Other People Stop Looking
A/N: Well, here we are, guys. The final chapter. I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who's been reading this story, with extra special thanks to everyone who has reviewed. It brightens up my day.
Now, announcements: I have finished a sequel to Drawing A Blank, as some people mentioned they'd like to see more of Gloria, and hey, is anyone still interested in where Dean was during the time that Sam was in hospital? Well, you can find out. I just need to think of a title (titles are so hard) and type it up, so watch this space.
Now, I must go prepare for my son's birthday party. Thanks everyone and I hope you enjoy this final instalment. :D
Sam's eyes flew open.
Dean gave one final lurch in his attempt to free himself from the oldest hunter, but the guy must've been taking steroids or something. His hands were like vices.
"You are far more trouble than you're worth."
Dean growled, baring his teeth at Jacob, his rage animalistic, his gaze constantly straying to the table in between them. He wished he was closer so he could get a clear look at Sam's face, but all his eyes could focus on were the straps holding his brother down.
"You could've been smart, Dean. Could've joined us."
Dean glared at him incredulously. As if.
"Now you're forcing my hand. It is… regrettable." Jacob looked positively gleeful, his eyes lit up with cold malice. "Kill him."
Dean opened his mouth to argue back but the old man spun him round in a move that belied his age and pinned him against the concrete basement wall, he felt cool metal against the side of his head and, if he were a weaker man, he would have closed his eyes against the oncoming bullet. As it was, Dean was a Winchester and he refused to die with his eyes shut. He glared promises of murder and revenge into his captor's face, before flicking his gaze to his brother for one last look. His eyes widened.
Sam hadn't moved since Dean had first entered the basement, save the spasmodic twitching of his hands and feet, but suddenly he was straining against the straps that held him, back arching.
The lights on the rudimentary machine next to the table – some kind of altered car battery – all lit up at once, burning brighter and brighter until one by one the bulbs shattered.
"What are you doing?" Jacob yelled, reaching for the weapon in his waistband.
"I'm not touching it!" the older man denied, which Dean would've thought was pretty obvious because both the man's hands were busy with him.
The machine started whirring. Sam was making some kind of keening noise in the back of his throat, and with an ominous crack, a ceiling beam broke loose and swung down, hitting the man holding Dean with all the force of a speeding truck, knocking him halfway across the room and missing Dean by centimeters.
"Stop!" Jacob howled, eyes on Sam and blazing with fury. His gun came up, and Dean knew with a crushing certainty that he couldn't beat the bullet to Sam. This was it. Now, Dean wanted to close his eyes.
Jacob's finger closed around the trigger. Dean's vision tunneled, seeing the bullets trajectory clearly… and with mere mili-seconds to spare, a plank of wood connected sharply with the side of Jacob's head. He stumbled back, and then dropped.
Dean blinked, his vision clearing, and Bobby stood there, eyes blazing, looking every bit the dangerous hunter that he was as he stood over Jacob with his makeshift weapon in hand.
Their eyes met for a moment, and then they were at the table, Dean working on the straps on Sam's right, Bobby on his left.
Chunks of plaster and dust rained down on them. Dean began to wonder if the whole house was about to come down on their heads. An unearthly wind swept around the room.
"Sam! Sam, stop!"
"Just get the straps undone!" Bobby shouted. "We gotta get out of here!"
Dean glanced up at him and his eyes locked, his mouth opening to shout a warning.
Bobby spun, reaching for the piece of wood he'd discarded in his haste to free Sam. Jacob, on his feet with blood trickling down his face, was raising his gun again, eyes wild and deranged.
Dean shouted something – he didn't know what or who he was shouting to but Jacob suddenly froze, as if held in place, inches from Bobby. A choking noise erupted from the mad hunter's throat and his eyes bulged, mouth open in a silent scream.
It wasn't until Dean smelt the sickly scent of burning flesh, sizzling hair, that he realized what was happening. Electricity. Jacob was getting a taste of his own medicine.
The hunter was held there for an impossibly long moment. Dean couldn't take his eyes off of the grisly sight, before Jacob's rigid body went limp and he slid to the floor without a sound.
Sam slumped against the table, head lolling to the side. The basement fell still and silent. It was enough to shake Dean from his horrified trance, his fumbling hands reaching again for the straps that held Sam down.
