I've Got Ya, For Now
K Hanna Korossy
He had Gordon Walker's blood on his hands. Literally.
That was bad enough, even if Gordon had deserved it. Sam didn't even want to think about how he'd just beheaded someone with his bare hands and what that said about him. A year ago, the thought would have horrified him, but now he just felt numb. And he wasn't sure what that boded for him, either.
But the real problem with the gore dripping off his fingers didn't occur to Sam until they were halfway back to the car.
Dean hadn't spoken again since his initial tease about being reckless, a sideways reassurance for Sam that they were okay. Well, as okay as they could be while exhausted, bruised, and a little freaked out. Gordon had been one of them once, before he'd taken to hunting Sam, before he'd been vamped, and that was more than a little sobering.
Then Dean stumbled to a stop, swaying.
Sam halted, too, frowning at him. "Dean?"
His brother lurched down to one knee as if his leg had been chunked out from under him, chin dipping to his chest. "Just…gimme a minute," he murmured. Sam could see him try to push back upright and fail, downplaying the effort.
Sam stepped back to his side and started to reach for him.
And stopped. Stared at his hands. His bloody hands, coated not just in Gordon's blood, but vampire blood. And Dean had several open wounds.
Sam reeled his arms back, tilted down to rake Dean anxiously with his eyes instead. "Hey. You all right?"
"Yeah. Just got dizzy a second." Dean shook his head, but the color just seemed to drain even more from his pallid face. "Help me up," he grunted, reaching the hand out that wasn't pressed against his neck, the one still clutching the Colt.
Sam winced and helplessly spread his own hands, a disturbing display. He fought the instinct to rub them against his jeans, but it wouldn't clean them completely and he'd just be even more contaminated. He could wrap something around them maybe…but it was still a risk, one he wasn't willing to take.
Dean blinked dazedly at him, realization darkening his eyes. "Oh. Right." His gaze rose to Sam with hazy panic. "You didn't—"
"No open wounds," Sam reassured him, shaking his head. "I'm okay." God only knew how, but while he was a mess of bruises and had a headache the size of Toledo and was a little shaky on his feet, too, he wasn't bleeding. Not physically, anyway.
Dean's shoulders settled lower.
"Move your hand a second," Sam ordered gently, leaning in to see.
Dean made a face but obeyed, sinking down to both knees as he cupped his hand away from his neck. Fresh blood streamed out from what was probably a jugular puncture, and he quickly clamped his hold back over it. Red leaked out between fingers that were already coated.
God, what a pair they were.
"Can you stand?" Sam asked.
Dean gave a terse nod—of course he did—and made another aborted attempt to rise, then finally planted Colt and hand on the ground and shoved up that way. He made it most of the way upright before his legs wobbled again.
"Take your time," Sam coached. "No rush, man, just find your feet."
Dean bent a little, eyes screwing nearly shut: he was reaching inside, dipping into his reserves, for strength to do what was needed. It wasn't a look Sam had been privy to often in his life, usually only called on when he was in worse shape than Dean. Or, probably, when his brother was alone. It made Sam feel even more helpless to see it, and he clenched his bloody hands in frustration.
"Yeah, got it." A jerky nod. "'M good." Dean started moving again, arms tucked close to his body, path a little crooked. As he staggered past, Sam grimaced as he caught sight of a thin spear of wood embedded in his brother's jacket and back. Another wound, great. Because Dean needed more injuries.
"Y'all right?" Sam asked quietly again as Dean stumbled on, even though he knew the answer full well.
"Peachy," Dean muttered, even ten kinds of weariness unable to erase the edge of sarcasm from his voice. "Just 'nother day at the office, 'member?"
"Yeah, sure," Sam breathed, but he coaxed Dean forward again with measured accompanying steps and quiet words. He hovered close enough to touch, his hands skimming the air over his brother's bowed back, bent arms.
It was slow going, and the trembling he could see in Dean's body did nothing to assuage Sam's worry. His brother was breathing fast and shallow by the time they reached the car, and headed around to the passenger side without hesitation. Sam pulled the Colt away from him there finally, then waited as Dean eased into the car. Sam directed him to sit sideways to avoid pressing against the injury on his back. It was all he saw as he shut the door after Dean.
The red handprint he left on the door handle didn't make Sam feel any better.
He couldn't stand the thought of leaving that poisonous trail inside the car, too, and wrestled his jacket off as he reached the driver's side of the car, twisting it around his hands. Turning the key was a pain, but after that it was just steering and glancing over repeatedly at Dean, and Sam could do both of those just fine without hands.
