A/N: Hilly, a character from my story Bloodlines is in this fic. If you haven't read that one, no worries--just know she's a friend (not romantic) that Dean met while Sam was at Stanford. The title comes from the Styx song of the same name. I have been threatened with bodily harm if I don't post this story, so all blame should be placed at SupernaturalGeeks feet. Just kidding--thanks (again) for the push.
Sam was worried about Dean. Of course that was nothing new these days. He pretty much worried about his brother all the time. Since their father's death Dean had seemed to be on something of a downward spiral and that had been worrying Sam. Then after his encounter with the djinn—well Sam had to admit his worry was becoming something more akin to panic. When Dean had told him about it all—their mom alive, dad died a peaceful death, Sam and Jess together—but nothing really for himself, Sam had started feeling that panic. He was beginning to think that tendency of Dean's to put everyone else before himself would lead to something too terrible to even think about.
So he worried. In the two weeks since he had freed Dean from the djinn, Dean had become even less talkative than usual. Which considering Dean was pretty damn silent. He drove a little too fast. He had a tendency to disappear for a couple of hours at night. He'd even gotten drunk, really drunk, once or twice, which was just not like his brother at all.
Then, finally, last night, Sam's worry had driven him to pick up the phone. He had been thinking about making the call for days. Having someone to talk to about his worry was tempting, and finally the temptation won out. When Dean had left to get them food, Sam had pulled out his phone. He scrolled through the numbers and hit talk.
One ring, then two. "Hey, Sam," Hilly answered.
"Hi there," he paused. Ok, now that I've made this call, what do I say?
"How's it going?"
"Good. How 'bout you?"
"Good," a pause. "Are we done with the small talk?"
Sam laughed. Leave it to her to get right down to it. "Well…Maybe I shouldn't have called."
"Uh huh. Let me rephrase the question—what's wrong?"
"What makes you think there's something wrong?"
"Well, I don't think you called just to dance. Out with it, Sam."
"Surprise, surprise." She said, Sam hesitated, still unsure what to say. "Ok, twenty questions time. Wrecked the car?"
"In the hospital?"
"Lost an arm, leg or other important body part?"
"Laying on the floor bleeding as we speak?"
"No," Sam said, feeling the beginnings of a smile. He was feeling better already. I should have called days ago.
"Held captive by the Wicked Witch of the West?"
"Not really, no."
"But? Come on Sam. It'd be hard to strangle you long distance, but I bet I could think of a way."
"We had a run in with a djinn," Sam said and the whole story poured out of him. All of it. He wondered if Dean would kill him for telling someone, anyone, about it, but at that moment Sam needed to share his worry. "And I'm at a loss, I don't know what to say," he finished.
"Understandably," she said. "Where are you guys right now?"
"Are you staying there for awhile?"
"We're chasing a skinwalker, it's going to take some time."
"Good." She paused. The connection was so quiet Sam thought she had been disconnected.
"I'm here, Sam. I was just thinking. I can't just call out of the blue, he'll think something's up. But day after tomorrow's my birthday. He always calls the night before, I'll see what I can do. I might need to make it a conference call, so you'll need to be prepared."
"A conference call? Why?"
"So you can smack him on the head for me while I'm talking to him!" She laughed. "I'll call you after I talk to him, oh co-conspirator."
"Anytime, Sam. You know that."
Sam hung up the phone and sat staring at the wall. He always calls the night before her birthday. She sounded absolutely sure of that. His brother's friendship with Hilly still surprised him sometimes. When he had first found out about her he had been a little angry Dean had never mentioned it, then as he got a chance to know her he was just glad that Dean had that someone that solid around—especially during those years Sam had been at Stanford. It made him feel a little less guilty about his estrangement from Dean at that time.
He had found out that Dean called her on a fairly regular basis, mostly just to chat. Sometimes, Sam knew, Dean called when he thought he couldn't—or wouldn't—talk to Sam about something. She seemed to have a knack for getting Dean to let his guard down and talk. Probably because she female, or not his brother, or more likely—considering Hilly—she threatened to flay him alive at some point. Yeah, that actually sounds like her. After meeting her and spending time with her Sam had started making phone calls too, there was something very calming about that sane acerbic voice on the other end of the phone.
Talking to Hilly last night had made him feel better. Just knowing someone was out there, who also worried about his brother made him a little less frantic. He turned off the shower and stepped out. He could hear Dean talking to someone.