"Sam? Can you hear me?"
Sam's nose was pouring blood, staining his lips and teeth, running in rivulets down his chin and neck. Dean took his little brother's face in his hands, tapping his cheek, "Sammy, wake up. Come on, don't make us carry you outta here."
Sam's eyelashes fluttered, slits of hazel appearing with a soft moan. "D'n?"
Dean could have cried. "Yeah. Yeah, it's me, Sammy. I'm here. Gonna get you outta here."
Dean's hands were busily undoing the remaining straps, trying to be gentle with Sam's ravaged wrists and ankles but really, really just wanting to get as far away from this place as possible.
"Can you stand?" he asked, as soon as the last strap was clear, but Sam's eyes had drifted and Dean was fairly certain that Sam was somewhere else.
"Damn," he swore softly, and no sooner had he spoken than Bobby was moving in the help.
Together they managed to pull Sam into a sitting position, his head lolling against Dean's chest, and each looped an arm over their shoulders.
"Gawd," Bobby drawled, looking wide-eyed at the youngest Winchester, "What were they doing to him?"
"Experimenting, Jacob called it," Dean ground out between clenched teeth as they maneuvered their way up the stairs. "Torture would be more appropriate."
"Gawd," Bobby said again, but had the sense to keep the rest of his questions to himself for the time being.
The walk to the Impala was more of an awkward stumble, Sam's dead weight hanging between them, but finally they got the injured Winchester settled in the back seat, a threadbare blanket from the boot covering his bare limbs, and his head resting in Dean's lap.
Dean ducked his head down, trying to hear the soft mumble over the Impala's loud throaty rumbling.
Sam flinched, eyes still closed. "…it's got claws…"
"Oh." Dean sat back, ran a hand through Sam's dirty hair. "It's okay, Sammy," he comforted impotently, knowing that his brother couldn't hear him.
"What's he saying?" Bobby tossed a glance back from the driver's seat.
Dean cleared his throat to stop his voice from cracking, "They were dosing him with something. I don't know what it was. I think… I think they figured out how to bring on visions."
Bobby was silent. Sam murmured something indistinguishable, then quieted. Dean sat noiseless, motionless but for the movement of his hand through his little brother's hair, and they drove away from Jacob's mansion.
Sam was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming because the floor of his cage was nowhere near as comfortable as his subconscious was pretending it was, and there was sunlight on his face. He could feel it warming his skin, see the soft red of light against his closed eyelids. He could hear muted traffic outside. There was no bustle of everyday life, no sunshine in his prison, just cold silence and darkness.
He was dreaming, and for the first time in… time had no meaning anymore. It may as well have been eternity… but, for the first time in forever his dreams were soft, without blood or terror, no flesh cleaved apart or organs being chewed on. No screams or pleas. Just traffic and sunlight and blankets.
It occurred to Sam that he might be dead, and he thought dthat it would make a warped kind of sense if his version of Heaven was a crappy motel room. This dream certainly smelt like a crappy motel room.
"It's been three days."
Sam felt his brow crease slightly in confusion. What had been three days? And was that voice…?
Silence, then a warm hand dropped onto his forehead and the bed dipped by his hip.
Definitely Dean. How was Dean in his dream? Sounding so exactly like Sam remembered his voice sounding, but creased with worry and with the slight drawl of exhaustion. Maybe he wasn't dreaming. Maybe he was delirious, hallucinating. Could you hallucinate a voice? A touch?
"Sammy, you awake?"
No. No, definitely not awake. Definitely dreaming or dying. He was glad Dean was there though, even if it was only imaginary Dean.
Imaginary Dean sighed, "Why won't he wake up?"
"He's still recovering." Oh, Imaginary Bobby was there, too. Sam almost had a whole imaginary family. "Just give him more time."
Sam faded out. When he came back it was dark and silent and he knew that Dean had been too good to be true but it still hurt. Maybe he was getting better. It was so unfair. Couldn't he just get back to dying, so his brother could come for him?
Jacob must have killed Dean. Sam remembered with stark certainly Jacob giving the order, remembered the crushing weight of devastation in his stomach. If he could just die he could escape this cage and maybe find Dean and that was about the very best he could hope for.
