SUMMARY: A vengeful spirit's attack leaves Dean hypothermic and fighting for life, while a concussed Sam, lost and alone, battles to get back to his brother. Story takes place mid-to-late Season 2, but before the events of All Hell Breaks Loose.
DISCLAIMER: Nope. Don't own Supernatural. Still playing in Kripke's sandbox. The strike is over but I'll just keep playing in this corner until they kick me out.
A/N: So this is it: the final chapter of this story. While it's satisfying to see the story come to a conclusion, it's a little sad too because it's been such fun to write and I've absolutely loved all the feedback you have shared with me. Thank you. It's been a wonderful experience and I've learned a lot. Enjoy – and, to readers and reviewers both, thank you again for all your incredible support.
To Heather: a wealth of information and a new friend: A great big thank you – I couldn't have done this without you. This one's for you!
BRIDGING TWO SOLITUDES
Sam awoke in the ER, confused about where he was and what had happened. His head was pounding with a renewed viciousness and the pain in his knee was nauseatingly sharp. He squinted against lights that seemed overly bright and tried to shut out the cacophony of ER noises that did his headache no favours. He coughed, the sound magnified by the hard plastic of the oxygen mask strapped to his face. He reached up to pull off the mask but his hand became tangled in the blankets bundled around him.
He groaned in frustration, lacking the co-ordination to disentangle himself.
"Hey, Sam. I've got it. Just relax."
It was Bobby's voice. Sam forced his eyes open and saw his old friend standing beside the gurney he was lying on. Bobby reached over the safety rail and freed Sam's hand from the blankets. "How you doin'"
Sam frowned. If he was in the ER, he couldn't be doin' that great. He certainly felt like crap. "Where's Dean?"
Bobby motioned with his head to the right. "He's in the next room. They're taking good care of him."
Sam's eyes focused on Bobby. Why did Dean need taking care of? He screwed his eyes closed at the sudden memory of Doc driving a needle into his brother's chest. His eyes snapped open and focused on Bobby. "What happened?"
Bobby tapped the gurney railing absentmindedly. "To you: concussion felled you. To Dean: one fall too many. His cracked rib broke and punctured his lung."
Sam flashed back to the bridge. "He couldn't breathe. Dean couldn't breathe." His own breathing sped up at the memory of his brother in distress."
Bobby smiled. "Relax, Sam. Doc got him breathing again. And they're putting a tube in his chest now to make sure he keeps breathing while his lung heals."
"Really?" The need for reassurance made Sam sound far younger than 23.
Bobby nodded. "Can't say he's gonna be too happy when he wakes up, especially when he finds out he's in for another extended stay in this place, but yeah. Looks like he'll be fine."
"I need to see him." Sam tried to sit up but the room around him suddenly twisted and distorted, resembling a Salvador Dali landscape.
"Whoa there." Bobby gently pushed Sam back down. "Doc'll have my hide if I let you go wandering around before they've checked you out."
"I'm fine, Bobby."
Bobby shook his head. "Boy, you sure can tell who raised you. None of you has a lick of sense when it comes to realizing you're beat to hell. Best thing you can do for your brother right now is take care of yourself. He's gonna get better a whole lot faster if he's not worrying about you."
Bobby was right, and Sam knew it, but there was no way he could relax until he saw for himself his brother was okay.
Sam had been through a whole new battery of tests and was settled in his room before that happened though. He was pressing Bobby for an update when noise in the hallway grabbed his attention, followed soon after by a team of doctors, nurses and orderlies pushing a gurney into the room. Sam pushed himself up in the bed as he tried to get a better look at his brother. When the orderlies had transferred him to the adjacent bed, and moved out of the way, he finally had a clear view of Dean, and what he saw didn't reassure him.
Dean was pale, making the dark circles under his eyes and the ugly purple and red bruises on his neck stand out even more. The oxygen mask was back, fogging up as Dean breathed out, and an IV once again delivered a painkiller-antibiotic cocktail to help him handle the pain of the broken rib and ward off further complications. The bandage around his right hand and wrist was new, supporting the sprain Agnes had caused when she slammed his hand against the railing as she tried to grab back the locket.
Sam couldn't see it, but he also knew a tube had been surgically inserted into Dean's chest cavity to prevent air from building up and causing his injured lung to collapse again. Doc had said it would stay in for about a week while his lung healed.
