Bound for Life
Disclaimer: The show, the boys and the concept belong to Kripke and the CW. The love belongs to us.
Beta'd: By the ever wonderful Carocali who among helping smooth out some trouble spots, and making wonderful suggestions, also kept track of time when I lost it! Incidentally, I did add the scene – I hope it worked.
Also beta'd by Muffy Morrigan who removed superfluous words, punctuation, and spotted my weapons error. Thanks too for the last minute, final proof-read.
Many, many thanks, ladies!
Special thanks to S.C. for providing feedback when I needed it, whether she realized it or not.
As always, I played after it was beta'd, so any and all mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Dedicated: To spnMom for her generous donation to the auction. Enough money was raised to reach the goal and then some! The support and kindness in this fandom is something to be proud of. This is the final chapter, girly. It's been a blast!
The shotgun felt heavy in his hand. He held on to it, knowing it was his one chance at freeing himself from Violet's grasp. "No, it wasn't like that," Sam stalled, his voice barely more than a harsh whisper. He couldn't placate the ghost, but he could buy himself some time.
"Liar!" Violet spat.
Sam's heels hit the wall. There was no more room to retreat. He tightened his grip on the weapon at the same time Violet tightened her grip on his throat. "You killed sister," Violet snarled, leaning in close to his face. Through a narrowing scope of hazy vision, Sam pulled the trigger and fired.
……………………..…………………………………We All Fall Down……………………………………………..………
Henry took off his cap and used the back of his hand to wipe sweat from his forehead. A drop of salty water dripped off his nose, catching in the wire strands of his beard. He watched as Dean piled wood into the pit. The younger man hesitated, putting a hand to his stomach, before continuing his frenetic stacking. "I need to apologize," he said, pulling the cap back over his head.
Dean didn't stop piling wood, he just cast a quick look in Henry's direction and kept working. "I'm not the one you should be apologizing to." He stopped, staring at Henry dead-on, green eyes flashing. "But I am the one you should be afraid of."
Henry swallowed hard; he didn't doubt that for a moment. "Well, yeah, I'm sorry for your brother, too." Dean scowled, the muscle in his jaw jumping. "Very sorry," Henry continued. "But, uh, you had some of those cookies, didn't you?"
Dean's scrunched scowl smoothed as Henry's words seemed to register. "That was you?"
"No, no, no," Henry denied, shaking his head. "It was Violet, but I knew about it. I thought it was just a harmless trick on the young busy-bodies that came out this way." Henry took an involuntary step backwards when Dean advanced on him.
A loud crack rent the air turning Dean's expression from angry to concerned instantly. The wide green eyes only lingered inward for a moment, then shot down to the wood pit. "Get the lead out, Henry, we need to finish this."
Henry cocked his head. "Did you hear that?" he asked. "Sounded like a gun shot."
"Yeah," Dean replied, turning to stack the wood even faster than before. "That'd be Sam, so move it!"
Henry took off his cap, tossing it to the floor. "Look, I thought I'd help you boys because you genuinely seem like nice fellas. Turns out Violet wasn't exactly who I thought she was."
"Now he figures it out," Dean muttered, interrupting Henry's rant. "Henry, just shut up and work faster."
"No." Henry thumped his hand against the drying rack. "Your brother's in trouble in there."
Dean was on him so fast, Henry barely had time to recoil when the younger man's hand fisted in his shirt. "You think I don't know that?" he growled. "We need to finish this if we're going to help Sam." Dean punctuated each word by pointing at the wood. "Now help me or get the hell out of my way."
Henry swallowed hard, his eyes flicking away from Dean's intense green stare. "I'll help ya." The irony of the situation didn't escape him. Only a few hours ago, he'd clubbed Sam over the head himself to bring him back for Violet to help Daisy. That was before he understood she was dead or what she had planned. He couldn't shake the image of her spirit, and her aggressive behavior, out of his head.
