Sorry this took so long…my internet gave out on me and it took my brother on law almost a week to get it running again.
So, I guess…here it goes: the final chapter…everything else left to be said at the end – if you like!
Chapter 13 / Epilogue
Another two hours of driving and Sam was all but spent and more than ready to call it a day. He carefully manoeuvred the Impala around a corner, slowing down enough to not jostle Dean too much with the movement. Finally, after about fifteen minutes of cruising the city, he finally found the hotel he'd been looking for.
He pulled the Impala into the parking lot and killed the engine, staying in the car for another minute, watching Dean, who hadn't stirred. Usually the cutting of his car's engine would sure enough rouse him from the deepest slumber but now he just seemed to be too out of it. It worried Sam to no end, seeing his brother's slumped form wedged in what just had to be an uncomfortable position against the passenger door, his temple resting against the wadded up hood of his sweater against the cool glass of the window.
Sam barely resisted the urge to reach over and feel Dean's forehead for a fever. Now that the hypothermia had been taken care of he knew that he'd have to make sure that none of his other injuries would get infected and knock him straight in the other direction of an unhealthy temperature. Surely his body had gone through enough over the past days, no need to add another strain to it just now.
At least now they'd have some time to rest and recupe. The weather was a lot better, definitely warmer here, too. He idly wondered how long he'd be able to keep Dean down, though, without actually tying him up. As out of it as he seemed right now, Sam knew how uneasy and restive Dean could get when being forced to lay low for a while. He knew that his physical incompetence would only serve for him to push himself even harder.
Dean shifted in sleep, brows drawing together in some sort of distress, lips pressed tight while his arm unconsciously snaked more closely around his chest. After a few seconds he seemed to have settled back down, though, a slight hitch in his breathing every now and then the only sign that he was not just sleeping peacefully.
His face still looked a mess, with now 3 sets of stitches, the split lip and some bruising around the eyes on his otherwise still too pale skin. With those long lashes laying gently against his cheeks he looked so damn young, vulnerable and almost innocent, as innocent as Dean could look, anyways, that Sam couldn't help but wonder what Dean would be like if their lives had turned out differently.
Funny, of all the times Sam had thought about his own life changing, being "normal", he had somehow never imagined Dean's as anything else but this. Sure, they'd talked about it, or he had, more to the point, but still…Dean and normal, or better even, innocent just somehow didn't seem to match. Somehow Dean had always managed to get around the topic of the normal life they should be leading, by all means, had accepted his fate, had embraced it. Well, he'd never been given much of a choice. It had always been: watch out for your brother or make sure he eats properly, change his diapers, teach him how to lace his boots, how to hold a gun properly, how to wield a knife, make sure he lays the salt lines properly or something like that.
It wasn't fair, Sam knew that much, and he couldn't help but wonder if he'd have accepted this fate as easily and unquestioningly as Dean had.
Were they really that different?
Hell yeah, he'd probably have complained and fretted…unfortunately Sam knew that much about himself. Dean had been driven by his love and devotion to his family, his brother and father. He'd learned what it felt like to loose family so damn early, learned the meaning and importance of family sticking close and staying safe. Together they were safe. And since there had been no one else tackling that project, he'd taken it upon himself to ensure that they would indeed be together, at least him and his little brother and take care of their dad as best as he could.
And that Sam was eternally grateful for. He couldn't imagine what his life, their lives would have been like without Dean caring the way he did, always had. Maybe he hadn't always shown Dean, not the way he really felt about it, but somehow he hoped that his brother knew, anyway. He hoped that Dean was able to see through the little fights, the harsh words spoken and the ultimate act of him leaving to go to school and realize that he hadn't done it because Sam didn't care… because he didn't love his brother and even his father.
Because Sam did, with all his heart. More than anything. But telling him, in mere words, didn't seem enough somehow. Words were too easily said without meaning them, they both had found out the hard way, more than once. So all Sam could do was show him, or at least try to every day.
With Dean it looked so easy, everything he did or said somehow made Sam feel loved and cared for – even though his brother drove him crazy and to the brink of violence at times.
