A/N: Denise D. if you're reading this, I sent you a few responses but it doesn't seem like you got them. The trip is still a go. If all else fails, private message me.
Seriously, I hope my brother never changes.
People who don't know him look at him and see a giant. I mean - I'm a big guy; in the general pool of people, I'm bigger and taller than most. But next to my little brother, when people describe us, I'm 'the short one'. People who look at Sam see a giant who sometimes maybe doesn't talk much, who stands behind me like he's hired muscle, and who, when he's annoyed, has a scowl that looks like it could put a dent in cast iron.
But when I look at him, when it's just a 'regular' day (normal people regular) and we're just driving or talking or whatever, when I look at Sam, I see my little brother. I see the guy who went to hell for six billion strangers. (The guy who would go to hell again for six billion strangers.) The guy who hangs up shirts he didn't knock off the hanger at the thrift store. The guy who's polite and considerate to everyone he meets (the guywas polite to a friggin zombie, for crying out loud.)
He drives me crazy sometimes (a lot of times) but I hope that deep down, he never really changes.
We're heading out late this morning after hunting a Wendigo the past couple of days. The motel was cheap, the beds were soft, the water was hot, and sleeping in was awesome. There'd been a murderous rainstorm last night (can I just say how hard it is to describe things while trying to avoid calling them 'wicked', 'freaky', or 'the mother of all…'?) and there's a lake in the middle of the parking lot we need to negotiate to get to the trunk of car.
Sam's quiet. It wasn't a tough job, as 0ur jobs go, so there's not much about it to review. But I'm not feeling 'quiet' right now. Sixteen days ago Castiel bought a permanent seat on "Crazy Train" and if I don't talk about something, I'll think about it, how he turned on us. On me. And I don't want to think about it.
Okay, so I'm thinking about it anyway.
"That Wendigo's going to find Purgatory a little empty." I say. It's a stupid thing to say, I know, but it's where my mind is right now. Sam gives me a look, but no answer. Just a look that tells me (again) that he knows I can't let it go. And that he understands. And that it's okay.
Sixteen days ago I was afraid that Sam had gotten a one-way pass on his own Crazy Train, (thanks, or not, to Castiel) but he's tough, he's handling it. We're handing it. When he starts feeling the thousand-yard stare coming on, or when I see it coming on, he lets me know or I let him know, and we get him thinking about something else. One time I let him explain to me (in minute detail) the difference in translation of 'The Odyssey' between Greek to English, and Greek to French to English.
Rock on, dude.
So then, of course, the next time he needed distracting, he had to listen to me describe (in minute detail) the best way to rebuild an engine. I gave him a pop quiz at the end of it, too, just to be sure he'd been listening.
He grumbled (and got 100 on the quiz) but hell passed without him faceplanting or electrocuting or slipping away from me. One of these days, I'm sure, hell won't pass that easily, but we'll deal with that then.
For now, we come out of the motel and try to stow our gear in the trunk without going ankle deep in the lake that used to be the parking lot. Finally though, Sam just steps into the water and gets it done.
"Where do we think the closest diner is?" I ask and when he looks down the main drag and all the businesses crowding around there, his interest latches onto something farther down the motel parking lot, out in the road past the driveway.
"What?" I ask. I don't see anything.
"I don't know." He doesn't know and yet he starts walking that way anyway.
"If you don't know, don't you think maybe you shouldn't -"
But just that fast, I'm talking to air because just that fast Sam is at the road, crouched down, looking at a dark lump on the white line.
Please tell me it's not supernatural. I'm too tired to think about another job right now.
"Sam? Sammy, what is it?"
He stands up and waves me closer.
"It's a baby raccoon."
When I get closer, it's pretty obvious to me,
"You mean a dead baby raccoon."
The thing looks hardly bigger than one of Sam's hands. It obviously went through the rainstorm last night, the fur's all wet and matted, the body is outlined in 'road sand' that washed down in the rain. It's all flat out, not moving. No blood or guts or missing body parts, but I've seen dead, and that thing is dead.
Sam's got that look though, that 'I should've been able to save it' look.
"Dude, it's a raccoon. It's roadkill."
"He was all alone." Sam says, like the thing was a friend or a kid or a something other than roadkill. We've seen our share of roadkill. Hell, we've caused our share of it. We've also checked our share of roadkill, whether we caused it or not, when they're obviously not dead, or there's enough doubt in my little brother how dead they really are.
Seriously, I hope he never changes.
"You want to bury it?" I ask.
"Move him off the road, maybe. So nobody runs over him."
As if the thing could get any deader.
But I hold my remarks and he nudges the thing with the toe of his boot, checking for rigor mortis.
And the thing moves.
It moves. It shakes and wriggles its little arms and legs and liftts its head and trills out what sounds like a distress call.
It isn't dead.
Okay, we can deal. We've dispatched our share of roadkill too, when they weren't quite as dead as they should've been. I reach for my gun and look around for a nice, secluded spot.
"Dean. No, don't. Wait." Sam crouches down again. "Maybe we could..."
