Gathering Dean in close, Sam leaned heavily on Bobby's solid support as he heaved himself to his feet.
"C'mon bro' lets get you home."
Ideally, from a point of view of the long-term preservation of his spine, not to mention his brother's dignity, Sam considered picking Dean up into a fireman's lift; but without knowing the extent of any damage beyond that which could be seen, he decided the only safe option would be to carry Dean back to the house in his arms.
He wasn't entirely sure how aware Dean was of his surroundings; he still wasn't entirely coherent, and Sam guessed that was through a combination of hunger, thirst, shock and disorientation. He also considered wryly that might be a blessing of sorts given that Dean would probably murder him in his sleep if he ever realised that Sam had carted him half a mile through the woods like a blushing bride.
It was only after Sam had hoisted his soaked and shivering brother into his arms that he remembered how damn heavy he was; it was like lifting a limp and soaking solid block of lead.
Unbalanced by his burden, Sam took a few staggering steps forward before his knees buckled.
"You gonna be alright?" Bobby reached out to steady Sam, "it's a long way back to the house," he added with concern.
Sam nodded unconvincingly, and took a few more faltering paces forward.
"Pu' me down."
The voice was hoarse and weak with lack of use; "gon' h-hurt y'self."
Sam's eyes settled on his brother's face; "but Dean, you can't walk all the way back to the house."
"I'll m-manage," was the croaked response; "gon' break y'back carryin' me …"
He turned to Bobby; "drink firs'."
Sam cautiously lowered Dean to the ground, holding him close to keep him upright as he reached out to take the bottle Bobby offered with a shaking hand.
"don' drink it too …"
Dean emptied it in two mammoth gulps.
"... quick;" Bobby sighed.
He glanced at Sam and shrugged, "well at least he's drinking - that's gotta be good," and tried to bury a lingering sense of unease for Sam's sake.
Together, Sam and Bobby shouldered Dean, and wrapping supporting arms around his battered torso, half led, and half carried him back to the house between them.
Setting Dean onto the couch, Bobby dashed off to the kitchen, leaving Sam to make his brother comfortable with a pile of musty towels and bedlinen they had excavated from the back of Bobby's closet earlier. Easing a pillow down behind Dean's back, Sam helped him to settle himself back against the arm of the couch, and spread a threadbare blue towel across his chest and shoulders, gently patting the chilling dampness from his skin.
"How ya doin, dude?" Sam ghosted a thumb over Dean's clammy forehead, wiped wet hair back off his face with the towel as he did so.
Dean nodded, "'kay," he mumbled, burrowing down into the pillow.
His brow furrowed as he regarded Sam; "y'soaked, gon' get sick ..." he grunted, pulling at Sam's wet T-shirt.
Sam smiled, "I know dude, Bobby's soaked too; we'll dry off in a bit," he rubbed the towel across his own dripping mop before lifting Dean's feet onto the couch. "We're stayin' down here tonight; Tom's in your bed."
Dean opened his eyes, perplexed.
"Long story," Sam smiled, trying to rub some warmth into Dean's frigid feet. He found himself unable to look away from his brother's pain tightened face; "man, it's so good to have you back."
Eventually, when his eyes dropped from Dean's face, he cringed as he got a good look for the first time at the mass of small angry wounds peppering his chest.
"Jeez Dean; what the hell happened to you? These look like animal bites and scratches."
Dean visibly shrank, curling his arms across his chest and shaking his head; "long story," he whispered, reaching out for the glass of orange juice Bobby thrust into his hand.
"Drink it slowly" Bobby instructed gruffly and was promptly ignored.
Bobby gave Dean a moment to drink the juice, then gently squeezed his shoulder; "lean forward son, wanna take a look at those slashes down your back."
He frowned when he felt Dean's muscles tense beneath his touch.
"S'okay Bobby," Dean looked up at Bobby without actually making eye contact, "it's fine."
Bobby sighed, "yeah, because you're such a good judge of what's best for ya;" he smiled sadly, "c'mon son, humour me here."
