A/N: The end. This is more of an epilogue, a wrap-up, as the actual tragedy/action ended in the last chapter. (I wanna know: how many were totally OMG shocked at the end, and how many of you had guessed at it with the clues I left?) Thank you so much to everyone who's left feedback; I hope to have new fics soon!
When I ran from the hounds of hell,
Twist my foot, I nearly fell,
I was lucky I was alive,
One look back I could have died
-Asia, "Sole Survivor" (1982)
The alarm beeped next to his ear, loud and clear and tinny. Dean knew he should've set it for a song of some sort, but unfortunately, all of the tunes on his cell phone would've been ignored. Growing up on the move, Dad always playing something on the radio, Dean had learned to sleep through music. So had Sam.
He pushed himself out of the chair and swiped a hand over his eyes, wincing as his legs stumbled a little beneath him. The bruise on his back was pretty damn significant, and even if he hadn't seen it in the mirror, the look Sam gave upon having seen it would've been telling enough.
Not that Sam was going to be winning any beauty contests at the moment, either, but so long as he was alive to enter those beauty pageants, Dean didn't really care.
And yeah, thinking about random ass shit like a beauty contest was far more preferable than thinking about the Ocean House Hotel.
He sat himself on the side of Sam's bed and took a good look at his brother. Six hours of sleep under his belt hadn't taken away the dark shadows beneath his brother's eyes. They had, however, added a nice, dark bruise around the bandage that was currently taped to his forehead. Rita might've been trying to tell them the truth, but she hadn't been kind in doing so. Still, she'd saved them all, in the end. Dean really hoped she'd gotten a chance at taking William out with Bethany, or 'Annie', and Tony's, help. She deserved that much, after being trapped in the house for fifty-odd years.
Dean glanced at the clock, then shook Sam's shoulder. "Sam," he called softly, shaking a little more firmly this time. Sam grimaced after a moment, shifted, but didn't wake up. "Sammy," Dean called again, a little louder.
Slowly murky hazel eyes peered up at him, sliding around the room before fastening onto Dean. "You with me?" Dean asked.
Sam's eyes began to close again. "Uh-uh, not gonna happen, bro," Dean said, tendrils of fear starting to curl in his belly. Oh, hey there adrenaline, guess you didn't get all used up the night before. "Sammy-"
"Sam Winchester," Sam croaked, before clearing his throat. "Born May 2nd, 1983, it's the year 2009, and I'm really, really tired, Dean. I'm fine, I jus' wanna sleep," he slurred, already halfway asleep again.
Dean felt his heart start to slow back down. "Yeah, you can sleep," he said. He'd been waking Sam up every two hours ever since they'd gotten to the new motel. So far, he seemed fine, had answered all the right questions in all the right manners. He'd be fine: Dean would let him sleep.
Dean stood, wobbling a little as he yawned. Thankful for the small favor that was a motel layout, he sidestepped back to his bed nearest the door without bumping into a thing. All motels looked the same. And so long as they didn't look like the Ocean House Hotel, Dean was just fine.
He flopped onto the bed with a small groan, not bothering the set the alarm again on his cell phone. Sam was fine, so they could both sleep and catch up. The sun was trying to peek in through the closed curtains, and the time was somewhere in the afternoon. Dean didn't care. Frankly, he didn't even know where they were, only that they were out of Dennis, Massachusetts. As nice as the town had been at first, both brothers had made a silent agreement to get the hell out of dodge. Dean had quietly told Gloria that they had to go, emergency work related issue, had snagged a quick breakfast to go from her bounteous supply, then had hurried out to where Sam was waiting in the Impala.
Neither had said a word all the way out of town, though Dean was pretty sure that had to do with the fact that they were holding their breaths.
He shifted and winced, trying to find a comfortable position that didn't press on his back or his tail bone. He finally decided on his right side, and the pillow was the perfect type of cool against his cheek. The glance over towards Sam's bed was instinctual, wanting to make sure that Sam was really okay.
What he hadn't expected was Sam to be looking back, eyes held open only by sheer determination. "You 'kay?" Sam mumbled. "You made a sound."
Something warm filled Dean's chest at Sam's sleep-filled words. Keeping himself awake because he thought Dean might need help. And he knew that if prompted, Sam would push himself out of bed to help Dean, no matter whether he was two seconds away from passing out or not.
"I'm fine, Sammy," he assured him, smiling. "Just sore, dude. Go back to sleep."
Sam assessed him for himself, then closed his own eyes. It didn't take long for the lines in his face to smooth out, or the tension in his shoulders to fade away.
Dean closed his own eyes, sleep following immediately.
"Do you even know where we are?"
Sam's question made Dean grin and look up from the newspaper he was currently perusing. "Nope," he said cheerfully. "All I know is that six down in the Washington Post is 'colon'."
