Well, guys...here is the last chapter!
Tree and I really want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, favorite, and comment on this story. When we started it, I'm sure we didn't mean for it to take so long to get finished with it but life has a funny way of throwing a wrench into your well thought-out plans. That being said, thank you to everyone who stuck around with us. It really meant so much to us to know we had an anxious crowd, just waiting to find out what exactly we would do with Sam and Dean.
Again, thank you and we hope you enjoy this chapter
Supernaturalsam and Tree66
Something's Right with the World Today
Sam could have killed Dean as he watched his brother launch himself onto the powerful Hindu demon's back. He knew Dean was trying to help him as best as he could but it didn't serve any purpose if the stubborn man got himself killed in the process. Dean was weak enough as it was and Sam was pretty sure he was running on nothing more than pure fear and adrenaline—which wasn't the best combination.
Sam also wasn't going to let Dean's efforts go to waste either. Scooting out from under the demon, he got to his feet, stumbling as he reached for the discarded shotgun that had fallen from his grasp during the earlier attack from the Pishacha. Aiming it, Sam tried for a clear shot but it was hard with Dean and the thing wrestling in what could only be explained as a macabre dance of death.
Finally, the entity turned enough towards him that Sam figured it was now or never, especially after looking at Dean and seeing his brother was beginning to lose his precious grip around the Pishacha's neck.
"Dean, look out!" Sam yelled before firing, the blast of salt hitting the thing, the impact of the shot causing Dean to go flying off of its back. Sam watched in fear as his brother flew through the air, landing hard and rolling dangerously close to the damaged guardrail.
Please, please don't go over the edge! You won't make it this time…
Luckily, Dean stopped mere inches away from the edge of the cliff, but the threat still wasn't over yet as the Pishacha began to approach his weakened sibling. Sam fired another shot, relief flooding through him as the creature stopped its current path. That relief was short-lived as it turned and snarled, its attention only on eliminating Sam now.
Sam darted a glance at the downed man, seeing Dean's mouth opening and closing, but there was no sound coming out. Sam knew Dean was trying in vain to get the creature to focus on him once more and if they weren't in such a perilous situation, Sam would have gone right over to push Dean off the damn cliff for it.
Instead, he swallowed hard as the demon began its slow advance towards him, knowing if he didn't do something fast, there wouldn't be a chance to bitch at Dean later. Shooting a quick glance behind him, Sam saw the truck standing out as a salvation. Shooting one more look towards Dean, he saw the older Winchester trying to get up only to fall back to the ground in a heap.
Just stay down and let me take care of this, Dean!
Turning on his heel, Sam dashed for the tow truck, knowing that the Pishacha was right behind him. He'd barely gotten into the truck and closed the door when the creature's claws reached out and Sam felt a fiery, hot pain ripping between his shoulder blade the resultant spray of blood covering the rear window. Yelling out, Sam turned around as best as he could and fired another blast at the demon, the close range of the shot causing the demon to slightly fade but not completely.
Knowing that it wouldn't last long, Sam hurriedly opened the driver's side door of the cab and crawled out, landing on the ground in a tangle of limbs. Grunting as he pushed himself up, he slammed the door shut, trapping the demon inside the truck. Sam heard an ear-shattering screech and glanced inside to see the Pishacha had rematerialized and was now glaring at him.
"Screwed with the wrong family, you stupid bastard," Sam muttered with a smirk.
Straightening up to his full height, Sam nearly passed out as pain flashed across his back as blood saturated his clothing. He didn't know how bad he'd been injured by the Pishacha but now wasn't the time to worry about it. He needed to get over and check on Dean, knowing his brother was in ten times worse shape than he was.
Stumbling his way towards his downed sibling, Sam fell to his knees beside him.
"Dean?" Sam tried but Dean's eyelids barely fluttered in acknowledgement. Sighing, Sam lightly tapped on his face, hoping to elicit a response that way. "Dean, wake up or I'm going to get some snow and put it down your shirt."
Turning his head away from Sam, Dean opened his eyes, squinting up at him. "Dude…what the hell?"
"Come on, get up for me," Sam said, putting an arm under Dean's back and helping the injured man to sit up. "You've done enough laying down for a while now."
"Your bedside manner…is something left to be desired, Sammy," Dean muttered with a shake of his head.
Sam chuckled. "I'll see if I can work on that for you…when I'm not saving your ass, that is."
"Where's it at?"
Sam nodded towards the tow truck. "In there."
Dean glanced up to look, seeing the demon thrashing about inside. "Did he scramble your brains…or something? You do know that truck can't…hold him, right?"
"Dude, give me a little more credit than that," Sam replied. "What do you think I was up here doing before I went down to get you?"
Dean looked at him blankly.
"I drew the symbols from the curse box onto the truck after filling up the damn thing with the sandalwood. Believe me, he's not getting out of there any time soon," Sam explained.
"How the hell am I supposed…to get the car up here now?" Dean whined.
