FINAL CHAPTER FOUR
A sickening, rancid mud smell invaded his nose. Dean gasped and his eyes opened. At first he saw nothing but black. He was exhausted, his body hurt and gawd what was that horrible smell? He slowly rose up to his knees. Hacking and coughing, he surveyed the damage. The room was trashed, black goo dripping off the walls, overturned furniture, forming puddles here and there on the carpet.
He spied Chester, hanging back on the wall, time ticking away as if nothing had ever happened. The clock's normal happy-go-lucky grin and roving left to right eyes, followed by the annoying swish, swish of the cat's tail - once again ticking time away.
Dean didn't care if the thing seemed not to be possessed any longer, Chester was so toast. But first…
"Sam." Dean tore his gaze from the clock, eyes landing on his brother.
Sam lay by the wall where he'd been thrown face down in the carpet, clothes saturated black.
"Sam." Dean crawled on hands and knees over to his brother. "Sammy." He flipped Sam over onto his back. Unable to see the rise and fall of his brother's chest through the layer of gunk, Dean took hold of Sam's shoulders and shook hard - a floppy brother his only response. "Jesus." Dean bent down low, turning his head and pressing an ear near Sam's mouth and nose. He listened intently. "No," Dean swallowed nervously, not hear a thing, not a gurgle, not a moan, not a wheeze. "No, no, no." Sam couldn't be, he wasn't dead. Dean's ears were just plugged with ghost shit. "No way!" He shouted. "You don't get to do this. Up an' at 'em, solider," he shouted in Sam's face, military style.
Sam's eyes popped open wide. Startled, he sat bolt upright. "Guh." A spray of black crap shot out his mouth and nostrils. "Wh'? D'y' ge… get…" he squeezed his eyes shut, unable to stop shaking or coughing.
"Easy, now." Up on his knees, ramrod straight, Dean took Sam by his shoulders, and firmly stated, "Bro, it's over."
Sam's head just lolled and he wheezed in and out like an asthmatic, mouth open and eyes rolling up white.
"Dude." Dean held Sam up by his shirt sleeve. He reached around with the other, slapping his back with the flat of his hand; much the way he used to when Sam was young and had swallowed down the wrong way.
"Cough it up," Dean ordered. "I'm all right, you're all right, we're all right, Sam, just cough it up."
Sam's head fell loosely back.
"Hey, hey." Dean caught the back of Sam's neck, and drew him into his personal space against his chest. "No blacking out." His flat palm turned into a balled fist. "I said, cough it up." Dean's lower lip quivered.
Sam couldn't seem to stop wheezing.
"Come on." Dean struck his brother's back harder, desperate to dislodge the gunk that was inhibiting his brother's breathing, yet again.
Sam squirmed weakly in Dean's hold.
"Stay calm. You can breathe," Dean said, more for himself then for Sam.
With each chest-rattling cough, Sam's troubled breathing slowly but surly became a little easier.
"That's it, just breathe, little brother." Dean stopped pounding, in exchange for rubbing vigorously up and down.
"D'n," Sam muttered into his shoulder.
"Yeah," Dean breathed, "I got you." He relaxed back onto his heels.
Sam started to pull away, obviously attempting to stand.
"Just give yourself a minute." Dean gripped the back of Sam's neck firmly.
Dean blocked out Chester. Blocked out time. Blocked out the premise of hell paying attention to nothing but Sam. Who's minute was this, anyway? Just as much Dean's as it was Sam's. He was going to miss Sam. He wanted to tell him so. Wanted to tell him it was fun being his brother. Sam made life good, fun, easier to bear. He gave Sam a gentle squeeze. Okay, it wasn't just a squeeze it was a hug, a goodbye hug. Who knew when he'd get the chance again without making it seem weird.
Sam choked back what to Dean sounded like a sob.
Enough of that. Dean eased Sam forward, looked him in the eyes and smiled.
Sam gave a small shake of his head, staring back, looking as if he wanted to say something, but didn't.
Dean read the words in Sam's watery eyes. 'You don't get to say goodbye.'
Dean wanted to say something to, but actually saying it wasn't the Winchester way. Instead he said, "You ready?"
"Easy, just hold it right here." Dean leaned Sam against the sticky wall. Quickly he raced around the room, pulling Chester off his hook, gathering their gunk stained gear, save for the destroyed laptop. "Can you stumble out of here?" Dean asked, coming back to stand in front of Sam, hands full of their gear and Chester.
"I think," Sam panted. "Where we going?" He pressed back against the wall for support.
