Dean sat in the waiting room eager to get Sam home, safe, where he wanted to be, in the presence and protection of his older brother. After all, that's what home was for the both of them. Well, that and the Impala.
He understood Sam's desire to leave. His brother felt helpless, once again under someone else's control, though the hospital meant it for his good, it still did not afford Sam the power over his body and his life, he so desperately needed. His whole world has been turned upside down for almost a month, the exact opposite of what his little brother has always longed for: the wife, the house, the minivan (Dean smirked at the thought of Sam driving a minivan), the 2.5 kids and of course the dog. This past month had been anything but that….no wife, no kids, no dog, a deranged psycho hunter, torture, a hospital stay, a haunting and re-hunting by Denton….and then add to that…being dragged into the sick bastard's grave…Damn...one hell of a month.
Saddened by the long list of all his brother had suffered this month and in general, forfeited, with the life style the boys now had, Dean choked up. Sam wanted, no he needed, some sense of normalcy. Not that their lives were "normal" by any means, but they did have a routine and in that, Sam's body was his own and there was always Dean, a familiar "safe" relationship where Sam was surrounded by love, a relationship built on trust, and Sam needed that, lots of it, if he were to recover. While he couldn't offer Sam the perfect life, he could offer him a trusted brother who would live for him and die for him and Dean hoped that would give his little brother what he needed, at least right now, to have the strength to go on.
Dean glanced up at the clock on the wall as it chimed out its new hour. It seemed like it was taking forever for Sam to be released and he began wishing he'd stayed in the room with his little brother while they got him ready.
Getting anxious and agitated, he approached the receptionist.
"Sam Winchester? How long till he comes out?"
"One minute less than the last time you asked!" she exasperatingly retorted.
"Man! How hard is it to pull a plug? I don't have a medical degree and even I know you just yank it out of the wall." Dean muttered under his breath.
"Well, if they need your help, I'll tell them where you are…..in the WAITING room!"
Dean snorted. "Somebody had too much fiber in their diet" he muttered as he turned to walk away.
"I heard that!" the indignant woman retorted.
"Good!" he answered childishly back as he took up his seat once again by the door.
Fifteen minutes later, after having eaten two of his finger nails and made faces at the annoying kid who kept giving him the finger from across the room, Dean stood up to re-approach the receptionist.
She just looked at him, stiffened her lips, shook her head and pointed him back to his seat.
"Hope you come back as a ghost one day. I'd love to hunt your …."
A commotion behind him drew Dean's attention away. The unfeeling sterile door that had twice severed his contact with his little brother, graciously opened, releasing Sam back into his care. The younger brother was wheeled out to Dean, a sight for sore eyes. Apart from his face which was an absolute mess from his broken nose and the overtired look that revealed itself in his eyes, he seemed alert and relaxed and Dean was very grateful.
Sam smiled at his brother, pleased he was going home, though a little embarrassed about having to be in a wheel chair.
"Like your new wheels" Dean commented seemingly supportive.
Sam realized his brother had picked up on his humiliation and was trying to be kind about it. Dean would usually ride Sam whenever he had the chance. Sam was amused and began looking forward to getting treated royally for the next few days.
"No…. not really." Dean teased as he compared Sam's new "ride" to his '67 Chevy.
Sam, realizing his brother had set him up, quickly tried to return his volley.
"Well, it's not much, but at least it doesn't play Metallica."
"Cute, very cute" Dean snorted at Sam's dig on his musical preference. He was pleased that after everything his brother had been through, he still had his sense of humor.
"Thanks," Sam said affectionately. "Always was, always will be."
Dean immediately caught Sam's humor as he flashed back to his previous comment when he had left Sam for a haircut, then returned the volley.
"S'good to see you up and about, little brother. Well….. not really up, but definitely about" Dean said lightheartedly as he pitched the ball back into Sam's court.
The orderly, having watched the two ping pong back and forth with their comments was completely confused.
"Yeah, it's good to be …about" Sam smiled back.
