A/N: Well, here it is. The big finish. Thanks to everyone that took the time to read and I guess I'll see some of you around!
"How long was he awake for?" Sophia directed her question at Sam rather sternly as she conducted her physical examination of the once again sleeping older brother, the few hours since he'd stirred passing all too slowly for Sam liking.
"About five or ten minutes before he fell back asleep," Sam informed her while he watched her poke and prod his brother's ribs and chest and albeit she did it gently, he could still see Dean's face twist up slightly when she applied pressure against his sternum. Had he been able to, Sam was also pretty sure he would have let out a slight moan to go along with it.
"That's a start. Was he aware of what was going on around him? I mean, did it seem like he recognized you or was he just taking things in rather blankly?" She hurriedly asked next, almost as if conducting an interrogation.
"He recognized me. He recognized us both. He even wanted to know what happened and how long he'd been here before he nodded back off," Sam summed up the 'conversation' between the three of them for her, leaving out the half-dazed notion Dean had about removing all his tubes and wires so he could just speak to his little brother.
"Did he seem anxious or agitated that he couldn't breathe?" She brought up the subject almost as if she had known exactly what Sam had been thinking. "No panic attacks or anything like that?"
"Nope. All in all, he was pretty calm and took what I told him pretty well." "Yeah, he was pretty calm because he has no idea what the hell happened to him whatsoever. If he starts remembering and pieces things together though…'
"Why didn't anyone call me?" She interrupted his thoughts as she turned in Sam's direction after pulling the sheet back up that they had finally decided to drape over Dean's sides and chest to cover him with once his fever had mercifully started going down; the chest that now sported bruises of a no longer black and blue variety but an interesting green and yellow hue instead and Sam couldn't have been happier when Sophia had hid them from his constant view. He'd watched those marks that spread across nearly every inch of his brother's torso change in shade over the last eight days and really didn't want to have them screaming at him in anger at their presence anymore.
"Because it was five o'clock in the morning and I'm sure you were at home sleeping," Sam stated somewhat defensively, her attitude making him feel like he had done something wrong. "We told his nurse and she said she'd let you know what happened when you called to check in."
"She did, but I still would have liked to have known when it happened. I want to be paged the second he wakes up again and try to keep him awake until I get here. That's not going to be easy considering he'll be drifting in and out like that a lot over the next few days, but now that he's starting to come around, I'm hoping we can get him breathing again. The longer he's on that damn machine, the harder it'll be to get him off it," she nearly made her request sound like an order as she barked it and Sam was beginning to wonder if there was something she wasn't telling him. For the first time since he had met her she seemed overly irritable. He was poised to ask the question when she just continued on, cutting off the inquiry before it ever got started. "As soon as he wakes up again, I want to get a respiratory therapist in here to start weaning him off it. I don't like how dependant he still is on it now that his chest x-rays look a whole lot better."
Sam heard the comment she had made but could clearly tell there was a lot more bothering Sophia than just Dean's severe lack of self-sustained breathing. He had only known her for eight days but those eight days had already felt like a lifetime to him. "Should I be worried? Is there something else you haven't told me yet because you seem a little tense today?" He asked her in a subtly begging tone and when he gave her that boyishly charming look that included a flash of dimple, she just couldn't help but reveal what was really bugging her.
"No, it's nothing, really…well, ok, yes it is," she tried keeping it to herself but decided there was no point in not sharing her concerns. "Do you remember that blonde woman that was here a few days ago? You know; the one that nearly knocked me down in the hall when she came out of the room like a bat out of hell?"
"Yeah, what about her?" Sam hesitantly asked as his stomach started to sink, the 'bat out of hell' comment hitting the nail on the head a little harder than Sophia even knew.
"Well, I keep seeing her roaming the floor but nobody seems to know who she is. None of the other patient's families know her and every time I try to stop her to ask her why she's here, I swear she just disappears into thin air. I'd swear she was a ghost if I was the only one that's seen her but I'm not and it's starting to aggravate me a little," she confessed and Sam now knew she had been watching them all along and wondered how neither he nor Bobby had seen her spying on them.
