Down But Not Out
Author: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Summary: - When Rufus unknowingly comes between an injured Dean and Sam and Bobby, he remembers what a pain and what a pleasure it is to be part of a family. Set after "Like a Virgin" No slash.
Chapter 8: Epilogue
Dean didn't remember much after hitting the couch at Sam's order, except the faint impression of hands, not trapping him but holding him, keeping him from slipping over the edge of some precipice. And he could have sworn he heard his brother murmuring quietly. Most of his brother's words were undistinguishable, but some broke through to him:
"It's just the fever, Dean. None of it is real."
"I'm here, Dean. You saved me."
"We're good. Nothing's gonna change that so don't you worry."
He remembered coolness on his forehead that dampened the raging heat consuming him from the inside out and a hand cupping his neck, feather light touch brushing his jaw, giving him something else to focus on than the heat, memoires of hell, of Sam being gone and Sam not being Sam.
His mind finally beginning to settle into the bliss of cool darkness, his fear melting away with his fever, he distinctly heard Sam but his brother sounded so young, vulnerable as he spoke. "You do look a little like Dad with the beard. I don't hate it…I just don't like it. You're you and that's all I need you to be. Crap, I hope you don't remember any of this when you wake up..."
But Dean did remember, most of it anyways, and getting rid of his beard, it was priority one. Except his hands, they weren't cooperating, were still trembling. It made things like turning door knobs and holding scissors and disposable shavers awesome fun.
Cursing, he glared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, drew in a calming breath and was going to attempt again to hack at his beard with the scissors. But then Sam blew through the bathroom door he couldn't shut and arrested his hand mid motion.
"Let me do that before you take a chunk out of your face," Sam said, instilling light frustration in his tone in the hopes that Dean would react better to help if it was offered in that vein. Of course, frustrated with his brother's distress was the last thing he was feeling.
He had been fretfully listening outside the bathroom door for a telling grunt of pain, of some indication that Dean got dizzy, might soon be hitting the floor. Instead he heard the rattling of a bag being overturned and its contents clanking against the porcelain vanity, followed by the sound of running water. Too curious, he leaned closer to the door, wished that Dean had left the door open far enough for him to get a peek inside.
It only took Dean's curse to prompt him into motion. Yanking the door open, he was startled to see Dean aiming a scissor, a shaking scissor, toward his face. After that, it was all brotherly instincts. Prying the weapon from his brother's hand shouldn't have been so easy, wouldn't have been if Dean wasn't still battling a fever, staving off infection and dealing with a wounded body. But that didn't mean his brother would concede the battle.
"You do remember I'm the one who taught you how to shave," Dean scathingly drawled, hoping Sam didn't read the relief in his eyes for little brother's intervention.
"Well then you should trust me because I had an awesome teacher," Sam returned with a smile. Then he took in the small dimensions of the bathroom, especially with him and Dean taking up most of the space and decided, "Let's do this in the kitchen where I have some more room."
"Yeah, 'cause Bobby will love us turning his kitchen into a barber shop," Dean sarcastically objected.
"Yeah, 'cause that's worse than when we turn it into an ER," Sam offhandedly replied even as he was gathering up the shaving supplies he would need and dumping them into a basin. Arms full, he gave his brother a mischievous smile, "'Sides, Bobby's not here to say we can't."
And that appealed to Dean.
"Watch it," Dean grumbled, jerking his head back out of the scissor's range.
"Dean, I didn't even start yet," Sam laughed at his brother's rare nervousness. "Just don't move."
"Yeah, that's what I said to a few vamps…" Dean grumbled even as he let Sam tilt his head back.
"Maybe you wanna call Rufus, have him do this since you two bonded so well," Sam teased, was rewarded with a backhanded slap in his gut that had him grunting and flinching away and Dean smiling widely.
Then silence fell as Sam began to cut Dean's beard away. He was meticulously gentle around the row of stitches in his brother's jaw line. Inspected them with his fingers when he could see them clearly. "Looks like they can probably come out," he observed.
Giving his permission with a "Do it," Dean soon felt the gentle tug of the thread being removed. He jerked away when his brother ran his thumb lightly over the wound to check it for heat or puckers. It wasn't that he was uncomfortable with Sam's touch…it had just been a long while since he could trust it, could unguardedly welcome it.