He'd had some delusion of Daisy just setting up shop quietly inside the boy, living out the remainder of her days and moving on. He hadn't realized that Violet was already warped beyond his recognition and that Daisy couldn't be helped. He shrugged when Dean looked over and glared at him. He saw past the anger sparking in the boy's eyes to the concern for his brother resting beneath.
He didn't see how what they were doing was going to accomplish anything, but Henry picked up a few logs and tossed them into the chip pit. A few more layers of wood and they'd be done, whatever good that would do.
The rock salt hit its mark, Violet dissipating in a cloud of swirling gray. Sam breathed heavily, leaning against the wall for support. He really hated the sensation of being strangled. At least Violet hadn't been able to get a solid hold on his neck. His throat was sore, but he didn't seem to be having any trouble breathing.
He pushed off the wall, stumbling over to the table to reload the shotgun. He hadn't kept any salt, leaving it all for Dean. Sam shoved the extra rounds into his jeans' pockets, not pausing to search for his shoes. He walked towards what he hoped was the kitchen area. He needed salt. Keeping Violet away was one thing, but he'd prefer to prevent her from getting a second chance at his throat.
As luck would have it, the front room was a kitchen. Granted, the old stove had seen decades of use and the lack of a refrigerator threw Sam for a loop, but it didn't matter. He was here for the spices. He rummaged through the cupboard, tossing containers to the floor as he went. Mint, tarragon, and rosemary, all hit the floor, the last one of which broke open scattering dried needles at his feet. He spotted the blue, Morton's salt container behind the baking soda and vanilla.
The hair on the back of his neck stood up. Violet was back. Sam whirled around, the shotgun up and ready in a fighting stance that would have made his brother proud. "You killed sister." Sam cringed at the distinctive, raspy notes of the angry spirit. He was more familiar with the sound than he cared to admit.
Violet drifted closer and Sam fired. Rock salt found its mark again, leaving a scored pattern on the cheerful wallpaper. Sam fumbled blindly in the cupboard for the salt. His hand wrapped around the cardboard cylinder, the aged paper crinkling under his fingers. Sam tipped the container to pour out a salt circle. Nothing happened. The salt was caked hard inside.
"You gotta be kidding me," Sam groaned. He knocked the container against the counter several times, loosening the granules. He poured a line of salt, the circle almost complete when a breeze shot past him again.
A dry, necrotic whisper tickled his ear, "Murderer."
Sam whirled, gun up, but this time he'd guessed wrong. There was a light kiss of a ghostly touch on his skin before invisible fingers gripped his throat with supernatural strength. One hand shot up reflexively, pulling at fingers that didn't exist. The other hand held tight to the shotgun, hoping for a chance to use the weapon. Air wheezed out of Sam's narrowing airway.
Black spots danced in Sam's vision, his knees threatening to collapse. With an instinct born of years of conditioned behavior Sam called out for help in its purest form. "Dean!" The burners on the gas stove lit up behind him, blue flames flickering in his peripheral vision. "Dean!"
Dishes sprang from the cupboards and flew across the room, shattering into tiny pieces. A large carving knife slowly lifted out of a drawer before racing towards Sam, lodging in the wall behind him. Brown water spurted from the tap, spraying the surrounding walls and cabinets, saturating the floor.
Sam felt his consciousness waning when a new sensation traveled up his leg, under his shirt, tickling his side. Daisy. Scaly fingers dug into his skin, scratching as they climbed up the burn to his shoulder. The only thing that kept Sam from yelling was the lack of air. Instead he choked out a strangled, "Dean," only slightly more than a whisper.
"Murderer." The pressure increased slightly, air burning his throat as it whistled through. "Still, Daisy likes this home."
The invasion this time came from within first. Daisy's mind tickled all the familiar spots it had before, pushing hard, pressing into his mind with determination. Sam moaned, there was no air for more. I can't keep her out this time. I can't think. I can't...Dean, please.
Anger pulsated through Sam's veins, the fear usurped by a new stronger emotion. Fire burned behind his eyes, down his spine, through his blood. It pounded with a raucous fervor, drowning out his wheezing gasps, covering up the noise of the clanking pans, distancing him from his surroundings until only a pinpoint of awareness remained.
