So last chapter, hope everyone enjoyed the story!! Hope the ending pleases everyone...let me know what you think!! bambers;)
Chapter Seventeen — Prologue
Dean yanked on his grease smeared t-shirt in a hurry, and quickly tucked it in. Plopping down on the bed, he pulled on his boots, and then headed toward the bathroom of the small one bedroom apartment he and Sam had rented. He rapped on the door, and waited for all of ten seconds before knocking a little louder.
He glanced at his wristwatch, and shook his head in aggravation. "Come on, Sammy, your physical therapy appointment is in like twenty minutes, and I got to be to work right after."
"Not going," came Sam's muffled reply.
Dean leaned closer to the door, resting his head on the smooth wood surface. "What's your reason this time, dude?"
There was a sad resignation in Sam's tone that broke Dean's heart and frightened him more than he cared to admit. "It's only been seven months, Sammy. The doctor said you're making real progress."
Sam was quiet for a moment, and when he spoke again Dean could tell that he was now sitting on the ground in front of the door. "Can't even hold a gun properly, much less pull the trigger if needed. Not to mention . . . ." his voice trailed off, and Dean knew he was thinking about the scars covering his chest.
His brother had been extremely careful never to let Dean see the damage left behind by the hot poker, Spanish Tickler, and subsequent surgery to repair the wounds, and to date, Dean hadn't even caught a quick glimpse at the scars. But, after doing extensive late night research on how to help Sam, Dean was fairly sure he knew what they would look like.
As far as Dean was concerned, the scars were badges of honor, they'd meant Sam had survived, that Charlie couldn't destroy him. Yet, he knew Sam would never see it that way. What the psycho had failed to do to Sam physically, he was now doing to him emotionally, and that absolutely terrified Dean.
Sliding down the wall, Dean came to sit on the floor. Resting his arms on bended knees, he sat there for the longest time thinking of the right words to say. All-the-while, he knew it wasn't just the bathroom door or even his own self-imposed walls that separated him and his brother now.
"Sam?" He waited, and when Sam failed to respond, his stomach clenched in tight knots. Lowering his voice, Dean tried again. "Sammy, it will get better. I promise it will. You just have to give it time."
"How long, Dean? A year . . . two?"
"I dunno, dude, but however long it takes, we'll get through it."
"Just want my life back . . . he took everything, Dean."
Dean scrubbed his hand across his face as he looked around the sparsely furnished apartment they'd rented from a kindly old woman named Ms. Burkitts. He then glanced down at the brace he wore on his left hand, and made a loose fist with it. What the hell do I say to that? Charlie pretty much screwed our lives all to hell, so how do I make him believe something when I don't know if believe it myself?
"Naw, dude, we're still here . . . yeah, our lives have changed . . . but, he can only take from us what we allow him to."
"Nice words, Dean, but do you really believe them?" Sam was quiet for a moment, and then added, "I know you'd rather be hunting then stuck here working as a mechanic and taking care of me."
"Dude, when and if I ever hunt again, you'll be right there by my side. I won't hunt without you, Sammy." A wry smile crossed Dean's features as he heard the lock turn, and knew he'd somehow made a little progress. "And if I have to, I'm gonna be kicking your ass all the way to everyone of these damn therapy sessions to make sure that day does come."
The door slowly slid open, and Sam trudged out, fidgeting with his t-shirt, trying to push it up higher around his neck to hide the long reddish scar that ran the length of it.
"Leave it alone, Sammy. You look fine."
Ignoring him, Sam continued in his vain effort to hide the scar from view.
Gripping hold of his brother's wrist, Dean stopped him. "I said, you look fine . . . no one who matters, cares how many scars you have. It doesn't make you any less of a person."
Sam pulled his arm away and brushed back a stray tear from his cheek. "Doesn't it, Dean? Christ, I can't even take my shirt off without all the lights being out."
"Take it off then, Sammy. Right now." Dean shook his head, his lips pressed firmly against his teeth. "I won't let you do this to yourself. I won't have you thinking that they matter, cause they don't." He took a tentative step toward his brother. "Yeah, what happened was horrible, but its just us, and I don't care if your entire body was covered with them, you're still the same person to me."