"We'll worry about that later, Dean. One problem at a time, okay?" Sam said wincing as another wave of pain washed over him, hoping his brother would fail to notice in his current condition.
Dean noticed it. "What happened, Sammy?"
"It's just another scratch, Dean. Nothing I can't handle after I get you taken care of."
"Let me see."
"I told you it was nothing."
"And I'm telling you I don't believe you," Dean answered, his voice a little stronger. He pushed Sam down, seeing the streak of crimson covering the back of his jacket. Looking through the jagged hole at the top, Dean saw the deep gash where the Pishacha had attacked his brother. "You call that a scratch?"
Sam pushed Dean away. "I've had worse."
Before Dean could argue with him further on the subject the sound of an approaching car caught the brothers' attention. Glancing up, they spotted a primer-riddled 1971 Chevelle heading towards them. As it got closer, there was no mistaking the trucker cap nestled on the driver's head—it was Bobby.
As Bobby pulled up behind the car Sam had "borrowed" and came to a stop, Dean finally seemed to notice it. "Dude, you stole that piece of crap?"
Sam gave him an exasperated glare as he painfully rose to his feet. "Would you rather me steal another Bug?"
Dean shrugged, wincing as he seemed to remember his injuries. "It wouldn't have been that surprising since you stole one before."
"Use whatever excuse you want, Sammy. You know you always wanted one of those chick cars."
"Don't mention anything about biting unless you're bringing me a hot little blonde to the party."
Sam rolled his eyes, saying nothing as he walked over to meet Bobby. To say that the older man looked haggard would be an understatement. Dark circles had formed under his eyes and the stress was evident on Bobby's face, though he was trying his best to hide it.
"Where's the demon?" Bobby asked.
"It's in the truck, locked up tight," Sam assured him.
Bobby arched a brow. "How the hell did you manage that?"
Sam shrugged. "I just drew the same symbols you had on the curse box all over it. Figured if it worked the first time, it would have to work now."
"That's pretty smart."
"I tend to have a few moments every now and then."
"Now you're just getting full of yourself."
"Hey, you two plan on staying over there all day long, gossiping like girls?" Dean asked, grumpily.
Bobby huffed. "Well, I see your brother's charming personality is still intact."
"Yeah, I don't think there's any way to get rid of that," Sam agreed, smiling.
"You do know that I can hear you, right?" Dean asked as they made their way towards him. As they came to a stop, he peered up at Bobby. "What the hell…took you so long to get here?"
Sam looked down at his brother, concern coursing through him as he could hear the fatigue and weakness once again taking residence in Dean. He really wasn't sure how Dean was managing to sit up for this long, thinking it somehow had to do more with stubbornness than anything else.
"Boy, if you'd learn how to drive your damn car you wouldn't have gotten into this mess in the first place," Bobby replied, annoyed. "I was bustin' my ass trying to get to the two of you."
"Ignore him, Bobby," Sam said, shooting his brother a glare.
"I usually do."
"Is this really…how you're going to treat an injured man?" Dean pouted.
"What we should be doing is getting your ass to a hospital," Sam said.
"Not until…demon is taken care of."
"Dean's right, Sam. There's no way in hell we can keep the Pishacha in that truck," Bobby replied. "All it takes is one ignorant fool to come along and let the thing out, making us start this business all over again."
"Well, did you find anything in Dad's notes about how to kill it?" Sam asked. "Because I honestly have no idea."
"There was nothing in all that gibberish," Bobby said with a sigh. "Your daddy was one of the best damn hunters I knew but that man was a slacker when it came to writin' down the important stuff."
"Do you have any suggestions then?" Sam asked.
"Well, we have our usual weapons of choice at our disposal—silver, iron, exorcisms."
Sam shook his head. "None of that's gonna work. It barely flinched when I hit it with the rocksalt."
Bobby scratched the back of his neck and shrugged. "We could always find another one of those mantras. Maybe there's something powerful enough to send this thing straight to Hell."
"There's always…another idea," Dean spoke up. "An…obvious one."
"And what's that?" Bobby asked.
"You could always…push the truck…off the cliff…"
"Now I know you're just pulling crap out of your ass," Bobby replied. "Didn't you get enough of cars flying off of cliffs to last you for a while?"
Sam slowly shook his head. "I don't think so, Bobby. I think Dean might be onto something."
Dean smirked. "See? I still got some…brains left."
"What are you thinking, Sam?" Bobby asked, ignoring the older Winchester.
"We have nothing to lose with Dean's idea. We push the truck off the cliff, it explodes. We know that fire can kill a lot of entities."
"But we have no idea if it will kill this thing or not," the grizzled hunter argued.
"You're right, we don't," Sam agreed. "But I'm not seeing any other option here."
Bobby shook his head in wonder. "This has to be without a doubt one of the craziest things I have ever heard. And I have heard a long list of crazy things in my lifetime."
