Sam rolled slightly onto his side, trying to find a more comfortable position on the bed. Sharp, stabbing pain shot up through his abdomen and shoulder, ripping him from a comfortable cocoon of warmth and darkness. His eyes snapped open as he gasped.
His fuzzy brain had to concentrate before identifying the source of the pain. He'd rolled onto the stitches Dean had woven into his sliced-up side. Sam gritted his teeth to hold back another gasp as he righted himself and pushed up a little higher on the pillow. His head felt like it was filled with cotton. Painkillers.
He doped me up. Damn it, Dean.
Trying to blink away the bleariness in his eyes, he glanced to his right and noticed he wasn't alone on the bed. He frowned. The drugs must have really affected him for his guard to be so completely down.
She was staring at him, but came out of whatever reverie she was in when he spoke. "Oh, Sam. You're awake. Good."
He rubbed at his eyes. "What're you doing? Where's Dean?"
"Just watching you sleep," she replied casually, sitting up and inching a little closer. "Dean went out. Making a supply run."
Sam blanched at that. "Alone? Meg's still out there, somewhere. He knows better than that. "
Sarah smiled sweetly, brushing hair out of Sam's face. "Well, your brother always has been a little slow on the draw, you know."
He frowned a little at that. Sarah's sense of humor wasn't usually that pointed, but he had to admit, in this case he almost agreed with her. Dean should never have left the room alone under these circumstances.
Sam gingerly checked his bandages to make sure he wasn't bleeding again. His brain was still processing pretty slowly. "You were watching me sleep?"
"Yeah," she replied sliding an inch closer. Her hand ran gently through his hair. "I was just thinking about us…about what we could have if it wasn't for the hunting…and the other stuff."
"That other stuff…it's— Look, Sarah," he sighed, facing her. "I didn't want to have this conversation like…this. But we need to talk."
"We can't see each other anymore, even as friends. It's too dangerous for you now. With all the demons roaming free after the gate opened, and half of them wanting me dead…it's not fair, I know, but the only way you'll ever be safe is if you're as far from me as possible. I don't want you to get hurt."
Sarah's expression faltered, darkening with a note of anger. "You mean, you don't want you to get hurt. I seem to recall us having this conversation before, Sam. I also seem to recall telling you that I make my own decisions."
Sam frowned. This wasn't going the way he wanted. He reached up and took her hand, covering it with his. "I know, and I love that about you. I do. But, Sarah, there's a war on, and there aren't any rules the bad guys follow. There are things out there that will use you to get to me. And while I'm tied up trying to break Dean's deal… You're not safe. I wish things were different, but—"
His phone rang behind him. Sighing at the interruption, he rolled back and grabbed it off the nightstand. A wave of dizziness hit him when he moved. The drugs were still strong in his system.
"Sam? Wake up, man, we need to talk," Dean's voice crackled through the receiver.
Sam heard the note of concern in his brother's voice. He tried to focus his sluggish thoughts. "Where are you?"
"Back at the warehouse. Listen, Sammy—"
"The warehouse? What are— Dean, get out of there, it's too dangerous by yourself."
"Sam, is Sarah with you?"
Sam glanced over at Sarah, who was sitting up next to him now. She looked to be stewing over what they'd talked about. He returned his attention to Dean. "Yeah, she's right here. We've been talking. Why?"
His sibling's voice changed so subtly that a stranger might have missed it. But Sam heard the note of panic filter into it. "I don't think that's Sarah, Sam. You need to—"
Before he could answer, Sam felt himself lifted bodily and flung out of the bed. He hit the floor and tumbled against the back wall of the room, landing in a heap.
The stitches along his side didn't survive the violent motion and tore open, causing Sam to cry out in pain. Dazed, he tried to sit up, but the muscles along his aggravated side seized up, and all he managed to do was roll over onto his stomach.
His brain wasn't working fast enough. What the hell just happened? He lifted his head to check to see if Sarah was okay, if whatever had hit him had hit her. Fortunately, she seemed fine.
Or maybe fine wasn't exactly the right word. She was rising off the bed, standing over him, looking down with oil-black eyes.
Crap. Possessed. Sam's brain kicked into gear when he saw that. Thinking back over the past few minutes, her behavior had been a little off. Too late to notice that.
Sam forced himself to rise, making it to all fours before the pain took his breath away. He didn't have a chance to do anything else before Sarah's foot connected with his stomach. The kick flipped him over onto his lacerated back, and another kick caught his wounded right side before he could do anything to defend himself.
The pain was intense enough to cause black spots to form at the edge of his vision. Another blow struck ripped a scream from his throat, and he almost passed out.
