"You feeling better?" Bobby asked.
Sam had plodded into Bobby's kitchen. His limbs were weary, his head and shoulder were both aching, and the only thing he could think about was the sweet heat of coffee going down his throat and getting back to the hospital to see Dean. Dean had sent him away the night before, saying he was worse than a wasp on crack and would he please just give him some space? So, Sam got angry, and left. Which was the worse thing to do to someone in the hospital who just happened to save his ass.
"Yeah. You look it." Bobby didn't sound convinced. He passed Sam a clean mug and nodded toward the steaming coffee pot.
"What about you?" Sam asked as he slowly filled his mug. "You sleep any?"
"Like a baby."
"You did not."
"Sure I did. At about five am."
"Which means you got about," he glanced at his watch, "two hours of sleep."
"And I slept those two hours just like a baby."
Whatever. "Any word on Tyler?"
"No change, far as I know."
Sam nodded, blew over the rim, and sipped his brew.
They were lucky. Bobby came out on top as he always seemed to. Sam was waiting for the day when the man would get knocked flat on his ass and not get up. Not that he was wanting it, but the odds were quickly reaching the point where it had to happen at some point. Bobby wasn't invincible.
Sam had been in the hospital for a full day after the showdown at Devils Tower. Exhaustion was batted around as being the main cause for admittance. Blood loss from the almost-gunshot wound that he had taken to his shoulder hadn't been enough to keep him down. (Which he would have to tease Dean about, because seriously, while it hurt at the time it was barely a graze and a bandage patched it right up.) He was kept for observation only, then released. His shoulder was sore, and he tried not to move his arm too much.
Of course he couldn't tell the doctor that he'd had a demonic spirit talking in his brain. Or that was making him do nasty things to people. Or that he was half evil, that he had tried to kill those around him and could only blame himself for that, and that for some reason the same people he tried to kill risked their lives to save him. He couldn't tell the doc those things. But he had a feeling it counted towards the exhaustion he felt.
Dean fell unconscious right as the ambulance arrived, and slept for two days, his brief periods of waking muddled. Once he called Sam "Dad", which tore at his heart. A few cracked ribs, deep cuts, extensive bruising, broken wrist, repeated head trauma, it was more than Sam ever cared to see on his brother. He had been roughly and throughly beaten and abused, and Sam could remember every motion, every second of it. That was just his part in the whole game. Never mind Dean taking on those demons before Sam tried to go psycho on his ass. It nauseated him.
Guilt put Sam at Dean's side. Panic kept him there.
When those green-gold eyes finally opened and cleared, they found Sam instantly. Sam watched as the familiar gaze fixed on his. He swallowed hard, not sure if Dean would remember what had happened. Not sure if Dean would trust him, or make a head-dive for the window. One day he'd learn to have more faith in his brother. Dean just smiled slightly, and his brow soothed as he relaxed into a regular sleep. It was all the confirmation Sam needed to say things were okay between them, and he released his breath.
After this all-too-brief waking, Sam pulled his chair close to the bed and folded his arms on the mattress. Bobby found him dozing there.
Tyler was another story. He had suffered another massive heart attack. He was alive, thankfully, but the damage was extensive. Sam knew Bobby checked on him constantly, either by visits or the telephone, claiming that he was Tyler's older brother, and his only family. Sam had a feeling that after this episode, the bond between the two of them would be real.
A young black lady made a brief appearance once while Sam was in Tyler's room. She had said little, and squeezed Tyler's arm affectionately. "Old buzzard," she muttered, shaking her head. "Ain't that much older than me, really. Scares the shit out of me." And she gave Sam a frank look, and walked out. It was the only time he'd seen her, and he assumed it was Tyler's other office colleague.
Sam set down his coffee mug. "When you going out there?" he asked Bobby as his thoughts returned to the present.
"Dunno. Still got some cleanup to do around here."
