Firefly 'Verse - Snow Angels 1/2

By: Suz Mc

His brain was running on two separate tracks. One part was trying to follow the stupid blue line the volunteer at the front desk had said would take him straight to the right wing. The other track was simply repeating the mantra "Don't be dead, don't be dead, don't be dead," in a humming loop.

Elevator. Get inside. Seventh floor.

No friggin' wonder Dean hadn't answered the phone when he called.

Sam jammed his finger hard against the seven on the keypad, then hit it twice more just to be sure that the damn thing was listening. An orderly leaning against the wall was eyeing him like he was a moron for hitting the button more than once and if he said one word Sam was going to pop him right in the mouth.

Please don't be dead or dying or even circling the drain of dying.

He shouldn't have gone, not so soon. They'd only been here in Lawrence, here in the real world, for a couple of months. Who the fuck knew what might have followed them here, just waiting for Dean to be out gunned and distracted?

The fucking slow as Christmas elevator stopped on the second floor. A starched and tailored doctor got in and held the door open, the goddamn door that kept the thing from moving, for two nurses to get inside.

Hurry up, damn it.

He should have kept his mouth shut when he saw the stories online, but he couldn't help but do some searching for a job even if he planned to hand it over to someone else. That had been the plan when he started surfing the usual sites. Never planned to actually find a hunt. It's just that they'd been still for so long and the underworld was never still, never stopped showing up topside to gobble up the innocent.

Floor number three. Door opened. One got off. Three got on, yakking about what they were going to do for lunch.

Seriously.

No, he should have just passed the intel on to Bobby. He'd have found someone to do it. It was too soon. Hell, Dean had just gotten his real life started. Emily was just settling into school and had slept an entire week without one screaming nightmare. It was too soon to leave them unguarded because that was now Sam Winchester's job. Family watchdog.

You've got to be fucking kidding me. Is this thing stopping on every floor?

Dean had taken one look at the articles about kids being mauled and eaten by a wild dog just thirty minutes away and he was ready to head out the door. It was a Div. The sugary residue on all the bodies was the giveaway in the autopsies. It was where Hansel and Gretel stories came from, only the Div wasn't a witch living in a cookie house. This bastard looked human then morphed into a wild hairy dog that snacked on kids, the smaller the better. Dean had gotten so freaked you'd have thought the thing was circling their house.

Thirty minutes away was too close. He couldn't stand that monster one sitcom's drive time away from his child. Dean was picking up the phone to get Bobby down to babysit when Sam jacked the phone out of his hand.

"Somebody else should do this, Dean." Sam knew Dean shouldn't go. Not yet. But Dean didn't trust anybody else.

"We killed one of these bastards before, don't you remember? Can't just drown it like the lore says." Dean had reached for his phone and Sam had refused to give it up.

"I remember. Silver round in the head while it's in the water. I know." Sam had watched Dean pace around the kitchen table, checking his watch so he wouldn't be late to pick up Emily at kindergarten by noon. She could stay until five. The school had aftercare, but Dean couldn't stand it. He was there at the gate at 11:45, bouncing on his heels and passing the time chatting up the pretty soccer moms every day. "Bobby will pass that information on to whoever goes. They'll get it."

Watching Dean's old life and his new one smacking into each other like rams clashing horns had put this awesomely bad idea into Sam's brain. "What if they don't, Sam?"

Jesus, will you women stop gossiping and get off the friggin' elevator?! The door's been open for ten seconds!

That's when he'd volunteered. Dean would trust him to get the job done, the only person he'd trust beside himself. "I'll go."

Dean had lectured him for an hour, packed the back of Tahoe he'd just finished tricking out for him to drive, and crammed a few hundred bucks in his pocket. "I want change back from that," he'd said, like he was sending a teenager to the mall.

He'd waited until Emily was home so he could say good-bye because hunts didn't always go well. Sam had obviously survived them all before, but things didn't always go as planned so he wasn't taking any chances. There had been tears, actual tears, and the feeling of being loved and wanted so much by another human being was such an emotional rush that Sam almost shed a few girly tears himself.

Dean hadn't lied to Emily, wasn't going to do that. He'd told her Uncle Sammy was going to kill a monster that had hurt some kids and when he got back they'd have a party.

"Go get that bad monster, Uncle Sammy."

"Remember, Em, it's our secret. You can't tell anybody." Sam had picked her up for a quick hug and then gave her back to Dean.