Dean's head was tilted to the side against the seat, which probably wasn't the best idea for blood loss, but he was still too with it for Sam to have laid him out in the back and propped his feet up, not to mention the whole not-touching thing. His skin was bleached under the streaks of blood, and Sam would have thought him asleep or unconscious if not for the pressure he was keeping up on his neck. And the rough question aimed at Sam a minute into the drive.
"You mean, besides having killed a man with my bare hands?" Sam spewed bitterly before he could think about it.
Hazy but aware hazel eyes cracked open. "Naw, that's what I meant. But guess you answered that already." The words slurred a little, and Sam hoped it was just exhaustion.
"I'm okay," Sam answered quietly, unable quite to get the f-word—fine—out of his throat. "Bruises and a headache."
Dean snorted. "Business as usual."
Dean sighed, eyes sliding shut. "'S not your fault, Sam."
"I know." And he did.
"Jus' did what you had to…used what you had."
"I know, Dean." He really did.
"Gordon brought it on himself."
"Yeah." No question about that one.
Dean's eyes slitted again. "You haven' changed."
Sam's vision blurred. "Right," he whispered. Lying through his teeth.
"Still m'…" Dean slumped against the seat, finally succumbing to unconsciousness.
Sam quickly checked his brother's grip, but his hand was still clamped firmly enough to his neck that no new blood appeared. Sam chewed his lip and drove a little faster.
The motel was almost the full twenty minutes away that Gordon had given them to get to his little trap. Sam squealed into the parking lot, arm starting to come up as Dean slid forward with the sudden deceleration, then quickly retracting. He sped up the car instead, tracing a broad oval in the gravel lot as Dean settled back into place, then gliding to a stop.
Dean muttered something under his breath but didn't stir.
Sam twitched and got out of the car. He had to clean up before he could help Dean, but it was like pulling fresh scabs off to leave his bloody and unconscious brother in the car while he went inside.
Sam took the fastest, most thorough shower of his life, leaving his bloody clothes kicked off into the far corner of the bathroom. He examined himself in the mirror for any trace of blood, ignoring the exhaustion that shadowed his eyes and the swollen, discolored splotches across his torso and face. He was tired and hurt, mind already circling the drain, but Dean needed him and he came first. Reluctantly satisfied, Sam trudged out of the bathroom and yanked on some fresh clothes, including a shirt of Dean's that was the first thing his hands closed on. Then he headed back out before the Impala's engine even stopped ticking.
He hesitated at the bloody door, finally digging out a handkerchief from his pocket to gingerly pull on the handle, dropping the material on the ground as soon as its use was past. "Dean?" Sam leaned into the passenger seat and angled in the tight space to see his turned-away brother.
Dean's face scrunched under his freckles, now stark against his white face, in a way that dug up vague memories of him as a kid. He'd always seemed so grown up and old to Sam all their lives; it was only with hindsight that Sam realized how young his brother had been at the time.
He patted one cool cheek, peeled back a few fingers to see Gordon's bite still sluggishly trickling. "Hey. Dean. Hey." A harder pat. "C'mon, man, wake up."
Dean groaned. "T'morrow."
Sam couldn't help smile a little at that. "Sorry, Dean, gotta move now." He was already swinging his brother's legs out of the car, one hand against his back to keep him from leaning the wrong way. Sam's eyes fell on the Colt, dropped carelessly onto the floorboards, and he shoved it under the front seat.
"Yeah, I know." With Dean facing him now, Sam scrutinized him again, looking for Gordon's blood anywhere on him. But it all seemed to be Dean's own…which wasn't terribly reassuring, either. Sam pulled him to his feet carefully, buttressing his brother's sagging body with his own.
They frog-marched into the room that way, Dean more out of it than in, Sam wearily struggling under his weight. Dean offered only a pained noise when Sam dropped him onto the two mattresses piled on top of each other that they were currently using for a bed.
Sam grabbed a clean towel, then leaned Dean forward against him so he could see his back over his shoulder. Grimacing again at the sight of the impaling piece of wood, Sam gently felt its edges, checking how deep it was and whether it was caught on anything. Then, satisfied, he took hold of it and slid it free.
Dean bucked feebly against him with a curse.
"It's okay, it's okay," Sam quickly chanted as he pressed the towel against his brother's back. He raised his other hand to where he felt the warmth of fresh blood against his shoulder from Dean's neck. His grip had finally fallen away, and Sam pressed against the fang marks, trying not to feel like the kid with his finger in the dike, struggling to keep what blood remained in his brother's body from leaking out.
Dean muttered something and shuddered before going still again.
