I know post-Asylum fics have been done to death, but I've got a few insights that I haven't read in any other fics yet and I wanted to share them before new episodes start, which I am so excited about!
Oh, and if anyone thinks Dean's reaction may be a bit over the top, I would like to point out that in Kill Bill Volume 2, when Uma Thurman gets shot with rock salt, she's in so much pain she can't move or speak, so think about it.
You Remember That
Dean had made it clear that he didn't want to talk about what happened, for several reasons. One, because just breathing with a chest full of rocksalt was painful enough at the moment and he knew any kind of emotional conversation on top of that would hurt a lot more. Secondly, he didn't feel there was much to say and didn't see the need to put himself or Sam through the pain of having to discuss what they could not change. Their lives were different, their opinions were different, but they were brothers, no matter what, so why discuss their differences?
When they pulled into their cheap motel, they both got out of the car silently, then Dean casually tossed Sam the room key as he took his bag out of the backseat and said, "You go ahead, I gotta put the supplies away."
He popped the trunk without waiting for Sam's reply, even though he tried to make one. But the younger Winchester got the point and sighed, accepting the keys and moving off.
"Sure," he whispered, making his way to their room.
Dean looked up to mark Sam's progress as he spent a moment putting the guns back in their hiding place in the trunk, but as soon as he saw Sam disappear into their double room he collapsed to one knee behind the car. Resting his forehead against the back of the trunk as he closed his eyes, Dean finally dropped the façade of not experiencing some of the worst pain of his life. For awhile he had been so focussed on finding Ellicott's bones so he could get Sam back to normal that he hadn't felt the pain, but now, adrenaline rush fully dissipated, Dean was hurting and finally let it show.
"Ah crap." He muttered as he grinded his teeth together and waited out the pain.
After a moment of relatively deep breaths he slowly pushed himself to his feet once more and rummaged in the trunk, finding the medical kit and shoving it into his bag that was now empty of weapons. Before going in he took out the painkillers and swallowed three dry, knowing the numbing effect would be needed shortly.
Inside the room Sam was sitting on the edge of his bed, head in his hands as his mind forced him to remember over and over the image of Dean falling back through the hidden door after being shot, himself reveling in his brother's pain, then he heard the horrible things he had said and finally remembered pulling the trigger a second time.
If that gun had been loaded …
Sam didn't want to consider it, but despite what Dean had said, they did need to talk about it, and as Dean finally came into the hotel room, he intended to do just that.
"Dean, look I know …."
"Yeah, I look like shit, you don't have to tell me. I'm gonna hit the shower before I crash …" Dean was avoiding the issue but made it seem like he wasn't by looking surprised by Sam's confused expression. "Unless you wanted to go first."
Sam took a moment to reply then shook his head, "No, go ahead."
"Kay," Dean said casually, bringing his bag into the bathroom with him.
"Dean, wait …." Sam called at the last second, catching the door before Dean closed it.
"What, you gotta take a leak or something?" Dean asked, forcing his cocky smirk and wishing Sam would drop it.
"No, but, you … you can't be okay," Sam pointed out as if it were ridiculous that Dean could believe he was.
Dean chuckled and pulled at the door, "Sammy, I'm fine, chill. I'm just dirty as all hell."
"Dean," the younger man pleaded.
"Sam," the older replied as though annoyed.
Sam wasn't buying it but decided to leave Dean to his illusions, "All right, fine."
Obviously angry and no longer wanting to discuss it either.
"Thank you," Dean mouthed, finally closing the door, leaning against it for a minute to see if the pain would subside. He went to the shower and turned the water on full blast, then slowly lowered himself to sit on the edge of the tub, finally able to hiss and moan with pain now that the cascade of water would drown out his voice. He stayed there a moment, just enjoying sitting and not having to fight the pain, then he slowly reached for the medical kit and put it on the toilet. Now moving excruciatingly slowly he pulled off his button up shirt and then somehow managed to pull his T-Shirt off over his head. He was grunting when he finally got it off and nearly fell off the tub from the blinding pain, but managed to breathe and sit up once more.
