K Hanna Korossy
They were five minutes out from Rockford Asylum when Sam finally broke the silence that had become thick enough to replace the air in the car.
"Okay, I did mean a little of it. I get tired of you never questioning Dad's orders or telling me to take people to safety while you face whatever it is, but that's it, Dean, I swear—it wasn't at all like Ellicott made it seem."
Dean didn't react, didn't even twitch. Truth be told, he was bone-deep exhausted and not really listening. Nothing Sam could have said just then would've interested him, anyway. Seemed like he'd said just about enough in the asylum already.
He could feel Sam's gaze on him because even that tired, he was always aware of his brother. Sam was expecting an answer, or maybe just hoping for one, but he wouldn't like what he'd get right now if he kept pushing. He always wanted to talk everything out—closure, Dean had once scoffed at him—while Dean preferred to deal and move on. And that's what he was trying to do, if Sam would just give him some space. By the next day, he could maybe forget the words spoken under the good doctor's influence, or his brother shooting him four times. At the least, he could grin and pretend he'd forgotten. But not yet, not when the wounds, physical and emotional, were still seeping blood. Now, he was still hurting.
Sam stared at him a long time, then turned to look out the windshield. Dean could feel the frustration and unhappiness flowing off him, and almost smiled.Join the club, little brother. Oh, that's right, Sam had a mind of his own.
But he didn't say anything the rest of the way, and Dean was at least grateful for that.
He pulled into the parking lot outside the back door nearest their room, and leaned forward with a wince to turn the engine off. Then he just eased back into the seat and sat, staring at the grey brick wall in front of them.
Sam reached for the door, then stopped, realizing he wasn't following. "Are you coming in?" he asked, subdued.
Dean shook his head. "You go on. I'm gonna sit here a little." He didn't want to tell Sam he'd had to muster his energy to say and do even that much, and he didn't think he had enough for the walk inside. Or to be in the same space as his brother right then.
Sam hesitated, opened his mouth, and Dean hoped for both their sakes he'd shut it without a word.
Surprisingly, he did. Sam's shoulders dropped a little lower, but he reached into the back and grabbed his bag. With a final glance at Dean, which was pointedly ignored, Sam climbed out and shut the door behind him. Five seconds later, he was inside the building.
Dean dropped his head back against the seat and closed his eyes.
Well, that had gone great. They'd destroyed the ghost and almost each other in the bargain. He couldn't even manage to look his brother in the eye, the one person he had at his back right now. And where did all that leave them?
Dean knew where it left him, anyway. Sitting in the Impala with no place left to go.
The topper to the whole thing, the punchline that made him want to laugh out loud, was that he wasn't mad at Sam. His brother had come running down to help Dean and been attacked by a spirit as malicious as any Dean had ever seen. No way was that his fault. And, true, the seeds of what Sam had said came from him, but the rage and hatred hadn't, Deanknew that. He'd meant it when he'd said it wasn't Sam talking.
But it hadn't been a complete possession, either, not if Sam remembered what happened. And the words did have history and a hundred little fights behind them. Maybe he couldn't blame Sam for having some issues with him; he probably had as many with Sam. But that didn't mean the scathing censure from his little brother hadn't hurt, and not just in the rock-salt-meets-flesh kind of way.
And that had been without Sam's face glaring at him over the gun.
There was a tap on the driver's side window, inches from his face.
Dean jumped, eyes flying open in a wince, then turned to stare at his brother, who looked hopefully back at him through the window.
Great. What part of "not in the mood" hadn't he understood?
But Sam was holding something and still giving him that coaxing-little-brother look. With resignation and real effort, Dean leaned forward to roll the window down.
If Sam was put off by the brusque tone, he didn't show it. "I brought you some Advil." He handed the plastic cup and a handful of pills awkwardly through the half-open window.
Dean took the offerings automatically, then looked up to stare a question at Sam. But his brother was already disappearing back into the building.
Well, wasn't that sweet? With a disgusted shake of the head, Dean tossed the pills down and drained the glass. Funny how getting shot left you a little dehydrated. He hadn't even looked at the damage yet, but his shirt was damp with blood and the bruising and tattooing would surely be impressive.
Dean did wonder, just a little, if Sam would have shot him without the goading. The rock salt hadn't counted; they'd both known that wasn't lethal. But to really shoot to kill?
Then again, the cop had, hadn't he? Killed his wife, then himself, and didn't that just give Dean a whole new nightmare for his collection? But he'd been the one to give Sam the gun, yelled at him to shoot knowing Sam's instincts where Dean's barked orders were concerned, and pushed him into it. It had been a necessary distraction so he could catch him off guard, but no small part of him wondered if Sam would have done it on his own. If Ellicott had that much sway over him.
If any part of the little brother he'd have faced all Hell for hated him enough to want to pull that trigger.
He'd forgotten to roll his window up in the mild April morning, and his eyes had drifted shut again somewhere along the way. But Dean wasn't startled this time as he turned tiredly back to the window. "Sam."
Sam was half-crouching next to the car, hands once more full. Before Dean could even figure out with what, another cup was pushed into his hand, and a bag dropped into his lap. He blinked at it in surprise, then up at Sam.
"There's a place a few doors down. I just got you some coffee and a ham-and-egg sandwich." This time he flashed Dean a quick smile, then was gone again.
