Pressed Into Service
Summary: Sam's not himself after a research trip goes horribly wrong… really not himself.
And here you have it. It's been a pleasure. Thanks for every kind word and lovely review.
Sam awoke groggily and squinted against the painfully bright electric lights.
Dean's voice. He couldn't see him, but he could hear him. "Yeah."
"Good," Dean replied and Sam heard definite satisfaction in his tone. "Cause if mine's gonna hurt this bad, then yours better too."
"I'm on the ground again," Sam said, realizing he was lying on what felt like hard packed dirt.
Dean snorted. "Dude, you like dirt so much, I'm starting to think you have a secret desire to farm."
Sam vision was returning and he realized the light wasn't nearly as bright as he'd thought. In fact it was fairly dim. Suddenly the dirt floor made sense. "Why are we back in the cave?"
"Look at me," Dean abruptly ordered.
"Sit your ass up and look at me," Dean ordered again, clearly not joking.
Sam worked his way into a sitting position, his head pounding like it might explode. It hurt worse than visions. It felt like his brain was too big for his skull and it was going to start coming out of his nose. On top of that, all of his muscles felt over-used as if he'd had a 12 hour workout and no one had told him about it. Finally he looked at Dean. Ouch. Dean wasn't looking any better than the last time he'd seen him. A lot worse actually.
Dean was studying him and Sam realized he was looking at his eyes. They must have been normal because Dean visibly relaxed.
"You feel… weird at all?" Dean asked carefully. "A pending possession I need to know about? I'd appreciate a little more warning this time."
"No," Sam said, taking an internal inventory. "Just me."
"Cause if this ever happens again, those eyes of yours better be pink and it better be the freaking Easter Bunny come to visit. You got me?" Dean nodded for emphasis and then winced. His head didn't seem to be doing him any more favors than Sam's.
"Got it. Fictional figures only," Sam said.
"Fictional figures easily turned into stew," Dean corrected.
"What happened, Dean?" Sam asked worriedly. Dean had a new wound that had bled down his neck onto his shirt and he looked a lot like he did after a back alley fight. So a little more disheveled and disreputable than normal. Sam remembered the motel and helping Dean after he punched him. Then he remembered a few vague seconds at some house with a woman he'd apparently tried to hurt and then… nothing else.
"The cave was running a two for one sale," Dean sighed. "Did I mention how much I don't like this place?"
"A second ghost?" Sam said, ignoring the rest.
"Yup. The ghost behind door number two was the one killing the tourists. A soldier. Had a bone to pick with the guy who sent him off to war. My guess is that he woke up when the cave wall crumbled. They'll probably find some old remains if they look."
"The tour guide said they used these caves during the war," Sam said.
"She did?" Dean looked up, surprised.
"You weren't paying attention to a thing the woman said, were you?" Sam chided.
Dean looked down again, slightly abashed. "After she told us to protect the cave mold, I sorta tuned her out."
"Meaning you were ignoring her and counting on me to remember the boring crap you didn't want to bother with."
Dean shrugged. Only one shoulder, Sam noticed. "Why mess with a perfect system?"
"How's that system working out for you?" He gestured toward Dean's swollen cheek and eye.
His brother scowled. "Got rid of the other ghost, didn't I?"
"How'd you manage that by the way?"
Dean cocked his head to one side, a grin appearing. "Your Ghost Whisperer title might be in jeopardy."
"You talked it to death, didn't you?"
Dean's grin widened into a satisfied smile. "Maybe. We… came to an understanding."
"Two old soldiers working it out, huh?" He frowned when Dean's smile wavered. "What?"
"Nothing," Dean said quickly. He braced himself and got to his feet. Sam noted he only used one arm. Wanting to see if his guess was right, Sam held out his left hand for Dean to help him up. Dean hesitated for only a second and then held out his own left hand. "Other one, Sammy."
