I have reposted Chapter 11 after some revisions. As Windyfontaine and Friendly are aware- I have never been truly happy with the way that chapter came out. I had rewritten it many times, but it never seemed to be right. Anyway, Carikube gave me some excellent pointers on "point of view" and so I took her advice, reworked a part of the graveyard scene and now I am finally happy with chapter 11. So loads of thanks go out to Carikube for the help!
As you all know, this is the end... Thank you all yet again for your wonderful reviews. You really did bring heaps of joy to my over stressed days.
Black Roses: Thanks for your consistent support- you should be happy to know that the angst in this story will continue beyond what I've written.
Brokenwind: I'm glad you liked the story (especially considering how picky you are) :-) Thanks for the review!
Michelle Kelly: Thanks for the review! I'm glad you enjoyed the story!
LRP: I agree that the boys should be paid for their
services! However, then people would have to acknowledge that
ghosts and demons exist and I'm not sure if the world is ready for
that. Although they did in Ghostbusters!
Chapter 12: Cleaning up
Dean followed his brother back over to the grave. There were a lot of unanswered questions, not the least of which was, 'how was it that Sam was still alive?' But those questions needed to be saved for later. Right now, they needed to refill the grave- and do it quickly. Dean watched as Sam picked up a shovel and then had to catch himself from falling over. Sam might not be dead, but something was still wrong. "What's wrong with you?"
Sam squinted up at his brother while feeling around his head to find the place where his head had kissed the tombstone, "I hit my head when I fell. I'm not too steady."
Dean moved to help his brother up. Once Sam was standing Dean went to look at the back of his head, but Sam shook him off, "We don't have time for that right now. People will have heard the gunshots. We need to refill the grave and get the hell out of here."
Dean nodded and picked up his shovel. As long as Sam was conscious, he was right, they needed to clean things up before the sheriff got there. Dean worked quickly at refilling the grave. Sam helped as well, but at a much slower pace, often stopping with his hands on his knees. Dean wanted nothing more than to assess the bump that was undoubtedly growing on his brother's head, but there was no time, and quite honestly, he wouldn't be able to assess anything with his vision in the darkness. Within twenty minutes, the grave was refilled and the two brothers began to make their way back to the motel. They hadn't been walking for one minute when they came face to face with the sheriff.
The boys stopped abruptly and Sheriff Crell rubbed his head under his hat sighing, "I thought we'd gone through this boys." He looked at the brothers, who didn't respond. Then he spoke again, "You want to explain to me why I got a call again at four in the mornin' sayin' there were gunshots comin' from the cemetery?"
Dean went to speak but Sam beat him to it, "We're leaving tomorrow night and Dean got it in his head that this would be the last night he could get his revenge on the ghost." Dean looked at Sam offended. Why was his brother handing him over to the sheriff? Sam ignored Dean's look and continued, "He had just started digging when I got there."
That was enough. Dean didn't know where Sam was taking this, but it couldn't be good. He warned him, "Sam."
But Sam ignored the warning, holding his hand up and effectively silencing Dean. Dean looked insulted by the hand. Sam continued speaking to the sheriff, "I shot into the air. Dean ignored me. But then I shot at the ground near him, and I think he got that I was serious."
The sheriff seemed to be listening, although he still looked skeptical and Dean was beginning to get annoyed, why was he the insane bad guy while Sam got to be the rational do-gooder? Sam moved closer to the sheriff, "He didn't do any more harm to the grave and we tried to clean up whatever he did…I think he was going to let it go, but then he spoke with the mechanic yesterday and Ben told him what he thought Jillian had done to her sisters and that brought back the whole thing for him, and well, you know…"
Dean scowled, but kept quiet. The sheriff seemed to be considering Sam's story, but still had a suspicious look on his face. Then he nodded to Sam's neck, "What happened to your neck there, son?"
Not having noticed Sam's neck before, Dean whipped his head around to look at his brother. Unfortunately, once again, his vision was too blurry to make anything out. Sam wasn't standing more than two feet from him, but in the darkness (they were running on moonlight) the only thing he could notice was that Sam's neck looked a bit darker than usual.