"Sorry," Sam immediately offered, ripping his hand away from Dean's wound and turning to the table where he had the basin filled with water, his face purposefully averted from Dean's inspection. 'I crossed the line. Dean's still not used to me being…me and I know that. I should have warned him I was going to inspect the wound,' he chastised himself, his hand fisted with self disgust.
Dejectedly, Dean hung his head, could tell by Sam's tone, by his brother's hasty retreat from him, that his unintended reaction to Sam's touch had cut into his brother's kind heart. "Sam I didn't mean to…."
"I know," Sam forgave, his voice hoarse with all the emotions that lay between them. But he didn't turn around, leaned his palms instead against the table and tried to get himself together. "I should have…."
Knowing the apology to come, Dean refuted, "No, you shouldn't have," turning in his chair to face his brother. "I'm the one freaking out. It's my problem, Sam. Not yours."
Sam gave Dean a sorrowful smile, "Yeah, because this has nothing to do with me, right? That part of me let you get turned into a vampire, get kidnapped by some fairies and genuinely be a real bas…"
"It wasn't you!" Dean exclaimed, about to come to his feet when Sam instead knelt down to his level.
"My face, my hands, he had my memories….it was pretty close to being all me," Sam darkly said, hated that part of him had done such damage, maybe irreparable damage to his relationship with his brother.
"But not your heart, Sam. Not your kindness. He…he wasn't my brother," Dean announced with conviction, eyes holding Sam's pained gaze. "Because you….you're not like that. I knew almost from the start that something was off with him. Like it or not, I know you Sam. And he, he wasn't you." Seeing that his words were registering with Sam, that some of the anguish was alighting in his brother's features, he tacked on, "Course I think he had better hair. Probably bought the top of the line hair products so he could woo the hotties," his eyebrows giving a suggestive jump.
"You're a jerk," Sam laughed back. "You better be nice to me," he taunted, banishing the shaver in front of Dean's face.
"Oh, I'm shaking in my boots, Sammy," Dean sardonically said, waving his hands as if in fear.
"You should be. I screw this up and you're the one who won't be getting the hotties anymore," Sam joked back, stepping forward, shaving gel in hand. He expected more threats from Dean but instead his brother trustingly tilted his face up to him and the eyes that met his spoke of unshakeable affection.
"I trust you, Sam."
Giving a watery smile, Sam nodded and then set to the task of playing barber on his brother, a brother that remained rock steady, even when one of his strokes of the razor drew blood. "Crap, Sorry," Frantically, he wiped the blood away with his fingers. But Dean seemingly didn't notice. "Hey, you still in there?" he worriedly asked, hands stilling from their action.
Sam's question jarred Dean from his thoughts, had him absently replying, "Yeah."
Frowning at his brother's far away tone, Sam continued his work, made his strokes more careful, didn't want to draw blood a second time.
Figuring that it couldn't get more emo than sitting there letting his little brother shave him, Dean resolved that he might as well get all the girly stuff out of the way at one go. "I missed you."
At his brother's non sequitur, Sam stilled, studied his brother's profile and waited for the punch line…that didn't come. Instead Dean's eyes tracked to his, expectant. A tender small smile broke out across Sam's features and he earnestly admitted, "I missed you too." But the next second he turned their sentimental confession into a joke, "Which, by the way, is why Bobby thinks I'm downing estragon pills."
"No I didn't mean.." Dean began but his words caught in his throat at his brother's confused, hurt look. Quickly, he tried to make Sam understand. "I'm not talking about just the past couple of days."
Dean's eyes meaningfully met his little brother's. He needed Sam to get this, to understand that, he had been without him for a year and half. That it was finally feeling right, what was between them, finally feeling like it was them, together. Them in a way that soulless Sam never had been, not from the first moment he laid eyes on him, hugged him. Though that Sam that hugged him back, somehow he wasn't …his Sam. And he hadn't been able to explain it, not to Bobby, not even to himself, not even after he knew what was missing with the person at his side.