Sam smiled affectionately before pulling himself out of his reverie, hastily scribbling a note on a gas-station-receipt, leaving it on the dashboard in front of his brother. He didn't want to risk Dean panicking when waking up and finding his little brother gone. Didn't want to ruin the surprise either.
Then he sneaked out as quietly as possible, silently cursing the car for its creaking doors. OK, so it was a classic car and everything, he still didn't get it why Dean couldn't just oil the damn hinges every once in a while.
Sam winced, leaning down to peer in through the window. He really hoped that Dean hadn't woken, he'd much rather get everything settled before presenting his brother with the end-product of his efforts.
Fortunately a quick check showed Dean still to be asleep so Sam quickly took off.
"Ok, Sammy, time to spill it. Where are we?"
Dean craned his neck as far as it would go in the close confinements of the Impala's front seat, which wasn't all that much, to be honest, trying to make out any distinguishing landmarks he could make a guess from. His eyes were still heavy from sleep and even though he'd just slept more or less deeply for the past couple of hours, he didn't feel all that much better. Of course, he wasn't going to tell his brother that, so he tried for his best annoyed-look, drawing his eyebrows up and scrutinizing Sam, who sat, smiling madly like a Cheshire cat, arms folded in front of his chest.
"What is it with you and the secrets, lately? You will need to tell me eventually, right? Besides, from the look of this hotel, it's far too expensive for us to afford…it has to be another job then?"
Dean tried to keep his face even and his voice expectant. That's what Sam would expect to see and hear, anyways. He would expect him to jump on the opportunity of a new hunt, right?
Only, Dean really didn't feel up to it, not now. Maybe in a day or two, but till then he'd really prefer to do nothing but sleep and maybe eat, if his stomach decided that it'd hold down the food, that was. But he couldn't let Sammy down, couldn't show him how weak he really felt. He had to be strong for both their sakes.
"Nah, Dean. No job, not for a while. I thought we'd just, you know, take a go at that vacation we've been talking about."
Sam looked so damn pleased with himself that Dean couldn't help but ban the sharp protest that had been about to spill from his lips. He chose to shoot him a surprised look instead. Now the kid actually started fidgeting and there was this strange twinkle in his eyes that made Dean suspect something else was going on. He just needed to figure out if it was something bad or good, he'd choose his plan of action according to the outcome, then.
"OK, so again…where are we? And while you're at it…why and for how long? "
Again this complacent smile from Sam and Dean felt the sudden urge to grab him and shake that smile off his face…but not really…if he'd just get this the hell over with.
"Well…I thought after everything that has happened lately…we do deserve a couple of days to rewind, get ourselves back together, you know? So I figured we should treat ourselves to a nicer hotel for once, a little bit of luxury and all…"
"Ok…so I guess now is not the time to remind you that we can't really afford this…"
Dean made a sweeping gesture with his left hand – in the wrong direction, actually, but Sam would get the picture.
"That from the master of credit card fraud." Sam rolled his eyes at him.
Alright, so he might have a point there, still… They usually didn't use the credit cards for their own personal entertainment, only for the job. Not that they ever did much for themselves, anyway.
"Ok…so what are we going to do on this vacation of yours…?"
Dean was careful not to look directly at Sam anymore. Because truth was, he did think that this was a damn good idea and he really should have hugged Sammy, at least, to thank him for pushing him in the right direction because, sure enough, he would have never been able to admit it out loud, certainly wouldn't have taken the necessary steps to get this going. Yet another reason he needed his brother around…to keep himself in check, kind of.
"Of ours', Dean. It's our vacation, so we'll do whatever we want. I mean, anything besides hunting, apparently. But there are some conditions…!"
"Oh, hell, I knew there had to be a catch."
Dean smirked, but could barely contain his curiosity. What the hell had Sam planned?
"Yeah, Dean. There always is. First off, we're in Memphis right now."
At that both of Dean's eyebrows shot up.
"Memphis, Tennessee? As in The King, Graceland and all that?"
"That's the one."
Alright…not a bad start. Yet something was still up, and Dean was burning to find out what it was.
"OK, so about that catch you were talking about…"
"Yeah, about that…first off I'll tell you that I've got another surprise planned out for you."