Dean was unconscious, or asleep – and in a weirdly random thought, Sam wondered if there was a difference between the two. Either way, he wanted Dean awake; he'd welcome smart-ass Dean, grumpy-as-hell Dean, even royally pissed-off Dean, because that meant Dean was okay. Quiet Dean scared him.
Doc had followed in the medical team and crossed the room to stand beside Bobby as they got Dean settled. Sam glanced from Dean to Doc but his attention quickly returned to his brother. "Doc?"
"He'll be okay, Sam. He just needs time. Let him rest. What about you?"
"How are you doing?"
Sam frowned. "I'm fine. Just look after Dean."
Doc smiled. "Dean's well looked after. Doesn't mean we can't take care of you too. How's the headache – scale of 1 to 10?"
Sam shrugged. "I dunno – 7, 8 maybe."
Doc nodded, and walked to the bottom of Sam's bed to check his chart. "I think we can give you something to knock that back a notch or two. Help you sleep through the night."
Sam shook his head slightly. "I don't wanna sleep. If Dean wakes up….."
"Dean's gonna sleep the night, trust me. Probably most of tomorrow too."
Bobby rested a hand on Sam's shoulder. "You know Dean's gonna be pissed when he does wake up to find out he's back in here. The staff is gonna need you at full strength to make sure he does what's best for him."
Reluctantly, Sam nodded. With the help of the medication Doc ordered, he fell asleep almost as soon as he closed his eyes, and slept through the night and well into the next day. When he woke, Dean was still sleeping. When doctors gave Sam the okay to move around, and returned his crutches, he waited until medical staff cleared the room before hauling himself out of bed to stand at Dean's bedside.
"Hey." He looked down at his way-too-still brother. "You can't keep doin' this, man. It's doin' my head in." He snorted, his eyes bright. "Dude, I feel a chick-flick moment coming on so I really need you to wake up and stop me."
Sam had stood next to Dean's hospital bed after he was electrocuted. He'd done the same thing after the crash with the semi. Both times he'd been told Dean was dying; here they'd said his brother would be fine – but until he woke up, until Sam heard his voice, heard a classic Dean smart-ass retort or loud complaint, he couldn't shake the sense of déjà vu and it was ripping him apart.
Dean had always been there for him; he was such a part of who Sam was that he'd never fully realized how much he leaned on Dean emotionally, drew strength from his brother's frenetic energy until he left for school and it wasn't there anymore. During his first few weeks at Stanford, still numb from the fight with his father, over the thought of not seeing Dean or his Dad again, he'd operated on autopilot. But as life became abnormally normal for him, the phantom pains of that missing part of his life routinely took his feet out from under him.
He'd worked hard to make his relationship with Jess a healthy one, never wanting her to become an emotional crutch for all he'd lost. And, gradually, as he built a life with her, the kind of life he'd envisioned for so long, his need for Dean diminished. His want for Dean to be a part of this new life, however, never did.
Sam smiled down at Dean, willing him to wake up. "You were such a jerk when you first met Jess……… that crack about the Smurfs?" He rolled his eyes. "But I really wanted her to get to know you. She would have liked you – once she got used to you, anyway."
His smile disappeared. Jess was gone. Dad was gone. And he was terrified of what might happen if Dean was gone too.
"I can't do this by myself, Dean. Please."
Dean got stronger steadily. It took another two days, however, before he resembled anything like himself and was cognizant enough to hold a conversation. Before that, each time he opened his eyes, Sam would talk to him, offering words of reassurance to which Dean would smile, or frown, but he had energy for little more than sleep.
On the third day, when he finally came to enough to hold a brief conversation, his first words, rough and raspy as they were, were typically Dean: "This sucks."
With each hour and each day since he'd become more aware, stayed awake longer and his complaints had become louder and more frequent. The pain from the broken rib made it virtually impossible to get comfortable and, when his appetite had returned and he learned that, thanks to the damage inflicted on his throat by Agnes's latest attack, he was on the same soft-food diet as Sam, he'd elevated complaining to a whole new level.