"I guess that's kinda weird, unless one of the other patients doesn't want their family to know he knows her, if you get my drift," he waggled his eyebrows at her suggestively and she knew exactly what his drift had been. He innocently tried placating Sophia when he noticed she was getting even more annoyed the more she thought about the blonde mystery woman. "If I see her again, I'll try to stop her for you if that'll help."
"If you do, have the nurses call security. She doesn't need to be wandering the halls for no reason. This is a hospital after all, not a "No-Tell Motel'," she huffed before storming out of the room without saying another word and as serious as the situation was, Sam couldn't help but chuckle at her uncharacteristic attempt to display some sort of anger.
He'd had Sophia paged nearly four hours later when he noticed his brother had started to stir again and was more than grateful for the distraction now that both he and Bobby had sat in near silence after Sam had filled the older man in on the fact that their demon friend had been stalking the halls for nearly a week waiting to pounce on Dean like a tiger hungry for raw meat. By the time Dean had opened his eyes and focused them enough to make definite eye contact with Sam, Sophia had made her way to the room with a rather grumpy looking, pleasantly plump older woman right behind her. She stood silently in the doorway to observe the interaction between the brothers for the briefest of moments as Sam did all of the talking while Dean just listened with an overly animated face before she slid up to the bedside and effectively ending whatever discussion they may have been having. Dean was conscious but, for how long remained to be seen and Sophia fully intended on making the most of what little time they may have.
"Dean, this is Sophia," Sam made the introduction to his brother when he had started glaring somewhat angrily at the young woman that had interrupted them and had rudely but gently started nudging Sam out of the way. Sam saw the irritation written all over his brother's weary face and figured he had better squash it now before Sophia took the brunt of whatever Dean may be able to silently dish out, which could very well be quite a bit more than the she was willing to take, voice or no voice. "She's your doctor."
"And I'm very happy to finally be meeting you," she cheerily announced. The chipper tone of her voice did nothing positive for Dean's already nasty disposition and her arrival just made him close his eyes again in the hopes of drifting back to sleep now that he no longer had just Sam as his audience. He was too damn tired to deal with a doctor right now. All he wanted to do was find out what the hell had happened to him over the last eight days and be left alone to fall back into the painless nothing he enjoyed being in. He knew that wasn't going to happen when she continued talking though and he quickly realized that, as pretty as she was, her voice grated enough on his nerves to keep him awake until the end of time if need be. "Can you tell me how you feel?"
She knew he hadn't listened to a word she said as he lay in the bed with his eyes squeezed tightly together, trying to block out the world around him in the hope that it would just go away. Wanting nothing less than his full attention, she pinched his chin gently between her thumb and forefinger and turned his head towards her, the action forcing him to crack his eyes open to glare at her yet again. She had already been warned by Sam that Dean was a difficult patient but she really hadn't believed it until now. Toning down her voice to a soft, almost whisper, she spoke directly to him and him alone, the unwavering eye contact she made helping to get her point across.
"From what your brother has told me, you seen to have a severe aversion to hospitals which I can totally understand. Nobody ever wants to be at the mercy of others and not in total control of themselves. You probably don't even realize how sick you really were or how hard all of this has been on not just you but Sam as well. Just keep in mind that all we want is the same thing Sam wants and that's to get you better so you can go home," her voice oozed calm and she could feel Dean's tensed up body start to relax under the hand she had rested lightly on his chest that he hadn't even realized was there, the calming effect she was having on him amazing Sam more than anyone. She knew exactly what strings of his to play to make a melodious tune and she was strumming them with an incredible precision. "We can't let you go home until you can breathe though. I know it's an unfair technicality, but do you think you can let us help you do that so your brother will stop worrying himself sick every day and night?"
Dean let his body go limp now that she had taken all the fight he'd built up inside over the last couple of
minutes away from him with just a few well-spoken words and Sam could almost hear the heavy sigh Dean wanted to let out but couldn't as he gave up and totally relaxed. Sophia smiled at him when he just closed his eyes and shook his head and if Sam hadn't seen her cross over the line of salt that had been across the door a week before, he would have been convinced she had some kind of supernatural, mind-reading entity inside her.
