A/N: Thank you everyone for reading and reviewing! I am humbled by your response. And thank you again to SupernaturalGeek for words of wisdom on this chapter!
Waxing and Waning
Sam sat with him the rest of the day. Dean dozed on and off, and every time he woke up Sam was still there, right beside the bed. He had a book on his lap, but a lot of the time when Dean looked over his brother was just staring off into space. That staring worried Dean a little, but he knew things had been rough, so he let it go.
Bryn brought dinner back to the bedroom for Sam and another mug of the broth. Sam patiently helped Dean while eating his own food. Sometimes he's a better person than I am, I would have been teasing him by now. Maybe not, though, considering.
After the broth—surprise, surprise—he was sleepy again. It was nice to drop off knowing that the chances were really good you were going to wake up again. He did wake sometime in the night and Sam was still there, asleep in the chair. It looked uncomfortable for someone Sam's size, Dean smiled affectionately and drifted back off.
Sam was gone when Dean woke up the next morning. He had to laugh at himself—there had been a brief moment of panic before he had heard Sam's voice from the kitchen. I am so never telling him about that. He shifted in the bed. He felt stronger. He tried pulling himself up to a sitting position—and managed it. He was still smiling about that when Sam came back in with two cups, it smelled like coffee.
"Did you sit up? By yourself?" Sam said, an idiotic smile spreading across his face.
"No, Sam, the stupid cat helped me," he caught Sam glancing around the room looking for the cat. He laughed at him, "Of course I sat up, what do you think?"
"That's great! You want to try drinking by yourself, too? Or is that too much?" Sam said sitting on the edge of the bed.
I must be getting better, because he's teasing me. It felt good. "Sure, I'll try—you can always clean me up."
"Thanks." Sam said carefully putting the cup into his hand.
Dean took a sip, "Is this a latte? Dude, are you giving me a latte?"
"You're lucky you got coffee at all, she said you should wait another day, I thought the latte was a good compromise."
"Thanks, Sam. I do appreciate it." He took another sip. Coffee, the day was already looking up. And it really did taste good. He was pretty sure his stomach wasn't up to anything solid yet. He shifted, his muscles were sore. He caught Sam watching him. "What?"
"I was wondering…"
"Didn't we talk about the dramatic thing?"
"Yeah, we did. I was wondering…" He deliberately paused and grinned at him. "Would you like me to fill the bath? It's a nice deep tub—maybe a soak would help?"
Dean was torn, the thought of soaking the ache out of his muscles was almost intoxicating; the thought that Sam would have to help him in and out was a little humiliating. Sam was watching him, Dean could see him trying to keep his face neutral. "Yeah, Sam. I think a bath might help." Sam disappeared, Dean heard the water start in the bathroom.
"Do you want a little more coffee?" Sam said sticking his head back into the room.
"Nope. I think this is fine," Dean said. Hot coffee and hot bath. Yep, the day was looking up. He felt a twinge in his chest. Still there. Not good. I wonder if I should mention that? Not yet, it still might go away.
"You ready for that bath?" Sam said coming back into the bedroom. He gently helped Dean up and onto his feet. Great, legs aren't working too well yet. Sam pretty much carried him into the bathroom, he was trying to make it as easy on Dean as he possibly could, Dean was grateful for that. Once he sank down comfortably into the tub, the warm water relaxing tense and sore muscles, he fell asleep.
"Do you want to sit in the garden?" Sam asked sometime later, after helping Dean out of the bath.
"Yeah, Bryn asked me to do some more weeding, but I don't want to…" He paused waiting, Dean rolled his eyes, Sam laughed. "I don't want to leave you alone, so I thought you might want to sit out there for awhile."
"Sure, Sammy, that actually sounds great." So instead of being carried back to the bedroom, he was carried into the garden. Sam must have expected him to say yes—there was a lounge chair with pillows and a blanket waiting in one part of the garden. The cat was curled up on the end of the chair, it opened an eye when Sam helped him sit down. "Hello, stupid cat."
"The cat hates me." Sam said looking at it warily. "It growls at me and hisses if I get to close. If I didn't know better I'd think it was holding a grudge."