Emily's little finger had pressed to her lips while she whispered, "I know. Shhhhhhh…"

Emily and Dean had sent him off to battle, waving as he pulled out of the driveway three days ago. Maybe something else had watched him go, had been waiting for Dean to be vulnerable.

Thank you so damn much for finally getting to the damn floor!

The elevator gave an irritating ping and Sam did something he rarely did, used his bulk to shove people out of his way. There was grumbling, but he didn't give a rat's ass. The blue line was waiting for his feet right outside the elevator door and he started running it again. Sam ran smack into the nurse's station, catching himself against the edge with both hands.

"Winchester. What room?"

The young nurse's calm in the face of his panted out fragments was annoying.

"Are you family?"

"Yes. What room?"

"Seven twenty-five." She pointed down the corridor to the right. "But you should be very quiet."

The silence finally got through to his brain and he dialed down the volume. It was like a tomb in here. Tomb. The word had popped into his head with that old cliché and he hated the implication.

"Thank you." Sam turned and took off at a slow trot down the hallway.

***

Sam's next purchase was definitely going to be an extra battery and charger for his fucking cellphone. Too many apps drains too much power. When his bars dropped, he realized the charger was on the desk at home. If he hadn't been so cheap, he'd just have gone ahead and bought one last night, then maybe Dean could have called when whatever disaster happened. Or before.

Things to buy tomorrow. Spare battery. Brain.

Where the hell was Emily? The house was empty. All the note on the door said was "Sam – Accident, come to Lawrence Memorial Hospital." It wasn't even Dean's hand writing.

Seven twenty-one, seven twenty-three,…

Finally, he'd made it to the right room and shoved the door open hard with a flat palm. The lights were dimmed, curtains drawn so it took Sam's eyes a second or two to adjust to the change. What he saw jerked a knot in his stomach. The body on the bed only took up about three feet of length, curled up on its side. Emily was rolled onto a little ball, eyes shut tight, with an IV poking into the skin of her tiny left hand. Her dad was holding her right hand.

Dean was sitting in a chair that was practically wedged against the hospital bed. His face was resting inches away from Emily's, his free hand stroking her hair, careful not to disturb a huge white bandage wrapped around the back of her skull.

This was not what he'd expected.

"Dean."

Dean was too focused on Emily to hear, until he said it again. When Dean finally turned toward him, the look of boiling fear was unmistakable. His features were sharp, stretched tight and pale, but when he realized he was looking at Sam, he gave a slight exhale. Slowly, he got out of his chair and eased Emily's hand out of his. He looked her over carefully, gently moving her loose ponytail across the pillow and away from the gauze covering whatever hit she'd taken to the back of her head.

"Be back in a minute, Cutie Pie." He leaned in to brush a kiss across her forehead. "Uncle Sammy's here." There was a pause, like he was hoping those dark brown eyes would pop open, but they stayed shut tight.

Dean was on his way over, moving stiffly like he'd spent way too long in position hunched over Emily on the hospital bed.

"Hey, Sammy. I couldn't get you on the phone so I told one of the neighbors to leave you a note." It was more like an apology than an accusation.

"Dead battery." Sam shot another look toward the bed. "What the hell happened? Is she gonna' be okay?"

Dean took a place against the wall, rubbing his temples with one hand. "She's got a hairline skull fracture but they did a CT scan and there's no bleeding or swelling. The doctor said she should be fine, she just hasn't come to yet."

"How long?"

"About four hours."

The way Dean said it expressed far more than the words. "That's a long time for a bump on the head."

"I know."

He felt like crap for pointing out the obvious and leaned his back on the wall beside his brother. "What did it, Dean? Did something come after you two? I shouldn't have left."

"No, Sammy. It was my fault. Stupid." His eyes were closed, so he could totally focus on the guilt he was feeling.

Sam cleared his throat and tried to be the calm rational one. "What happened?"

"I got finished with that Dodge early, so when I picked her up from school we just took off. You know, to go have some fun." There was a slight smile on his face when he said it. Dean's idea of fun had generally involved beer and girls high in giggle and low in standards. That wasn't his exclusive menu anymore. "We went to that new mall with the ice skating rink."

"You on ice skates?"

