The Dying of the Light
Sam shifted uncomfortably as he tried to read. He was back in a regular room and was counting the days until discharge. That didn't mean that his bruised back and tailbone didn't make sitting for long periods uncomfortable. And his feet ached, not to mention his kidneys, as well as everything else. But he was quietly trying to cut back on the pain medication in hopes that they would discharge him sooner than the planned end of the week, which was too far away in his mind. But he was running a fine line trying to do it between Dean and the nursing staff. He wasn't sure who was worse about it.
As if he'd conjured him up, Dean chose that moment to walk through the door to his room. As he looked up to say hello, Dean's mouth tightened.
"Dammit, Sam!" Then he turned and was gone.
Sam raised his eyebrows at the now empty doorway. Sometimes his brother just baffled him.
Moments later, Dean reappeared, this time with Janice in tow. He marched over to Sam's bedside, stepped aside so Janice had room, and crossed his arms, looking stern. Janice just smiled as she held out a small container of pills and a cup of water.
Sam looked at the pills, and then glared at his brother. "Dean!" The outrage in his voice was palpable.
"Hey, don't look at me. You're hurting, and you've been avoiding the pain pills. Now take 'em," he said sternly.
Sam's mouth tightened. "No."
"Sam," Janice said with an amused smile, "It's either the pills, or I'll give you a shot. I'm sure your brother wouldn't mind helping hold you still."
"Damn straight," said brother muttered.
Sam was furious. Nurse Attila would do it too, he knew. As a matter of fact, she had done it before when he'd called her bluff and flat out refused the pain pills. So, no way. He'd had enough of feeling like a pin cushion.
"Fine," he snarled, taking the proffered offerings from Janice and knocking them back. "Happy now?" he groused.
"Thrilled," Dean muttered, dropping into a chair. He looked up at the nurse. "Thanks, Janice."
"Anytime, Dean. Thanks for letting me know." She smiled knowingly at a sulking Sam and took her leave.
"Sam, you are going to take the pain pills as Dr. Howard prescribed them, or I'm not letting them discharge you," Dean said in a hard voice.
Sam glared. "You wouldn't dare."
"Try me," Dean suggested. "I mean it, Sam. I know you hate them, and I know they make you sleepy, but you need them. And I'm not going to drag your ass across the country to Bobby's without them." He looked Sam in the eye. "You'd never make it, and you know it."
Sam scowled. He knew Dean was right. But he didn't have to like it. "You're a fine one to talk," he blustered.
"Hey, I'm one of a kind," Dean smirked. He might go without, but there was no way he was going to let Sam dodge out on the medication. He changed the subject.
"So, Bobby made arrangements to have a hospital bed with a special mattress and a wheelchair with a fancy cushion delivered to his house while we're on the road. He's going to have a fellow hunter let them in, and watch over while they set it up in the study. You'll have all the books around, you'll be in geek heaven."
"What? A hospital bed?" Sam looked surprised. "Why?"
"Why?" Dean echoed incredulously, staring at his brother. "Sam, you can't set foot on the ground for at least another month, and even then you'll be pretty limited. And it's not like you can get upstairs to the guestroom. You also bruised your tailbone and your back severely enough that just sitting for any length of time is going to be lousy for quite awhile. You can't hide that. I've watched you, and you think I haven't noticed?"
He waited for a response, not surprised that none was forthcoming, and continued. "If that isn't enough, then maybe should I mention your hip? Don't think I can't tell that's still killing you, too. How about your wrist and shoulder? Headaches? You may try to hide it, but you won't get it by me. I could go on if you want me to?" He finished expectantly.
He looked for a moment at his chastened brother, then added quietly. "Dude, where else did you think you'd be spending most of your time?"
Sam just looked at him, crestfallen. He hadn't thought about it. He hadn't WANTED to think about it. He'd kind of stopped thinking past getting out of the hospital. But truth be told, the only way he was even relatively comfortable was lying on his side. "Crap."
Dean shook his head. "Sam, well, to be honest, right now I'm just worried about the prospect of dragging your ass cross country, even with Bobby to help."
Dammit, Dean thought, Sam just had to turn on those damn puppy eyes of his on him. He knew Dean couldn't resist them. "But it's not like we won't do it," he said gruffly, shifting uncomfortably. "But you're going to obey every word I say, got it?"
