~ Epilogue ~

.

.

.

Waking was a slow, languid and confusing process. Thoughts mushy. Surfaces cloudy and soft.

It wasn't the barn, that much Dean was sure of. The barn had been all pain, cold fire, current, and sharpness. All of those surrounded by fear and anger. This, well, aside from the dull throb in his head, sides and... well, everywhere, this waking up wasn't anything like it had been in the barn.

Swimming back to coherence, eyes still refusing to open, flashes of memory came back. There was a kid; heat, water, concern, knives, needles...

"Sam?" In Dean's mind that's how it had sounded, but his ears had heard something like 'S'm', but then, his ears seemed stuffed, like they were full of water, or cotton, and so did the rest of his head.

Clearing his throat, Dean shifted a bit then tried again. "Sam?" he called out softly. His voice felt raw, unused.

Tentatively, he opened his eyes, but things were fuzzy, out of focus. And god his head ached, not as bad as it had, but bad enough, and forcing his eyes to focus really wasn't helping much.

Blinking several times, things closer seemed more clear and he turned his head slowly on the pillow. It was still blurry but there, just beyond his reach was a full bottle of water and when he lifted a hand to reach for it, he realized he'd misjudged the distance. It sat just beyond his fingertips, so he tried to move.

Or tried to.

Movement, it turned out, wasn't all that high on his body's priority list. Grunting in pain, the attempt turned out more like a beached whale flopping on the sand while the surf mocked and invited him back in. Back under.

Stubbornly, Dean pushed back at the waves and forced himself to remain at the surface, even if his eyes didn't want to cooperate. After a moment, he opened his eyes but otherwise remained still. Choosing to take in his surroundings as best he could laying as still as possible.

This time things seemed to swim back into place, and uncertain what he'd find when they did, he remained still. Blinking for greater clarity. Listening. Absorbing.

Water-stained ceiling. Check.

Gaudy wallpaper. Check.

TV that looked like it belonged in a museum. Check.

Scratchy, cheep covers shifting against his bandaged torso and feet. Check.

The musty smell of old clothes and mud. Check.

Motel room.

"Awesome," Dean sighed.

Dean turned his head. Only his head and very carefully. The dull ache between his ears and behind his eyes screamed at just that small rotation but he persisted. Things across the room were less clear, but, the more he blinked, the more the world slowly blurred to more recognizable shapes.

A cheap, bedside table sat in the space between the two beds, on the surface sat their laptop, open but powered down. Next to it there was a stack of...papers?

Sam's bed was empty. The chairs at the table were empty.

Dean listened. No shower running. There was no Sam anywhere.

A sudden flare of light sliced through the room. "Crap," Dean grimaced and slammed his eyes shut.

The sun knifed sharply through a narrow slit between the curtain panels, filling Dean's vision with painful halos of light. "Great," Dean groaned and rubbed at his forehead. Concussions. He'd gotten them often enough to recognize even the smallest of signs.

Dean kept his head turned away from the light and when the sharp pain dulled to a more reasonable level, he squinted again at the stack of papers. Leaning against the pile of pages and facing him was a yellow slip of paper that melted in and out of focus. The hammering inside his skull increased and he closed his eyes but not before noting something familiar about the page.

It was fairly close so, lying flat, because he wasn't ready to try moving again, he flopped a hand out and grabbed at it, fumbling around as his fingertips did what his closed eyes should've.

Bringing the paper closer to his face, Dean recognized Sam's neat handwriting. When the large print slipped precariously into place Dean noticed something else too; the writing was huge! It was like... Remedial Writing for the Severely Concussed, or something. In big, bold lettering, it read...

... DEAN, STAY IN BED!...I FUCKING MEAN IT!

"Bossy," Dean murmured, scoffing at the order. "Not a friggin' baby..." It was difficult to focus. Lines constantly slipped and slid and Dean had had to blink frequently, even with the remedial lettering. When things righted again, he kept reading...

... WENT TO GET FOOD. BACK SOON, S

Dropping the note, Dean closed his eyes again and leaned back against the pillow.

Even with the large, easily readable print, the telegram-like note had been enough to send new stabs of pain into his bruised brain. He wanted nothing more than to sink back into that warm feeling of no feeling at all, but it seemed like his body had other ideas. His back, for one, was killing him.

So, after a blown breath of determination, Dean grabbed a handful of covers and rolled to his side. Then, one hand on the mattress he hoisted himself to a sitting position. It was more reclined and tilted to one side and clutching, but in the end, he was satisfied with it, even if his protesting ribs said otherwise.

