A/N: Thank you everyone for reading and reviewing! I'm sorry my review replies are a little slow, I'm back on bed rest and limited computer time, so I'm trying to use my time to get these chapters out! I promise I'll reply as soon as I can. Extra special thanks again to Dennis for patience, music and introducing me to Guitar Hero!
The crowd was cheering. A large number of the golden beings were on their feet applauding. Dean noticed quite a few of the demons were up and applauding him as well. He waved at the crowd, running his fingers over the strings of his guitar. He'd not only finished Grim's latest choice—"Satch's Boogie" by Joe Satriani—he'd beaten the soul thief as well. Dean grinned at Grim, flipping him off as he scrolled through the songs.
"How about the Ramones?" he called to the crowd. The cheering ratcheted up a notch. Dean started addressing the audience with each choice. He'd noticed more and more bottles were being thrown at Grim and fewer at him.
"Who wants to be sedated?" the singer said, rustling his wings.
"I wanna be sedated!" Dean shouted. The crowd exploded in applause as the song started. Dean was doing well until he got off rhythm on a long series of notes. Each missed not reverberated through his body with a shock of pain. His fingers were slipping on the strings. Blood was running into his eyes from a cut he'd received from a bottle. Luckily most of the bottles are headed to the other side of the stage now. He got with the beat, then noticed the crowd was booing. Without pulling too much focus from the song, he tried to see what was happening. A series of loud clunks told the story. Grim was missing notes. Dean grinned. The song ended. Bottles flew towards Grim, and a small jolt of energy flowed into Dean. He'd managed to win another one.
"My turn," Grim growled. He stopped on a song, turned to Dean and flipped him off with a bony finger. "A little Van Halen, maybe? You like 'Eruption', Dean?" Grim chuckled as the notes started flying at Dean.
He missed one, then two, then three. The pain finally drove him back against the speakers. Dean leaned against the cabinets as he struggled with the song. His leg was aching where the glass had cut it, his face and hands were bleeding, he was dizzy to the point where he could barely stand. Another missed note drove him to his knees. I might be about at the end. Even though he was missing notes, Dean noticed that Grim was still suffering most of the crowd's wrath. Only a minute and a half, and almost over. Ah, shit. Another missed note and spots were dancing before his eyes.
"I'm on my way to kill the thief, Dean. Keep fighting, just a little longer," Sam's voice drifted down over the music. Dean looked around, half expecting to see his brother standing beside him. "I found the thief. I'm on my way there now."
Dean pushed himself to his feet as the song ended. "Be careful, Sammy," he said, not sure if his brother would hear or not. He dragged himself back to the edge of the stage and started flipping through the songs. Dean stopped on one. He looked over at Grim. Blood was running down the skeletal face. What the hell? An idea started forming. I have to win this one. "I think it's time…" Dean shouted over the cheers. The audience paused in anticipation. "For a little…" He glanced at the singer and over at Grim. Blood was definitely running over Grim's face and hands. "Symphony of Destruction!" Dean finished. The audience was cheering as the song began.
Dean played flawlessly, resisting the urge to look at Grim each time he heard the clunk of a missed note. As the song ended, Dean felt energy flowing into him—he'd won the song. The pain backed off a little. The audience was on their feet, applauding, cheers and a chant of "Dean" filled his ears. Dean noticed two bottles arc towards the stage and hit Grim. The soul thief staggered back. Okay, I hope this actually works. Dean slipped the guitar off, carrying it by its neck as he walked across the stage. On his way past the singer, something soft hit him on the face. He looked down at the stage, it looked a lot like women's underwear. Dean glanced out at the audience. A very scary looking dark being waved at him. Oh, just freaking great. Now the demons want me. I should be careful though, once you go demon, you never go back. Ha ha, focus, Dean.
"Need a break?" Grim laughed as Dean approached. "You're not looking very good, Dean. Your brother looks better."
"What's Sam got to do with this?" Dean grasped the guitar neck tighter. I hope this works. This is a really nice guitar... Has to be done.
"He's engaged me in the physical world," Grim said, wiping the blood off his face. He laughed. "You know what the best part is?"