"Yeah, you think so, Dean?" Sam eyed him for a moment, then added, "You really do, don't you?" Sam gave a curt nod of his head, his lips quivering. "Okay, fine." Untucking his t-shirt, Sam yanked it off, balled it up, and threw it on the floor. Then he slowly removed the pressure bandage protecting his grafted skin, and tossed that aside as well. He glanced down at his chest, and then up into Dean's eyes. "So does it matter now?"
Whatever Dean thought to expect from all the pictures he'd seen of burns and skin grafts on the internet, he never would have imagined it would be this bad. Four long scars, each about the width of his hand, ran vertically across the length of his brother's chest and abdomen. Four more jagged scars cut a path through Sam's side and lower stomach. Several more, cut across and disappeared beneath the grafts only to reappear on the other side.
God, this is all my fault. I should've been able to . . . he'll never forgive me for this. Tears stung at Dean's eyes. Swallowing hard, he clenched his teeth, the muscle in his cheek jerking erratically. He opened his mouth to speak, faltered, and slammed it shut.
A sad smile crossed Sam's face. "Yeah, thought so." He bent, grabbed his shirt and pressure bandage off the floor, and slowly trudged from the room.
Before Dean had a chance to find his voice, he heard the front door open and then quietly click shut. Damn it, Sammy, it wasn't the scars . . . I swear it wasn't.
Dean brusquely ran his fingers through his hair, then yanked his cell phone out of his pocket. Scrolling down the list of names, he came to Jake's Auto Shop, jabbed the button, and waited for Jake to answer.
"Jake's Auto Shop, Jake speaking. How can I help you," came a gruff sounding voice.
"Jake, it's Dean."
"Hey, Dean," the old man's voice softened considerably.
"Listen, Jake, I can't come to work today, family emergency."
Dean could hear the concern in the older man's tone, and had to grin. Jake had lost his own son in the war two years earlier, and had taken it upon himself to be a father figure to Sam and him after he'd found out their father had died. He doted on Sam, and at times could actually make his little brother smile which was a rarity since Charlie, so Dean was hard-pressed to deny the old man anything.
"Yeah, just need to take care of something."
"Okay, Dean, see ya tomorrow then?"
"Don't mention it." And never one to stand on ceremony, Jake hung up without saying good-bye.
Dean hung up and then called the physical therapist's office.
"Dr. Brenner's office, this is Cindy speaking, how may I help you?" said the receptionist.
"Hey, this is Dean Markenson, my brother Sam can't make his appointment today. He had to go out of town on a family emergency."
"Okay. Would you like to schedule another appointment for him, sir?"
"Yeah, Friday would be good."
"Let me check for a time." She was quiet for a moment, and he could hear her fingers dancing across the keyboard. "Friday, 10:30?"
"Okay, you're all set."
"Have a good day, sir."
"You too." Dean hung the phone up, and returned it to his pocket.
Dean stood, and strode to the bedside table, snatched his keys off it, and headed for the front door.
Sam was already sitting in the Impala waiting for him, as Dean came outside, and shut the door behind him. Taking long strides, Dean reach the car within a few seconds. Opening the door, he slid behind the wheel, and glanced in Sam's direction. His younger brother stared out the side window, and if he knew Dean was waiting for him to look in his direction, Sam never let on.
"Have to make a quick stop at the store, Sammy."
"Whatever, dude," Sam said, without turning.
Okay, so much for small talk.
They drove to the store in near silence, the only sound to break the quiet was AC/DC playing on the radio. Dean pulled into the half-empty lot, quickly found a spot up front, and parked the car.
He got out and Sam followed at a few paces behind.
Dean pulled a cart out of the rack, and headed inside.
"What do you need a cart for?" Sam asked, sounding somewhat surprised.
"Just got to get a few things," Dean responded evasively as he strode down the aisle toward the back of the store. At the beer cooler, he stopped and started loading twelve-pack after twelve-pack into the cart until it was near overflowing.
"Ten twelve-packs, Dean?"
"You don't think that's enough?" He hesitated for a moment, and then nodded. "You're right, we probably need a few more." He reached in the case and pulled out three more twelve-packs.
Sam quirked a quizzical brow, his confusion clearly evident. "You planning a party cause we only know like three people in the whole town of Rivergrove, and I don't think Ms. Burkitts is the drinking type."
