K Hanna Korossy
Sometimes the people they talked to were hostile, surly and wary about answering such strange questions. Sometimes they were upset, grieving or traumatized, and had trouble stringing replies together.
And sometimes they were like Mrs. Razzoli.
"Oh, dear, your plate's empty! Have some more cake." Before Dean could say anything at all, another chunk of pound cake was dumped on his plate. He was pretty sure it wasn't supposed to weigh a pound, but it jogged his hand down with its heaviness.
"Uh…thanks," Dean said weakly. Food was more a burden than a pleasure since the Apocalypse's weight had been added to his shoulders. He shot a look at Sam, knowing he probably looked a little green.
Sam's mouth twisted in sympathy.
"And more tea! Young men like you need plenty of food to grow on."
Dean didn't think tea counted as food, or that the brown stuff she poured into his cup was tea, but the old gal was fast for her age and topped him off before he could pull away.
"Mrs. Razzoli," Sam quickly spoke up. "You were telling us about Risa Tennenbaum?"
"Oh, yes. That poor, sweet girl. She only moved in next door two months ago, you know."
"Yes, ma'am," Sam said attentively. "You said you had a picture?"
Mrs. Razzoli rose to get it, hands fluttering.
As soon as her back was turned, Sam broke off all but a corner of the pound cake and plopped it on his own plate. Without a glance at Dean, he gulped the brown dishwater in his cup, leaving a little at the bottom for Dean to sip at. By the time Mrs. Razzoli returned, Sam was smiling again, if a little grimly, and ready to look at the whole album the lady was toting.
Dean didn't hesitate to sidle a little more behind Sam, hiding his nearly empty plate and cup even as he pretended to make a meal of what was left.
The woman was just as effusive when they were ready to leave, folding Sam into a crushing embrace. Dean felt himself break out in a sweat as he watched; he was uncomfortable with people touching him since, well, Hell, and he knew it. But still, a little old lady with boundary issues shouldn't be a problem. Really.
She turned toward him, and Dean sucked in a breath, bracing himself.
"Oh, wow, those are beautiful, um, bushes." And Sam was suddenly shunting her off toward the greenery that framed her porch.
Dean breathed out. Well, that was what a good wingman did, right?
Still, he got Sam one of his fancy coffees when they were done. Just to wash the taste of that "tea" out of his mouth.
Digging up corpses wasn't a lot of fun. Digging up fresh corpses, even less.
Digging up a fresh corpse and then needing to search it for a ring that had been buried with it? Yeah, that was pretty much the definition of nasty.
Dean stared down into the grave of the once lovely Annabelle Stacey, whom her husband had loved so much that he'd had her buried with his wedding ring, before he'd killed himself. Poor Annabelle was resting in peace, but her husband, not so much. Hence the Winchesters unplanting the recently planted.
She seemed a long way down. Dirt walls looming all around. Heavy with the smell of death. Rotting and moist and fetid and—
Dean blinked a few times and looked at Sam, who had one fist cradled in the palm of the other hand. Oh, right. Dean suppressed a shudder and mirrored his brother. Rock, paper—
He threw scissors. He always threw scissors, he wasn't even sure why anymore. And Sam always threw rock and beat him, and now Dean would have to go down and get personal with Annabelle. Great.
Except, Sam's hand was flat. Paper. And scissors cuts paper.
Dean stared up at him, confused and suspicious, but Sam was already eyeing the corpse with frank distaste. "You're gonna owe me after this, man," he grumbled, leaving Dean to dumbly mutter some agreement as Sam lowered himself into the grave.
It didn't thrill him, seeing Sam down in an open tomb, but Dean had to admit, it was still a whole lot better being topside.
"You're not going to believe what we were doing," Sam announced as he strode into the room.
Dean looked up from where he was sprawled on his stomach on the bed, sorta watching some kind of Olympics skiing sport and trying not to worry about Sam being out of his sight. He screwed up his face in disgust at the sight of Sam's flushed, animated face. "Dude, gross, I don't want to hear that."
Sam frowned, looking bewildered. "What?"