It turned hot, nearly burning. Then just as suddenly as it began, it disappeared.
Sam dropped to his knees as if pole-axed. He hunched over, arms curling protectively around his injured torso, forehead resting on the cool floor. He panted in shallow breaths, forcing air past his tortured trachea. He didn't hear the door squeak open, or his brother's light footfalls on the wooden floor, but he didn't need to look to know the gentle touch on his shoulder was Dean's.
"Sammy?" A tentative question, the touch moved down to his arm, pushing him back on his heels. Green eyes, bright with vanishing fear appraised him. "You okay?"
"I'm good," Sam replied hoarsely. He barked a cough, his throat constricting in protest. "Burn the body?"
Dean narrowed his eyes. He tilted Sam's chin, forcing him to make eye contact. "What happened?"
Sam swallowed convulsively. "Violet. Daisy."
Dean nodded, apparently satisfied with Sam's response. "They're gone, Sam."
"I know." Dean helped Sam to his feet and the room spun lazily on its axis. "The smokehouse worked?" Sam asked. He leaned heavily on Dean waiting for the dizziness to pass.
Dean smiled, the tight press of his lips giving way to forced amusement. "Big ass fire, the flames are almost as high as that giant bonfire we had at Pastor Jim's when we were kids."
Sam's forehead creased as he tried to dredge up the memory. He had a vague recollection of a large fire at Pastor Jim's, staying up late sitting next to his brother. He'd been tired, he remembered that much. His nose, fingers and toes were freezing, but he hadn't wanted to miss out spending time doing a big kid thing with Dean. They had sat for hours watching the flames dance, back when fire had meant shared time with his big brother on a crisp autumn evening. Before he'd learned it really meant hunting and loss.
"When was that?" Sam asked. He winced, his own voice echoing painfully inside his skull. He walked forward when Dean coaxed him forward by the elbow. Sam stumbled awkwardly beside his brother down the narrow hall towards the living room.
"Uh, you had just turned four," Dean replied, answering Sam's question in that odd way he had of referencing moments in their lives by Sam's age.
Sam felt the back of his legs hit the chair. He carefully lowered himself into the rocker. Dean sat down on the ottoman, resuming their positions from before the salt and burn. "Son of bitch," Dean muttered, looking at his palm.
"What?" Sam leaned forward, craning his neck to look at Dean's hand.
Dean shoved him back against the chair with one hand to his chest. "You're leaking again."
Sam touched his side, under his shirt, feeling warm wetness on the gauze pad. "I must have popped a stitch. It can wait."
He felt his hand shoved away, his shirt pushed up, Dean's head practically tucked under his arm. "You're going to sit here while I fix this for the third damn time and then you're not moving until I say so. Got it?"
"Yeah, fine," Sam agreed tiredly, not because he was inclined to do whatever Dean said, but because moving was simply too much effort. At least, that was what he was telling himself.
"Your chest hurt?" Dean asked, looking up from doctoring Sam's injured side.
"What?" Sam asked. He realized he'd been absently rubbing the burn that branded him like a sash from side to shoulder. "No, it just stings a little. I didn't even realize until just now."
"Uh-huh," Dean said, his tone suggesting he didn't believe Sam in the least. "I should have taken care of that earlier. I think there's some ointment in the kit."
Sam closed his eyes, listening to the all too familiar sounds of someone rummaging through the first aid supplies. His throat hurt as much as the burn on this chest, but there was no need to point that out. Dean would ferret out the truth soon enough. He barely registered when Dean finished stitching his side. Sam heard the light footfalls of his brother walking away, then muffled sounds of quiet conversation in the hall, his brother's rumble chipping away the last of his determination to stay awake.
The room was dark when he opened his eyes again. The small oil lamp on the table cast only the barest of light, wick kept purposely low. "Dean?" His voice sounded scratchy, rough, a good match for his throat.