Sam had almost forgotten about the burns on his neck, having been overrun with his headache and the aftermath of the hunt. Frantically he tried to think of an excuse for the burns, but the only thing that was even remotely plausible was that Dean had tried to choke him. Although even that…choking would leave bruises, not burns. Besides, that explanation would get his brother thrown in jail on assault charges. Not able to think of anything, Sam said nothing, hoping that the sheriff would come up with something on his own and maybe Sam would be able to work off of it.
Noting the lack of response, the sheriff moved forward, took hold of Sam's chin, and tilted his head to the side to get a better look at the marks on his neck. As he looked at them he asked, "You're brother do that to you?"
Sam and Dean simultaneously responded, "No!" Then Dean took over the explanation, hoping he could explain away the marks without ever having seen them. "It's a skin condition. He gets red blotches on his neck when he gets upset or nervous. Tonight was a bit stressful for him." He gave Sam an annoyed look, "What with him having to shoot at me and all…"
The sheriff seemed to accept the explanation, most likely because there were only red blotches and bumps on Sam's neck, and not any bruises. The sheriff stepped back from Sam and addressed Dean, "I was nice about this the first time. I took a chance, against my deputy's judgment by the way, and let ya'll go with the understandin' that you wouldn't be visitin' that girl's grave again."
Sam interrupted, "Sheriff, I stopped him before he could do anything. Honest." Sam tried not to cringe while saying that word. Clearly, he was being anything but honest. "Nothing was damaged. Please sir, we'll be gone tomorrow." Sam looked over at Dean, noticing Dean's annoyed stare. Evidently, Dean hadn't approved of Sam's cover story and Sam had a feeling that he'd be hearing about that later.
The sheriff once again seemed to consider Sam's words. "See…I have a real hard time believin' ya'll givin' that this is the second time we're havin' this conversation." Then Sheriff Crell took a moment to think a bit more. Then he nodded, "I'm gonna go take a look at that grave, then I'm gonna talk to Ben." The sheriff pointed a finger at Sam, "If I find any damage or if Ben doesn't back you up, You boys are gonna have to do your explainin' to a judge. And don't think you can flee town either. I can get a message out to every office in this state within ten minutes. I'm a well respected man; I guarantee you that if I send out an APB, the other offices will take it very seriously."
Dean stepped forward and spoke to the sheriff, "Sheriff, I have no doubt that you're a well respected man. And despite," he shot Sam a look, "what I've done. I do respect you…and the people of this town." He shook his head and sighed looking the sheriff in the eyes, "I'm not going to flee or resist or do anything, if you decide to press charges. I just…I guess I just felt that someone needed to pay. But Sam was right and he stopped me." Dean sighed again, "If you need to arrest me…I'll go willingly." Dean held out his hands to be handcuffed.
The sheriff rolled his eyes, "Put your hands down boy. I ain't gonna arrest you. I just need to make sure that your brother there was tellin' me the truth and no more harm's come to that little girl's grave."
Sam tried to remember the exact state in which they had left the grave. It was hard to think with his head throbbing, but he needed to know…if the sheriff saw the grave sight, would he see evidence of the fire? If he did, he considered that it might be better for Dean and himself to be there and try to explain it away…before the man pressed charges. Pushing his head injury aside, Sam spoke to the sheriff, "Sheriff, we'll walk back over there with you right now, so that you can see nothing happened." Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw Dean's eyes widen in shock at Sam's suggestion. Dean was definitely going to have something to say to him later.
The sheriff nodded at Sam's suggestion, but then held out a hand palm up, "You can hand over the shotgun though." Sam smiled and did as told.
The brothers made their way back to the grave with the sheriff. They stood off to the side, Sam nervous and Dean seething, as the sheriff inspected the grave. Finally, the sheriff approached the brothers, "Alright. It doesn't look too bad. You said you boys were leavin' tomorrow?"
The brothers nodded and the sheriff nodded back, "You make sure that you do. I don't need to be worrying about what you boys are gonna do next."
Sam sighed in relief as the sheriff walked away. Dean called out to him, "Sheriff." The sheriff turned back around and Dean spoke to him seriously, "I meant it when I said that I had respect for you and the people of this town."
The sheriff nodded, "I know you did son. I can read eyes real well." Then he looked at Sam, "I know when I'm being lied to." Then he turned around and walked away.
