A/N: So I was in the mood to write another one-shot (this one's a two-shot), and my LJ friends totally started sending me lovely ideas. It's a sick/hurt Dean fic, so I hope you all enjoy. I'd like to dedicate this to bricksandwater, because she's awesome, even though I left her hanging on this for way longer than I intended. BW, you're probably out of the hospital by now, but I guess this fic is better late than never. Hope you like it!
P.S. This fic hasn't really been beta-ed, as I decided I didn't want to wait. So any mistakes are my own.
Chapter 1—An Emotional Hotbox
The sun was high overhead, making the heat of the cemetery unbearable. It felt like he'd been digging for eternity, though a quick glance showed that it hadn't been that long. Still, he'd long since stopped counting the shovels of dirt he was tossing over his shoulder, too bothered by the heat to distract himself with the usual methods. Braden was right there with him, though any sort of rhythm they'd had going was long gone by now.
Add the fuckin' heat to the list of reasons why we don't do hunts in the daytime.
It was a special situation, of course. The pissed-off spirit in question had taken vicious attacks to a whole new level, and as luck would have it, the cemetery where it's remains were located just happened to be in the middle of nowhere. It was one of those cemeteries that was older than dirt and had essentially been abandoned by all but the nearby town's local punks. They'd thought it was a good idea to party in the cemetery, and some ass-hat had gotten the brilliant idea to perform some hoodoo ritual out of a damn book.
People are fuckin' stupid. 'Hey, here's a crazy-ass, scary-as-hell ritual—let's try it!' Morons.
And instead of getting a damn clue and staying away, the teens kept returning every night with an even bigger crowd, all stupidly waiting to see evidence of their resident not-so-friendly ghost. Which was how Dean, his father, and the twins found themselves outside in the middle of the July afternoon in Bumfuck, Mississippi.
I forgot the fuckin' humidity—'s enough to choke on. Add that to the list, too.
Of course, Aubrey and Braden hardly paid any attention to the heat—hell, South Carolina was about as humid, and they'd lived most of their childhood there. Sure, they were sweating, but nothing like Dean was. Their dad didn't seem all that bothered, either—of course not—he's John fucking Winchester. No, it seemed as though Dean was being bothered by the heat the most, and it just plain pissed him off.
How deep is this guy, anyway? Was the bastard that bad that they had to bury him fuckin' twenty feet under?
His sweat-soaked shirt was clinging to him, irritating the hell out of him, and with an aggravated sigh, Dean dropped his shovel and peeled the damn shirt off, shoving the end of it under his belt before picking the shovel back up.
"You're gonna sunburn, D," Braden cautioned, using the hem of his shirt to wipe the sweat from his brow.
Dean settled for flipping his baby brother off rather than answer as he steadily continued to dig.
Above them, he could hear the sound of his father's shotgun going off, the spirit putting up a token resistance to their efforts to send its spectral ass back to wherever the hell it came from. Granted, Dean thought it was a pretty pansy resistance, but then again, it was daylight. The average spirit didn't seem to have quite the same inclination to be a pain in the ass during the daytime as it did after dark. Dean still hadn't come across a good explanation for that…
His head was pounding, and Dean knew it was his own damn fault for drinking so much the night before. He'd known good and well what his father had planned for this morning, but he'd gone ahead and had that last Jäger bomb anyway.
Fuckin' stupid was what that was.
Normally, Dean knew well enough to drink water after he'd consumed large amounts of alcohol, not to mention eating some food so that he wasn't drinking on an empty stomach. But things weren't normal, and Dean just hadn't found it in himself to give a damn. Hence the headache pounding away.
Haven't I sweated it out of my system by now? As if this day isn't already sucktastic enough, I gotta be hung-over on top of it. Maybe if I'd just told Dad to fuck off and stayed at the motel…
But he wouldn't have, he knew, and not just because his dad would have knocked his teeth down his throat. Because it was like Sam said, Dean was 'the perfect soldier,' never questioning, never thinking for himself…
The words echoed in his mind, and he shook his head angrily, wishing he could just erase every painful word Sam had yelled that day. Deep down, Dean knew Sam hadn't meant what he'd said about him—he'd just been lashing out because he was pissed off. But it still hurt like hell. And Dean couldn't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, Sam had meant what he said.