"Yeah, Sammy, right here," Dean's voice came from the doorway. Moments later, Dean moved into view, sitting down on the ottoman. He looked tired, the crinkles around his eyes visible in the dim light reminded Sam that Dean had taken a hard knock to the head.
"How's the head?" Sam searched Dean's face knowing the answer would come from there, not Dean's words.
"I'm fine, Sam." The wince was nearly imperceptible, but Sam caught it. Dean was hurting; getting him to admit to it was an entirely different matter.
Sam noticed Dean had taken the time to change at some point. His jeans and t-shirt were free from mud. Dirt still covered Dean's face, streaked by clean lines where sweat had washed it away. Apparently his brother's efforts to get clean didn't include washing. It only took him a beat to realize why. "I'm good if you want to go wash up," Sam offered. He nodded towards the shotgun resting on Dean's lap. "I'm awake. I can keep an eye out."
"Neither one of those bitches are coming back, Sam," Dean asserted, missing the true purpose of his offer. Sam wanted his big brother to stand down, relax for just a minute. He couldn't tell if Dean was intentionally missing the point or not.
"I know," Sam said, tapping Dean on the arm. "Just thought you might want to wash some of the mud off your face."
Dean smirked. "What's the matter, Sammy? I'm not clean enough for you?"
Sam tossed him an unheated glare. "Actually, you look like shit, Dean." He paused, a flash of remembrance now that Daisy no longer muddled his thoughts. Sam puffed a laugh.
"What?" Dean scrunched his face.
"Nothing," Sam lied. "Really, go wash up."
Dean seemed to debate it for a moment, then cast it aside with a shake of his head. "Henry's due back any minute. He's towing the Impala here, says he knows another way into town."
So, that was it, now Sam understood. Dean didn't trust Henry. "You think it's drivable?"
"Yeah, but first chance we get to stop and take a good look at it, I'm doing it." Dean scrubbed a hand down his gritty face. "I could go for some dinner right about now."
"You're hungry?" Sam didn't know how late it was, he'd lost track of time from the moment the car hit the support beam.
"I walked close to eight miles to get here," Dean said. "Unlike you, who got to ride."
Sam scowled in protest. "In the back of a beat up truck."
It was Dean's turn to scowl before his face softened, smoothed. "Henry's doing some butt-kissing to make up for his serious error in judgment."
"He shouldn't feel so bad," Sam said hoarsely, a yawn splitting his face. The physical injuries were nothing compared to how wiped he felt from Daisy's onslaught. He caught the look of sheer disbelief on Dean's face. "I mean, he did do the right thing in the end."
"What kind of mixed up logic is that?" Dean asked, the skepticism on his face sneaking into his tone.
"I just mean once he had all the facts, he did the right thing." Sam blinked hard against the lure of sleep. Dean needed a break from being on alert.
"Sam, he handed you over to Violet to buy Daisy a few more years on earth," Dean said. "He probably helped her with the three other people she tried it on too." Sam cringed at Dean's words. Dean didn't seem to notice Sam's reaction and continued unabated. "It wasn't Henry having a change of heart that caused him to see the truth, it was Violet turning on him."
"Yeah, I guess," Sam conceded, reluctantly. He yawned again, shifting in the chair. The stitched wound throbbed insistently, making it difficult to find a comfortable position.
Dean unscrewed the lid from a bottle of water. "Here," Dean said. He handed the bottle to Sam, then reached down for another, opening one for himself. Sam drank in long draughts, the cool water soothing his dry throat. "These, too."
Sam held out his hand and Dean dropped three pills into his palm. "You should, too," Sam said, nodding at his brother. He downed the Tylenol with a gulp of water. It was a mistake. The caplets felt like large chunks of jagged rock going down his throat.
"Already did," Dean said. He finished his water, screwing the lid back on the bottle. Sam raised an eyebrow, not sure if Dean was telling the truth or not. "It's just Tylenol, Sam. Not the good stuff." The last part said with a smirk.
"We have good stuff?" Sam teased, leaning sideways to peer into the duffel. He thought the last of the Percocet had disappeared with the burn in Dean's shoulder courtesy of the Papa Bender. The wound in his side pulled tight, forcing an involuntary groan behind Sam's closed lips. Dean pushed him back in the chair with a single hand to his chest.
