"And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself..."
-- The Bible, Luke 4:23 (KJV)
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It was a week after Jake O'Conner had died, and Dean couldn't remember a day that'd gone by when he hadn't had a splitting headache, not to mention, his arm was still broken and in a cast.
They'd been driving for awhile, when Sam suggested that they get something to eat. Dean, already beginning to feel the signs of another headache coming on, nodded his approval. Sam found a rest stop in the next restaurant they spotted.
"Dean," Sam began, on the tail-end of shutting the driver-side door. Dean could already feel another one of those talks coming on.
So he slammed his own door and threatened, "Don't go there, Sammy."
"I was just going to ask if you're feeling all right," Sam retorted, "You look like you're getting another headache." Dean had had to take a couple of Ibuprofen the night before, it'd gotten so bad.
He realized his brow was furrowed, to the point where he was most likely going to have indentation marks minutes after he'd finally quit, and forced himself to smooth out his forehead. "I'm fine. Stop worrying about me so much." He tried to nonchalantly head into the diner.
Sam caught up with him and bumped arms to get his attention. "I'm just concerned, Dean."
Yeah, he knew it. But he didn't want to talk about it. Not ever again.
"I know, Sam, but if you don't shut up, I'm gonna have to shoot you," Dean retorted, yanking the restaurant door open.
Sam's eyes narrowed, but he shrugged and went ahead into the diner. Dean followed, letting the door swing shut behind him. They found some seats, in a corner of the restuarant that was less populated, and the waitress came by in a few minutes to interrupt their uncomfortable silence.
"Are you ready to order?" she asked, cheerfully, and Dean's headache got worse before he realized she probably wasn't in as good a mood as she let on.
Just in the same way that Sam forced a polite smile and asked her to get them some menus, she was probably hiding behind a smile and a peppy voice. Dean rubbed his temple and stared off at the canister of sugars.
"Oh, I'm sorry about that," the waitress said, just that small touch of strain, giving away her embarrassment. "I'll be right back with them." Then she hurried away, and Sam's smile faded.
"Dean?" he asked, but it took a moment or two for the question to register. "Huh? What?" he asked, eyes falling on Sam.
"Your headache is getting worse," Sam stated, flatly, and Dean rolled his eyes out of annoyance.
"Of course it's getting worse. I mean, now we have to wait until what's-her-face gets back with the menus, and then we have to actually order something, and then we have to wait until she comes back to take our orders..." he trailed off, realizing he'd chosen an asinine way of avoiding Sam's endless stream of concern. That waitress couldn't help it if she was having a bad day.
Sam's brow went up, briefly, but all he replied with was a very sarcastic, "Okay."
Before the waitress arrived, a mother and her young daughter came into the back where they sat, and took a table somewhere behind Dean and to the right of him. His headache got worse, and he nearly put his head down on the table when a wave of nausea accompanied it like some sort of harbinger of doom.
Sam was all too quick to notice his head drop, anyway, and wondered, "Dean, you okay?" in a tense whisper.
"Yeah," Dean grunted, but his head was throbbing, and he could tell, without even looking, that something was really, really wrong with that little girl in the other booth. She was scared and a little bit sad, but mostly just really, really tired.
Dean swallowed and turned his head to peer at her, surreptitiously. She was sitting next to her mother, close enough to lean her head against the woman's arm. About seven or eight years old, with medium-length brown hair, she had a pale face, with dark circles ringing her big, dark-brown eyes.
"Dean, why are you staring at--?" Sam began, nervously, but just then, the child's nose began to drip then pour blood down her upper lip and chin. It dribbled onto the front of her pink t-shirt, and she put up her hand to her nose, noticing it.
Her mother looked toward her, brown eyes widening, and she ordered with the calmness of experience, "Here, sweety, let me see." Then she reached for the napkin bin and yanked out a whole wad of them.
Sam and Dean got to their feet almost at the same time, and Sam questioned, "Do you need us to call an ambulance?"
The woman sent him a grateful, worried look and replied, "No... I don't think--" She'd been holding the napkins to her daughter's nose until then, so she felt when the girl went completely limp and started to slump down in the leather booth seat.
Dean stepped forward and caught the girl before she slipped to the floor. "Sam, call the ambulance," he ordered, and lifted the girl into his arms, carefully, because of his cast, before he settled onto the floor with her in his lap. Her nose was still bleeding, so he kept her upright, not wanting her to choke on her own blood.
He motioned for her mother to bring the napkins, and the woman quickly scooted out of the booth and knelt beside them, and attempted to again staunch the flow of blood. Dean could hear Sam giving the paramedics directions behind him, but he tuned it out to ask, "What's wrong with her?"
"Chronic nose-bleeds," the mother said, weariness and fear in her shaking voice. "I was taking her to a specialist... that's why we're traveling. Oh, God, it just won't stop..." she finished, and Dean realized she'd pretty much reached her breaking point.
He took the soaked napkins from her trembling hand, and started to hold it to the girl's nose himself, when something odd happened. As his fingers touched her face through the wet paper, the pain that had been slicing through his head simply ceased. His hand felt warm, and then hot, and then that heat seemed to seep out of him...
Feeling drained, but knowing something had happened, Dean curiously dropped his hand from the girl's face. As the napkins came away, Dean's eyes widened.
The bleeding had stopped.
"Dean?" Sam questioned, then crouched beside him a moment later, "The ambulance is on its way... Has the bleeding stopped?" he realized, and looked toward the lady, who was staring at her daughter in awe.
"I-It j-just--" she began, but cut herself off. "That's never happened before!" Her eyes were on Dean. "You... you did something, didn't you?"
Dean swallowed, and began shaking his head. 'No,' his mind denied, 'No way.' "I think she's going to be fine," he said, inanely, and re-adjusted the girl so that her mother could take her. He grabbed hold of Sam as he got to his feet, unsteadily, "Come on. Let's get out of here."
Sam's eyes were wide as he watched his brother, but he complied, getting to his feet and following him toward the exit. Outside, he asked, "What happened in there?" gesturing back toward the building with an out-flung arm.
Dean shrugged and ducked into the Impala. "You're pale," Sam stated, once he was sitting in the driver's seat.
"So?" Dean shot back, "You would be too if you had some kid's life in your hands."
"I have," Sam answered, as he pulled the car out of the restaurant's parking lot. "And I wasn't nearly so freaked out after they were okay, as you seem to be."
"I'm not freaked out," Dean denied.
"You just said you were, and now you're going to take it back?" came Sam's incredulous reply to that assertion.
"Oh, come on, Sam!" Dean growled, "Would you just drop it? I'm freaked out, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear? That girl could've died, and no demon-hunting skills could have saved her! And then, she just... didn't." He couldn't get the image of Jake out of his mind, for some reason, sitting on his couch, smiling a sad, accepting smile.
Dean wondered if Jake had known all along--what he was going to do.
Sam stared at him, Dean could feel the gaze burning a hole in his cheek. "It wouldn't have been your fault if she had died." The soft reply startled him into glancing Sam's way. He was saying what Dean wouldn't let him say anymore. 'It's not your fault. He did it because he cared about you.'
Now he saw that his kid brother was looking just as pale and wan as he felt. "I know," he mumbled, then turned away to stare out his window, unseeingly.