"Never a…dull moment…with us," Dean replied, swaying a little.
Sam noticed that his brother was quickly losing the battle with his wills. "Whatever we're gonna do, we need to do it now. I'm not sure how much longer Dean's going to last."
"Don't worry about me, Sammy," Dean said. "Just get…it finished."
"You heard the man," Bobby said with a sigh as he glanced over at Sam. "Let's get this finished."
Moving away from Dean, they walked towards the back of the truck in silence. Sam could feel the demon watching them but he refused to give it the pleasure by returning its look. The only thing he was concerned with was killing it and then getting his brother the help that he needed.
Getting on either side of the truck, Sam nodded at Bobby, indicating that he was ready. He knew it was going to be a bitch to push, considering the truck wasn't in neutral but they were also catching a lucky break by having the vehicle already facing the cliff. All it would take was some heavy pushing to make it go flying.
The two men worked as one, heaving the truck forward, foot by foot. The strain was causing Sam's back to radiate with pain and he could feel a new wave of blood oozing down. Ignoring it, he continued to work with Bobby, knowing he could take care of himself later.
"I think one more push should do it," Bobby grunted, breathing heavily from the exertion. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a handkerchief and walked over to the gas tank.
"What are you doing with that?"
"You want the damn thing to explode, don't you?" Bobby asked, arching a brow at the younger Winchester. Uncapping the tank, he pushed the rag in. "Did you honestly think it would just explode as soon as we pushed it over the cliff? This ain't a Hollywood movie, son."
Sam said nothing as he just stared at Bobby as the older man lit the end of the rag. Racing to the back of the truck, Bobby asked, "You ready?"
Sam nodded. "On the count of three…one…two…three!"
With one final push the truck went over the edge, crashing against the cliff face as it continued its descent. Going over to Dean, Sam helped his brother up, supporting him as they walked to the guardrail to peer down. A loud explosion rocked the area, followed closely by an earth-shattering screech as the demon was consumed by the fire.
"You think that did it?" Sam asked Bobby as the flames licked hungrily at the vehicle.
"I sure as hell hope so," Bobby replied.
"Did anyone…happen to bring…the marshmallows?" Dean joked weakly.
Sam glanced over at his sibling, a small smile gracing his lips at Dean's attempt at humor. Before Sam could come up with a reply though, Dean's eyes rolled in the back of his head and he collapsed against Sam, finally succumbing to exhaustion and his injuries.
Dean shifted uneasily against the crisp white sheets that covered his hospital bed. Glancing anxiously at the clock above the door, he couldn't help the nervousness that ebbed along his spine. Three days… three long days he'd been cooped up in this room, three days since getting off the side of that mountain, three days of listening to the old man in the opposite bed ramble on incessantly about every medical ailment he currently or ever had.
Reaching down, Dean burrowed his fingers underneath the top of the cast that encased his lower right leg, his nails digging into the flesh just below the back of his knee as he scratched in desperation. At the moment, he really wanted to punch the person who ever said that "itching meant healing."
Still, all things considered, a little itching, some residual pain in his chest if he moved the wrong way, and a slight headache were all minor inconveniences compared to how dire things had been on the side of the mountain. He knew there had been moments when he'd been fairly certain that he was going to end up a meal for the ravenous Pishacha or a tiny smear on the ground two hundred feet below the ledge.
And it wasn't all bad, if he were totally honest. There was something to be said for warm blankets, a generally soft bed that had power controls, and the relative undivided attention of a certain red-headed, nursing assistant named Shannon. Not that he was one to exaggerate his pain, usually quite the opposite, but Dean certainly didn't mind pretending to be more helpless than usual, especially if it meant that the hot little CNA took her time washing his back or gently massaging his bed-stiffened body.
Dean's eyes flew back up to the clock. Almost nine, almost time for Shannon. He smiled broadly, closing his eyes as his mind reflected on the woman's delicate yet strong fingers kneading into the muscles on his back and neck, her gentle stroke as she lathered his skin and then tenderly wiped away the soap with the soft, warm cloth, her soothing voice as she cooed away the daggers of pain that flared when she accidentally touched a sore spot… the heady jasmine scent of her perfume as she bent dangerously close, her lithe body brushing against his, and her…
"Oh holy crap!" Dean muttered loudly, his eyes flying open as he shook his head to banish the mental images that were playing behind his eyes. "I gotta get out of here…"
The sound of soft footfalls coming toward the half-closed door interrupted the injured hunter's comment. He glanced at the entrance, anxiously, nervously, suddenly realizing that his heart was pounding against his chest with anticipation.
The door swung slowly open, the subtle creak of the hinge briefly reminding him of the Impala. By millimeters, the thick entry opened inward. He sniffed the air, waiting for the first hint of jasmine, the first flash of flaming auburn, the first syllable of that western Pennsylvanian accent.
But it never came.