"This might be a little uncomfortable for you, but I need to sit you up a just a bit," she warned him before slowly raising the back of the bed to bring Dean's body slightly upright for the first time in over a week but quickly let go of the button to stop the upward motion when he winced and grabbed for his chest. He fearfully searched the room for his brother when he felt the stinging pain rip through him but before Sam could make any move in Dean's direction, Sophia had already taken command. "Just relax and let it pass. What you're feeling right now is perfectly normal considering what you've been through. I'll try to explain everything to you if you really want me to but I need to talk to Sam for a second first, ok?"
Shaking his head in the affirmative at her again, Sophia now knew she had Dean's completely undivided attention and as she turned to approach the younger brother, Sam couldn't believe what he was seeing. As much as his brother hated doctors and hospitals, he sure had warmed up to Sophia quickly. Sam spoke to her first before she could say a word, his own smile that he returned hers with one of sheer surprise.
"You better take advantage of that while you can because I can't guarantee it's not going to last very long," Sam informed her of what he was sure she had already surmised.
"Oh, I plan on it but I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you and your uncle to leave. I think this will be a lot easier for your brother if we do it in private," she started to tell him and she could see Sam didn't like the idea much. "Don't worry Sam, he's in good hands. I promise, ok? Just give us a couple hours alone to let Martha over there work her magic with him."
"A couple hours? You really need that long?"
"Please," Sophia was about ready to make it non-negotiable when Bobby grabbed Sam by the arm and started pulling him towards the door to spare her from having to outright kick the two of them out.
"Come on Sam, you can leave this damn room for a couple of hours to get some fresh air. You haven't been out of this building in over a week anyway and you could sure as hell use the break."
"But…" he started to argue before Sophia cut him off after the first word.
"Now Sam, before he falls back to sleep and we make no progress today," was the last thing she said to him as she shoved while Bobby pulled, giving him a wink and a wave as she closed the door when he was on the other side of it.
"I don't want to leave Bobby, not if she's hanging around," Sam sternly told the older man. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Then don't, but when that doctor asks for privacy, you sure as shit are gonna give it to her. I don't care if you stand outside the door with your nose pressed against it trying to hear what's going on inside as long as you're on this side of it and not that one. We clear?"
"Yeah, we're clear," Sam conceded before flopping into a chair in the waiting area where he could keep one eye on the door and another on the entire hall to scan for any unwanted presences.
He waited the couple hours as patiently as he could and was proud of the fact that he had only chewed the nails of three fingers off entirely before the door finally opened and the two women came out together, both with rather satisfied looks on their faces. Leaping to his feet when Sophia started in his direction, she turned that satisfied look into a wide smile that lit up her whole face and as if it was contagious, Sam smiled in return, not entirely sure why he was smiling at all.
"He's breathing…" she started to say but had to grab hold of Sam's arm hard when he made an attempt to bolt towards the room without listening any further. She wasn't finished and he wasn't going anywhere until she was. "Slow down there a second Sam. We made some adjustments so he can breathe around the tube in his throat but the ventilator is still attached and will deliver a breath or two if his oxygen levels fall below a certain point. He can talk a little too, but try to keep it short until he can adjust to the randomization of machine. It can be a little scary when air is forced into your lungs when you're not prepared for it."
"But he can breathe, right?" Sam bellowed the question as if he'd stopped listening after her first two words and everything else had been a waste of time.
"Isn't that what I just said?" She snidely retorted. "He's probably exhausted by now but if he hasn't fallen asleep just yet go ahead and talk to him but make it quick. I have already told him just how serious
his condition still is and that he needs to get as much rest as he possibly can but I think he's dying to talk to you first."
Sam didn't need to be told twice and was through the door almost before Sophia had let his arm go. Bursting back into the room with the excitement of a small child on Christmas morning, he sat next to his brother's legs on the bed and saw that even though his eyes were barely open, Dean was struggling to keep himself awake until he could finally talk to Sam.
"Hey, how do you feel?" It was a stupid first question but it was one Sam always had to ask. He had to hear it from his brother's own lips before he would believe it.
"Been better… you ok?" Dean whispered back in a scratchy, hoarse voice that was barely audible, each word being said with a long pause between them to take in air.
"Me? I'm not the one that di… almost died so, yeah, I'm ok," Sam almost let that one little secret go and nearly sighed his relief out loud when he saw that his slip of the tongue had gone totally unnoticed.
"Sammy… what happened?" He begged to be told even though keeping his eyes open was getting harder and harder as minutes passed by.