Sarah loomed over him, smiling. "Howdy, Sam."
"Meg," he wheezed, coughing again. "You've been inside her the whole time…"
He couldn't finish the sentence. Meg must have swapped bodies at some point, maybe when they'd heard Sarah scream.
"No," Sarah chuckled, misunderstanding. "Just since you wrecked my altar and my daevas turned on me. I don't like flying out of windows, Sammy. I ditched the body before they were done with it and hitched a ride with pretty little Sarah here."
Sam didn't engage in further conversation—couldn't, really, the way he was gasping—and instead crawled backward, pulling himself along the floor. Rug burn would be preferable to any more abuse. Scrambling back, he made it around the foot of the bed and angled for the door, when Meg stepped forward and again kicked his wounded side.
He was slammed sideways, head and left shoulder banging against the wall by the TV stand. Sam saw stars. He lay there, stunned, pain radiating from his side and unable to resist when Meg dragged him away from the wall and straddled him.
"We could have a good time together, Sammy. It was always in the cards for us."
"Meg, let her go. You can do anything you want to me, just—"
She jabbed two fingers into his wounded side, tearing stitches and skin easily. Blood ran freely down his side. She grinned when he cried out. "Oh, save the knight-in-shining-armor routine, Sam," his captor exclaimed, rolling her eyes. "You brought this on her."
"No—" Sam choked out, before another wave of pain shot through him.
"You two really are idiots, you know that? My father offered you a kingdom, but all you could think about was your pathetic little quest for revenge. And if rejecting him wasn't bad enough, Dean managed to kill him. That was a big mistake, Sam. You and Dean should never have made it personal."
"He…made it personal," Sam spat back through clenched teeth. "When he…killed Mom and Dad…and Jess! He started it, Dean just finished it—"
Her fingers dug deeper, silencing him. "I'm gonna gut your girlfriend right here, Sammy. I'll keep her alive long enough to peel the skin off Dean's bones. You're gonna watch them both die."
She reared back, hand dropping from his mangled side, and produced his silver boot knife. Meg stared at it for a moment, then looked down at him in mock thoughtfulness.
"Or maybe I'll slit her throat. It could be bloodier that way…"
The door to the room burst open.
His sluggish, drugged movements were now hindered further by pain and renewed blood loss, but Sam tried to turn his head toward the sound. He already knew who it would be.
"Get off of him!" Dean demanded angrily.
Sam managed to get his head aimed at the door. Dean was standing just inside, maybe ten feet away, pointing his sawed-off at Meg. He considered warning Dean about what she was, but dismissed it. Dean doubtless already knew.
She smirked at Dean. "Or what? You'll blow holes in this fine packaging? Spray her blood all over your little bro's face?"
Dean's brave front wavered. Sam lay, staring, while his brother traded barbs with Meg, then his hand brushed against his jeans, and he remembered. Dean had left everything in Sam's pockets. His wallet, his keys…and a flask of holy water.
"I should have looked closer at that charm," Dean said. Sam noted the self-reproach in his brother's voice. He had to share the guilt, as he hadn't looked himself.
"Always distracted by a pretty face, Dean," Meg shot back smugly. "You should really start thinking more with your upstairs brain."
Sam kept his eyes on Meg as she started ranting to Dean about killing her father—Meg never knew when to stop monologuing—and covertly reached for the flask. Dean was still aiming the shotgun in her direction. Despite her confidence that Dean wouldn't shoot even with only rock salt in the weapon lest he hurt Sarah, Meg seemed to be waiting. A standoff was developing. Perhaps Meg wasn't as sure as she thought.
Sam didn't give her time to reconsider. He slung the flask upward in an arc, sending a stream of holy water splashing up her back. The effect was immediate. Meg screamed, smoke rising from the wet skin as if she was burning inside. She spun on him, black eyes glistening with malice, and took a step toward him, reaching down.
Flinging the bottle again, Sam sent another spray of holy water right at her face.
She staggered back, howling. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw Dean toss the shotgun aside and grab the carton of salt off the other bed. He raced forward, knocking Meg off her feet, and started dumping the contents of the carton all over her torso and head.
Inside Sarah, Meg shrieked with an unearthly echo, convulsing as the salt hemmed her in on all sides as effectively as if they'd had drawn a salt circle around her. Dean grabbed Sarah's wrists, holding her down, leaving the next job to Sam.
Sam sucked in a breath, heaving himself into a halfway sitting position, and started an exorcism. "Exorcizo te, immundissime spiritus, omnis incursion adversarii…"
The rite wasn't long, and Sam had it completely memorized, but his strength was waning. His head spun from when he'd hit the wall. His speech began to slur worse and slow down.