"Naw. There were some older girls working the rink and they were giving lessons, so Emily was up and skating in no time. Fell on her butt enough to get good and icy, but she got the hang of it and had a ball. I snapped some pics on my phone, but we didn't send them to you because I didn't want to distract you if you were in the middle of something." Dean tore his eyes away from Emily and got briefly off track. "Did you get the Div?"

"Yeah, I got it. Pretended to be a candy vendor at the park. Bouncing around Hell as we speak."

"Good."

"Did she get hurt skating?"

"No. We stayed until they closed so we got home really late. On the way home she heard the forecast for snow over night." The smile was back. "Kid lost her mind she was so excited. Growing up in Austin, I guess she'd never seen snow before. All she could talk about was making snow angels and snowmen and hoping you'd be home in the morning to help."

While Emily had been pondering snow, Sam had been grappling with a Div in water up to his waist. The hairy bastard had a harder time fighting with a grown man than gobbling up a preschooler. It was a rush to pump a round into that monster's head when he finally got it under water.

"I'm sorry I wasn't here."

"You had work, Sam. It was important." Dean pushed away from the wall. "I wanna go back over there." He went back to his vigil perch at Emily's bedside, running one finger across her round cheek.

There was an extra chair in the corner, so Sam pulled it up on the other side of the bed so that Dean could talk to him and still be close to Emily. She hadn't been this still, this quiet, since they came to Lawrence. It had been two blurred months, full of getting the hang of things suburban, assimilating like they were newly landed aliens. Dean revolved around Emily and getting the garage going and Sam had revolved around them. Mostly smooth, broken by incidents of sheer panic like when all Emily wanted to be for Halloween was Dorothy and there wasn't a costume to be found within a thousand miles.

And then there was the ordeal of getting Emily into the private school Dean picked because the whole friggin' thing was on holy ground. God, Dean's performance was Oscar worthy. Quoted scripture and everything to get the head mistress of Lawrence Christian Academy to make an exception and bump Emily to the top of the list. Sam had almost needed a shovel to dig them out from under the pile of shit Dean was spouting.

And the other business with the house, that had been weird even by Winchester standards.

"I should have known she was too excited to wait." Dean was staring down into Emily's face, scanning for any sign that she was waking up. "The only way I got her to sleep was to swear that if there was snow in the morning, we'd be out there in it."

"Bribery, huh?"

"Quickly becoming Daddy's best friend." He propped one elbow up on the bed and leaned into his palm. "She was up at five freakin' o'clock, in her pajamas, jumping up and down by my bed, babbly about getting outside in the snow." One hand went back to stroking her cheek, rubbing down her little arm and hoping she'd feel it and wake up. "I was trying to wake up, told her sure we'd go, and I started fumbling around for my pants. I just didn't think."

"Didn't think about what, Dean?"

"Never occurred to me that she wouldn't wait to get dressed first. I just got my feet into my boots when I heard the front door open. By the time I got to the stairs, she'd hit the ice on the top step in those fuzzy slippers she likes. God, Sam, she didn't even have time to yell it happened so fast. She was in the air and then she was on the sidewalk bleeding."

Dean was playing it out in his mind while he was telling the story and a sharp flinch even ran through his body at the thought of Emily's head impacting with the concrete. One of them was always up early. Maybe if Sam had been there, in his room at the bottom of the stairs, he would have been able to head her off.

"I'm sorry, Dean, but listen, this isn't your fault. Kids just get hurt. Hell, we had plenty of scrapes that had nothing to do with hunts. It happens."

"If I knew her better, I mean, I should have known she'd do that."

"How the hell could you?"

"Because I'm her dad."

"Would you stop?" Sam had to use that newly acquired tone dedicated to shaking Dean out of his need to be dad with a capital D on his chest. "They said she'd be okay and we'll go home and put a deadbolt up high enough that she can't reach it. All parents figure it out as they go, dude. I know you think you're supposed to be some sort of super human dad, but you're not, you're just the regular kind. Get used to it."

"Come on, baby, wake up for Daddy." All of his energy, all of his will was pouring down into Emily's little ear. It was the way fathering was supposed to be with the kid as the bullseye of everything that mattered.

Sam reached across the bed and added his touch to Emily's back. "Em, it's Uncle Sammy. I missed you. It's time to wake up and make your dufus daddy give us the party he promised when I got back. I even filled up the AirHeads Extreme stash for us."

"Hear that, Cutie Pie?"

The little body stayed still, breathing slowly and calmly under the cool white sheet.

TBC