"Do we really need to talk about this right now Dean? You really should get some sleep like the doctor said," Sam tried dodging the subject again but his brother wasn't letting it go so easily this time.
"Yes… now. I need to know," the half-asleep man insisted and Sam was sure now that Dean wasn't going to let himself fall back to asleep until Sam spilled.
"What do you remember?" He tested the waters of what Dean's hazy memories, hoping he still had no recollection of the events of the last week and a half.
"Driving… arguing… flat tire, that's it," he slowly managed to get out with a great deal of effort before closing one eye and started listening.
"Yeah, one of the tires blew out. You were so mad at me when you pulled over and I offered to fix it that I just stayed in the car when you stormed out. I don't really know what the hell happened after that. You must have wandered off into the snow because the next thing I knew, you were gone. I called Bobby the second you went missing and it took us nearly two days to find you. When we finally did track you down to an old, abandoned barn, you were curled up in a ball and nearly dead," Sam spun his tale with effortless ease and Dean was really too tired to doubt one word of it. "Your hand was sliced open pretty bad and you were barely breathing. By the time Bobby and I got you back to the car you had sort of… I mean I had to…"
"S'ok Sam, I already know," he said to spare his brother the harshest memories. Sophia had already told him how his ribs and sternum had been so badly fractured when he asked her why his chest and sides still felt like the weight of the earth was resting on it. Sophia had actually told him just about everything that had been or still was wrong with him. "So, stabbed myself, eh?"
"Yeah…well, you were so whacked out nothing you did would have surprised me," Sam continued lying through his teeth as Dean continued believing every word he said, the break in his voice not entirely feigned. "For Christ's sake Dean, I honestly didn't think you'd ever wake up when they told me…"
"Forget it Sammy… I'm alright," Dean knew the conversation was upsetting Sam more than a little and decided he had heard enough for one day too. "Tired Sam… just gonna sleep now."
With the tremendous effort he had gathered up from some unknown source now fully spent, Dean had fallen heavily into sleep as the last words came from his lips and as much as Sam had wanted to talk to Dean more, he was thankful he didn't have continue lying to him for now. He'd been so absorbed in the conversation he never thought he'd ever be able to have with his brother again to even notice that he wasn't alone in the room and as the air around him turned cold, he suddenly realized it wasn't Bobby watching him from the darkest corner. She was like a great white swimming through the open waters and Dean's words had been the tiniest drop of blood that her keen senses could have smelled from a mile away, giving her good reason to start circling her prey in anticipation of the feast that was about to be served up to her.
"I am such a sucker for a touching family reunion," she mocked as she came forward into the light so that Sam could take a good look at her for what she fully expected to be the last time. "Brotherly love at its best just warms my heart."
"You mean your cold, dead heart?" Sam sneered as he jumped from the bed and repositioned himself to be between the demon woman that could kill with just a touch and Dean's still too fragile body. "Wait a minute; do demons even have hearts?"
"Of course we do, it's why I'm here in the first place," she casually stated before turning deathly serious. "Enough games Sam. I believe YOUR exact words were, and I quote, 'As soon as Dean can look me in
the eye and tell me he's alright, it's all yours'," she repeated the phrase word for word and it wouldn't have bothered Sam had she not repeated it in his voice instead of her own.
"Sounds about right," he confirmed, knowing there was point in denying it.
"I believe those to be Dean's exact words just now as well," she went on and if the sound of his own voice coming from her mouth hadn't been disturbing enough, it nearly made him physically ill to hear Dean's voice roll off her tongue in barely a whisper. "Forget it Sammy… I'm alright," she mimicked the eldest Winchester tone before speaking in her own voice to conclude her speech. "Sound vaguely familiar to you, Sam? It should since you just heard it two minutes ago."
"Does he look alright to you?" Sam half-heartedly stated knowing full well that there was no getting around her this time.
"I don't really care how he looks Sam. He said the magic words and if you don't give me what I've come so far for in the next…oh, say sixty seconds, I'll crush his heart right where it beats in his chest into hamburger meat until it can't beat anymore. Clock's ticking Sam and it's winding down pretty darn fast now," she tapped her foot as her eyes drifted up to the ceiling, the tune she whistled along with the occasional glance at her watch enough to chill Sam to the bone.