Dean sighed and clicked off the TV. "You roll out of the bar—"
"—with a woman old enough to be your…aunt, come back hours later looking like," he waved a hand vaguely at Sam's excitable appearance, "and expect me to wanna hear the details about what you and Mrs. Robinson were up to? No thanks. I still want to eat tonight."
Sam gave him a look so bitchy, it almost made Dean laugh. "That's not—Man, is that all you think about?" At Dean's automatic well, yeah look, Sam made an exasperated sound. "Rochelle's a Home Ec teacher. We were talking about baking."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Is that code for—?"
"Pie," Sam cut him off impatiently, thrusting forward the box that Dean only now realized he was carrying. "She showed me how to bake an apple pie from scratch."
"Oh." Which was totally his default response, because Dean was still processing the shift from Sam getting busy with an older woman, to Sam getting…baking with an older woman. That he'd met in a bar.
Maybe that wasn't so much of a stretch, after all.
That was when the scent of warm apple pie reached him.
"Dude, you made me pie?" Dean asked with burgeoning delight as he reached for the box. It was one of the few things he hadn't lost his taste for. "Like, homemade pie?"
"Yeah, that's kinda the definition of making a pie, Dean," Sam said wryly, but he was smiling.
The pie was awesome.
Sam was, too, that evening. Almost made Dean forget the past year.
"What the crap?" Dean stormed into the room first, throwing his duffel bag down with disgust at the end of the first bed.
"Yeah," Sam wearily agreed, trailing in after.
"No, seriously. What the crap?" Dean ran a hand through his hair, wincing at the cactus quill he found tangled in it.
"Pretty much." Sam sank onto the farther bed, then very, very gingerly began peeling off his jacket.
"I thought Cactus Cats were supposed to be harmless. I mean, yeah, can't hold their liquor worth a dime, but not going around slicing people up." They'd come into the case thinking a thunderbird, or maybe a rogue chupacabra. Dean had even secretly hoped for the Lake Worth Monster. Instead, they got a friggin' folk legend?
"Supposed to be," Sam said, nodding as he got down to his undershirt.
It was speckled along the right side with crimson where the Cat had thrown him into the cactus. Or, more exactly, where Dean had knocked him into a cactus to keep him from getting slashed by the Cat's wicked tail. That was their worst injury of the evening, thank God, but still. Dean hated it when folklore turned and bit them on the—
"Dean, uh. You wanna give me a hand with this?"
It took a moment for the request to register, it was so unexpected. Sam wasn't passing out from blood loss, and the wound was somewhere he could reach. Yeah, once upon a time, Dean would've automatically been the go-to guy for patching his brother up, but over those last two years, first with Sam bracing himself for losing Dean, then for betraying him, Dean's brother had gotten a mite…standoffish. He didn't usually let Dean check him over, let alone treat him.
But Sam was still looking at him, with that sorta lowered-eyes, uncertain look he had ever since…well, he'd started the Apocalypse, like he kept expecting Dean to kick him out.
That was what got him moving. "Uh, yeah, sure. Bathroom or bed?"
Sam ended up on his side on the bed, a towel under him as Dean eased cactus spines from quivering muscle, one hand gentle on Sam's back to hold him steady.
"Easy, dude," he crooned. "Almost done."
Sam nodded, swallowing, face pressed into the pillow. The quills were long and deep; it had to hurt like a mother even with the topical anesthetic Dean had applied, but Sam didn't make a sound, didn't even twitch away from him. Trusting him.
By the time he dragged the sheet and blankets up over his bandaged, groggy brother, Dean thought he got why Sam had asked him to do this particular bit of first aid. And it had nothing to do with an inability to take care of himself.
"Bobby's got a job for you."
Dean treated that announcement with as much interest as he had his brother's arrival outside. Which was pretty much to say none at all.
"I heard you," he said evenly.
Sam sighed and dropped down cross-legged beside Dean, who was already occupying the one battered chair Bobby had on the porch. One he wouldn't be using again anytime soon with that wheelchair of his. The last person who'd sat in it, in fact, had been Ellen, the night before she and Jo had…
Dean dragged his thoughts away from that dark place, gazing blankly again into the junkyard.
"He could use the help," his brother continued quietly, as if Dean had shown any desire to hear more. "Client's offered to pay a lot for a quick restoration, but Bobby's not—"
"I know what Bobby's not," Dean interrupted gruffly.
