Each Day That Breaks
The sun had set, darkness settling over the land in a velvet blanket. A lone red star hung over the mountain, a drop of blood in the cascade of white diamonds littering the sky. The tiny sliver of moon did nothing to hide the light of the stars. A breeze drifted from the desert, bringing an herbal-medicinal smell with it. Sam's mind identified the scent as sagebrush.
He heard the jets switch off in the tub and was up when he heard a thump from the bathroom. Sam ran across the room and pushed the door open. Dean was on the floor, trying to pull himself up by one of the safety rails on the tub. Damn it, Dean, why didn't you call me? Dean was swearing under his breath, tears of frustration running down his cheeks. Sam pulled him up, dropped him in the chair and handed him a towel.
"You ready for dinner?" Sam asked, handing Dean a t-shirt and sweats. "I got a couple of rib-eye steaks and potatoes when I stopped to get gas."
"Must have been one hell of a gas station," Dean said with a grin.
"It had a real grocery store. I got steaks, coke, potatoes, M&Ms…"
"Sounds like a feast. Can we have baked potatoes?" Dean pulled the t-shirt over his head with trembling hands and stopped, one arm partially through a sleeve. Sam pulled Dean's arm through and helped him with the other without commenting on it.
"The potatoes are already in the oven," he said, smiling as he helped Dean with the sweats. "They should be ready when the steaks are. I got salad too, and bleu cheese dressing."
Dean grinned. "Getting better and better." He took a deep breath. "Ready." Sam pulled Dean to his feet and helped him out into the main room, setting him down in one of the padded wingbacks drawn up to the small table. Dean was trembling, his eyes closed. "I might need something, Sam."
"Okay," Sam said, getting the pain pills out of the bag. Before they left the hospital, Dr. Bilagody made sure Sam had enough pain meds to get his brother through, whatever was going to happen. Sam looked at the pre-loaded syringes the doctor had given him for when things got too bad for the pills to handle. I won't need them. I won't. We're solving this tomorrow. He handed the pills to Dean with a smile and grabbed a coke out of the fridge.
"Do you want the TV on?" Sam asked as he got the steaks out.
"No. After dinner can we sit on the patio?"
"We can have dinner out there, if you want. There's a table, chairs and a gas fireplace."
"Thanks." Dean leaned back in the chair. "Those steaks smell good, Sammy."
Dean was quiet as Sam finished making dinner. When Dean let out a small groan, Sam pulled the skillet off the burner and walked over, laying his hand on his brother's shoulder till the spasms passed. They didn't seem as bad as before, but Sam suspected they were far more painful than his brother let on. Dean had tears leaking out of his eyes when it finally ended. Sam patted Dean's shoulder gently and turned back to dinner, knowing Dean needed a moment to compose himself.
When the steaks were done, Sam carried their plates out to the patio and lit the fire. "You ready for food?" Dean nodded and Sam lifted his brother onto his feet. Dean let Sam pull his arm over his shoulder and help him out to the table. He sank down in the chair with a sigh.
"Dinner looks great, Sam, thanks." Dean smiled.
They talked about past hunts over dinner. Dean bringing up his Heather Hunt for the thousandth time, mentioning a particular Heather in Tucumcari. Sam smiled as his brother spoke, he took the plates in, grabbed the M&Ms and they sat and talked as the moon moved across the sky. Dean laughed when a bat swooped to catch bugs dancing in the patio light.
"Remember when you were six and didn't want to get your hair cut?" Dean said suddenly. "And dad told you if you didn't have short hair the bats would get caught in it?"
Sam smiled. "Yeah, I seem to remember you demonstrating, too."
"Yeah, I did," Dean chuckled.
"You should get some sleep."
The smile faded from Dean's face. "I don't want to."
"I need to lay down, but I don't want to sleep. Not yet. I don't have much time left, Sammy. I don't want to waste what there is…" Dean looked at him. "Please?" he whispered.
"Hey, I got a deck of cards at the store too, want to see if you can win back some of your money?" Sam pulled Dean up, his brother fell against him. Oh god, Dean. Sam waited as Dean regained a little control, then helped him to the bed. "You're down about eight hundred thousand, I think."
"No, it's not that much. Last I remember I won back a hundred and seventy-five thousand at darts."
"Right," Sam said, getting the cards.
They'd been playing for three hours when Dean suddenly screamed, grabbing at his chest. "Dean!" Sam dropped his cards and reached across the bed to pull his brother against him. "Dean! What is it?"
"Chest, hurts," Dean got out, his breathing ragged. "Hurts. Oh god, oh no. Sam, a seizure." It was the worst one he'd had. Dean couldn't get a breath, he made chocking sounds as he clung to Sam, the spasms wracked his body. When it was finally over, he stayed with his head against Sam's shoulder. "Hurts," he sobbed.