Other parts were protesting too. Earlier memories of the barn were reasserting themselves with each flexed muscle and each move pulled of the flesh on his back. Torn tissue and tendons ached where he had collided one too many times with the barbed wire pole. Where his muscles had danced painfully under the current of electricity and his skin had been sliced apart by the point of Perv's knife.

The images tugged at Dean's mind and he had to shake his head to clear them. Ever so gently.

Avoiding the hard surface of the headboard, Dean stacked both pillows behind him and rested his back against the soft surface. Sitting unassisted, as much as he'd hate to admit it, just wasn't going to work. His ribs were already screaming at him.

"Fucking pussy," he berated himself, his weakness. His pain. Winchester's were made of stronger stuff than this and he was now glad Sam wasn't here to hover and see his lack of strength.

Sweat trickled down one side of his forehead by the time he was done. He eyed the bottle of over-the-counter pain killers on the nightstand. stretching out his hand, Dean grabbed the bottle and downed two. Deciding to dry swallow; reaching for the bottle of water was just too much to ask.

As soon as the medicine kicked in and Dean could stop concentrating on his breathing for two seconds straight, he got a good look at the position of items on that nightstand and smiled. Sam was such a nerd.

The bottle of painkillers had been the closest to the bed, within easy reach, quickly followed by the TV's remote and his cellphone. At the back of the table, leaning against the wall, were two water bottles; one filled with cold water, the other empty, with the top part cut off. Dean rolled his eyes. They'd both been in this position way too many times.

He grabbed the remote instead and hit the power button. Like most motel TV's they'd come far too acquainted with over they years, this one had a grand total of four channels: one static, one encoded, one local and one music.

Given his limited choices, Dean settled for the local channel. The images didn't really matter, all he was after was some background noise, something to softly fill the void of Sam's absence. Something to drone out the pain, and keep him grounded.

When the news started, Dean snapped his attention at what was being said. The news anchor had just spat a familiar name...

"Fourteen-year-old Jeremy, local hero known for his daring escape from the serial child killer labeled as 'the skinner', is now back in the news again, but for an entirely different reason.

After the child's picture was released on televisions and newspapers all over the country recounting the harrowing events at the Brimmers farm, the boy's Aunt, Eileen Braverman of Needmore, Texas, contacted Duluth authorities claiming to be the boy's legal guardian.

Jeremy Dubois, whose birth name is Tyler Cooper, had been abducted by his biological mother nearly twelve years before. The boy's mother, identified as Meredith Cooper, aka Cheryl Dubois, is now facing kidnapping charges, offered fully cooperation to the police.

Deemed unfit as legal guardian in 1992, when convicted by the St. Louis, Missouri county court for drug use, Ms. cooper had lost custody of her then, eight month old son."

"Huh," Dean breathed. People never ceased to amaze him. The lines separating supernatural monsters and human monsters seemed to be blurring all the time.

The news reporter, of course, went straight from Jere- humm... Tyler's personal drama to the news that, Dean was sure, where now the big local hit. Even through his blurry vision, Dean could recognize the black and white picture of William Brimmer that suddenly filled the screen.

"Many assumed he was just the latest in a long line of troubled runaways, but a young boy's escape from the clutches of a killer has shed light on disappearances and murders, many more than nine years old. Local, William Arthur Brimmer, had worked as a janitor at the St. Mary's..."

Dean turned the TV off. He already knew how that story ended. He exchanged the black remote for his silver phone, noting for the first time the white gauze wrapped around his wrists. The other hand sported a matching bandage, and there was more gauze wrapped around his chest, white medical tape holding it in place.

Dean swallowed. White medical tape. He fought back a shiver of memory. Eyes forced open... and hit Sam's number on the speed dial button. The line picked up and he didn't wait for Sam's response before demanding, "Eggs. Extra side of bacon! And sausage too, and coffee. Lots of coffee."

Sam chuckled. "Hey, how're you feeling?

"Starved," Dean rubbed his stomach. "And make sure the eggs are over easy."

"Dude, it's the middle of the afternoon. Breakfast is long past. I'm getting a chicken salad for me. Was thinking soup for you—"

"Soup?" Dean practically shouted. "Hell, no. Got one word for you bitch; bacon cheeseburger, extra onions."

Sam started laughing. "Well, concussion boy, I'm pretty sure that's more than one word."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Just don't forget the onions and maybe extra cheese too."

"Dean, you haven't had anything to eat in days.

"Oh, then make sure it's huge. Maybe double meat or two burger's, just in case." Though at his own mention of extra onions, Dean's stomach had flopped on itself. "And what're you talking about, days?"