Instead, Dean's eyes caught the shaggy tendrils of a brunette mop, the pungent smell of aftershave and the towering body of… his brother.
Dean let out a disappointed sigh. "Sammy," he greeted dejectedly, his body sagging back against the pillows.
"Good to see you too, Dean," his brother replied with a generous grin and flash of white teeth.
In a sweeping movement Sam produced a small white paper bag, tossing the package at Dean who deftly snagged it out of the air. He knew before opening it what the contents were, the aroma of grease, eggs, and sausage filling the air around him.
"Aw, Sammy. You weren't what I was hoping for, but I'll forgive you since you brought me breakfast," Dean said with a smile.
"Dare I even ask what you were hoping for?" Sam asked hesitantly, his eyes wincing in expectation of his brother's answer.
"Let's… just say… you're about a foot too tall… and… not nearly… as pretty…" Dean answered as he tore into the biscuit.
"Nevermind. I should have known. What's her name?"
Dean swallowed with a gulp before washing down the last bite with a long draw from the Styrofoam cup Sam had placed on the bedside table. "Awww, Sammy. She has the most magical fingers. I'm telling you, the way she works that…"
"Dean! Please, I don't need to hear about it," Sam interrupted.
"Dude, I'm telling you. There's so nothing wrong with letting a beautiful woman bathe your body. It's cathartic."
"Orgasmic?" Dean added with a devilish grin, chuckling when his baby brother's face curled up in disgust.
"Dean, please, it's too early in the morning to listen to your exploits. I still can't get the mental image of you and the Doublemint Twins out of my skull. Besides," Sam continued. "Are you supposed to be up to all these extra-curricular activities yet?"
"I'm hurt, Sammy, not dead," Dean answered, instantly regretting it as he watched his brother wince at the casual reference to his mortality. He covered the remark, quickly adding, "So, what's new today? You here to spring me?"
He watched Sam's face transform, going from the pinched, pained expression as his brother was obviously lost in thought about Dean's impending date with the Hellhounds, becoming softer, the creases around his eyes softening, dimpled cheeks filling out as Sam took on a look of relief. Dean knew this most recent brush with death had only served to bring his deal and the consequences to the forefront. Still, he was alive, escaping by the skin of his teeth like he somehow always managed to. Maybe that was a good thing, maybe his run of luck would continue and he would miraculously evade his crossroads contract.
Yeah… right! You've been living on borrowed time for a long while, Dean. Even a cat eventually runs through its nine lives…
"I'm not springing you from anywhere until your doc says so," Sam informed him with a commanding tone.
"He already did," Dean replied eagerly. "Was in here first thing making rounds. Checked my ribs, checked the cast and said I was doing great."
"Doing great does not equate a discharge, much less you being up and walking on that leg."
"You're such a stickler for details, Sammy."
"Dean, the Impala plunged off the side of a mountain with you inside. Oh, and let's not forget, a demon was snacking on your like you were a burger on an extra value meal. Three days in the hospital with an open fracture, broken ribs, exposure and enough lacerations to make Frankenstein jealous, isn't exactly the textbook recovery time."
"Ah, Sammy. Don't be such a drama queen. I didn't really 'plunge' over the side of a mountain, it was more like a short plummet with a sudden stop at the end," Dean teased in return with a little chuckle that jarred his injured body. Reflexively, he reached to splint the damaged ribs, his eyes flying up to see if his worrywart bother had noticed.
Sam had; the combined look of concern and annoyance flashing across his face.
"Besides," Dean continued more seriously. "Don't forget we have a somewhat persistent and pissed-off Fed on our asses. We've already been here long enough to hit Henrickson's radar and I'm not looking for a repeat of Green River, ya know?"
Sam was quiet for a moment, but then slowly nodded. "Yeah, I s'pose that fake insurance card Bobby had for you won't hold out for long either," he agreed ruefully.
It was Dean's turn to nod as he dug his fingers once again underneath his cast.
"Stop that," Sam ordered. "and finish your breakfast."
The young hunter dug back into the bag, pulling out a luke-warm hashbrown which disappeared into his mouth with one fluid movement. After two days trapped on the ledge with no food or water, the cold greasy taste of the fast food was very welcome. He chased it down with another sip of steaming coffee then sank back against the soft pillows behind his head with a satisfied sigh.
"So, I been meaning to ask you, what happened with the Pishacha?" Dean asked after a moment.
"You don't remember? You were there," Sam replied worriedly.
"I sorta remember you and Bobby pushing the truck over the side of the cliff, but not so much after that. I think I fell asleep."
"Asleep? Dude, you passed out."
"Did not. Besides, it was the blood loss."
"Whatever… anyway, Bobby stuffed a rag in the gas tank and lit it right before the truck went over. It hit a couple hundred feet below and exploded like a scene out of a Bruce Willis movie," Sam recounted.
"And that's it?"
"Guess so," Sam said with a shrug.
