Summary: The world seems to be conspiring against Sam and Dean. Will they survive the elements, their memories and a certain Yellow Eyed Demon? Conclusion to the They're Here Trilogy (They're Here and We're in for a Bumpy Ride) which are set post ELAC.
Angry, dark clouds rolled and swirled across the sky. It looked like a nasty storm was brewing and Dean hoped he would have time to check out the lead on Dr. Osmond and get Sam back to Bobby's before the heavens opened up. The last thing his little brother needed right now was to get caught out in the rain.
Dean glanced briefly over at Sam and marveled at the inner strength of his younger brother. By no stretch of the imagination was getting accidentally committed to a psychiatric unit and then beaten within an inch of your life normal. But here was Sam, stretched out as much as the passenger seat would allow, staring out the passenger window, acting as though everything was just business as usual.
Sam sensed Dean's attention and turned his head. He quirked an eyebrow in question. His brother's vocal cords had been injured during a life saving procedure and he was forced to communicate with body language or via a laptop computer for now. It was frustrating for both brothers but only temporary.
Sam's demeanor relaxed as Dean's face broke into a smile. He returned his attention to the road as he mused on the way Sam relied on him. A simple smile from him held the power to comfort his brother. His injured brother.
His brother was listing to the side, his injured arm curled close to his body. The bruises on his face were fading but still colorful. "You feeling alright over there?"
Sam quickly nodded his head yes. He'd answered a little too quickly for Dean's liking. It was a typical Winchester answer and for that Dean couldn't fault him. Instead he smirked, trying to cover his concern. "Cause if you're not, I can turn the Impala around and take you back to the hospital. I'm sure your nurses would love to have you back."
He was equal parts serious and kidding when he asked about taking Sam back to the hospital. Sam had been insistent about leaving and Dean had been just as anxious to get him sprung but anyone could see he wasn't strong enough to be out yet. And the nurses weren't happy to see Sam leave. They had been falling all over themselves to take care of his 'sweet' little brother and he loved teasing Sam about it.
Sam rolled his eyes at his big brother.
"I'll take that as a no. We're going to make a brief stop at the gas station up ahead and then we're going straight to Bobby's. If you're good I'll read you a story before I tuck you in for a nap," Dean teased.
He was rewarded with a snort from Sam. Damn, it was good to see Sam upright and functional again. And his sense of humor was returning. He'd almost forgotten how much he enjoyed being in Sammy's company.
But that didn't stop Dean from wishing Sam had agreed to go directly to Bobby's while he pursued this lead on his own. He'd spent so much time and energy worrying about Sam that he craved some alone time. Just enough time to get his head together. But Sam needed him now and he resigned himself to the current situation.
Dean glanced back over at Sam and noticed he was starting to nod off. This Post Concussive Syndrome was really something. Sam's focus was screwed up, his short term memory was shot and it made him exhausted. Again Dean doubted the wisdom of dragging Sam with him to the gas station first but Sam had been adamant that they stay together.
"Wakey, wakey, princess. We're here," Dean said in a sing-song voice as he pulled up next to the gas station. Dean waited until Sam's eyes made eye contact with him before he continued on, "I want you to stay here while I talk to the guy inside, okay?"
He could easily read the burst of panic in Sam as he shifted with agitation in the passenger seat. He knew his brother was anxious when Dean was out of his sight but there were times when it wouldn't be safe for Sam to stay by his side. His brother shook his head 'no' vigorously and pointed to himself with his uninjured left arm and then at Dean. He was going wherever Dean was going.
"Look, Sam, you're exhausted. Just sit tight and I'll be back in fifteen minutes," Dean tried to reason with Sam but his brother crossed his arms over his chest and stared him down.
"Fine. But it's going to take us longer because I'll have to pry you out of the car and help you inside," Dean was exasperated but Sam's face was stubbornly set so he knew they'd just waste more time arguing about it.
Dean eyeballed the gathering clouds again. He could see lightning in the distance as he hustled around the car and opened Sam's door. Gently reaching in he helped maneuver Sam's legs out and then grasped Sam's left hand and tugged him upright. When Sam started to tilt backward Dean slipped an arm around Sam's waist to stabilize him.
Dean shook his head in frustration. Sam should be stretched out on a bed, resting, not traipsing around town. But there was no reasoning with Sam when he was in this mood.
The brothers slowly walked around the side of the building, Dean absorbing most of Sam's weight, and entered the door to the convenience store. Dean could feel Sam's energy flagging and cast about for a place to set his brother. Up against the wall he spied a chair and he practically had to drag Sam over to it.
Dean lowered Sam into the chair before he settled a hand on top of his brother's head, pushing it down between his legs. "Sam, you still with me?" He didn't expect a verbal reply but Dean could tell by the way Sam leaned limply into him that he wasn't in control of his faculties.
Dammit, he should have hog-tied Sam and forced him to go to Bobby's. But doing so would have been courting danger; eventually his brother would find a way to slip out and find Dean and that would be disastrous.
Muted footsteps approached from behind. "Excuse me, is he okay?" a voice asked in a hushed tone from behind Dean.