"Man, you've been either out of it or asleep for the last two days, and, save for the times I got meds and fluids in you, you haven't eaten a thing."

"Huh," Dean rubbed at his rebelling stomach. "No wonder I'm hungry. Make that three burgers," he pressed because anything else was just un-Dean-like. "And some pie."

Sam sighed into the phone. "Before all the sleeping, you spent twenty-four hours running a fever high enough that I nearly took you to the hospital."

"Wait, that's like three days. Seriously?" Dean looked at the date in the screen of this phone. Crap.

"Way seriously," Sam huffed. "Welcome to my world, man."

Sam's world. Right. His bout with the flu had left him in a similar predicament. Dean's stomach lurched angrily, the jarring not at all akin to hunger. This was more like revulsion. On second thought, soup sounded good.

"So no burger. It'd be a huge mistake. One that we'd both end up paying the price for, you in terms of your ribs and me in turns of the cleanup."

"Well," Dean nearly pouted, "can I at least have fries?"

"Sure." Dean could hear the surrender in Sam's tone. "Just sit tight and i'll back real quick."

"Oh," Dean breathed before Sam could hang up.

"What?"

"Careful where you show up your ugly mug," Dean added without bite. "Jeremy's story is all over the news."

"So, you've seen that? Man it was all over!"

"Yeah, so Jere—er, Tyler is going to live with his aunt in Texas. Glad the kid's gonna be alright. Hell of a thing, him getting kidnapped twice in his life."

"Yeah. He did good with the police, too. They went to the farm and found all those bodies of kids he'd murdered in the past. The majority of them in a fake wall in the basement and five others buried around in the field, including Brian Chisolm's, the missing cop. They managed to match Bill's DNA with the killer of those six kids found from 1991 to 1997."

"Can't say the world's gonna miss that asshole."

Dean almost missed the hesitation before Sam spoke again. "Yeah. Wait 'til they get to his apartment."

"How'd you find his apartment?" Dean asked.

"Traffic cam. Hacked into the DOT computers and found the alley where he kidnapped you. Saw his car and got plates, the rest was easy, well, except for finding the farm. That was a stroke of luck when I found Jeremy on the road."

Dean nodded. "Nice," he cooed admiringly. "Your hacker skills are criminally handy, Sammy, m' boy."

"It's 'Sam' and speaking of which, my hacker skills... dude! You've been holding out on me! You hacked the police computer files system! I found it in your notes!"

"Oh," Dean grinned, basking a moment in his brother's admiration, but couldn't bring himself to lay claim. "Nah, wasn't me."

"What? Then how...?"

Dean's grin spread because, sometimes, the truth was just so much sweeter. "Officer Christine Bennett. Yeah, she had a thing for hard bodied, smooth talking, green-eyed guys. Or—just me. She...might've helped me with the pass codes."

"Of course," Sam chuckled. "I should've known."

"Yeah man. All that geek stuff I save for you. I'd much rather do things the old-fashioned way. More satisfying and a whole lot less clothing." Dean started coughing and when attempts to clear his throat failed, he made the effort to grab the water bottle and chugged.

"Dean?"

Dean didn't have the breath to tell him to wait, just emptied half the bottle and when he could breathe again, pressed a hand to his protesting ribs. "Shit," he sighed, the pull on his sides abominable.

"I should come back now."

"Do you have the food already?" Dean asked breathlessly.

"I put in the order. It's not out yet."

"Then keep your ass there. I'm hungry."

Sam sighed. "Fine. You sure you'll be alright?"

Dean ignored the question. "So, Bill's apartment...?" He tried to steer them back on track. He needed this. Badly. It helped tremendously to take his mind off the ache.

"Yeah, that's how I found out Brimmer worked at the clinic. Also, I found Brian Chisolm's journal there. It had all of the man's notes in it. And there was also Brimmer's," Sam swallowed, "picture collection."

Dean knew a moment of panic and stilled. He struggled to remember what had happened to that camera Bill had used in the barn and the photographic evidence there. Faint remembrances of smoke and fire put Dean at ease. It had probably burned up, along with all other evidence that he'd ever been in that place. "As in, a perverts guide to his favorite conquests?"

"More like 'memoirs of a killer'," Sam choked back.

Dean bit back the retort about Sam and girly books. He knew what Sam was thinking; how Dean had come close to being one of Bill's favorite memories. "But you found me in time, Sam. It's all good."

Sam didn't answer right away. There was a full minute of choked silence. "I almost didn't get there in time."

"Yeah well, you did so let's get back to the glass-half-full, alright?"

"So," Sam changed the subject, "you really feeling alright? How are the feet?"