Dean was becoming more and more himself but, for some reason, Sam couldn't shake his worry. He listened carefully every time the doctors came in to go over the latest test results and, each time, they were more encouraging. His eyes stayed glued to his brother on Dean's first foray out of bed; he was shaky but more pissed than anything that he needed help just to move about the room. Since then he'd needed less and less help.
Now, it had been a week since their showdown with Agnes. Dean's eyes were closed but he could sense Sam's eyes glued to him.
"Sam, quit watching me sleep. You're freaking me out."
"I'm not watching you, Dean."
"Yeah, you are. Every time I open my eyes you're staring at me. I'd be flattered but you're not my type."
Dean rolled his head across the pillow to look at Sam who was stretched out on the hospital bed next to his. His frown softened when he saw the worry etched in his brother's face. "Relax, Sam. I'm gonna be fine. We both are."
Dean was feeling well enough to be convinced he was ready to be released. But the broken rib still required pain medication and the chest tube remained in place. Even though the tube was scheduled to be removed later that afternoon, doctors had told him it would be at least another couple of days before they'd consider springing him.
Dean scratched the right side of his chest, where the tube was inserted, and frowned at Sam "This afternoon can't get here fast enough. If they don't do it soon, I'm gonna rip the damn thing out myself."
Sam matched his frown. "That 'damn thing' saved your life. And, as far as 'freaking out' goes, between seeing you tossed off that bridge and watching Doc plunge that needle into your chest, you've done your share of freaking me out since we landed in Plymouth."
Dean cringed, rubbing his chest unconsciously. "Yeah,. Kinda glad I'm a little fuzzy on those details, especially with the needle thing." He shuddered. "Guess I can understand why you fainted, though."
Now it was Sam's turn to scowl. "I didn't faint, Dean."
Dean grinned. "Yeah, you did."
"Did not. Doc says it was the concussion that caused me to pass out."
Dean quirked an eyebrow. "Pass out? That's called fainting, Sam." His expression softened again. "How's your head?"
"Good. Next to no headache at all."
Dean nodded. "Good. How'd therapy go?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "Earth to Sam: therapy? You know, that daily torture session, as you call it, to strengthen your knee."
Sam glanced down at his injured knee, still encased in the bulky immobilizing brace. "It went fine, Dean."
Dean shook his head. "Uh-uh, 'fine' doesn't cut it. Spill."
Sam looked at his brother incredulously. "Oh that's rich, coming from you."
Sam huffed out a breath resignedly. "Really, Dean. It went fine. There's some improvement, so if I…."
Dean cut in. "The docs, they're not still pushing for surgery?"
Sam shrugged. "Pushing, no. They won't rule it out but as long as I keep up with the therapy and the improvement continues, I can likely avoid it."
Dean frowned. "What does Doc say?"
Dean's frown deepened. "Because she knows what we do for a so-called living and can tell you if your knee is going to hold up on a hunt. If some ugly-ass sonovabitch is on our tail and we need to cut and run, I need to know you can cut and run."
Dean's concern was valid and Sam knew it. He also knew that if he was less than 100 per cent, Dean's focus would never be fully on whatever they were hunting because he'd be worrying about Sam – and Sam would never allow himself to become that kind of liability. The risk, to both of them, was too great. He sighed. "Running, eventually, shouldn't be a problem. Cutting, however, might be."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Explain."
Sam looked over at Dean and sighed. "Because of the damaged ligaments, I don't have a lot of stability in my knee. In time, it should hold up fine for straight-on walking, even running. The problem is if I stop too suddenly or turn too quickly, there's a good chance the ligament will tear again, the knee could dislocate or, if I'm really lucky, both."
"What if you have the surgery?"
Sam shrugged. "Surgery will likely make the knee stronger but the recovery period is a lot longer. I don't know if….."
Dean shook his head. "Uh-uh, Sam. If surgery is the best thing for you, we pull ourselves out of the loop for as long as it takes. Hole up somewhere til you're in fighting shape again. It's not like the world's gonna run out of bad guys."
Sam smiled. That was Dean at his overprotective best. "Thanks, Dean. But I'm gonna stick with the therapy - as long as it's working."
Dean narrowed his eyes at Sam, then nodded slowly. "Okay. I'll follow your lead on this one. But, and I mean it, Sammy, if surgery is what it takes, we'll work things out."