"Guess so? What the hell kind of answer is that? Sam, we can't risk that damn thing getting loose again," Dean cried out, sitting up abruptly.
The sudden shift set a wave of pain through his newly set leg and Dean gasped, his hand lashing out to grab at the fiberglass encased extremity. Sam moved to his side, but the elder sibling waved him off.
"Look, Sammy," Dean continued, his breath coming from between clenched teeth. "That bastard killed that poor man, nearly killed me and you, and that was after it had been boxed up for nearly five years. If it gets back out in the world, gets its full strength back, God only knows what it can do, or, how we'll stop it next time."
Sam reached out and gently pressed Dean back down to the bed. "Dude, relax. The truck was fully involved. The Pishacha was trapped inside, it wasn't getting out. And Bobby's sure that between the runes outside and the fire, the demon was destroyed."
"Well, pretty sure, at least."
"Pretty sure? I thought you didn't like 'pretty sure,'" Dean reminded.
"Bite me, Dean. I sorta had more pressing things on my mind at the time," Sam threw back.
Dean chuckled. There was nothing better than getting under his brother's skin unless it was using Sam's own words against him.
The soft sound of more footsteps approaching the hospital room sounded and Dean's smile broadened as the door swung open to reveal a beautiful young redhead dressed in pale green scrubs, carrying fresh blankets and towels.
"Shannon!" the injured hunter greeted eagerly. "My angel of mercy."
"Dean," she returned. "my naughty patient. Were you a good boy during the night or am I going to have to play bad nurse again?"
The young woman smiled suggestively as she looked at Dean, her face suddenly blushing when she spotted Sam standing off to the side.
"Uh, oh…you have a visitor. I can come back later," the nurse offered apologetically.
"No! No! He's just leaving. Sam would never stand in the way of my recovery, now would ya, Sammy?"
"Errr… uh… Dean…"
Dean shot his brother a wily grin, but his eyes held an ominous glare that was not to be mistaken.
"Uh, yeah… I'll just go wait for Bobby while you get your… uh… well… yeah… just enjoy…" Sam stammered, moving toward the door.
"Really, it's no problem, I can come back later," the redhead insisted.
"No, you can stay," Dean implored, his voice vaguely holding a hint of begging.
"Hey, am I too late for the party?" a deeper voice interrupted.
The occupants looked over to the door and the arrival of Bobby Singer. The elder man stood in the doorway, a mischievous smile on his face as he took in the scene before him.
"You have visitors, I'll just come back later," Shannon stated nervously, whirling around and dashing from the room.
Dean sighed loudly and dropped his head solidly back against the pillow with a groan. "Damn, Bobby!"
"What? Did I interrupt something?" the bearded man asked.
"Thank God you did," Sam added.
"I hate you both," Dean hissed.
"Now is that any way to thank us for saving your ass?" Bobby teased.
Sam's laughter did nothing to make Dean feel any better. As eager as he was to escape the confines of the hospital, the idea of missing out on the chance for one last bath and massage stung like a forgotten birthday.
"Okay, well since you've both ruined my morning, what say we ditch this popsicle stand?" he asked.
"You s'posed to be going anywhere?" Bobby asked worriedly. "Surely you bought a little more than three days in this joint. Besides, it didn't look like you were in such a hurry to scoot out of here just a minute ago. Are you even supposed to be up on that leg yet?"
"That's what I asked too," Sam interjected with a knowing frown.
"Look, we already had this discussion. I might not be up for tangling with a pissed- off cannibal demon, but staying here much longer is just tempting fate."
Both men nodded in agreement, understanding that the law was less than open-minded when it came to the Winchester brothers and their ghost-busting activities.
"So, how do we pull this off? Not like you're just casually strolling out of here," Bobby asked.
"First, toss me my clothes out of the closet. Then if you can grab me those crutches, I'll be just fine. The nurses are all busy taking report or passing meds, they won't miss me for a while. Bobby, if you can make sure you have the Impala running by the loading dock, Sam and I'll meet you there in about fifteen," Dean instructed.
Neither man initially moved.
"Sam, come on. Get my clothes." Still, neither Sam nor Bobby budged. Instead, they merely exchanged nervous glances between them.
"Uh, Dean. There's a little problem with your plan," Bobby said after a minute.
The injured young man became concerned by the sullen look on his old friend's face. Next to him, Sam mirrored the expression. Was there something else? Something they hadn't told him? Surely his injuries weren't that bad, yet both men looked at him as though he was terminally ill.
In some respects, maybe he was…
"Come on, guys. What's going on?" he asked worriedly.
"Uh, it's the Impala…" Bobby began slowly.
Dean's eyes went wide with concern. "What about her? What's happened to my baby?"
"Dean, you have to know, we tried. We tried everything we could… but…" Sam offered.
"Oh my God," Dean cried out. "You left her there? On that ledge? How could you?"
"We tried to pull her back up to the top, but damn, Dean, that old girl was a heavy bitch, one of the best Detroit ever put out, and that cliff was just too sheer," Bobby explained.