"Hang on, Dean." Knowing what it took for Dean to admit that kind of pain, Sam reached for one of the syringes. He'd set a couple on the nightstand, just in case. "Give me your arm." The tremors still running through Dean's body slowly eased as the drug took affect. He let his head rest on Sam, breathing deeply. Finally he pushed himself away.
"Thank, Sammy," he said, sliding down in the bed. "I have to sleep." His words slurred together.
"I'll be right here."
"Good." Dean closed his eyes as Sam pulled the blankets over his brother.
Sam sat on the edge of the bed until Dean's breathing evened off. Once he was sure Dean was asleep, he went to the Impala and dug through the trunk looking for the iron sword Dean had purchased the year before. The doctor had told Sam bullets wouldn't work on the guardian of the spring, only iron. Sam sharpened the sword and looked at the map he'd picked up earlier. A "jeep trail" was the only way to the spring. Sam figured he could get the Impala most of the way to the spring. We'll have to walk the last part. A moan from the bed pulled his attention back to Dean. He walked over and placed his hand on Dean's shoulder. "Dean?"
"I'm okay, Sammy," Dean answered automatically.
"Sure you are, do you need something for the pain?"
"Hmm?" Dean asked sleepily. "No, just a drink of water." Sam chuckled at the tone in his brother's voice, sounding just like a sleepy child.
"Here, Dean." Sam slid his hand behind Dean and held him up while Dean drank the water.
"Thanks, Sammy," Dean sighed and dropped back to sleep.
Sam sank down on the other bed, his head in his hands. The stress of the last few days finally caught up with him. Tears ran down his cheeks. Hang on, Dean, just a little longer. The timetable from the article he'd read was burned into his brain, a clock ticking the seconds left of his brother's life. If that doctor was right, Dean has less than a day. I have to get him moving as soon as there is enough light to drive. Oh god, less than a day. What do I do if I can't fix this? What will I do? Sam got up, turned the coffeepot on and walked to the patio to watch the first sliver of light creep across the landscape.
"Hey, Dean," Sam said, turning from the patio. He poured them both a cup of coffee and sat on the edge of Dean's bed. "How do you feel?" Lie, Dean, pretend I can't see your hands shaking so badly you're splashing coffee on yourself.
"We need to talk, Dean."
"Yeah, we do." Dean looked at him. "When it's over, after…Go to Bobby's, Sam. Don't be alone."
If you're gone, Dean, I am alone. With Bobby, with Ellen, doesn't matter, I'm alone. "Dean…"
"Don't hunt. Take it easy for awhile. You don't want to make any mistakes."
No mistakes, Dean. I'll hunt, and when I die on the hunt… "Dean…"
"Take good care of the car."
"SHUT UP!" Sam shouted. Dean blinked. "Sorry, but you need to listen to me."
"I talked to Dr. Bilagody. There might be a way to stop this."
"He told me about a legend, a sacred spring, it will drive whatever did this to you out of your body." I know what you're going to say next.
"Why didn't you mention this before?" Dean frowned at him, searching his eyes. "Oh, hell no, Sam."
"I know that look. What, Sam? How bad it is?"
"There's a guardian at the spring," Sam said. Please understand, Dean.
"No, no way."
"Dean, please, I have to try."
"No, Sam, this isn't worth risking your life."
Sam looked at his brother. What? Dean? What? Your life isn't work risking mine? Dean… "I'm going to try, Dean."
"Sam, even if I thought this was a good idea—which I don't—how do we get there?"
"We drive as far as we can, then we walk the rest of the way," Sam said enthusiastically. Yes, he listened.
"Sam, I can't walk…I couldn't make it that far."
"Then I'll carry you," Sam said quietly, feeling tears well up in his eyes.
"What will you do, run away?" Sam snapped.
"Sam." Dean grabbed his arm. "Listen to me. This isn't worth your life. You'll make it fine."
"No," Sam whispered, trying to stop the words threatening to pour out his mouth. "No, Dean without you…what dad told you…I…"
"You aren't going to turn evil. No darkside for Sammy, got it?"
"How do you know? Without you here, how do you know?" Sam stood and paced away from the bed.
"Dean, without you to stop me, you don't understand. Once, when we were hunting together before I left for school, you were hurt. I thought you'd died, and I…the creature…I…Oh god, Dean." Sam looked at his hands.
"You might be sure I won't turn evil, but I'm not." Sam turned towards Dean. "If you won't let me try this to save you, do it for me. For what I might become if you aren't there to stop me. Remember, you promised, Dean."
"That's damn dirty pool, Sam," Dean said, his eyes flashing angrily.
"Yeah." Sam looked at Dean, the tears running down his face. "Please, Dean."
Dean met his eyes and held them for a long moment, then cleared his throat. "Well, like you said, what can I do? Run away?"