A soft knock on the door grabbed their attention and the brothers turned to find Doc standing in the doorway. She smiled. "If I'm interrupting something, I can come back later."
Dean bit back a groan as he shuffled round to face her. "Nah, I was just grillin' Sam here about his knee therapy. He says it's going well."
Doc smiled at Sam. "It is, although he's about as patient as you when it comes to seeing results. Two sessions in he was asking when he can get rid of his crutches."
Dean grinned. "That's my boy."
Doc turned her smile to Dean. "How about you. How're you feeling?"
"Good." Dean motioned to the chest tube. "And I guarantee you I'll feel a whole lot better when I get rid of this thing." He glanced up at Doc. "When's your plane leaving?"
Doc glanced at her watch. "In a few hours. Bobby and I are gonna share a cab to the airport."
Dean frowned. "Where is Bobby, anyway? I thought he was with you."
"He'll be here in a minute. He just went down to the cafeteria to get something to drink."
Dean nodded, glancing over at Sam before turning back to Doc. "We, uh, owe you one, Doc. Big time."
Doc smiled. "What you owe me is coffee. Half-caf latte, extra foam, hold the drama."
Dean grinned. "Hey, if it was up to me, I'd pay up on that coffee debt right now, but I've got this tiny tyrant of a doctor who won't let me drink coffee. And as for the 'no drama' part – sorry, not really our M.O."
Doc nodded. "So, I've noticed." Her smile faded as she looked from Dean to Sam and back again. "Seriously though, you two had a rough ride this time. Cut yourself some slack, okay? Give yourselves time to heal before you head off saving the world again."
Dean shrugged. "No promises but, I gotta say, a little down time sounds kinda good right now. Whaddya say, Sam?"
Sam looked from Doc to his brother. "Huh?
Dean frowned. "What's goin' on in the freaky head of yours? If you're not staring at me when I'm sleeping, you're zoning out God knows where." He turned to Doc. "You sure that latest whack on the head didn't do any permanent damage?"
"Dean." Sam scowled at his brother. "Really. I'm good." He smiled at Doc. "Thanks. For everything."
Doc watched his smile fade as he glanced over at his brother. Fear flashed briefly in his eyes; it was the same fear Doc had seen the first time she met him as a kid when doctors had cut him off from Dean and left him alone. The events of the past week had brought that child-like fear roaring back to life.
Doc smiled reassuringly. "You're both over the worst. Life's quickly going to get back to normal, or whatever constitutes 'normal' for you two." She walked to the door then turned back to face them. " Look out for each other, okay?"
Dean settled his head on the pillow. "Always do, Doc. Always do."
Doc winked at Sam. "Next time you swing west, make sure you drop by The Farm and say Hi. Out there, the java's on me."
Sam nodded then watched Doc walk out the door and disappear down the hall.
Dean frowned. "That woman has never spent a day on a farm in her life. What the hell was that all about?"
Sam shrugged. "She means Stanford, Dean. It's what students call campus."
Dean rolled his head across the pillow, stared at Sam and frowned. He sighed audibly, before closing his eyes again. Sometimes his brother was just to damn easy to read. "Sam, you obviously want to talk to her about something. Get your ass out of bed and go do it. If I'm gonna be stuck in here with you, I don't need your mopey-ass self making things suck even louder." He opened one eye and motioned with his head toward the door. "Go."
Sam looked at his brother, not sure whether to be annoyed by his pushiness or grateful for his perceptiveness. But he did want to talk to Doc. He pulled back the covers, grabbed his crutches and slowly made his way out of the room, almost colliding with Bobby in the doorway.
Bobby smiled. "Hey Sam."
Sam nodded. "Doc says you're headin' out."
"Yeah. I've got some things that need takin' care of, but I'll be back to help you take care of Corrigan." He glanced over at Dean. "Unless you'd rather me get rid of him. I'd be more than happy to."
Dean shook his head. "Uh-uh. No way, Bobby. Nobody but me gets to send his sorry ass to hell."
"Okay then. Corrigan'll keep. He doesn't have Mary to torment any more and it'll do him good to wander around out there alone for a while. Park's still closed too, so there's no one around for him to hurt." Bobby smiled at Dean. "Consider it incentive to get well. The sooner you're back in fighting shape, the sooner you get to send him on his way."