"Oh God," Dean repeated, feeling the room around him suddenly begin to spin wildly, the edges of his vision blurring as his heart hammered within his chest.
"We thought about salting and burning her, you know, kinda poetic all things considered," Sam added.
Dean's breath came in gasps as he crimped his eyes tightly closed. It couldn't be… it just couldn't be… His car… his beautiful, wonderful car… gone…
"Dean…" Sam's voice broke through softly, but he didn't care, wasn't listening.
Gone… like home… like Mom… like Dad… all gone…the recently-silent inner voice suddenly piped in.
Like you will be soon too…
His breathing now coming in ragged gulps, Dean absently felt Sam's hand's grab his shoulders.
"He's actually hyperventilating…"
"Dean… DEAN!" Sam shouted, shaking the injured man's upper body.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea…" Bobby suggested.
"Dean, it was just a joke." Sam's voice seemed distant and for a moment, Dean wondered if he was back inside his beloved car, trapped on the side of the mountain.
"Honestly, son, we were just messing with you. The Impala's fine, err… well, she will be," Bobby insisted.
The young hunter slowly opened his eyes, the brief moment of nausea residing. He glanced up at the two concerned faces that stood at his bedside.
"My car?" he queried, his eyes imploring at his brother and old friend.
"She's okay. We were just screwing with you," Sam answered. "I'm sorry, Dean. We didn't mean for this to happen."
Dean glared at him now, realization dawning on him that he'd just been the brutal end of a very cruel prank.
"I really hate both of you now…" he groaned, relief washing through him. "How could you be so heartless? That wasn't even funny!"
"Dude, after what you just put us through, you and your stubborn ass. It seemed like the least you owed us was a little fun at your expense, especially after we busted our humps getting here to rescue you off the side of that mountain," Sam informed him.
"I didn't do that on purpose."
"You never do, Dean. You're like a trouble magnet sometimes. And that's not even the point," Sam replied.
"Then what the hell is. Dammit, Sam. You think I like having my body served up for a hungry demon?"
"No, I don't think that. The point is, I'm tired of the lies," the tall sibling lamented. "I pretty much had to pry out of you what had happened and how bad you were hurt."
"What good would it have done if you knew? You would have only freaked more," Dean rationalized.
"Because I care, you big stupid idiot. Do you think it makes you seem any bigger or stronger when you try to cover up how bad you're hurt?"
"It wasn't that bad…"
"No? That's why you're laying there in the bed right now, huh?" Bobby threw in.
Dean cast him a dirty look. "You too?"
"Yes, me too. Dammit boy, we thought we were gonna lose you up there," the elder hunter bemoaned. "We've been busting our humps to find a way to save you from that crossroads deal, we're not about to let your ass go a minute sooner."
Dean smiled sheepishly, shrinking back slightly as his brother and Bobby let their emotions display.
"I know…" he said softly.
"Do you?" Sam asked. "'cause lately, it sorta seems like you've given up a few months early. I mean, I know you've always been a shoot first and ask questions later kind of person, but anymore, it's just…"
"Okay… okay… I get it. No more lies. From now on, if I wake up with so much as a sniffle, you two will be the first to know," Dean joked.
There was a long silence as Sam and Bobby merely stood there staring at him, only the noise from the activity outside breaking the uncomfortable stillness.
It was awkward… no worse than that, it was downright nerve-wracking as Dean lay there under their tight scrutiny. The replay of Sam's confrontation outside the farm in Lincoln coursed through his head.
He hadn't lied to his brother back then; he was tired of it all. Hadn't the voices in his head confirmed as much while he was trapped inside the car? Yet still, he hadn't meant to cause any grief for Sam or Bobby. He'd never meant to lie to his brother; he just didn't want to hurt him with the truth.
"Alright, I'm sorry," Dean acquiesced. "No more holding things back. I swear."
Sam smiled, but as Dean looked at him, there remained a hint of sadness deep within his brother's hazel eyes.
"So, seriously… can I please get out of here?" he pleaded.
Bobby laughed, breaking the tension. "I'll go get the car. I so don't want to see your backside hanging out of that hospital gown."
He disappeared out the doorway as Sam retrieved clean clothes from the nearby closet.
A few desperate, pain-filled moments, plus the quick slicing of the right leg of his jeans to allow for the cast and Dean was dressed.
"You sure this is smart? Another day couldn't hurt," Sam offered.
"Nah, I'm good," Dean replied. "Honestly, Sam. No lies. I don't want to lose another day lying around here, hot Shannon or not."
Sam's face turned downward, Dean's inadvertent reference to wasted time just more salt in the open wound between them.
"Dean…" he began sullenly.
"No, Sammy!" Dean interrupted with a raised hand. "We're not doing this now, matter of fact, we're not doing this ever. I already told you, I'm not spending the year marking days off on a calendar or moaning about my fate. Broken leg or not, I'm living, dude. I'm not gonna hide away or waste away. You know me better than that."
