A/N: Here we are. Our grand journey comes to an end. Thank you for sticking around.
The ride to the next motel was all a haze.
Sam remembered escaping Marcia's, running to the Impala and waiting for Dean's return. He'd clutched at his knees and thought as many happy things as he could before Dean knocked on his window, scaring him back into reality. "Gonna leave now, Sammy," Dean had said, "I'm back and we're leaving the town."
"So fucking scared, Dean." Sam was having trouble breathing as he told this truth. He felt as if Fear had taken residence in his chest, sitting on it like a heavy weight and pulling at his bones. "Scared."
Dean had nodded at this like it was to be expected. Sam assumed his brother went around the front of the car (Sam's eyes were closed, now; Fear demanded it), because in no time at all, the driver's side door was opening and strong hands started to rub at Sam's shoulders.
"No more being scared, okay?" Dean whispered, soothing. "Your big brother's here now."
Sam could keep the tears back at hearing that, as it was true. Dean was here. Dean had saved Sam when Sam was on the brink of madness and the debt was nearly un-repayable. He knew the action was childish, but Sam couldn't help leaning into his brother's arms and sobbing. His brother radiated comfort like a human furnace, and Sam just wanted to soak up the heat.
They had stayed like that for awhile – Sam unable to believe the nightmare had truly passed, Dean mumbling nonsensical things to keep Sam from bawling – until Sam's stomach rumbled.
"That was a loud rumble," Dean remarked. "You hungry, dude?"
Eyes sticky with dried tears and salt, Sam looked up at his big brother – his protector – with a hopeful look. He was hungry. He was hungrier than he'd been in ages, as he couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten. Marcia had offered him nothing but vegetables and some Ritz crackers with expired peanut butter. And as much as Sam approved of vegetables (because he very much did), he hadn't had much in the way of an appetite at the time. All of this translated into Sam feeling extremely parched and in want of food.
"I'd like some food, Dean," he confirmed.
That was all it took: Dean pursed his lips in a resolute way and backed out of the parking lot. Sam supposed he should point out that they had food in the trunk, but he was enjoying basking in his brother's care. He'd let Dean decide what was best.
They had driven for ages, long enough for the stripes on the road to morph into a single blur of yellow in Sam's mind. He knew they had stopped for food; he faintly recalled Dean leaving him again to run into a diner for a salad and cheesecake, returning to coax Sam into eating something green. "You need your strength," Dean had pointed out, and Sam was in no shape to argue.
Marcia and the old town were far behind by the evening. Dean checked them into a classier hotel, and Sam didn't even have the energy to worry about how they were going to pay for it.
He was still shaking from time to time, memories of the day coming back to him like stabbing knives in his head. Sam was confused as to why his brain insisted on thinking of things that hurt so much, like the look on Marcia's face when she'd caught him leaving, or her grip on the spritzer when he'd been dusting books. He never wanted to think of Marcia or old women ever again.
The bed Dean guided him to was soft and smelled of clean sheets and lilac. Sam immediately curled up on his side, grabbing a pillow to hug around his stomach. He felt small and unprotected.
From the sound of it, Dean was doing their usual post-check-in routine: salting the windows and doors, drawing protection spells in chalk on the back of the door and at the foot of each bed for good measure. When he was finished, Sam could hear him settle on the other bed and turn on the TV, obviously trying to give Sam some space.
Sam didn't want space. He wanted his big brother.
"Dean," he whispered, rather shakily. He knew his request was babyish and unacceptable for someone as old and as muscular as he was, but the bed felt too big. The bed felt too big and he couldn't stop thinking. He cleared his throat. "Dean, could you…?"
"Could you watch TV from over here? With me?"
The short break of silence worried Sam – did Dean think it was a dumb request? – until he felt the dip of the mattress behind him. Dean arranged himself on his back, shoulders and head propped up by pillows so he could still see the TV, his side butted up against Sam's back. After a few moments of Alex Trebek asking asinine questions to individuals (Who in the universe didn't know that Utretch was in the Netherlands? Sam wondered), Dean's hand came down on Sam's ribs, patting absentmindedly.
"You feel better?"
Sam shook his head. "No." He bit his lip in the silence that followed, but couldn't stop himself from choking out a few sobs. In between one breath and the next, Sam's crying grew loud and messy. Why wouldn't his mind stop thinking?
Dean's hand rubbed a little harder. "Hey, hey," he said over the sound of Sam's whimpers and shuddering. "Tell your big brother what's wrong. Let him help."
Objectively, Sam knew he was gross-looking. He could feel his own spit on his chin, snot running from his nose in a most liquid-like manner. His words came out wet and thick, but he started to talk, anyway. "How the hell am I going to live, Dean?" He tried to snort, but only ended up making his face messier. "I c-can't even go outside."
"Of course you can go outside, dude. You were outside just now," Dean reasoned.
Sam shook his head. "I had to. But now I'm here and I'm…I'm never coming out." He cried harder at the thought. He meant it: Sam never wanted to step outside again. The world was a scary place full of wrinkles and if the morning's events proved anything at all, it was that Sam was never safe. It didn't matter how banal of a task he attempted to follow through; he'd inevitably suffer at the hands of the elderly. He'd be stuck here in this hotel room until his dying days, mirrors broken to prevent him from seeing his own wrinkles. Dean would…Dean would have to wear a mask when he visited.
"Sam?" Dean prompted, shaking him a little.
"A hermit!" Sam cried. "I'm going to be a hermit!"
Dean snorted, much better than Sam had been attempting before. "Dude. You're not going to be a hermit."
"Am, too!" Sam insisted. He turned over on his back, pushing Dean aside a little so he could glare. "How can I go outside, Dean? How can I leave? Wrinkles are everywhere."
"Today was a bad day," Dean tried to reason.
Sam's voice grew shrill. "Today was a bad day that could happen again!" His heart beat harder at the thought. "Today could happen tomorrow, or the day after that. It could happen when I'm grocery shopping, or loading a gun. Today could happen anytime, which means I can't leave."
"Nonsense," Dean said. "None of that shit is going to happen to you."
Sam sniffed. "Why not?"
"Because I'll be there."
Sam was not better the next day or the day after that. As childish as it was, he did a fair bit of crying to Dean, wailing about his worries. But Dean stuck through it all.
Sam didn't know why it worked, but Dean coaxed him outside with the promise of the best pear he'd even bit into waiting in the Impala. They progressed from short drives to long drives to sitting in the park. Sam clutched at Dean's sleeve more often than not, but he didn't flee.
He grew stronger.
Two months after Marcia, Sam shot a ghost with a great deal of wrinkles. All was well.
I hope you enjoyed. And because I felt like it would ruin the flow of the chapter, I didn't mention that Marcia wasn't a witch. She was merely a hack and an old woman who enjoyed scaring anyone she could. Poor Sammy.