"Maybe we could what?" I ask when Sam doesn't finish the thought. "Sam, he's suffering. We've got to put him out of his misery."
"But - wait - just - " His hand hovers briefly over the raccoon then he lifts it up by the scruff.
"Hey - be careful. It could bite you. Or poop on you." And right now, I'm not sure which would be worse.
"No, it's all right." He lifts the thing up and looks it over, like he knows what he's looking for, while Roadkill the Raccoon is still squirming and trilling and shaking. "No blood. Moving around so the spine must be okay. No obvious signs of head injury."
"I repeat - what are we supposed to do with it?"
"Maybe there's a vet in town?" Sam says as he stands up with the thing and gives me that look. That 'okay, please?' look he's had since forever. And as he says it, he puts the raccoon against his side and tucks his shirt tail under and around it, protecting it.
Just as I'm going to mention to him, again, the possibility of poop and rabies, and point out again that the raccoon is obviously suffering, damn if the thing doesn't stop shaking and trilling. It presses against Sam and grips little raccoon fingers around Sam's thumb, and with what sure sounds like a satisfied grunt, it puts its head down on Sam's hand and closes its eyes.
Anybody else would give me a look of triumph and victory. Sam looks at me like this is the best, most heartwarming moment he's ever experienced.
Because a baby raccoon likes him.
I give in.
"Okay, Dr. Doolittle. Now what?"
"Find a vet, I guess."
"All right. I'll go ask the clerk if there's one in town. You and Roadkill wait here."
"Don't call him that." Sam says, (whines) like the furball can hear me, or understand what I'm saying.
Sammy, seriously, don't ever change.
Turns out there's no vet in the tiny town of Robinson, but there is one in the next town over, about nine miles down the road.
While we drive there, I glance over every once in awhile. I make it look like I'm looking at Roadkill, but I'm looking at Sam. He's got his head bent down, watching the raccoon, rubbing a thumb back and forth against it, through his shirt. Sammy, who spent one hundred and eighty years burning alive in hell to save a world that didn't even realize, has all his concentration focused on comforting a soggy, ratty, half-dead furball.
"Holding on?" I ask. I let Sam think I'm asking about the raccoon. He turns a smile up to me.
"I think he's snoring."
I can't help but be happy at his happiness. He deserves to be happy about something. We both do. And who knows, maybe Roadkill deserves it too. Because goodness knows (I'm trying not to say God knows, or Lord knows, or even heaven knows anymore...) the little furball is a whole lot less trouble than any other fanged, clawed thing we've ever dealt with.
"I think we should call him 'Castiel'." Sam says, a little while later, totally (totally) out of the blue.
"Why? Because you never know when he's going to turn on you?" I have to ask.
Sam rolls his eyes andd takes a breath to answer me, but we're there, at the vet's.
The vet who doesn't take raccoons.
"We don't take raccoons." The receptionist tells us, sounding snooty and just a little bit disappointed. Like we should've known. "You shouldn't even have touched it. You should have left it where you found it."
"He's hurt." Sam says, standing behind me. It's the first thing he's said in here. He sounds appalled. "He was lying at the side of a busy road, hurt. We couldn't leave him there."
Roadkill starts trilling again then, like he can feel that Sam's not happy, and the receptionist purses a look at him like it's ruining her day.
"We don't take raccoons."
Sam steps right up to the counter and out of instinct I put my hand on his arm to check him because he's got his 'I'm six foot five and I know it' posture going on. He's pissed and the receptionist is about to feel it.
"Who. Does?" He asks (demands) in his 'rumble of thunder' voice.
Her expression freezes in blank terror, and her hands reach for her rolodex while her eyes stay fixed on Sam's face so far above her.
"One of our clients works with wildlife." She says, saying it in a hurry, and I push Sam back a little bit. She can't help us if she's too terrified to speak.
Sam moves back and turns away and bends his head down to Roadkill again, making soothing noises and stroking his thumb back and forth until the trilling and wriggling and shaking stops.
It isn't until I hear the nervous throat clearing that I realize I'm concentrating on Sam and not paying attention to Miss Doesn't-Take-Raccoons. I turn back to her and she's handing me a sticky note.
"That's her phone number. And her address." She's still talking fast and shooting uneasy glances at Sam's back. She'll be happy when we're gone.
"How do we get here?" I ask her. Turns out it's not far. We're back in the car and down a few roads and in another fifteen minutes we're at the house. It's a small white house with a big red barn,toys and bikes scattered around. As we get out of the car, a woman comes out from the barn.
"Can I help you?" She asks. She ends up next to Sam. She doesn't even come up to his shoulder.
"We found a baby raccoon." Sam tells her. He pulls his tuck of shirt back a little to show her and as if on cue, Roadkill starts up with his trilling again.
"Where did you find him?" She asks, in a 'oh, the poor little thing' voice and walks right up to Sam for a closer look.