"Sam, I swear to God if I didn't know any better…" Dean's voice trailed off and he shook his head. He twisted the plastic water bottle absent-mindedly in his hands.
"What?" Sam scrunched his forehead.
The faraway look in Dean's eyes disappeared, the greens refocusing on Sam. "I'd swear you were trying to get back at me." The bottle crinkled as it started to collapse in Dean's wringing hands.
"For what?" Sam asked, confused. "Why?"
"Doesn't matter," Dean said with another headshake. He seemed to reconsider his position, his face twisting in indecision. He twisted the deformed bottle tighter. "You're not, are you?"
"What, Dean?" Sam forced himself not to sigh. "I can't really answer you until I know the question."
"You're not paying me back for the way I kept peeling the scab off the burn I got from Hannibal Lecter's hillbilly cousin, are you?" Dean asked, the words said so quickly they nearly blended together.
"What?" Sam rubbed his temples, wincing when his fingers came into contact with the small bump on his head from the car crash. Maybe Henry had hit him on the head harder than Sam thought because he was having a difficult time following Dean's convoluted logic. "No."
"No?" Dean's back bowed as he went from ramrod straight to hunched in relief. "Then you're just being a general pain in the ass?"
Sam puffed a laugh. "Yeah, well, you've done a pretty good job of setting a poor example my whole life."
The lines of indignation quickly morphed to puckered amusement. He laughed, his chuckle joining Sam's. "You got me there." He gave the bottle a final twist and the lid popped off with a resounding bang. Sam jumped in the chair. "Sorry, Sammy," Dean apologized sheepishly, though the smirk made a brief reappearance in contradiction to his words.
The short-lived laughter fell away, leaving Sam spent, utterly depleted. "It's okay." He blinked hard, forcing his eyes open. Dean said Henry was due back any moment, he could hold out until then.
"Get some sleep, Sammy," Dean's quiet voice in contradiction with the near command.
Sam breathed deeply to cover a muffled yawn, letting his eyes drift close. All his good intentions of staying awake so Dean could rest dissolved as he fell asleep.
Dean watched until Sam fell asleep. He rotated his head, popping his neck several times, then stretched until he felt his back do the same. His muscles were stiff, probably from the crash earlier and his head beat in rhythm to his frustration. They were stuck here until Henry returned. If Henry decided to turn tail and run, it would be days before Sam was up to hiking the twelve miles into town. The loss of control set him on edge, made him fidgety. He stood up, pacing to the doorway. He gazed down the dark hall, out the screen door. No sign of Henry yet.
He glanced over his shoulder at his brother. Sam stirred, his hand already searching for Dean in the empty space he'd recently vacated. Dean came back and sat on the ottoman, Sam's fingers brushed his shoulder. "Dean?"
"Go back to sleep, Sammy." Sam made a noise that might have been Dean's name or an 'okay', had Sam's lips actually moved. His fingers tightened in the fabric of Dean's t-shirt briefly, then fell away.
The truck pulled into the yard with a loud rumble. Dean strode to the doorway to gaze down the hall. Moments later, the screen door squeaked open, sounding louder in the quiet of night. A couple fireflies entered the hall with Henry, zipping around him crazily before jetting off in two different directions.
"Did you get her?" Dean asked.
Henry's eyes flicked from the gun Dean held loosely at his side to Dean's face. "Yeah, she's okay, just some minor damage to the bumper."
"Front axel?" Dean asked. It was difficult to believe even the tough steel of the Impala had survived without any real damage.
"It's good, Dean," Henry said. "Won't be a problem for ya to drive it to town."
"Good." Dean walked back to his brother. "Sam, wake up," Dean said, shaking his brother's arm lightly. Sam responded with a frown, breath stuttering for a second, then returning to normal. "Sam?"
"I'm awake," Sam replied in a voice that sounded very much alert.