"What?" Can I really do this? Dean waved at the crowd as the chant of "Dean, Dean, Dean" got louder. Small flames flickered over the heads of the audience.
"His research has a big hole in it," Grim laughed.
"What do you mean?"
"Sir Dennis didn't know everything. His partner was there when they defeated one of my kind. Physically in proximity. You are no where close to Sam. Even if you kill me here, even if he kills my physical self—if you aren't together…" He met Dean's eyes. "Oh, let's see…You both die. I win."
"Cheating again?" Dean asked, grabbing the neck with his other hand. Like a baseball bat or an axe, what's better? An axe. Funny.
"It's not cheating, it's the way the game is played. You just didn't have all the rules. Now, let's see, what's next?" Grim scrolled through a list of songs as Dean stepped closer. "Ah, here we go. 'Flight of the Bumble Bee', Rimsky-Korsakov."
"Guy Lombardo?" Dean said, lifting the guitar.
"It's from 'Yellow Submarine'. You probably missed 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', too. Oh well, too bad for you." Dean took a deep breath and swung the guitar. The hard body of the instrument connected with Grim, sending his skeletal head flying into the audience. The body dropped to the stage with a last twitch. The audience was on its feet, wildly applauding. A rumble echoed around the stones, Dean realized it was the sound of thousands of feet pounding in time with the chant. "Dean! Dean! Dean!" He could see Grim's head bouncing over the audience like a beach ball. The singer came over and patted him on the back.
"I win," Dean said. Stonehenge faded.
A lurching motion sent pain shooting through his body. Dean opened his eyes and looked around. He was in the back of an ambulance. Leo was sitting beside the paramedic, watching a monitor to Dean's right. "Leo?" Dean said. He cleared his throat. "Leo?" The doctor looked over at him with surprise.
"Where's Sam?" Dean tried to sit up.
Leo put a hand on his chest and pushed him back onto the stretcher. "He's chasing the thief, Dean."
"Yeah, I know. Do you know where? We have to find him!" Dean shouted.
"He called. He's on the way to the hospital. He said the thief works as a janitor at the hospital."
"We have to get to Sam!" Dean struggled up again.
"You're headed there now, Dean," Leo said with a smile.
"Oh, right." Dean leaned back against the stretcher. "Can we go faster?"
Leo looked at the paramedic. "Rusty?"
"Sure, Doc Woods." He spoke with the driver, a moment later Dean felt the ambulance speed up as the sirens came on.
"Can you call Sam and see where he is?" Dean asked. "Don't tell him I'm on my way, okay? The thief can't know."
"Sure," Leo said, pulling out his phone. He spoke with Sam and looked at Dean. "Hospital basement."
"Okay, that's where we're going." Dean closed his eyes. Hang on, Sam. Don't kill him yet. We're almost there.
The Impala roared through town. Sam was focused on getting to the Bannock Apartments as fast as possible. He ran three red lights in his race to get to the thief before Dean's time ran out. He pulled into the parking lot at the building and sprinted towards the thief's apartment. Sam knocked on the door, then rang the bell. No one answered. He tried the doorknob, it was locked.
"Are you looking for Gary, dear?" a female voice asked from the next door down.
"Yes. Is he here?" Sam said, walking towards the elderly woman.
"He just left for work. He works over at the hospital, you know," she said with a smile. "Do you have a light?"
"I don't smoke." Sam smiled at her and headed back to the car. Before getting in, he opened the trunk and grabbed a silver knife. Silver bullets in the gun, silver knife, one or the other should work. A minute later he was speeding towards the hospital. He pulled out his phone as he drove and called Leo. "How's Dean?" he asked when the doctor answered.
"The ambulance got here a few minutes ago. We're on the way to the ER now," Leo answered.
"I'm on my way there too, the thief works as a janitor at the hospital. I'll find you once I've dealt with him." Sam disconnected the call, wondering how he could kill the thief in the middle of a busy hospital.
Sam went directly to the valet parking. Before he got out, he slipped the knife in his boot and made sure his shirt covered the gun. He tossed the keys to the valet, grabbed the ticket and walked quickly into the hospital. Sam stopped at the information desk, and smiled at the woman sitting there. "Hi, I'm looking for a friend of mine. He works here…" Sam leaned towards her. This works for Dean. "I'd like to surprise him, he hasn't seen me in a few years."