Dean could always bring a smile out of Sam even when he didn't think there was one left in him and for that he was grateful. He decided to let the ball fall in his own court giving his brother the point.
As they headed to leave, Dean couldn't resist and snidely looked back at the receptionist, pointed to Sam, and waved goodbye… obnoxiously.
She huffed and returned to her paperwork.
Dean left to get the Impala while the orderly waited with Sam at the curb. The younger sibling exchanged his "wheels" for Dean's and the brothers headed off towards the motel.
Sam, feeling exhausted, rested his head against the window of the car.
"Wanna lay down?" Dean asked supportively.
"Nah, I'm good"
Dean nodded accepting his brother's wishes. Sam was quiet but awake and Dean couldn't help but wonder what was rattling around inside the corridors of his little brother's head. Sam didn't seem upset or worried or even sad, but with all that had happened, Dean still grew concerned with his brother's silence. He would respect Sam's need for quiet, at least for now, but if his brother "submerged", he would have to initiate or even force "contact".
Sam glanced several times at Dean and couldn't help but notice he was favoring his right side. His arm was tucked supportively along his ribs and he was driving one handedly with his left.
Dean was surprised by Sam's inspection and, coupled by his silence, had to 'ping'.
"I've got some serious pain stuff if you need it" Sam commented.
Dean knew that was Sammy speak for... I'm worried about you...are you okay? He was touched by his brother's concern.The kind offer of pain relief reminded him of when they were kids, when Sammy had offered him the prize inside a cereal box. It had been something Sam had wanted but was willing to give away for his brother's sake. Dean was also taken back that his brother was thinking about him and his well being. Sam had every reason to be focused on himself, hell, to expect the whole world focus on him, but no, not Sam. He was sitting there offering his only means of pain relief to his brother. After everything he'd been through, Sammy still had his kind heart. Dean was pleased. Sammy's heart and his sense of humor, two things he loved about his brother, hadn't been taken from him. Things were looking hopeful.
"I'm fine, Sam.You?"
"Yeah, I'm good" Sam replied with a hesitation in his voice.
Dean glanced over skeptically.
"I am" the youngest brother reiterated and then added, "I can't believe it's over"
Dean nodded, glad that Sam looked at it that way.
"It is over" Dean confirmed.
The boys rode for a bit in silence. Dean wasn't sure if his quietness was tiredness or something more until Sam finally spoke.
The older sibling glanced over, raised his eyebrows and looked at his beckoning brother.
"I'm sorry." Sam barely whispered.
Taken back by his brother's comment, Dean questioned, "For what"
He couldn't imagine what Sam was thinking…sorry? It was the last thing he had expected and he jumped into listening mode.
"Everything, man ...you being dumped in the middle of nowhere, your ribs, your head, God, being buried alive… None of this would have happened if I wasn't…….
Dean changed channels to big brother mode and quickly interrupted.
"If you weren't what, Sam, ...gifted? No. None of this would've happened if DENTON wasn't such an asshole!"
Dean, startled by the force with which he had spoken, softened and continued.
"You have absolutely nothing to be sorry for, Sam, this wasn't your fault. You didn't do this to me. If you need to blame someone, blame Denton, that sick son of a bitch. This had everything to do with him and nothing, absolutely nothing to do with you or your abilities!"
Dean paused to let the words sink in. Sam remained quiet and thinking. Dean wasn't sure he'd convinced his little brother and he continued.
"You gotta let it go, man. If you blame yourself and hang on to the fear and pain he pushed on you, then the bastard will have gotten exactly what he wanted, hell even better cuz you'll be alive and suffering at his hand and his words for the rest of your life. He's dead, Sam, let him take his crap to the grave with him. "
Sam nodded. Denton had already caused enough pain and suffering, that was for sure and Sam didn't want to let the monster continue to have a hold over him. The huntsman, having messed with his thinking, made it difficult for Sam to see things the right way and he knew it. But he trusted Dean and if Dean said it was Denton's fault, he was willing to accept that. His mind and heart embraced his brother's words and relief once again washed over him.