He didn't think about how he had come to be in this excruciating pain, or what else he had gone through, he just focussed on the task at hand. Focus, that was all he needed.
"Damn it Sammy, turn the TV on," Dean urged quietly, wishing for even more noise to cover up the exclamations of pain he could no longer hold back. Instead he turned the water up even higher and hoped that would do it. Fumbling through the med-kit he eventually found the tweezers and tried to prepare himself.
The great thing about rocksalt was that it didn't have the strength to penetrate bone or muscle, which was why Dean was still alive, but the bad thing about it was that when it shot out of the gun it broke into hundreds of fragments, each of which made its own bloody crevice in Dean's chest. And now they had to come out.
Taking a deep breath, he pulled out the first large chunk.
He clenched his teeth to keep from screaming and put out a hand to steady himself against the tub as he lurched forward. After a second the initial blinding pain faded a little, but he had to push himself onto the floor so he could lean against the tub, knowing he couldn't stay upright for long on his own power.
"Fuck," he whispered, not believing the pain he was in …
… because his brother had tried to kill him.
Don't go there, he told himself, quickly pulling out another fragment to try to distract his mind from thinking like that.
He almost screamed again but couldn't escape the image of Sam with that gun.
He had pulled the trigger. He would have killed him.
Another piece of rocksalt came out and this time Dean actually saw stars in his eyes and felt himself start to black out.
Maybe it would be for the best, then he wouldn't have to relive these awful memories.
But that was stupid, because Dean knew that only resolutions could get rid of things like that. The root of the problem had to be found, and right now, with both brothers suffering silently in separate rooms, nothing was going to get resolved, and they weren't helping themselves or each other this way. Knowing this was true, Dean laughed sadly and threw down the tweezers.
"What the fuck am I doing?" he asked aloud, knowing Sam was probably right behind the door listening, eating himself up inside, like he didn't have enough things to have nightmares about. And if there was one thing that Dean tried to do, it was keep his brother from having nightmares, no matter how screwed up their lives got.
Taking a moment to get himself together, Dean stood up slowly, shut off the water and opened the bathroom door.
"Sam," he said firmly, needing to make it clear he wasn't dying or helpless.
But Sam was sitting on the edge of Dean's bed and all he saw when he turned around was Dean's slouched form and a chest of red rocksalt wounds that were transforming into one huge deep bruise.
"Shit Dean, look at you, why didn't you say anything?" Sam asked, immediately standing and taking his brother's arm to help lead him to the bed.
"It's not that bad, shirt got the worst of it," Dean tried to lie as he sat on the bed, leaned against the headboard. Sam shot him an incredulous look. "Well, the shirt did get some of it."
"Yeah, where are the painkillers?" Sam asked, looking around.
"I already took some," Dean assured him, trying to get comfortable. "What I need is some alcohol."
"Like rubbing alcohol?" Sam asked, surprised.
"No, college boy, real alcohol, like whiskey or scotch or something," Dean said seriously, cringing now as he spoke, clearly exhausted from pain.
"Alcohol and painkillers are not a good combo, you know that, just give the meds a few minutes," Sam requested, going into the bathroom and finding the med-kit all laid out. He brought it back into the bedroom as Dean got enough breath to answer him.
"And you know that each of these tiny pieces of rocksalt has to come out, and I'm not going through that sober, so you can either go buy me some liquor, or I'll go myself," Dean threatened, starting to swing his feet off the bed like he might go himself.
"No, stay there. Fine, I'll be right back," Sam finally consented, grabbing his coat. "But, don't move."
"Does it look like I planned on going anywhere?" Dean asked sarcastically.
Sam shook his head, "I'll be right back." He said again and then was gone.
As Dean sat there, mostly not moving as promised, he risked running a hand quickly down his chest. The pain made his back arc and he clenched his teeth, but several pieces of rocksalt also fell onto his lap, meaning those ones wouldn't have to be pulled out. He considered doing it again, but decided it was best to wait until he was drunk.
