I can hear this girl talking in the next cubicle, telling her friend how she accidentally "replied all" on some email and let everybody know how big a crush she has on Tom Hiddleston and how embarrassing that is.
Yeah? You know what sweetheart? I told my little brother that I love him more than anything else in the known & unknown universe, right in front of the King of Hell.
We're at the ER. The angels have stopped falling, Sam has stopped dying, Cas is missing, I'm surviving on caffeine and fumes, and somebody really needs to tell the fangirl in the next cubicle that Loki from the movies is a friggin' terrorist who doesn't deserve to be drooled over.
Speaking of drooling -
"Hey, Sammy. How're you doing? Still awake?"
He hasn't been seen by a doctor yet, but the extremely helpful nurse set him up with an IV and extra blankets while we wait.
"There's nothing they can do." He says. Again. He's turned mostly on his side, facing mostly my way.
"The ice bath brought your temperature down the other day, so other things have to work, too. Who knows, you might need a rabies shot. I need you to not die."
He huffs a small laugh that sounds embarrassed and spares a very short glance directly at me.
"Yeah, you said as much before."
I pretend to drink non-existent coffee out of my empty cup so I don't have to respond to that comment.
"Hey, Dean? You remember your first hunt?"
"Yeah, salt and burn. A restless spirit. The grave was up a hillside from a campground. But no - me and Dad didn't ride any donkeys, if that's what you were thinking. Why? You still remembering every little detail of every little thing?"
"Yeah - no. I just - I was just wondering."
Yeah, right. Sam never 'just wonders' about anything.
"I just - I remember - while you were gone, Pastor Jim took me to see Aladdin."
Right, he unearths a twenty-year-old-plus memory just to reminisce about a Disney movie.
"Did you like it?"
"I wanted to see Lethal Weapon 3, but he wouldn't take me."
"Yeah, sounds like Pastor Jim."
Then Sam's quiet and the girl in the next cubicle is 'awwww-ing' over some Loki-related-thing (and I'm telling you, she should've met our Loki,) and I need more coffee only I'm not sure I can get out of this chair.
So I sit and wonder what Sam is wondering about.
There are times I miss those old, first days. When I first started hunting. I was just thirteen and thought I owned the world. Hunting with Dad, taking care of Sam, getting things done. Nothing was impossible, as long as I had Dad and Sammy with me.
That first 'hunt' had been a total non-event, though. Some restless spirit got woken up by new construction at the old campground or something. Not vengeful, just bothersome. Unzipping tents in the middle of the night, looking in trailer windows, hanging aluminum lawn chairs off tree branches.
About the most exciting thing about the whole hunt was the grief Sam gave me right before I left. I remember how he hid in Pastor Jim's front closet because he was so pissed at me, something he hadn't done for at least three years before that. I remember having to crawl in after him, and the smell of old wool coats and older rubber galoshes.
I remember not two hours ago that rotting old church and Sam holding his bloody hand only an inch away from letting himself die to prove to me - to prove to himself - that he wasn't the failure he always thought that I thought he was.
I remember holding my sobbing little brother, who was too young and too old both at the same time, who was desperate to hear that he'd always be the most important thing in my life.
The more things change, hunh?
Is that what he's remembering?
Sam's eyes are still open, mostly. He's watching himself play two-fingered chopsticks on one of the bars of the side rail. His face is still the color of dying embers.
"Dad drove us straight back after that hunt." I say.
"Yeah? You told him to, didn't you?"
"I didn't have to. He wanted to get back to you. Whenever you weren't with us, he worried about you. You might not believe it, but it was hard for him to leave you behind. It always was."
"Yeah." Sam says, but I can't be sure it's an agreement. "He brought me back a pocket knife that trip. That big black one with the edges that looked like bark."
"Yeah, I know that one. You still carry it, don't you?"
"Yeah, sometimes." He tilts his head up to get a better look at me. "You brought me a bag of Funyuns."
"Yeah, and you didn't share." I say. Honestly, I can't remember but what the heck. It gets a smile out of Sam.
"Did you mean what you said?" He asks and I immediately think, c'mon Sammy, don't make me go through all of that again. Loki-Girl might hear.
"What I said about what?"
"You think we can turn the tide?"
I let out a breath that is all relief but that I try to make sound like it's all 'hell, yeah'.
"You know it."
He nods and goes back to chopsticks and I consider the inside of my empty coffee cup. Somewhere, caffeine is calling my name and I'm ready to walk just to avoid where this conversation might be going, but I don't want to leave Sam just like that just because of where this conversation is.
"You going to get coffee?" Sam asks. He knows my tells. "Would you bring me back some juice? Just - whatever they have?"
"Sure thing. Anything else?"
He thinks about it.
"Bag of Funyuns?"
"You got it."
I stop at the cubicle curtain and give one look back at Sam before I head for the cafeteria. Chopsticks are over, he' still and quiet, but at least he's alive. Maybe we didn't close hell and maybe we didn't close heaven, but it still turned out to be a good day.