Here ya go… All finished. Hope y'all enjoyed it.
Sam looked at Dean where he lay on the motel bed, the covers pulled up to his shoulders. He was stitched and bandaged and sleeping peacefully on his back. He had been very quiet the entire time Sam had been patching him up. Beyond the odd 'how's that?', 'need another pill?' and 'better?', Sam had left him to his thoughts.
Dean's face was relaxed in sleep, without the lines of stress Sam saw so often despite Dean's efforts to mask them. He was such a mixture of patience and impatience, need and standoffishness, bravado and anxiety. Sam couldn't help watching him, as if maybe studying his brother would help him understand the man.
Sam watched the slow, even rise and fall of Dean's chest as he breathed in and out. Guilt allowed him to see through the blankets to the heavy bandages covering the line of stitches running along Dean's ribs. Dean still hadn't said another word about it. Hadn't yelled at him, hadn't even made fun of him. Sam didn't know if it was just Dean's normal reticence about discussing anything other than guns and cars or if he was so angry with him he was going for the silent treatment. That or he was just too preoccupied with what had happened to bother with his guilt-ridden brother right now. Sam knew Dean needed to rest, but he almost wished Dean would wake up and talk to him.
Sam jumped in his chair, startled by Dean's voice in the quiet room.
"You know how I can't sleep with someone watching me thanks to my finely honed hunter skills?" he asked, still without opening his eyes.
"Yeah," Sam answered and he could feel himself blushing.
"Cause I can't sleep right now and I could really use some."
"Sorry," Sam mumbled.
"Cause I had kind of a rough night," Dean added, his tone light.
"I get it. I'll leave you alone."
"Cause I don't know if you know it, but somebody shot me."
Sam went very still. Here it was. Finally. "Shot you, huh? Must've been a real jerk."
Dean snorted and then grimaced as it jostled his injuries. He still had his eyes closed and Sam was grateful. As long as he kept them shut, they could talk without it being too personal.
"You kick his ass?"
A half-smile crossed Dean's lips. "Maybe later."
Sam frowned uncomfortably. Dean being understanding about it was making him feel even guiltier. "Well, you let me know if you need any help."
Dean fell silent and nestled down farther into his pillow. Sam thought he'd fallen asleep again until he turned his head toward him and opened his eyes. Sam immediately felt the heavy weight of that earnest gaze, as if just by opening his eyes Dean's full personality had entered the now somehow smaller room.
"Accidents happen, Sammy."
"I know, but…"
"You remember when you flushed the .22 I gave you?"
"Yeah," Sam said shamefacedly. He'd been just a little kid and the gun had fallen out of his pocket at exactly the wrong time.
"Did I get mad at you then?"
"Other than all the swearing?" Sam raised an eyebrow, "No not really."
"When you set my duffel bag on fire with the flares and got us thrown out of the motel?"
Sam only shook his head. Dean had lost every stitch of clothing he'd owned and they'd had to sleep in the car. Sam still felt guilty about that one.
"When you stole Molly Ingersol?"
Sam's head snapped up. That had been his senior year and he'd had no idea Dean liked her.
"It was an accident, wasn't it?" It was amazing how threatening Dean could look while virtually incapable of movement and tucked under covers.
"Totally," Sam nodded.
"Better have been or you're walking to our next gig," Dean muttered. "How about when you shot that raccoon for some weirdo reason and got us picked up by the park rangers?"
Sam tried not to look incensed. That raccoon had been evil. He would still swear to it. Even so, after a few threats about revoking his gun privileges, Dean had spent their entire time in lock-up cheerfully humming Rocky Raccoon.
"So what makes you think I'm gonna smack you around this time?"
Sam shrugged, feeling like he was six years old and being interrogated by their dad.
"I worry you that much?" Dean raised an eyebrow.
Sam couldn't help the small smile that appeared. "You do have a tendency to shoot things you're angry with."
Dean brought a hand up and scrubbed it over his face as if thinking. "You're right, Sam. Where's my gun? Fair's fair."
Sam looked at Dean's suddenly blank face. "What?"
"You're not going to quit brooding until I shoot you so get me a gun. Where you want it? Arm? Leg? I don't want you actually laid up, just less angsty."
Sam's expression was priceless and Dean couldn't stop the grin that spread across his own face. He'd laugh if he didn't think it would hurt so badly. The vampire had done everything he could to snap his collarbone, bit right into it. Only one night's work and from his neck to his waist, his chest felt like it was on fire. He could only imagine how much worse it would be if he hadn't flirted with the doctor and gotten those pills.
"I suppose I could take off an ear," Dean said thoughtfully. "You never did listen too well."
"All right, all right," Sam said. "Point taken."
"You sure?" Dean asked. "I can still shoot you. I don't mind."
"Shut up, Dean."
"I'm just saying… I'm here for you, man."
Without thinking Sam threw the remote he had been holding and Dean instinctively caught it one handed.
Sam looked startled and Dean closed his eyes, the movement having set off every nerve ending he owned. "Careful there, Sammy," he said through clenched teeth. "My mercy has limits."
"Sorry," he heard Sam mumble.
"Yeah, well I wasn't really in the mood for TV anyway," Dean sighed. He tossed the remote onto the nightstand and tucked his hand back under the covers.
"A little." Cold, tired. Lost. "Sam, lay down or something," Dean urged. "Stare at the ceiling. Or do something freaky and sleep for once."
Sam sighed and Dean turned his head back so that he was facing up. He just wanted to sleep, but the image of the woman and her son, locked and dying in that little room wouldn't leave him, nor would the sensation of the ghost's arms around him, her voice soothing him.
His eyes still closed, Dean listened as Sam pulled the covers back and then sat down on the other bed. He heard the familiar sounds of him pulling his shoes off and pitching them across the room toward his bag. Sam then sat there silently for several moments.
"Ten bucks says you're making that face again. Either lay down or get my gun, Sam," Dean said, his tone disgruntled.
Sam chuckled and Dean heard the bed springs move as his brother stretched out.
The woman and child in the basement flashed before his eyes again. Dying, locked in a tiny room. What did you do when you had no choice left but to accept your fate? Scream? Kick something? Bang on the walls?
Andrew had tried to lock them in, but they'd gotten out. The vampire had tried to trap them into his deal, but they'd managed to get around it. And yet he still felt cornered, boxed in.
Their life… and all that it entailed…
"It is what it is," Dean whispered to himself.
"Nothing." He rubbed his hand over his face tiredly. For just a second he could feel the phantom sensation of Charity's hand against his cheek.
Dean settled further into the bed, burrowing into the pillow. It was a good pillow. Maybe they could stay here for a couple of days.
"You ok?" Sam asked quietly.
Dean thought about it for a second before answering.
Orphan, crappy job, odds of a long life almost nil…
What did you do when you had no choice left but to accept your fate?
He heard the worry in Sam's voice, the honest concern, and he knew the answer. What did you do? You followed Charity's example. You held on to the only person left that mattered.
"S'ok, Sam. Go to sleep." Dean sighed contentedly and felt himself begin to drift off. He might be stuck, but he could hold onto his brother. He'd hold onto Sam. It was simple, but it was the truth. And the truth would set you free.
And there you have it. Hope it kept you amused for a little while. Thanks to everyone who made it this far and for every single word of encouragement.