"Damn, I know why ghosts hate this stuff," he muttered, finding it impossible to get comfortable on the cheap mattress while sitting up. His mind started to drift and he realized how efficient the ancient Egyptians were for using salt as part of their torture methods. He knew that salt in wounds was one of the most painful things in the world, and he was also pretty sure that wounds caused by salt were definitely the MOST painful things in the world, but he was really trying not to think about that.
But what else was there to think about? How his brother had shot him and would have killed him if he hadn't been prepared with that empty gun?
It wasn't a happy memory, and was literally painful to remember at this point, but he didn't hate Sam for doing it and he had to make that clear when Sam got back.
It was a good ten minutes before Sam returned, reluctantly handing Dean a brown paper bag as he got the tweezers out and filled a bowl with warm water and got a cloth.
"Ah, good old JD, it's been awhile," Dean reminisced as he took the Jack Daniels out of the liquor bag and immediately took a huge swig. The slight numbing was noticeable almost immediately and Dean was thankful for it.
"Maybe we should just take you to a hospital," Sam suggested quietly, clearly not relishing the task ahead, or the thought of hurting his brother even more.
"Sam, we both know we can't afford that, besides, all gunshot wounds have to be reported to the cops, and I don't think they'd actually believe our story," Dean pointed out, taking another long drink.
"This isn't a gunshot," Sam argued, finding a hole in one of Dean's reasons.
But Dean countered, "It was caused by a gun."
"Fine," Sam acquiesced, sitting on the edge of the bed with his supplies laid out on a chair in front of him. "Are you wasted enough to do this yet?"
"One more," Dean requested, making a face as he took one last swig and then put the bottle aside. "I'm good."
"Wonderful," Sam muttered, "I'm gonna take out the big pieces, but the rest we'll have to wash out."
"Well won't that be fun," Dean said sarcastically. "Hopefully I'll be passed out by then."
"Right, okay," Sam said as a final warning and then began to pluck out the tiny salt shards. While still grinding his teeth in agony and gripping the bedsheets until his knuckles were white, Dean found the painkillers and alcohol had had a sufficient numbing effect and the pain was no longer nearly as intense as before.
"You okay?" Sam asked, when he had pulled a few out and Dean had yet to make any kind of smart remark.
"I'm good," Dean replied, teeth still clenched, but also deep in thought about how to broach the next topic. The alcohol was making it a little easier to open up and he hoped conversation would be distracting.
"Yeah?" Sam asked, pausing his work.
Dean didn't beat around the bush, "I know you meant what you said before, it's okay."
"Dean, I told you, that wasn't me," Sam replied, now focussing solely on finding each salt shard so as not to make eye contact with his brother.
"Sure it was Sam, we both know how it works. If it was just a spirit taking you over, replacing his consciousness with yours, there'd be no way you could remember anything, but you do. That means that whatever happened to you was connected to your consciousness in some way. They were your words and you meant them in some way or another," Dean replied at length, stopping a little each time Sam dug out another bit of shrapnel.
Still Sam shook his head, "Maybe I've thought them once or twice but it's not anything I dwell on, if he was tapped into my head it was an awfully obscure part. I don't hate you Dean. I'd never say that."
"You never said you did, I said you did to get you to take that damn gun so I could beat your ass, and it worked. I know you don't hate me, because that doc had you messed up something serious, and if you hated me you would have told me long before this," Dean rationalized.
Sam finally stopped working and looked Dean in the eye, guilt threatening to drown him, "I'm sorry Dean. I did mean some of it, I mean, a little of what I said is how I feel, but the way it all got twisted around, these petty things just suddenly seemed so important and I was so angry and I would have killed you … I tried to kill you."
"And you think that means you don't care about me? That you're a bad brother?" Dean asked.
"It sort of fits the definition, don't you think?"
"Do you think that policeman was a bad husband? That he hated his wife and that's why he killed her?" Dean asked, bringing up the psycho doctor's other victims.
"No, I guess not," Sam replied, wincing as Dean pulled away and took another swig of JD after a particularly large piece of salt came out. "Sorry."