And then… then there was movement, right next to him. Someone shifted their weight on the mattress (mattress?) and Sam so desperately wanted it to be Dean, so desperately wanted to see Dean that he began the impossible task of opening his eyes, without even thinking about how devastated he'd be when he saw only bars and chains.
He didn't see anything of the sort. When he finally managed to lift his lids enough that his eyelashes weren't spider-webbing his vision, when his eyes finally decided that they weren't looking at the world through thick Vaseline and adjusted accordingly, he found himself staring uncomprehendingly at a silent flickering TV set.
They had Die Hard in the afterlife?
Startled movement beside him. "Sammy?"
Dean's face swam into view above him, looking ashen in the meager light, his brow drawn tightly in barely concealed fear.
"Dean," Sam said again, a statement this time instead of a question, but it still didn't make his brother's miraculous presence make sense. Didn't make the fact that they appeared to be sharing a bed in an unfamiliar motel room make sense.
A sudden loud rumbling from close by made Sam jump (which – ow – sent a rush of pain shooting in all directions) and Dean's hands appeared on his shoulders. "It's okay. It's just Bobby snoring. Apparently, old men need a lot of sleep."
Grumbling was heard from the other bed but Sam couldn't figure out the words. Dean placed a hand on Sam's forehead, checking his eyes seriously.
"But not as much as you. Are you with me this time?"
Sam frowned, trying to understand. Why was Dean talking about old men and sleep? And what did he mean this time?
"Wh' are we?"
"Motel. You've been out of it almost four days."
"Motel?" Sam spun that round in his head. Motel, with Dean and Bobby, and suddenly it was clear. "You found me?"
Dean found him. No more injections or visions or chains. No more dark or silence or alone, and Dean was pulling him up and holding him tightly against his chest, saying, "Shh, Sammy, it's okay. Don't cry, it's over. I got you. Don't cry…" even though his voice was shaking like Sam wasn't the only one coming apart at the seams.
The TV was on; playing some re-runs of Everybody Loves Raymond, but Dean wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention. He was focused on his sleeping brother, all pale skin and bruised eyes, sprawled on his side on the bed, bandages circling his ravaged wrists. Below the sheet that covered him, Sam was a mess of yellowing bruises, his ankles bandaged much like his wrists. He'd lost weight, lost the spark in his eyes so when he was awake only dulled hazels observed the goings on around him.
Dean had seen only the smallest glimpse of what had happened to his brother during Sam's time in Everglade Hall. He had sat through three days of Sam shaking and delirious, at times mumbling feverishly, at others screaming like he was bring cut open, crying for Dean even as Dean gripped his hand until his knuckles turned white, 'I'm here, I'm here,' tumbling uselessly from his lips.
Withdrawal, Bobby said, from whatever Jacob had been dosing him with, and Jacob had been dosing him almost constantly it seemed, judging by the amount of bruised needle marks on both his arms, and wasn't that just the final kick in the teeth? Jacob's drug being addictive.
But then, two days ago, Sam had slept – properly slept – and woke, understood where he was, slowly crept back towards sanity.
"I'm not telling him," Dean told Bobby, who sat at the table, eyes also on Sam, sipping from a steaming mug of coffee. "I don't even understand it."
Bobby raised his eyebrows. "It seems pretty clear to me."
Dean looked up sharply, "It does? If Sam could do that, why didn't he get himself out of there earlier?'
"I thought you said it happened after Jacob threatened to kill you." Bobby took a gulp of coffee, "Didn't Sam move a cabinet once when you were in danger?"
"This was different." Dean thought back to Jacob's sizzling corpse, the body of the old man, his face caved in. "This was so much more powerful." And brutal. "Sam couldn't of…"
"They were doing experiments, remember?"
Dean clenched his teeth at the word, ready to bite back but Bobby raised his coffee cup placatingly.
"I don't mean it like that, ya idjit. I'm just saying that it's not the most unlikely thing ever to assume that whatever they did sent Sam's powers out of control. And when he heard you were in danger, they lashed out."
Dean turned back to Sam. If he hadn't seen it himself he wouldn't have believed it.
"I'm not telling him. If he knew… He's been through enough."
Bobby shrugged, "Well, you won't find any arguments from me."
When Sam asked, Dean simply said, "They're taken care of," and Sam gave him a look that suggested he knew Dean was hiding something from him and was grateful for it.
"What about Damien?"
"Who?" Dean asked.