"What's his name?" she asked, a blush running up her neck.
"Gary," Sam paused. "Gary Hiller."
"Oh! I know Gary. He dated my friend Gwen last year." She smiled at Sam.
"Was she a blond?" Sam asked with a smile. The woman nodded. "That's Gary, loves blonds. Can you tell me where I can find him?"
She typed something into her computer. "He's working in the south wing, first floor. Across the lobby, follow the signs and then take the blue elevators."
"Thank you, Jolene."
"Sure, stop by on your way out." She wrote something on a slip of paper. "Or give me a call. Maybe we can double with Gary and his latest."
"Yeah," Sam said, taking the paper and heading across the lobby before she could see the blush coloring his face. How does Dean manage that with a straight face and no blush? He followed the signs and took the blue elevator to the first floor. The doors opened and Sam looked around. It appeared to be a service area, signs pointed the way to the laundry and employees cafeteria. Sam hesitated, wondering which way to go.
"I don't know, Gary, you look like shit. Your nose is bleeding," a male voice came from Sam's left. He headed down the hallway.
"I'm okay, it's just a cold or something."
Sam rounded a corner and saw two men, one with a bucket and mop, the other leaning against the wall. The man with the bucket looked up at Sam. "Gary?" Sam asked.
"Who wants to know?" Hiller said, leaning on the mop.
"My name is Sam. I'd like to talk to you about a video game…" Sam didn't get a chance to finish. Hiller swung at him with the mop and ran. Sam followed. As he was chasing the thief through the winding hallways, his phone rang. "What?" he answered as he ran.
"Where are you?" Leo asked.
"Hospital," Sam said, rounding another corner. Hiller had stopped by a door marked "basement" long enough to type some numbers into a keypad. He opened the door, slamming it closed behind him.
"Yes, but where?"
"I need to get into the basement. It has a keypad."
"Use my code, nine-five-two-seven," Leo said.
"Thanks, Leo." Sam typed the doctor's code into the keypad and opened the door. He could hear Hillers' footsteps echoing through the hallway. Sam raced down the stairs, taking three or four at a time. He reached the bottom and ran up the hallway.
The lights went out.
Sam stopped, trying to get his bearings. Something slammed into his chest. He gasped, bending over, as he did something hard came down on his head. He dropped to the floor, fighting a wave of nausea and dizziness. Footsteps pounded away from him.
"Dean's dying. He can't win," the thief called from somewhere ahead of Sam in the pitch black hall.
"He'll win," Sam said, forcing himself up. He reached out and came into contact with a wall. He shifted so he could lean against the support until the world stopped spinning. He fished in his pocket and pulled out his penlight. Before switching it on, he pulled the knife out of his boot.
"He can't win. He has to stick to songs from the game, I can choose any song," Hiller cackled.
"So, you're cheating?" Sam said, shining the flashlight around the corridor. It didn't cast much light in the large space. The thief was still hidden in the dark.
"I'm not cheating," Hiller whined. "Dean accused me of that, too. It's part of the rules, you just don't have them all."
"That's cheating," Sam persisted.
"It is not cheating!" Hiller said. Sam saw movement at the edge of the shadows. He swung the light in that direction—and something slammed into him from the other side. Sam staggered, the knife dropped from his hand and skittered down the hall into the dark. Something slammed into Sam again, sending him down to the floor. The flashlight was yanked from his hand.
"And you're still cheating," Sam said, pushing himself up with a groan.
"It's not cheating," the thief said angrily, his voice coming from further down the hallway. "I'm playing by the rules."
"Stop saying that!"
"You have to play by the rules, and you aren't. We're engaged in the challenge you have to play fair," Sam said calmly, listening for any sound of movement around him. He thought he heard something down the hallway by the staircase. Sam eased the gun out.
"How am I cheating?" Hiller asked.
"You turned out the lights so I can't see your attacks, for one thing." Sam reached a hand out, silently moving to the other side of the hall until he felt the wall.