Dean hesitated, wincing as he reluctantly leaned forward into Sam's supporting arms. He nervously drew his knees up to his chest.
The last traces of oozing blood had stained three faint crimson stripes down the pillow.
Bobby's brow furrowed as he traced the lines of the gashes with a calloused fingertip; "what's this green shit all over it? Looks like someone's been smearin' mint sauce over ya back."
It was then Sam noticed Dean was becoming agitated, feeling his heart racing as he held his shoulders. He leaned in closer; "Dean, you okay man?"
"Please, Sammy; please, jus' leave it ... don' wanna talk 'bout it," Dean looked up at Sam without actually making direct eye contact.
Sam could see Dean's clenched fists trembling slightly as his arms hugged his bent legs.
He glanced over Dean's hunched back to Bobby who shrugged, concern written all over his face.
"Okay son," Bobby reassured, "if that's what ya want, no more talkin', But ya gotta let us clean you up ..." the 'please' on the end of the request was let unsaid; Bobby didn't want to put unnecessary pressure on Dean by pleading.
When no answer was forthcoming, Bobby continued to coax his unwilling patient, his concern increasing as he saw the elder Winchester's agitation; "these cuts are gonna get infected if we don't clean them up soon."
Sam's hand slipped across the back of his brother's shoulders in a loose hug. He had no idea what ordeal Dean had been through over the days he was away, but he was scared; scared on Dean's behalf. He had seen Dean come back from hunts shocked, angry, injured and bloody, even tearful; but in all the years they had hunted together Sam had never seen him so deeply and helplessly traumatised.
Dean looked up at Sam and for the first time made eye contact. The terror in his empty eyes chilled Sam to the bone.
Sam's fragile control crumbled and he pulled Dean into a tight hug, fighting back angry tears; "Oh God Dean, what happened to you? What the hell did those freaky bastards do to you?"
The question was rhetorical and Dean's only answer was a muffled grunt into Sam's shoulder.
Bobby crouched down at Dean's head, grimacing as his knees crackled at the exertion; he ruffled Dean's damp crown, "c'mon son, we'll get done cleanin' you up then I'll make you some soup, huh? Need to get some food inside you."
No response was forthcoming.
"d'y want another drink?"
A nod into Sam's shoulder.
Sam sat silently, holding and calming his brother, relishing the slowing of his heartbeat.
"Whatever this is Dean, we'll fix it, okay?"
Bobby came back into the room clutching a bottle of Gatorade. A bowl of warm, disinfectant scented water was cradled in his arm; his first aid kit balanced on top of it. Sam stared up into the older man's grizzled face and could see he was worried sick.
"Okay kid," he said lightly, his voice wavering as he tried to convey a calm which was clearly not there; "let's get this done real quick then we can leave you alone, okay?"
Sam felt Dean stiffen again beneath his touch, hand grasping Sam's arm tightly.
"Hey man, you know Bobby's an expert at this stuff, he'll have you patched up before you even know it," Sam did his best to reassure the spooked figure in his arms.
Bobby brought a warm, wet cloth to bear against Dean's back and Sam felt him arch miserably away from Bobby's touch and the sting of the disinfectant.
Bobby worked as swiftly as he could, longing to find out what on earth had caused the gashes on Dean's back; they were so sharp and clean they could have been made by a razor.
As he worked, he glanced over Dean's rigid shoulder at Sam's worried face.
Sucking in a sharp breath, Bobby knew that the wounds should have been stitched, but there was no point now; they had bled out all they were going to bleed, and anything as intensive as stitches would probably just about finish Dean off right now.
Bobby pinched the bridge of his nose, his concern rising like a nausea in his throat; Dean's heartbeat was racing again, his back thrumming beneath Bobby's careful hands.
Sam could feel Dean squirming away from Bobby's touch, becoming more and more distressed; shallow breaths coming faster and harsher.
"Please;" he muttered, arching away from Bobby's gentle touch
"please don' touch me …"
I'm almost done, son," reassured Bobby, trying to work both gentler and faster.