"I'm good," Dean said, breathing, then continued, not wanting the topic to be dropped so quickly. "You're not a bad brother, and neither am I, we've just got issues with each other, issues that Ellicott blew totally out of proportion in your mind until you could only see red. Way I see it though is we must be sort of well adjusted, I mean, you hesitated to pull that trigger, even with doc messing with your head, unless you were just savoring the moment, I don't think you wanted to do it. Ah, shit!"
"Geez Sam, stop apologizing, we both knew it was gonna hurt," Dean lectured him, feeling his eyes start to close from the mix of meds and alcohol.
"Sor …." Sam started to apologize again and stopped himself, changing directions mid-sentence, "So, you're saying we're just normal brothers, with no serious issues with each other?"
"For a pair of freaks I'd say we're as mentally well balanced as possible," Dean joked slightly then grew a little more serious, "We're not supposed to agree on everything, hell I wouldn't want a Leave it to Beaver, cookie cutter, perfect brother, where's the fun in that? So, you think I order you around too much and follow Dad blindly, that's your opinion. I think you're a big nerd so …."
"And you resent me for leaving," Sam chanced to say, not knowing why he would bring this up now.
"You resent me for leaving, for trying to have a normal life and not staying with you and Dad to hunt," Sam repeated, waiting for Dean's reaction.
The older Winchester looked away for a moment and almost denied it, but this was not a time for them to start lying to each other, so he simply asked, "How'd you know?"
"Shapeshifter told me," Sam explained, and Dean just nodded. Then Sam added, "If I'd understood before, I don't think I would've gone."
"Understood what?" Dean asked.
"Why you and Dad do this, so passionately, so driven to kill every supernatural thing you can find. I always figured it was just the thrill and you enjoyed the hunt and I didn't and that's why I never wanted to do it as much as you two. But then that thing that's still out there killed Jess and I get now why you and Dad wanted to do this so much more than me. There was revenge, justice, whatever, just like I want, trying to find what killed Mom, but helping other people, that we shouldn't even really care about, and knowing that we saved them from going through what we did, that's why you guys are still doing this. That's the thrill you're after now or else you wouldn't live this nomadic life chasing down every obscure lead on the net, and in the end, it is worth it," Sam answered, feeling lighter for having gotten this all out.
"Yeah, maybe you do get it now," Dean replied, smiling as he leaned his head back. "We're brothers though Sam, we don't have to agree on everything to still love each other."
Sam looked up, slightly touched, but also not naïve, "Yeah, you're definitely wasted. Do you even feel this anymore."
"Not really," Dean admitted, watching as a few more salt shards came out. "But, I meant what I said, either way … just, don't tell anyone I said it."
"Yeah, I can do that, I won't even remind you that you said it," Sam promised, knowing Dean was probably too far gone now to remember anything in the morning.
"Good idea, you're a smart guy Sammy," Dean said quietly.
"Sam," the younger brother corrected but it was too late. Dean was true to his word and had passed out blissfully before Sam was forced to wash the remaining traces of salt out of his wounds.
Sam sighed and started talking to himself, "You know, this would be a lot more fair if you had an embarrassing nickname I could call you by."
He finished pulling out the salt, washed the rest out and thanked God that Dean hadn't woken up as he bandaged his chest up. Sam then pulled his brother down the bed to a laying position and pulled the covers over him. By then it was late and he was exhausted. After changing into just his boxers and a t-shirt and brushing his teeth, he walked by Dean's bed and smiled.
"Love you too, bro," he whispered to himself, and wondered if he would repeat the words to Dean tomorrow. Probably not.
For now he crawled into bed and finally slept. It was a light sleep, as he intended to check on Dean as often as possible and every time he woke up from another nightmare he walked over and took his brother's pulse and checked his breathing because he had never actually asked how many painkillers Dean took before chugging back that Jack Daniels.
The final time he woke up it was not from a nightmare but by Dean's ringing cell phone. He sat up and called Dean's name, not expecting him to get it but just to see if there would be a reaction.
"Dean?" he said, wondering if his brother might be awake, or at least breathing. When Sam saw he was indeed breathing he picked up Dean's phone, not wanting it to wake him.
Dean would definitely want to be woken up for this though.
The rest will be continued in Scarecrow and I'm as anxious to know as the rest of you. Later, Goody.