Sam frowned. Bobby was wearing down. Sure, he'd come out with hardly a scratch, unless he was counting the wounds that Sam inflicted upon him. Which looked a lot better. But he seemed tired. Hell, in addition to everything that had happened, he'd gone Impala hunting. Found it abandoned on the side of the road five miles from Devils Tower, half driven into the bush. "Why don't you get some rest? I'll look in on Tyler when I go see Dean."
"Didn't I just say there's cleanup to do around here?"
"So I'll do it when I get back! No reason for you to bust your ass and end up in the hospital too!"
"Now look here. . ."
"Bobby." Sam's tone was firm.
Bobby sighed and braced himself on the counter and lowered his head, exhaling sharply through his nose.
Sam reached out, scared for a moment that the older man would collapse in the middle of his kitchen floor. "Bobby, what is it?"
"Don't give me that."
Bobby raised his head. His eyes were unreadable, then turned hot. "What the hell happened to you out there, Sam?"
He'd been waiting for the question. Still, Sam felt boneless. His tall frame slumped. "I don't know," he said simply.
"Were you possessed?"
God, if only.
Bobby sighed and pushed away from the counter. He took two steps and stopped in Sam's space. "How the hell can we help you if you don't tell us what happened to you?"
How the hell could he help, anyway? And that wasn't the point. "I don't need help."
"I don't! Dean's the one who needs help! There were all those demons there, and none of them knew. . ." he turned away. "I couldn't do it." He heard the defeat in his voice, but it was nothing compared to the despair he felt in his heart. He was right there. Right there. Those demons were all around him, and the Dealmaker was one of them. He spoke to it. He remembered. And there was nothing that could be done. His breath caught painfully as the words sliced into him. There was nothing to be done? "I couldn't find the crossroads demon," he gasped in a panic, not sure why he was lying. "Bobby, I couldn't do it, I couldn't save Dean." He turned away.
"We have time. This thing's just started."
Sam swallowed hard.
Sam glanced over his shoulder.
Bobby was looking at him with soft eyes. "We'll take care of Dean. You know that. But we have to take care of you, too. Otherwise it's all for nothing. Now, I know you can be just as much a stubborn ass as your brother. Got a hard head just like your daddy. You know, he'd of come out of this whole thing a hell of a lot better if he'd let someone help him from time to time." Bobby looked at him pointedly. "Don't repeat his mistake."
Sam nodded slowly. "I'm fine, really," he insisted in a low voice.
This time Bobby slumped. "Great," he mocked. "Fine. I think I am gonna lay down. Didn't exactly sleep last night."
"You do that. I'll tell Tyler you asked about him."
"If he can hear you. Go for it. Call me if anything changes. I'll have my phone on the table."
"Bobby." Sam stopped him with one word, but the rest were stuck. What could he say? I'm sorry I threatened to kill you. You're becoming like a father to me, and I tried to kill you. I used you, and I'm so, so sorry." The words wouldn't come, no matter how many times he opened his mouth.
Bobby just nodded. So he understood. He didn't like it, but he understood. That was obvious.
Sam walked outside and looked at the Impala for a moment before climbing in. Part of him wanted desperately to just pick a random direction and drive away.
He headed for the hospital.
"Oh, it's you." Dean shifted and lay his head back on his pillow.
"Wow. Glad to see you, too. Guess I'll keep this, then" Sam plopped a paper bag on the silver tray that held Dean's untouched lunch. "How you feeling?"
"Like someone tried to saw my head in half and put you in it."
"That should improve things for you."
"Whatever. What'd you bring me?" Dean grumpily snatched the bag from the tray. It crinkled loudly. Brows raised in surprise. "Are you serious?"
"They said you were probably getting out of here today, so I thought. . ."
"You're rapidly making my 'good' list." His mood considerably lightened, Dean pulled out a wrapped cheeseburger. "Sure as hell makes up for the nurse."
Brows drew together in puzzlement over Sam's grin. "What's wrong with the nurse?"
"It's a freakin' conspiracy, that's what's wrong," Dean groused, unwrapping the burger. "You'd think with all the crap I've been through these past few weeks I'd at least hook up with a hot chick in a nurse's outfit. Murphy's fucking law in action." He bit in, and his eyes closed slowly in bliss as he started to chew.