"Grudge? For what Sam?"
Sam looked uncomfortable, he was looking everywhere but at Dean. "Nothing. Maybe cause I yelled at her that one night."
He was lying, Dean knew it, but he let it go. "Sure, that's probably it. Where's Bryn?"
"She went to the store. She said she'd let her clientele slip for long enough. She said she'll be home for dinner and left lunch for me and some of that broth for you. Whenever you're hungry I'll go get it."
"I'm fine for now, you probably should get to weeding," Dean leaned back onto the chair. It felt good to be outside. He'd been pretty sure the other day was going to his last chance, so this was nice. Sam kept glancing up at him. He's still worried about me. Good thing I didn't tell him…I don't think I will, actually. The cat had crawled up and laid down on his lap, he realized he'd been petting it. "Stupid cat."
They spent most of the day in the garden. Sam would weed while Dean napped, then come over to sit and talk while he was awake.
"I see what you meant," Sam said late that afternoon.
"About being safe, it is nice to know you can be safe here—that you don't have to worry about anything."
That was a weird statement. Not I but you. Dean looked over at Sam. "What do you mean? Don't you feel safe here?" Maybe not, considering all that had happened.
Sam frowned, "Of course I feel safe here, Dean." He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world. He shook his head with that quizzical look he got sometimes when he was trying to explain something, but his brother just wasn't getting it. "I'm just glad you do, too."
"What are you talking about?"
"Dean," Sam laughed, "you just don't get it, do you?"
"Get? Get what, Sammy?"
"Maybe I'm being unfair—I only really realized this the other day."
"I've never felt not safe."
"What? You had to, considering everything we've seen and done."
"No, Dean, I've been frightened, but never not safe," he looked at him. "Remember when we were kids? I was three or four I think and dad had gone out so we were staying all alone in that creepy motel room?" Sam smiled as he saw Dean nod. "I was so scared, I was hiding in the bathtub, crying. You came and found me and put me to bed. You told me you'd watch out all night and keep me safe. I took you at your word, Dean. After that I always knew I was safe."
"I find that hard to believe," he said, hoping Sam couldn't see what that simple statement had done to him.
"It's true, Dean," Sam sighed, looking out over the plants. "I don't think I ever really thought about it until we were talking in the garden. When you said we were safe here and I heard something in your voice."
"Sam," he said warningly.
"You sounded so happy, even with everything, even knowing you were dying." Sam paused and looked at him. "You were so happy and I was miserable. Because I realized that my entire sense of safety relied on you." He swallowed.
Dean reached over and put his hand on Sam's shoulder. "Sammy, you don't mean that."
"But I do Dean, there was so little security in our lives, nothing was sure, not even knowing where home would be at the end of the day. But even with all that I knew you'd given your word and I was safe. Even while I was at Stanford, even after that, as long as I knew you were around, I was safe. Nothing bad would happen and if it did you'd be there to fix it. It's pretty childish, I know, but it's one of those truths that has just stuck with me."
Dean felt tears in his eyes and hoped they would go no further. It was funny how Sam could say something that was so obvious to him, but just shattered Dean's world. That simple faith in him—what had he ever done to deserve that? How could he repay that trust? He cleared his throat, "Sam."
"I know, Dean, chick-flick is over, right?" Sam stood up, "I'm going to go get the clippers from the shed, be right back." Dean watched as Sam strode away.
"That wasn't what I was going to say at all," Dean said to the cat.
In the morning Sam brought him coffee again. This time it was more like a real coffee, less like a latte. Much better. About halfway through his coffee Sam got up and started the water running in the bath. He came back and helped Dean in.
"I'll be in the garden, Dean, call me when you are ready to get out," Sam said setting Dean's phone down where he could reach it.
"Thanks Sam," Dean watched him go. Something felt a little off with Sam. He wondered what was up. He got an inkling once or twice yesterday, but nothing he could put his finger on. Sam couldn't still be feeling guilty, could he? He leaned back into the warm water. What could be bothering his brother? He drifted off to sleep still thinking about it.