Pulling the flask he had neatly tucked away in his pocket, he emptied the holy water inside onto the floor and shook out the bullet safely stowed away inside, its weight in his hand a heavy burden on his heart. He knew he was going to have to tell Dean what they had done eventually and he dreaded what that would do to him. After one last look at the little item that had caused more trouble than he thought it to be worth, he lobbed it at her with all the strength he had in the hopes of hitting her but she was entirely too quick for him. Catching it in the palm of her hand, she felt the sizzle of the last few drops of moisture remaining on the metal and if Sam didn't know any better, he would insist that she enjoyed the way it felt against her flesh as it burned her.
"Thanks Sam. Nice doing business with you and don't worry too much about Dean. Something tells me he isn't going to have a whole lot of memories from your exciting little family trip the stunning town of Chester unless you decide to tell him…" she victoriously smiled, but before she could make a quick escape, Sam had to ask the question that had been stuck in his craw since this all had began.
"You know, the least you could do is tell me why you want that thing so bad," he begged the question and she wildly laughed out loud as she pondered just how to answer it.
"Until death do you part has a whole different meaning to us Sam and let's just say there's no divorce court in hell," she grinned as she played with the bullet now in her possession, tossing him one last comment before her departure that left him rather stunned when he heard it. "Say hi to your dad for me. I've got a feeling you may be seeing him a lot sooner than you think."
Before he could say another word to her, she was gone as quickly as she had come and Sam couldn't help but feel a sense of relief that everything finally seemed to be over. Bobby had walked through the door as the room temperature returned to normal, the look on his face when he saw Sam's causing him to worry.
"Sam, what's wrong? You look like someone just stole all your lunch money."
"Didn't you just see her?"
"See who?" Bobby eyed him suspiciously as he asked him the question.
"You know, Her, that's who. She was just here and…" he tried to say until the gravelly voice that could barely mouth words spoke up loud enough to be heard.
"Sam… that woman… who?" Dean forced out in a groggy voice. He'd heard that woman before, he was sure of it and with the hairs on the back of his neck now standing on end, he also knew she was dangerous.
"She's no one Dean, just go back to sleep."
"Sounded familiar… I think," he mumbled, not even half aware of what was going on around him but somehow subconsciously agitated by the familiarity in her voice nonetheless.
"She was just a nurse checking up on you, that's all," Sam explained her away easily enough and his brother trusted that Sam was telling him the truth and relaxed again.
"Where'd she go?" Bobby questioned when it was clear that if she had been there, she was gone now.
"She came, I gave her the bullet, and she just left. That's it. No big production, no nothing. She was here one minute and the next she was just gone and I honestly don't think she'll be back."
"What makes you so sure?"
"I don't know, just a feeling I have."
"I sure hope you're right kid because I've had enough of her to last an entire lifetime."
"Same here Bobby, same here."
As the days dragged by in little more than a blur, Dean slowly started showing signs of improvement. His breathing had become more of his own and less mechanical with each day that passed. Sophia promised Dean that she would disconnect his breathing support when he could go a full forty-eight hours without it blasting him once with a dose of air and much to Sam's excitement, she kept her word after another agonizingly long six days by removing Dean's throat hardware and replacing it with nasal puffs instead, which he would probably be taking with him when he finally did leave.
The re-introduction of food after nearly two weeks of nothing but water and apple juice had not gone as smoothly as it could have at first, but after time that too finally fell into place and even being exhausted nearly all the time, both Winchesters were ready to leave town. The only thing keeping Dean in the hospital bed he seemed to be invisibly chained to was the damn fever that just wouldn't go away. It still teetered between 99 and 100, and even though it wasn't high enough to cause any real concern, Sophia wasn't leaving anything to chance. No, she had already informed both brothers that until Dean was fever free for forty-eight hours, he wasn't going anywhere. Something was still stubbornly lingering inside his body and she fully intended on eradicating it for good. Forty-eight hours gloriously came nearly three days later, three days being how long it had taken for Dean to even realize that Bobby hadn't been around in nearly that much time considering how heavy the fog he was still living in was.