"You're okay," Sam soothed. "I've got you." He leaned his head forward against the curve of Dean's shoulder. "I've got you."
It was a mere murmur of sound, but it made Sam unexpectedly laugh, pressing his temple in tighter against his brother's. "I can't believe you thought of that now, you dork," he murmured fondly. It was an old joke of theirs, an exchange shared a dozen times since they'd first watched Superman together. But it was a little too loaded now, and Sam found his eyes stinging again.
There was no time for that, though, not with Dean nearly unconscious and still bleeding, and Sam forced his plodding thoughts back to the business at hand.
Fifteen minutes later, he had both wounds bandaged plus a third he hadn't noticed before, a scrape on the back of his brother's hard head. As many times as Dean had been thrown against walls, Sam was surprised he didn't have brain damage. Or maybe that was where all the lame jokes came from.
Then again, those wisecracks kept him going more than Sam realized. It was times like this, Dean still and silent, when the approaching end of his year and Sam's own future pressed in on him like a suffocating cloud. It was a preview to Dean being gone, and all the proof Sam needed that he couldn't bear the loss.
His brother shivered, and Sam reached automatically over to his own bed to pull the blankets off and pile them over Dean. He had lost a lot of blood, but his pressure and heart rate were fair, and Sam had gotten him to drink some water. He stood, staring down at his sleeping brother. He should probably go out and grab some Gatorade and soup before Dean woke again. The elder Winchester just needed fluids and sleep.
And Sam, exhausted though he was, needed the distraction.
"I'll be back," he whispered to the sleeper, leaning to rest a hand on one shoulder blade. Then he turned and shambled out of the room without a rearward glance.
The werewolf was approaching, and Dean had backed to the trunk, reaching behind him for the silver bullets. He didn't need to look to know where they were, the contents of his car as familiar to him as his brother's face.
But it was wood his fingers brushed.
Dean grimaced, glancing back. A pair of stakes rested where the bullets should have been. Dean's brows drew together as he looked over to where the stakes were kept…and saw the brass blade he'd procured after the rhakshasa.
With growing worry, Dean raked the trunk with his gaze, searching for silver bullets, a silver knife, anything, as the wolf breathed harshly at his back. Nothing. Everything was in the wrong place, the whole trunk, his whole life, turned upside down. What the he—?
The wolf sprung, sinking sharp teeth into Dean's neck
His eyes snapped open on a harsh gasp, to see a row of sagging mattresses. They wavered even as he watched, and Dean dropped his eyes shut with a groan. "Sam?" It came out dry and hoarse.
Worse yet, there was no answer.
Dean turned a little in bed, stomach doing a slow roll as he did. The scenery rocked, mattresses swaying to the beat in his head. The room was freezing and there was no Sam and he was ready to puke at any moment and where's Sam? What had even…
Gordon. Gordon and his buddy, whom they'd never found. The same guy, Dean was pretty sure, who'd gotten such a kick out of torturing Sam a while back.
The cold traveled down Dean's body, until all the warmth he felt was the hot throb of his neck. The same spot where Gordon had nearly drained him dry. Until Sam…
The room started a leisurely spin, like a kid's carousel. Sammy had begged and pleaded to ride one of those when he was little—four? five?—then promptly threw up all over Dean's jeans. Bright pink puke from the cotton candy…
With a moan, Dean tipped to the side of the bed and emptied his stomach.
Nausea. And cold and…and vertigo. Dean leaned his forehead against the edge of the mattress, breathing hard through his mouth. He knew this, knew it had something to do with freaking Gordon feeding off him. But then where was Sam, and the other hunter, and Sammy the nursemaid…
Dean pushed himself up on arms that bowed and trembled under him. Something was wrong. Something besides a dozen dancing mattresses and a frigid room. Something like no Sam, because Dean had traded, he had, and he had a year with Sam, and it wasn't over yet.
He rolled out of bed to his knees, pushing up with a grunt. Sam hadn't helped him the last time, either…but there'd been blood. Sam's? No, but something bad about it still. Dean ground the heel of his hand into his forehead. Crap, why couldn't he remember? Felt like his brain was swimming along with those godforsaken mattresses.
Sam wasn't here. Bottom line. And that was always wrong.
Dean straggled to his feet, legs bending the wrong way and stomach doing somersaults. He was freezing, but what did that matter if Sam was hurt? Sammy needed him. Not as much as Dean needed his little brother, but Sam never rubbed that in his face, and, God, Dean loved him for that, too, and where was he?