Dean strolled the cart away from him without answering, and smiled when he heard his brother running to catch up. On aisle one, he snatched a giant economy size bag of peanut M&M's from the shelf and headed for the checkout.
"Dean, what the hell are you doing? You're wasting half your paycheck on beer and candy."
Grabbing a bouquet of roses from the stand in front of the register, Dean added them to his order. When the cashier finished ringing up the order, Dean pulled out his wallet, paid for the groceries, handed the flowers to the cashier, and winked. "There ya go, sweetheart, great job."
The young twenty-something blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman smiled. "Thanks."
As they walked away, Dean heard the girl gushing to her fellow cashiers on how he'd made her day, and he grinned.
"You know her, Dean?" Sam asked, more confused than ever.
"Naw, just saw some guy givin' her a hard time when I came in, and thought she deserved them for not clockin' him a good one."
Sam turned and noticed how happy his brother had made the young girl, and nodded in understanding. "So you gonna tell me what you bought all the beer for?"
Dean shook his head. "No."
The boys loaded the beer into the backseat of the Impala, and Dean grabbed the M&M's and headed for the driver's side. Once inside the car, Dean started the car, pulled out of the parking spot and drove out of the lot, heading in the opposite direction the therapist's office.
Sam glanced over his shoulder at the town quickly disappearing from view as Dean pressed the gas peddle to the floor.
"Going the wrong way, dude."
"No, I'm not," Dean said, his mouth full of M&M's.
Sam turned back to glance at his brother, and shook his head in disbelief. "Look, as much as I'm enjoying this little buckets of crazy thing you got going on right now, I have an appointment."
"Dean, what the hell are you doing?"
"We're celebrating Sammy. Tomorrow will be seven months since that sonuvabitch died. And I for one, am ready to get on with my life."
The truth in that statement hit Dean with a force he hadn't expected, and it nearly stole his breath away. He recalled Charlie's warning that he would be back in six months, and had been constantly looking over his shoulder for the entire month, expecting to catch a glimpse of the crazed man out of the corner of his eye. Every time the phone had rung, a sick feeling crept into the pit of Dean's stomach. And each time Sam was out of his range of vision for more than a few minutes, or didn't respond when Dean called to him, Dean's heart would skip a beat, fearing Charlie was back.
"What if I don't feel like celebrating?"
"Can't drink all that beer by myself, dude," Dean said, hitching a thumb toward the backseat.
Dean pulled onto a dirt road almost hidden from view by overgrown trees and shrubs, and continued to drive until the road came to an abrupt end. Putting the car in park, he grabbed the keys from the ignition, and got out. He strode to the front of the car, and leaned against the hood. Sitting quietly, he waited until he heard the door open, then slam shut. Out of the corner of his eye, Dean caught sight of Sam approaching.
Sam sat beside him, tapping his fingers on his thighs. "So you gonna tell me what this is all about or are we gonna keep playing twenty questions?"
Dean was quiet for a moment longer as he tried to figure out what to say. "It wasn't the scars, Sammy." He turned to look briefly at his brother, then lowered his head. "You have to believe me . . . I swear to God, it wasn't."
"Dean — " Sam began, but Dean cut him off.
"I couldn't protect you from him . . . I saw him tearing you apart, and I felt so damn helpless cause I couldn't do anything to help you . . . and it's killing me inside . . . and i don't know what to do about it, or how to make the feeling go away . . .and I need you to forgive me."
"Wasn't your fault, Dean. I would be dead if it wasn't for you." Sam eyed Dean for a second, and then shook his head. "There's nothing to forgive."
Dean fought back the tears springing to his eyes. "Don't know what I would've done if he'd killed you."
"The feeling's mutual, Dean, you should know that."
"Still — "
"Still, nothing, dude, you're my brother . . .and I know you would die trying to protect me, but you're only human, Dean, and you can't blame yourself for what happened. I won't let you."
Dean turned to look Sam squarely in the eyes, searching them to find even the slightest hint of blame, but found nothing but concern etched in his hazel depths. "Thanks, Sammy."
"Don't mention it."
"Enough with the chick-flick moments, dude." Dean rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger, and then pushed away from the car, walked around to the backdoor and opened it. Pulling out a twelve-pack, Dean took out two, cracked one open and handed Sam one, then placed his on the roof of the car.
"So, we're really gonna sit here and down thirteen twelve-packs?"