"She too old?"
Dean stopped chewing and looked at him.
"Oh. OH!" Sam chuckled and swung his gaze to the door.
Dean crinkled the wrapper further down around the burger. "Of all the hospital rooms in all the world, the freakin' dude has to end up in mine," he muttered around his mouthful.
"There's a lot of male nurses, Dean."
"Never say that to me again, Sam. I've been traumatized enough."
Sam grinned and sat in the chair he'd pulled close to the bed. He studied Dean's face closely. Bruises darkened the skin underneath his eyes. His cheekbone was colored, but fading. Cuts littered his lips, each one the result of a punch. Though he was trying to hide it, it was obvious that chewing was a chore. Sam knew that dark bruises covered Dean's body from head to toe.
Coming up with a story to fit their conditions had been an adventure and a half, one he never cared to repeat. How was he supposed to explain a gunshot wound (barely), Dean's battered condition, and Tyler's heart attack? Incredibly bad luck? They settled on a story of being attacked, and in the dimness of light were unable to identify their attackers. It was fanciful at best, but it was better than saying they had unleashed the demons of hell to walk the earth, and oh yeah, one of them had manifested itself into a uber-storm that was bent on tearing up the world. Because that happened every day.
Dean punched the television remote with a loud click. The dark screen slowly faded, displaying The Weather Channel. Jazz music played a tune that Sam would always associate with the "current weather conditions". For the most part, he liked jazz. He didn't like jazz on The Weather Channel.
Dean muted the sound. "I was wondering if there's more storms around."
"Not like before, but still a lot of 'em."
Dean nodded slowly, eyes on the screen. "So what we did out there, it didn't really do anything?"
Sam shrugged. "Like I said. Aren't as many."
"What about the demon activity?"
"Decreasing. So that's something, anyway."
"Neh. They've just gone into hiding. Building up for something big." Dean wiped his hand over his face. He looked drawn and tight. "Well, we got you back, anyway." He dropped his half-eaten burger onto the tray.
The action bothered Sam. Dean never let good food go to waste. "I never left, Dean."
"Dude, you were so gone. . ."
"No." Sam shook his head firmly. "I wasn't. I remember all of it. It was me." He lowered his gaze for a second, then met his brother's eyes.
"You said you heard voices in your head."
Sam raised his brows. "I wasn't possessed," he said, pointedly. Wanting Dean to understand.
Dean licked his lips, but said nothing.
He looked so tired. He hadn't looked so tired since the time he was electrocuted and nearly died. Or the time — well, that wasn't the same kind of tired. Dean was holding on to fear when he brought Sam back. That fear and sadness and despair had sickened him. Made him go do something stupid.
But those eyes were looking at him, and tired as they were, there was something burning inside them. The fire within was the one thing that kept Sam coming back every time he wanted to run away. That fire was made of pure devotion, to him, and who on earth didn't want that?
Dean's attention returned to the small television mounted to the upper corner of the room. "Yep. There they are. Storms all over the place."
"And still no rain," Sam added.
Dean nodded. "Any more news on Tyler?"
"I think I had a dream with him in it. He was telling me something about rainbows, and I told him to stick it up his ass."
Sam smiled. "Dean!"
"Well, he was all sunshine and annoying as crap. Hey! It was a dream, I can't control my dreams!"
"Nice to know that your inner Dean is consistent," Sam said.
"I yam what I yam," Dean said, and turned off the tv with a sigh. "Just tell me this. When am I getting out of here?"
"One more checkup from the doc and you should be in the all clear."
"Bout damn time. That nurse keeps looking at me."
"You mean, the male one."
"So? Look back."
"So? Shut your face!"
Fortunately, that was when the doctor walked in.
"I said, I got it." Dean pushed at Sam and braced himself on the car. He winced in the glare of sunlight. It had been so long, he'd forgotten how bright the sun was. It warmed his back, warmed the top of the Impala that Sam had insisted on driving, damn him, and made his mood dark. He was too irritable for a sunny day.