When he woke up the water was still a little warm. Good, not sleeping as long. He looked down at the phone. Screw that. He slowly pulled himself upright then stood. That worked. He stepped out of the tub and made it all the way to the toilet before he had to sit down. Luckily the towels and his clothes were on the sink, right next to where he was sitting. Feeling confident he stood up again and headed towards the kitchen. He was leaning heavily on the wall by the time he got to the door, and it was enough. He couldn't go any further. He slid down the wall and put his head on his knees. Sam's going to kill me.
He looked up, "Yeah?"
"What are you doing here?" Sam was standing in front of him with one of those looks.
"Yeah, I thought this would be a good place to rest."
"Right, because that makes sense." Sam walked over an got a couple of cups out of cupboard. He filled them with coffee and a splash of milk. He came back over, sat down beside Dean and handed him one of the cups. They sat together quietly for a minute. "Dean?"
"What are you doing here?" Sam looked at him. "And don't say resting."
"But that's what I'm doing, resting." He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. "Resting long enough to get the energy to crawl back to the phone in the bathroom."
"You should have just called in the first place."
"I know. I just wanted…" The trek to where he was now sitting tired him out more than he thought it would. It was depressing. What was that about twenty steps? And here I am about to catch hell from Sam about it.
"Yeah, Sam," he said bracing himself for the coming explosion.
"You made it all the way to the kitchen."
"What?" He opened his eyes and looked over at his brother, Sam's eyes were bright.
"You made it all the way to the kitchen."
"You said that."
"Yeah, cause you did." Sam was smiling, the tears still in his eyes. "You made it."
That last you made it sounded like it meant something different. "Sammy?"
"I think this calls for a celebration," Sam said, standing.
"Champagne?" He looked up at his brother with a grin.
"How about solid food?"
"That sounds better than champagne," he held his hand out and Sam hauled him to his feet and helped him over to the table. "Bacon and eggs?"
"Why don't we start with toast?" Sam said smiling at him, he seemed a lot happier about Dean's foolish attempt to make it into the kitchen than he should. Why didn't he yell at me about that?
"For what, Dean?"
"Making toast," and everything else.
They sat and ate the toast in the bright kitchen—Sam let him have another cup of coffee. For being nothing more than toast with a little jam it tasted great. Possibly one of the best meals he had ever eaten. He smiled to himself, watching Sam eating only toast, so he wouldn't tempt Dean to try something that was too hard on his stomach. Yep, better than me, I would have been eating steak.
"Do you want to go into the garden? I have more chores assigned for today," Sam said after they had finished.
"Not really, she just asked if I could trim back some of the trees. She showed me how she wanted it done—she even explained that when I cut the elder I have ask permission before I do, and then say thank you when I'm done."
"Freaked out New Age wack job."
"What was that?"
"Nothing," he grinned. "Yeah, I'd like to come out. You'll have to help, I can't make it all the way on my own." Yet.
"Not yet at least," Sam said like he'd read his mind.
Sam had moved the lounge chair out in the back where he would be working that day. The cat was waiting beside the chair. Sam helped him get settled then set to work. Dean watched him. His brother was remarkably good at yard work for someone who had never really lived where there was a yard. He was sleepy again, the hike and breakfast had tired him out. He was feeling better about it all, though. Sam's reaction to his trek was the better one, he had decided. I should be happy I can walk at all. He drifted off to sleep still smiling.
That evening Bryn came out into the garden. She sat down beside the chair. The cat got off his lap and rubbed its head against her. "Pyewacket likes you." She looked at him. "How are you feeling?"
Dean smiled, "Pretty good."
She looked around, then back at him. "He's out of earshot. How are you feeling?"
"How do you do that?"
"Know that there is something more, something else," he shrugged, he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to say.
"Part of the job, I guess. You didn't answer my question."
He sighed, knowing he wasn't going to be able to get out of it—not that he really wanted to, "Stronger. I made it to the kitchen by myself today," she was smiling at him. "Sam told you? Figures. It's just…" He trailed off, good thing Sam didn't hear him do that. He was hesitant, thinking that maybe if he didn't say it out loud it wouldn't be real.
"It's still there," she said gently.
"Yeah, I noticed it yesterday. It's not like before, but it's there."