Sam changed hands and stood with Dean's assistance. Ribs were hurt, too, Sam saw, though Dean was doing his best to hide it. Sam yelped involuntarily when he put weight on his ankle and only then remembered Dean mentioning something about having to take him down at the house.
"Can you walk?" Dean asked, and Sam could see the real concern underneath. Dean was watching him like a hawk, but was clearly in his 'Let's be macho, pretend it's all good, and not discuss anything uncomfortable' mode.
"I think so. What happened to your shoulder?"
"Ghost whispering has its limitations."
Sam felt shame flare again, knowing he had, however unwittingly, been the one to hurt his brother. "Dean, I…"
Dean held up a hand stopping him. "Sam, you look like your 'roids are acting up. Relax, man. Not your fault." He sighed. "Come on. The tour guide's gonna wake up before too long."
"You think he's ok?" Sam asked worriedly. To answer his question, the man groaned and brought a hand up to rub over his face.
"Probably in better shape than us," Dean answered. "Now, I've had the crap beat out of me and you've been mostly possessed all day. Can we go already?"
Dean felt dirty.
He was lying on the bed staring at the ceiling. He hadn't bothered to pull back the comforter and was sorry about that now. The adrenaline was wearing off and he was getting cold. The blood on his neck had dried now at least. It would be a pain to get off, but the sticky feeling had passed. His dress shirt was ruined though.
Dean had let Sam head to the shower first. It would help him more. Sam had been quiet on the ride back to the motel. After Meg had used Sam so badly, Dean didn't imagine this little possession was going to sit any better. He made a mental note not to get too pissed off when Sam started asking questions. That time lost would bother Sam until he managed to get every little bit of information out of Dean he could.
Sam came out of the bathroom wearing shorts and a t-shirt. His hair was still damp and he used a towel on it ruthlessly, almost angrily.
"Careful there, Sam. You might be bald one of these years. You'll be sorry for being mean to it while you had it," Dean said roughly.
Sam's hand stopped mid-motion and he turned to look at Dean. "You're worried about my hair when you can hardly move?"
"I'm saying be nice to it, Sam. Hair isn't necessarily a renewable resource."
Sam threw the towel back toward the sink, frowning. "Neither are you, Dean."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Dean grumbled. With the deal's deadline moving closer and closer he could hardly deny it.
Sam limped over and sat down on his own bed. "Dean, I didn't mean that. The deal… We're gonna fix that. I… I just wanna… You can't be so reckless, man. You're living like…"
"Like I'm gonna die anyway?" Dean asked lightly. Sam looked like he'd been sucker-punched and Dean was instantly sorry. His brother didn't deal well with the death jokes anymore. Time for an olive branch. "Tell you what," Dean said. "You quit getting possessed, I'll quit letting you beat me up."
"Sure thing." Sam did his best to laugh, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Just… Thanks. For today. For not letting me do anything… too bad."
Dean could see the burden of the last time, when Meg had been controlling Sam, wrap itself around his brother, weighing him down yet again. He hadn't been able to stop it then anymore than he'd been able to change what had happened today, but that didn't stop him from feeling guilty. Dean saw that Sam was looking down at his bruised knuckles and wished that he could erase the tiny reminders of what had happened.
"S'ok," Dean said simply.
"At least I didn't shoot you again," Sam said.
Dean laughed and did his best to hide that the movement had jostled his ribs. "Where does a decorative tray rate on the points scale? Below a shooting, but above general taunting, I guess."
Sam smiled and Dean was glad to see it. If Sam was smiling, then it was going to be ok. Sooner than some of the disasters they'd been through.
Unbidden, thoughts of the man in the cave began to float through Dean's mind. Just another guy pulled into a war because he didn't have a choice. He had to save his family. Lot of that going around these days.
Dean knew that he'd told the man the truth. He wouldn't be dying because of a demon or because some bad guy had managed to get lucky. He'd made the deal knowing full well what he was doing. He was saving Sam.
