Author: K Hanna Korossy PM
He just couldn't let Sam lose this, too. Loose sequel to "Destiny."Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Angst - Words: 4,975 - Reviews: 39 - Favs: 40 - Follows: 5 - Published: 12-04-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4696211
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
K Hanna Korossy
As much as he hated hospitals, Dean Winchester had always somehow believed that if they made it to one, everything could be fixed.
Or maybe he just thought he could fix anything.
"Mr. Waverly, I'm sorry…"
"There's gotta be something you can do for him, though, right? Some kind of operation, some weird graft thing—that Superman guy's foundation was working on some experimental stuff, right?"
He shook his head, unwilling to hear, to believe. "Whatever it is, I'll figure out a way to pay for it. I don't care how far out in left field it is, just fix him, okay?"
The doctor's eyes were full of pity, and that was what finally shut Dean up and made him turn away, rubbing a hand over his eyes, his jaw. He'd heard the crack as the berserker had thrown Sam into the stone wall from twenty feet away, knew what it meant as soon as his brother looked up with a terror-etched face and told Dean he couldn't feel his legs. But he'd gotten Sammy to the hospital quickly, been really careful how he moved him; it was supposed to be all right. Winchesters were tough. And you couldn't hunt if you couldn't—
"Mr. Waverly, your brother is in good physical condition. He has full range of motion from the waist up; there's no reason he can't have a full—"
"I gotta see my brother," Dean cut him off, pretty sure he'd punch the guy if he said any more, kept looking at Dean like that. His own eyes skittered over the wall, the white paint and bland pictures. They'd never seemed so much like a prison before, not when he'd been laid up with a bad heart, not even when Dad had died within walls just like this not that long ago. It just… It wasn't ending this way. He wouldn't let it.
The doctor nodded. "We can discuss some options when you're ready. Just ask the nurse for your brother's room assignment."
Dean shouldered past him blindly, needing to see Sam so he could breathe. So he wouldn't explode.
A minute later, he was peering through the open door into a sunny single room. Sam looked so normal lying there, hair tousled, face unmarked, blankets up to his chin, that Dean found his chest loosening a little. Maybe they were wrong. Sam's legs were just fine, not broken or cut or missing. This had to be fixable. That was what hospitals did, right?
Sam was awake, but he didn't turn his head as Dean came into the room, just kept staring at the ceiling. His face looked pinched, like in those first few months after Jess had died, like he was hurting and trying not to show it. His voice was low and deep when he spoke, and Dean was reminded again that his brother was a man, not the little kid his memory sometimes insisted on.
"I'm gonna walk again."
He swallowed, nodding even though Sam couldn't see him. "Okay."
Sam's head rolled on the pillow, and his eyes were bright. "I mean it, Dean. I'm not gonna let this beat me. I'll work hard, and they're doing research, making discoveries all the time."
Dean wasn't sure whom his brother was trying to convince, but he was a willing convert. "Yeah," he said quietly, shakily, but nodding firm. "I believe you." And he almost did.
Sam nodded, chin jutting out, face screwed up in a look Dean had once thought was stubbornness but knew now was a struggle to keep it together. Sam turned to look out the window.
But he didn't object when Dean sat on the bed next to him, hip touching hip, and didn't leave again for a long time.
Sam kept his word. He worked hard, long after Dean was sure he himself would have given up.
The therapist, a good guy named Geoff, came as often as he could to work on exercising Sam's legs and strengthening his upper body. He grew cautious when Sam mentioned walking again, only talked about keeping muscles from atrophying and learning how to use a wheelchair. But he never told Sam a flat no, and Dean wasn't sure if he was grateful or disappointed for that.
Another kind of therapist also came, a hot girl named Cati whom Dean could barely manage to flirt with, who showed Sam how to do…a lot of stuff Dean would have balked at or teased Sam about before, but that he made sure to pay attention to and learn this time. Sam never looked at him during any of those lessons, face flushed with humiliation, but he didn't tell Dean to leave, either, and if… Well, this was all a part of Sam now, which meant Dean had to know it.