"Not sure." Dean tested his feet by wiggling his toes. By comparison the pain wasn't awful. "Haven't stood up yet. They don't feel all that bad, though. Guess I'll find out when I get my shower."

"No." Sam shot back quickly. "Wait 'til I get back, just in case…"

"Dude. Gross," Dean recoiled. "Unless you're a chick–who is in no way related to me–you're not going to help me shower." A memory of Sam holding him up in the shower slipped into place. No way he was going to admit it ever happened. He's pretty damn sure Sam was like-minded on that one.

"Just, wait 'til I get back, okay?"

"Yeah, fine…" Dean sighed tiredly. "Think I'll watch some more TV 'til you get back, but once we eat, we are so blowing this Popsicle stand." The worry and concern in his brother's voice notwithstanding, he could admit to himself that maybe he wasn't quite up to showering. Not just yet.

"Once we're done at the clinic, we'll head to Bobby's. He's got a–"

"Woah, woah," Dean sat up. "Clinic? No clinic man. I'm fine. Let's just hit the road. What's Bobby got huh? Wendigo? Shtriga? Wraith?

"He's got an old Ford he wants your help with," Sam's voice had gone back to tense and bitchy, "and we're going to the clinic."

"Sam—"

"No, man." It was Sam's 'no arguments' voice. God, when the kid wanted to, he could rival Dad, "No getting out of this one. They've got x-ray equipment and they still think we're FBI so we're going and that's final. Just—let's get the ribs checked out and if all goes well we're on the road."

Dean leaned back against the pillows, rubbing his side. "Okay, but just the ribs."

"That was the deal."

"What deal?" Really. Dean had no clue what Sam was talking about.

"Never mind," Sam was relaxed and there was definitely something in his voice like he knew something Dean didn't. "I'll be back in 20. Just relax 'til I get there."

"Not really—" Dean let go a jaw-cracking yawn, "—tired."

"Right," Sam chuckled. "See you in a few."

"Yeah, few...," Dean drifted off to sleep.
.

.

.

~ ~ x ~ X ~ x THE END x ~ X ~ x ~ ~

A/N: Well, that was fun. Seriously. Ya'll made it so fun that I'm considering a timestamp of sorts. The trip to the clinic to have Dean's ribs checked out, because I think the good folks there won't just let Dean leave when they get a look at the bandages on Dean's back and chest from the barbedwire. I imagine too that Sam would know that. Oh, but I love ulterior!motive!Sam. Anywhooo.. I might. Still considering it. I'd have to give it a point and I've not done that yet.

I did write a fluff thing for my friend Ophium's birthday. It is about the most inane thing I've ever written and I was a little embarrassed that I even let it out of the bag. It's only at livejournal and believe me, you aren't missing anything. You might see it here if I can ever get up the nerve to put it here. We'll see.

THAT brings to mind another point. Ophium, aka Natty. Dudes! She is my beta, my muse, and my dearest friend and without her this story never EVER would've seen the light of day. Ever. If it's any good, it's all on her. If it's crap, it's all on me. I can not stress that enough. I do want to mention her stories. Look her up here on LJ. Her big bang story is Blind Faith and her hurt!Dean is a wonder to behold, not just that story but in ALL her Supernatural stories. I fell in love with her work... gosh, I think it's been 2 years now? I asked her humbly if I could beta for her and for some reason she let me. After that, the rest was, as they say, history. She, for some reason, encourages me to keep writing. I keep telling her she's full of shit. She doesn't listen to me. At. All. Well, she does, just not about that. :D

Now to my next point, my other betas. To Gaelicspirit, Mad_Server and Creepylicious. You should have seen the heroic efforts these astounding ladies went through to help me make this story better at each turn. There was a posting deadline and everything and they worked along side me down to the wire. I don't usually have this many beta's but Big Bangs are, for some reason, kinda a big deal at Live Journal, even if, by comparison to my friend Ophium, this story was more like a little 'pop' and believe me, it was given that much attention at LiveJournal. The really good GEN stories were indeed worthy of the big bang name.

Thank you all for reading, commenting, favoriting, following and just generally making this story loads of fun to bring to life. Not sure I got it in me to ever write something this dark again, but then, who knows. I just hope it doesn't take me another year to finish something. God willing.

When I posted this on Live Journal, I created a soundtrack. If anyone wants it, you'll have to send me an email address (not the PM's here at ffnet 'cause links get eaten up there) and I'll send you the song links that you can download to your computer. Any requests please email me here: jmskitchen at yahoo dot com and just put in the RE line- Last Child Soundtrack.

Cheers!

Julie