"Fine. It's not cheating, but fine." Light flooded the hallway. Sam blinked, trying to get his eyes to focus. He raised the gun and pointed it in the direction of Hiller's voice.
"Now who's cheating?" The lights went out again.
"I can use a weapon," Sam said, trying to zero in on where the thief was standing.
"So can I," Hiller said. The lights flashed on. A shot slammed into the wall beside Sam, he felt something cut his forehead, and the lights went out.
"You're a bad shot," Sam said from his spot against the wall. He stepped silently across the corridor.
The lights flashed on. Sam saw the bullet hit the wall where he'd been standing. He managed to get a shot off before the lights went out. Sam heard a grunt of pain. "Aiming helps," Sam said sarcastically. He counted to three, took five paces down the hall and slipped back across until he came into contact with the opposite wall.
"It does, and this will probably kill me. One thing you didn't find in your research, though," Hiller said with a jeer.
"What are you talking about?" Sam asked, then moved again. What did I miss? How could I miss something? Dean I'm sorry.
"Sir Dennis didn't have all the information." He waited for Sam to answer. Yeah like that's going to happen. "I die and you two aren't together? I win. Dean's life, your life…Oh and I get to live." Hiller was quiet again. The lights flashed on. Hiller was aiming at the place where Sam had been. Sam fired another shot. He saw it hit the thief high in the shoulder. Hiller turned the gun and took a wild shot before the lights went out again. "Don't you get it? If you kill me, you die too."
"And if I don't?" Sam asked, trying to think of a way to wound the thief long enough to drag him up to the emergency room where Dean should be by then. Dean? Hang on, just a little longer. Keep fighting.
"I'll make you a deal."
"But if you get it all…" Sam stopped. He dies. That's got to be it. We die, but he dies, too. He doesn't win. Okay.
"Think about it, Sam. Stop now and only Dean dies."
"Do you honestly think that's an option?" Anger bubbled through Sam's veins. He forced the emotion away, calming his breath. How dare he offer me… The rage coursed through him again. No, calm down, you need to finish this. Sam took two steps back and stayed against the same wall. The lights came on again. Hiller fired at the wall across from Sam. The lights went out as Hiller turned the gun on Sam. "How did you do that?" the thief demanded. How did I do what? Sam stepped away from the wall into the middle of the hall.
The lights came on.
"Sammy! Down!" Dean's voice ordered. Sam dropped to the floor without thinking. He heard the dull thud of a knife impacting flesh, Hiller grunted. "Stay down!" Dean growled. Before Sam could push himself up he heard Hiller's gun—and a loud curse from his brother.
"Dean!" Leo shouted.
Sam got up and turned to Dean in one motion. Oh my god! Dean was soaked in blood, one hand pressed against his side. "Dean!" Sam stepped to his brother as Dean's knees buckled. "How bad?" Sam demanded, his voice harsh.
"Just nicked me," Dean said, leaning on him. Yeah, I believe you too, Dean. Another shot slammed into the wall beside them.
"The guy's a lousy shot," Dean said with a smirk. Another shot came perilously close to Dean.
"Yeah, I know." Sam shifted his arm so he could support Dean, then turned around. The thief had Sam's silver knife sticking out of his chest.
"Remember the deal I offered you, Sam," Hiller said, pointing the gun at them.
"Yeah. Remember my answer?" He raised his gun and aimed it at Hiller. "Sorry, we win," Sam said, firing. It was a clean head shot, Hiller dropped to the floor.
"Nice shot," Dean whispered. Sam looked over at his brother as Dean's eyes rolled up in his head. No, no, no.
"Dean!" Sam eased his brother to the floor. "Dean! No!" Leo ran over and dropped down beside them. He had his hand on Dean's wrist checking for a pulse. "Leo?" he looked at the doctor, trying to fight back tears.
"He's okay, Sam. Nice strong pulse. We'll get him upstairs, but I think it's going to be okay."
Sam hands were shaking and the tears had broken free of his eyes. He pulled his brother against him. "You hear him, Dean? You're going to be okay. You're going to be okay."
