"God." Still-as-a-statue time was over, and Sam's arms flailed a bit as he started through the space in the ruined guardrail and down the slope, not caring much for finding footing or staying upright. He hadn't made it ten awkward, mucky steps when he slipped on a patch of slick grass and loose rocks and landed on the incline, flat on his back twenty feet from the mangled vehicle, and wasn't entirely sure he was going to be able to get back up.
He lay there for a few deep breaths and hard blinks, his already sore side screaming at him, freezing rainwater biting as it hit his face and exposed arms. But not numbing. Get it together. Because Dean was going to need him to have it together. There was blood…
And that got Sam moving again. He grunted and pulled himself up out of the mud and was at the side of the vehicle in six seconds flat; clothes and hair sodden, steps weighted down with mud and something more.
Deep ruts were ripped through the grass and weeds the whole way down from the road, leading to where the truck now rested on its driver side. An uprooted sapling had been dragged along for a bit before snapping in half, trunk lying discarded to the side and branches poking out of the undercarriage of the truck.
As for the F150 itself, the passenger side had been mauled and was reflecting moonlight and rebounding raindrops from dips of twisted metal. The entire side of the considerable cab was smashed, the door unhinged and cradled in. This had been the hit that had done it, that had pushed the truck over the edge, and Sam was teetering on his own edge as he had a momentary and uncharacteristic urge to bring Callie back just so he could burn the spirit all over again.
What was visible of the bed of the truck was no better; a deep gouge ran the length of the truck, and Sam imagined sparks shooting out as it ground along the railing. Divots littered the side, every mark exaggerated by the hard shadows cast by the white moon. It was bad; really, really bad.
He really had taken way too fucking long.
Sam ran around to the side/windshield of the truck, bracing himself on the glass before the sudden halt and slipping feet sent him back hard to the mud. "Dean." Sam's voice came out a cracked croak, and he barely heard it himself. He risked a moderately forceful bang of his palm against the windshield, trying to rouse his still brother. "Dean."
The lack of response tightened the knot in Sam's gut. He wasn't really expecting an answer, but God, anything would have been better than that silence. Silence, and the otherwise calming pit-pit of rain against warped metal.
He knelt down on his hands and knees and tried to get a look inside the cab, but it was too fucking dark and there was too much rain and hair in his eyes and he couldn't see a damn thing…
Another bolt of lightning streaked across the sky and, curse or blessing, he got a better look at his brother.
"Better" being a relative term.
Dean was somehow simultaneously splayed and crammed in the cramped space, his body shoved up in the corner of the cab, limbs at all angles. His left arm was above and behind his head, like he had thrown it up to keep from hitting the window. Red smears were visible on the plaster cast encasing the arm; he didn't keep from hitting everything. Red covered what was visible of his face, running from the cut at his hairline that had already been stitched once, and the steering wheel was pushed right up next to his side. Sam couldn't tell from where he was if Dean was pinned in place or not, but he didn't really care. He just wanted Dean out.
Sam pounded lightly on the glass again. "Dean!"
He was met once again with the harsh reality of silence. Please, just please just be breathing. He couldn't tell.
A scared and frustrated noise came from somewhere in Sam's throat, and he pulled himself to his feet. Sam wanted to be doing anything but just standing there, but he had no idea how to get to Dean. And Dean needed getting to.
He glanced back up at the road and the county truck. The dome light was on, and he could hear the faint ding ding letting him know that the driver door was ajar.
Sam ran his hands through his soaking wet hair and swore. He spun back and ducked down, trying once again to see his brother in the dark. "Hang on, Dean." He knew Dean couldn't hear him, but he needed to say something. Needed to at least reassure himself.
Uphill was about a hundred times harder than downhill had been, and by the time Sam made it back up to the truck, he had knocked his knee on a rock twice, brought his hand down on a stick, and uttered every curse in his sizeable vocabulary. He flung open the passenger side door and nearly fell onto the bench seat, grabbing his phone from where he had left it behind.
He called for an ambulance, giving the dispatcher a sketchy account of a fictitious accident and the best estimate of where they were that he could, and hung up on the girl before she could tell him to stay on the line. He shoved the phone in his jeans pocket and turned to hurry back down to the truck, but paused. He eyes flicked to the bed of the truck. It was a groundskeepers' truck…there was maybe something there that he could use to smash in the windshield.