"Sam, where the hell did Bobby go?" Dean had to ask when his curiosity of the man's whereabouts got the better of him. It wasn't like the hunter to just up and leave without saying a word and as he sat on the edge of the bed fully dressed and prepared to leave what he'd come to think of as a prison of sorts, he couldn't help but think about the one person that could do that to him without the slightest hint of regret.
"Home. Sophia told him you wouldn't be able to tolerate breathing in a lot of dust for a while so he figured he better start cleaning up the place before you got there. He took off the second you hit a 98.6 and has been cleaning ever since."
"With all that dust, he shoulda left a week ago," Dean snarked. Bobby's house was nothing but old, dusty books and scrolls and it would take a near miracle to make that house grime free.
"Sam, can I talk to you for a minute?" Sophia poked her head behind the curtain separating the two beds in the room and smiled at Sam and Dean couldn't help but punch him in the arm when he saw the look his little brother gave her back.
"Make sure you get her number, dude. You never know when we'll be passing through this way again and I think she kinda likes you," Dean smirked and winked.
"We already said our goodbyes Dean," Sam told him as he walked out, leaving Dean to sit there open-mouthed with nothing to say.
'I'm never coming this way again, not if I can help it,' Sam couldn't help but think as he slipped out into the hall, but regretted it when he noticed the sad look fixed on the pretty, young doctor's face. Truth be told, he really did like her and not just because she had saved his brother's life. She was a kind, gentle soul that held nothing but good inside and finding that in a person was a definite rarity. He couldn't help but think that she was what Dean would have been had their lives not been so tainted by evil almost since his birth.
"You guys just about ready to go?" She asked him almost woefully as she pushed the wheelchair that would take Dean out into the cold, fresh air for the first time in nearly three weeks in front of her.
"I think Dean was ready to leave a week ago so I guess I'd have to say yes."
"Alright then. Don't forget that he has an appointment with a pulmonary specialist in a couple of days for a follow-up so if you end up taking the trip back to your uncle's house slower than originally anticipated, make sure you call and change it," she started giving her instructions to the person that would actually listen to her, tucking a business card for what Sam assumed to be said doctor into his jacket pocket.
"Don't worry, I'll make him go," Sam promised, he being the one that was going to make sure Dean followed all the rules she had laid out.
"Do not cancel it if you can't make it, just change it. It's important that he goes," she emphasized the importance again now in an effort to just stall for time.
"He won't cancel it, I promise. He'll go if I have to drag him there myself."
"That brings me to another reminder. Keep that oxygen close wherever you guys are. It won't take much to wind him for a while and if he gets short of breath you don't want to be scrambling for it or not
have it at all."
"You worry about all your patients this much?" Sam joked as he smirked and shook his head.
"Only the ones I like," she gently chuckled back. "Oh, and don't forget that he'll tire easily too so when you see him dogging it, make him get some rest whether he likes it or not."
"Alright already. Anything else?"
"No. I think that about covers it. If you're ready and he's ready, let's get you two on the road. It's a long drive back to South Dakota and I do not want you to try making it in one day."
"I thought you said there wasn't anything else," Sam smirked again as he took the chair from her hands and wheeled it into the room where Dean had almost fallen asleep waiting for him.
"Aw, come on. Can't I just walk out?" Dean whole-heartedly whined at the sight of his brother standing behind the seat with his hands wrapped firmly around the grips, the childish way he stated it making Sam silently pat the bottom and smile at his older brother.
"Nope. Hospital policy says you gotta ride down or you can't leave," Sophia squashed the request that Dean knew wasn't going to be granted in the first place and with more effort than he thought it would take, he hopped off the bed and into the chair.
"You have my number if you need anything, right Sam?" Sophia asked Sam one last question and Dean gently punched him in the arm again when he heard it.
"I do… and thank you. Thank you for everything."
"The pleasure was all mine. Just remember, I still have never met a germ I couldn't kill so if you ever need anything, do not hesitate to call."
"Oh don't worry, he won't," Dean winked at her and then extended a hand in an offer to shake hers. Not his typical way of saying goodbye to a pretty woman, but for today it would have to do. Taking hers in his and shaking it gently, he finished the comment that would have earned him a smack in the head from Sam had Sophia not been watching them both. "He won't hesitate, I mean… and ditto what Sam said… thanks."
