Hold Off the Earth Awhile
Summary: Post WIAWSNB. Sam and Dean tangle with an artist whose work is a deadly gift that keeps on giving.
Here's the wrap-up. Hope y'all enjoyed this and thanks for all the reviews. Maybe I'll see you guys after the premiere.
Sam sat back, trying to ease the pain in his ribs. He'd taken a handful of pills to keep his aches at bay, but ribs just had a way of letting him know they weren't happy, no matter how many aspirin he took. Sam shifted again in an attempt to get comfortable, his feet propped up on the bed where his brother was sleeping.
After Dean had been reckless enough to mouth off to Jacob, it had taken a moment or two before Sam realized what was happening. Jacob had simply stood there watching Dean while he dug the grave, seemingly content to let him work. Then Sam had noticed Dean was slowing down. He noticed just how hard his brother was working to keep going. His head had barely been visible above ground level, but between one shovelful and the next, Dean had turned pale, sick looking.
Sam had quickly shot Jacob, who'd dissolved, but it hadn't stopped what the ghost had already set in motion. Sam had abandoned his protective line of salt, hauled Dean out of the grave and hurriedly set the corpse on fire. He'd dragged Dean to the car and brought him back to the motel, bundling him up. He'd been watching over him since to make sure there were no lasting effects.
It hadn't been very long, but Sam was already tired of watching his brother sleep. He'd been doing way too much of it lately. This time, however, there was one difference. Dean was dreaming. And whatever it was, Sam doubted it was pleasant. There was nothing overt, nothing to give it away. Dean was too good for that, but Sam could still tell. Just like he could tell the instant his brother was no longer asleep.
Dean remained motionless for several more seconds, getting his bearings, then finally stretched and opened his eyes. "We get him?"
"Yeah. You feeling ok?"
"Nose is cold. You got the AC cranked up to 11?"
Sam snorted. "Feel free to smother yourself with your pillow. That should warm it up." His brow furrowed in mock-concern. "I can help if you need me to."
Dean just grunted and then scooted back so he could lean against the headboard. "Where's Bud?"
"I left him to fill in the grave."
A nasty grin spread across Dean's face. "You didn't."
Sam knew his own expression was smug. "I did. He likes grave dirt so much, he can play in it a little more."
"Kinda evil there, Sammy. Maybe Jacob was right." Dean was teasing, but Sam could hear the underlying tension. No matter how hard they tried to deny it, they both felt the weight of it, the fear. Sam was a marked man and that just never turned out well.
"I'm not the one who told a paranoid schizophrenic I was the devil." Sam glared.
"That was not my fault," Dean said defensively. "He was a nutball. He took it totally out of context!"
"Out of context?" Sam gaped. "Dude, this isn't English class. He was a crazy guy with a demon fixation and you waved a red flag in front of him."
"Worked, didn't it?" Dean looked down, fumbling with the covers.
They were both ignoring the overly-emotional declaration Dean had made as only Winchesters could. Sam had barely been able to breathe as he watched his brother, covered in dirt, digging like a madman, suddenly stop what he was doing and challenge Jacob, furiously placing his own mark on Sam. Dean's unswerving faith in him… Sam didn't know if his brother understood how much Sam relied on it to keep him sane.
Dean cocked his head to one side so that he could look at Sam out of the corner of his eye. "I thought it was awesome."
Sam just rolled his eyes, although he couldn't stop his mouth from quirking up at one edge. "Yeah. So," Sam cleared his throat, "you wanna tell me about your dream?"
Dean's body froze and his gaze locked with Sam's.
"Not the dream," he added. He doubted Dean could bear to tell him everything about the dream. "I mean just now. You didn't look so good. So tell me."
"I don't think so."
"Try," Sam said in a tone that would brook no opposition. Sam was tired of seeing the exhausted, haunted look in his brother's eyes. He was tired of the depression, the sleeping, the staring into space. Avoiding the issue wasn't working, so it was going to have to be the direct approach. Even Dean had to know this was coming. If Sam had to guess, all of the sleeping was partially to avoid having to talk.
Dean looked down and stared at Sam's feet, propped on the side of the bed Dean was currently occupying. He looked at the other side of the room to Sam's bed which obviously hadn't been slept in. He glanced around the room, anywhere but at Sam, until finally his eyes came back to rest on Sam's feet, crossed at the ankle.
"It's nothing," he said, talking to Sam's feet.
"Funny. Doesn't look like nothing. Looks a lot like you're two seconds away from a stroke."
Dean snorted, but he still didn't look up.
"You don't wanna tell me what you were just dreaming about, then fine," Sam said in exasperation. "Just tell me something, man. Anything. I'm tired of listening to myself talk."
"Where's a tape recorder when you need it?" Dean muttered. If Sam didn't know any better, he'd say his brother was close to blushing at the attention. Which he was pretty sure Dean had lost the ability to do at age eight.
"It's just… I've been thinkin'…" Dean scratched at the back of his head distractedly. "Mom said…"
Sam felt the air freeze in his lungs at the words. He hadn't expected that exactly. He wasn't sure what he'd expected. The djinn… or… Dad… or the demon. Something.
"When the djinn had me, Mom was trying to convince me to stay. She said I was safe there." Dean finally looked up at Sam, and the loss in his eyes was staggering. "That it would be a better life. 'Better than anything you had,' she said. And I knew… I mean I already knew it wasn't her, but when she said that… I knew."
"Knew what?" Sam asked quietly.
"I knew it wasn't her."
"But you knew that already."
"Knowing it and believing it when she's…" Dean sighed, rubbing fingers at his tired eyes, "when she's right in front of you, and she…"
"She," Sam prodded.
