A/N: This fic is a Secret Santa present for Joella from the SFTCOL(AR)S board. She wanted a "Bloody Mary" add-on covering the next 24 hours in the boys' lives. Merry Christmas, Joella!
Arms of an Angel (1/?)
"Dude, nothing in this town is that interesting."
Sam blinked, darting a glance at his brother before returning his gaze to the street corner. He swallowed, his dry throat clicking and his arms breaking out in gooseflesh.
Jessica was gone. If she'd even been there at all.
"Sam? Something wrong?"
"I'm fine. Just... Thought for a second I saw someone I knew, that's all."
"Okay." Dean's tone clearly indicated that he knew there was more, but he let it lie.
Sam scrunched down in his seat, fingers massaging his forehead in a vain attempt to ease the headache throbbing behind his right eye. Last night had been another in an endless string of mostly sleepless nights. By the time he and Dean had stumbled out of the antique shop, barely evading the slowly awakening cops ("Dean, you took out two cops?" "Dude, they were totally asking for it") it was well after midnight. Charlie had been asleep when they'd reached the motel, but wide awake and grilling Dean by the time Sam emerged from the bathroom cleansed of blood and grime, if not guilt.
To Sam's relief, Dean had managed to assuage Charlie's fears without going into detail about how they'd managed to get rid of Mary. Since Charlie's parents had believed she was spending the night with a friend, and it was still well before dawn, they'd all agreed to grab a few hours of sleep before driving her home.
Sleep that, for Sam, had remained elusive. For four hours he'd stared at the peeling paint on the ceiling and listened to the slow, even whisper of their breathing. It had been years since he and Dean had last shared a bed, and things were considerably more crowded this time around. While once he might have found the warm press of his brother's bulk comforting, when added to the relentless pounding in his head and the tendrils of grief wrapped tightly around his chest, it had only sharpened his misery.
Turning his face toward the window, Sam watched strangers move through their daily routine--striding briskly down the sidewalk, chatting with friends, sipping coffee and window shopping. Oblivious to the dark world that lurked beneath the sunshine of their everyday existence.
Sam shut his eyes but was unable to block the image of that pale, beautiful face. Despite Dean's assurances that he deserved no blame for Jess's death, the reproach in her eyes and the bitter accusation in Mary's voice said otherwise.
Jessica was dead. Because of Sam and his single-minded pursuit of a normal life. For the first time, Sam considered that Dad and Dean might be right. There was nothing normal about being a Winchester, and there never would be.
"If everything's peachy, how come you're making that face?"
Sam cracked open an eye to glare at his brother. "What face?"
"The one that looks like you smell something nasty--and let me just say up front, I didn't do it." Dean smirked. "Well, this time, anyway."
"Anyone ever tell you you've got a real way with words?"
"Words? No. But I can do this thing with my tongue--"
"Just...stop. That's more information than I need in this or any other lifetime." Sam tipped his head against the seatback and closed his eyes.
They drove in silence for several minutes before Dean's voice broke into his morose thoughts. "Migraine?"
It amazed Sam how well his brother could read his every mood and expression. It was only recently he'd come to appreciate that was something Dean had been doing all Sam's life. "Yeah."
"You need to stop? 'Cause if you puke in my car I'm dumping your ass."
Sam was both warmed and irritated by the thinly veiled concern. "I'll be fine. Just drive." Right now his only desire--other than decapitation--was to put as much distance as possible between himself and this town.
Though he could sense the weight of Dean's gaze, Sam kept his eyes shut. Eventually his brother huffed and turned up the music, fingers drumming on the steering wheel. Curling his body into the seat, Sam rested his head against the passenger window. The cool glass eased a little of the ache in his head. Slowly the rumble of the engine, his brother's soft humming, and the steady vibration lulled him into a doze.
He stares into the depths of the mirror, a white-knuckled grip on the tire iron. Stomach churning from dread mixed with a sense of resignation, he draws a deep breath.
"Blood Mary. Bloody Mary... Bloody Mary."
His heart thumps faster when the last syllable leaves his lips, the words echoing in the silence. Then something flickers in the depths of the mirror, a gossamer wisp of gauzy white, and he leans in until his face is inches from the polished surface.
Mist and memory coalesce, and he jerks back, nearly tripping over his feet. A chill runs up his spine and his breath catches in his chest but he can't move, can't tear his eyes from the figure that now obscures his own reflection. Smooth skin, a golden tangle of long hair, wide blue eyes... Every beloved feature is exactly as he remembers, yet somehow the whole is nothing like his Jess. The feeling of wrongness is only reinforced when she pins him with an icy gaze and curls her lip back from her teeth.
"It's your fault. You killed me. You never told me the truth. Who you really were. But that's not the worst. You knew what was going to happen. You saw me screaming. Burning. And you left me alone to die."
The words cut like knives--his stomach, his chest, his head--until he doubles over, panting. "I'm sorry," he chokes, weeping scarlet tears. "I never meant to hurt you, Jess. I loved you."
"You never loved me." She hisses the words, hands curled into claws. "You loved an idea. You were so desperate to have your perfect little life, to be normal, you ignored the warnings that could have saved me."
"Sorry. So...sorry." He wants to beg her forgiveness, swear he'd do anything to take it all back, but blood clogs his throat.
And then she's there, so close he can feel her breath, and it smells like dirt, and betrayal, and tears. "Too little. Too late."
Her fingers, the nails torn and crusted with earth, wrap around his neck, and he sinks slowly to the floor...
Sam bolted upright, batting at phantom hands as he gasped and coughed. His headache ratcheted up to blinding intensity, fresh agony spiking with each spasm.
