Chapter 8: Saying Good-Bye
Author's Note: I highly recommend a box of tissue be handy. I cried the entire time I was writing this piece. :-(
The limo ride back to the penthouse was a quite one. Everyone inside was tired from their long but exciting day. Sam noticed that Nick was nodding off and his head was leaning back against the seat cushion. Even without a brain tumor, he was 74 years-old and didn't have the same stamina as Dean of himself.
The drive was a short one, only fifteen minutes. Sam gently reached over and gave Nick's arm a little shake.
"Oh," he exclaimed. "I'm sorry, did I drift off?"
"It's alright," Sam said. "It's late. We're all tired."
Sam helped Nick up out of the car and kept a hand on his arm as they walked back into the hotel. Nick was finally awake again and Sam let go as they made their way to the elevator.
Upstairs everyone removed their heavy winter clothes and Nick said good night to both Sam and Dean before going into his room for the night.
"That's a first," Dean said. "He usually stays up long after we're asleep."
"He probably just tired himself out today," Sam said, but he had this strange tingling feeling at the back of his neck that he couldn't explain.
They both brushed their teeth and climbed into bed. Sam smiled as he made himself comfortable. Memories of the circus and the concert floated through his head. He had never done either of those things before and they were memories he would cherish forever.
"I had a lot of fun today," Sam said.
"I could tell," Dean replied.
"Yeah, it was great. I could have done without the evil clowns, but otherwise, it was a good day."
"So we took a day off and you had a good time."
"Sammy, I believe I just said that."
"Sammy, is there a point you're trying to make here?"
"Well, I was thinking about what you said a couple of nights ago, that we need to do something fun once in a while. I think you're right," Sam explained. "It would be nice to know that there would be something to look forward to once in a while."
"I get that, but keep in mind we aren't rich. Box seats and limos are not going to be part of the Winchester lifestyle."
"I know that, but I don't need those things," Sam said. "They're nice, but not necessary. What's that old saying, 'the best things in life are free'?"
"I think the person who made up that saying was pretty much full of shit, or was as poor as dirt and was trying to make himself feel better."
"You're missing the point," Sam said.
"Then make your point already so we can go to sleep," Dean grumbled.
"I don't care what we plan; just so long as we have some fun together, you know…something that doesn't involve weapons."
Dean didn't know what to say. He was really touched by what Sam had said, and yet the moment was getting way too emotional for him. Nick had told him to talk to Sam once in a while, but that didn't mean he had to have heart to hearts everyday.
"I promise we'll take a day off sometimes. Good night." With that Dean rolled over on his side hoping to shut Sammy up.
In his bedroom Nick sat at his desk writing a letter. He would have liked to have taken his time to pen his words but he felt a sense of urgency so he worked diligently. Finally he signed his name and folded the sheet of stationary. He tucked the letter into a matching envelope and placed $500 inside with it.
He walked back into the living room and tucked the envelope into the wooden chess box. He walked to the telephone and dialed the concierge.
"Yes, this is Nick Van Horn in the penthouse. I need a bell hop to please come to the room now."
"Yes sir, right away sir."
Nick hung up the phone and then placed a call to the kitchen to make arrangements for Sam and Dean's breakfast in the morning. The boys would need to eat before they started off on their journey once more. Then he called the doctor and spoke with him for a few minutes and made arrangements for him to come and see Sam at 7:00 am.
Then Nick gathered one of the duffle bags from under the tree and selected several pieces of the new clothing he had gotten the boys to put inside. Finally he put the wooden chess set into the bad and zipped it up. He finished just in time for then a knock came from the door.
Dean's coat was slung across the sofa. He dug in the pocket and pulled out the keys to his car and answered the door.
"You requested a bell hop?" a young man said as he waited by the door.
"Yes I did. I need you to take this bag outside to the parking lot. There is a black Chevy Impala in the third row. Please place this bag in the back seat. Make sure you lock the door and then bring the keys right back."
"Yes sir." The young man took the bag and the keys and Nick shut the door.
Nick walked over to the brandy decanter and poured himself a liberal glass of the amber liquid and walked to the balcony doors. He stared at the night sky and the three quarters moon. It was a beautiful sky sparkling down on the gentle waters below.
He sipped his drink and stood there; content to be alone admiring God's beauty. He lost track of time but was pulled from his thoughts by a rapping at the door. He hurried over, collected Dean's keys and gave the bell hop a $50 tip which set the boys face smiling ear to ear.
"Your welcome. Good night." Nick closed the door and put the precious keys back in Dean's coat pocket along with two 100 dollar bills. He swallowed the last bit of his brandy, feeling the warmth of the liquor spread through his body.
He was tired, so very, very tired. He set the glass down on the nearest table and made his way to his room. He paused outside the boys' door and was tempted to open it, but he knew if he did they would wake instantly, their instincts honed so perfectly for survival. So instead he laid his hand on their door and closed his eyes, remembering the joy he had brought to their faces today. He smiled a sad smile and then went to his room and closed the door.