"Anywhere but here, I don't care if we have to spend the next few days in the Impala, 'till that road clears."
"Could be days," Sam noted, pushing up the wall to stand, Dean gripping his forearm for added support. "Almost killed each other in the motel room and you want us to camp out in the car now?"
"Look, Princess Castle-Lot, I've had it with this motel, and the parking lot is free. We're gone."
"Don't but, just do, Sam."
Sam took a deep breath and nodded.
They headed out the motel door, splashing their way through the falling rain, across the pitted parking lot. Sam swayed back and forth his shoulder brushing against Dean's.
Dean was careful to match Sam's unsteady gait step-for-step, keeping a close eye on his kid brother. The pelting rain was cold, but the shower felt good doing a great job of rinsing them off of leftover ghost shit.
With each step, Sam's pace slowed. He shook his head a little moan escaping.
"You gonna make it?" Dean side glanced at Sam, observing how pale his brother's face had turned, even through the dark falling rain.
"If you make it, I make it," Sam muttered despondently.
Dean tensed, he couldn't help but fear what was rattling around in Sam's brain now.
Just as they reached the car, Sam's strength gave out and his feet jumbled. He reached out, both hands slapping to the hood for support, head bowed.
"Just tired." Sam ran a hand down over his eyes, blinking away drops of rain.
"Hold it there a second." Dean hurriedly opened the trunk, tossing their gear and Chester in. He grabbed two bottles of water, making a mental note to burn the cat the moment the rain let up. Slamming the trunk shut, he headed back to Sam. "Okay." He took Sam by the forearm. "Come with me, drunkin' donut, let's get you stretched out in the backseat.
"Shotgun," Sam called.
Dean just nodded, wrangling the kid's soggy ass into the passenger seat and lifting his long legs stuffing them into the foot well.
"Sure you're all right up here?" Dean reached over the bench seat grabbing a blanket and tossing the cover over Sam. "Sam?" Dean bent down to peer into his brother's half-open eyes.
Sam wiggled slumping back against the seat. "Sure you really want to go to hell?" His gaze lingering on Dean.
Dean kept a straight poker face, ignoring the question. "Wait here." He handed Sam the bottles of water. "I'm going to talk to the motel manager, check us out of this dump." He gave Sam a hardcore stare. "Just make sure you don't puke in my car." Dean slammed the door shut.
Not long after:
The minute Dean left the motel office the howling wind swept rainwater across the lot and drove huge, cold drops into his face. He shrugged deeper into his jacket. This was more like it he thought, rain you could not only see, but hear.
"Don't care how much it costs," Dean said, "Next place we stay at is going to be the Ritz Carlton, Barbies Princess Castle or Bikini Bottom," he grumbled shoving his empty wallet into his jeans pocket. Motel cheap as shit wasn't so cheap, as he'd given the motel manager extra for the damages Chester had incurred.
Nearing the Impala, Dean squinted through the curtain of water. A flash of lightning revealed a figure butted up against the rear tire, crouched on the balls of his feet, head hung low.
"Stupid, son of a…" The crack and roll of thunder drowned out the rest of Dean's curse as he raced toward Sam.
"Goooooooooooowwwwwwwwddddddd." Sam bent further forward to puke in the space between his boots, but only a dry tortured sound left his throat. "Gahhhh." He rocked unsteadily back and forth, nearly toppling over to one side.
"Sam." Dean crouched next to Sam, and put a hand to his shoulder. "Tell me you didn't puke in the car, man"
"What's happening?" Sam sagged toward the ground, his right hand splashing into the puddle before him, struggling to hold himself up.
"Crash and burn, time," Dean muttered, palming Sam's forehead and easing him back against a tire, not caring at all they were soaked to the bone.
"Wha…uhhhh." Sam trembled with chills.
"It's called dry heaving, Sam, final stages of being drunk. You're lucky. I don't think you have a concussion, but you're going to have one ginormous headache."
"I already…" Sam immediately hunched forward away from the tire to throw up again, but nothing came out. "Dee," he gagged. "Geeze, oh, gaaaaa," he violently retched, spitting nothing but saliva. "Make it stop," Sam begged. "Gotta sto…uh, please, " he gacked, like a cat spitting up a hairball. "Jus, not like Dad," Sam sobbed.
"Yeah, pal, I get it." Dean nodded. "That's where my hands are tied, bro."
"I just Waaaana…" Sam bowed his head, gagging harder. "I jusssss…" Every muscle in Sam's body tightened and convulsed, the dry heaves continuing mercilessly.