Sam took a breath, ashamed at how dishonest he had been, although he knew he hadn't truly had a choice. The truth just wasn't an option, and the lie, well, other than pissing off Dean, the lie had worked; they weren't in jail.
After the sheriff was out of earshot, Dean turned on his brother, "What the hell dude? I have to be the crazy loon that goes grave digging in the middle of the night while you save me from doing something stupid? What the hell was that Sam?"
Sam said nothing; wincing seemed to be his only response to his brother's anger. Dean shook his head and stalked off back towards the motel with Sam following after him.
Ten minutes later, the brothers entered their motel room. Dean was still angered, in part by his brother's 'story', but more as a response to the sheer amount of emotion he had gone through this night. This entire hunt seemed to have burned itself into Dean's memory. He began reviewing tonight's events in his head as he changed his clothes. Looking back on it, he was almost amazed at how fast everything had happened. One minute he was pouring the lighter fluid, the next minute Sam was dead, the next minute he was dead, and then the next minute they were both alive again. Well, except that apparently, other than the lighter fluid, none of that had really happened. Dean realized that in truth, he had no idea what actually had happened. He understood a little bit about how he survived burning alive because of what Sam had told him. However, he hadn't actually seen the benevolent spirit for himself, and felt a little disappointed about that. In addition, he had absolutely no idea as to how it came about that Sam wasn't dead.
Hoping his brother could shed some light on that topic as well, Dean turned around to question Sam. Upon seeing his brother in the light, the questions flew out of his mind and he gasped. Sam looked up at him and Dean walked towards him, "Sam, your neck."
Sam nodded as best he could, "Yeah, she tried to electrocute me through my neck."
Dean flinched, "Yeah I saw."
Surprised that Dean had seen it, Sam continued, "The current must not have been strong enough, or maybe the spirit held some of it back. I don't know. Either way though, she just ended up burning me."
Dean's memory of Sam lying still on the ground with Jillian on top of him replayed in front of his eyes. Angry at having to live through his brother's death needlessly, Dean turned to Sam, "Why the hell didn't you do anything Sam? You didn't even fight her!"
Sam stepped back, not expecting his brother's anger. Dean took another step towards him, "I watched it Sam, I thought she had electrocuted you. You weren't moving."
Sam stood still in understanding. So that was what had happened. That was where Dean thought that he had died. Finally Sam understood his brother's anger. He understood it well, having lived through the same despair himself this past night. He spoke to his brother, "I was stunned. My head hit the gravestone and…" he looked at Dean's eyes, "there was nothing I could do Dean. I couldn't push her off, my hands would have gone right through her."
Dean seemed to accept the explanation as all the anger visibly left him. Dean sat on Sam's bed with his head down. Sam resumed speaking, "I'm sorry you thought I was dead, Dean."
Dean continued to look down, saying nothing. Sam's voice dropped to a soft whisper as he spoke seriously, "I lived through that too tonight."
Dean looked up and locked eyes with his brother. Sam was right. They had both been through hell tonight…it was time to move past it. They were both alive and that was what really mattered. Dean stood up and gently tilted Sam's head to the side to look at his neck. He cursed his damaged vision as he was unable to determine how bad the burns actually were. He shook his head, "Sam I can see the burns, but I can't see how bad."
Sam answered the unspoken question, "To be honest, I'm more concerned about my head. The back of my head's killing me and I'm still getting waves of dizziness."
Dean cursed again. He needed to check his brother's pupils but was unsure if he would be able to see if they were dilated. He ushered Sam into the bathroom where there was better light and force his brother to sit on the edge of the toilet. Pulling out a flashlight, Dean checked his brother's eyes and relaxed in relief that not only could he see the pupils, but also, they weren't dilated.
Dean's gaze dropped back to Sam's neck and he grimaced. In the brighter light of the bathroom, he could see Sam's neck better. The burns looked bad. There were red handprints on both sides of his neck and in some areas, the skin was blistering. "Sam, these burns are pretty bad, man. You're sprouting blisters."
Sam looked surprised, "Really?" He reached up to feel the blisters but Dean swatted his hand away, "Don't touch 'em."
Dean went to get the first aide kit. Sam spoke up as he walked back into the room, "They don't feel that bad. In fact, they hardly hurt at all…unless I turn my head."