"What you think I'd forget?" Pause, laugh. "Yeah, well, bite me." That has to be her. Another pause. "What does that mean?" Another pause, longer this time. "Not really, no." Sam heard the change in Dean's voice. "I don't know. It's just…" Pause. "I know. I…" Pause "Well if you keep interrupting how can I finish?" Dean sounded, well, sad. "Yeah, I kind of was thinking that. When we're done here. I don't think Sam will mind." Pause. Then laughter, "Yep. You know it. I'll call you tomorrow and let you know."
Sam opened the door to the bathroom, feeling a little guilty about listening in on his brother's conversation. Dean was sitting on his bed, phone in hand. His faced was etched with the look of misery that had appeared after the djinn. Sam sighed. He'd kind of hoped for more from Hilly.
"Who were you talking to, Dean?"
Dean started, "What's that?"
"Who were you talking to? I thought I heard you talking to someone." Sam was looking at him, he saw Dean trying to decide what to say.
"Hilly, it's her birthday tomorrow. I always call."
"How is she?"
"She's Hilly. You know," he said with a little smile.
"Yeah, I know. I hope you told her happy birthday from me, too."
"Yep, of course. Sam…" Dean stopped. More than once in the past couple of weeks Dean would be on the verge of saying something—Sam had no idea what, it seemed to change from day to day—then abruptly stop.
"Nothing. I'm going to take a shower if there's any hot water left." He got up off the bed, grabbed some clothes and headed into the bathroom. Sam heard the shower turn on.
He'd really been hoping Hilly could drag something out of Dean. He was more than a little disappointed. Damn it. I am going to have to figure out a way to deal with this, before it blows up in my face.
Someone knocked on the door. "Who is it?"
That was weird. They hadn't ordered anything and as far as he knew this cheap motel didn't have room service. "We didn't order anything, wrong room." He said from inside the door. Knocking again. "I told you wrong room."
"Wrong room," said wondering what was wrong with the motel staff. Knocking again. "What?"
"What?" He pulled the door open.
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a flight into Durango?" Hilly said, smiling at him from the threshold. "I had to offer to sleep with a pilot I know to get here."
"What the hell are you doing here?" Sam said, stunned.
"Nice to see you, too." She said grinning at him. She stepped up to him and before he knew it she had him in a bear hug. He returned it enthusiastically, suddenly he felt a lot better about things. "Can I come in?" She said pulling away and smiling at him.
"Sure. What are you doing here?"
"You asked that already."
"You didn't answer."
"Well, what do you think I'm doing here?" She said looking at Sam like he was five. I hope she doesn't tell Dean I called her. "It's my birthday tomorrow. You guys couldn't make it to me, so I decided to come to you. What did you think?"
"I don't know I just thought…"
"Of course I'm here because you called. Sheesh," she rolled her eyes. "If he had waited any longer for my birthday call I would have been standing outside the door and that might have been awkward. After talking to him, I asked the taxi to speed up a bit." She smiled at him and tossed her bag on the bed.
"Moving in?" He said with a smile.
"Maybe. Might be fun. And I haven't written a demon hunter piece for years. I brought supplies, too. M&Ms, Doritos, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, beer and tequila. You want to order pizza? My treat."
Sam was shaking his head, He'd forgotten exactly what she was like over the last few months when the only contact had been through the cell phone. "It's good to see you."
"Nothing. I mean it—it's good to see you. What kind of pizza?"
"Whatever, order four or five if you want." She was taking items out of her bag and putting them on the table. "The advantage of a private flight is I could bring all this with me." All this looked like enough alcohol to pickle the three of them. "You'll need to get ice, warm champagne—eep."
He was grinning at her, she was smiling back. "It's great to see you."
"If you say that one more time I am going to freak out. It's kind of worrying me," Hilly said.
The door to the bathroom opened, they both turned towards it. "Sam who are you talking to?" Dean said coming into the room. He stopped, staring.
"Hey," Hilly said.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Dean said.
Hilly rolled her eyes, "I already had this conversation. Can we try something else? How about hello? Bonjour? Hola?"
"Yeah, you expecting someone else?"
"I wasn't expecting you at all," Dean said, sounding angry. He was looking from Hilly to Sam.
"Well, you said you couldn't make it for my birthday—so I thought party here."
"I brought booze, snacks and Sam's going to order pizza as soon as he gets ice for the champagne."
"Birthday party, you, me, Sam? Fun times?"
"Lost your grasp of polysyllabic words?"
"Can we start again with this, please?" She said with a sigh. She was looking at Dean, frowning. Sam could see the concern on her face. "I didn't want to be alone for the birthday this year."