Sam shook his head in fond exasperation. He didn't flinch as he did so, and he wasn't shying away from lights, so Dean figured that the concussion was pretty much healing just fine. The bruise on his head, though...
Dean winced as he looked at it again. It was dark and angry looking now, the stark white of the bandage making it even scarier. And Dean knew that there was a lump in the back of his brother's head, one that was tender to the touch. It was pretty well hidden under his mop of hair, but still there. Not bleeding, at least. As far as injuries went, they'd actually come out okay. Considering there'd been a real possibility of getting chopped up, they were doing just fine.
Sam's voice brought his attention back to where his brother was gazing at him, face full of understanding. "Just...don't," he said again. "It was a bad night. We got through. We did wind up saving Bethany, in the end. She got her brother's watch, the only thing holding her to the hotel."
"I wonder if Rita was trying to protect Bethany," Dean said after a moment. "Rita was pretty ravaged, but Bethany...Bethany didn't look dead. Scared, like she didn't understand what was going on. But she didn't remember being dead. Like Molly, out on the highway, with the farmer?"
Sam nodded, shifting slightly on the edge of the bed where he was seated. "I was thinking the same thing. We kept her pretty safe, though. Without us..."
He trailed off, looking down at his hands. Without them, Dean had a feeling that William would've gotten to Bethany. Probably did get to Bethany every night. So long as Bethany persisted in trying to find her brother's watch, William would always continue to kill her.
He wondered briefly, now that they were gone, if the hotel looked just as broken down as it should.
Pushing away thoughts of the last residents of the hotel, Dean turned back to one of the two survivors, who was still gazing at his hands like it held all the answers. "How's your head?" he asked.
Sam glanced up briefly before shrugging. "She didn't throw me that hard," he said. "Well, okay, she did, but I'm fine."
"I meant the first time you hit the elevators," Dean said, raising his eyebrow. "The 'wham', I think you said. When you got knocked out."
Sam winced ever so slightly, but Dean caught it. With it came everything Dean had sworn he'd remember when they got out, and now was the perfect time to bombard his brother. Unfortunately, now that he was there with his perfect opening, Dean didn't have the first clue of what to say.
"It's not really that bad," Sam said, rubbing at the back of his head. "I made it out, the concussion's gone. We're good. Right?"
And even while Dean was still struggling to get the right words in order, Sam's tentative, hopeful gaze was on him, and Dean suddenly knew the words didn't matter so much as the timing did. Say nothing, and he'd shut Sam down. Say it too late, and it would seem forced.
"We did pretty damn good in there," Dean said. Sam frowned, not following where Dean was going with it. Hell, Dean wasn't even sure where he was going with it. Still, no one could say that Dean didn't think on his feet. "You and me, taking care of that nasty sonuvabitch. No angels, no demons, nothing."
"Yeah, made it pretty easy," Sam replied. "For us."
"You thought the other night was easy?" Dean said, keeping his tone light. "Must've been somewhere else other than a murderous hotel."
"The hotel itself wasn't killing people-"
"Oh shut up," Dean grumbled, but Sam was still smiling. "My point is-"
"I know," Sam said, serious once more. He swallowed and glanced down at his hands again. "I know, Dean. We proved that we can handle the ghosts and haunted places. The easy stuff, compared to...compared to what I let out," he added, voice pitched low. "I get that."
"What we proved was that we can work together," Dean insisted. Sam's eyes darted up to meet his. "We made it through a bitch of a night. And yeah, in a way, it was easy, because you know what? I knew I could trust you to have my back. And you did, every step of the way. I didn't even think about it, or second guess it. I just...I just knew, Sammy, okay?"
Sam was silent for a moment, and Dean rigorously wracked his brains for anything else to say, anything that would cement this for Sam. To let Sam know that Dean trusted him, that Dean wanted him there. That Dean wanted to be a big brother still, and that nothing was going to change that.
"William was kind of an asshole, wasn't he?"
Sam's words brought Dean's head up to stare at him. His brother's words had been quiet, but they'd been strong, too. He was meeting Dean's eyes, determined to put himself out there. Hopeful. Saying so much more with his random, casual sentence that had absolutely nothing to do with the axe-murderer.
Dean slowly began to grin. "He was," he said. "He really was." But I won't be, he added silently. I trust you. I know you. Even if you were to betray me, I'd never hurt you. I believe you, in everything.
When Sam smiled back, Dean knew his three words had been enough. They sat for a moment, content to know that things were good. Things were going to keep being good.
"So," Sam said, a moment later. "Want to look for another haunted house?"
He didn't think Sam was really surprised by the newspaper thrown his way, but his little brother still laughed. Dean sighed and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes briefly. No more haunted houses. They needed a break. Maybe go south for a little while, see some beaches, stay away from Massachusetts...
"Uh, Dean? Six down isn't 'colon'. Not in the slightest."
After he found something else to throw at Sam.