But Sam, he kept working as hard as they'd let him. And not getting better. While Sam slept, Dean tweaked and pinched and pricked those huge clodhopper feet, the motionless shins and thighs, rapped on his kneecaps, and Sam never even twitched.
Without any conscious decision, Dean stopped answering his phone and looking at newspapers, and started looking into the best rehab facilities, affordable housing, medical equipment retailers.
Sam kept trying. So Dean didn't tell him no, either.
And ignored the quiet whisper in the back of his own mind.
There was an amazing deli around the corner of the hospital, with roasted meat and fresh-baked bread that even tempted Sam to eat sometimes. Dean appreciatively inhaled the aroma from the brown paper bag as he smiled at Peggy at the main desk and turned the corner to Sam's room. They'd had warm oatmeal-raisin cookies today, and he'd snagged a half-dozen for dessert. Sam had always liked them best when he was a kid, while Dean was more the chocolate guy.
The room door was shut, which gave Dean a moment's pause. They closed it for therapy, but Dean had left when Geoff had, and Sam wasn't scheduled for Cati until later that afternoon. And like most hospitals, the staff liked to keep the doors open for ease of access to the patient, especially in case of emergency. Sam had been having some cramps in those legs that were dead to anything else, the pain sometimes vicious enough to draw tears, and so the nurses had been by more often the last few days. Dean laid a hand on the door, paused to listen, to give his instincts time to pick up any threat.
It wasn't a threat he heard.
The sound of sobbing was unmistakable, even through the solid door, and Dean closed his eyes, palm going flat against the wood. Almost two weeks they'd been there, and Sam hadn't cried once, not for anything but pain. Therapy hadn't gone well that morning, Geoff not letting Sam get up and try to walk no matter how much Sam had argued for it, and he'd grown sullen and distant. Dean had hoped lunch would cheer him up, or that a little space would help, or even the laptop Sam had finally asked for the day before and Dean had willingly brought in. But sounded like not so much. And, honestly, Dean was only surprised it had taken this long.
He took a breath, blinking away the burn in his own eyes, and went in.
Sam immediately grew quiet, turned on his side toward the window, away from Dean. Dean saw the furtive movements, knew Sam was wiping away the evidence of his breakdown. Okay, if that was how they were going to play it, he could do that. He stretched his mouth into a smile and rounded the bed.
"Special of the day was chicken salad, and they had that girly million-grain bread you like. Plus, dude, oatmeal-raisin cookies. They smell awesome."
Sam looked wrecked; even a stranger could have been able to tell he'd been crying. His eyes were swollen and red, the pillow wet under his cheek. His hand shook a little as he pulled the blanket up around him, a self-conscious gesture Dean had noticed increasingly over the last week, as if Sam was trying to hide his damaged body. The grimace that twitched his face was probably supposed to be a smile, and the kid's stubbornness left Dean torn between exasperation and admiration. "I'm not really hungry," Sam said, voice deep and hoarse with unshed tears.
Dean's chest hurt, his stomach sinking. Sam in pain was bad enough, but Dean's helplessness to ease it was killing him. He softened the bravado, not quite able to keep it up in face of his brother's obvious misery, or maybe just not wanting to. "Sammy, you gotta eat, man, you know that. Not gonna get better if—"
"I'm not getting better." Sam's eyes slid away, the words unsteady even as he tried to make them hard. "Dean, I know it and you know it. I've been researching, talking to Geoff—this isn't gonna get better."
His heart was kinda breaking. Dean opened his mouth, closed it again. God, what was he supposed to say to that? Where was the line between giving up and being realistic? He shook his head. "Sammy…"
Sam sniffed and angrily twisted away from at the hip, fingers pinching at the bridge of his nose. "Don't. Just…don't."