"Great, that means he's really out," Dean muttered, ignoring Henry's pulled look of confusion. "Sam!"
"Hmm," Sam responded with a low, humming sound.
"Just move with me, okay?" Dean asked, looping an arm under Sam's. "I'll point you in the right direction, but you have to walk with me."
"Mmm, sure." Sam, to his credit, did stand when Dean urged him.
Sam stumbled beside him as they slowly made their way to the Impala. As they drew closer, Dean noticed the window had been patched with plastic and duct tape. Anger flared briefly at the damage to his car. The temporary fix was not ideal, but at least it would keep wind and rain off his little brother.
Dean held Sam against the side of the car with one hand, while jiggling the door handle with the other. Sam pitched forward, his knees buckling and Dean fought to keep them both upright. "Sam, you gotta help me out here," Dean said.
"Sorry," Sam apologized, his voice hoarse from exhaustion and if Dean was correct, Violet. Sam's neck sported deepening, red-purple bruises.
He swung the door open, pleased to discover the glass had been cleaned off the seat and floor. Sam obediently collapsed into the Impala when pushed to sit. Dean tucked his brother's long legs into the car, before closing the door with a click. He whirled around to find Henry standing right behind him.
"He okay?" Henry asked, jerking a thumb in Sam's direction. The hangdog look on Henry's face spoke of his guilt. "I feel bad about what happened and I…"
Dean held up his hand to silence Henry. "Look, I'm not your friend. In fact, I don't like you," He shook his head. "And I don't trust you. As far as I'm concerned, this is the last we'll see of each other. Ever."
"No reason to get uppity," Henry protested. "I'm just trying to apologize."
"Not interested." Dean walked around to the driver's side of the car. He looked at Henry over the roof. "Good-bye, Henry."
"Bye, Dean. Just follow me into town." Henry backed away from the Impala, his dark shadow melting into the side of his truck.
Dean glanced over at his brother, the light rise and fall of his chest granting Dean reassurance that once more, they'd made it through okay. Hurt, tired, emotionally screwed to hell, but they were okay. He threw the car into drive and followed the red glow of the taillights on Henry's truck.
Dean turned the tape player on low; the steady beat calming him, changing his mood from tightly wound high alert back to normal levels. The pre-dawn, lightening sky signaled the impending start of a new day.
He sang along softly with the music, tapping a light beat on the steering wheel. The road was rougher on this route than the original one they had taken to Violet's. Dean cursed every bump, but Sam slept on, oblivious.
As they approached town, the sun poked up over the horizon. Dean let out a weary sigh. He'd finished so many days of his life by greeting the morning sun, at times it almost felt unnatural to go to bed at night.
Henry slowed, waving Dean to go around him as the highway came into sight. Dean waved to the old man on his way by, hoping that Henry would find some way to explain Violet's sudden disappearance and the huge smokehouse fire. As annoyed as he was with Henry, he didn't want the man's last days to be in prison.
Dean turned the Impala onto the highway. He thought about pushing on to the next town, but the closest one was nearly fifty miles away and frankly, he was beat. Instead, Dean pulled into the Blue Oasis lot and parked near the motel office. Sam adjusted in his seat, but otherwise made no indication of waking. Dean pocketed the keys and slipped out of the car.
It didn't take long to charm the motel clerk into letting them check in early for the next day's stay. He was surprised considering he had to look like crap. Then again, maybe he'd managed to channel his little brother and the puppy dog eyes had worked for him for a change, rather than making people think he was a serial killer.
A light mist sprinkled Dean's skin as he strode back to the car. Birds tweeted as the sun broke free from the light cloud cover in the east turning the sky a brilliant shade of pink. Sam was awake, his head darting side to side as he looked for something – someone, Dean realized.
"Got us a room on the end," Dean said, opening the door. And just like that, Sam relaxed, his back curving to rest against the seat, his eyes whisking away to return without the flares of panic in them. "Thought I might shower before I crash, but I can wait if you want to go first."
Sam shook his head. "I'm good."
"Good, 'cause I wasn't going to let you have it anyway."