The puffy, comfortable clouds of pain meds surrounded Dean. He floated up through them as awareness slowly returned. An antiseptic smell was there in the clouds. Hospital. Great. The vague memory of Sam carrying him up the stairs and putting him on a stretcher, of Leo's voice calling out orders, drifted into the clouds. Sam! Is he okay? Well, he must be if he was carrying me. A nagging doubt, remembered anxiety in his brother's voice and a brief impression of blood on Sam's face, pushed him the rest of the way out of the cottony comfort. A warm weight resting against the side of the bed in contact with his right elbow assured him of Sam's presence. Dean opened his eyes. Sam was watching TV.
"Sam?" Dean said.
"Hey," his brother said, turning to him with a smile.
"Are you okay?" Dean fumbled with the control on the bed. Sam reached over and hit the up button.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"What's that on your head?" Dean asked.
"What?" Sam's hand went to his head and found the Band-Aid stuck to his forehead. "Nothing. A piece of the wall broke off cut me when the thief fired at me, it's nothing Dean."
"Yeah." Sam sighed.
"I'm okay, too, Sam," Dean said quietly. His brother looked at him. "I am, right?"
"Yeah, you're going to be okay."
"How long have I been here?" Dean asked, looking around the room. It was a private room. He could see out through the partially closed door to the hallway and nurses' station.
"About fourteen hours. The gunshot wound was superficial."
"Told ya," Dean smirked. "Is the thief dead?"
"His physical self is, what about the other?"
"Oh he's dead. They were playing ball with his head last I saw." Dean chuckled. "I whacked him with the guitar. I'm hell at whacking." Sam smiled as he recognized the quote, Dean grinned back.
"You make it sound fun."
"It was fun. I had a '59 Les Paul, hot demon girls and angels were throwing their underwear at me…" Dean laughed. "They were cheering for me towards the end."
"So, is that the end when you were dying?" Sam snapped.
"No, that was the end when I won." He paused. "I'm okay, Sam." Sam ran his hands through his hair. "What?"
"I almost lost you, Dean."
"No, you didn't."
"All because of that stupid game. I should have realized what was happening. I should have…" Sam stopped. He looked over at Dean. Oh, I know that look. No way, Sam.
"Sam?" Dean laid his hand on his brother's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "You did figure it out. Don't start with the Sam Should Haves."
"The Should Have, when you try and take it all on yourself. Don't even start. You figured it out and we won." Dean clapped Sam's shoulder and settled back onto the bed.
"Okay." Sam said, he opened his mouth to say something, and shook his head. Dean saw the gears changing. "I went back to the room. The game was gone."
"What?" Dean looked at Sam. "My game?"
"You still want to play? After everything?"
"I'm not going to hold some supernatural freak trying to kill me against Guitar Hero. It wasn't the games fault," Dean said. "Damn."
"So, you really want to play again? You're sure about that?" Sam was grinning at him.
"Well, hell yeah, Sammy. What do you think?" He frowned at his brother.
"That's that I thought. Here." Sam put several boxes on the bed. "I bought them at a real store. Not used."
Dean eagerly opened the boxes. "Two guitars?"
"It's easier to put up with if I'm playing too." Sam laughed when Dean pulled a guitar out and started clacking the buttons. "I bought all three games."
"Can we play now?" Dean asked.
"I don't think the nurses would appreciate it very much Dean. Leo said you leave tomorrow, can you wait that long?"
"I don't know, Scully, can you wait that long to get your ass kicked again?"
"Dean?" Sam rolled his eyes. "Bite me." Sam grinned at him. "I plan on kicking your ass."
"I doubt you'll be kicking my ass anytime soon." Dean nudged Sam with his knee. You okay, Sam?
Sam met his eyes and nodded, answering the unasked question. "You want to put your money where your mouth is, Dean?"
"Can we play now?"
"I told you no."
"Buzz kill." Dean put his hand on Sam's arm, shifted around in the bed and got comfortable. He let his eyes close.
"Jerk," Sam said. Dean could hear the smile in his brother's voice.
Dean opened one eye and looked at Sam. "Bitch." He closed his eye again and let the sound of the TV and Sam softly humming "Carry On Wayward Son" carry him into sleep.