Dean set the bag of food down on the table by the bed, gaze fixed on his brother. "Sam. This isn't like a death sentence or something—we'll figure it out, okay? I've been looking into places we could go—"
Sam snorted bitterly. "What, handicap facilities? Someplace that'll teach me how to…dress myself and piss without help and not…" His chin trembled, and he blinked rapidly.
Dean flinched, his own composure threatening to give way, but, crap, one of them had to keep it together here, and it had been Sam's turn far too long already. "Hey, you don't have to hide it from me, okay?" He tilted his head a tiny bit, flickered a smile. "I've seen you bawl over a skinned knee, dude, and this is a little bigger than that, right?"
Sam's face contorted, and he coughed a little before managing, "No stitches."
Dean gave a pained laugh. Figured Sam would bring up Dad's maxim about the free pass on tears for anything bad enough for stitches. Somehow, Dean didn't think their father had ever considered a case of half your body not obeying you anymore. "Yeah, well, screw the rule. I think this qualifies you for the deluxe waterworks package."
Sam started to laugh, he was pretty sure. It didn't last long. A moment later his chest was heaving with another emotion, and he squeezed his eyes shut as they filled and overflowed. He pressed his face into the pillow as he tried to breathe between hitching breaths. "Dean, I can't do this," he gasped. "I can't lose this, too. I can't."
Dean hesitated only a second. This wasn't normally his kind of thing…but this was Sam, and the kid was his. Which meant providing anything and everything he needed.
He crouched down, dropping his knees to the floor and leaning forward against the bed. It put him at eye level with Sam, and Dean leaned his forehead against his brother's, hand settling on the back of Sam's neck. "It's gonna be okay," he murmured. Not necessarily the way either of them wanted it to be, but Dean was flexible. He'd work something out. "It's gonna be okay, kiddo." His own cheeks were wet and he wasn't sure if it was Sam's tears or his own. But it was Sam's hand that curled around his upper arm and shoulder, seeking an anchor. And that Dean could definitely do. He slid his hand up into his brother's hair, cupping the back of his head to press them closer together. "It's gonna be okay, I promise."
He'd never broken a promise to Sam before, and Dean wasn't about to start now.
Be back soon—got a plan. Don't give the nurses a hard time.
The note's vagueness would drive Sam crazy, but oh well. Better that than telling him what Dean was really up to. He didn't want to raise Sam's hopes, or scare him.
After he'd cried himself out the night before, Sam had drifted into exhausted sleep. Dean had pushed painfully to his feet and dropped into the chair by the bed to watch over him. He hadn't stayed overnight since the first few days in the hospital, but Sam slept on into the evening, and with his stirring every hour or so, making quiet, hurtful sounds in his sleep or calling out for Dad or Dean or—God help them—Jess in confused half-sleep, Dean had finally settled in for the duration. A few quiet words and touches eased Sam back to rest each time, and that had been worth a sleepless night.
It had given Dean a lot of time to think. And maybe it was the Sam-angst overload, or the late hour, or just how worn out Dean had truly felt, but somewhere around dawn, he'd had an idea. A crazy one, but that was kinda par for their course. Besides, all that the normal ones had gotten them was a wheelchair and a Sam who was sobbing himself to sleep, so Dean was ready for a little crazy.
The drive took the better part of the day, and after the third time his cell rang, Dean turned it off and chucked it onto the other seat. Sam could read him like a book even from hundreds of miles away, and Dean didn't need his brother's doubts and disbelief. He had enough of his own. Sam would pitch a fit after, but Dean could deal with that. Had been for twenty-some years now. Planned to for many more to come.
His memory was a little sketchy, but he had a good head for geography and was pretty sure he got it close. Remembered the river, anyway, and being near Urbana. Besides, Illini territory was pretty broad, and the dude he was looking for seemed to know when he was expected.
Dean tried yelling a few times the first hour, dug up Sam's summoning spell the second hour. That brought two bunyips and a goblin into the open, which Dean impatiently dispatched. He sat on the Impala's hood then and polished off a bag of M&Ms from under the front seat, cleaned the dirt from under his nails with his knife, and turned the car on long enough to play through the whole Metallica album. Night had long fallen, and Dean finally started chucking rocks into the darkness, seeing if he could hear where they hit.