Sam ripped back the bright blue tarp covering the bed, and said a silent little thank you that there was a small shovel. He grabbed it and ran back down as fast he could while staying on his feet.
Upon reaching the truck, he dropped to the ground once again, knees hitting with a splash and a suck at the same time, and put his face back up to the glass. Dean hadn't moved at all. He glanced around at the framing of the glass and the space he had to work with. It wouldn't be too difficult to knock in, it was already weak and webbed with cracks, but then he risked hurting Dean further. But Dean was crammed so far to the side, he might be okay.
Sam stood and took a shaky step back, hefting the shovel and aiming it tentatively at the weakest-looking section of the glass, a spot heavily cracked and somewhere hopefully far enough above Dean. There was a slight thud when the metal connected, and it might have just been his imagination that the cracked glass shifted, because he barely let it strike the glass before he pulled it back. Face set, he stabbed the shovel forward again, harder this time, and the glass gave. Sam winced as sparkling pieces rained down on Dean like confetti.
Sam rotated the shovel in his hands and used it to scoop the remaining section of the windshield outward. "Sorry, man," he said quietly as more bits of glass showered over his brother's prone form.
As soon as he had cleared away enough of the glass to squeeze all six-plus feet of himself in through the frame of the windshield, Sam tossed the shovel aside and ducked into the cab. There wasn't really anywhere that provided good footing; he planted his left foot on the center console and braced an arm in the corner over Dean's head. As soon as he was in, though, good footing was the last thing on Sam's mind. Just please be breathing.
"Hey. Dean. Hey." He grabbed at Dean as gently as his fear and panic would allow. A creeping sense of déjà vu slithered and shivered its way down Sam's spine and landed somewhere in his gut, and he didn't like it at all. Didn't like how pale Dean's face was in the shafts of moonlight worming their way into the cab. Didn't like the way his brother's head lolled in his hands as his fingers scrambled to find a pulse.
But at least he found one this time.
Sam's ribs and all muscles in general protested the awkward crouch that he held leaning over his brother, but he kept the uncomfortable position, trying to assess the visible damage. He was relieved to see Dean wasn't being smashed in any way by the steering wheel, but the amount of blood on Dean's face concerned him, coming from small scratches that covered his face and the deeper gash on his forehead. Sam hissed in sympathy as he tilted Dean's head up, not wanting to jostle but needing to see where the blood on the cast had come from. As he lifted Dean's head, he saw the sprinkling of red that had dripped onto the glass below him. His left hand found the cut before his eyes saw it and he pulled it away, supporting Dean's head with his right.
"God, Dean," Sam breathed out, studying the blood on his fingertips. A small groan drew his attention, and he glanced down to see Dean's face fall into a pained frown as he started to shift. "Hey," he encouraged, bringing his brother's head back down as gently as he could.
Dean swallowed and let out a slow breath, working his eyes open with a few long blinks. His hand rose to wipe at his face, but it fell back heavily. He blinked wearily at Sam.
Sam grinned, leaning forward with hands hovering in that way that would really piss Dean off if he was fully aware of his surroundings. "Hey."
Dean rolled his head away from Sam and he reached out, not wanting Dean to move around too much, especially with his second head injury in such a short time.
Dean's frown deepened and his eyes fell shut again. "Dude. Person'l space."
Sam's grin widened, the knot in his stomach slowly starting to loosen. "Yeah, well get used to it. Ambulance is on its way."
Dean groaned and struggled to shove up on his elbow, trying to sit up without an inch of success. He fell back and continued to blink hard at Sam. "Why?" he breathed.
"Because I'm not moving you and I don't have a medical degree."
Dean's eyebrows rose and fell with a wince. He tried for a smile, and it came out a pained, crooked quirk of his mouth. "Get t' work on that."
Sam sat back on the center console, patting Dean's leg. "First thing in the morning, man."
Dean nodded and let out a breath but appeared far from relaxed. His eyes were squeezed shut, and he kept shifting uncomfortably, grimacing as his arms and legs met resistance against the glass of the window beneath him and the hard plastic of the dash board in his face.
Sam gripped his leg again. "Dean, man. Just stay still, alright? Don't move around."
"Yeah, yeah." Dean made a face but settled, resting his head against the glass of the window. After a moment, he raised his head a few inches, eyes widening pointedly at Sam's hand, still on his leg. "Hands?"