Coffee. The most awake part of his brain was already appreciating the aroma, and Dean lifted the cup and took a hesitant sip. It was sweet, the way he liked it. And ham-and-egg was his favorite, too, as Sam had had ample opportunity to observe. Dean knew what this was about, and didn't like the idea of having his forgiveness bought or, even worse, cajoled.
But as tired as he was, he was also starving. Dean sluggishly unwrapped the sandwich and started eating.
They'd been on the road about five months now, plenty of time to get used to each other again, especially without Dad there to distract. Dean had learned most of Sam's secrets and guessed at the rest. He knew the load of guilt Sam carried over Jess. He knew how much he'd loved the school he'd left to go hunting again. He knew Sam's new fear of fire on top of the old fears, that he'd come to love tea and bagels during his four years in school, and that his breathing actually slowed when he was having a nightmare, like he was choking. And Dean knew that after the Wendigo had nearly killed Dean, Sam's nightmares afterwards hadn't been about Jess. And still he'd pushed his brother to pull that trigger.
did that say about him?
He swallowed a sigh along with the last bite of the sandwich, and didn't turn his head this time or open his stubbornly heavy eyes. "What, Sam?"
"I brought you an icepack. For…you know."
Yeah, he knew. His chest, where Sam had shot him. His Sam, with eyes full of hatred and fury. And fear.
Dean gave up.
Hesitation. "You sure? I don't wanna interrupt your…whatever you're—"
He opened one eye. "Sam?"
"Shut up and get in the car."
He could sense Sam hurrying around to the other side, heard the creak of the door and felt the seat give under his brother's weight. Then the door swung shut, trapping them in that silence again that maybe was a little less suffocating now. He heard the clink of the ice Sam didn't seem as intent on forcing on him now, then silence.
Dean sighed. He still didn't want to talk, but Sam needed it, and that had always been enough for him. He dragged his eyes open and leveled a stare at his brother. "Listen, I'm going to tell you something."
"Okay." The answer was soft and still hopeful, but wary, too, and Dean reminded himself he hadn't been the only one hurt.
"Dr. Ellicott. Before I burned his bones…" His eyes skidded away from, then back to Sam. "He got his hands on me, too."
Sam's eyes widened in surprise. Not what he'd been expecting, apparently.
"So the anger thing—I get it, Sam. I only had a partial dose, but I was ready to go shove a few words down your throat, too."
Sam took that in.
Dean stared past him. "And the empty gun—that wasn't for you." He grimaced. "I didn't trust myself, okay? I knew what Dr. Frankenstein was capable of, and it could've just as easily been me shooting you."
Sam flinched. "But it wasn't," he said quietly.
"No," he agreed. "It wasn't. And I know that doesn't make it any easier for you and I am really sorry about that." He was as earnest now as he got. "But this is gonna take a little while to forget, okay?"
The disappointment and pain ran deep in Sam's eyes; Dean could see it now just as easily as he'd heard it in his own voice back at the Asylum. The difference was that Dean was in full control of what he was saying.
Sam nodded, started to turn back toward the door.
And Dean shot out a hand and grabbed him by the arm, hard enough that he could see Sam tense. The gaze that turned back to look at him was already building walls to hide the hurt behind. They'd both gotten better at that the years they'd been apart.
Dean licked his lips. "That doesn't mean I don't trust you or that we aren't okay, Sam."
Sam's expression turned frankly disbelieving.
Dean made a face. "Look, don't make me do the hearts and flowers bit—you're my brother, you'd die for me, kill me, whatever. I get it, all right? It goes both ways. No decomposing mad scientist is gonna change that."
The corner of Sam's mouth by God twitched.
Dean shrugged uncomfortably, and not because it pulled at his chest. "Look, I bet the skinwalker said a lot worse things to you." Sam had been less than anxious to talk about that one, but Dean had done the pushing then. They always tried harder for the other. And in the end, the sharing and caring wasn't so bad if it lightened his brother's eyes like that.
That got a full, if weak, smile. "What is it about Evil that it talks about the stuff we can't?" Sam mused.
"They don't exactly give us a choice. Far as I'm concerned, that's part of the 'evil' bit," Dean said flatly.
"Maybe. Still," Sam tilted his head, "if this is possessed-you talking…I appreciate it."
Dean just shook his head, then twisted to reach painfully for his own bag in the back seat. "I get first shower."
"Oh, so now you're coming in?"
He ignored his brother easily, less easily when Sam gently pushed his arm away and dug the bag out himself. They climbed out of the car in silence, Sam waiting for him as Dean concentrated on moving his weighted feet.
He stopped at the door, glanced back at the car, then at Sam. "What were you going to bring out next?" he asked, honestly curious.
Sam's cheeks reddened faintly. "Your blankets and pillow."
"Huh." Dean turned to go in.
Dean laughed involuntarily. He'd still cringe at the words and see the face over the gun in his nightmares, but he'd hang on to this part, too, and the thousand similar times before it. And, eventually, that would win out.
But his chest was starting to burn from the movement and his face contorted as he rubbed it.
"I'll settle for the icepack."
"That can be arranged." Sam hovered without looking like he was hovering. The act still needed a little work.
Dean trusted they'd figure it out.The End