Dean whirled, the smooth rock falling out of his hand as he grabbed for his Colt. Even though he already knew it would be useless against the new arrival.
The dude was huge, muscles gleaming in the headlights of the Impala. The loincloth he wore didn't hide much, and his black hair was tied back from his face. Black eyes fixed on Dean, and he felt a little shiver—he was crazy, not stupid—at the power emanating off the spirit. There was a tickle of familiarity about him, but considering the last time he'd crossed paths with the Ghost Wrestler, Dean had been dying of blood-loss, he guessed he could be forgiven the vague memory.
He raised his chin. "Nice outfit."
"You wish to fight me."
It wasn't a question. Dean's head ticked to the side. "Honestly? Not really. But I'm guessing you're not gonna grant my wish if I just ask, right?"
The Ghost Wrestler stood impassively, face granite.
Dean shifted his shoulders, straightened his spine. "Yes," he said formally. "I'm challenging you."
The Wrestler didn't say anything, just crouched down loose and ready into a fighting stance.
Dean didn't take his eyes off him as he shucked his jacket and dropped his knife and gun on top of it, but the spirit didn't move. It was waiting on him; Sam had said it fought fair.
It only had a hundred pounds, a thousand years of experience, and supernatural strength on its side. Yeah, right, fair.
Dean feinted left, lunged right, and the fight began.
He and Sam had sparred all their lives. Dean could still usually beat his little brother, more out of experience than any kind of physical or training advantage, but the last few months, Sam had been catching up to him. Still, when he'd fought the Wrestler—and lost—he hadn't exactly been at his peak. Desperate to save Dean, yeah, but fresh off a hunt, emotionally battered, distracted by Dean bleeding out a few feet away. And even then, he'd almost won the match.
Dean had every intention of doing him one better.
They fought on in the dead of the night and the thin, bug-clogged light from the car. Dean deflected and thrust and blocked, letting everything else fall away: Sam lying trapped in a friggin' hospital bed three states over, all the near-deaths and actual deaths and pain and uncertainty of the last two years, the little fact that if Dean lost this fight, his own life was forfeit. Nothing existed but his opponent, and the need to beat him.
So when the Ghost Wrestler suddenly spun and managed to appear about a foot from where Dean had expected him to be, he was more than a little ticked with himself. And well aware how screwed he was when the spirit grabbed his left arm and twisted, Dean's shoulder sliding out of its socket with an audible pop.
He managed to yank himself loose, even if the resulting stab of agony made him momentarily stagger. Dean put a few feet of distance between the Wrestler and himself, bad arm clenched close to his body, breathing hard through bruised ribs and the blood flowing down his cheek and nose into his mouth. He spat it out impatiently, staring hard at the spirit, who stared back impassively. Casper didn't even look winded.
"You're good," Dean muttered, set his jaw. "Better than me."
The Wrestler's hands dropped, his stance loosening. "Do you yield?"
Dean tongued a loose tooth, blinked blood out of his eye. "I said you're better than me." He lunged forward at his unprepared foe, good shoulder down, foot already sweeping. He caught the Wrestler in his unguarded middle, taking him down in an off-balance tangle of legs. Dean instantly locked his legs around the thick torso and arms, pinning the large body to the ground with his weight as the spirit heaved and writhed below him. "I didn't say you were smarter," Dean gasped out.
Every undulation jolted hot pain through his arm, his ribs, his sore muscles. But Dean clenched his teeth around a grunt and dug in even harder.
The Ghost Wrestler finally went still beneath him, black eyes implacable. "I yield."
Dean eyed him a moment, weighing if it was a trick. But these things played by rules, and this set of rules stated that the fight was over when those words were spoken. Gingerly, he loosened his hold and pushed himself up, groaning a little as he stood and swayed on his feet. "I won so I get one wish, right?"