"I said we were coming as soon as this job was over," Dean said defensively, sounding a little pissed.
"Didn't want to wait."
"How did you know where we were?" He looked over at Sam. "You called her," Dean was definitely angry, Sam wondered where it was coming from.
"Dean, I uh…"
"You called her Sam. I can't believe it, why did you call her?"
"Hey, her is standing here, might want to talk to me," Hilly said jumping in.
"Dean I just thought…"
"What Sam? What?"
Oh, no, I think we might have reached the breaking point, not good, not good. "Dean, I just didn't know what to do, man."
"Do about what, Sam?" Dean looked a little wild. "Well, Sam?" Dean was getting angrier. "So you called her. Decided to bring her into our little screwed up world?"
"What?" Sam said looking at Dean.
"It's not bad enough, but you have to bring her into it? Anything else that needs to be dumped on me in the next few seconds?"
"Dean," Sam was worried again. They had gotten to about this point in many arguments in the last two weeks, but then Dean would just shut down and the build up of misery and anger would start again. He was pretty sure it was going to kill Dean if he didn't do something about it. Dean looked like he was getting ready to hit something. I don't know what to do, maybe I'm too close to the problem, maybe I'm the cause of the problem.
"Sam," Hilly said quietly, with her eyes on Dean. "We need ice for the champagne. Would you go get it?"
"What?" He said looking at her. She's nuts, completely nuts.
"Ice, for the champagne. Please Sam," she said handing him the ice bucket. "Please," She hadn't taken her eyes off Dean.
"Um, ok." He looked from her to his brother then walked out of the room. I hope he doesn't kill her while I'm gone.
They were alone. Dean stood looking at her, angry that Sam had called. How the hell did she get here? I was just talking to her a minute ago.
"Well?" Hilly asked him.
"Well what?" Dean said. She knows something's wrong.
"You want to say hello? Or hit me? Either work for you?"
"Sam shouldn't have called you."
"And you really think that after talking to you I couldn't figure out something was wrong? Jesus, Dean, give me some credit." I probably should have waited for that birthday call. She knows me a little too well, I think.
"He still shouldn't have called."
"Get over it. He had no idea I was coming. I just had this odd feeling and thought that maybe you might need me for a change."
"What?" What was she talking about?
"Well, with you it's always us asking for help. From the very beginning almost, for all of us. Sam, me, John, everyone else you help. It's always about us, never about you," she was looking at him, not letting him look away. "Sam told me about what happened with the djinn and your wish, Dean, everyone got what they wanted except you. You didn't even give yourself Sam. For you it's never about you, always us, always our happiness and I thought maybe it needed to be about you."
Never about you, the words echoed in his head. The words of the demon came back to him they'll never need you as much as you need them. What did she just say? About needing her for a change? Doesn't she know, doesn't she realize?
"You have caught me so many times," she continued, looking at him, tears sparkling in her eyes. "So many times, Dean. Won't you let me offer a hand once?"
"What are you talking about?" He was barely holding on.
"Dean," she walked over and put her hands on his shoulders, never taking her eyes from his. "I have nearly lost it, sometimes I just didn't want to go on and you were the only thing that pulled me out. Sometimes just talking with you, bullshitting with you is all I need. You have no damn idea, do you?" The tears had overflowed her eyes and were running down her cheeks.
"Don't Hilly me, Dean. You are not going to get out of this. Don't you get it yet? The reason Sam called, the reason I came? It's not to force you into some big confrontation or dreaded Oprah moment. It's because we need you, not to save the world, not to make it perfect for us, not just to catch us when we fall, or save us from ourselves. No Dean, we need you because we love you. You, not some idealized you, not because of anything you've done, only the fact that you are Dean. That's all we need. You."
"What?"" He could feel his composure beginning to crack. They need me? The ordeal with the djinn, the past year, Sam's possible fate, everything began to fade with that realization. For nothing other than they…
"My god, you are a stupid dense idiot sometimes," Hilly said.
She shook him gently then pulled him to her. Her arms warm around him, supporting him. His composure cracked. He buried his face against her shoulder and he hung on. He felt like he was drowning. He had been drowning, these last few weeks, maybe even before the djinn. "You didn't even give yourself Sam. Everyone, except you." She's right, and still I wanted to stay. Even without my brother, even knowing it was just a wish, I still wanted to stay. I wanted them to be happy and maybe I could have been happy with them, too. I wanted out of all of this so bad. Sam happy, with Jess. But it wasn't real, I would have left Sam here, alone, and that's why I came back. The only reason. He held on to her. His legs seemed to give way and they sank to their knees, and still she held onto him. He could feel tears starting. He tried to stop, then, he let them go. They need me. They need me here. Maybe this better, as bad as it is. I am needed. I am loved. Maybe it's enough.