… she touched my back …
Sam could feel Dean's breathing hitch, his heart racing as he tried to wriggle away from Sam's grip.
"Bobby …" Sam called to the older man who had finally finished the job, dropping the cloth into the bowl.
Dean sat up rapidly, shaking violently, wide eyed and pallid; clutching his chest as he sucked in rapid and shallow breaths.
… she was touching my back; scratching me …
"Dean?" Sam couldn't believe what he was seeing.
... fingers like burning ice on me; oh God, she's touching my back … get off bitch, get off me ...
This was a full blown panic attack; something Sam had never seen his brother suffer and, he decided there and then, something he never wanted to see again.
Pale as a living death, Dean quaked in Sam's arms, clawing frantically at thin air with trembling, unco-ordinated hands.
"don' touch me … she hurt me … don' hurt me ..." he gasped between terrified, rasping breaths.
Sam slid off the couch dropping onto his knees and clutched Dean tighter; "Hey Dean, hey, hey; What's wrong, man? C'mon, what's wrong?"
His words went unheard as Dean tumbled off the couch onto the floor, flailing arms, trying to fend off Sam's comforting touch; "she was scratching me … that's what she was doing … hurting … so cold …" his words, incoherent and inarticulate between harsh wheezing breaths.
"DEAN" Sam grasped both Dean's arms, trying to hold him still; "Dean, look at me, look at me; you're safe, you're with Bobby and me."
Bobby looked distraught that he had somehow been the trigger for this episode, but managed to gather his senses enough to dash into the study to find a paper bag.
Sam fought to calm Dean. He may have been half starved and dehydrated but he sure hadn't lost any of his strength. Trying to soothe his panic-sticken brother, Sam whispered "you're safe Dean, you're safe … 'she's' not here …" a calming, repeating mantra which was currently having no effect.
Dean clawed at his throat and fought as he struggled to take in air.
"Don't touch me; don't touch my back …"
... hurting, burning ...
He could feel the walls of the room closing around him, the smothering arms that held him. Gaping, he fought the gulping, yawning breaths which overpowered him, constricting his chest and suffocating him.
"Dean; DEAN." Sam held his brother tight and stared deep into the glazed panic-blinded eyes.
He didn't see Bobby dash up behind him, and thrust a paper bag over Dean's face.
"C'mon kid, slow it down … there ya go…"
Sam watched as Bobby, leaning across him, held the paper bag tight over Dean's nose and mouth coaxing him to calm down.
Sam looked into Dean's pebble-wide fear-glazed eyes, peering back at him from over the paper bag; "Dean, listen to me; you're hyperventilating;" he reached round Bobby, pressing his hand flat against Dean's convulsing chest, "listen to Bobby, dude, you need to slow your breathing down." His calm voice betrayed his own distress at seeing his brother in this condition.
Dean's eyes latched onto Sam, and finally registered a flicker of recognition.
"That's great, son, slow it down …" Bobby encouraged softly.
"Doin' great bro'," Sam reassured," he took Dean's shaking hand and pressed it against his own chest, "c'mon, breathe with me, slow it down dude."
Gradually, Dean's desperate heaving gulps slowed to deep, shuddering breaths beneath the paper bag.
"that's great dude, keep it up," Sam soothed, feeling Dean's heart pounding beneath his flat hand.
Eventually Bobby removed the paper bag to reveal Dean's gaunt, tear-stained face.
"Heck kid, what ya tryin' to do? Give me a damn stroke?" he ruffled the side of Dean's head, "idjit."
Sam smiled weakly at Dean, who was busy wiping his nose on the back of a shaking hand. Blinking to dislodge the tears which clung to his lashes, Dean dropped his eyes in embarrassment.
Sam smiled, and rubbed Dean's arm. "Hey, what was all that about, dude?"
Dean swallowed back a shaky breath, and shook his head, unable to speak.
Sam squeezed Dean's shoulders; "s'okay bro' you can tell us when you're ready."
Dean wondered silently if he would ever be ready.