normal? It jus' don't happen like that for those kids".
"It's rubbin' off on me Tom", Bobby sighed, "I won't be happy until I see that boy up an' about and you give him a clean bill of health."
Tom smiled, "I hope I can do that sometime soon too!"
"I can't shake the feelin' that somethin's gonna kick 'em in the gut before they can put this behind them." Bobby added quietly.
Tom reassured his oppo with a chuckle. "Come on you miserable old bastard; time for a beer!"
The two men laughed together and disappeared into the kitchen.
Bobby crept upstairs to check on the boys later that evening; sure enough, Sam was slumped in the chair beside the bed, arms folded on the mattress against Dean's shoulder. His head rested on his forearms, nestled into the crook of his sleeping brother's neck.
Tip-toeing into the room, Bobby pulled the blanket off the other bed, silently draping it over Sam's shoulders. He shook his head with a smile and closed the door behind him.