Is that really what he thinks of me?
"Braden!" John yelled suddenly as the shotgun roared again. "I need you up here!" Aubrey was up there with him, Dean knew, but even though she was a good shot, she had nothing on Braden, who seemed born to shoot.
"Sorry, D," Braden told him as he dropped his shovel and hoisted himself out of the grave that was still far shallower than they needed it to be. Unfortunately, Aubrey wasn't to be trusted with a shovel, so Dean wasn't about to holler for her to come and help.
"Hey, D—I'm right above you," Aubrey called down, "so don't throw dirt on me, okay?"
And that was another thing, Dean thought angrily. Aubrey. She'd been sticking to him like glue since Sam had left, and Dean honestly couldn't say whether he was glad or not. On the one hand, she'd seemed to sense how much he needed the company, how much he needed not to be alone. And anyone could see she needed the company, too—Sam's leaving had hurt her almost as much as it had Dean. For someone who desperately feared losing a family member, having one member walk out without a backwards glance was devastating.
Nevermind that the fucker hasn't even called in two weeks. The least he could do is call her once in a while and let her know he's okay. Call me once in awhile…
But Sam didn't call, and Dean couldn't bring himself to call Sam, too afraid he'd learn that Sam was blocking his calls. Or just plain ignoring them. It was better not to know, he'd decided. And apparently no one else was too eager to try either, so instead, they all just pretended that it didn't fucking matter.
But it did.
So yeah, Aubrey was clingier than she'd been in years, desperate to hold on to everyone she had left. And instead of attaching herself to Braden or their father, she'd apparently decided to attach to Dean. She'd hardly left his side, and while part of him took comfort in having someone in the family need him, it was also hard as hell on him. Because the truth was, having her so close meant he couldn't drop the mask that hid his messy emotions, the mask that he'd hidden his feelings behind since he was four years old.
Nevermind that it tears me up to watch her cry—that shit only makes everything fuckin' worse.
And it wasn't like he could yell at her to stop, either. She couldn't help it, he figured, at least no more than he could help being pissed off all the time. His head pounded anew, almost as if it was responding to his anger, and he wanted nothing more than to rest his aching head against what he imagined was the cool granite of the headstone above him.
Of course, that would mean I'd have to actually climb up there…dammit.
Dirt suddenly rained down on him, and he looked up crossly to see Aubrey now crouched down by the open grave, glancing back and forth between him and whatever the hell was happening up above him.
"Dean, did you hear me?" Aubrey asked, raising her voice, as though the reason he hadn't answered was simply because he didn't hear.
He nodded, and from the soft sigh she heaved as she stood, Dean knew she'd been hoping for more of an answer. Because Aubrey was a girl, and like most girls Dean had met, she wanted to talk. Dean indulged her on occasion, letting her chatter at him about her feelings and about boys she thought were 'cute,' but lately, he hadn't felt much like talking or listening to anyone's feelings. So he gave her enough of a token response that she couldn't bitch at him for not paying attention and ignored the girly, passive-aggressive shit she was trying to pull.
Like pulling a bitch-face and sighing is going to make me talk or something. Like it's gonna change a damn thing.
It didn't matter to Dean either way as he continued to shovel dirt up.
"Dad, are you sure this thing's buried here?" Dean heard Braden ask above him as he aimed the shovelful of dirt not towards Aubrey.
"As sure as I can be," John called back. "If Dean doesn't hit anything in the next couple of feet, we might have to rethink the location!" John told him, even as one of them took another shot.
You gotta be fuckin' kidding me. You told me to dig the damn hole here, and you're not even sure if it's the right place? What the fuck, Dad?
This would've never happened if Sam had still been with them, Dean knew. Sam had a knack for research that none of them had been able to match, and something told Dean none of them ever would. It was just one more reason why they were struggling without him.
Ruthlessly shoving away the ache in his heart, Dean jammed the shovel into the ground with a vengeance, anger once again welling up with an ease that was more than familiar these days. It was easier to indulge the anger than the hurt, so indulge it he did. He stayed angry more often than not, it seemed. Not that anyone other than him was likely to know it—he hadn't exactly said much about it.