The air outside was cool and bright, making Dean blink, sending his body into new shivers. The car was there; the car was always there, even when Sam wasn't, except for the time when Sammy had been there and the car and Dad had been gone, and what was up with his head? Memories, thoughts tumbled into one another until he couldn't keep them straight, wasn't sure if it was Gordon he was afraid of or the other hunter, or if Sam just left on his own again. He wouldn't, though, right? Last time he had, Dean had had to make a deal to get him back, and the time before that, Gordon had nearly killed him. They should've learned after that.
Maybe Gordon wasn't really gone?
Dean pushed off the doorway and staggered forward. "Sam?" Sam had to be close. He wouldn't leave like this. Not when Dean needed him, although Dean always needed him. "Sammy!" he called more urgently.
He was so cold. And Sam wasn't there. He knew this, remembered this, Sam pale and still on the bed, except, Dean had made a deal for him. Sammy wouldn't break it, would he? Leave Dean less than his year with his brother?
"Sam!" he barked, desperate now, ricocheting off cars as he kept pushing forward. Sam had to be somewhere. The blood hadn't been his. "Sam!" and Dean was begging now, staggering.
Not Sam's voice. Nor the hands that reached for him. Dean shied away with an angry hiss and felt himself overbalance, going down.
"Sam," he croaked one last time, pushing away at all the reaching arms.
Falling alone into blackness.
Dropping out empty and strengthless at the other end.
Voices murmured. Soft rises and falls of speech. Strangers.
And then a firm answer cutting through them, and through Dean's foggy awareness.
"…brother…all right…I've got…"
Sammy was there. Talking. All right. With him.
With that foundation established, Dean's awareness widened, taking in other things: the soft give of mattress under him. The ache in his back and stomach and neck and head. The way the last two felt better for being propped up, a warm weight resting over the tender bite mark. Cool denim under his cheek. Blankets pressing on his back and legs.
"…accident…I can…thank you…"
The other voices murmured, swelled, then faded. A door swung shut.
Sam's leg shifted under his head, fingertips digging into the underside of Dean's jaw. He'd have complained if it didn't feel like way beyond what he was capable of just then. Which seemed to be lying half on his brother's lap with strangers watching and Sam feeling up his neck and Dean pretty much not caring whatsoever because Sam was safe.
Sam sighed above him. "So much for keeping a low profile, dude. When I came around the corner and saw you on the ground and all those people around you…"
The denim-clad leg under Dean's face shuddered. He wanted to pat it, but his hand wouldn't move.
Sam pulled in a ragged breath above him. "I want…every day of my year, you hear me? No checking out early, Dean. I want each one of those 365, and every day after that. I want to see you find somebody and have kids and make fun of my parenting and grow old, and then, maybe, when you're ninety and have a dozen great-grandkids, maybe then I'll think about letting you go. But not before then. I want that time—I need it. I need you. Dean, I killed Gordon with my bare hands. Took his head off just like he did those women's. I-I need…I don't want to be a monster, man, and I don't think I can…"
Hot, wet drops hit Dean's chin, making him flinch.
Sam—his clumsy, fumbling, too-earnest Sammy, not the guy who'd killed Gordon in the warehouse—quickly brushed the tears off his skin. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I know I keep telling you to do something for yourself, and you did, didn't you. You brought me back. But you can't just leave me here now. So do this for me, Dean. Please. I need my brother."
Sam wasn't leaving him, and the relief of that was sharp, but Sam was just as afraid of the reverse. Dean had had to sell his soul to know how Sam felt, but the pleasure of that knowledge dimmed with every hitch of Sam's breath and tremor of his voice. The kid was hurting, and because of what Dean had done.
He swallowed nausea and emotion and everything he wanted to say but had neither strength nor words for, feeling Sam's knuckles rest against his Adam's apple. Dean wanted more than anything to make Sam feel better, tell him it would be all right, he really did, because his brother was about as far from a monster as you could get. And who knows, maybe Sam would still pull a rabbit out of the hat where Dean's deal was concerned; little stopped his brother when he was determined. But Dean was too tired, and Sam would be there when he woke up next time, and Dean would make it up to him then. He would.
He felt the weariness of his soul ease just a little bit, his fears for the future and Hell and destinies and Sam fade, and drifted off to gentle, not-alone slumber.
The water refused to run clear.
He'd fixed the car, under Dean's patient eye and tutelage. They'd hit the road again, Sam listening to the motor's purr that he was responsible for. And he'd worked hard the whole time not to bawl like a kid.
As soon as they reached the next rest stop, he'd asked Dean to pull off, claiming the need to wash grease off his hands. That was five minutes of scrubbing ago, and still the water was tainted as it ran down the drain.