The next morning breakfast arrived once more. Dean and Sam sat up happily in their bed and waited for their trays to be put down in front of them. The covers were lifted to reveal steak and eggs along with hash browns and toast. Like the first morning a bread basket was set on the bedside table, but this one was huge and filled with cinnamon rolls, Danishes, and hot cross buns.
"Wow, I wonder why Nick ordered so much food?" Sam said.
"I don't know," Dean replied.
The two ate in a comfortable silence. Dean was thinking about the job before them. They would have to go back to the house today and burn the remains of the seven skeletons they had found when Sam fell through the floor. It was strange, that seemed like it had happened so long ago. Had it really just been three days? He would make a point of inspecting that floor very carefully. He might even tell Sam to stay in the car. Sam was taller than Dean, so he weighed a little bit more. Even if the floor was strong enough to hold Dean that didn't mean it would necessarily hold Sam.
Sam's thoughts were still on the wonderful day they had had yesterday. He thought of Nick and how much he was going to miss the old man once they were gone. He would have to give Nick his cell phone number so that they could at least keep in touch for the short time he had left.
Dean finished eating first. He pushed his tray away and stood up.
"I'm going to take a shower."
A knock came at the door and Sam assumed it was the wait staff returning to remove the mess. He was surprised when the doctor entered.
"Hello," Sam replied. "I didn't expect to see you again."
"Nick called last night and asked for me to come first thing this morning. He said you and your brother would be leaving early this morning and it was important to him that you get checked out one more time."
"He called you last night?"
"That's right. I guess he's still sleeping right now. He mentioned that the three of you had an exciting day yesterday."
Sam rolled over on to his stomach. "Yes we did."
"It's nice that you boys are so close with your grandfather."
Sam didn't reply to the comment. There was nothing to say. He wasn't about to tell the man that Nick was not only not their grandfather but that they had only met him three days ago.
Sam endured the poking and prodding and the bandaging in silence. The bathroom door opened and a towel clad Dean entered the room. At first seeing the doctor had alarmed him but he quickly realized that the doc was just doing a follow up check-up.
"Okay, you're all done."
"Thanks. I don't think I've ever had such a fuss made over a few stitches."
"Like I said, your grandfather just wanted to make sure you healing properly before you two left."
"Well thanks for all your help, doc." Dean said.
"No problem. Hopefully you two won't have anymore accidents."
Sam and Dean just exchanged a look. They both new this would hardly be the last injury they would sustain with the life they lived.
"Good-bye," Sam replied. He went into the bathroom to wash up and shave. He missed taking showers but it would have to wait until Dean took his stitches out. He went back in the room and found Dean dressed and packing up his bag. Dean was wearing his own pants and boots, but he had on a new shirt and sweater. Sam also pulled on some new clothes and stuffed his personal belongings back into his bag.
"The waiter said Nick was still sleeping, that he gave a request to not be disturbed," Dean said.
"When did Nick call them?" Sam suddenly asked.
"They didn't say. Why?"
Sam felt that tingling at the base of his skull once more. The doctor had been called last night. The basket full of food had been left sitting on the table even though the waiters had cleared out everything else. Nick went to bed before they did last night which meant he had gotten back up to make arrangements.
"Sammy, I can see the clock work ticking in your head. Care to fill me in?"
Sam didn't answer Dean. He suddenly walked out of the room and across the hall. The service people were all gone now. They were alone when Sam knocked on Nick's door.
"Nick! Nick, are you awake?" Sam called.
Dean watched Sam pound on Nick's door and suddenly he understood what was about to happen. Dean didn't have any psychic abilities to speak of but that didn't matter. He knew…he just knew what Sam was going to find the minute his brother opened the door and he had this incredible urge to grab Sam and drag him away kicking and screaming before his baby brother had the chance to see…before he had his heart broken all over again. But, Dean knew he couldn't stop this train wreck from happening. All he could do was pick up the pieces like he always did.
Finally Sam wasn't waiting any longer. He put his hand on the knob and turned it slowly. Without moving from his spot he pushed the door all the way open. The room beyond was dark but he could clearly see Nick's outline on the bed.
"Nick," he called once more, praying that the man was just in a deep sleep. He took several tentative steps into the room and strained his eyes to see if Nick's chest was rising up and down. It was too dark to tell.
Sam's vibes were tingling wildly but Sam ignored them. He felt eyes on him and he turned his head to see Dean standing in the doorway. His hands were shoved in his pockets and through he tried to keep his face blank, Sam could see the subtle frown, the downcast eyes.
Sam turned back to the bed and took the last few steps needed to cross over to Nick's bed. He reached down and gave Nick's arm a shake. As soon as he touched the older man he felt how rigid Nick was. Finally Sam reached over and turned on the bedside lamp. A silent scream caught in his throat when he saw the blue and purple features of the man he cared about so much. Nick was dead…had been dead for many hours now.
