For Bhoney - thanks, darling for your generosity. This fic has definitely been a challenge and I enjoy challanges. Thank you to Alaina for the beta and Sheila for her patience :) Here is it folks, the final chapter. Enjoy!
The only thing keeping Sam on his feet was Dean.
The adrenaline rush he'd had while fighting the shapeshifting tulpa thing bled out of him like the blood soaking his clothes. His chest hurt and his leg screamed in agony as he fought through waves of dizziness to keep going. His wrists were numb though and for that small favour Sam was thankful. He was positive that all the frantic twisting, flexing and sheer determination to get out of those ropes had sprained at least one of them. They were almost at the bottom of the stairs when Dean adjusted his hold on Sam, inadvertently squeezing on his right arm and Sam couldn't hide the hiss of pain. The numbness, apparently, short-lived.
"Just a little further," Dean's rumbled voice next to his ear held an apology. "You going to make it?"
"No," Sam slurred honestly –
And then Dean's grip was gone and he was falling to the floor.
"DEAN!" his name, roared, was the only warning Dean got as Charlie suddenly lunged from the bottom of the stairs, a baseball bat already swinging towards them.
Shoving Sam out of the way, Dean's forearm took the blow protecting him from a headshot.
Grunting in pain, Dean cradled the arm against his chest and charged the crazy man instead, using his body to slam into Charlie before Charlie could take another swing.
"Dean!" Sam shouted as Dean and Charlie went down in a tangle of limbs.
He was too busy trying to pound Charlie's face into the floor to do more than make sure they rolled away from where Sam had fallen. He barely noticed that although his brother had yelled at him, Sam hadn't gotten up yet. Dean was too intent on winning this brawl.
Charlie was tough and used Dean's own injuries to his advantage, grabbing at his arm and giving it a brutal twist.
"Shit," Dean bit out as he tried to ignore the pain and used Charlie's own grip on him to flip the guy back over and against the edge of the stairs. Yanking up on the man's shirt, Dean slammed him against the stairs, once, twice, there was blood, then Charlie's eyes rolled back in his head and he went limp. He slammed him one more time for good measure. For Sam.
Breathing hard, Dean still held on for a moment and then let go and rolled onto his back, his forearm clutched to his chest, positive he'd broken the damn thing.
"Dean! Dean!" Arnold was yelling his name. He groaned and shifted his head towards the bird-watcher. "Are you okay?"
No, was his immediate answer but then he saw Sam slumped unmoving on the floor a few feet away, and all concern about his own pain was shoved aside. "Sam," he gasped and pushed himself up to his knees, "check Sam."
Arnold was already crouched down next to his brother by the time Dean got to his feet and staggered over, his face blanching as he got a good look at Sam. The kid's shirt and jacket were blood soaked, the bitter stench of copper making his own stomach roll. Or maybe it was his concussion. It was kinda hard to tell right now.
"He's alive," the older man offered helpfully.
Dean wanted to roll his eyes but was afraid if he tried to do so, he'd pass out. This was so not good. Dropping heavily to his own knees again, and almost putting his teeth through his lip to keep from crying out in pain when it jarred his arm, Dean reached out with a shaky hand to check his brother.
The pulse was weak but fast.
"Shit," he sighed, worried. Sam needed help. His chest was a mess and the make-shift bandage Sam had wrapped around his leg was soaked through. They had to get out of here.
Glancing across at Charlie, Dean knew they didn't have much time before the guy woke up and as much as he wanted to just kill him and get it over with, the a-hole was still a human and murder was murder, no matter how justified.
A low moan had him looking down sharply at his brother. "Sam? Sammy?" he tried to coax the kid back to consciousness. They needed him on his feet.
"D'n," his slurred name never sounded better.
"Hey, you guys coming or what?" Gracie's voice was like nails on a chalkboard and Dean grit his teeth in annoyance. "Oh my goodness – what happened to Sammy?"
"Sam," Dean ground out. "His name is Sam. And aren't you supposed to be climbing out the window or something?"
"We did," Beth spoke up from behind her, "but when you guys didn't show up, we got worried and came back." She crouched down beside Sam, her face worried. "Is he okay?"
"I'm f'n," Sam's eyes were glassy and he didn't sound very convincing.
"Yah, sure you are," Dean humored him as he gently patted his brother on his shoulder. "Can you stay here with him a moment?" he looked at Beth as Gracie fluttered around behind them, grossed out by the blood.
"Sure," Beth sat down next to Sam and smiled at him even as she asked Dean. "What are you going to do?"
"Me and Superman here," he flashed a grin at Arnold, "need to make sure that that maniac," he tipped his head towards Charlie, "isn't going to be following us."