"I know that, Dean…" Sam's replied, his voice barely audible.
"It's gonna be okay, Sammy," Dean promised with a good-natured slap on his brother's shoulder.
Their eyes meeting briefly and Dean flashed the best smile of confidence he could muster. He hoped that Sam believed it.
He only wished he could believe it too.
The relief Dean felt at seeing his baby on a trailer behind Bobby's car was fast replaced by the acknowledgement that he was being relegated to the back seat for the duration of the drive back to South Dakota. He protested, loudly and vigorously, but there was no winning against Sam's stalwart determination to make him as comfortable as possible in the rear, equipping Dean with several pillows, a thick blanket and a small cooler filled with soda and candy.
Dean protested, after all it was expected and he didn't want to disappoint the other men, but after the first hundred miles, he was thankful to be able to stretch out his injured leg and lean against the soft pillows to ease the ache in his chest. Without a doubt, whatever motel the two had been staying at during his hospital stay was now devoid of most of the linens by the looks of his back seat accommodations.
They drove for several hours in relative silence, finally stopping at a small convenience store outside Strongsville, Ohio to refuel, much to the appreciation of Dean's bladder. He pushed open the back door of the Chevy and was struggling to get out when Sam returned from inside.
With a lot of effort and even more assistance than Dean was willing to admit he needed, they made their way to the restroom and back just as Bobby finished pumping the gasoline.
"How about letting me ride shotgun for a bit?" Dean asked hopefully.
Sam smirked. "Dude, just get in the back before you fall on your face," he ordered.
"Heartless, bitch," Dean snarked under his breath.
"Broken leg… elevation… risk of complications… any of that ringing a bell?" Sam retorted. "Just get your ass in there and be glad you're not still parked in the hospital. You wanted out, now you're stuck with doing what I tell you."
Dean huffed and glanced at Bobby across the roof.
"Don't look at me like that, boy. I'm siding with your brother on this one. Now why don't you just get in the back and enjoy the ride, Miss Daisy," the older man teased.
Hopping on one leg, unbalanced on the crutches, he managed to shoot dual middle fingers in the direction of both hunters. They laughed, he scowled, and quickly ducked into the rear to escape their humor.
With a slam of the passenger's side door, Sam dropped into the front seat as Bobby pulled back out onto the road. Dean made no effort to hide his displeasure at being stuck in the back, out of control and bored to tears as the scenery went by for miles.
His ploy played out, deep sighs breaking through the silence of the interior until Sam spun around and shot him a lethal glare.
"Are you a two-year-old or what?" the younger sibling demanded with irritation as he slammed shut the large book he'd been reading.
"I'm bored," Dean whined, his fingers digging once more underneath the edge of the cast.
"Stop scratching and read something," Sam commanded.
"Got nothing to read."
"Here, take a look at this. Its' got some interesting info on demons. Might come in handy."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Nah!"
"You have the latest issue of Busty Asian Beauties…."
"Already read it… three times."
"Well then take a nap," Sam suggested.
Dean sighed loudly again, dropping back against his makeshift bed and closing his eyes.
"Dean… hang on," Sam called out.
He opened his eyes to see Sam rummaging through his backpack, curiosity enough to make him lean forward slightly and peer over the front seat.
"I almost forgot. I promised you this and well…" Sam began, twisting around to hand Dean a yellowed envelope.
"What is it?"
"A letter… from Mom…" Sam choked out. "There was one to me too."
"Did you read mine?" Dean asked as he lifted the flap and pulled out the contents.
Sam shook his head. "I wouldn't do that."
Dean nodded and sunk back against the seat, slowly opening the folded letter, his heart pounding as the first loops of his mother's handwriting greeted his eyes.
My Dearest Dean,
The happiest day of my life was the day you were born. You were so perfect, so quiet, looking up at your father and I with those eyes that seemed the embodiment of love and strength.
You were such a good baby, hardly ever crying, always smiling… your eyes always taking in everything around you. And even when you were barely more than a couple of weeks old, I remember you grabbing my finger with your tiny hand and grasping it with so much strength… I remember thinking then that I never wanted that contact to break.
Even now, as you lay resting on my lap, even in slumber, there is a fierce strength about you that is so wonderfully tempered by a four-year-old's laughter, warmth and excitement about everything in the world around him. Watching you grow, play, learn and most especially laugh, is to know that God indeed has a plan for us all. I can only hope that someday you will know that same joy and overwhelming feeling of love.
So, I write this letter to you now, my dearest, because today, that same hand that once so strongly grasped my finger, was grasped by the hand of his baby brother for the first time – and I couldn't help but realize the significance of that simple action.
While you will always be our firstborn, our beloved son, you are no longer ours alone. For in that brief contact, you became Sam's. That same light that sparkled in your eyes that day nearly four years ago, shined again that moment as you looked down into the eyes of your new baby brother.