The words were taking effect, though, as Sarah's features distorted and blurred. The demon was coming to the surface, fighting all the way. Her struggles intensified as the exorcism began to force her out, tossing Dean violently. For some reason, the memory of Dean riding that mechanical bull in San Antonio from when they were teenagers surfaced…
Dean poured on more salt and doubled his attempts to hold Sarah down. "Hurry up, Sam!"
Dean's shout snapped Sam's attention back to the task at hand, and he focused on the recitation. A few more lines and it would be finished. Coming to the end, Sam forced out the last few words in a rush. "…spiritu sancto vivit et regnat Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum!"
It was like that bull he'd ridden on Sam's dare in San Antonio on his twentieth birthday. Meg bucked and convulsed beneath him, trying to use Sarah's body to throw Dean off. He tightened his grip, momentarily worrying about hurting the woman, but ultimately he knew a few bruises or sprains would be preferable to remaining possessed.
Meg was being drawn out, Sarah's features twisting and distorting as the demon's true face momentarily became visible. As the exorcism did its work, Meg became frantic, but it was no use. Sam hit the last line of the rite, and suddenly Dean was tossed against the bed as Sarah threw her head back and screamed.
A cloud of black smoke, tinged with blue and yellow sparks, erupted from her throat, blasting against the ceiling like some sick geyser before dispersing in a circular puff of flame.
Dean stayed motionless for a moment, waiting to see what happened next. Sarah seemed to deflate beneath him, passing out. He checked her pulse. It was fast but strong; she was merely unconscious. Dean dropped back against the foot of Sam's bed and looked over at his brother.
Sam looked barely conscious himself. Dean crawled over and caught his head just before it dropped to the floor. "You okay, little brother?"
The younger man peered blearily at him, a tired sigh slipping out. "Peachy."
Dean glanced back at Sarah, who, now that he looked, seemed a bit funny lying there covered in salt. "Hey, Sammy…we didn't even need a devil's trap for this one. We should do it this way more often. It'll be a lot faster."
His brother glared at him a moment, incredulous, before his eyes rolled up and he passed out.
Dean sighed. "You could have at least waited until I got you to the car, dude."
Dean smiled at the second-shift nurse as he passed, hoping the old battleaxe didn't suspect him of carrying any more contraband into the hospital. She didn't seem any wiser, but she'd caught him the day before. He passed the desk trying to not look innocent, since she seemed to know when he was doing that.
The doctors had Sam so doped up on painkillers and antibiotics that he'd slept for fourteen straight hours the first day they'd been there. Poor guy had needed a few pints of blood, too. The second day, Sam was off the antibiotics and already tired of the crappy food.
As he neared Sam's room, Dean slowed. When he'd left, Sarah was in there, and he knew that today Sam was going to have that talk with her about their future…or lack of one. Dean didn't expect it to go over well, but on some level, he knew Sam was right. Sarah could be in danger if she continued staying in touch with Sam. In their line of work, they made a lot of enemies, after all. The events of the past few days proved just what kind of danger she was being exposed to.
None of which meant that Dean agreed with Sam. His brother wasn't a hermit, never had been. He needed friends, people to talk to besides Dean and Bobby. Especially in a few more months, when Dean— Well, when I'm not around anymore.
Anyway, there were precautions Sarah could take. Ways to keep the lines of communication open. Sam was just scared and acting out of that.
Dean heard a low conversation—no, argument, and a one-sided one at that—going on as he reached the door. Sarah sounded pissed. Before he had the chance to turn around or stop, Dean was almost bowled over when she stomped out of the room, nearly clipping him.
She muttered a distracted apology as she marched down the hall, leaving Dean staring after her. Steeling himself, he stepped through the door.
Sam was lying there, looking frustrated and more than a little depressed.
"I take it the discussion didn't go well," Dean said, stopping by the foot of the bed.
Sam opened his mouth to speak, but didn't get a chance before Sarah stalked back in and moved between them.
"And another thing, jackass," she spat, apparently still fuming from before. She leaned in and kissed Sam on the mouth.
Sam was stunned, just lying there frozen, forearm lifting and dropping like he wanted to join in on the kiss but was afraid to try. Had his mouth been free, his jaw would no doubt have been hanging open much like Dean's was.
Sarah let Sam's lips go—finally, geez!—and stepped back from the bedside. "I'll see you tomorrow. Don't even think about skipping town."
She spun on her heel and went back to storming out, tossing her head at Dean as she rounded the corner and left the room.
