It's been a long, weird road, and we've reached the end of it. Obviously the biggest thanks go to Zatnikatel for letting me play in her world for a while. A special note to Natasha K, who spent a rainy day in Seoul reading and reviewing like EVERY story I've written. Thank you SO much for that, it made my day.
"Couldn't you have at least snagged me some pants?" Dean groused. "I'm flappin' in the breeze here." He yanked at his gown, pressing his knees together in mock-modesty.
Kathleen scowled and pushed the oxygen mask back over his nose, giving him a slitty-eyed glare. "You're dying, shut up," she hissed, tugging a sheet up to his chest. He gave her an exaggerated eye-roll but complied, sinking back against the pillows as Kathleen and Sam trundled him out of the room on a squeaky-wheeled gurney.
Sam, uncomfortable in the slightly-too-small paramedic's uniform (they don't come in Sasquatch size, Kathleen had snarked), pulled his baseball cap lower to shield his eyes as they passed the nurses' station, Kathleen feigning the hand-wringing anxiety of a concerned friend or lover. The nurse at the desk didn't even look up from her romance novel as they bundled Dean onto the elevator, and Kathleen thumbed SB-1.
The doors shooshed open in the subbasement, revealing a dingy underground parking structure, lit by flickering, flyspecked bare bulbs. A row of battered ambulances with dinged up fenders and broken headlights lined the back wall. Sam turned to Kathleen, eyebrow twitching upward. "Really?"
"You got a better idea?" Kathleen asked pointedly, one hand on her hip. "It's the best way to leave the hospital unnoticed."
Dean pushed aside his oxygen mask and growled, "What about my car?"
"Already taken care of." Kathleen pressed her index finger to the side of her nose and smirked. "Would you two just trust me?" she asked, jerking open the rear doors of the ambulance. Dean rolled off the gurney and clambered aboard, making no effort at decency as his gown flapped open. Kathleen couldn't stifle a little snort of laughter as Sam made a gagging noise and slammed the doors shut behind his brother with a bit more force than was necessary.
Sam and Kathleen climbed into the front seat and Sam pried open the steering column with a set of Gerber pliers that Kathleen dug out of the dashbox. "Never hotwired an ambulance before," he commented as the engine turned over with a diesel rumble.
"Ya learn something new every day," Dean sniped, poking his head through the hatch into the front seat. He had wrapped himself in a blanket and looked to Kathleen like a little boy who had just woken from a restless sleep. "Don't forget about my car."
Kathleen shot him a look. "Don't make me come back there," she warned, but she was met only with a devilish grin and a quirked come-hither eyebrow, and with a bitchy huff from Sam.
If Sam had thought that navigating the icy roads in the stolen coupe was hair-raising, driving the heavy, boxy ambulance was positively ass-puckering. Kathleen leaned forward into the windscreen, peering into the flying snow and calling out directions into a bewildering maze of tree-lined, snow-slicked roads.
Finally Sam spotted the twin glow of headlights beaming through the gale, and as he neared them he recognized the dark bulk of the Impala. A breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding escaped him in a bark of laughter. He stepped on the brakes, and his stomach clutched a bit as the ambulance fishtailed slightly on the ice. "Yeah, let's crash into the Impala, just to cap off a great couple of days," he muttered, drawing a hard glare from Dean.
Kathleen jumped out of the ambulance as Gamble clambered out of the Impala. "Are you okay?" she asked, pulling her coat tighter against her chest.
Gamble shrugged and nodded. "Other than having the weirdest day of my entire life, yeah." Kathleen glanced at the gash on his forehead but he brushed away her concern. "Just a flesh wound," he grinned. "You should see my vest. That thing cracked my fuckin' SAPI plate."
"Heard anything from Hop?" Kathleen shivered and Gamble handed her a pair of gloves out of his coat pocket.
"He's only been blowing my phone up for about an hour." Gamble's mouth twisted in a curl of disgust.
"You think he's onto you?" Now that life and limb were safe, Kathleen's mind was now churning over how to explain away all the madness that had happened, once again, in Hibbing.
Gamble shrugged again. "Not a clue. He's doing a lot of screaming but hasn't made any accusations. Not yet at least. Think we're okay, at least for now."
Dean nearly tumbled out of the back of the ambulance but Sam managed to catch him by the elbow. Gamble looked him up and down. "Nice outfit, dude." He shrugged out of his coat and handed it to Dean. "And nice car, by the way. You ever think of selling it?" The sour look Dean gave him was answer enough and Gamble couldn't stop a laugh.
Kathleen turned to Sam. "You guys had better go. The sooner you get out of Saint Louis County the better."
"No offense, but the sooner we get out of Minnesota the better," Sam replied. After a second of hesitation he pulled Kathleen into a hug, being careful not to bump her burned shoulder.
She hugged him back and planted a kiss on his cheek. "You take care, huh?" she murmured.
"You too." Sam pulled back and grinned down at her. "You do know we're never coming back to this town, right? Like ever."
"Can't say that I blame you. I think it has worn out its welcome for me, too." Kathleen shivered again. "I gotta move somewhere warm."
As Kathleen glanced at Dean, Sam gave Gamble a look and muttered, "Yeah, I'm gonna just go. Over here." Gamble looked from Sam to Dean to Kathleen, and they could almost see the light bulb go on over his head. Only Sam noticed the little flare of disappointment in his eyes, but Gamble blinked it away and followed him to the back of the ambulance where the stood stamping in the cold and sucking diesel fumes.
Dean's smile was sad as Kathleen stepped up to him and softly gripped his shoulder. "Dammit, Dean," she said quietly. "You gotta stop doing this to me, you know? You come here, raise hell, then take off again. You're gonna be the death of me."
"Never," Dean answered. "You're too fuckin' amazing to die, trust me. I know this stuff."
"Just remember you promised me, right?" Kathleen pulled him into a hug, clutching him against her as if she could protect him by the sheer force of her will. "You're going to fight, and you're going to win." She looked up at him, eyes swimming. "Because I'll kick your ass if you die."
Dean ducked his head and caught her mouth in a soft kiss. "I promise you, I'll fight tooth and nail. Just for you." He smiled as she laughed through her tears.
Kathleen dashed her palms over her eyes, swiping them dry. "Say hi to Bobby for me, huh?"
Dean stepped away from her and nodded, then brushed a lock of hair away from her cheek. "You be careful, okay? I promised you, and you promised me. I'm holding you to it."
Sam cleared his throat as he shuffled up behind them. "We should go. I think this storm is going to get worse before it gets better, which should help us slip out of town."
Gamble moved to Kathleen's side as Sam and Dean slid into the Impala, and he gave a little wave. "You guys be safe, okay?" he called over the rising wail of the wind.
Sam pulled back onto the road, guiding the car toward the highway, and he gave a deep sigh that was part weariness, part relief. Dean was staring out the window, but Sam couldn't see his eyes fixed on the rearview mirror, watching as the forms of the ambulance, Gamble, and Kathleen faded away in the gales of snow. "Hey bro?"
"Yeah?" Sam kept his eyes on the road, focused tight and sharp.