Dean began treating Sam's neck with ointment and taping a bandage over the wounds. "Yeah, well, I have a feeling they're going to hurt like a bitch tomorrow. To be honest Sammy, they look bad enough that we should go to the hospital."
Sam shook his head, "We can't Dean, it'll bring up too many questions. How would we explain them?"
Sam was right, they would bring up questions and the sheriff's attention, but there were priorities to think about, "That's not my main concern, man. You're just getting over an infection and these burns are gonna be breeding ground for it to come back."
Sam argued, "I'm still on the antibiotic." Dean looked unconvinced and Sam tried again, "Look, Dean, we're leaving tomorrow. If it gets worse, or my fever comes back, we'll stop at a hospital in another town…far away from here."
Dean deliberated with himself before nodding in agreement. Then he left the room again. Sam walked over and laid down face first on the bed. Two minutes later Dean re-entered the room carrying a bucket filled with ice. As he had done earlier in the week, he wrapped the ice in a towel, except this time he placed the towel gently on the back of Sam's head. As he placed the towel down, Dean noticed that there was no blood, but a bump the size of a golf ball could be seen from about two feet away…and that was with his eyes. Sam winced but held the towel in place.
Suddenly, and with urgency, Sam spoke out, "Dean are you hurt?"
Dean looked back at the bed confused, "No dude. Why would you think that?"
Sam looked at him incredulously, "You fell into a burning grave."
Dean raised his eyebrows as he considered Sam's point. He had fallen into a burning grave…and he could remember watching the flames spread on his arms, but he didn't seem to notice any pain. Dean looked down to check himself over. Other than his hair and skin smelling a bit smoky, there seemed to be no evidence that he had been anywhere near a fire, much less in one. He turned back to Sam, who was still looking at him concerned, and shrugged, "Sorry man, looks like you're the only one with the burns," then he grinned, "I look good."
Sam rolled his eyes and laid his head back on the bed, "That's fine by me. I'd prefer it if only one of us had burns."
Dean didn't respond, instead he laid down on his rollaway. The night had taken it out of him. He shook his head and looked at Sam who was turned away from him, still holding the ice pack on the back of his head. Things had come very close to ending horribly different tonight. They had been extremely lucky, and Dean was extremely grateful. It was clear that someone or something had had their back tonight. Dean turned his head up to the ceiling staring at it in gratefulness. Finally, he took a breath and whispered, "Thank you."
Smiling at himself he looked back over at his brother, "Sam?" Sam grunted in response. "You okay to sleep? Should I wake you up?"
Sam mumbled something indiscernible in reply, which Dean took as a 'yes, you should wake me up'. That was fine, so long as there was a brother there to wake.
Every two hours…every two hours, without any help from an alarm clock, Dean woke himself up and then woke Sam. And every time Sam woke without a problem. After the fourth time, Dean decided that since it was now 1pm, he might as well go to the mechanic's to check on the car.
He left a note for Sam, who had fallen back asleep, and arranged with the motel owners for him and Sam to check out by 8 pm and not have to pay for the day. As he walked to the garage, Dean found himself staring at his arms. He couldn't get over it. He had been inside a grave while it was on fire. The flames had been all around him, he watched them spread on his skin, he had known that he was going to die there, and now here he was the next day and not even a hair had been singed. He shook his head, the whole thing was just amazing.
Upon entering Ben's garage, Dean broke into a huge smile. The Impala was facing him, a shiny new bumper attached to it's front. Currently, Ben was seated in front of the car reattaching the grill. He turned, noticing Dean, and dropped his tools. Then he stood up and approached Dean with a scowl on his face. "Sheriff paid me a little visit this mornin'."
Dean cringed, this couldn't be good, silently he cursed his brother for dragging Ben into the mess with sheriff. Ben regarded Dean's silence, "Ain't you got nothin' ta say Dean? That man always thought I was involved in that girl's death; now ya up an' reminded him 'bout the whole dang thing. You should've seen 'im in here this mornin' interrogatin' me about what I done told you. Why the hell'd you drag me inta this?"
Dean shook his head in apology and held his hands up in defense, "I'm sorry man, I didn't mean to get you involved. If you want me to do something…say something to the sheriff…" Dean briefly thought of informing Ben that it was his brother that caused the mess for the mechanic, but unlike Sam, Dean seemed to have a mental block against offering his brother up as a blame- even when he had done it.