"Geez, just trying to help." Sam backed off, his hands in the air. Dean grunted and shuffled into Bobby's house, only to find the sofa equipped with a blanket and pillow.
He stopped in his tracks. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Nervous exhaustion," Bobby said, coming around the corner, "multiple concussions, two cracked ribs, and a broken wrist."
Dean frowned at his half cast. He'd never had a cast in his life. It was strange, considering how many times he'd been hurt, but that was usually the threat of being torn open and his intestines used to decorate the nearest tree. Never actually broken anything, not to the degree that he needed a fucking cast. It sure didn't help his mood. Hell, the pillow was even lumpy.
"Can I get you anything?" Sam asked.
"Yeah. Cable tv."
"Here?" Bobby asked incredulously.
"This is hell," Dean moaned, and shifted so that he could bury his face in his pillow.
"The only way you were let out was with a guarantee that you'd take it easy for a few more days."
"Yeah! Take it easy! Not get laid up!"
"Christ, it's just if you get tired, Dean!" Bobby sighed. "No one said you had to stay there all day. It's called convenience and someone giving a damn!" His voice raised.
Dean had the grace to look sheepish. He could feel his face flame, and hoped he wasn't turning red.
Sam raised his brows, obviously sensing his brother's discomfort and feeling the need for a diversion. "Any chance that barbeque place is still open, Bobby?"
"Sure is." Bobby nodded. He looked at Sam, then Dean. "I guess I should get us some, huh?"
"Don't mention it," Bobby grumbled, fishing for his wallet as he walked towards the door.
Sam grinned at his retreating back, then turned to Dean. Tucked his hands in his pocket. Looked uncomfortable.
Dean groaned. He knew it, he knew it was coming. "Oh, man, this is the heart to heart, isn't it? The part where you ask if I'm really okay and I say fine, and I ask you if you're really okay and you say fine, and after an hour we come together in mutual agreement that this conversation is officially going nowhere. May as well skip it. Or better yet," he pointed to himself, "I'm fine." He gestured to Sam. "Your turn. Cliff notes version."
"I'm sorry," Sam whispered.
It threw Dean off guard. For a moment, he actually lost his composure. "For what?" He realized his voice sounded gruffer than it should.
Sam sighed, and Dean knew then that he was in for the long haul. So much for resting. He said nothing as Sam paced, then sat on the sofa beside Dean, who had to pull himself upright to make room.
"I'm sorry I pulled you into this mess. I'm sorry I couldn't control myself. I'm sorry for. . ." he let his eyes roam Dean's body, then smiled self-consciously and shook his head in consternation. "I'm sorry about the demon," he finally whispered.
"Whoa, wait, first off you didn't pull me into anything. Last I checked, I'm a free agent who gets off on danger. And second, I'm not sorry you didn't find that red-eyed bitch." Dean schooled his face against Sam's shocked expression. "I'm not sorry at all. You know why? It won't happen. This deal is done, and I'm not going to let anything happen to you. I'd rather die."
"You realize that's exactly what you're going to do."
"Yep. I'm okay with that."
"Huh. Yeah." Sam smiled again, this time in disbelief, and rubbed his face. "Selfish bastard."
Sam blinked rapidly, and stood, facing away from his brother. "The voices," he said. "I still hear them, Dean. How am I supposed to deal with this if you're gone?"
"I thought you said you weren't hearing them?"
"Yeah, well," he gave a half-laugh and a sheepish shrug. "They're back." Studied his hands.
Shit. Dean leaned into him. "Okay. Look. We're going to fix this before I check outta here. All of it. You'll get a law degree and a little white house with a picket fence and two point five annoying children and you better name your son after me or I'll climb out of hell and kick your ass."
"Who am I supposed to have these children with, Dean?"
"Your choice. What hot chick won't fall for a lawyer?"
"I'd give it all up to keep you here. You know that, right?" He turned, looking Dean square on.
Dean's mouth worked. He wanted to come back with a retort. He wanted to blow it off, but Sammy looked so sincere. So damned truthful. So annoying.