Dean watched her go, eyebrows trying to reach his hairline. "Uh— Hey…Sarah." He turned back to Sam, whose mouth was moving like a stranded fish's. "Dude…how do you land women like that?"
"Shut up," Sam mumbled, still staring at the door. He shook his head and focused on Dean. "When did you get here?"
"Ha-ha." Dean swatted Sam's foot, which was about the only safe part to hit. Sam was covered in bandages and bruises. His right side, where Meg had used him as a soccer ball, alternated between red and black.
"Well? Did you get it?" Sam asked, breaking Dean from his inspection of Sam's wounds.
He patted his coat. "Right here."
Sam glowered. "Well, close the door, for Christ's sake. That nurse will be making her rounds soon."
Dean checked the hall, then closed the door and slid one of the chairs over to block it. He moved back to the bed and pulled the bag from his leather coat. One lame grilled cheese for his brother, one succulent cheeseburger with extra onions for himself. Drinks were too hard to smuggle in, but Sam already had water ready for them.
Sam glanced at Dean's watch. "How much time do we have?"
"About five minutes. She starts at the other end and works her way down."
"Plenty of time," Sam replied, attacking his sandwich.
"Oh, baby…." Dean breathed, digging in. He groaned as the first few bites went down. These are the best burgers….
He glanced up to see Sam eyeing him oddly. "You really should get out more," Sam snarked around a mouthful of bread and cheese. Dean would definitely need to short-sheet his bed later.
"So, Sarah's not cooperating?"
Sam snorted. "She's the stubbornest girl I've ever met."
"Yeah. She's perfect for you. I told you that the first time we met her."
All he got was an irritated grunt. Dean suppressed a grin. Yeah, he bet Sam still had it bad for this girl, even after everything that had happened. His brother had always been drawn to the hardheaded ones. He liked the challenge.
"Seriously, Sam…maybe you should back off on this splitting-up thing. I mean, she's obviously still feeling something for you and, well… I mean, I might not be… Just, you shouldn't burn all your bridges, man."
Sam's gaze softened a little. He obviously knew what Dean wasn't saying. I might not be here in a few months.
Dean shifted his eyes to the cheeseburger and kept it there. "I wouldn't want you to be alone, is all."
"Yeah," Sam murmured, not eating anymore. They both knew that the clock was ticking down faster now. May 2 wasn't that far off.
Chancing a look at Sam's face, Dean sucked in a breath, deciding to just spit out what he'd been mulling over all morning. "Look, Sammy…about the other night. I, uh— About the OCD thing, I shouldn't have gotten on your case about that. I just—"
"No," Sam interrupted quietly, eyes firmly fixed on his hands. "No, you were right. When the Trickster— When I was alone, those six months…I got a little lost, you know? I couldn't find him, I couldn't get you back. Keeping things organized, my routine…they were the only things I could control. It's hard to— I don't know how to come back from that, Dean."
Dean stared at his brother for a moment, smiling faintly. "If you don't mind me saying so…you aren't like that when Sarah's around. I mean, you're still an uptight pain in the ass, of course, but…you aren't the same person. You're not that super-hunter guy. You loosen up."
Sam considered that a moment, eyes drifting to the door. "When she's around— I don't know. She makes it easier to forget…all of it." He huffed dryly. "Sometimes it's all I can do just to keep from falling all over myself around her. Maybe it's because I'm so far out of her league."
Shooting a glance at Sam while resuming the attack on his burger, Dean grinned mischievously. "Or maybe, it's because your big brother is right and you still feel something there. Trust me, Sammy, I know these things."
Sighing tiredly, Sam shook his head. "Yeah. Maybe. Don't let it go to your head."
"She knows about the deal, right?" Dean asked after a moment, sobering a little.
Sam nodded. "Yeah, I told her the last time we saw each other."
"Well, when she cools off and comes by here tomorrow, talk to her again. Maybe you two can work something out that doesn't involve cutting her out of your life completely." Dean had no idea what that solution would be. Sam was right; right now it was dangerous for Sarah to be involved with them. Especially with Lilith out for Sam's blood. But Sam didn't deserve to be cut off from everyone he cared about, either. Damn it.
"When did you become the relationship guru?" Sam asked, smirking at him.
Dean forced a grin. "They had a special about this on Oprah the other day. People Whose Ex-Flames Just Won't Give Up On Them."
Sam's smirk gave way to a smile. "Oprah, huh? Still watching that behind my back?"
"Shuddup," Dean growled through a mouthful of burger. Maybe he only had a few months left, unless Sam saved him, but he could still try to make sure Sam was taken good care of afterward.
It was a big brother's job, after all.