~ ~ ~
Sam wakes up confused, disoriented, weak, and then horrified because he remembers. The snow and the wreck and Dean, slumped unconscious in the driver's seat of the crappy little car, and he fumbles frantically for the call button and pounds it until someone shows up.
"My brother..." he starts. He's almost too weak to say anything further, but she knows what he means.
"Is fine. He's off getting his broken leg set. He refused treatment until you were stable." She gives Sam a stern look like this is his fault, like he's responsible for whatever havoc Dean wreaked while Sam was unstable. "He'll be perfectly fine, and I'm sure he'll be back up here before you know it." She checks Sam's vitals and fusses with his IV, and he slips back into darkness before she even leaves the room.
The next time he wakes up, Dean is sitting next to his bed in a wheelchair, white-casted leg stretched out in front of him. Staring at him. No, glaring at him.
"Hey," Sam says, his voice weaker and rougher than he intended. "You okay?"
The first phase of Dean Reacting to Sam Getting Injured is usually Worry, but it looks like he's already worked through that, and is deep in the second phase, Anger. "What the fuck were you thinking, Sam?"
"Um, maybe that you'd thank me later?" His voice still sounds soft and weak, and he wishes it didn't. He wishes he didn't sound wounded. "For saving your life?"
"Thank you? For almost getting yourself killed?"
"It wasn't that bad," Sam says, trying to sound less puny and utterly failing. He honestly feels as weak as a kitten, but he needs to not let Dean see that. "I mean, I seem to be okay now -"
"Just stop talking," Dean interrupts. Then he stops and puts his hand over his mouth, as if he has to collect himself, while Sam silently prepares his defense against whatever's coming next. "You coded in the ambulance, Sam. You fucking coded in the ambulance."
Sam opens his mouth, then closes it again as it sinks in, as he realizes that Dean and his broken leg would have been in the ambulance with him, watching it happen.
"Yeah," Dean snaps. "Oh. I had a broken leg. Not even a super-bad break. And you were bleeding everywhere. You should see the car. You should see the trail you left down the fucking road. I swear to god, Sam, one of the EMTs said the only reason you didn't completely bleed out before they got to us was because of your goddamn hypothermia slowing your heart rate." He looks away and his hand slides over his mouth again.
"I didn't know any of that," Sam says. "What I knew was that I blacked out for a minute-"
"A minute," Dean scoffs, still not looking at him.
"A minute. And when I woke up, you were halfway out of the car, unconscious. And I got you back in, and tried to get you to come around, and you didn't. And I didn't know what was wrong with you. I didn't know how bad you were hurt. I didn't know if you were bleeding internally, or had a head injury, or... I just didn't know. What I did know was that we were both going to freeze to death if I didn't get some help. So. I got help." Sam's voice trails off as he runs completely out of steam. He's exhausted.
"So you got help." Dean slumps a little bit with a deep, shuddering sigh. "Okay," he says, quietly. He runs his hand down his face, and Sam can practically see him shoving all of the day's horror down deep, packing it away to be dealt with later. Or not at all.
"I'm sorry you had to..." Wake up and find me gone. Follow my bloody trail. Watch my heart stop. "I'm sorry. How are you doing?"
"You should be sorry, you thoughtless little twerp. And I'm fine." Dean pivots his wheelchair so he's facing the television and plucks the remote off the bedrail. "I'm only in the chair because they wouldn't let me come see you without it. And my nurse is kinda bossy. But in a hot way. I like it." He grins and pats Sam on the knee, ever so lightly, mindful of his injuries. And Sam recognizes stage three, Relief.
"You know," Dean says, faux-casually, flipping through channels, "that EMT didn't believe me when I told him how far you'd walked. He said nobody in your condition would be able to walk that far."
"I hope you defended my honor," Sam says.
"Fuck yeah. Told him you don't know my little brother."
Sam smiles, closes his eyes, and listens to the low mumble of the television as he lets the exhaustion take over.