Sam pulled the arm into his lap with a smile. "Yeah."
It was quiet for a moment; nothing but the sound of lessening raindrops on the metal overhead and random coughs and grunts from Dean. Sam's ears perked to the distant whine of sirens, and he immediately made as if to move, to go meet the ambulance at the road, but paused, looking back at Dean.
"Go, Sam." Dean's eyes were closed, but he was just like that. "Don't want them t' miss the turn," he joked.
"They're not going to miss it," Sam said softly, the image of the damaged rail popping into his mind. He stayed where he was, not wanting to leave Dean alone there for even a minute. The sirens grew closer, and Dean continued to wriggle.
"Scratch under m'cast for me, would ya?"
By afternoon, Dean was fine. Of that, he was sure. It had been over twelve hours since he had come to in the tipped-over truck. That was more than enough time to heal, and he was FINE. A nap and some coffee, that's what he needed. Maybe a beer. He didn't need to still be propped up in a flat hospital bed, and he didn't need the bag that was still slowly dripping borrowed blood into his arm. He was positive it couldn't have been THAT bad. He'd certainly had plenty worse before.
Yes, he had only a vague recollection of the night's events. He remembered driving Nate's truck. He remembered creaking and groaning metal, sudden blackness and sudden Sammy, hands all inside his personal space. Sam had swallowed hard and shifted his weight and told him the truck was totaled, and Dean had frowned and told him it couldn't have been that bad.
Sam let out a crazy little laugh and scratched at his forehead. He had said "Yeah," and quietly excused himself to get some coffee.
Yes, he couldn't move a single muscle in his face without a tight pull from any of the numerous stitches on his face and head. The six that had popped on his forehead had been replaced with eleven new ones, and there were another twelve buried somewhere in his hair on the left side where he had connected a little too hard with his cast. And didn't he just feel like a dope for that. There were a dozen little itches all over his face; nicks from broken glass which Dean had insisted until he was practically yelling had probably been there before Sam had smashed in the windshield.
Yes, every last inch of him was sore and tired and felt bruised to hell. Breathing wasn't a pleasant experience; there was heavy bruising from when he had slammed into the steering wheel, but nothing cracked or broken. Every one of his fingers felt huge, but only one was a real problem. A couple stitches had been sewn into his left middle finger, which he had split knuckle to knuckle at some point, and had actually managed to pop that middle knuckle out of place. The finger looked and felt really awkward, wrapped, splinted and sticking straight up of out of the cast, but it gave him an excuse for flipping Sam the bird at every opportunity. The cast had been cut off and replaced.
But he was fine. And all of the hovering by nurses and doctors was only encouraging Sam. His little brother had disappeared soon after they had gotten Dean settled in the ER, but returned fairly quickly, walking into Dean's room a little stiffly, dropped into a chair and hadn't moved in hours. He was currently slumped forward, all awkward angles with his head drooped and supported in his left hand braced on the arm of the plastic chair, his right arm wrapped tightly around his middle, legs crossed at the ankles and shoved under.
Dean glanced at the wall clock and then at the now-empty bag hanging on the IV stand next to him and was convinced that meant it was time to go. "Sam."
"We're going, okay?"
"Mm." Sam jerked and sat up, wincing slightly and blinking away the end of his little impromptu nap. "What?"
"I'm goin' crazy, man. I can't just sit here."
Sam shrugged and leaned back, adjusting his arms to cross over his midsection. He closed his eyes with a tired sigh. "Then lie down."
"Sam – "
"We're not going anywhere, Dean. You're staying in that bed."
"Dude. Sammy, I'm fine – "
The look Sam gave him was filled with an authority that Dean didn't know his brother had. He bit back the protest he had begun and sat back, only to go to work on a whole new one. "Sam – "
"Dean." Sam was wide-awake now, his eyes sharp and alert. "Just…please. For me?"
Dean rolled his eyes and shook his head, pissed Sam would pull that one out, and annoyed it worked. He crossed his arms awkwardly over his chest and huffed. "Whatever, man. But you're not allowed to pull that bullshit again for at least six months."
"Deal." Sam laid his head back again, resting the nape of his neck against the hard plastic. He flung his legs out in front of him, and they reached all the way to the edge of Dean's bed.