Not until Sam got his soul back, walked right up to him in the middle of Bobby's living room and hugged him. Hard. Like Sam hadn't been breathing until then. Until Sam knew he was alive, until they were together again. Were brothers again.
The breath Sam drew in now was ragged. It was taking everything he had not to break down, to not engulf Dean in a big bear hug, shaving gel and egos be darned. Because Dean had missed him. All along. Yeah, he knew in his heart that Dean had missed him that first year, ached like acid was tearing through his soul, just like he had when Dean was in Hell. But that Dean missed him even when he had had him, at least a part of him? That was what Sam hadn't dared to ask Dean. Had caught himself wondering if Dean sometimes missed that unemotional, logical Sam, just a little bit. A Sam that wouldn't lecture him about putting himself in danger, a Sam that would give him space if he asked for it and without a guilt trip, a Sam that was a far better hunter than he was, would probably ever be.
"So, Sam version 2.0 didn't have his good points?" Sam prodded like it was a joke but the question came out hoarse, his emotions hemorrhaging through like blood.
Aware that he was treading on precarious ground, Dean evenly answered, "Course he did," watched as hurt flickered over his brother's features and Sam bowed his head. Reaching out he cupped the side of Sam's neck, causing his brother to slowly raise his head. "The parts of you that he couldn't bury. But I prefer the real thing…" reading the joy in Sam's eyes, he teased, "even if you suck at shaving, lecture me like I'm friggin' four and get that look like you're about to do something stupid like hug me."
At Dean's spot-on mind reading abilities, Sam, with watery eyes and a goofy smile, didn't hug his brother but instead playfully smeared shaving gel across Dean's mouth.
"Dude!" Dean sputtered, swiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
"That's what happens when you pick on your barber. I'll happily let you rock a hillbilly goatee. Good news is, if I go get you one of Bobby's hats…you two will almost be twins."
"Ya done?" Dean grumbled, his eyes showcasing a mirth his words did not.
"Yeah, yeah, I think I am…" Sam smugly replied, getting up and heading toward the door.
"Wait, Sam. Where are you going? Sam!" Dean angrily called as Sam opened the screen door.
Without turning to face his brother, Sam smiled smugly, knew he had Dean right where he wanted him. "Two weeks at Bobby's," he negotiated.
"One," Dean briskly countered but when Sam opened the door, made to walk out on him, he bid, "Ten days."
Wiping away his gloating smile with effort, Sam faced his brother, "Four of which you don't leave the property."
"What am I, a dog now? Rumsfield had more leash than that!" Dean railed back.
"Yeah, but, unlike you, he listened to verbal commands," Sam teasingly retorted.
"Oh, funny," Dean deadpanned, implying that his brother was anything but humorous.
Leaning against the doorframe, Sam crossed his arms, waited for his brother's capitulation.
Knowing that his brother's unreasonable demands were prompted by his worry for him, Dean changed tactics, calmly reassured, "Sam, I'm really Ok. I promise."
Internally Sam scoffed, 'Yeah, Dean, because breaking open an already deep wound and thrashing in the throes of a fever a few hours ago is how You define being OK.' But he knew that, downplaying his own pain was as much a part of Dean as his brother's determination to help anyone who needed it. That, however, didn't mean Sam wasn't going to try his best to break that particular habit. "You don't have to always be OK, you know," he huskily said, holding his brother's eyes. "You just have to stick around. Be around for me to lecture like you're four…."
Humbled by his brother's acceptance of his weakness and throat tightening at the entreaty in his brother's eyes, Dean solemnly consented, "I think I can do that. Long as you don't go jumping into any more pits…."
Smiling happily, Sam raised his hands in surrender. "No pit jumping, I got it." And he meant it. He wasn't going anywhere without his brother. Because the soulless version of him had gotten one thing right: The best this life had to offer? It was exactly where he was right then and there, at his brother's side.
Returning Sam's smile, Dean contently announced, "Then we're good." And for the first time in a long time, it was actually the truth.
Well, that's it. I'm hoping you enjoyed this epilogue. You guys all made this such a fun story to post with your many wonderful, insightful, funny reviews! So thanks so much to everyone who reviewed, put this story as a favorite and kept tuning back in to read the next chapter!
Have a great day!