Sam was on the bed – still, but he was sitting up now and Dean would take what he could get – blanket wrapped loosely around his shoulders, drinking a cup of tea Dean had forced into his hands. Sam hadn't said (hadn't said much of anything actually) but Dean got the impression that Jacob hadn't fed him much, or at all. Sam wasn't entirely up to eating just yet so hot drinks would have to do. Maybe Dean would try some soup if Sam kept the tea down.
"He was… one of them." Sam scratched absently at the bandage around his left wrist, "But not… he used to bring me water, and… talk."
Dean chewed on his lip, "He have a scar? Across his cheek?"
Sam looked up at him. "Yeah."
Dean nodded, clearing his throat awkwardly, "After Jacob… took you away, he left me in the cage." Dean didn't miss Sam's involuntary shudder, the way his eyes went distant for a moment. "Damien let me out. Even told me where to find you. I don't know what happened to him."
Sam was quiet for a moment, staring sightlessly into his cup, then –
"He didn't call me it, like the others did."
Dean recognized the tone and the danger signs in it, and moved immediately to sit in front of Sam on the bed.
"You're not an it, Sam," he said firmly.
Sam's eyes skittered away, ashamed.
Dean took the mug from Sam's relenting hands, placed it on the night stand and pushed the laptop from Sam's knees. He took hold of Sam's shoulders. "Listen, Sammy, you're not an it. You're not a monster, or whatever else they called you. You're the good guy, Sam. They were the bad guys. What they did to you makes them the monsters."
"How do we know though?" Sam raised his eyes hopelessly, "Maybe they were right. Maybe I should be… studied, so that later, if…"
Dean shook him slightly – not much. Sam's headache was still lingering, Dean could see it in the crease between his eyes. "Nothing is going to happen later. They didn't know you. I know you, Sam. You're my brother, and if you ever say that you're a monster or that you need to be studied or anything else like that again, I'll kick your ass all the way to next week. Clear?"
Sam heaved a deep breath, looking like he wanted to argue but looking more like he desperately wanted to believe, and nodded.
"Good. Now drink your tea." Dean sat back and went to push the laptop back to Sam, but paused as he glanced at the screen. He frowned.
"What's this?" He clicked through the open windows, each showing a different photo, next to headlines that read, 'Third Drowning in Two Weeks', 'Local Girl Found Dead in Home', 'Fourth Tramper Missing', and on it went, at least two dozen articles.
Dean felt his frown deepen, "You're not looking for a hunt, are you? 'Cause seriously, Sam, you're in no shape-"
"I'm not," Sam denied immediately, watching the photos flick by as Dean clicked through them, "I just…"
Understanding dawned. Dean looked up at his brother, "These are… they're the people you saw?"
Sam looked downcast, "Not all of them. I can't find some and, I think… at the end, it all started to run together. I can't remember…"
Dean felt something in his chest pull tight, aching for his younger brother.
"Sammy," he said gently, "It's not your fault. There wasn't anything you could do."
"I know." Sam angrily brushed away the tears that spilled over his cheeks. He let his head fall back against the wall, "God, this is so stupid."
"Not stupid, Sammy. What happened… no one should have to go through that. Jacob was nuts, and this is all on him."
Dean got a sudden flash of Jacob's extra-crispy corpse. At least the bastard got what he deserved. Sam was quiet as Dean closed down the web browsers one by one.
"Get some rest, kiddo."
"Not a kid," Sam muttered, but managed to sound like a petulant toddler. Dean threw a half-grin at him and Sam rolled his eyes as he shuffled down on the bed, "Jerk."
Dean went to stand but was stopped by Sam's hand suddenly clamping around his wrist. He raised an eyebrow.
Sam studiously looked everywhere apart from at Dean, his cheeks flushing. "Just… don't go anywhere," he muttered to the blankets.
Dean grinned. Perfect ammo for teasing later, but for now, Dean sat himself back down, gently nudging Sam over and scooping up the remote.
"Don't puke that tea all over me," he warned.
Sam, eyes closed, smiled drowsily, threw an arm over Dean's leg as if he didn't really believe Dean wouldn't go anywhere, and fell asleep.
Dean smiled too, flicking through channels and thinking inanely that, really, as long as Sam was around to do it, he wouldn't mind that much if his kid brother threw up all over him.