The mechanic squinted at Dean and shook his head in response to Dean's offer, "No thanks. Ya done enough. I jest don't understand why ya had ta rat me out."
Dean defended himself, "All we told the sheriff was that you had told me that Jillian may have killed her sisters. That's it dude. Nothing else."
Now the mechanic looked confused, "Ya didn't say nothin' 'bout the car or the way Jillian died?"
Dean shook his head in confusion and the mechanic stepped back, a thoughtful look on his face, "Why that sly little…" He looked up at Dean, "Sheriff done told me that you said a lot more…He was tryin' to get me to let somethin' slip." Ben shook his head and smiled, "That there was the only case in his entire career that he never arrested nobody fer. I think he always known who done it though, he just never could prove nothing'." Ben walked back to the car still speaking, "Man's got the persistence of a termite. Jest keeps gnawin' at ya' till yer whole dang house collapses."
Dean laughed and tried to change the subject, "The car looks great Ben."
Ben turned back to Dean, clearly still annoyed although now the annoyance seemed to be more directed at the sheriff than Dean, "Bumper and grill got in about nine this mornin'." He tapped the hood of the Impala, "She was real happy ta see 'em too. She perked right up when I unpacked 'em from the box."
Dean smiled and walked over to his car, "Well I'm real happy to see her." Then Dean spoke to the car, "You're almost finished honey and then you can come on home and I promise, I won't let Sam spill any more blood on your beautiful body."
Ben chuckled to himself as he heard Dean's speech to the car, then he interrupted it, "If yer done with yer pep talk, we still got a grill to put in."
Within an hour, the grill was attached and the car was ready. Dean shook hands with the mechanic, paying him in cash for his hard work. Normally, he'd pay by credit card for that sort of thing, but given the fraudulent state of the cards, it would be uncertain if the mechanic would get paid, and Dean wanted him to be paid for all his work on the car.
The car now finished, Dean got behind the wheel and reveled in the feeling of the steering wheel, gas pedal, and brake. He had gone for eight days without that feeling, which had been way too long. God, he had missed his car.
Dean drove out of the auto shop and down the three blocks to the motel. As he drove, the short distance, he realized that there was a problem. His vision was good enough for driving during the day in a small town or probably on a deserted highway, but even in those instances, it would have to be bright and sunny. If it were cloudy or if he needed to read a street or road sign, there was no way he could drive. And if it were night…
Dean parked the car in front of his motel room and sighed. Even if it weren't night, he'd really need a second set of eyes to back him up on the road. Dean thought briefly about letting Sam drive, but with the head injury and the likely limited neck movement, Sam would be an even worse candidate for driver.
Dean sat back in the driver's seat and played with his lips as he thought. They were going to need to- scratch that- Sam was going to need to plot a course to a nearby town, city…something. And they weren't going to be able to double up on the driving. It had to be a one shot drive with both brothers awake and alert…and it needed to happen now. The longer they waited, the less daylight they would have to drive in. So much for leaving at 8pm.
Dean entered the motel room and was relieved to see Sam showered, changed, and eating. Upon seeing Dean, he pointed to a box of doughnuts. "I just picked them up."
Dean ignored the doughnuts and started pulling the weapons out from under the bed. "Eat them in the car dude, we gotta leave now."
Sam sucked the icing off of his fingers and gave his brother a confused look, "Why? What's going on?"
Dean spoke as he wrapped the weapons in towels for a more inconspicuous transport, "We need to get to another motel by nightfall."
Sam didn't catch on, "Why? What happens at nightfall?"
Dean turned and looked at him, "My vision goes from not so great to practically blind."
Sam shook his head, still not understanding the rush, "So I'll drive."
Dean paused, raised his eyebrows, and then nodded. Then he picked up a nearby bottle of holy water and threw it past Sam's head. As Dean had expected, Sam tracked the holy water with his head as it whizzed past him. His head barely made it fifteen degrees towards his shoulder before he grabbed the side of his neck and gasped in pain.
Dean rolled his eyes and retrieved the holy water, "Any other suggestions genius?"
Sam didn't respond, still breathing hard from the pain. Dean put down the holy water and moved over to probe the bump on his brother's head. He heard Sam gasp as he touched the sore spot, but the bump itself had clearly receded. "Your head looks better."