Dean glanced over his shoulder and saw a convenience store worker hovering nearby. The rest of the store seemed to be empty of customers. "He's been sick and I think he passed out," Dean explained over his shoulder before returning his full attention to this brother.
He could see Sam's breathing was slow and even but he reached down and grabbed Sam's left wrist feeling for a pulse. A little fast but it eased Dean's concern a bit.
"Time to rise and shine, sunshine," Dean rubbed Sam's back as he tried to coax him awake. He was rewarded when he felt the muscles in Sam's shoulders bunch beneath his hand. Dean reached out and tilted Sam's chin up, satisfied when Sam's eyes blinked open. He carefully grasped Sam's upper arms and pulled him upright. A dazed Sam looked around the store, the color in his face still washed out but not a ghostly white like it had been before Sam's faint.
Dean briefly rested a hand on Sam's shoulder before giving the nape of his neck a quick squeeze before letting it drop to his side. "You okay now?" he asked as he closely watched his brother.
Sam reached forward and clutched Dean's hand giving it an answering squeeze. It could have been 'thanks' or 'I'm okay' but it meant Sam was conscious again. Dean felt relief wash through him but he was still ticked at the situation; Sam obviously shouldn't be up and about and despite his pleas to tag along Dean had known better.
Giving Sam one more look and finding him no worse for the wear he turned his attention to the convenience store worker. "Hi, I'm George Lynch with the Center for Disease Control and I need your help."
Dean smoothly pulled an ID from his pocket, flashed it at the startled worker, and had it back in his pocket within two seconds. He somehow thought his alias as the guitar god from Dokken was safe from this Sid Vicious wannabe.
The worker nervously ran his hand through his spiked red hair and fingered the piercing in his lower lip before answering, "What do you want to talk to me about?"
Dean stood back on his heels and looked down his nose at the attendant. "No need to worry. I'm trying to track down a Dr. Osmond on CDC business, we need his help with an outbreak down south, and our records show he made a purchase here last week. I'm wondering if I could please speak to the person on duty that day. We really need to get in touch with Dr. Osmond and we're pursuing every lead."
Dean's explanation had tripped off his tongue effortlessly. The clerk responded hesitantly after briefly thinking over the request. "Well, um, yeah, sure. Can I ask exactly what kind of outbreak?"
Dean sized up the kid and saw that curiosity was eating him up but he wasn't quite sold on the authenticity of the request. Dean decided he'd go with a repulsive answer to distract him. "Have you heard of Ebola? It's kind of like that only your skin peels away from your body first. Kind of like being eaten from the inside out."
The kid looked impressed, his eyes glowing. "Cool. I mean, that's really gross." He peaked over Dean's shoulder and motioned toward Sam, "He isn't…infected with it, is he?" he asked nervously.
Dean's eyes twinkled with suppressed laughter. "No, he's having problems with a mutant STD strain but he's not contagious."
The clerk's eyes just about bugged out his head. "What was the date and time again? If you'll just follow me, we'll go back to the office and I'll find out who was on duty. We also keep videotape for a week so we might be able to find something for you there."
Dean smiled his thanks, oozing sincerity. "Thank you for your cooperation. The CDC is much obliged for any help you can give us. I'll be right there," he called as the clerk headed toward the back of the store.
He quickly headed toward the front of the store, kneeling in front of his sibling. "Sammy, how are you doing?"
He was greeted with a glare. Sam was aware of his surroundings and apparently had heard what Dean told the clerk because he mouthed 'mutant STD?'
He lightly patted his brother's cheek. "Sorry about that but it's for a good cause. I'm going to go back to the office and hopefully get the information we need and then we'll head for Bobby's."
Dean was halfway through the store when he stopped and turned again, wagging a finger at his brother. "Hey, I want you to stay put right there. No wandering off."
Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head in agreement. Dean paused to watch for a moment as Sam crossed his arms, not easy to do with one arm in a cast, and tried to settle more comfortably in the chair. Dean wanted to hurry. His brother was looking pale and drawn and people who passed out should be stretched out, resting, not sitting in hard plastic chairs.
Sam watched his brother stride toward the back of the store. Dean had given him a look of sympathy which really struck a nerve. Sam didn't want anyone's pity. Not even Dean's. But he was completely reliant on his brother to help him and he couldn't prevent his breath from quickening or his pulse from racing as Dean disappeared around the corner, out of his sight.
Looking out the window he saw the storm approaching with bright flashes of light and heard muted thunder in the distance. The storm was a good distraction from his anxiety.
Distraction turned to confusion when, during one of the flashes, he thought he saw something else at the far edge of the property, past the gas pumps. He squinted his eyes trying to make it out. Two figures were waving at him, inviting him outside.
A/N: I would be remiss in not thanking two very special people for spurring me on to finish this story. Faye Dartmouth not only supplied the beta for the first two chapters of this story but she contributed the funniest line and held my hand while I hit patch upon patch of writer's block. Then there's Gidgetgal9 who not only provided beta services on the whole story but who saved my bacon by sending me all of the completed chapters so I didn't have to start from scratch when my computer crashed. I feel very lucky to know these two brilliant (and patient) people.