"I was a little worried about that. The wound was so old by the time you came to me and it took me so long to figure it out," she smiled an apology.
"What does it mean?" Might as well know, so he could take care of stuff. "Will I get sick again?"
"I'm not really sure, but I don't think so. You survived—and you know most wouldn't have—so it is new territory for me. I've been thinking about it quite a bit and I think what has happened is the wound isn't all the way closed yet and this might be the beginnings of a bad scar. It might trouble you now and then, but as the wound heals completely, it should fade over time. It shouldn't be a problem."
"Shouldn't be? You mean it might be?"
"Yes, I won't lie to you. But I think with the right charm and a few choice herbs—tasty I promise you—we should be able to keep it under control until it's all the way gone."
"Good," he said, a little giddy with relief. All the way gone, even if it took a little time, sounded good to him. A sudden thought occurred to him. "You won't tell Sam?"
"No, it's not my place to tell him. You should though, he deserves to know."
"It'd just worry him."
"I think he would worry less knowing, than not. If something happened, he might be angry you hadn't told him."
"Story of my life," he said with a smile to take the sting out of it. "Can I ask you a personal question?"
"You can ask. Do you want to know if I'm a witch?"
"Not going to waste my question on something I know already," he laughed. "No, it's not that at all. It's just, well Sam told me you left Stanford suddenly, like right in the middle of classes and just disappeared."
"Yes, I did, I came back here."
"It's because someone was hunting you?"
"Not someone, something. Yes, that was why I left. Is that your question?"
"Mostly, raises another though. Are you human?"
She laughed, a bright sound, "I'm a little fey around the edges, but mostly."
He laughed with her, "Well, that's ok, then. Does Sam know?"
"Until a few seconds ago only Pyewacket knew."
"Great, me and the stupid cat. Figures." The cat, sensing Dean was talking about him walked across his chest and peered into his eyes. "Great."
"What are you two talking about?" Sam said walking out from under the trees.
"The stupid cat," Dean said with a smile. Almost on cue the cat growled at Sam. "What is your problem, cat?"
"If you don't mind, I think I will borrow Pyewacket and go get a couple of things brewing," she smiled at them. "I'll put some dinner on, too."
Sam sat down on the edge of the chair. "How are you feeling?"
"Pretty good," Didn't I just have this conversation?
"Not too tired?"
"No Sam, I'm fine, laying here all day doesn't take that much effort."
"That's good." Sam shifted onto the chair a little more. "I'm glad you're up and around."
Something was up. That feeling Dean had yesterday and this morning was back full force. "Sam?"
Dean sighed. She was right, Sam deserved to know. He just didn't want to worry his brother, make his world less safe. I told him I trusted him with my life, I know he trusts me with his."Sam, I…uh…there's something we need to talk about."
"It's just that, this thing…it didn't…it's not," he was looking at Sam trying to figure out how to say it.
"I know, Dean."
"What?" What was that, Sammy?
"I know. It's still there. How bad is it?" His voice was shaking. Dean could see fear on his brother's face.
"It's not bad, Sam. I asked her about it, she said it's because it hasn't healed all the way, but it will go away. It probably won't be a problem."
"It might, though?"
"I asked her the same thing. She said it might, but she was going to give me some stuff to control it until it's gone," he looked at his brother. "How long have you known?"
"That it was still there? From that first twinge after you woke up. I just knew, somehow."
"It's what's been bothering you. Sam why didn't you say something?"
"Yeah, and you lost your ability to speak when? You could have said something, too."
"I didn't want to worry you, you know."
"I am only going to say this once more Dean. You need to get it through your head that I am going to worry about you. It's just the way it is, you're my brother and I get to worry."
Dean smiled. Sam had worked himself into quite a temper with that little speech. And even though he didn't want his brother to worry, it was kind of nice knowing he did. Somehow it made everything a little bit better. "Quite a speech, Sammy."
Sam looked a little sheepish, "Sorry about that. I've been a little crazy thinking it wasn't gone, and you were just not going to mention it. I cornered Bryn the other night and she wouldn't say anything one way or the other. It's when the cat got pissed."
"The other night? Before I woke up?"