He was aware of her hand gently on the back of his neck. He still had his head down on her shoulder. Dean took a deep breath, struggling to get back to himself. She just waited, patiently. He took another breath, the ache in his chest gone. Another breath, and another. He pulled away far enough to look at her. Hilly's eyes were red, her face streaked with tears. She smiled at him. He felt an answering smile forming. "Hey, hello," he said.
She laughed and pulled him back into the hug for a minute. "Hello. You look like shit."
"I just had a meltdown, what's your excuse?" He stood and offered her a hand up. "Where's Sam? Shouldn't he be back?"
"I'm sure he'll be right back. What—he can't be gone for three seconds without you getting all Mother Dean?"
"Bite me," Dean said with a smile. He felt lighter.
"Not if Sam's going to be back," she grinned at him. "If he doesn't hurry we'll just start in on the party, what do you think?"
"Let's just start anyway." Dean smiled at her and handed her a beer. He sat down on his bed, leaning against the headboard. She sat down next to him. They clinked the bottles together.
Sam had hurried to the ice machine and back to the room. Dean had looked a little crazed and he was worried. He'd been trying to get his brother to open up and now it looked like something was going to happen. He was worried what that something might be. He opened the door to the room and stopped. Hilly had her arms around Dean, his head was down on her shoulder. Hilly must have heard something, she looked up, met his eyes and smiled. He got the message and left.
Sam wandered out to the Impala and leaned up against it. He pulled out his phone and called information, then the nearest pizza place, ordering three pizzas with as many toppings as he could think of. He stayed there staring up at the bright stars for several minutes. It's amazing to think there are that many stars. Don't get much of an opportunity to look at them.
He had to admit it, he was a little jealous. Hilly had managed to get through to Dean and Sam had been trying for two weeks. What had she said that made the difference? It bugged him. He sighed, and a sudden thought occurred to him—then again, maybe she's said the same thing I have, but he needed to hear it from both of us. The more he thought about it, the more sure he was that was the answer. Sometimes Dean didn't seem to hear him—didn't want to hear him. He just doesn't seem to get that we need him, we love him and that's what matters to us. Nothing else, but he won't hear it. Sometimes I still get angry at dad for what he did to Dean—Dean raised me, hell he raised dad in a lot of ways, parent to both of us. And still he thinks we don't need him. I wonder if he'll ever get it? A terrible thought crept into his head before it's too late.
He stood up and walked back to the room, cautiously opening the door. Dean and Hilly were sitting on the bed together. Their eyes were red and a little puffy. Sam pretended not to notice.
"What took you so long, Sammy?"
"I was just out looking at the stars."
"The stars, Francis?"
"I ordered the pizzas, too. Happy?"
"Did you use my credit card?" Hilly said frowning at him.
"Good," she beamed at him. "Now, grab the goodies, the booze, and the ice—I'll be right back" and she went into the bathroom and closed the door.
Sam picked everything up and set it on the bed. He sat down next to his brother. "Dean?"
"I'm ok, Sammy."
Sam looked at him, searching his face, searching his eyes. "You are. What did she say?"
"That I am a stupid dense idiot." Dean smiled at him. "And all the same stuff you've been saying to me for two weeks. I think I just overloaded and it all got in, finally."
"I'm glad, Dean,"
"Yeah, me too." He leaned against Sam. "You know she might be right about the dense part."
"Of course I'm right. How many times do we have to cover that?" She said coming out of the bathroom. She had three cups in her hand. "Party time." She dropped back down on the bed beside Dean. "When the pizzas come you get up, Sam."
Hilly opened the champagne and they drank the bottle. The pizzas came. The three of them still sat together on the bed. They turned the TV on to a music station and still they sat together. They got a little drunk. They swapped stories and gently teased each other. Still together. Dean noticed the clock on the far wall.
"Hey, it's after midnight, old woman, happy birthday."
"Bite me, Dean."
Dean laughed. They were still sitting together at the head of the bed. He was leaning against Sam, and Hilly was leaning against him. It was pretty damn close to a hug, but it didn't matter. It felt good, the three of them together. Dean smiled to himself. They need me, they love me, it is enough. I wonder if they realized they saved my life? Yeah, like I would ever tell them, so not telling them. I would never live that level of chick flick down. Ever. I know, and that's enough.