"Dean, I honestly hope that the next time I see you it's under much better circumstances."
"Yeah, same here. Sam, can we please go now?"
Throwing Sophia a slight wave and a dimpled smile, the brothers turned and exited the room that they were both more than ready to leave behind and quietly made their way down the stairs and out the doors into the frigid, mid-morning air. Even with the car parked just beyond the door, the cold winds that slapped Dean in the face did nothing to help his already pained attempts at breathing in the icy oxygen outside. It had taken nearly all the energy he had had to just sit himself in the front seat of his anxiously awaiting baby and when Sam had finally slammed the door shut to cut off the chilly air assaulting his brother, Dean took in the deepest breaths of the warmth inside that he could handle without coughing, the heat slowly starting to calm his shocked lungs. Sam climbed into the driver's seat after returning the wheelchair to the doors but said nothing to his brother when he saw his face had gone three shades of pale, knowing that Dean did not want to be babied or smothered in anymore. He just watched as his brother rested his head against the seat and closed his eyes, almost looking forward to the long trip ahead of them.
Sam had been thinking far too much over the last few hours as they made their way west and when Dean started to rouse from the light sleep the rumble of the Impala's engine had helped him fall into, he initiated the conversation he had wanted to have nearly a week ago.
"I'm fine Sam," he answered, pretty sure that was the question about to come from his little brother's lips next.
"That's nice, but it's not what I was going to ask you," Sam quickly responded, somewhat proud of the fact that he had not been as predictable as his brother seemed to think him to be.
"Oh, so you don't care anymore, is that it," Dean chided back. He had a lot of ribbing to catch up on.
"You really want me to answer that?" Sam flatly stated, knowing that would end the debate when Dean realized that Sam could talk all day if nobody stopped him.
"Uh, no. So, what's on your mind then?"
"You really don't remember anything that happened? I mean nothing at all?" The question was asked with a slight hint of hesitation that Dean didn't pick up on.
"Not really. Everything's pretty damn fuzzy and no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to make anything clear. I do remember having this really weird dream though…"
"Oh, really? What about?" That revelation had peaked his interest and he definitely wanted to hear this.
"I don't know man, it was like I died or something and Mom was there trying to take me up to heaven or wherever else dead people go. She said something about you bringing me back to life but I had to decide whether to come with her or stay here with you. I could swear I saw you too through this haze and damn it if you weren't holding me like a friggin' baby and crying like a girl."
"Yeah, that is a weird dream. So, what the hell happened next?" Sam tried to casually prod Dean to continue. He knew that had been no dream and as much as he didn't want to know what his brother decided to do, he couldn't help but ask.
"Weird is right. I gave her a big hug and told her to take me with her but the next thing I knew she was gone and everything was dark. Man, it's scary how real that all seemed."
"Yeah, scary," Sam absently mumbled. He had pulled his brother away from their mother yet again and would live with that guilt for the rest of his life. Trying to push those feelings aside, he continued pushing ever so gently. "Anything else?"
"It gets a little creepy from there. I swear I must have been just laying around in the cold for days when you showed up asking me about…" he paused for a second when he realized what he was about to say, not wanting to say it out loud because he knew it all had to have been nothing more than a dream. "I don't really remember what the hell you were asking me. Next thing I knew you were gone too and I was alone again until I woke up looking at your ugly mug. That's about it. Why so interested, anyway? Did I get molested by a Harley riding group of midgets or something that you're afraid to tell me about?"
"Nah, just curious what was going through my big brother's crazy head, that's all."
"Well, right now lunch is going through my head because it sure as hell ain't going through my stomach," Dean hinted and Sam took it.
"Next town is in 33 miles. Just sit back and relax 'til then. I'm pretty sure you won't starve to death before we get there," he tried sounding cool and Dean was either too worn out or too hungry to really care. Closing his eyes and resting his head back against the seat, he mumbled something Sam was sure had to be directed at his manhood before he drifted back to sleep once again. Mumbling something entirely different once he was deeply back in his slumber, Sam clearly heard the word bullet come from his brother's lips and as much as Sam didn't want to, he knew he would have to tell Dean everything eventually and he would eventually tell him what happened, but not today. Today he was just thankful his brother was alive and sitting next to him and for now, that was all he wanted to think about.