Sam's knees gave out and he dropped to them next to Nick's bed. He laid his head on Nick's chest and began to cry. At first it was just small, quiet sniffles, but it soon turned into gut wrenching sobs.
Dean continued to stand in the door and allow Sam his moment of grief. Part of him was angry at Nick. The man obviously knew that he was going to die last night. Why else had he gone through the trouble of making arrangements for their breakfast and the doctor and telling them that he would be sleeping in and not to disturb him?
Sure, Nick didn't want to die alone, but it wasn't fair of him to do this to Sam. If they had driven away yesterday like he had wanted to then Sammy could have been spared this pain right now. As generous and kind as Nick had been to them, Dean found it hard to not think of Nick as being somewhat selfish right then, but Dean quickly pushed the cruel thought from his mind. Maybe Nick truly thought they would leave without disturbing him, but then Sam never would have left without saying good-bye.
Sam had slid down the side of the bed and was now sitting in the floor with his legs drawn up. He was no longer sobbing but still he cried softly, large tears running down his cheeks. Finally Dean crossed the threshold and walked over to Sam. He placed a firm but comforting hand on Sam's shoulder.
"Sam we have to go," Dean said softly.
"Dean, we have to call someone. They need to be notified."
"Sam, we can't do that. We have to go now."
"What? No way! We can't just leave him here like this!"
Sam pulled away and flung Dean's hand off. He reached for the phone but Dean tore it out of his hands.
"Sammy, stop and think for a minute."
"I won't just leave him here and walk away like he meant nothing. He deserves better than that. He took care of us! Now it's our turn to do something for him. Dean, he has no one. If we leave it might be days, hell weeks, before someone finds him! His body will…it'll be…" Sam was on the verge of hyperventilating.
Dean literally grabbed Sam by his shoulders and shook him to get him to calm down some. "Damn it Sam, I know right now you are thinking I'm some heartless bastard, but listen to me!" Sam glared at him. "I liked Nick too, and this isn't fair, but we can't call anyone! The hotel staff thinks we are his grandsons. When the authorities show up they are going to ask questions. They'll ask you who should be called and what funeral arrangements you want to make. Sam, we don't even know his last name. What are you going to tell the cops when they start asking for information?"
Sam's angry glare disappeared as he realized the truth of what Dean was saying. His resolve to do the right thing crumbled and he nodded to Dean that he understood. Then Dean did something he hadn't done since before Sam went to college. He hugged him. He pulled Sam into a tight embrace and let Sam bury his face in the crook of Dean's neck as Sam continued to grieve.
"It'll be okay," Dean comforted. "Once we leave we'll call the front desk and ask them to deliver a message to him. Then someone will come up and find him, I promise."
Again Sam nodded but continued to hold on to Dean. Dean hadn't even held him when Jess died and right now Sam wasn't ready to leave the security he felt in Dean's arms. They were the same arms that had chased away the nightmares of his youth, but as strong as those arms were they couldn't fully stop the ache in his heart.
Finally Dean released Sam and hauled him up to his feet. Dean pulled Sam from the room and guided him to the sofa and forced him to sit down.
"Stay here," Dean ordered. Dean left a somewhat shell shocked Sam sitting in the sofa and he hurried back to their room to gather all their belongings. Luckily most of there things were already packed. He remembered to grab Sammy's medicine from the table and then he zipped up their bags and threw both of them over his shoulder. Dean saw the basket of food and suddenly smiled. Even though Nick knew he was dying he had still made a point of looking out for them even after he knew he would be gone.
Dean picked up the basket and carried it out of the room. He paused in the hallway and stared at Nick lying in his bed. Dean felt a lump form in his throat. He set down the bags and the basket and entered the room. He walked over to the bed and looked down at the man who had shown them such kindness.
"Thank you," Dean choked out. "I'll always be grateful to you for taking us in when we were literally desperate for help, and for getting a doctor for Sammy. Thank you for giving him a real Christmas, and…and for showing me that its okay to…to talk…sometimes." Dean took a shuddering breath and finally said, "Good-bye, Nick. I'll never forget you."
With that said Dean turned out the light and turned to leave. He was startled to see Sam standing there. For a moment Dean wanted to yell at Sam for eavesdropping, but the lost and hurt filled face before him stopped the angry words before they even formed.
"Come on, Sam, it's time to go."
Sam picked up his bag and Dean carried both his bag and the basket. Dean stopped in front of the tree. The presents that they had gotten each other were already in their bags, but the things Nick had gotten them were still there.
"Sam, do you want any of your presents?"
Sam didn't even turn back to look at the tree. He just shook his head no.
"Are you sure?" Dean asked. "Nick put a lot of thought into it. He wanted you to have them."
Again Sam shook his head. He didn't want any of it anymore. He simply wanted to leave now.
"Okay," Dean sighed.
Dean dug through the pile and found the two hunting knives Nick had bought him and slipped them into his bag. He looked at the rest and then just walked away.
Notes: One more chapter to go.