Sam puffed a laugh, then frowned. "Where are we?"
"Just back in town," Dean said, pulling into the parking spot and switching off the car. He twisted in his seat to look at Sam. "I'm tired. Thought we could sleep here a night."
Sam nodded, opening his door. He moved stiffly, cradling his torso. Dean had their duffels before Sam made it to the trunk. "Sorry," Sam apologized. "Here, let me take one."
Dean scrunched his face. "You think I can't carry two lousy bags, Sam?" He clapped Sam on the shoulder and spun him around, herding him towards the door. "Next thing you know, you'll want to hold my hand to cross the street."
"Nice, thanks," Sam said. He leaned against the doorjamb.
Dean worked the lock, swinging the door open wide. Sam shuffled past him, toed off his shoes, and peeled back the blankets. He lowered himself slowly onto the bed. Dean tossed the duffels onto the floor. He made a second trip to the Impala for the first aid kit, tossing it on his bed. The shower called to him and he headed to the bathroom, pausing long enough to see Sam had fallen asleep. Dean narrowed his eyes, frowning. Or he passed out.
He stooped to swing Sam's legs onto the bed, ignoring the grumbles of displeasure. "Just sleep, Sammy," he said, slapping Sam softly on shoulder. He tossed Sam's discarded jeans to the foot of the bed; then covered him with a blanket. Dean briefly entertained the notion that his own bed sounded better than a shower, until the scent of frog reached his nose.
He flicked on the light in the bathroom, leaving the door slightly cracked. Dean turned on the shower, letting the steam fill the bathroom, small wisps curling out the door. The heat stripped him of almost all his remaining energy. He showered quickly, donned his t-shirt and boxers and left the bathroom toweling his hair dry. Sam stirred restlessly in the artificially darkened room, a rumpled pile of blankets on the floor at his feet.
Dean reached down, placing a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Dean?" Sam asked, the word slurred by sleep. The eyes behind his lids darting back and forth in dream sleep. "Don't go."
"Not going anywhere, Sammy," Dean reassured him, stooping to pick up the blankets. He covered Sam again, and then lay down on his own bed. The rising sun shone through the gap in the curtains, casting a sliver of light onto the orange, shag carpet. The light wouldn't be a problem, he'd learned many years ago how to force himself to sleep, to take advantage of limited downtime. Sam moaned softly in his sleep. Dean turned on his side to look at his brother. It was Sam who would keep Dean awake.
"Brother," Sam mumbled, kicking a leg out from under the covers, one hand searching blindly.
Dean sighed softly, scrubbing a hand down his face. This would be a long day no matter how he cut it. He padded over to Sam's bed, pillow and blanket in tow. "Sammy, move over."
"Hmmm?" Sam hummed. His eyelids cracked open revealing slits of hazel.
"Move over." Dean pushed Sam lightly and that was the only encouragement Sam needed. Years of sharing when they were younger meant Sam responded to Dean's words, half asleep or not.
"Stop shoving," Sam mumbled in protest. He turned onto his uninjured side, back against the wall. Dean had no sooner settled in, when he felt Sam shift again, his long legs and arms curling into the few empty spaces available on the bed. The minutes ticked by. "Dean?" Sam's voice was awake, aware.
"Yeah, Sam, I'm here." Dean propped a pillow behind his back. He bent his legs, leaning against the headboard. Bare toes tapped on the bottom sheet, the only remaining sign of left over adrenaline.
He glanced down at Sam. His brother blinked, fighting back exhaustion. Sam's forehead scrunched in confusion, his hazels flicking up to Dean. He smirked when Sam's tired mind seemed to piece together the puzzle, the wrinkles smoothing, a slight smile playing briefly on Sam's face. "Sorry, was I keeping you awake?"
Dean pulled a blanket over his legs, hiding his traitorous toes from sight. "No, your bed looked less lumpy. You always hog the good bed."
Sam puffed a laugh. "Right, well, I should tell you, I have the best pillow, too."