Dean nodded. "Can't happen soon enough."
Sam nodded. "Thanks, Bobby. We, uh…..
Bobby rested his hand on Sam's shoulder. "No thanks necessary, kid. That's what family does."
Sam nodded, then motioned down the hall. "I'm just gonna talk to Doc."
Bobby nodded, moving into the room and standing beside Dean's bed. "Tell her I'll be right there, just as soon as I've had a word with Dean here."
"Sure." Sam shifted his crutches and moved off down the hall.
He found Doc at the nurses' station. Her computer bag and overnight bag were pushed against the wall behind her. Her purse was open on the desk and, as Sam moved towards her, he realized she was staring at a photograph.
There was a sad, faraway expression on her face as she looked up at Sam. "What? Oh, sorry, Sam. I was miles away. What's up?"
Sam reached for the photograph. "May I?"
Doc passed it to him. It was a picture of her late husband Paul and their daughter Lily, who was about four months old in the photograph. Paul, his long, dark brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, was staring over the top of his Ben Franklin glasses making a face at Lily, who was laughing in delight, the bright blue eyes she'd inherited from her mom sparkling over her toothless smile. Sam's smile at the happy image faded when he recognized the source of Doc's sadness.
"You're nothing like Agnes, you know that right?"
Doc shrugged. "There's a lot of parallels. I wonder, if put in the same position, if I would have acted like her."
Sam shook his head. "You didn't, Doc. You didn't lash out after you lost Paul and Lily. You started helping people who fought against the evil who took them from you."
Doc's eyes glistened as she laughed. "You make me sound far more noble than I am. I was so angry when they died, when they were killed, I wanted to lash out - at anyone, anything. Thank God I had family, friends…" she smiled at Sam, "friends who put up with me until I found a healthy way to grieve. It would have been so easy to let that anger build, let it eat away at me until I became just like Agnes."
"But you didn't." Sam knew that anger all too well. It had consumed their father his entire life. It had ripped Sam apart after Jessica was killed. He'd watched it eat away at Dean after their Dad died. And now, after almost losing Dean twice over the past week, he could feel it building inside him again.
Doc saw him teetering emotionally and reached out to squeeze his arm. His eyes were bright and she smiled, sniffing loudly as she wiped away her own unspilled tears. "Look at us. Dean would have a field day if he came out here right now."
Sam looked again at the photo of Paul and Lily, before lifting his gaze to meet Doc's. It had been seven years since they were killed. "You never really get over it, do you?"
Doc smiled at the photo as Sam handed it back. "Over it? No.You just get better at dealing with it." She frowned at his troubled expression. "Hey. What's goin' on inside that handsome head of yours?"
Sam blew out a breath then looked down at his feet as he tried to sort through the onslaught of memories and emotions. "This past year, um, it's been…you know…. Jess, Dad and then Dean….after everything, when I saw him thrown off that bridge, I…God, Doc..…."
"Hey, come on. Sit down." Doc led him to the bank of chairs opposite the nurses' station, pushing him gently into a seat. She took his crutches, leaned them against the wall then sat down beside him.
Dean would be okay, he knew that, but he was still wrestling with how close he'd come to losing the only family member he had left. He blew out a long, slow breath before he could look up at Doc. "Dean ….it was too close, Doc. Way too close."
Doc grabbed Sam's hand and squeezed it comfortingly. "You're strong, Sam. Far stronger than you realize. God knows, it's hard to find that strength sometimes, but it's there and it'll get you through.
"As for Dean…." She smiled softly. "I'm not going to insult you with platitudes. We both know what you two do, how dangerous it is, but right now Dean's here and he's fine…..well, maybe fine is pushing it, but he will be."
She squeezed his hand tightly. "Just relish every day you have together. Don't think about what 'might' happen – that's just the express train to crazy." Her smile brightened. "Just do what you do: save people, make the world a better place, have fun once in a while. I think Dean can help you with that one."
Sam smiled. "It scares me sometimes how much I need him in my life. I mean, I want him around sure, even when he's driving me nuts, but I thought I'd moved past needing him like that. But when I was lost, when I didn't know if Dean was dead or alive, my imagination came up with an imaginary version of Dean to get me through."
He snorted as he recalled some of the exchanges he'd had with his imaginary brother. "What the hell would I do if he's not around?"