Dean had listened to him. He'd finally heard Sam's desperation and longing, and made a real attempt to close the gap between them. On the side of the road over the cooling engine, they had been brothers again.
And it hurt.
The water swirled dark in the white sink. Sam smiled painfully as he kept washing. Keeping emotional distance to make the grief more bearable; Sam had always resented John Winchester, and, lately, Dean for that. Now, he was starting to get it. You kept your distance, and the ache didn't chew a hole clear through you. Ironic, huh, Dad? I finally figure out two years too late that you had it right all along.
A bunch of bystanders had helped him carry a dazed and collapsed Dean back into their room just a few days before. As Dean had gotten better, Sam's worry had retreated to the usual six-Tums-a-day levels, but the reminder was still stark: life was brief and fragile. Sam had ended one within the last week, and was trying hard to halt the end of another. Both felt like failures, and he couldn't stop feeling terrified.
And the brother who'd always been solace for him was now a reminder of a dark future. Sam didn't know what to do with that.
So he bowed his head and kept rubbing.
The sudden bang on the restroom door made him jump. "You fall in the john or something, Sam?" Dean's voice echoed through the thin wood.
Sam's mouth pulled painfully. His brother, Mr. Sensitive. "Shut up," he called back halfheartedly.
Which Dean would have laughed off a week earlier, but becoming closer apparently went both ways. The restroom door swung open, and Dean stood there torn between annoyance and concern. "You okay in—?" His eyes swung over to Sam's hands and went wide as the words tumbled off. The next second, he had the water off, Sam's wrists in a firm grip. "Dude, what the…?"
Sam's brow drew together and he pulled on his brother's hold. "I can't get the grease— What's your problem?" he snapped as Dean just tightened his hold.
"What's my problem? I'm not the one who's scrubbed half the skin off my hands, man."
Which was ridiculous. His hands were a little red, but not that bad. The tingling was just from the heat of the water. "Dean," Sam growled, yanking harder.
Dean let him go but eyed him warily. "What's going on with you, Sam?" Behind him, the restroom door started to swing open. Dean didn't even look, just jammed a boot back against it, keeping it shut. His eyes never strayed from Sam's face.
Sam glared back. "Nothing, all right? Maybe you don't mind going around looking like a grease monkey, but I do."
"Right." Dean slowly nodded. "So, this is about the car."
"What else would it be about?" Sam sniped, grabbing a few paper towels from the dispenser. They felt like sandpaper against his skin.
"Oh, I don't know—what happened with Gordon, maybe? Don't think I haven't noticed how often you've been washing your hands since then, Sam."
He stopped, an involuntary shiver going through him as he stared at Dean. Who'd clearly lost his mind. "W-what?"
The bathroom door rattled again, but neither of them paid any attention. "You're still beating yourself up about ending Gordon, aren't you. All that talk about you being done and him deserving it—you really believe I can't see right through it?"
"I—" Sam glanced down at the sink, and realized a reddish rust stain bloomed up from around the edges of the drain across the old porcelain. That was what had colored the water, not the black of grease and grime. He slumped.
Dean's voice softened. "Don't put this on yourself, Sammy. You saved both our skins that night, and Gordon was already gone. Doesn't make you anything but a good guy who had to do the dirty work, same as always."
Sam gave up on the paper towels, letting them drop into the crumpled pile of overflow by the trashcan. He leaned against the sink, shaking his head heavily. "Dean…you ever think…if I'd killed Jake back in Cold Oak…"
Dean groaned. "Aw, c'mon, Sam, don't do this. We can't see the future—" He caught himself. "You didn't see the future, did you?" Sam shook his head with a soft scoff. "Yeah, so, we had no way of knowing. That's just who you are, and who you're always gonna be, trust me on this. So, just…move on. Okay?"
Move on. To what?, Sam almost asked, but there was no point to it. Dean wouldn't have an answer any more than he did. "Okay," he just murmured.
Dean eyed him skeptically, knowing the difference between capitulation and agreement, but didn't call him on it. He probably knew it was pointless, too. He just nodded reluctantly. "I'm gonna pick up some pop to go. Meet you out at the car." Dean hesitated. "No more hand-wringing, dude." With a significant tilt of the eyebrow, he walked out, glowering at some guy waiting just outside the door who dared open his mouth to complain. The guy paled, then took one look at Sam, went even whiter, and beat a hasty retreat.
The door swung shut.
That's just who you are. It was meant to be reassurance, one of the thousand covert you'll be fine without me's Dean had offered the last few months. But the thought just made Sam feel even worse.
"That's why I need to be more like you," he whispered to the empty room.
Then he tucked his raw hands into his pockets and followed Dean out.