Once again, a big happy birthday to Phx, and my thanks for being such a wonderful mate.
And loads of hugs go to Devon99, Sendintheclowns, and Neata Sanderson for all their wonderful beta work.
I'm sorry for not replying to some of your reviews for the last chapter. It's been a hectic few days and I've had a lot to deal with. All completely my own fault, by the way. Some shit happened and... well, like I said. My own fault. Thought you'd rather have the last chapter than me harping on about it...
But review this and I promise to respond.
Dean crept back into Sam's hospital room, anxious not to disturb the kid during his much needed rest. He'd been back to their motel room for yet another shower and change of clothes before coming here, feeling certain the smell of gasoline and smoke would alert suspicion, especially since The Magic Club went up in flames a few hours ago.
On leaving the club, Dean had locked up the building and left a sign on the door claiming the building was 'closed for refurbishment', then he'd taken Sam to the hospital. The kid was suffering from hypothermia and shock, and Dean was particularly wary of secondary drowning. He wasn't taking any chances with Sam's health.
Dean had stayed around long enough to make sure his little brother was taken care of, then headed out to dispose of the evidence.
It hadn't taken long to find the emaciated and dehydrated bodies of The Late Great Raymondo's victims; the bastard had kept them under the trap doors in the hidden practice room, like some kind of sick trophies. In between bouts of shivering, Sam had told him about the dark art books in Raymondo's dressing room. He'd liberally sprinkled them with salt, along with the bodies of the magician and his assistants, and sprayed them all with gasoline.
He used a whole box of matches, just to be sure, then let the flames spread through the room before sealing the brick door back in place. While most of the foundations were made of stone, there was enough wood down there to keep it burning. Hopefully the heat would become so intense, so white hot, that nothing would survive intact. By the time anyone spotted the building was on fire, the entire basement would be engulfed, and the foundations and its contents would be a raging mass of flames devouring everything in sight. With a bit of extra luck, the building would collapse, burying any other possible evidence of what had gone on that night just long enough for the Winchesters to hit the road and disappear.
It was regrettable the families of the victims would never have any real closure on the matter, but Dean hoped the anonymous, typed letter he'd send out on the morning of the brothers' departure would help them come to terms with their loss, and eventually learn to move on.
In the mean time, Dean was planning on a very in depth conversation with Sam at some point, though getting him to that point would be comparable to pulling teeth. Sighing, he pushed a lock of hair out the kid's eyes, and studied his pale complexion.
Sam's hypothermia was being treated with warm IV fluids, and humidified oxygen fed through a nasal cannula hooked under his nose. His wrists were tightly bandaged, and Dean's explanation for those would not go down well with Sam when he woke up.
"Uh, ya see, my little brother was necking with his girlfriend when the brakes on the car gave out and plunged them into the lake."
The doctor's eyebrow had risen slowly, before pointedly glaring at the abrasions on Sam's wrists. "Really."
Smothering a grin, Dean continued awkwardly. "Ah… yeah… Uh, apparently she's into the kinky stuff, ya know, handcuffs and all that? So Sam was only too happy to oblige."
The doc's eyes had nearly bulged out of his head. "Do go on."
Is this guy taking notes?
"Yeah, she handcuffed him to the steering wheel, but the dumb kids forgot the key. So they called me on my cell phone, I just got there in time to haul him out…" Dean had shrugged. "The girlfriend dumped him, went home, and I brought him into the ER. You know the rest."
Oh yeah, Sam was gonna be furious when he found out. But at least it would keep his mind occupied until he was ready to talk.
Sam refused to talk to Dean for three days after he signed out AMA. If he closed his eyes he could still see the looks his doctor and nurse kept giving him when they thought he wasn't looking, and his face flushed scarlet with embarrassment.
When his brother roared with laughter, Sam was so angry there should have been steam coming out his ears.
Sitting on his bed and munching moodily on a slice of pizza, Sam still quietly fumed, his formula one brain racing to think up a suitable plan of vengeance.
"Here. Figure we could both use it."
A cold beer was thrust under his nose and he tilted his head back, eyes meeting Dean's. For once, his brother's gaze was serious. Sam nodded his thanks and tentatively accepted the beverage.