Sam just nodded glumly, frustration written all over his face, but Dean had scared him enough to realize the seriousness of the situation. The reality that this recovery would take awhile and would be difficult was finally setting in.
Dean looked on in sympathy. Both he and Sam had been active all their lives, and neither took recuperating easily. But this had been bad. Sam had been hurt worse than he could ever remember. He wasn't going to let him short his recuperation time. He was going to need every minute, and Dean was going to be right there, making up for the last few months.
Clearing his throat, he changed the subject. "So, what did Doc Howard say about your memories?"
Sam shrugged. "He said it's likely I won't remember anything, mostly because of the drugs, and the shock. He also thinks I probably had a mild concussion when I came out of the woods as well."
Dean chewed his lower lip, thinking. "What's the last thing you remember?"
Sam thought a moment. "I guess walking out of the motel room to get some more ice. About 9:30 or so. After that, it's hard to tell what's a memory and what's a dream caused by drugs or fever. I remembered that ghost. His face was familiar, I think. Maybe a cave. And knives, stuff like that. Being on a table and not able to get away. Fever dreams, like I said. Then, I guess being here."
Dean nodded thoughtfully. "Probably better than you don't remember, Sammy. You were hurt pretty bad." All Dean could see in his mind was Sam, the way he looked when he had wandered out of the frigid woods, bloody and nearly catatonic, walking on severely damaged feet and not feeling a thing. He shuddered briefly.
Sam furrowed his brow at the slight motion. "Why? What did you see in the cavern, Dean?"
"Just the usual crap you find in an abandoned mine, Sam. Nothing more, nothing less."
Just the instruments of torture and the evidence of the sick minds behind it. Surgical instruments with Sam's blood on them, and row after row of evidence of horrendous experiments and tests on the dirty workbench. Other victim's personal effects and the echoes of dying screams. Dean knew he'd have nightmares about it for years, knowing his brother was one of the victims. Better Sam just thought his own nightmares were just fever dreams as well. He had enough recovery in front of him as it was.
Sam narrowed his eyes at his brother. Something told him that Dean was lying. "Dean?" He said slowly. "What happened to the stuff in the mine?"
Dean looked at his brother's wrists, still encased in thick, pristine white bandages protecting the careful stitches, and saw the exam tables' hardened, filthy straps. He saw his brother sitting in front of him, dressed in a crisp hospital gown and looking scrubbed clean, comfortably tucked into a bed with fresh, starched sheets and warm blankets, and remembered finding his hoodie on the workbench in the dark, dusty cavern - blood stiffened, stained and splotched with who knew what. And finding what remained of his jeans, sliced into ribbons.
"Dean?" Sam looked concerned.
Dean gave himself an internal shake and forced himself to smile. "Leary finished his investigation, then Bobby and I torched the place."
Sam blinked. "You did what?"
"Torched it. Wanted to make sure we got everything. Salted and burned. Goodbye ghosties," Dean smirked.
But it had been more than that. It had been wiping the memory of the place and the horrors that had happened there off the face of the earth. Putting the dead victims to rest, with nothing to tie them to this plain, it they were indeed still around. He'd left what he found of Sam's there too. Better incinerated than left to bring back bad memories. It had been cathartic for Dean.
Sam nodded slowly. He knew his brother well. It was probably better he didn't remember.
Their reflective silence was broken by a tap on the room door, followed by the appearance of Bobby and Leary.
"Can we come in?" Leary asked, poking his head in.
Dean waved them in, glad of the subject change. He could tell from his brother's face that he was absorbing what Dean had told him. Dean knew Sam would come to terms with the situation, and deal. He just had to give him a little time.
"Anything new?" Dean asked, twisting around in his chair and the newcomers entered.
"Are you kidding?" Bobby asked. "More like what story is Leary concocting to make sense of all of this," he snorted as he sat down. He looked up at Sam. "How you doin', kid?"
Sam nodded, still looking downcast. "Fine."
Bobby shot a quick look at Dean, who shook his head slightly and mouthed 'later'. Bobby nodded, and turned his attention back to Leary.
"Bobby's got that right. We have too many unknowns. Like how the victims were taken, how there were chosen. Any ideas on that, Sam?"
Sam shook his head, brightening up somewhat as his mind started to work on the problem. "Frankly no. Some theories, maybe, by no clue. I don't remember a thing."