"Good idea," the girl nodded. "Go on, we'll take care of Sam, won't we, Gracie?"
Instantly the blond was on her knees on the other side of Sam, her mouth pursed in sympathy. "Oh the poor baby," she cooed, leaning over to plant a big, red kiss on his bloodied forehead. "Don't worry," she promised, "we'll take good care of him."
Sam flashed Dean a panicked look when Gracie pulled out a wad of tissue from her bra, spit on it and began rubbing at the mark she'd just left.
"Uh, okay then, since you're in such good hands," Dean accepted Arnold's hand up. "This won't take long," he promised his brother then turned away before Sam saw the grin.
Charlie was just regaining consciousness as Dean did a final check on his bindings. They'd improvised and had to use curtain tie-backs Arnold had found in another room.
"Dean," the lunatic growled as he tried to lunge forward but was held fast against the railing at the bottom of the stairs. "You asshole!"
Dean ignored him for the moment as he rifled one-handed through Charlie's pockets until he found the guy's wallet. Blinking to keep things in focus as the throbbing in his arm was making him nauseated; Dean held the billfold out to Arnold. "That'll cost you a dollar. Arnie, you wanna do the honors? Sammy, over there, has the swear jar." The girls were still crouched behind Dean on the floor next to his brother,
"What?" Charlie spat then groaned obviously feeling the effects of a concussion.
Arnold hurriedly pulled out a dollar, then looked at Charlie and plucked out a couple more. "I think he's going to be needing them," he defended when Dean gave him a look.
The hunter smirked. That man was beginning to grow on him.
"You can't do this," Charlie struggled again, then gave up, panting and in pain. "You won't get away with this!"
Dean stared at the man. He wanted nothing more than to put a bullet through his brain, and it took everything in him not to follow through on his natural instinct. Charlie was a murderer. He'd conjured up a truly terrible creature and used it to prey on others. And even worse, he'd hurt Sam, both in the past and the present…
But Charlie was still just a human as well, and as much as it killed Dean, he wouldn't do it.
No. He had other plans for the man. An anonymous tip to the police about the psycho and his little house of horrors should just about do it.
"You know," he started conversationally, "Sam would be very proud of me right now."
Charlie fixed him with a deadly glare and Dean couldn't resist – he gave another sharp kick to the guy's stomach. The other man doubled up as much as he could, tied the way he was.
"I'm not going to kill you," he promised after Charlie focused on him. "I'm going to let you live a very long time knowing that me and Sam are out there… and that we kicked your ass, again." His good hand reached into his coat pocket and he smiled coldly when he felt the blade against his fingers. Pulling the pocketknife out, Dean held it where Charlie could see.
For the first time, fear flickered on Charlie's face. "What – what are you going to do with that?"
A deadly smile twisted Dean's handsome face. He didn't say anything, only leaned over and grabbed Charlie's chin with his injured arm. Ignoring the blaze of fire that shot through his body, Dean tightened his grip on Charlie, angled his face to the side and pressed the blade against the man's skin.
Charlie struggled but Dean's grip was iron.
"Just gonna leave you with a little reminder… isn't that what you said about Sammy?" and then the blade bit into skin and Charlie screamed.
"Dean?" Sam called out to his brother.
"It's okay," Dean reassured him over his shoulder, ignoring the shocked gasps of Arnold and the girls. Four quick cuts later he was done and released Charlie's face.
"There you go." The grin was gone from his face as he stared at his handiwork – the letter 'W' was bleeding but unmistakable. "Consider this your warning. Next time, I don't care, I go for the kill." And then before he could change his mind, Dean turned away from Charlie and strode back to his brother.
"Okay, gang," he stopped to blink the spots out of his eyes. "Let's get this show on the road."
A soft meowing had him jumping as Gus, tail held high in the air, slowly sauntered across the hall towards them.
"Gus!" Arnold cried out in delight as he scooped his kitty up. "I was so worried."
Dean stared at the feline in shock but as the birdwatcher continued to coo, he couldn't help but grin. What a perfect ending to a stellar hunt.
Oh well, at least the cat was safe…
To his credit, Dean was able to help get his brother on his feet and out the window before the little spots obscured his vision, the world wavered around him, someone shouted his name, and then the ground came up to meet his face.
He was unconscious before his head hit the ground.
Someone was saying his name.
"Dean? C'mon, man, time to get up."
Crinkling his face in confusion, Dean groaned softly. He didn't want to get up. Right now he was warm and comfortable. The horrible burning pain in his arm was a muted throb, his stomach didn't feel like crawling up his throat and his head was a happy place. Nope. He wasn't getting up. Sam – and he knew it was Sam, he'd recognize that pestering voice from anywhere – could go soak his head in water.