Never let the connection that you two forged today be dulled or severed. And while you will always have your father and I at your side to watch over and protect you, nothing will ever replace the love and faithfulness of that bond.
Watch over little Sammy. Guide, protect and teach him as he follows in your footsteps. Even as the years go by, and your father and I will pass, you will always have family in your brother.
Know that you hold an awesome responsibility to Sam, but also rest assured in the knowledge that he, in turn, will always be there for you. Even if miles separate you, even if life intervenes, nothing can replace nor diminish the grasp of that hand…
Sleep well my son, safe in the knowledge that your father and I love you dearly, that your brother will always be at your side and that angels are watching over you, always…
All my love,
Dean refolded the letter tenderly, his chest aching painfully as his mother's gentle voice still echoed in his mind.
He didn't honestly remember that much about her, the sound of her laugh, the look of her face, the rare memories that he ferociously clung too were really only miniscule traces of what he dreamed her to be. Even his encounter with the Djinn hadn't really been anything more than a bizarre combination of hazy recollection and fervent wish.
For the past twenty-four years, he'd fooled himself into creating an image of a person that deep-down, he truly didn't know. Never having the chance to get to know her beyond goodnight kisses, scraped knees, fresh-baked cookies and unearthly screams of torment framed by heat and flames all framed by a four-year-old's hazy memory. Until now…
This letter was hardcore proof that Mary Winchester had lived, had dreamed, and had loved her sons. The letter was evidence that she had wanted something more for them, had wanted normality and a life where she and their Dad grew old together, surrounded by the family that Dean could only dream of.
He looked back at the letter still clenched in his hand as his eyes glistened with moisture. Would she be proud of him now? Had he fulfilled her expectations of watching out for Sam?
The young hunter looked up and wiped at the corner of his eyes.
"Yeah," he answered, swallowing hard against the stubborn lump that had lodged in his throat.
"You okay?" Sam asked gently.
"Yeah, I'm good," Dean replied with a thin smile.
"What did she say in her letter?" Sam chanced.
"Nothing much, just warning me about this pain-in-the-ass little brother that had just popped into the world," Dean joked. "What was in yours?"
Sam laughed and nodded. "Yeah, pretty much the same in mine. Mostly just telling me about Dad and this dorky little boy that was my big brother."
"Whatever!" Dean returned with a chuckle.
Sam turned back to the front and reopened the book, but Dean could see the corner of his eyes and knew the younger man was lost in thought. He watched Sam in silence for several more minutes, memories of his brother as a small baby morphing gradually to the tall man that sat before him.
I tried to watch out for him, Mom! I did everything I could after you were gone, and then after Dad was gone. I tried to protect him, but now…I can't be there for him much longer, Mom. I'm sorry…
He wiped angrily at a stray tear, glad for the moment that sequestered in the back seat, no one noticed.
Folding the envelope in half, Dean tucked it into his jacket, depositing it in the interior left pocket just over his heart. For a moment, he thought he could almost smell her, that soft, warm scent that was indefinable yet distinguishingly hers.
I miss you so much, Mom…
Bobby's vocal yawn stirred him from his revelry and Dean glanced up as the elder hunter fumbled with the dial on the radio. The random notes of several songs blasted from the old speakers until the scratchy twang of Waylon and Willie erupted.
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys… Don't let them pick guitars and drive them old trucks… Make them be doctors and lawyers and such…
… Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys… They'll never stay home and they're always alone… Even with someone they love…
"You gotta be kidding me!" Dean complained from the rear.
"Hey, this is a classic," Bobby defended. "You got a problem with country music?"
"Yeah, I do. First of all, it's depressing and second, it hardly qualifies as music. Can't you find a station with some classic rock? Maybe some Bad Company or better yet… Metallica?" he pleaded.
"You call that music?"
"Come on, injured man here and all. Humor me?" Dean whined.
Sam laughed and spun around. "Aw, Dean. That concussion must have been worse than the docs thought," he stated. "You've forgot the cardinal rule."
"And what's that?" Dean asked sarcastically.
"Driver picks the music, back seat shuts his cakehole…" Sam answered, twisting the knob until the country music drowned out the hysterical laughter of the two men in the front seat.
Dean groaned, sunk down into the layer of pillows and closed his eyes as the afternoon sun dropped below the horizon. He ignored the music, ignored the wafting laughter, even managed to ignore the incessant itch beneath the cast.
Pressing his hand against his chest, there was an odd feeling of warmth that emanated from the interior pocket. It enveloped him, comforted him, and as he drifted into the darkness of sleep, he could hear his mother's voice lulling him away, overshadowing the inner voice that had tormented him with its doubt and self-accusation…
And while the clock still ticked and his deal still loomed, for the first time in weeks, Dean slept peacefully, knowing that at least for that moment, one of Heaven's angels truly was watching over him.