"Nope." Dean grinned as he strode away from Sam, and started setting the bottles down in various locations, some high in trees, others low to the ground, until all the bottles in the first pack were gone, then he went back to the car, and grabbed another pack and did the same thing.
"What the hell are you doing, Dean?"
"Winchester family therapy." Dean strode to the trunk and opened it, pulling out Sam's .45 along with extra rounds, and headed back to where Sam was standing. "Here."
Sam shook his head, refusing to take the gun from Dean. "Already told you, I can barely get a good grip on the gun much less squeeze the trigger."
"You've been doing this practically your entire life, Sammy, and you can do it now." Dean nodded assuringly.
"Can't do it."
"Yeah, you can. Now take it," Dean ordered, doing his best impression of their father's authoritative tone.
Reluctantly, Sam snatched the gun from his brother's hands.
"Good. Now that wasn't so tough was it." Dean grinned.
"Still doesn't mean I can shoot the damn thing, much less have it actually hit anything."
"Well, maybe not at first, but that's why I bought a ton of beer."
"Dean, Dr. Lee said, I may never be able to fire a gun again because of the nerve damage to my hand."
Pursing his lips, Dean shrugged. "Don't care what she said, Dr. Lee doesn't know you like I do."
Dean grabbed hold of his brother's hand, and forced Sam to raise the gun. "Now, I want you to picture each and every one of these bottles as Charlie. Then I want you to blow that sonuvabitch away, over and over again until you've taken back what he took from you. Understand me?"
"Yeah, I gotcha."
Dean turned to look at his brother, and saw Sam's eyes brimming with unshed tears. "Hell, if thirteen twelve-packs isn't enough," he hitched a thumb back in the direction, they'd just come from, and continued, "I'll go back and buy out the store's whole damn supply of beer if I have to."
Sam smiled, and for the first time in a very long while, it reached the depths of his hazel eyes. "Thanks, Dean."
"Yeah, just aim that way, wouldn't want you to shoot me on accident." He chuckled.
Dean grabbed his beer off the roof of the car, and strode to the front of the car. Perching himself on top of the hood, Dean cracked open his drink and watched as Sam raised the gun and took careful aim. Sam hesitated for a moment, and then squeezed the trigger, his hand shaking so badly, he missed the target by a good several feet.
Sam swung to look at Dean, and instead of seeing the defeated look on Sam's face that Dean had seen so often since Charlie had entered their lives, Dean saw him grinning ear to ear.
"Meant to do that. Didn't want to dazzle you with my first shot."
Leaning back against the window, Dean sipped on his beer as he watched his brother. At first, Sam missed every bottle, but slowly he learned to adjust for the lack of strength in his hand, holding his wrist firmly with his left, and hit nearly every target.
Dean nodded approvingly. That a boy, Sammy. Just a few more months and we'll be hunting again.
"I made a wager, and I won," Charlie sneered, glaring at the Yellow-eyed demon. "Dean did exactly as I predicted he would."
"True." The demon smiled malevolently. "But it seems as if you got more in the bargain than I."
"Are you trying to suggest that I tricked you?"
"No, I'm flat out saying it. I have no need to mince words."
Charlie chuckled, not in the least bit intimidated by the demon. "True, you were a little easy to predict. I got what I wanted, and I've spent my time well, learning how to use all my new gifts."
The demon nodded, glancing around at several mutilated bodies, scattered across the floor of the underground bunker. "I see that you haven't wasted your time."
"So are you here to try and kill me?" Charlie raised a brow, and started laughing. "Cause I gotta say that it won't be that easy."
"Oh, if I wanted you dead, you would already be dead."
Charlie wiped his bloodied hands on his shirt, and took a step toward the demon. "Is that so?"
"Don't doubt it for a minute."
Intrigued by the cocky nature of the demon, Charlie asked, "Then what do you propose?"
The demon jabbed a finger into Charlie's chest, and chuckled. "Ah, a man after my own heart. Well, if I had a heart, I suppose."
"My thoughts exactly . . . however this time, winner takes all."
Thanks so much for reading!! Hope everyone enjoyed the story!! And yeah, there is definitely going to be a sequel. So if you enjoyed, please look for "Whispers in the Dark" which I should be starting to write very soon!! Thanks again, bambers;)