"Yeah, I wanted to know if you woke up what would happen." Sam sighed. "She wouldn't tell me anything, she said she didn't know."
"She told me the same thing. Said she just didn't know because I…"
"Because you lived when most people would have died. I know. That's what I've held on to. That you made it when most wouldn't." Sam smiled, there were tears in his eyes. "You made it."
"Yeah, Sammy, I did."
The fifth day after he woke up Dean could make it all the way to the garden by himself. It had been quite an event, Sam called it a triumphal march. As triumphal as it might have been it did have an air of comedy to it. Dean slowly walking out the door, Sam hovering just behind in case he fell and the stupid cat leading the way with its tail in the air like a parade flag. Good thing no one had a camera, Dean thought later in the day, after a quick nap to recover.
Bryn finished the charm and gave it to him. He was to wear it against his skin, near his heart. When he had put it on the wound had given a violent twist and then was quiet. He could hardly sense it at all anymore. The pendent felt oddly warm and comforting. Safe. She had carefully shown both he and Sam how to brew the herbs and do the spell for the medicine she was sending with them.
By the ninth day they were ready to hit the road again. Dean still wasn't completely recovered, but he could get around by himself and could stay up most of the day without a nap. A part of him didn't want to leave at all. There was something very inviting about Bryn's place, safe, protected. That part of him longed to stay. He knew he couldn't.
"I have something for you," Bryn said as they were finishing loading the car.
Dean turned and smiled at her, she had a large box in her hands. "What's that?" Sam came around and stood by him.
"First aid kit," she said.
"We have one," Sam said.
"Not like this one. Here, let me show you," She put the box carefully down on the hood of the car. The cat jumped down off the car's roof to peer into the box with Sam and Dean. The box was full of bags and bottles, each with a label, some with directions. There were also a book and chalice.
"Fancy cup," Dean said.
"Ritual cup, it's supposed to be fancy." She smiled. "I made sure you had an extra large supply of this." She pulled a large blue bottle out of the box.
Sam squinted at the label "Palus Fimus? What's that?"
"As close as I could get to translating swamp muck into Latin."
Dean laughed, "Thanks, makes it sound more official that way."
"I thought so. You know it's more than a painkiller. Use it whenever you need it, if you run out, let me know. I put a spellbook in too, just in case. I tried to cover most contingencies, same goes for the herbs. I put directions on the mixes, and labeled everything else. I hope it helps. I Bolted the box, too. It should help keep everything safe."
"Thanks," Sam picked it up and carefully stowed it in the trunk.
"I have something else for you," she was smiling at Dean. She handed him a little jar.
"A whisker, Pyewacket wanted you to have it."
Dean looked at the cat, it looked back. "Stupid cat."
She laughed, then turned serious. "If you ever need me, call. I'll come, no questions."
"Same goes for you. If you need us, for anything, no questions."
"Thank you," she pulled Dean into a gentle hug. The sense of peace, of safety and warmth flowed into him, filling him, driving that little black spot away almost completely. He leaned into the hug a little more than he usually would, then pulled gently away.
"Thank you," trying to convey everything in those two words. She smiled understanding. She turned and hugged Sam. His brother returned it. Dean picked the cat up off the car and petted it before handing it to Bryn. "Good-bye, Pyewacket."
Sam got into the driver's seat and Dean dropped down into the passenger seat. Since he still had a tendency to fall asleep throughout the day, he thought it was better if Sam drove for awhile. Damn it was good to be back in the Impala. Bryn waved as they pulled out. They both waved back.
"Why would she need us, no questions, Dean?"
"What you said. You meant something, not just the 'call sometime' thing."
Dean snorted, "Client/freaked out New Age wack job privilege, Sam."
"Sorry, can't tell you. But it's nothing to worry about." Sam looked at him, a little concerned. "I mean that. "
"Ok. That was the oddest hug," Sam said. "I feel, I don't know, lighter or something."
How could his brother be that dense sometimes? "I told you Sammy, witch."
"You still think she's a witch?"
"You still think she's not?" But apparently he could.
"Bitch," Dean laughed and turned up the stereo. It was good to be on the road again.