"Sam? You all--"
His stomach roiled, hot and liquid, and he grabbed hard onto the dash. "Pull over," he gritted out.
"Sammy, what the hell?"
"Pull over, Dean. Now."
His brother evidently got the message. Cursing under his breath, Dean swung the car hard to the right and slammed on the brakes. Sam threw the door open before the Impala stopped moving. He had a vague impression of honking cars and a flat, grassy field before he took three staggering steps and dropped to his knees.
Thank God he'd only picked at his breakfast; there wasn't much to come up. But his stomach seemed determined to turn inside out and there was a persistent buzzing in his ears. By the time the spasms tapered off, Sam was on all fours, so dizzy he was afraid to move for fear of landing face-first in his own mess. Strong arms guided him to a sitting position and a water bottle was pressed into his shaking hand.
He swished and spit several times, swallowing only when the nasty taste had left his mouth. Something tightened around his arm, digging uncomfortably into his flesh, and suddenly the buzzing in his ears resolved into Dean's voice.
"I mean it, Sammy. Start talking or so help me God--"
"'M okay." It came out a harsh croak, grating across his burning throat. Sam squinted at the blurry image of his brother crouched before him, one hand clamped onto his arm. For just an instant he thought he saw another figure just past his brother's shoulder, satin nightgown and blonde tresses stirring in the breeze. He blinked, something sharp twisting in his chest, and it was gone.
"Yeah? Well, you look like crap." Dean ran a hand down his face, then stood and offered his hand. When Sam just stared blankly at it, he wiggled his fingers. "Let's go. Unless you're not done puking, in which case you're fine where you are."
Sam swiped the back of his hand across his mouth and allowed himself to be hauled to his feet. Despite the gruff words, Dean's grip was gentle, steadying him when the world spun.
By the time they reached the car, Sam was leaning heavily into his brother's shoulder, an uncoordinated tangle of arms and legs. As Dean wrestled him into the passenger seat, he could do little more than sink gratefully onto the sun-warmed cushion.
"I'm gonna find us a room for the night."
Sam startled, surprised and a little perplexed to see Dean behind the wheel and hear the hum of tires on pavement. He must have faded out for a bit. Then his brother's words penetrated the fog and he was shaking his head despite the pounding.
"'S not that bad. I can keep going." Away from Toledo. From Mary.
Dean looked at him as if he'd suggested a threesome. With Missouri. "Are you kidding? You just about barfed up a lung, and you can barely keep your eyes open. You need to sleep this thing off in a dark room. Preferably near a bar with a pool table and plenty of hot women."
"At least get us out of Ohio--"
"Dude, Ohio was a hundred miles ago. We've been in Indiana for more than an hour." Dean flicked on his turn signal. "Conversation's over. We're stopping."
Too dizzy and hurting to argue, Sam leaned his head on the seatback and kept his mouth shut. He drifted in and out, only vaguely registering the car stopping and starting, the driver's door opening and shutting. Something nudged his shoulder and he popped open his eyes.
Dean gestured out the front windshield at a door bearing the number 23. "Home, sweet home--for tonight, anyway."
Somehow Sam dragged himself from the car, pulled his duffel from the trunk, and followed his brother to the room. Ignoring the burnt-orange shag carpet, fringed lamp shades, and psychedelic bedspreads, he shuffled to the bed farthest from the window and dropped onto it with a grunt.
Sam watched through slitted eyes as Dean drew the curtains against the afternoon sunlight, then rummaged through his own bag and disappeared into the bathroom.
"You want anything to eat?" Dean called over the sound of running water.
"God, no." Sam's stomach cringed at the thought.
The lumpy mattress felt like a little piece of heaven, and he was just slipping into a doze when the bed dipped and warmth brushed his leg.
"Sit up a minute."
When he opened his eyes Dean was holding a glass of water and small pink pill. "That's not Tylenol."
"You really are the brains in this outfit, aren't you?" Dean waited until Sam had a solid grip on the glass before letting go. When Sam fingered the pill, he sighed. "It's a Vicodin, and it won't bite."
Sam frowned. "This'll knock me on my ass."
"You got a social engagement I don't know about? Take it, Sammy. You'll sleep, the migraine will run itself out, and maybe by then I'll have something for us to hunt."
"Where did you get Vicodin?" He swallowed the pill.
"A poltergeist Dad and I tangled with last year threw me out a window. Three broken ribs."
Though his voice was matter-of-fact, Sam grimaced as he laid back. "Ow."
"Nah, wasn't that bad. The luscious young ER nurse kissed it and made it all better."
Sam snorted and closed his eyes. A moment later something blessedly cool covered them. Fingering the damp terrycloth, he smiled. "You used to do this for my headaches when we were kids."
"That's 'cause even then I was an awesome brother."
Sam listened to Dean move around the room--the clink of the empty water glass on the bathroom counter, the rustle of clothing as he stripped off his jacket, the rattle of the weapons bag. The sounds were comforting, cold cloth soothing, and he began to feel floaty as the pain receded to a more manageable level.
His thoughts wandered to Jess--now haunting not only his dreams, but his waking moments, as well. The Vicodin blunted the emotional ache almost as well as the physical--it was still there, but he could view it impassively, from a distance. Though he'd never flinched from assuming responsibility for her death, somehow the idea that Jess herself might blame him was an even more bitter pill to swallow.
"Think Jess hates me for what I did?"
He didn't realize he'd spoken aloud until Dean answered, his voice sounding oddly rough. "No, Sammy. I don't."
Sam wanted to point out Dean would say that whether he believed it or not, but the words got tangled up somewhere between his brain and his tongue, and in the end it was easier just to sleep.
Continued in part 2