Dean glanced over to "read" his brother. He could see the wheels were still turning ,but somehow they were spinning differently. As he pulled the Impala up to the motel, he slowly came to a stop, undid his keys and sat back…ready to talk more if Sam needed to.
Sam blinked and turned to his brother.
Dean knew that tone...
"I wanna thank you"
Dean attempted to block the caring sharing moment that was on its way. It had a "chick flick" feel to it. He was willing to do or be anything for Sammy if he needed him, but this was gonna be a transparency he wasn't sure he could deal with.
"You're always there for me, man… I mean…You really laid down your life...at the farmhouse, in the hospital, at the motel, at the cemetery. I wouldn't have made it if it weren't for you."
Dean was really moved by his brother's words. He would always lay down his life for his little brother, no matter what, no thanks needed. He lived for him and he would die for him. It's who he is and what he does and he's damn glad to have his little brother to do it for.
"Hey, dude, you're not gonna get all mushy and cry on my leather seats, are ya?" Dean joked trying to brush the uncomfortable words Sam was sharing back into the silent realms where they usually existed.
Dean smiled over at his brother, letting him know that he really did appreciate what his little brother had said, even if it was a bit, well…chick flicky.
Sam caught the smile and reflected it back to his brother. Then, growing weary, he laid his head on the window again.
Dean, recognizing the moment had passed along with his little brother's energy, popped open his driver side door and moved quickly to Sam's. He opened it and helped his little brother out. He was careful not to touch his nose, ribs, arms and well… pretty much… was careful not to touch him at all except for the arm his brother had placed over his shoulders for support. That, he held on tightly to attempting to steady his wobbly brother's large frame. Sam moved very slowly trying to prevent any extra waves of pain.
As they neared the room, Sam paused suddenly. The jerk caused them both to stumble a bit and Dean searched Sam's face worriedly fearing his brother was in some kind of trouble.
"Is it your chest?" Dean questioned anxiously, fearful that he had hurt his brother in some way.
Sam just stood, frozen, as if someone had just shut a door in his face.
"Talk to me, Sam! What's wrong?" Dean implored stepping out in front of his brother grasping both his shoulders in his hands.
Sam looked deep into his brother's eyes and then over at their motel door and Dean knew.
"No, Sam, not any more, little brother." Dean replied compassionately. "I got us a different room. Okay?"
Sam's body relaxed as he released the breath he had been holding. Dean searched his little brother's face checking to see if he was okay.
"Okay?" he reiterated wanting to know his brother had heard and understood him. There was no way in hell Dean would have taken Sam back to the room where Denton had terrorized him, where he'd screamed his brother's name, and been buried under the door.
Sam nodded and the brothers reassumed their positions making their way slowly down the walkway.
"Over there" the elder brother finally gestured as he pulled his brother toward an upcoming doorway.
Dean leaned Sam gently against the door frame as he unlocked the gateway to their new "home" and swung it open.
After several gasps and groans from both of them, Dean got Sam in the room, helped him change, gently laid him down and tucked him carefully into bed.
As Dean stood over his brother, their eyes met for a moment. Sam looked appreciatively at his brother, thankful to return to his "normal" life, side by side with his brother free from any threats, at least for a little while.
Dean nodded, understanding fully his brother's gesture. He couldn't help but shy away from the appreciation his brother had offered once again. Taking care of Sam was what Dean did and he felt embarrassed to have it acknowledged.
"You want somethin' to eat?" Dean questioned , eager to change the subject.
"Sam, you have to eat to get your strength back. I'll go grab ya something and be right back."
Sam smiled amusingly.
"Why do you even bother asking me if I want something to eat? I don't really have a choice, do I? If I say no, you start answering yes for me."
"It wasn't really a question, Sam" Dean answered unsure himself why he had phrased it that way. "You need to eat."
Dean reached in his pockets searching for his keys.
"I'll go check what they're serving at the motel restaurant and see if it looks good. I can always run down to our favorite diner and see what the special is for today " Dean joked trying to picture the face on the waitress if they started frequenting her place again.