Dean winced. "Dude, don't fight so hard, only makes matters worse. Believe me, I understand. Been there."
Sam peered sadly up at Dean, through wet bangs.
It was cruel what Dean had done. Selling his soul. Dean knew the guilt. He knew the pain Sam was going through, sure as he knew the pain of drinking too much. Dean did a quick run through in his mind. His father had sent his soul to hell for him. He could picture his father swimming through fire, burning, screaming among the twisted dead, and lost souls Suffering, eternally tortured - all for him. How could Dad do that? Dean didn't deserve to be saved, but Sam did. Kid had to learn, there was no stopping the deal. Dean wouldn't allow it. He was destined to burn - or freeze - whatever it was you did in hell. He was scared, sure. Who wouldn't be, but he wouldn't let himself slip down that slop. He had to think of Sam. Sam was all that mattered now. Poor kid was fighting a long, hard losing battle. Dean's heart hammered in his chest. Going to hell made everything that was wrong - right again. What bothered him, what cost him the most, was seeing Sam's pain. Here and now.
"Grrr," Sam clenched his teeth snapping Dean back to the present.
"Easy, come on, Sammy, easy now," Dean shushed his brother searching his face through the downpour.
For a moment Sam seemed to relax, shoulders sagging, head dipping further.
"Can't, I can't do thi…uhhhhh." Sam trembled, wrapping his arms around himself. "I can't."
"Yes you can," Dean said, knowing Sam wasn't talking about the dry heaves, that was the least of the kids worries. There was no backing out. He had to keep his game face on. Needed to spend what little time he had left with Sam, hunting, being brothers, being family. "Sam." Dean ran a hand down Sam's back. "I'm sorry."
And he was. Truly he was. This was no flesh wound; it was a kill shot to Sam's heart. Dean took no pleasure in watching his brother's pain. What the deal was costing his little brother. He couldn't blame Sam for being angry with him. If it was impossible for Dean to deal with the guilt his dad left him with, it had to be unbearable for Sam. When his dad went to hell, Dean still had Sam. This go around, Dean would be leaving Sam - alone in the world. He should feel guilty for that, and he did. But not enough to risk the cost of alternative. It was just too high a price for Dean to think about, let alone have to pay. Sam was John's boy, sure, but he was Dean's too. He was strong. He would be okay.
"I'm sorry," Dean repeated, barely in a whisper. "I am. I can't take this away, Sam. You have to just," Dean paused, "You have to let go. You're strong. You can let go." Dean bit his lip. "For me."
Sam elevated his head slightly, tossing his wet bangs out of his eyes. "No," Sam grit out his teeth. "Won't." He gave Dean a cold, hard bloodshot stare. "Not ever," he said, dropping his head and going back to choking and spitting in the puddle between his feet.
Dean smiled sadly, there were no choices here. "Hang in there, little brother, it'll get better," he said, huddling close to Sam trying to blocks the rain that flew sideways at them.
"Screw you." Sam dropped ass-end to the wet pavement with a heavy splash.
"Yeah, okay, let's get in the car and get dried off." Distract and detour, Dean's famous game plan.
Dean sighed, "Don't you even want to know what the mousy looking motel manager told me?" More attempts to divert.
"You don't want to know about how his mother and father owned this motel. How his mother loved cats. So much so that for years every stray cat that came along got an entire motel room to themselves. Free room and bored for life. How he found out his father took up feeding the animals at night, but really had turned the cat's house into a cathouse - for real. How one fine day his mother also found out about the cathouse, catching her loving husband in the act," Dean cleared his throat, "of interviewing a new prospect for his harem.
Ignoring Sam, Dean went on. "How during a rainstorm just like this, one year ago tonight, they had a huge fight. Her husband got so angry at her for threatening to take him for every penny he owned…"
"Don't care," Sam garbled.
"Dude, he slaughtered every single one of her beloved cats before running off with his employees of loose morals."
"You don't want to know about how the wife locked herself in that bloody room for weeks after that, along with the rotting, dead bodies of her beloved cats - barely eating or drinking. She wouldn't let her son in to help her, threatening him that she'd kill her self if he even tried to come in."
"You suck," Sam said angrily.
"Bro," Dean groaned. "Let's get in the car and I'll tell you the rest." Dean reached for Sam's arm to pull him up.
"No." Sam flinched away.
"Fine," Dean continued his story, "Her son," he waved a hand toward the front office. "Mousy motel manager guy, he finally couldn't take it anymore and busted down the door. He was too late. Found his mother dead. Her eyes were wide open and staring at the cat clock on the wall, and still surrounded by her twenty-two dead cats. The cat clock had stopped at - guess what time," Sam.