Unconsciously, Dean held a hand to his chin and let his fingers rub over his cheek, lost in thought, and Sam wondered what memory he was reliving.
"The thing is," Dean said, trying for casual, "I don't really remember her that well."
"Dean, you were four."
"I know." He shrugged, still pretending it didn't matter to him one way or the other. "I really just remember things were different after she was gone. No one who was worth all of this," he took the hand away from his face and gestured vaguely to the room around them and everything in their life it implied, "would tell me a dream that would leave you alone and eventually kill me was better." His face seemed to crumble. "But for a little while it felt better."
"Dean, a little vacation never hurt anybody," Sam said, trying for lightness, although the lie nearly choked him. Dean's vacation had nearly broken him. "Especially with… everything that's been going on."
"Mom wouldn't have asked me to stay. She'd have sent me away if it meant protecting us. That much I know."
Sam simply nodded, not sure what he could add to that.
Dean looked at him, something newly insistent in his gaze. "That's what all of this is about, Sam. All of it. Dad did all of this to protect us too. Some guys woulda bought an island and tried to hide there for the rest of their lives, but Dad went with the give-the-kid-a-shotgun route."
"Good old Dad," Sam said without any of his normal rancor.
"I gotta do the same. I couldn't stay there in the dream. Dad said I gotta save you and that's what I'm gonna do."
Sam's heart began pounding in his chest the same way it did every time he thought of his father's final orders. A crazy ghost who didn't know him from Adam had recognized that there was something seriously wrong with him. With every case they took, what little hope Sam had been cobbling together was dying, little by little, as it became more and more evident that he wasn't destined to be the good guy in the story.
"Except that wasn't everything Dad told you, Dean, and you know it."
"It's not gonna come to that."
"It might." Sam was deathly afraid that it would, that neither of them would have any choice in the matter.
"It's not," Dean said firmly. "It can't."
"Sam, if you died… I… I honestly don't know what I'd do. I…" Dean shook his head, as if frustrated even by the thought. "But if I was the one who… Sam, there's just no way. If there was even a chance, no matter how small-"
"Dean, Jacob saw it. He saw. He said it was all over me. Dean, if it's part of me, then…"
"No," Dean answered firmly. "I know you, man. I've been with you from day one. In the beginning, there was Sam and Dean. Whatever Yellow Eyes thinks… whatever he plans… well, he can just keep on thinking and planning because it's not. gonna. happen. Got that? If there is anything good in this life, it's you. You're all that keeps me-" Dean stopped abruptly, embarrassed yet again.
Sam smiled, oddly reassured by his brother's ever-present discomfort with expressing his emotions. It was nice to know that some things never changed. "Yeah, man. I get it. I get it." Same here, he added mentally.
Dean sighed heavily. "Good. Cause I'm starting to feel like I'm at a slumber party. I sit here any longer spilling my guts, I'm gonna ask if I can braid your hair."
"The day I let you touch my hair is the day you let me clean Mari-," Sam coughed to cover his slip, "your shotgun."
Dean bristled, sitting up straighter. "Over my dead body."
"Right." Dean pursed his lips. "So are we through with the soul-baring? I'm starving."
"What?" Sam knew he wasn't sounding particularly intelligent, but he was too surprised. Dean hadn't been hungry in days. He'd barely been a step above comatose for days.
"Food," Dean said, looking at him like he was an idiot. "I'm hungry."
"Sure," Sam said, dropping his feet to the floor and reaching for his shoes, mindful of his ribs. He'd been hoping for some sleep, but Dean showing signs of life called for celebration. He could hold off a little longer if it meant his brother was on the mend.
Dean threw back the covers, still fully dressed, and shifted to the edge of the bed, facing away from him. Sam was pulling on his second shoe when he realized Dean wasn't moving. Sam deliberately held still and waited. And waited. The cloud. It was still there, surrounding his brother. This weight on my shoulders, man. I'm tired of it.
"Dean?" Sam said cautiously.
"Yeah." Dean suddenly started moving again to reach for his boots where Sam had tossed them.
Sam wanted to swear. The cloud wasn't gone. Dean was just getting better at hiding it. "You know you never told me what you were dreaming about."
"No, I didn't."
"Just the usual, Sammy." Dean rose from the bed and walked toward the low dresser where Sam had thrown his jacket and the keys. "You ready?"
The usual. Sam could only imagine. And from the look on his brother's face he would have to. Dean wasn't in sharing mode any more.
Sam grabbed his jacket and shrugged it on as Dean opened the door.
"So, I was thinking…"
"'bout what?" Sam asked.
"We talking nasty, evil, eat-your-face tattoos or more like… cupids?"
Dean snorted. "Those are both evil, Sam."
Sam rolled his eyes. "You gonna tell me or not?"
Dean walked out onto the sidewalk and turned back slightly to look at Sam. "You know the charms Bobby gave us?"
"Yeah?" Sam said, genuinely curious now. He pulled the motel room door closed behind him and headed toward the passenger side door.
"So, I just so happen to know this tattoo guy."
Dean grinned. "And he just so happens to know about certain special ingredients."
Sam gave Dean an answering grin. "Guess we better go pick him up from the cemetery then."
"Breakfast first?" Dean asked, his eyebrows raised.
"I'm sure he'll be fine 'til we get there," Sam answered with a nod.
Dean started the car and for the first time since the djinn, Sam could see the Impala's engine work its soothing magic on his brother. Bud could wait. It wasn't like he was going to die from exposure.
Thanks very much for reading. Been a pleasure.