'That's my boy,' Dean thought as he saw Sam perking up. Give him a puzzle to chew over, and Sam was happy as a clam.
"Did you ever figure out who the live one was?" Dean asked, curious. He hadn't been involved much in the aftermath. Once the bodies were salted and burned, he felt his job was Sam, not the after-investigation. Therefore, he was a little out of the loop. Bobby had split his time between the investigation and the Winchesters, helping as needed, wherever needed.
Leary shrugged. "No. And frankly, I doubt we ever will. No hits on DNA, no hits on fingerprints, nothing. No ID in the cave.
They worked over the problems for awhile. Nobody had been able to come up with how the victims were taken, or dropped in the forest. The only thing that fit the evidence was teleportation, as the cave was sealed and nobody could get in or out. The silence was deafening after that theory was floated.
"Well, I've heard crazier things," Dean finally commented.
"Like the ghost of a deranged serial killer still murdering victims?" Leary asked, a small smile on his face.
"You're taking this well," Dean smirked.
"I guess," Leary snorted. "Unfortunately, the oddball stuff keeps finding me."
"And that's how hunter's are made," Bobby snorted.
Sam finally said, "I guess the only thing we really know is that it's over."
Thoughtful nods were the only answer he got as everyone contemplated the thought. Then, the talk turned to more mundane, down to earth subjects.
Leary finally slapped his hands on his thighs and got up. "Well, I'd better get back to work. So, Dean, pool again tonight?" He looked inquiringly.
"You bet. Late night at the bar."
Leary nodded. "See you then." He waved at Sam. "Take it easy, Sam. See you tomorrow."
Sam nodded towards him in acknowledgement. "'Later." He turned to Dean. "Pool? With Leary?" He arched an eyebrow.
"What? Gotta' earn our keep," Dean pointed out, grinning slightly. "Besides, it gives me something to do while you're getting your beauty sleep," he pointed out.
Sam shook his head. "Boy, do you like to live dangerously. Hustling a Sergeant."
"Nah," Dean shook his head. "He's cool. Besides, I'm winning." He grinned, resembling a shark.
Bobby spoke up. "Dean, you might want to be a little more careful."
Dean smirked. "Why? Think he'll throw me in jail?"
"There's a reason that there are so few games in this town," Bobby muttered.
"Oh, come on, Bobby, it's not like I'm an amateur."
Bobby snorted. "Don't you think that maybe he's just loosening you up? Getting you to get cocky?"
"Geez, Bobby. Lighten up!" Dean groaned. "I could spot a hustle, and he ain't it."
Bobby grinned wickedly. "Leary and I got talking the other night. And he told me a few things. One of which was who taught him the tricks."
Sam's eyes got huge after a moment. "No . . ."
Dean suddenly blanched. "You don't mean . . ."
"John Winchester himself." Bobby snickered. "Now who's hustling who?"
It was several days later that Sam was finally able to begin the journey to Bobby's. It seemed forever before he was finally in the Impala's backseat, sitting carefully, and supported by the special lumbar and seat cushions provided by the hospital. But he was finally free, and enjoyed every minute of it. He watched the scenery going by as if it were all new, and listening to Bobby and Dean shooting the breeze.
Every once in awhile, one or the other would look back and ask him if he was okay. He always nodded. Sometimes he joined in the conversation for a bit. But mostly he just drank in the freedom, and the joy of being out of the hospital and getting at least a part of his life back. He was just content to let it wash over him.
He wasn't sure when it happened, but suddenly the car was stopped, Dean was talking softly to him, and getting him to swallow some pills. Then he was being eased down onto his side on the wide bench seat and onto a waiting pillow that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. He drifted comfortably, listening, but not really hearing, the soft commentary from his brother while Dean moved other pillows around for better support.
Dean finished by carefully cushioned Sam's feet on another pillow, fixed his seatbelt loosely around his hips, and finally covered him up with a warm blanket. Sam drifted, until Dean laid a hand on his forehead, and said "Go back to sleep, Sam. You won't get a crick in your neck this way." Sam thought he mumbled something in return, but didn't honestly remember much after that.
The next thing he knew, the car was moving again, filled with the hum of the road, and Metallica turned down low, with Dean's and Bobby's voices a soft counterpoint up front. Substitute Dad for Bobby, and he had his childhood. He listened to the comforting sounds, warm and drowsy as he drifted on the back seat and realized that he was indeed home and things were just fine.