It wasn't that Dean thought he was worthless. He had a place in the world, a useful profession. It wasn't that Dean didn't really like himself. He liked himself a lot better than pretty much every one else. He certainly wasn't looking forward to what was coming. Pain was bad. It was one of the first things this life had taught him. And he'd spent too many years trying to alleviate other people's suffering, had already known too much of it himself, to think his future was going to be anything short of unbearable.
But then he thought of Sam, so silent and still, his body already starting to decay as it rested on that filthy mattress. When it came down to it, what kind of selfish bastard looked at someone he loved and said his own life was more important than theirs? Not this one.
Sam felt dirty.
He sat on the bed watching Dean drift off to sleep, still battered and bloody. Sam couldn't actually remember hurting his brother, but the effects were obvious. Dean had stopped him from hurting someone else. Again. And he'd stopped him by stepping firmly between Sam and the people he was trying to hurt.
Sam had been used. Pulled into someone else's fight and used. Violated. He was accustomed to never having anything, never owning anything. He was accustomed to fighting someone else's fight. But ever since Meg… And now being used like that again… He almost felt like he didn't even own himself. Looking at his bruised knuckles, wounds he didn't even remember getting…
"Hey, Sam?" Dean grunted.
"Could you turn the volume down? Your brain's too loud."
"You'd think if it was so loud you'd pay better attention," Sam countered.
Dean smiled and Sam was glad to see it. If Dean was smiling, then it was going to be ok. Sooner than some of the disasters they'd been through.
"Dean… Did I miss anything in the cave?" Sam asked. He had the feeling he'd missed something important, something that maybe he needed to hear.
Dean sighed loudly. "Just the usual. You, me, ghost. General mayhem ensuing…"
"To Ensue. Follow. Arise." Dean raised an eyebrow. "It's a perfectly good word."
"I didn't say it wasn't," Sam said, hiding a grin, though he had his answer and knew he'd missed something while they were in the cave.
"So ghost. Mayhem. Then you decided we had the money for a dry cleaning bill and got your suit muddy, mine too." Dean cast him a disapproving look, made sure Sam was aware of the reprimand, then shut his eyes again.
"How'd you get the ghost to leave, Dean?" Sam asked, refusing to let Dean sidetrack him.
"I told him about your daily grooming rituals and the poor guy decided The Light was a safer bet," Dean quipped, ruining it however by yawning.
"Who has to get their hair cut practically every week to keep it that short?" Sam countered. "Last week, you spent more time looking for a barber than taking out the poltergeist."
"At least I don't have to go a beautician," Dean murmured, already half-asleep.
He was clearly exhausted and Sam didn't have the heart to keep him awake. Truth be told, he was hardly awake himself. He pulled the covers back on his own bed and slid beneath them. Sam gently rested his head on the pillow. It still hurt like it was going to explode but the pain was slowly receding as was the ache in his overtaxed muscles. He closed his eyes and there it was… Everything that had happened that day. Brian, Carrie, the diamond, the fight with Dean, stealing the Impala, the soldier, Dean convincing him who he was really fighting for. The solemn, earnest look on Dean's face…
"Later, Sammy." He yawned again. "Tell you later." Dean's mouth quirked up on one side. "It's all a bit… hazy."
Sam gave a short huff of laughter, then stood, pulled the comforter off his bed and limped toward the other bed to drape it over Dean. His brother didn't even realize it was there, but that was all right. Dean was a shield to everyone around him whether they were aware of it or not. Sam at least knew enough to appreciate it. A blanket to keep the cold away was a small thing to give in return.
Despite his exhaustion, Sam went to the table and opened the laptop. He could do a little research before he turned in. Sam might have inadvertently cost them one of their last days together. Another day lost… Sam focused on the screen, ordering himself to concentrate on the task at hand. If he kept thinking about another day lost he'd have a breakdown in about two minutes flat. Dean first. Breakdown later.
Sam glanced at Dean, then back at the screen and started typing.
Hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!