"G'way," he mumbled and heard a soft chuckle.
"Sorry, dude. No can do."
"Is he awake yet?"
A second voice buzzed somewhere behind Sam's.
Bobby? Wait a sec…
The last thing Dean remembered was – his eyes shot open. "Sam!"
Strong hands pressed against him keeping him from lunging up in the bed. "Easy, bro, easy. It's okay, we're at Bobby's."
"Bobby's?" Dean lay back in the bed and stared around, recognizing the spare room at the older hunter's. He looked at Sam. The kid had pulled a chair up next to Dean's bed, and while he was pale and looked like an exhausted raccoon, he was beaming in relief and it helped settle Dean's immediate worry.
"Yeah. You've been out for a while. Do you remember the hospital?"
Dean frowned. "Hospital?" He searched his memory even as he took in the white plaster on his forearm, not really surprised as he kinda figured it was broken. His last memory was of cutting the initial in Charlie's cheek. "Uh… no."
Worry flashed across Sam's face but before Dean could say anything to reassure him that it was okay, that he was fine, Bobby clasped the younger man on the shoulder and cut in. "Don't sweat it, Sam. That'll be the concussion talking. Doc said he might have some short-term memory loss. He's too stubborn for anything else."
Dean wanted to glare but Sam's soft chuckle softened his pride. "What happened?" he asked instead.
"You're never going to believe it actually," Sam admitted. "But after you face-planted-"
"Stoically passed out," Dean corrected.
"Passed out," Sam gave him. "The girls and Arnold took over. Beth helped me while Gracie and Arnold carried you out." The younger Winchester shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, bro. I tried but…"
Dean carefully rolled his eyes. Only his brother would apologize for being badly enough hurt that he wasn't able to help. "Let it go, Sam. You would have just bled on my anyways… and blood is a bitc- pain to get out." He censored himself in time, not wanting to pay anything else to that dang jar.
Sam gave him a grateful smile and continued. "Anyways, they got us back to the car – Beth drove us the hospital; Gracie rode with Arnold. Oh hey, on that front – you are never going to believe it… I don't know what happened but those two have started dating! Gracie and Arnold."
"Dating?" Dean frowned, now that was an odd couple. He shivered at the thought, then asked. "Exactly how long was I out?"
"Sam called me from the hospital yesterday morning, and we only busted you out this morning and brought you right back here." Bobby supplied.
"Oh." It felt like it should have been longer. "How's Beth?"
"Doing good…" Bobby took off his hat and glanced between the brothers. "And I just wanna say, thank you, boys. Her Daddy has been a good friend of mine for years."
"So we heard," Sam chimed in. "Uncle Bobby."
A hint of color flushed Bobby's face as he scowled and jammed his hat back on his head.
"Hey, wait a second," a sly smile curled Dean's lips. "You're wearing your hat – that means I win!"
Bobby's hand froze on his hat, the blush climbing higher up his face and then he just grinned and stared laughing. "Well, I'll be. I guess you did. To be honest, I kinda forgot about that… what with the worry about Beth and then you morons and all."
"I'm just happy that Sam can retire that da- darn jar, once and for all!"
As if by magic that swear jar suddenly appeared in Sam's hands and he held it out to Dean.
Dean shook his head in disbelief but took it when his brother passed it to him. Seeing Sam wince, the frown was back on his face. "You okay?" he asked, realizing he hadn't asked before.
Sam opened his mouth, to probably say he was fine but Bobby interrupted. "He's supposed to be resting too, but the damn fool refused to go lie down until he was sure you were going to be okay."
"Well I'm perfect," Dean gave his brother a pointed look. "So go take a nap or something… between Bobby's ankle and my busted arm, you crash and you're on your own."
"All right. All right. I know when I'm not wanted," Sam started to get up from the chair, holding on to the edge of the bed until he got his balance. Dean's worry went up a notch. "So what are you going to do with it?"
"With what?" Dean asked.
"The money." Sam tipped his head towards the jar Dean was still holding. "It's yours."
"Well, duh," Dean snorted. "I was there, remember?" And then he smirked as he realized just how much money was in the jar and knew exactly what he was going to do with it…
And two days later when he and Sam were feeling well enough to get back on the road, he pointed the Impala west and said only two words when Sam asked where they were going.
"Las Vegas." Dean held up the jar and gave it a significant shake. "City of sin, bro."
And if Sam saw the irony in it all, he never said anything. Just got comfortable in the passenger seat and prepared for the long trip.