Seeing the break through and all the more grateful for it, Dean relaxed, sat on his bed and shuffled back to the headboard on his butt.
"So," Dean glanced over enquiringly, refusing to be put off by the hunched shoulders and sad eyes. "You wanna tell me what that was all about?"
Sam shrugged. "Which part?" he could play the role of dumb only so far.
Dean waved his beer in a vague gesture. "The whole, 'Sam, stop breathing' thing." Though said casually, Sam heard the undercurrent of fear and the silent I'm here. Let me in. I want to help.
Snorting softly, Sam wasn't entirely sure his brother wanted to hear this, but this was Dean was asking him. Not demanding, unlike their dad…
"When..." Sam faltered for a second, then seemed to find some inner strength. "When he looked in my eyes that first time, there was no gradual loss of control, it was sudden, like... like my strings were cut and reattached to him," Sam explained, quietly. "I couldn't move, blink, or smile without his say so. Raymondo had complete control over me. And th-that included my breathing."
Dean said nothing but took a fierce swallow of beer, wishing it was something stronger.
"Before he took me down into that room, he… uh… had a little fun demonstrating that," Sam saw Dean's shoulders tense up from the corner of his eye. "H-he nearly s-suffocated me several times… I don't know exactly how many… b-but I lost c-count after the first couple. I couldn't st-start breathing until he told me…"
Sam dipped his head, eyes clenched shut, hands curled into fists.
Dean rubbed a hand down his face and licked his lips.
Now he was getting it. Not that he hadn't understood before, but this was Sam. The kid hated anyone having any kind of control over him, not his friends and especially not his family, but for a complete stranger…
Sam heaved in a shaky breath and faced his brother with a fake smile and watery eyes. "Yuh!"
Dean watched him for a few seconds, then decided it was safe to comment. "I know you won't wanna hear this? But I'm glad you nailed the bastard."
Sam blinked, still feeling the lingering shadow of guilt at having taken a human life. "Huh?"
"At first, I wished it was me, partly for the satisfaction of taking 'im out myself," Dean continued, fingering the label on his beer bottle, "and partly because of what he did to those people, but mostly because of what he did to you." Green eyes flared briefly with fierce love and protectiveness. "But you needed it."
"Dean," Sam shook his head in despair, voice hoarse. "I killed a fucking human. That's not... that's not something I needed! Not something I can come back from"
"Yes you can!" Dean leaned over and gripped Sam's shoulder, forcing the kid to look at him. "Because that guy? Yeah, he was human, I'll grant ya, but he was a human who dabbled in things he had no business getting involved with, and that turned him into a monster." A gentle squeeze of the shoulder belied his anger. "He gave you no choice. It was him or us, man." Dean's voice softened along with his eyes. "Him or us. That's all it comes down to."
Sam stared at him for a moment. "Ok." He whispered.
But it wasn't, not by a long shot, Dean could see that clearly enough, and it wouldn't be for a long time to come.
However, there was only so much the brothers were prepared to talk about in one sitting, so Dean called an adjournment by finishing his beer and grabbing another from the cooler.
"Same again?" he offered, smirking in a way that made everything, just for that moment, feel normal again.
Sam laughed and drained the dregs of his first before accepting his second. "Sure." He raised his beer.
The bottles clinked together in a silent but brief farewell to the innocent victims of The Not-so-Great Raymondo.
"Uh, Dean? Thanks."
"For saving me. That was pretty neat, by the way."
"Yeah, well." Dean's casual shrug didn't fool Sam for a second. "It took me long enough to realise the guy had some serious TK mojo. I mean, it was the only way the whole 'gauntlet' thing could've gone down." A heavy sigh. "I wasn't sure it would work, but when the damn axe barely made a dent, I was out of options. The pipes were made of iron, so they weren't gonna give... I really thought you were…" Done for.
As if afraid of revealing too much, Dean broke off and cleared his throat. "Just so ya know, you ever talk about me giving you the kiss of life in front of anyone, and I'll kick your ass from here into the middle of next week."
"Right!" Sam smirked around his beer.