There was a pause. Then, because Sam never knew when to quit, "It's a Camaro. Sixty-eight. She's in bad shape, but you built the 'pala up—"
"Sam." Dean took a breath. "I don't want to work on a friggin' car, okay?" It had taken him a couple of days to recover from the concussion Lucifer had given him, and Sam had had his own little meltdown during that time. The kid had bounced back, though, as solicitous as the last time Dean had holed up at Singer Salvage to try to heal from loss, but Dean…hadn't. He just hadn't. Couldn't, wouldn't, didn't want to.
"Bobby really needs the money, Dean," Sam said quietly.
And there it was, the hook he couldn't ignore. Bobby couldn't work on that car because of them, because of the hurt they'd brought down on him. Dean squeezed his eyes shut.
"I can help," Sam offered, a smile in his words.
Dean snorted at the idea of his brother working on a car. But he didn't say no.
It gave him a reason to get up in the morning, anyway. By the end of the job, he was even looking forward to the next day instead of dreading it.
Somehow it didn't surprise him too much when Bobby let it slip that Sam had been the one to rustle up the client.
Dean started running as soon as he heard the gunshot.
He hoped, he prayed, he pled. Still, he wasn't too surprised when he rounded the corner and saw Sam on the floor, propped against the wall, and Dean himself looming over him, gun in hand.
Dean drew bead without hesitation, hitting himself in the back. His dark double folded without a sound, collapsing in front of Sam.
Dean's own graceless drop at his brother's side jerked Sam's wide-eyed gaze up from the double to Dean, horror giving way to doubt, then relief. "Dean," he murmured.
"The one and only." It didn't seem funny when he took in Sam's labored breathing and the dark, wet stain high on his shirt. Dean spread a hand across his brother's breastbone for support and slipped the other in behind him, checking for an exit wound. "Dude, you let it sneak up on you? Thought I taught you better than that."
"Didn' sneak," Sam puffed. There was no hole in his back, and the way Sam sounded, Dean was pretty sure the bullet was in his lung. "Let it…shoot me."
He gave his brother a sharp look even as he took off his flannel shirt and started folding it into a field bandage. "That was stupid," Dean said evenly. And suicidal, and he'd really thought he was past being afraid of that despite the mind games Lucifer was playing with Sam, but apparently not.
Sam's head rolled against the wall. "Wasn' sure it…wasn't you," he whispered.
Oh. Dean paused.
"Sammy," Dean said helplessly, hand circling around from chest to the back of Sam's neck, tipping his head forward against Dean's.
Dean didn't ask for what; he knew. Sam had been living an apology since they'd reunited, offering Dean a hundred little proofs of his love every day. Dean had just been too jaded to accept them for what they were. He breathed a laugh as he pulled back and lay the pad of his folded shirt over the red stain.
"What?" Sam murmured.
"You make this really hard, dude, you know that?" Dean threaded one sleeve of his shirt under Sam's shoulder.
Sam, already pale, blanched a little more. "What?"
"I keep trying to be mad at you, and then you pull a half-ass stunt like this." He crossed the two sleeves, tugging one through the loop of the other.
Sam's mouth twitched. "Sorry," he repeated, a little less miserably.
Dean patted him on the chest. Then he propped his knee gently against the V of Sam's ribcage and carefully pulled the shirt sleeves into a tight knot.
Sam bucked at the pressure, head turning away with a groan.
Dean rolled it back with a hand on his chin, waiting for Sam's eyes to flutter open. "You with me? Sammy?"
Sam's hand rose to brush clumsily over him, snagging in the pocket of Dean's shirt. "Call for help…'n stay here."
Dean frowned at him. "You sure?"
Sam pulled at him hard enough that Dean had to prop a hand up against the wall to keep from falling onto Sam.
"Okay," he grumbled. "But you're gonna be the one to explain why there's a dead body that looks like me. Again."
Sam just gave a breathless laugh.
Dean put the call in, dropped down next to Sam, and pulled him close, feeling his brother melt against him even as he struggled to breathe. Dean shook his head. "You're an idiot," he murmured.
And couldn't have said if he was talking to Sam or to himself.