'Course, I haven't said much of anything lately.
Because the truth was, talking wasn't something he could handle at the moment. Oh sure, he'd opened his mouth to try a couple of times, but he just couldn't seem to make the words come. It hadn't been this bad since the time he'd stopped talking when he was seventeen and the twins had joined the family. It was worse than that time, though, because back then, he'd had Sam to help him get over it. He'd had Sam to figure out what he wanted to say and convey it. But he didn't have Sam now.
It had been two weeks since Sam had walked out the door, since he'd turned his back on them. It had been two weeks since his father had shouted those words that Dean could still hear echoing in his mind: "If you walk out that door, don't you come back. If you go, you stay gone."
Why'd you fuckin' leave, Sammy? We coulda worked something out, dammit—you didn't even give us a fuckin' chance! You didn't give me a fuckin' chance.
And after a lifetime spent looking after his little brother, Dean felt like he was drifting aimlessly on a sea of 'what the fuck do I do now?'
What made it even worse was that Dean was nowhere close to figuring out how he felt about the whole mess. Was he angry? If so, who was he angry at? His brother for leaving? His father for making it impossible for Sammy to come back? Or was he angry at himself for not saying a damn word?
If anger wasn't the issue, was it hurt? Hurt that his brother had left him, that his father had let him down by forcing Sam to stay away? The feelings of betrayal mingled in there as well, making the messy feelings into an emotional sludge that Dean didn't have a chance of working through. At least, not anytime soon.
"Dean," Braden called out suddenly, "Dad says to switch out with Aubrey—he says you've been down there awhile—come on!"
More than anything, Dean just wanted to escape it all. He wanted to be numb. And barring alcohol, his method of choice, the feel of the shovel in his hands allowed him to do just that, allowed him to be numb, to exist merely to plunge the shovel in and out of the dirt.
So he shook his brother off, ignoring the command as he continued to dig. He knew well enough that his father, in favor of them finishing faster, likely wouldn't argue, and at least the grave was a little cooler than the humid, hot air on the surface level.
Shifting, he staggered suddenly, almost dropping to his knees, and he cursed under his breath. The world spun lazily around him for a second, and he let the shovel fall from his hands as he braced himself against the sides of the grave.
Whoa. Okay, yeah, maybe it is time for a break.
"Dude, and you call me a girl," he heard Sam say suddenly.
"Shut up, bitch," he muttered back, forcing back the wave of nausea that was making him want to gag.
"D' you say somethin'?" Aubrey asked, and Dean jerked, startled by the loudness of her voice. He looked up to see her staring down at him in confusion.
There was no trace of Sam.
"Where'd Sammy go?" he asked her, flinching at the shotguns roaring above even as he reached for the shovel once more.
"Um…he's not here, Dean," she replied slowly, looking down at him strangely.
"'s he up there getting his ass shot at?" he demanded, angrily jamming his shovel down into the dirt, failing to notice that he'd struck something definitely not-dirt as he stared back at her sternly.
"Dean, are you okay?" she asked him, the odd look still on her face as she gazed back at him.
"'m fine—answer the damn question: is Sam up there gettin' hurt while I'm down here sweating my ass off in the fuckin' dirt?"
Actually, he'd stopped sweating some time ago, but the fact didn't really register as he stared up at her, willing her to stop moving so he could focus his gaze on her.
"Sam's not here," she told him carefully, and Dean's temper exploded at the perceived way she was patronizing him.
"Bullshit! I just heard him, Aubrey! Why the hell are you lyin' to me?"
He dropped the shovel and moved to hoist himself up, ignoring the sudden lightheadedness that seemed to hit him again.
"Aubrey!" John yelled across the cemetery. "Quit yapping with Dean and pay attention! Somebody's gonna get hurt!"
"Daddy, somethin's wrong with Dean—he ain't actin' right!" Dean heard her call back distantly as he clumsily grabbed at the ground above him, trying to find purchase to haul himself out.
Like hell 'm not. 'm fine. And 'm gonna find m' brother.
"What's wrong with him?" John was yelling back, but Dean paid no attention as he stepped towards his sister with the intention of taking the shotgun off her hands.
