A/N: Sorry this took a few days, but I've been traveling since Friday...AND I'm not good with endings. Truth is I didn't want this to be finished, but I had to end it somewhere, sometime. So here's the conclusion. I hope you don't hate it - thanks for sticking along for the ride. PLEASE let me know what you think - I love hearing from all you guys. Thinking of doing a longer case-fic next if I can convince myself that it won't suck - feel free to help convince me ;-). Oh yeah, and song lyrics are from Jefferson Starship's Find Your Way Back. Great song if you don't know it.
You got no place to be
Still you wonder where you're goin'
And why I had to leave
I hear a voice and it says to me
Find your way back.
This must be what Hell feels like. Dean couldn't remember a time when he felt this bad. Sure, he'd had broken ribs before; in his line of work that was pretty much inevitable. But he'd never had broken ribs and been this sick. And he was rapidly learning that those two things were a very bad combination.
Dean felt another cough coming on and pulled the oxygen mask off of his face, putting a hand up to his mouth as he shook with the intensity of the cough. Even after it had subsided, Dean lay still, panting for breath. He heard Sam getting up from his chair, felt him reaching for the mask that Dean had thrown aside.
"Mask stays on, man," Sam told him when Dean squirmed away, trying to prevent Sam from putting it on him. He curled to the side, coughing helplessly again, pulling in wheezing breaths when he'd finished. He stayed facing away from Sam, didn't want his brother to read the misery in his face.
Sam huffed out a sigh and rounded the bed, crouching down so he was face to face with his brother, dismayed when he saw the tears welling up in his eyes. "I know this sucks Dean, and I know you're sick of feeling so shitty," Sam said quietly. Dean let out a choked sob, one tear tracing a sluggish track down his face. It took all Sam had not to reach out and comfort his brother but he held back, knowing that any other time Dean would spurn the action.
He looked up in surprise when he saw that Jess had approached the other side of the bed and had placed a gentle hand on the side of Dean's face. "Shh," she whispered, and Sam watched in disbelief as Dean leaned in towards her touch. "Dean," she continued quietly, thumbing away the tears, "I know you don't want to wear the mask but you need it," she insisted. "Just until you start feeling better." Dean nodded slightly, leaning forward as Jess pulled the strap of the mask over and behind his head.
Sam was tempted to laugh at the complete turnaround Dean had just done but stifled it, not wanting to embarrass his brother. Instead he watched on in stunned silence, happy that Dean had at least agreed to do what was best for him. Jess looked up at Sam with a smug smile. That's how you do it. And Sam did laugh a little at that.
The on-call doctor had come by several times over the last few hours to check on Dean, spurred on by Sam's insistence that his brother was not improving. The nausea had subsided shortly after midnight but the bone-rattling coughs still shook through him with a fair amount of regularity. Still, the doctor insisted that that was a good thing, that the antibiotics were working to help clear his lungs. And there were tangible signs of this - Dean's fever had dropped a degree, now hovering closer to 101. But it was hard for Sam to believe that Dean was getting better when all he could see was the constant misery reflected in his brother's eyes, something he didn't think he'd ever witnessed in his larger-than-life big brother and something he hoped he'd never see again.
Sam got up from his chair as Dean started to shift, mumbling in his fever dreams. "Mom," he heard his brother whisper, didn't think he'd ever heard Dean call out for her before.
"Shh," he soothed, knowing that Dean needed more than just words of comfort; they both did. Dean coughed himself awake then, and Sam got up to give him some cool water, a dance the two had perfected over the last several hours. Sam noticed that the cough didn't seem to last as long this time. Maybe he is getting better, he hoped.
"Sam," Dean gasped out.
"Yeah Dean?" he pulled the chair closer to the bed, leaning in to hear the weak whisper.
"Thanks," he said, pulling in a heaving breath to continue, "for being here. For staying."
Sam nodded, wasn't sure he could respond without his voice breaking. "Of course."
Dean continued to improve over the next few days. Sam and Jess made sure that one of them was with him at the hospital at all times, juggling their class schedules and skipping a few classes here and there to make it work. By the time Wednesday morning rolled around, Dean was looking and feeling so much better than he had when he'd been rushed in Friday evening that he was practically begging the doctors to let him go. And Sam didn't know why but he felt oddly comforted by that.
John Winchester never did call back. Sam wasn't sure why he was surprised, but he was. He found himself hoping that John was injured somewhere, that that was the reason he couldn't call back. Sam huffed out a laugh, because wasn't that fucked up?
Dr. Conway finally released Dean Wednesday evening, but not before he'd subjected him to several hours of respiratory tests. He still wasn't completely happy with Dean's breath sounds and the broken ribs were still a problem, but he'd soon given in, realizing Dean wasn't going to take no for an answer. He'd handed Sam the prescriptions, instructing him to get them filled as soon as possible. "Okay, Dean," Dr. Conway crouched down by his patient who was now (unhappily) sitting in a wheelchair. "Take care of yourself, okay? You're doing better but you could relapse very quickly if you don't take your meds and you don't rest."
Dean quickly agreed, wanting nothing more than to leave the damn hospital.
"Don't worry Doc," Sam spoke up, "we'll make sure he does everything he's supposed to." Sam didn't have to look at his brother to know that he'd smiled at that, at the implication that he and Jess weren't going to leave him yet.
"Okay then," the doctor said, shaking Sam's hand. "You take care."
"Thanks again," Sam said sincerely, taking hold of Dean's wheelchair and pushing him out of the room.
The car ride was short but painful for Dean; every bump in the road reverberated in his broken ribs. "Where's Jess?" Dean asked his brother, knowing it was too late in the evening for her to be at class.