The Wrestler got to his feet effortlessly. "You cheated."
Dean's mouth slanted up. "Yeah, that, that's called winning."
Something that might've been humor in a human's face flickered a moment in the spirit's eyes, then the dark head inclined once, not a hair out of place. "Your wish has been granted."
Dean frowned. "You don't know what it is."
"Your heart's greatest desire has been given to you. I go now."
"No, wait, what if—"
But the Wrestler was gone.
Dean stopped breathing for a moment. Nuh-uh. No way had it just—
He threw back his head and yelled a stream of curses into the night breeze, kicking at the flat ground. For God's sake, he won this, deserved it, needed it. No freakin' way was it pulling this. What if it wasn't the right wish after all he'd been through?
But all his temper tantrum got him was dizzy, and Dean leaned back against his car, panting. Trying not to feel the fear that lodged in his gut, the deep waves of pain from his arm. Brushing angry tears away because, dude, he wasn't crying for some stupid spirit out in the middle of the Illinois boonies.
But, God, he was tired and hurting.
Dean took a deep breath and pushed himself to his feet. It took effort to snag his jacket and weapons and shuffle around the car. Mel Gibson made it look easy, but Dean had never put his own shoulder back in before and wasn't anxious to try. He eased it into his half-open shirt with gritted teeth, then equally carefully slid into the car.
He almost called Sam, but couldn't quite make himself. Better uncertain hope than certain failure. Dean started the car, clenched against the painful vibration through his battered body, then with a last glance at the empty Illinois countryside, turned and headed back to Sam.
He'd know soon enough if this had all been for nothing.
Sam was lying in bed, motionless except for chewing on his finger as he stared out the window.
Dean's tenuous hope sank at the sight of him.
He'd wracked his brain on the way back, trying to think of anything he might have wanted more, even in the deep-down crevices of his soul, than for Sam to be okay again, and had found nothing. Even Dad's loss he was pretty sure he'd finally made his shaky peace with. Dean had almost convinced himself it had worked…but Sam was still in the friggin' bed. Dean leaned heavily against the door jamb, one arm clenched around the other, and watched for a moment, trying to figure out what he could say now. What was left after this. And to find the strength for it.
He should've known that wouldn't work long. They'd always had a sixth sense about each other, and Sam's head swung around a moment later to stare at him all wide-eyed and shocked.
"You jerk, where've you been? I've tried to call you, like, thirty times." He threw back the blankets and swung his legs down. "Seriously, 'I've got a plan'? What did you do?"
Dean blinked, staring dumbly at his brother as Sam strode around the bed on his two bare feet, coming up to stand in front of Dean. "You can walk," he blurted out.
Sam's mouth flattened. "Yeah, I can— What happened to you?"
He let go of his arm, reaching out to brush Sam's. His brother was taller than him again, and, God, was that a great feeling. "It healed you," Dean breathed.
Sam looked abruptly flustered, reaching up to scratch at the back of his bed-tousled head. "Uh, yeah, one minute I'm stuck in bed, the next, everything works fine. I've spent the last day pretending to still be numb so they wouldn't…examine me to death like some kind of medical miracle—Dean," he dropped his hand, clenching it into a fist, "what did you do? What healed me?"
It had worked. Damned if it hadn't worked. Sam was…tall, and straight, and the hollowness was gone from his eyes. It had worked.
"Sammy," Dean murmured, dazed. Still marveling at the miracle, the wish granted.
Feeling it catch and hold him as the world faded to dark around him.
"…made some kind of deal? He was…I think he was ready to deal with the crossroad demon for Dad."
He wasn't sure exactly where he was or what was going on, but he could hear Sam's voice, and that was enough for the moment.
"I don't know. He was gone for less than forty-eight hours, and I was healed about halfway in. But he's beat up pretty bad, Bobby—I think he drove all the way back with a dislocated arm."