"Right. I figure all the plasma wasn't just from her, but those poor cats. Guess what else?"
"This all happened in the room we've been staying in."
"And you want to know something else?"
"You kiss the girls and make them cry," Sam gave Dean a lopsided grin.
Dean drew back, squinting disbelieving at Sam through the downpour. "Dude, are you drunk or hung over? Make up your mind."
"Both," Sam gagged, spitting to the ground. "What else?"
"There are forty-five rooms in this joint and she had decorated every one of them with identical cat clocks. You know what that means?"
"Means Chester has forty-five lives, and you have one." Sam's face twisted in anger. "One, Dean." He balled a fist, drew back and swung at Dean, poor judgment nearly sent him face first to the ground
"Okay, donut king," Dean grabbed Sam by the arm. "Enough. Back in the car."
"No." Sam's body went bow-string tight. "Staying right here, 'til you stop trying to stop me," Sam said, lips pressed tight.
"So," Dean sighed, "That's your big plan? A sit in."
"That plan include catching your death of cold." Dean looked skyward at the rainstorm still coming down in droves. "You're dripping wet, Sam, let's go."
"In the car."
"You want shotgun again or the back?"
"Pick one Sam or it's the trunk for you."
A jagged bolt of lightning lit the sky purple.
"Sam," Dean growled. "Let's go before I get zapped early."
"Front." Sam shuddered.
"You sure you wouldn't rather stretch out in the back this time."
"Front, next to you."
"Sounds crowded to me." Dean grasped Sam around the chest and muscled him to his feet for what felt like the thousandth time that day.
"Sounds out of harm's way to me."
"You really are trashed."
Dean briefly marveled at his - tinted green - brother's stubbornness. He could hear the desperation in Sam's voice, saw the rapid rise and fall of his chest - panic in every breath.
"Uh-huh." Sam's eyes slid closed.
"In you go."
Sam didn't struggle it was obvious the kid was exhausted. Dean opened the passenger door and arranged Sam as gently and comfortably as he could.
He stared at Sam a moment, irrationally wanting to turn time back. Back to when they were kids. He never used to be conscious of time. Never was a clock watcher, until now. Now he noticed every second, and didn't want to waste another.
Dean quietly shut the door and slipped in behind the wheel. He leaned his head back and stared out the windshield. Glad for the rain that raced down the glass. Second after second, each drop mimicking the tears that wouldn't fall down his face. He wished he could stretch his year out forever. He turned his head slightly, studying Sam in the glass. The kid's reflection made him look younger, vulnerable. Hell didn't scare Dean as much as leaving Sam behind, unprotected.
Maybe by tomorrow night they'd have burned all the Chester clocks and the river would recede enough for them to get gas and head out of town. He wanted to make the most of the time he had left. Go fishing, play a few rounds of put-put, share a Christmas, maybe get drunk - together this time.
Dean briefly wondered if he burned all the Chester's of the world, could he stop time, stop the deal from happening.
"I'm still going to try to save you." Sam's slurred, eyes still closed. "Going to do whatever it takes."
"And I'm still not going to let you," Dean said softly.
"Hey." Sam slowly slanted toward Dean.
"I hate you, man," Sam said, half turning to face Dean, gravity and drunkenness still working against him.
Dean instantly understood. The word transcended all they felt for one another. It was their secret word. They always said it to one another as kids. A trick. Their way to keep up the manly Winchester bravado and avoid chick-flick moments.
"A lot," Sam added, finishing his slow sideways slide until his nose thumped and planted firmly against Dean's shoulder. Once again Sam was out, drooling and snoring like a lawn mower in a deep, dark cave.
Dean wiggled an arm behind his brother's back and adjusted his head allowing Sam to use his shoulder as a makeshift pillow, so the kid could breathe easy and rest.
Leaning his head against the cool glass, Dean attentively listened to Sam's heavy breathing. Not minding the close quarters at all.
"I love you, too, man." Dean barely whispered, "A lot."
The 'Blah, blah, end.
AN: Chester was based on the 1930's Kit-Kat wall clock The novelty, animated cat clocks with large shifting eyes, and swaying tails was created during the Great Depression. The idea, to help cheer people up and give them a smile during the trying times. I always thought the things were creepy and just wanted to write a story based around Felix (also known as, Chester, according to Dean). Plus a wet, drunk, hurt Sam…can't resist that. Thank you so much for sticking with this kooky little dream.