Doc frowned. "Have you two talked about how we managed to find you?"
Sam shrugged. "We started to. Dean said Bobby figured it out, but some nurses came in and then Dean fell asleep. We never really picked up the conversation again. Why?"
Doc's gaze was steady. "Dean's always been incredibly attuned to what you're thinking, what you're feeling, especially when something's wrong. But this week, when you were missing, it was like he could see you, see what was happening to you."
Sam stared back at her. "What? But….."
She smiled. "Talk to Dean. Now things have calmed down a bit, now you have time to go over what's happened. I think he's still trying to figure it out too."
Doc stood up and reached for Sam's crutches. "I meant what I said before. Please try not to get yourself banged up, bashed in or pulled apart, at least for next few weeks. Consider it a favor to my nerves."
Sam smiled. "You got it, Doc."
She ran her hand gently down his cheek before handing him his crutches. "Go on, talk to your brother."
Sam used one crutch to steady himself as he hauled himself up. But before taking the second crutch from Doc, he reached out and pulled her into a hug, resting his chin briefly on the top of her head. "You know we're there for you too, Doc. Whenever it gets to you, just call."
Doc's eyes glistened again as she pulled slowly from the hug. "Aaah. When it comes to you two, I have no resistance."
Sam smiled. "I thought you said you were immune?"
Doc laughed. "I'm fooling myself." She handed him his crutch and turned to pick up her purse from the nurses' station counter. "Do you remember the time you dropped by the house shortly after Lily was born?"
Sam nodded. "I think so. It was summer break and we were meeting up with Dad in northern California. We had a barbecue, right?"
Doc nodded. "Lily had been fussy that day. Nothing serious, normal baby stuff, but she just wouldn't settle. I went inside to get her a bottle, came out and you and Paul were talking but there was no sign of Dean or Lily." She smiled. "I went round the front and found the two of them sitting in the Impala. Dean was holding her and explaining to her, very seriously, why classic cars could kick the ass – his words, not mine – of anything produced today. And she was smiling, just drinking in every word, completely captivated by him. I decided, right there and then, no woman, no matter what age, is immune to the Winchester charm."
Sam smiled. "Dean doesn't show that side of himself very often. What'd he do when he saw you?"
Doc returned his smile. "Handed Lily back to me and told me she needed an oil change." She reached down and grabbed her bags. "Have you seen Bobby?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah, he's in our room, talking to Dean. Said he'd be along in a minute."
Doc nodded, then hit the button for the elevator. "Tell him I'm down in the lobby. I'll wait for him there."
Sam smiled. "Don't be a stranger."
Doc laughed. "The trouble you two get into, no danger of that." With another wink, Doc disappeared as the elevator doors slid closed.
After Sam left to talk to Doc, Dean's eyes had quickly focused on the cardboard cup Bobby held. "Is that coffee?"
Bobby frowned at Dean. "Yeah."
Dean's eyebrows arched hopefully. "For me?"
Bobby shook his head. "I was in the room when Doc ran through that mile-long list of do's and don'ts, can haves and can't haves while you're stuck in here – and we both damn well know which list coffee fell on."
Dean breathed in as deeply as his recovering lungs and the nasal canula would allow, savouring the aroma of Bobby's coffee. He smiled hopefully. "I'm pretty sure it was on the 'if we don't tell Doc, it doesn't count' list.
"Nice try, Dean."
Dean's eyes remained glued to Bobby's coffee cup. "Come on, Bobby. Have a heart." He flashed a pleading smile. "Besides, Doc's not here. We're safe. She'll never know."
Bobby snorted. "Doc's no stranger to breaking rules, unless she sets them. I'm not risking her wrath by…..."
"Okay, okay, okay……." Dean scowled, slamming his fist on the bed in frustration. "I am so over this place. I just wanna get Sam, get behind the wheel and take off. Find a crappy motel room where I can sleep without 60 people coming in and checking I'm still breathing every time I close my eyes. Find a diner where I can order a double cheeseburger, extra onions, without everybody lookin' at me like I just uttered a bomb threat." He glared at Bobby. "If I have to eat another bowl of freakin' orange jello, I swear Bobby….."