But in that moment, Dean believed in angels.
The wind picked up, slamming a shutter against the window.
Dean sighed. "Not again!"
Even Sam looked worried. "Can't be. We — it can't be." They stood, with Sam guiding Dean in front of him, and went outside.
The skies overhead were grey. Gunmetal grey. Moisture was thick in the air. "Oh, come on, please tell me we're done with this!" Dean yelled out over the wind.
Sam scanned upwards. "No, wait. I think it's okay."
"Okay? What, like you were okay back there? I can't trust you when you say 'okay', Sam!"
Sam dropped his eyes toward his brother. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about hiding your crap from me! I ask, you say okay, and what does that prove, huh? That you're some tough bastard ready to take the world on your shoulders with no help? Why didn't you tell me about the voices before, Sam?"
"Look, I told you everything as it happened!"
"Yeah? I don't believe you!"
"And I don't believe you!" Sam yelled back. "It goes both ways, Dean! You don't tell me when you're hurting, or scared! You won't talk about any of this! Why?"
"Because it's none of your business!"
Sam hurled himself forward to stand toe-to toe. "YOU are my business, Dean! When are you going to get that through your thick skull, huh? When are you gonna let someone care for YOU for a change?"
"When I deserve it!" Dean yelled back, slinging his good fist towards Sam in anger, with no intention of hitting him. "Now get your ass inside!"
Dean's brows raised. "Excuse me?"
"I said no! Dammit, we're going to talk, and we're going to talk right now!"
Dean glanced at the heavy skies. "Are you serious?" he yelled.
"Right now, Dean!"
"There's nothing to talk about!" A rough gust forced him to take a step back away from Sam, as if another force were protecting him.
"Yes, there is." Sam's voice was low, and still it carried over the wind. "You remember when I said you had to watch out for me?"
"So help me, Sam, if you bring that up one more time. . ."
Okay, unexpected. Dean blinked. "What?"
"You watched out for me. You — you did good."
Dean's mouth opened. He gave up, and closed it. His little brother was praising him? Commending his performance? "You realize if you keep talking like that, hell will freeze over and we'll be out of a job."
"Suits me." Sam smiled.
Dean rolled his eyes and wrapped his arm around sore ribs. "You're unbelievable, you know that?"
"I have a good role model."
"So we're good?"
Dean felt a smile creep over his lips. "We're always good, Sammy. You know that. Asshole. Trying to start something out of nothing." He made a big show of shaking his head and walking to the house, but the truth was, he felt lighter than he had in weeks.
They had won. This time.
"I still feel it, you know."
Dean stopped. He didn't turn, because he didn't really want to know. "Feel what?"
A pause. "It." Said with all the emphasis of a drowning man.
No, he really didn't want to know. His gaze cast back towards his brother. "Is it bad?"
Sam shrugged. "I can get around it."
Sure. "Maybe Bobby will know something that'll help."
"Maybe." He sounded doubtful.
The sky above them looked like it was about to split open, nature battling to take its regular course. Dean took Sam by the arm. "Inside," he said, and guided his brother to the porch.
The Impala was packed and ready to go. Dean leaned against it, watching Sam and Bobby talking on the porch. They had planned to head out much earlier, but Bobby had received a call that Tyler was awake, and asking for him. The three men headed to the hospital. Sam and Dean made a brief visit before bowing out to give Bobby and Tyler some time to talk things out. Then there was packing to be done, which took all of three minutes and consisted of cramming clothes into duffels. More time was spent making sure the repairs on the property would hold out, that Bobby was good to be back on his own. Not that he wasn't totally self-sufficient, but Dean wanted to be sure they left him in a good place. His affection for the man was growing by leaps and bounds, and he could honestly say that he loved the old coot.
But this, what was going on before his eyes at that moment, was puzzling him. Bobby and Sam had shared no less than five brief conversations that day, all private. They weren't hiding in corners, but the hushed tones would cease when Dean came near. He knew Sam was talking to Bobby about Dean's situation, and that Dean wouldn't want to be a part of it. So there they were, talking, and slowly walking towards him and the car.