"Back at the apartment. Said she would have a surprise waiting for you."
"Hope it's pie," Dean mumbled to himself. Sam smiled and looked at his brother who had now closed his eyes, holding his body rigid in an attempt to lessen the effects of the rocky road on his broken body. They drove the rest of the way in silence and Sam found himself desperately trying to avoid every pothole and bump in the road.
Dean inhaled as deeply as he could when Sam opened the door to the apartment, the sweet smell of apple pie drifting out from the kitchen and filling the rooms. Jess appeared in the hallway, wearing an apron covered in flour. She rushed over to Dean and pulled him into a tight hug, still mindful of his injured ribs.
"You look so much better!" she exclaimed when she pulled back to look at him.
Dean smiled, embarrassed at first. "Apple pie, my favorite," he said then, a mischievous smile playing across his lips, "I think I love you."
"Watch it buddy," Sam said, coming up and kissing Jess, giving Dean a playful punch on the shoulder.
Dean chuckled. "What are we waiting for? I'm starving."
The three sat around the kitchen table, lingering there long after they'd eaten their fill of pie. They talked and joked for hours, picking up where they'd left off that first night, shortly before Dean had gotten so sick. Sam once again found himself yearning for this normalcy, knowing in his heart that he could never have it.
Sam saw Dean stifle a yawn and he looked at his watch, shocked when he realized it was past 2 in the morning. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm exhausted," he said, standing up and stretching out his arms.
Dean yawned again. "Thank you for the pie, Jess. It was delicious."
Sam looked over to see her beaming, knew Dean's compliment meant so much to her. "You're very welcome, Dean," she smiled, heading off to the bathroom to get ready for bed.
"She really is amazing, Sam," Dean said turning towards his brother.
Sam just smiled back. "I know."
"Can't you just stay a little longer?" Sam pleaded with his brother. It had been more than a week since they'd returned from the hospital and Dean was itching to get back on the road. Still, Sam could see that a part of him wanted to stay.
"I can't, man." Dean answered him.
Dean turned to look at his brother, his eyes sad. "You know why. People to save, evil to kill...all that jazz."
Sam wanted to argue more but he knew there was no changing Dean's mind. "So where are you going to go, then?" he asked instead.
"Figure I'll head east a bit, wait for Dad to call me."
"And if he doesn't?" Sam felt the anger creeping into his voice, knew it was directed at his father.
"Then I'll call around, make sure he's okay. Maybe find a hunt to go on."
"By yourself?" Sam raised his voice, saw his brother flinch a little.
"I'll be fine, Sam. I've hunted by myself before." He smiled a little, hoping to lighten Sam's attitude. "Besides, since when did you worry about me?" he asked.
"I always worry about you," Sam said firmly and Dean heard his voice breaking. Sam turned and stomped to his room, closing the door loudly and leaving Dean standing by himself.
When Jess came home from the gym it was to find Dean sitting by himself in the den. He looked up at her sadly when she came in. "Where's Sam?" she asked, because ever since she'd brought Dean to the apartment the two hadn't spent much time apart.
"Bedroom," Dean answered, and Jess went to check on him when it was clear that that was all Dean was going to say.
Jess knocked on the door before pushing it open. She found Sam sulking on the bed. "What's wrong?" she asked as she went to sit next to him. His eyes were red and she could tell he had been crying.
"Dean's leaving," he said simply.
Oh. She put her arm around him. "You knew he was going to leave eventually, Sam."
Sam nodded, sniffing. "Didn't think it would be so soon." He turned to look at her. "I just got him back, Jess." She pulled him into a hug, stroking the back of his head.
"Then go spend some time with him, Sam. While you still have it." Jess pulled back, looking Sam in the eyes, "And let him know he always has some place to come back to."
"Hey," Sam said, walking into the den where Dean was still sitting in silence. Dean looked up in surprise.
"Hey," he responded, shifting on the couch so Sam could sit down.
"I'm sorry, Dean. For the way I reacted before. I just don't want...I don't want you to get hurt. I don't wanna lose you."
Dean nodded, about to speak when Sam continued.
"But I know you. And I know that I can't convince you to stay." Sam smiled sadly. "The road will still be there tomorrow, man. Think you could stay one more day?"
Dean grinned widely at that. "Yeah, Sam. I can stay one more day."
They sat around talking for the next few hours, Dean asking Sam more about his college life, directing the questions towards Jess when Sam refused to answer.
"You wanna watch a movie?" Sam asked when the topics of conversation began to dwindle down. "I've got Spinal Tap."
Dean looked up at his brother, waggling his eyebrows. "Aw Sammy, you know know what I like." Sam threw the movie at him.
"I'll order the pizza."
Hours later, Sam stirred awake, realizing the movie must have ended ages ago. Jess was no longer sitting in the recliner and Sam assumed she must have headed off to bed. He looked down when he felt a slight movement, smiling when he saw that his brother's head rested against his shoulder. Dean was fast asleep.
Sam was about to close his eyes again when he heard a slight buzzing coming from the side table where his cell phone rested. He strained his head to look at the caller id, pulling in a breath when he saw the word "Dad" blinking back at him. Sam stretched his arm out, trying to reach the phone but stilled when he felt Dean moving again. He looked down at his brother, thinking how peaceful he looked sleeping there. And he didn't want to lose that. Sam closed his eyes again and waited for the buzzing to stop.
I sure ain't got no home
I seem to find love where I ramble
And when it's time to go
I hear that voice again, sayin'
Find your way back.
AHHH I'm sorry for the ending! And I'm sorry that Sam didn't talk to John but I just couldn't see myself writing that properly. I hope you don't hate me too much for that. Thank you all again for the reviews and just for reading. Until next time...