His old friend smiled sympathetically. "This hunt did a real number on you Dean. Everyone's just worried, tryin' to make sure there's no lasting damage. "
"I know." Dean's scowl softened into a frown. "Still doesn't mean I like being stuck in here though - except maybe for Nurse Heather and her sponge baths." The frown became an X-rated grin. "Great hands."
Bobby cleared his throat. "Right. Well, at least I can head out knowing you're acting more like yourself." His eyes softened in concern. "Just don't rush anything, okay? Seriously. I'm gonna drive back up here when they spring you, help you take care of Corrigan. I'm pretty sure gravedigging is on your 'don't' list, so let me…."
"Thanks, Bobby." Dean smiled but his eyes flashed angrily. "Trust me, the thought of sending that bastard to hell is about the only thing that gets me through those damn breathing exercises they force me to do every day."
Bobby nodded. "Well, keep doin' em. No offence Dean, but I'm not sure you could salt and burn a pork chop right now. You need…."
"I know, I know….." Dean huffed out a breath impatiently, rolling his head away from Bobby to stare at Sam's empty bed. "Sam……" he turned back to Bobby, "he seem okay to you?"
Bobby shrugged. "Yeah, at least as well as he can be given everythin' that's happened. Why? What's botherin' you?"
"He's worried about me, all the time. Like he can't grasp I'm right here and I'm fine. If I press him on it, he just shuts down…."
Bobby smiled. "When you weren't lookin', your little brother grew up. Spends as much time worrying about you as you do about him.
"You scared the crap out of him, Dean. He watched you get thrown off that bridge. He thought you were dead. He saw Corrigan and Agnes attack you and, let me tell ya, watching Doc jab that needle in your chest did Sam's nerves no favours. Sure as hell didn't help mine."
Dean looked a Bobby but said nothing, allowing his words to sink in. Finally, he shrugged softly. "Old habits die hard, I guess. I worry about him, that's my job. I kinda forget it goes both ways. He's my little brother, you know…."
Bobby smiled. "Not so little, but yeah, I know….." He walked to Dean's side, placed the cup of coffee on the bedside table and winked at Dean. "He's a good kid, Dean – no small thanks to you. Just give him time to wrap his head around things – he'll come around."
He nodded at Dean. "Get yourself well. Then I'll see ya next week and we'll take care of Corrigan."
"Hey, Bobby." Sam stood balanced on his crutches in the doorway of the room. "Doc's waiting for you in the lobby."
Bobby nodded at Dean before turning to walk out of the room, stopping to squeeze Sam's arm as he passed him. Take care now, ya hear?"
Sam nodded. "See ya around."
As Bobby disappeared down the hallway, Sam moved from the door back to his bed. He frowned as Dean wrapped his bandaged arm around his ribs, leaned over and picked up the untouched cup of coffee Bobby had left on the bedside table with his left hand. He clumsily pulled off the lid, pulled off his oxygen canula and inhaled the aroma, grinning widely. The coffee was black – Bobby took his with cream. "Bobby, you are a good man." Dean's voice still had no power but, in his mind at least, his raspy whisper became a yell. "A good, good man."
Sam smiled at his brother's exuberance. After all the drama of the past week, it felt really good to see Dean smile, really smile, over something as simple as a little contraband caffeine,
Dean held the coffee under his nose, relishing the smell. He peeled open one eye and looked over at Sam. "You talk to Doc?"
Sam nodded as he manouvered himself stiffly back into bed. "Yeah. I , uh, just wanted to make sure she was okay." He shrugged. "Just figured everything with Agnes and Mary might have dragged up some bad memories, about losing Paul and Lily."
Dean nodded. "And….."
Sam returned the nod. "She's okay or, like us, she will be. Dean……."
Dean looked up from his coffee. "What?"
"When I was lost, when I thought you might be dead, that I might never see you again, you, um…….you kinda showed up, gave me a kick in the ass to hang in there, keep going until help arrived."
Dean's eyes widened. "Scuze me?"
Sam shrugged. "I can't explain it, Dean. It was like you were right there with me. You said you were a figment of my imagination." He laughed. "A damn fine figment, actually."
Dean nodded before taking another sip of his coffee. "Sounds about right. And….."
Sam looked over at his brother. "I dunno. I never quite bought it was just my mind playing tricks on me. It was too you – with a few new quirks."