"He's actin' funny—thinks Sam's here!"
"That's 'cause he is," Dean told her belligerently, paying no attention to whatever it was that his father said in response to her. "And 'm gonna find 'im!. I know he's here!"
"When's the last time he took a break?" John shouted, and if Dean had had the clarity of mind to think about it, it would have pissed him off that his father had addressed the question to his sister instead of him. As it was, it only barely registered with him, and Aubrey's response had even less of a reaction.
"I don't think he has," she called back, and Dean nodded vaguely even as his father yelled an incredulous "What?"
Yeah, that sounds about right. Breaks are for pansies, anyway…what…what was I doin' again?
"Dude, get your head out of your ass and pay attention," he heard Sam say. "You're in the middle of a hunt and you're spacing out."
Oh yeah…Sam. I'm lookin' for Sam.
He dragged himself out of the grave only to find himself airborne as he shot through the air, and he had just enough presence of mind to tuck and roll before he crashed into the ground with a jarring thud.
"Dean!" Aubrey yelled, and Dean wanted to ask her what the hell she was yelling at him for, but he was more concerned with finding his brother.
"Aubrey, hold the line!" John yelled, his voice sounding to Dean almost as loud as the shotguns. "Braden, drop down in that fucking hole and see how close your brother was to the casket!"
The shotguns seemed to explode unceasingly around him as his head rested against the cool granite of the headstone he'd landed beside. It felt pretty good after the intense heat of the sun, but something nagged at his attention, something important…
Sheer force of will propelled him to his feet, and he weaved drunkenly for a moment before he steadied himself and moved towards his sister.
"Gimme the gun, Aubrey," he ordered, his balance wavering as he held his hand out for the shotgun.
"No way! Not unless Daddy says it's alright," Aubrey replied, her eyes not looking at him as she scanned for anything deemed threatening.
"We're right at it, Dad," Braden yelled then, even as Dean stared back at his sister, struggling to make sense of what she'd just said. "I need the salt!"
And I need a shotgun. Sammy, where are you?
He staggered away from the others, his eyes darting left and right as he searched among the tombstones for his brother, unaware of the breath heaving in and out of his lungs.
His stomach rolled, and he suddenly found himself on his knees, throwing up everything his stomach held and more. Gagging, he tried to breathe deeply, but it wasn't happening, and the pain reverberating in his head wasn't helping the situation any.
The shotguns finally fell silent a considerably distance away, and he could only barely hear the familiar sound of flames crackling in an open grave.
"You okay, Sammy?"
But Sam didn't answer, and with growing worry, Dean forced himself to his feet, fighting back the wave of dizziness and the black spots pressing in on his vision.
"Where's your brother?" he heard his father ask, and Dean shrugged helplessly.
I dunno, Dad—but I'll find 'im, I swear.
"I don't know! He was right here!" Aubrey called back.
No, he wasn't. If Sammy was right there, I'd have found 'im by now. He's trapped here somewhere, I know it.
"Oh, shit!" he heard Braden yell suddenly. "Dad!"
And that was when Dean became aware—in a vague sense of the word—that he was lying on the ground in a heap. Fighting back another wave of nausea, Dean tried to get his arms under him only to feel the familiar grip of his father suddenly ease him back down.
"Hold up, Dean—you're not lookin' so good," his father told him worriedly, pressing a hand to Dean's forehead. "You're runnin' hot, son."
'm not. Shiverin.'.
"Le' go o' me," Dean mumbled, trying to shove his father's hands away from his shoulders. "Gotta find Sammy."
"Dean, Sam's not here," John told him firmly. "When's the last time you drank some water?"
"Dammit, Dean, Sam's not here! Look at me," he ordered, gripping Dean's chin and turning Dean's head back so that he could look him in the eye. "Have you had any water to drink this morning?"
"Doesn't matter!" Dean shouted, struggling against his father's hold, even as John cursed and tightened his grip. "I gotta find Sammy! He's out there!"
"Shit," Dean heard his father bite out, even as he strained to break free from the older man's hold. "Braden, go start the Impala, and crank the air up—he's not even sweating anymore!"
But Dean ignored his father's words, not interested anymore as he fought to gain his feet. Nothing else mattered but finding Sam.