Dean stared at Sam's shoes, plans involving tying his laces together starting to form in his head. These plans were pushed down and saved for later when he took in just how exhausted his little brother appeared. He wanted to tell him to go back to the motel and get some real rest, that Sam didn't need to worry about him checking himself out AMA, but what came out of his mouth was, "You don't need to watch over me."
Sam didn't open his eyes. "And you don't need to be an ass about it, but here we are."
Dean rolled his eyes again and reached for the remote control to the small television bolted up in the corner. He started flipping through the channels and stopped on some cooking show. Not because he was by any means fascinated by the program but because something had worked its way into his mind, something that he had forgotten to remember. "Sammy?"
Sigh. Someone was pissy that his nap was being interrupted. "Yeah, Dean."
"The painkillers?" Dean started with just enough ice in his tone to get Sam's full attention, and boy, did it ever work. He bolted upright, looking like a guilty little boy. "You ever try something like that again, and you don't even want to know what I'm going to do to you."
Sam coughed and fought a grin, despite Dean's lethal tone and glare. "Deal."
"You boys got lucky. My buddy Steve, over in Lowell County, he's got a '67 been sittin' on his yard for a few years now." Bernie rested an elbow on the top of his toolbox and inspected his filthy nail beds as Dean inspected the work he had done to the car.
It was Monday afternoon, and Dean was bending a little stiffly, kept wincing and rubbing his right hand against his chest, but seemed to be doing alright. Sam had stayed at the hospital all day Sunday, running down to the cafeteria a few times for some coffee and a questionable-looking turkey sandwich and right back up to Dean's room. He spent the day nodding off at random intervals, each time waking, usually because Dean was announcing loudly his annoyance and/or boredom with being held prisoner in the hospital, to feel even stiffer than he had the time before. He had been fairly successful in keeping Dean in his bed, up until the point Nate DeWitt had come by.
Naturally, an officer had been called to the hospital to talk to the two of them regarding the accident Sam had made up, to explain both Dean's and the truck's injuries, and the bruises on his own back and ribcage. DeWitt had been quiet and distant, not really meeting Sam's eyes as Sam recited the BS story he had put together in the waiting room. Sam understood – there were associations the man was probably not too eager to be making again anytime soon. The well-known, hardened officer had surprised the hospital staff by patting Sam on the shoulder, shooting a quick glance into Dean's room, and leaving it at that.
He had brought with him Sam's jacket and duffel from the cemetery and Dean's cell phone miraculously intact and recovered from his own totaled truck, and had been strangely careful, almost reverent, with the items as he placed them on the floor next to Sam. Sam wanted to know how he had explained away any inquiries as to how the two of them had come to be driving his truck, but the man, understandably, had not been very talkative.
Sam placed the phone on the little table by Dean's bed, and didn't think anything of it when Dean shot it almost threatening glances all Sunday evening. He understood in the morning, though, because first thing Monday – assuming work started at eleven AM for the pudgy mechanic – his brother got a call from Bernie.
"How soon can I get there?" Dean had given a light laugh that didn't match his situation. "Bernie, you insult me."
And then Bernie may have very well insulted his brother, because Dean sneered and hung up. He had sat up, awkwardly pulling at the IV line in his hand with the four available fingers on his left hand.
"Dean, what the hell are you doing?"
"Car's done." Dean pounded on the "call nurse" button on the side of his bed.
Sam had stood up, quickly crossing the small room to smack Dean's hand away. "Are you kidding me?"
Dean had stared at him with that Look, as if daring him to smack him ever again as he defiantly stabbed at the button again. "Do I look like I'm kidding?"
"No, you look like you need to be in the hospital."
"I'm fine, Sam. Really. A-OK."
"It's a car."
Dean deadpanned. "Is that what it is?"
"And you're about to fall over."
Dean had clumsily climbed out of the bed and was standing stubbornly beside it, very obviously swaying. He blinked and lifted his chin. "Am not."
He was to, and it was a good thing Sam had been right there next to him, or he might have hit the ground. The dizziness didn't last long, though, and Sam finally gave in to Dean's bitching around one o' clock. Dean signed himself out and they were at the body shop less than an hour later.
Sam didn't know a lot about cars, but the Impala looked good as new to him. Impressively so. Dean, however, appeared to have a different opinion. After a few clipped sentences to the mechanic, he had walked a long, slow loop around the entire car, and was now hovering near the new driver's side door with a deep frown.