"I knew it," Dean grumbled. Silence descended upon the brothers in a blanket of comfortable familiarity. He knew Sam wasn't asleep, just waiting for him to talk or go to sleep. He probably wasn't sure which Dean would do. Dean smothered a laugh of his own, even he wasn't entirely sure.
Finally, Sam decided for both of them by breaking the quiet. "For just a minute there at the end, I could feel Daisy inside me and Violet through her connection to Daisy. I could hear all three of our voices in my head, read all their thoughts, feel everything they felt." He paused, apparently waiting for some reaction from him, because Sam continued when Dean looked at him. "It wasn't all that strange really."
That statement deserved a response. Dean raised an eyebrow and opened his mouth to retort, the smartass comment already forming when Sam interrupted.
"Shut up, I just meant their relationship wasn't all that different from ours." Sam tucked one arm under his head. "They could sense each other's emotions, know each others thoughts. They were connected."
"Yeah," Dean agreed nodding. "Literally." He shuddered in mock horror. "Did you see…?"
"Yeah, Violet showed me," Sam replied.
"Kinky," Dean smirked. "She's a little old for you, don't you think?"
"Funny." Sam shook his head. "You know what I meant."
"I know," Dean tapped his fingers on his knees. "But we can't do those things."
"Not literally, Dean." Sam huffed, in his perfect 'my big brother is an idiot' way. "But we can tell by body language, nonverbal cues, sometimes even more by what we don't say, than what we do."
"Yeah, Sam," Dean nodded. "It's called being brothers."
"Exactly," Sam beamed, yawning wide.
Dean resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Circular Sam logic and lack of sleep were wearing down the last of his reasoning abilities. "Get some rest, Sam. I'm just going to watch TV for a little while."
Sam smiled knowingly, the unspoken gratitude clearly conveyed.
Okay, so maybe Sammy has a point. "Get some rest," Dean repeated. He didn't catch Sam's mumbled reply, but very soon afterwards, the even breathing signified Sam had fallen back to sleep. Hopefully, he'd stay asleep.
He snagged the remote, flipping through the channels. As luck would have it, the last fifteen minutes of a well-remembered episode of the Rockford Files was playing. Dean turned the volume down until he could just barely make out the words. He knew them all by heart anyway.
The two of them on a double bed had long ceased being comfortable. Dean's left arm rested on the nightstand in an effort to anchor himself. The mattress edging poked into Dean's leg, one foot hanging off the side. Yet, he knew he'd get more rest this way than listening to Sam suffer through Daisy's nightmares, with maybe a little of his own thrown in.
Dean listened to the steady drone of the television set, the blue light dancing across his face. Sam shifted, his fingers brushing Dean's t-shirt then disappearing back under his pillow. Dean relaxed, the sore muscles from walking through mud sinking deeper into the mattress. This would work, now they could both get some sleep.
He scooted further down the bed, nestling deeper into the blankets. He closed his eyes, drifting along the edge of unawareness. Dean felt an odd sense of kinship with Violet. He understood perfectly well, trying to protect your sibling at all costs. He'd do anything for Sam. Their lives were as irrevocably bound as Violet and Daisy.
Dean's gaze shifted from the television to Sam and back again. He couldn't imagine his life any other way. They were brothers. As far as Dean was concerned, that said it all.
AN: Thank you to K Hanna for organizing the auction, and spnMom for bidding! I didn't realize how nerve-wracking it would be writing for someone who paid for a story. Thank you for your patience!
AN2: A huge thank you to Muffy and Carocali for beta'ing the final two chapters (and not making me beg too hard).
Wysawyg has several new and exciting things happening all at once and while she did not ask to be let out of her 'sacred beta duties' - I let her off the hook.
P.S. No matter what she tells you, I did not borrow her muse and return it as a SamGirl. :)
AN3: Thanks also to S.C. for her words of wisdom throughout. I didn't expect so much feedback. I swear, the chapter exchange was 'no strings attached!'
Geek Fact: Salt cakes at a tensile strength close to 300 Pa in high humidity situations, nearly twice that of sugar. See? You learn something new every day.