Again the eyebrows, plus an awkward smile. Dean really wasn't all that sure that Sam's surprise would be something he'd be too happy about.
"Better be a good surprise, Sammy. Don't know if I can deal with a nasty one right about now. I'm still real fragile, you know…"
That's the spirit. Play your cards, Dean, make Sam feel guilty.
Sam grinned openly at him now. Oh yes, Dean could definitely see how much fun his brother was having on his behalf right about now.
"To get the surprise you've got to fulfil the following conditions: you lay low for the next 5 days. No hunting, no running around looking for trouble. You stay in bed and watch TV, we order room-service and maybe in two or three days, once you feel up to it we might go out and look at some sights, eat at nice restaurants, do the touristy thing. Did I mention that we've got a room with a jacuzzi, by the way?"
Sam looked like a four-year-old, all fidgety and excited and definitely enjoying this way too much. Ready to burst, too. Maybe not the time to mention that Dean wouldn't get anywhere near the damn jacuzzi for sure…
"Well, as nice and tempting as all of this sounds, us two strolling hand in hand along Beale street and all that, it better be a real nice surprise you've got planned for me because otherwise I won't stick to your plan, Sammy boy."
In reality, Dean wasn't even that opposed to going along with it so far. Maybe five whole days were a little far fetched. He knew himself. As much as he felt spent and beat right now, he knew that within a couple of days he'd feel restless again. As soon as the worst of the pain and weariness had subsided and he had slept for about forty-eight hours straight, he'd get restless, would need to find something to do, something to hunt. He wasn't very good at killing time, at having nothing to do.
But maybe, just maybe, they'd actually have fun. There ought to be some bars and cool places to see. He'd never admit it to Sam, but some sightseeing might be nice too. When hunting with his dad, he'd sometimes done some tours by himself, without dad knowing of course, had gone to see some things his father would have had no appreciation for. And while he usually made fun of his baby-brother for being geeky when wanting to go look at some monument or amble through some long abandoned fort or castle, he actually even enjoyed it most of the time. A little. Maybe.
But being who he was, he couldn't let what to him felt like a little weakness show, especially not in front of the brother he needed to keep up the pretence for. Sammy needed him to be strong, to be invincible. He needed to be up to par in case…in case what his dad had asked of him, back at the hospital did come true…
Dean shook himself out of his despairing thoughts, flicking eyes up to his brother's again, forcing a smile onto his lips.
"So, you gonna tell me or what?"
Letting a little bit of that curiosity show now. Sam deserved it…or so he hoped.
"Next Sunday, there's this big festival, just outside of town. Metallica is supposed to come…"
Pausing for effect, cunning bastard that he was.
Dean thought he could actually feel his jaw drop.
"Stop fucking teasing me, Sam. This is so not fun. I'm still real fragile, you know."
"I would never, ever dare to play you with something like this, Dean. I cherish my oh so young life far too much. A two-day festival. Some rock-bands, which I don't remember all the names of, but I got the information saved on the laptop so you can look it up later. I got us two tickets. They are reserved for us, so if you stick to the plan, behave yourself, we are ready to roll just five days from now."
Dean couldn't help himself, he stared at his brother with eyes as wide as saucers and he knew from the look on Sam's face that this was the reaction his brother had been hoping for.
"You've got to be kidding me."
"As I said before – no kidding you with something like this. I had some time to do research while you were still out of it after Isabella…after her final attack. I found this by chance and I just figured…"
Dean shook his head in disbelief. And he'd be damned if he didn't just feel such an amazing surge of affection towards his brother, he had to forcefully keep himself from just blurting it right out in the open.
Not a question but a statement, and he could hear his voice crack suspiciously.
"Dead serious. So, what do you say? You up for the challenge? Because if you are, I'd be more than ready to check in and get some rest."
Dean just nodded, not trusting his voice to hold on to his game face. Sam mimicked his movement, still smiling contentedly, slapping him lightly on the thigh before untangling his freakishly long legs to get out of the Impala. Dean stayed a bit longer, still caught up in his amazement, while Sam fetched their duffels out of the trunk and slung them over his shoulder.
Dean decided that now would be a good time to get a grip and drag himself out of the car before Sam got the idea to bodily pull him out of there.