They were on the road fifteen minutes later. Sam carried Dean out, tucked a blanket around him, grabbed the sword and headed towards the jeep trail. He turned the Impala onto the narrow track, heading towards the red and black mountain in the distance.
"It looks like a freaking castle," Dean said.
"I thought that yesterday." Sam grabbed the wheel as the car hit a rut in the road and they were jerked to the left.
"You get a dent in this car and I swear I'll be back to haunt you," Dean said, his voice light. Sam could hear weakness, pain under the light tone. Please don't die before I get you there, Dean, please.
"Shut up, Dean," Sam growled. Unwilling to play the "it's not funny, Dean" game with his brother just then.
"It's a little funny," Dean said with a smile.
"I didn't say…"
"I know. Painkillers are really fun, Sammy."
Oh god, Dean. "Yeah, I bet. Especially those."
"Oh hell, yeah, they really take the edge off," Dean chuckled.
"Do they?" Sam asked softly.
"No, not really," Dean answered in the same gentle tone. "Sam…"
"Hang on, Dean, just a little longer, it's not far now."
Sam pressed down on the accelerator, driving faster than was safe, but not caring. "Dean?"
Sam followed the narrow road to the edge of the mountain, passing a four-by-four at high speed. He smiled at the look of surprise on the driver's face as the Impala overtook the jeep. "Dean?"
The road finally ran out. Sam parked the car in the shade of a cottonwood. Good, that means water is close by. "Dean?" Sam grabbed the sword out of the back seat. "Dean?" He shook his brother. "Dean!"
"Come on, Dean, hang on a little longer." Sam ran around to the passenger door and pulled his brother out. Dean fell against him. "Dean? Can you walk at all?"
"Try," Dean said, leaning against Sam.
"Okay, here we go, I don't think it's far. I can smell water." Sam took his brother's weight and half-carried him up the path. Dean's feet started dragging. "Almost there, Dean." He looked around trying to locate the spring. Please, please let it be here, please let this not be a wild goose chase. "Dean?"
"Here. Not long."
"Hang on." Sam shifted more of Dean's weight onto himself. Trees were growing along the narrow path, juniper and pinon pine. "Dean?"
"I think I see the spring," Sam said. "Dean?"
The thing came out of nowhere, forming up in front of Sam, a dark void, pulling the light of the day into it. Cold, frigid cold, suddenly billowed over them. "I'm putting you down, Dean," Sam said urgently. He dropped his brother quickly, as gently as he could. The thing didn't wait, instead diving at them, its darkness flowed over Dean. Sam heard his brother scream. "NO!" Sam shouted, throwing himself at it, driving the sword into the shadow in front of him. His sword didn't come into contact with anything solid, a wisp of darkness curled away from it. The thing let out a hideous shriek and flowed away from Dean.
Before Sam could check on his brother, it was back, enveloping Sam in its icy darkness. Claws tore at Sam, he couldn't breathe at all, the breath left him, but he couldn't drag the icy air back into his lungs. He fell to his knees. It flowed off of him, turning towards Dean again, his brother screamed as it covered him. "Dean!" Sam forced himself up and dove at it, driving his sword through it again and again.
It shrieked, pulling away from Dean, stopping in front of Sam. It hovered in front of him. Dark tendrils reached out, digging at Sam. He swiped at them with the sword. The contact burned him. He could see black spots where it had touched him. He moved so he was standing over Dean, unsure if his brother was alive. "Dean?"
The thing flowed upwards, filling the air, pulling the light into itself, then drifted down. As it did it took on a form. Sam turned away from the horrific thing standing in front of him. His stomach rolled in protest as his heart accelerated. Oh god, what is that? What the hell is that?? Sam's hands were slick with sweat, fear making them tremble. He was terrified, the creature in front of him was like nothing he had ever seen, nothing he'd ever heard of, terror rooted him to the spot. No, no. It doesn't get Dean.
Sam closed his eyes as the thing approached him. He could smell it now, the scent of charred, rotten flesh washed over him. It stopped in front of him, the cold burning him through his clothes. He sensed its movement as it reached out for him. He held still. A clawed hand touched his face.
Sam struck. He opened his eyes and swung the sword towards what he hoped was its neck. Metal tore through flesh, the thing clawed at Sam as it was separated in two. With a shriek from the severed head, the thing disappeared in a poof of icy black smoke.
"Dean!" Sam dropped the sword and ran to his brother. "Dean? Come on." Nothing. Sam dragged his brother up and over his shoulder and ran towards the sound of running water. He wasn't sure Dean was breathing as they reached the spring. The water sparkled in the bright sun, burbling soft music as it ran over rocks. There was a pool nestled under a large rock. Sam slid Dean into the water. Please, please, please.