Sam pushed his brother's hand away from his head, "Yeah. It only hurts when you touch it."
Dean noticed that Sam still had one hand on his bandaged neck. He assumed that Sam had rebandaged the neck himself after his shower. "How bad's your neck?"
Sam shrugged, getting up to continue where Dean had left off gathering the weapons. "You were right, man. It hurts like a bitch."
"And your back?"
Sam stopped his actions and looked up smiling, "You'll be happy to know that that at least is healed."
Dean rolled his eyes, "It's about damn time something was."
The brothers worked together putting all of the weapons back in the car. When they had finished, Sam stood back and admired the refurbished Impala. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Dean watching him. Sam pointed at the car, "She looks good."
Dean grinned and patted the hood, "Your damn right she does. Best looking girl in this town."
Sam laughed. Dean caught his brother's eyes, "She looks even better with the original bumper and grill."
Sam gave an embarrassed smile. And Dean nodded over at him, "Seriously man, where'd you get the parts? I've been calling everywhere."
Sam shrugged, "I just called a friend from college. His dad owns a classic car shop. I told him my big brother had had a hard week and I wanted to do something nice for him. You know, to pay him back for taking care of me."
Clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable with Sam's gratefulness, Dean grumbled something and hopped into the driver's seat. Sam laughed at his brother's embarrassment and took his place in the driver's seat.
Dean started the car and put it reverse. However, before he backed the car up, he paused staring at the steering wheel. "Thanks Sam." It was short, and needed no reply. Sam smiled. Finally…one of his well-intentioned plans had gone right.
A short time later, the boys found themselves back on the road. As they left, Sam thought about the town. It was a weird feeling. Like Dean, he really wanted to just get the hell out of there, but in a way, so much had happened in that town…both of them had gone through so much there, that leaving the town presented him with an odd feeling. He had grown in that town and more importantly, his relationship with his brother had grown in that town. It was almost as though that town had somehow bridged a gap between the relationship he had had with Dean as a child to the relationship they had as adults. He would always be Dean's little brother and Dean would always take care of Sam when it was needed, but it was no longer one sided…and Dean was no longer unbreakable. Finally their relationship worked two ways and Sam felt truly, for the first time in his life, that he really was an equal member of a team. No longer a tag-along or a sidekick or a backup, finally he was a partner.
As Sam contemplated the growth in their relationship, Dean drove, contemplating the hunt. This had genuinely been one of the most difficult hunts that he had been on in a long time. Leaving that town and knowing that they had been successful was an incredible feeling. It was a good fight. It wasn't just another hunt where they had destroyed some bones, ended a ghost, and moved on. There was literally blood, sweat, and tears in this hunt and they had FOUGHT for the win…and they got it. Dean felt the smile grow on his face, this had to be the best feeling in the world. It didn't even matter that the town had never really been in danger from the ghost, that if they hadn't destroyed her, the benevolent spirit would have kept her under control. It didn't matter. It was bigger than that. Even if they hadn't really saved any lives, still they freed a good spirit. A spirit that was now free to move on to it's next mission and bring more miracles into this world.
Dean realized with a start that Sam had been right all along. They had been on that road, this road, for a reason. They had been given a mission. Not to save Jillian's soul, as Sam had originally thought, but to free the spirit. The thought blew Dean's mind; they had been given an assignment. His eyes widened as he realized the implications of that thought…holy crap they had been given an assignment. Someone had seen what they had been doing and decided to give them a job.
It was no longer 'Sam and Dean versus whatever'. It was 'good versus evil' and they had just played on the team, not as leaders or followers, but as respected team members…and with other players…other supernatural players. It was going from playing one-on-one your entire life to playing on the team. It was incredible, all the things they had done in their lives…they had been recruited and given numbers. They were officially playing for team 'good'.
Ignorant of each other's contemplations, but incredibly happy with their own, the two brothers drove their way down Rt. 20 of central Wyoming. The radio remained silent, but it didn't matter; they didn't need it. This was one of the most exciting roads they had ever encountered.
Review and let me know what you think of the finale!
And once again, thank you all so much for all your encouragement and support throughout this entire process. You have all made my first time at ffnet, an enjoyable one. Thank you so much.