"Maybe they have meatloaf" he added teasingly, knowing Sam hated diner meatloaf and mashed potatoes swimming in greasy gravy. He laughed and began heading towards the door.
Dean turned around, startled by his brother's almost panicked reaction, feeling badly that he had upset him.
"I'm kidding, Sam" Dean explained. " I won't get you meatloaf. I promise I'll pick up something you like. Alright?"
"Could you just stay...here..."Sam pleaded, surprised by his own neediness. He looked embarrassingly up at his brother.
Dean saw a whole mix of emotions pass through his little brother's eyes. Sadness, neediness, embarrassment, and fear.
"Easy, Sammy,... it's okay," Dean offered soothingly, trying to ease his sibling's mind as he placed his keys back in his pocket and returned to Sam's side.
"We'll order out …get something delivered, no problem, okay?" Dean continued, reassuring his little brother that he wouldn't leave him.
Dean chastised himself, Good one, Dean, ya stupid idiot. He was frustrated that he had even suggested leaving Sam alone after he had already expressed that he needed to be with his big brother in the first place. Sam's emotions were all over the place and fragile, and he needed to be careful not to add to his pain.
Sam shook his head.
"Maybe a little later, huh? I'm not hungry… I think the pain meds are making me sick or something."
"Yeah, okay" Dean answered taking a seat in the chair he had placed next to Sam's bed, "but if you get hungry you let me know."
Sam nodded again as his eyes began to glaze a bit.
"You get any sleep in the hospital?
"Nah. I'm not sure I really want to close my eyes, let alone sleep."
Dean nodded. He fully understood his brother's loss of his sense of safety. Denton had robbed it from him. And then, of course, there were the nightmares. Both Sam and Dean knew that Sam would struggle in the realms of unconsciousness with Denton and all that had happened. Dean hated Sam's nightmares. It was the one "place" Dean couldn't go to protect his brother, where his brother would be alone, unarmed and unsuspecting and lay victim to the inner scars his mind had no control over. All Dean could ever do is pull his brother from his nightmare once he detected its attack. He hated not being able to do more.
"I'm not tired. I'll keep watch" he offered reassuringly, verbally recognizing his brother's underlying needs. "I'll wake ya if you have…. you know….a nightmare."
Sam nodded again gratefully. God it felt good to be back with his brother.
Dean watched as his little brother's blinking slowed. It wasn't long before sleep claimed his exhausted and pained sibling.
He looked over his brother's sleeping form assessing the damage once again. Sam's broken bones, bruises and wounds would heal in time, leaving scars as constant reminders of all he had suffered at Denton's hand. But over time, he would get used to scars. Dean had. He barely noticed them anymore, just added them to the rest and moved on. But the emotional scars would be a lot harder to deal with. They exist, but you can't see them, so you can't get used to them. Then someday, somewhere, something triggers them and they reveal themselves for what they really are…horrible fingerprints from something dreadful that had happened in the past. Re-traumatized, you struggle to get passed them again, to allow them to fade slowly from consciousness only to have them lie in wait until resurrected by the next trigger. Dean knew these scars as well. He'd suffered them many times in his lifetime beginning with his mother's death. He'd always hoped he could spare Sam this vicious cycle, protect him from things that caused those kinds of scars which exist within the very depths of the heart, but he couldn't. Jessica's death and Denton's cruelty were two that were definitely beyond his control.Sam's sense of safety had been shattered, his confidence in who he is and what he'll become shaken and scarred. He'd been forced to be the most vulnerable he'd ever been, and it would take courage and strength to over come his fears, to see himself once again as the noble and fearless hunter Dean knew he was. He would have to learn to recognize the triggers and learn to bridle the memories, tame them, conquer them when they reared their heads. Dean only hoped that he could, over time, help Sam not to trigger easily, and if triggered, protect himself.
Dean's ribs began to complain within him, so he decided to ready himself for his bedside vigil, the one so familiar to him from the many nights in the hospital. He would need his "sinking" chair positioned next to Sammy's bed and of course his little brother's valuables would need to be placed carefully on his nightstand. Dean wished he had a balloon, but figured he could always get one in the morning when he went for food, if Sam was okay with that. He'd have to think of something creative to write on it if he could find a black marker.