Oddly enough, Dean wasn't exactly itching to go. It had been nice having a home base.
The pair joined up with him, each scuffing their shoes in the dirt. They looked at each other. There was a silent exchange between them.
"Where you headed?" Bobby finally asked.
Dean shrugged. "Gonna check out a few of these storms, I guess. See what's up. Hoping these demons went back underground. Doubt it, though."
"Demonic activity is still decreasing," Sam added. "Plenty of storms, but nothing going on yet."
"Looks like Tyler scared the shit out of them," Dean grinned.
"Tyler scared the shit out of me," Bobby said pleasantly. "By the way, he wanted me to tell you boys to 'keep the faith'. That it can work wonders if you let it."
"I still want to know what the hell he did out there."
"I want to know what the hell he did. He ain't talking. I'm not sure he even knows."
"Nah, that dude knows more than he's letting on," Dean muttered. "If that's faith, it's freaky as hell."
"And that's because you know how freaky hell is," Bobby countered, and extended his hand for Dean to shake. "You boys don't be a stranger, and do go out too far. Don't think this is over. I may need you back here real quick if this suddenly goes south. And if you need me. . ."
"We'll call." Sam shook Bobby's hand. "Give Tyler our best, will ya?"
"Sure. He wants to see you boys again." Bobby shook his head and scratched the back of his neck. "Just my luck. Now I can't get rid of the jackass."
"Hey, that's your fault. You didn't have to hover over him."
"I wasn't hovering. I was curious." Bobby stuck his hands in his pockets and backed up, then started. "Oh! Dean. Almost forgot." He pulled out a folded sheet of paper. "He wanted me to give this to you."
Dean felt his brow pucker. "Thanks,"he said, taking the paper. He didn't open it.
The wind continued to howl. Bobby looked up, then startled and blinked in astonishment. He slowly wiped at his eye, and looked at his fingers. "Well. I'll be damned."
Sam grinned all over. "Guess we better get going, or we'll be stuck here. You better get inside."
Dean was already hitching his jacket over his head. "And we need to talk about getting some sod for this mudhole of yours! See ya, Bobby!"
"You boys take care!" Bobby called out, quickly heading for his house. Too bad the wind hadn't tried to level it. Still looked like it leaned to the left a bit.
Sam took the wheel. Dean groused and slid into the passenger's seat. "I can drive, you know."
"I know. I just want to."
Sam said nothing, just cranked. "So, where to?"
Dean thought about it. They could check out the storms. But, if nothing was really going on, there was no reason to follow them. He fingered the rim of his cast. It was going to drive him crazy. He didn't see it staying on longer than a week. Hell, he could just splint his wrist. "For now? I want to forget about all this. Time to have a little fun."
Sam frowned. "Dean?"
"I mean it, Sam. I'm sick of all this. Time for a break. Good food, good company, hey, maybe we can find a decent set of twins, whaddya say? Huh?" He glanced back to the fence that barred Bobby's property from the hills beyond. To the hills he had fled to when he was so desperate for freedom.
"You want to have fun."
"You're such a stick in the mud, Sam. Or you will be if you don't get this thing cranked and get us out of here."
Sam nodded. Dean noticed he looked at the hills, too. Probably mirroring Dean's thoughts. "We still have time," he said quietly. "I'm still gonna get you out of this, Dean. You've just gotta have faith."
"Man, that word 'faith' is gonna haunt me for the rest of my life, I swear it is." Dean jabbed his finger forward. "Make it so, ensign."
They blew out in a cloud of dust that was instantly beat down as the rain started to fall in a deluge.
I told Bobby to give you this little note. I have something to tell you, something I didn't want to say in front of Bobby or your brother. It's very short, but I think you need to hear it.
No matter what you do, no matter what you're up against, you're not alone. No matter how bad it gets, you're not alone. No matter how dark the situation, how stormy, or how frightening. . .
you're not alone.
Even when your time comes.
You're not alone.
Thank you SO MUCH for reading! To be continued in Chaos: Revelations.