Dean frowned. "Quirks? What quirks? I don't have quirks."
"Well, you did say you liked a girl's iambic pentameter."
"Iambic what?" Dean reached round for his call button. "I'm calling a nurse and telling her to switch your medication. You're acting all weird."
Sam's face was serious. "Dean, come on. Doc said you saw me. Actually saw me – saw where I was."
Dean sighed, putting down his cup of coffee. He turned toward Sam, scrubbing a hand over his face. "You're not the only one who can't explain things, Sammy." He blew out a breath. "It was like someone was playing snippets of video in my head. I saw you lying beside a fire, you talking to Mary – it was like a memory, but not one of mine."
He dropped his head back on his pillow. "God, that sounds nuts even to me."
Sam swallowed. "Not to me." He shrugged at Dean's puzzled response. "When you got there, to where you found me, did it look like what you saw in your head?"
Dean nodded. "Yeah. Kinda freaked me out, you know?" He looked at his brother. "Is that what it's like when you get your freaky-ass visions?"
Sam shrugged. "Somethin' like that, with the bonus of a blinding headache." His eyes narrowed at Dean. "You think maybe you're having visions too?"
Dean looked startled. "What? No." He shook his head. "Bobby thinks maybe you're the transmitter, I'm the receiver. Like you were able to move that cabinet at the Millers, you were able to ship out an adrenaline-fuelled SOS on your own psychic frequency."
Sam fisted the bedcovers unconsciously. "God, Dean. What the hell's happening?"
Dean didn't know, didn't have a freakin' clue if he was being honest. But twice now Sam's abilities had saved them; they'd saved his life when Max Miller threatened to shoot him and here they'd helped him save Sam.
"We'll figure it out, and you've gotta admit, Sam: these abilities, or whatever they are, they've kinda come in handy – a couple of times now."
Sam didn't answer and Dean studied his worried expression. "Like I said, Sam, we'll figure it out. We always do."
Dean smiled. "Nearly always, anyway."
Sam's voice was quiet. "I was scared, Dean. Really scared. I can't handle losing you. I can't…..."
And there is was. There was no dancing around the issue, no vague analogies, just raw, honest fear.
Dean smiled, and it took every ounce of big brother bravado he possessed to fuel it. "I don't know what the future holds, Sammy, but I sure as hell don't plan on goin' anywhere. You're stuck with me." He pointed a finger at Sam. "And don't think I won't remind you of this conversation the next time you're in one of your 'Leave me alone, I need my space' kinda moods."
Sam had to smile. It was a classic Dean salvo: shoot down heavy emotion with humor.
Sam waited. The opening salvo was the rangefinder. It was the second which always hit the target. He wasn't disappointed.
Dean reached for his coffee, took a sip, then flashed a grin that had trouble written all over it. Trouble for Sam. "In the meantime, I think we deserve a little R&R. Once we get sprung from this joint, and have taken care of Corrigan, we're heading for Worcester."
Sam frowned. "Why Worcester?"
Dean's grin widened as he put down his coffee, settled his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. "I hear the circus is in town. And I'm getting us front row seats."
A/N: Once again, hugs and thanks to all who read this story and all who sent reviews and PMs. I have responded to each one, but this site and my computer played up on occasion so if any did not make it through, I apologize and please know I read (and relished) each and every message sent. Thank you and I'd love to hear from you again. Cheers!
If you're not fed up of me, research for this story also planted a plot bunny for a new tale which I've just started working on, so I'll be back!
From the trivia file: as Kripke dictates, this story was inspired by a 'real' urban legend. While Agnes and Mary are original characters, and their back story fiction, they developed after I read the story of upstate New York's White Lady. As that story goes, she haunts her former land near Rochester, now a state park. After her daughter disappeared, the woman became convinced she had been raped and murdered by a local farmer. She spent days, accompanied by her two dogs, searching for her daughter's body but never found her. Overcome by grief, she ultimately threw herself off a cliff into Lake Ontario. Her dogs, pining for her, died soon after. Now, in death, she continues her search for her child, accompanied again by her dogs. She's usually seen on foggy nights and is not considered friendly. She dislikes men, and will often make their lives miserable, but never touches women accompanying them. Hmmmmmm.