Another silence descended as Dean picked up the TV remote, but just before he hit the standby button he added: "And thanks for saving me, ya know, from that axe." He shuddered. "Coulda been nasty."
"You're welcome, Indiana." Sam grinned. "Shoulda seen your face when I pointed that gun at you, though."
"That little vein in the side of your head sure was bulgin'…"
"…all red and angry…"
"I'm warnin' ya bitch!" Dean levelled a finger at his brother. "Shut ya pie hole or I'll shut it for ya!"
"…kinda like now, in fact." Sam, still grinning, tilted his head in consideration.
Dean's glare could have withered a Grand Duchess.
Sam sniggered quietly and grabbed the TV remote. He'd been thinking about his revenge for the last week, lulling his brother into a false sense of security.
But now, his time had come.
Every dog has its day, and today's the day…
Dean stirred and snuffled in his sleep. But when he tried to turn over onto his stomach, he woke up in a panic.
"Sam?! What the hell's goin' on?"
…that I'm the dog!
"Mornin' Dean!" Sam called out cheerily from the breakfast bar, chewing on some toast and channel surfing. "How's the head?"
His brother had brought out the tequila the night before and Sam saw his golden opportunity. Pretending to knock back each shot hadn't been an easy one to pull off at first, but as Dean fell deep under the power of Jose Gold, Sam had simply replaced his brother's empty shot glass for his full one, and by that point Dean hadn't even noticed his little brother was stone cold sober.
So, now, Sam had a grumpy big brother with the hangover from hell, who was about to go psychotic when he realised what Sam had done to him.
The rattle of metal on wood signified that Dean had finally figured out that he was handcuffed and spread eagled on his bed. But he had yet to realise there was worse to come…
"Sam, what the hell am I wearing?!"
Ah. There he is.
Sam couldn't resist it. Grinning broadly, he stood up, walked over to his own bed and picked up his cell phone, flipping open the camera lens.
"That would be Sadie the waitress's push-up bra you kept as a souvenir. Remember Dean? From all those years ago?"
Dean growled warningly and yanked on the handcuffs again. "You let me out of these right now, you little…"
Sam snapped a few pictures of his scowling and helpless brother. "The same push-up bra you planted in my duffle when Dad went through it at your suggestion!" he sauntered over to the laptop and hooked up his cell phone via the USB port. "You told him that his missing hunting knife was in there, even though it was, in fact, hidden under your pillow at the time."
Dean's mouth fell open, but he wisely kept quiet.
A few clicks of the mouse later, and Sam's grin turned unbearably smug. "There. That should do it."
Dean regarded him suspiciously. "Do what, exactly? Sammy? Do what?"
Sam pulled a tiny key out of his jean pocket and dangled it just out of Dean's reach.
"Here's the deal, I let you loose and that's it. No more pranks or petty recriminations," Sam admonished as sternly as he could, which was hard what with his older brother sulking and pouting like a six year old... wearing a bra no less! "You go back on your word and the photos, hidden in an archived and password protected file, go out to everyone on my contact list. Understood?"
Dean was about to protest, but he stopped and hung his head for a moment.
Sam watched him, waiting for some snarky comment or other, but Dean just raised his head with a soft smile.
"Ok, Sammy. The student has finally outdone the master." He shook his head in amusement. "You got yaself a deal."
Sam proceeded to unlock the handcuffs, missing the evil grin that briefly passed across his brother's face.
The thing is, Sam could trust his brother to watch his back and keep him safe. Dean would give his life, his last dime, the shirt off his back, you name it. He'd give it all for Sammy. Sam could ask his big bro for almost anything.
The one thing he absolutely shouldn't have asked for, however, was Dean's word to abstain from the prank wars, because that way of thinking was only going to end in tears… or boxer shorts spiked with itching powder.
Dear, oh dear…
Hope you all enjoyed that, in spite of the dodgy physics employed in this fic. I'm actually a Biologist by trade and hopeless at maths etc, so please don't have a go at the whole 'water blowing out the glass' theory… if you feel the urge to lambaste me for it, please take a deep breath, and remember: It's just a story!
I'd much rather hear what you liked about it, rather than what you didn't.
Yeah, I know. I'm an oversensitive soul.