"In front of - almost in front of - the Best Rest motel, near the Walmart over in Robinson." Sam (Mr. 'I-wouldn't-cop-to-breaking-my-own-leg-but-I-will-go-encyclopedic-for-Roadkill') tells her. "We made sure he was moving all his arms and legs before we picked him up. There was no blood, no obvious injuries. It looked like he was out in the rain last night though. He was pretty cold when I picked him up. We didn't give him any water or try to give him any food or anything. He's been sleeping most of the time since we found him."
She's nodding her head and giving Roadkill a once over without taking him out of Sam's arms.
"The vet wouldn't take him." Sam adds. "The lady there said we shouldn't even have touched him."
She shakes her head at that, and huffs her own complaint.
"Y'gotta wonder about people sometimes. C'mon back here. Let's get this little guy set up."
We go into the barn which inside is set up more like a car repair garage. She unlocks a padlock on a screen door that leads into a room on the back and we follow her in there. There's heavy duty shelves set up with all sorts and sizes of cages on them. A few of them have heat lamps beaming down into them. Inside the one I can see into, lazing in the heat, is a giant sized possum.
"Do this a lot the, do you?" I ask.
"Yeah. Between the State forest, the new highway, and urban sprawl, I get a lot of business." She moves another heat lamp next to another cage and turns it on. Then she turns back to Sam Winchester and guest.
"Okay, little fella. Let's get you warmed up."
She starts to take Roadkill away from Sam, and Roadkill starts trilling like he's sure he's about to be fileted, and Sam's looking like he's thinking the same thing.
But the lady moves slowly and gently and coos to the furball, "It's okay, it's okay. Everything's going to be okay." (Then again, maybe she's cooing that to Sammy.) She scoops up Roadkill and sets him into a nest of towels in the cage and after some more trilling and maybe figuring things out, he lays down and curls up and goes quiet.
Sam looks like he's leaving his firstborn with Freddy Krueger.
"He'll be okay, won't he?" He asks.
"He's got a lot in his favor. If he survived this long, I'd say he's a pretty strong little fella."
I hear an unequivocal 'maybe' in that answer. Maybe Sam does too because he nods but looks only marginally relieved.
"Can we call you to check on him? The lady at the vet's gave us your number. Can we call you?"
"Sure, anytime. That'll be fine." She says it like it's a great idea and she's glad that Sam asked and Sam still looks like he wants to camp out here. Not that I blame him. For a guy who's spent the last six years (at least) desperate to save someone, something, anything, it's nice to have a 'win'. Even a furry rat-ball win.
"C'mon, Sam. Say goodbye to Roadkill and let's get going. I've got a gallon of hand sanitizer with your name on it."
The lady turns to me with mock horror.
"Roadkill? Don't call him that. He can hear you, you know."
That makes Sammy relax enough to leave his baby in capable hands. He puts his hands on the cage for a minute, but Roadkill's apparently much too comfortable in heated bliss to notice. We leave the barn and when we're outside again, the lady walks us to the car.
"Thanks for picking him up." She directs that right at Sam. "Most people wouldn't. Most people wouldn't even have noticed him lying there. I'm glad there's somebody like you in the world."
Sam's embarassed and tongue-tied and trying to think of something self-disparaging to say, but before he can, she adds,
"Wash your hands and change your shirts as soon as you can. Raccoons can carry a nasty parasite."
"He will," I tell her, and Sam adds, "Yeah, I will," and that seems enough for her.
"Okay. I'm going to go take care of 'Roadkill'. Call me whenever you want."
She leaves us for her barn and I turn to Sam. He's staring at the barn like he can see Roadkill through the wood. I open the trunk to get some shirts and hand sanitizer out for him.
"C'mon, lets find some place for you to get washed up and changed." I say as I shut the trunk again. "We'll give her a call later tonight."
"Yeah. Okay, yeah."
We get in, I pour Sammy a handful of Purel and we start driving. He swaps out his shirts, tosses the dirty ones in the back and then accepts more Purel (germs I might take the risk with. Parasites? No.)
"You know why I said we should name him Castiel?" He asks after awhile. Just the sound of that name sets my teeth on edge. I don't have the energy or the inclination to even attempt a snarky reply.
"Because he was separated from him family, lost and hurt, just barely surviving, with nobody but us to help him. And - we had no clue what to do."
I roll my eyes and 'hmpf' something even I don't know what it is. Sammy's not done though.
"But it doesn't mean we aren't going to try."
I look at him and he's serious. Cas kicked out the Wall, Sam's wall. He risked Sam, he hurt Sam, and all for his own gain. And Sam thinks - ?
"Help him? Are you nuts?"
"He's our friend, Dean. Hell, he's more than a friend, he became family. We're going to turn our backs on him because he's in over his head? Isn't that when we always take action?"
"Sam - "
"Dean - we can't give up on him. I won't give up on him."
No. All I can think is 'no, no, no.' All I can think is that I'm keeping Sam as far away from Castiel as I can. All I can think is that Sam can't be thinking that.
"Cas? After everything he did, hell, everything he's still doing, you seriously think we're going to try and help him?"
For an answer, I get the face, the eyes, the look.
"Dean - we're the only ones who can."
And just like that, I know that we will try.
Sammy - seriously - don't ever change.