Oh, yeah. That had hurt like a son of a—
"You don't…" Sam's voice got small. "You don't think he made a deal for me, do you?"
It was the tone that snapped him out of his fugue, enough to mumble an answer through a dry mouth and uncooperative tongue. "I won."
"He's up—I'll call you back." There was the sound of movement, then the mattress beside Dean dipped, swaying him toward that side. "Dean? C'mon, man, talk to me."
It didn't smell like a hospital. The sheets were just as scratchy from over-washing, but the air smelled like stale smoke and beer, not antiseptic. Dean pried his eyes open and swung from Sam's concerned face hanging over him, to the orange and lemon-decorated wallpaper behind him. "Home, sweet home," he mumbled.
"Dean?" Sam was starting to sound scared, his face tight with tension as Dean looked back at him. He only blinked when Dean suddenly smiled.
"You can walk," he remembered, amazed anew.
"I…" Sam flushed faintly, reluctant affection coloring his face, his voice. "Yeah, I can. Good as new." There was relief there, too, and disbelieving joy, but all muted, shadowed by concern.
Dean ignored it for the moment, too intent on the important part. "What'd the doctors say?" he pressed, trying to slide up a little in the bed. His left arm was fixed to his chest, throwing off his balance, and his body ached like after a really hard hunt, but his head was clear and he shrugged off Sam's helping hand.
"You're kidding, right?" Sam's eyebrows went up. "Dean, my spinal cord had been severed. You don't just get up and walk one day after that. I waited in bed until they patched you up, then snuck us both out of there."
Dean nodded. "Yeah, good thinking."
"Dean." It was a growl. "What—?"
"It wasn't a deal, Sam." He watched his brother's chest deflate. "I fought the Ghost Wrestler."
"The— What? Dean, that's…" The parade of emotions across Sam's face was actually pretty funny. "You won?" he finally ended with disbelief.
"Dude, you even have to ask?"
Sam cut through his mock affront with one heartrending look. "Yes. God, Dean, if you'd lost…"
He wasn't about to admit to the lump in his throat that expression gave him. Sam was okay, could stand and walk and probably outrun Dean once more, and that was worth any risk. "Hey, I always put you down, little brother." Dean shrugged carelessly.
Sam wasn't letting him lighten this, though. His face was raw, and Dean remembered seeing a similar look on him that day, when Sam had lost to the Ghost Wrestler…and Dean had been healed, anyway.
"I'm okay, Sam," he said more gently. "Important thing is, you are, too. That's what matters, man."
"You matter, too," Sam chuffed.
Dean rolled his eyes. "I didn't offer my soul or anything—it was just another hustle, Sammy. Stakes were just higher than usual." He glanced up and down Sam. "So, you can dance again?"
"Dean…" Utter exasperation.
"Oh, that's right, you couldn't dance to begin with." Dean gave him a brilliant smile. "Well, can't fix everything, right?"
Sam made a strangled sound that seemed halfway between a laugh and choked emotion. But he just shook his head, eyes finally bright with something other than tears. "You're unbelievable."
"Dude, I keep telling you."
Sam's mouth ticked. "Thanks."
Dean ignored him because, seriously, since when had they needed to say that? He quickly said, "So, now that you're on your feet, you wanna get me a cheeseburger?" He started to sink down in the bed, then sat up again. "Or, wait, tacos. Half-dozen soft tacos. And pie. Bring me some pie."
Sam groaned and got up, muttering about slavery and bossiness and bottomless stomachs. The normalcy hit Dean so hard, he sucked in a breath when Sam's back turned. Soon as Sam was gone, Dean was gonna stumble out of bed and shred every bit of the research he'd done the last two weeks. Maybe tell Sam to go fetch a newspaper from the front office.
The pure joy of it made him dizzy.
"I'm taking the car." Sam pulled his jacket on, paused by the door. "Jerk," he said fondly, and quickly left before Dean could respond.
"Welcome," he said to the empty room, anyway, just because he felt like it.