That or take back that promise he'd just given him.
His whole body ached, arm throbbing fiercely, chest tight and constricted and he felt slightly dizzy once he managed to get out of the car to lean against the closed door for support. Sam stood by and waited patiently, pointedly not looking at him to give him the time and space he needed, and for that Dean was more than just a little grateful.
With Sam, being hurt or sick always felt a little easier than it had with dad. With him, Dean had always felt like he'd let him down somehow, disapoint him by not being on top of his game. Even though he knew that it wasn't true. And while he still felt this unstoppable urge to be strong for his brother, to be the big brother he was supposed to be, had been trained to be all his life, he still knew that, if push came to shove, like right now, he'd be able to ease off, just a little bit. That he could allow himself to be, well, not weak but rather, not completely up to it, like maybe just 99% every once in a while. Because he knew that Sam was a grown man now. That fact was kind of hard to miss and while he'd always stay his baby brother, no matter how freakishly tall he was he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. At least up to a certain point.
And maybe he was just as capable of taking care of his big brother too, when things got bad.
Not that he'd planned on letting something like this right now happen again anytime soon…
But he could trust Sam to have his back, the past days had proven that as impressively as anything. Dean didn't really like the fact of Sam being the one in charge, being the one to look out for him, but he knew that he would be able to, and that alone was enough.
It only took a minute or maybe two before his body had adjusted itself to the new, upright position and when he felt it safe to attempt to stand and walk without the support of either the car or his brother, not wanting to do a face plant right in front of a big, kind of fancy hotel, he pushed away from the car to follow Sam slowly but steadily towards the hotel's entrance.
It really didn't get much better than this now, did it? Well, maybe despite the hurting part…but even that paled in comparison to everything else.
Almost everything he could ever ask for he got right there. And now that he was looking forward to that promised bed, he'd even let Sam have first shot at the shower. He wasn't all too keen on getting anywhere close to water in the near future, anyway. The kid looked as if he really needed to clean up, too, started smelling a little ripe there…
Plus, he had about all the time in the world.
Another smile suddenly lit up his bruised face.
"Hey Sammy, about that dynamic duo scenario we talked about earlier…"
Sam slowed down his pace, loping alongside Dean now, waiting for him to continue.
"I had a dream about that…and man I gotta tell you…"
Dean snorted out a chuckle.
"…you look ridiculous in tights."
"Aw, shut up dude."
Sam threw his head back and laughed out loud.
And wasn't that just the damn best sound Dean had heard in a long time.
No, it really didn't get much better than this…
I know this might have been kind of lame and amazingly cheesy but I wanted to let this smooth out a little, not just end it, you know. Plus, I need a happy ending right now, hope you'll be able to forgive me!
I know that there were a lot of requests for the boys to go to Bobby to regroup, and my original ideal would have been just that, believe it or not. But as I progressed with the story I just felt that this should be something for just the two of them, them being comfortable with each other, enjoying each other's company… It's probably sired by what was going to happen in the next season…so, hope that makes sense and you are not too disappointed.
Other than that…what can I say really…this has been an amazing ride, honestly. I feel totally drained and kind of sad for this to end… and at the same time I feel glad that I was able to finish it in a way that makes me happy…this story has been with me for quite a while, I kind of got attached to it, I guess, and I actually am proud of it!!! ;-)
I always worry that I get my appreciation for the whole show across, that my English is sufficient for this, that I keep the boys in character and not let the story drift off too much. Also, I just love stories that keep a good balance between seriousness and the brotherly banter…I somehow doubt I achieved that completely but I tried real hard here, so please have mercy!
Other than that… I got a couple of ideas for other stories that need to be straightened out first…I started one that develops nicely so far! I hope to welcome some of you back to that one, if I ever dare upload it!
Anyway, thank you all sooooo much for all the wonderful support and the amazing reviews, even though I know I honestly deserve not even half of them.
This is to all of you who commented on almost every single chapter, to those who tapped the story as their favourite, or me as their favourite author…you seriously blow me away!
As always - I'd love to know what you think about this chapter in particular or the story as a whole!
Thanks again…you guys rock!