"What is it?" Sam gathered up the courage to ask. Bernie's eyes darted between the two, whether angry or annoyed was hard to tell.
Dean shook his head, kneeling by the door with narrowed eyes. He brought up his right hand and lightly trailed his fingers along the edge, just under the window. Suddenly, he looked up sharply at Bernie. "This door wasn't black."
Bernie clucked his tongue and waved a hand, the other scratching at his considerable belly. "No one's going to be able to tell."
"I can tell."
"Kid, it could well be a damn month before I can get you a black door. You wanted it done quick, and I got it done quick. You should be thanking me." Bernie was getting pissed, his craftsmanship called into question, and he took a step forward, drawing all five and a half feet of himself up.
Dean rose as well, albeit a bit shakily. Sensing another heated argument between Dean and the mechanic was just getting started, Sam slid smoothly in between them. "You're right. It looks great," he said quickly.
When Dean said nothing, silently seething at his brother's betrayal, Sam nudged Dean with his elbow. "Doesn't it look great, Dean?" he asked pointedly, eyes wide.
Dean's lip was still curled in disgust as he stared at the now-black door. "Great," he echoed sarcastically.
Sam smiled politely at Bernie. "Thanks for all your help. Really."
Bernie chuckled. "Don't thank me yet." His face deadpanned. "You haven't seen the bill."
And they weren't going to. Sam had to work hard to keep his awed face blank as Dean pulled out some bogus auto insurance information; he had no idea how his brother had managed to swing that one. And Dean didn't tell him, ether. Just shrugged and said "What?" with that cocky-ass grin of his.
Bernie brought the car around to the curb, and as they left the body shop, they were surprised to find themselves face-to-face with Nate DeWitt.
"Hey," Sam said uneasily.
DeWitt looked between them, his expression hard to read. "I just…I guess I wanted to thank you boys."
Dean shook his head, holding up his good hand. "That's really not necessary – "
"No. No, it is." DeWitt placed his hands on his hips and squinted in the sunlight. "You risked your lives out there last night, for people that you'll never know. Never meet. That's really something."
Sam frowned. "Callie – "
"Callie was gone a long time ago. I know that." The officer's face was serious. "You boys did a good thing."
Neither Winchester knew how to respond. What they did was never really acknowledged in any way. They rarely got the chance to hear from an outside perspective what they were doing was meaningful. They did a lot of justifying their actions to themselves and one another, but to hear it from someone else…it was new.
They nodded, neither really aware they were mimicking the other.
Nate bobbed his head as well. "Yeah, well." He chuckled uneasily. "I'm still not so sure I want to see you boys back in town anytime soon."
Sam laughed lightly and ducked his head.
"You got it," Dean said.
An uneasy silence settled over the three now that what had needed to be said had been said. DeWitt's eyes roamed over the area, searching for somewhere else for his attention to go. He spotted the Impala at the curb and cocked his head, studying the car with a frown. "Huh."
Dean was next to him in a flash, face filled with worry. "What?"
"Was that door always black?"
They drove back to the motel in contemplative silence, Sam driving and Dean sulking in the passenger seat. Both were more then ready to get out of Claremont and to wherever they were going next. Wounds would heal and rest would come, but this town couldn't find itself in their rearview mirror quick enough.
Sam parked the Impala near the door to their room. He left a curiously wide-eyed Dean to gather their things, and went on to the manager's office with a good chunk of the remainder of Dean's pool hall winnings. He paid for the extra nights they had taken at the motel and checked them out.
He walked around the corner and neared their room, frowning when he saw Dean still standing outside of the door, rocking back and forth on his heels. "Don't you have the key?"
"Why would I have the key?" Dean frowned and shook his head very convincingly, but something was off.
Sam studied Dean carefully, knowing full-well his brother had demanded being in possession of at least the room key after Sam had kept the keys to the Impala out of his reach, telling him he wasn't in any condition to drive.
Dean had been pissed, arguing his health for a full ten minutes before shoving his wrapped and at-attention left middle digit in Sam's amused face. He had relinquished control of his baby to Sam, and Sam had handed over the room key – and besides, why would he be stupid enough to leave Dean to get their things if he didn't have the key to their room?
Then Sam saw Dean's eyes widen a little more than was completely necessary, and he sighed. "It's in the cast, isn't it?"