Dean's body started convulsing the minute the water flowed over him. Steam rose from the pool, drifted off of Dean. Sam watched, waiting. I killed him, I killed him. He fought the urge to pull Dean out of the water.Tears ran down his face. Finally, the convulsions stopped, the hissing steam dissipated and Dean was motionless in the water. Sam dragged his brother out, desperately feeling for a pulse.
He watched, listening for a breath, his hand still resting against Dean's neck.
"No, Dean, please no," Sam sobbed as he pulled his brother's body into his arms. Rocking as the tears tore out of his body. "No. No. I'm so sorry, Dean, I'm so sorry." He couldn't breath, he felt like he was drowning in a sea of tears, of unending pain. No, no, no, nonononononono. A soft sound broke through his sobs, broke through his numb brain. He took a breath.
"Sam?" the sound said.
"Dean?" Sam pulled away and looked down as his brother opened his eyes. "Dean?"
"You okay?" Dean said, blinking.
"Dean?" Sam repeated, not believing his eyes. He pulled Dean against him in a tight hug. "Dean, you're alive!"
"I am if you don't suffocate me," Dean grumbled.
Sam's tears gave way to hysterical laughter. "Hey, man." He brushed the mixture of water and blood off his brother's face. "Hey." He smiled, knowing he wasn't fooling Dean at all. "We should go, I cut its head off, but it was screaming about it, and I'm not sure its all the way dead." He pulled Dean to his feet, dragged Dean's arm over his shoulders and started back down the road.
"Are you okay, Sammy?" Dean rasped.
"I am now."
The sun was setting over the mountain, bathing the landscape in a soft pink light. The day had cooled off, the breeze coming through the open patio door was warm, but without the scorching heat of the day. Sam woke up when the jets on the tub turned off. He ran a hand through his hair and considered turning them on one more time. How long have I been in here? He glanced out the door, Dean was stretched out in one of the chairs on the patio. Sam pulled himself out of the tub and carefully dried off. He looked at the burns the thing had left on his arms, and the cuts on his chest. He couldn't hide the burns. But Dean doesn't need to know about the rest. He dabbed antibiotic cream on the cuts, then pulled his t-shirt and sweats on.
Sam stopped by the fridge on the way to the patio and grabbed a couple beers. He wandered out and dropped down on the chair beside Dean. "Brought you a beer," Sam said.
"Thanks, Sammy." Dean opened his eyes and smiled at Sam. "I was thinking about getting one, but I couldn't motivate."
"Yeah." Sam ran his eyes over his brother, still worried that there was underlying, maybe even lasting, damage. Dean hadn't had a seizure since Sam pulled Dean out of the spring, but Sam knew his brother was still having difficulty walking and dizzy spells. "How are you feeling?"
"Better." Dean took a sip of the beer, looking out across the landscape. Sam noticed his brother's hands were still shaking.
"I am better, Sam." Dean looked over at him, frowning at him. "What's wrong with your arms?"
"The guardian touched me, it burned me a little, but they don't hurt." Sam smiled.
"You're lying," Dean said, his voice concerned.
"They don't hurt much," Sam amended. "And we're well supplied with pain killers, any way."
"We are." Dean looked back at the mountain, fading to a shadow as the sun set. "You shouldn't have done it, Sam, you could have been killed."
"I might have been, but you would have died."
"I can't have you…"
"What are you going to do, Dean? Lock me in my room? Ground me?" Sam smiled at Dean.
"I might." Dean frowned. "Sam…"
"Don't say it, Dean. It's over, I did it."
"You could have died."
"You would have been dead." And Dean? If you die, I'm dead anyway. Maybe not right then, but soon. I…Someday Dean, I'll tell you. I'll tell you why I know that.
Dean looked at him, Sam met his eyes. "I'm better, Sam, but…" Dean gave him a bleak look.
"Your body took a beating, Dean. It'll take a few days to recover. Do you need something for pain?" Sam noticed that since Dean's first sip, he hadn't had any more of the beer. "I'll be right back." Sam grabbed the bottle of pain killers and a coke. "Here."
Dean took the pills without comment and took a drink of coke. "Thanks." Dean sighed. "How long are we staying?"
"Till you're better, a week?" Sam grinned at the look of delight that crossed Dean's face.
"Can we afford it?"
Sam shrugged. "It's the off season." I have a little money. Don't ask where it came from.
Dean frowned at him for a minute, then smiled. "It's a nice room. Might as well try living in style."
"It's better than dying in style."
"Any day, Sammy, any day," Dean said, reaching for his coke with a shaking hand.
Sam leaned back in his chair and stretched his legs out. The warmth from the fire was making him sleepy, the cuts the thing had given him stung as sweat ran into them. He looked over at Dean, his brother was looking back a him. "Yeah," Sam said softly.
"Yeah," Dean echoed.
Amid the hope and worry, the fear and anger
believe that each day that breaks is your last:
the unhoped for hour will be a welcome surprise.