Sam's valuables were still tucked safely inside the hijacked laundry bag from the hospital which had been haphazardly placed on the coffee table when Dean switched rooms. Unloading it, he placed the empty chocolate candy bar on the night stand with Sadie to stand guard and smiled, "Not much of a watch dog, are ya?" he mocked. Then he placed Sam's watch beside Sadie. "Maybe this will help ya" he smiled, turning to Sam for a response. He had forgotten his sibling was fast asleep. His humor unappreciated, he turned back to the bag.
He placed the checkerboard and the pieces, well most of them, one piece was still A.W.O.L., to the left. The board was well worn, having given itself in service to the boys for many a game. Dean had come to love the simplicity of checkers. It was the very game that undid Denton. He had sadly miscalculated! Denton had been playing the wrong game. In chess, your opponent has only one king. In checkers, there can be more than one. Sam and Dean were both kings and Denton had sadly misunderstood that!
Clumped together in the bottom, lay the snipped pieces of Sam's leather 'rope'. The pieces were painfully symbolic to Dean. They were broken much like his little brother had been. He looked down on his resting sibling. They'd been through a lot together the past year, but somehow they'd always made it through. This would be no different, of that, Dean would make sure. Sam had a lot of shit to work through, Denton had cruelly dumped a heavy burden on his little brother. Hopefully knowing that the huntsman could never hurt him again would bring him the final healing piece that, when put with the others, would free Sam to be himself again, maybe even stronger because he had overcome an insurmountable enemy, Denton, and the fear and helplessness he had created.
Dean looked down at his own leather band and after a moment, he removed it and placed it on the side of the nightstand closest to Sam. The whole "rope" held the promise that one day Sammy would be whole again too, not in pieces as his old one was. Dean was okay with giving it to his brother. Sam would always be his brother and he didn't need a leather "rope" to remind him of their oath. They were and always would be... Brothers for Life.
Pulling the broken leather pieces from the bottom of the bag, he tucked them safely in his pocket to keep care of, much like Sam, until they would be seen as merely a part of the past, their brokeness not representing Sam's anymore.
Dean's stomach growled, roaring angrily for food. He considered picking up the phone and ordering something but it lay beside Sam's sleeping form and he didn't wish to disturb the kid. He needed to rest. Instead, Dean decided he would double up on breakfast in the morning..
Expecting Sam's valuables bag to be empty, Dean was surprised to find that it wasn't. Unseen, because it had apparently been hidden underneath the leather stips, lay the small black checker piece that had been missing; the one that had abruptly and mysteriously disappeared, ending Dean's constant winning streak whilst Sam had been medicated in the hospital. Dean couldn't help but smile.
"Sammy, you dog! I knew you had it!" he laughed glancing once again at his little brother with a mischievous glint in his eye.
Having finished his preparatory work of getting Sam's nightstand perfectly organized, Dean was ready to begin his bedside vigil. He gently pulled Sam's blanket up over his shoulder and tucked in the corners. Then he sunk down in yet another uncomfortable chair, and dozed off.
The next morning, Sam awoke to the gawking smile of Dean on the chair next to his bed.
The elder Winchester sibling cheerfully held out his hand and offered Sam his pain medication and a glass of water.
Sam appreciated Dean's kind gesture and accepted the drugs, realizing he'd be a bit incoherent, but willing to eliminate the pain that had returned mercilessly to him. Dean helped Sam sit up enough to be able to swallow. He drank and swallowed eying his brother carefully, noticing that he was a bit over zealous. Still, he thanked him anyway and settled back down.
Dean set the glass down on the nightstand. Content that his brother would soon be feeling no pain and would be lacking coherency, he turned schemingly back to his little brother and grinned.
"Wanna play checkers?"
Author's Note: I have really enjoyed sharing this story with all of you! Your generous comments and humor have inspired me to go much farther than I ever thought I could! Thank you from the bottom of my heart and God Bless! …Rachelly