Disclaimer: See Chapter One
Author's Notes: …and the end. My goal in the is story was to tell a story between the brothers and have them just happen to be battling a dragon in the process. Hopefully I was successful. Here's the conclusion/Epilogue. And to my Maz101, I hope you're back safe and sound from your recent adventure and I thank you again for all your guidance. All mistakes are mine.
Chapter 10: Incognito
Things just stopped for a few weeks.
It was the small things that seemed to suddenly matter. Like having two unexpected guests land in your spare bedroom for a couple of weeks. Eva didn't mind. Not at all. It was nice to have someone around to look after, to help when needed, and to watch when they weren't noticing.
Dean had to be in the hospital for a few days and then was discharged into Sam's care. That's when the healing finally started. Slowly. Dean was literally out for at least three days. He communicated like a child: moaning from time to time, opening his eyes on occasion, but then he'd fall back under. And Sam always sat near him, waiting him out, sipping on coffee and reading every book Eva had stuffed in her bookcase. He'd leave to go to the bathroom, sometimes he showered, but mostly his trips consisted of ninety seconds or less.
Eva placed a large hand on Sam's shoulder. The poor boy almost jumped out of his skin. She tried, encouraged him to take a walk, get some fresh air, take his cell phone with him. She'd call if he was needed. But he refused her offer over and over. Eva tipped him a smile. Knew that everyone was afraid of that one phone call that would bring them to their knees.
It wasn't until the early morning of the third night as Eva was trying to sneak down the hallway for a brownie break when she heard it.
His voice caught tight on his vocal chords. Snapped like a twig, really. Pain, she suspected. Wasn't sure from which wound, though.
Sam's head bobbed on his chest and he opened his eyes at the sound of his name. He leaned forward quickly, his hands sliding down his thigh, coming to rest just beyond his knees. His face hit a wandering light from outside the window. She smiled when he did. Fucking dimples.
"Hey, man." Raised his hand but laid it back down on his own leg. Too afraid to touch him, she noticed. Afraid his own touch would cause more hurt. To both of them.
"I'm surrounded by pink." Dean announced and she felt oddly proud by the statement. Pink: the color of healing. Of friendship. Of purity and virgins.
"We're at Eva's." Sam replied. It was unnecessary to say but, still, he quirked an eyebrow.
"Yeah," Dean said with a huff. "Smells like her."
Sam waited a beat. "Like teen spirit?"
Aw, that made her grin. Old grumpy pants did have a funny bone. She made note of that. He was human after all.
Eva paused. She felt dizzy all of a sudden, like a part of her had exited right then and there and was hovering above her body. She was flattered at the concern, that this hunter cared enough to ask but she also found herself lingering on the words... waiting for Sam's reply because she wasn't sure the answer herself.
"Of course," Sam said easily. Rolled off his tongue and into the air like a sweet kiss. "She's banged up and bruised, but you know."
"No, Sam, I don't."
Eva found herself leaning in, straining to hear Sam's whisper, "She's gonna be okay. The rest, well, it's just like everybody else who finds out that there's more out there than they knew about before. She just has a new normal now."
A new normal. Eva rolled her eyes. If that boy only knew all the fresh starts and new normals she'd already had in her lifetime.
But Dean followed Sam's response with a quiet, "Okay." And Eva peered into the room again. Her eyes followed their movements in the dark from behind a gingham curtain she had hanging in the hallway. It was darker where she was and she suspected that she blended into the background just fine. Incognito.
Her attention caught on Sam sighing and his shoulders caved and hunched forward on the exhale, the entire world resting on top of him. His hands moved again but stopped as his fingers intertwined with one another, clasped tightly like little church people, and landed just on the edge of the mattress next to Dean's hip. One thumb chased the other. Eva wondered if he was just nervous or scared or if there was more. He seemed like he was hiding something dark. Anger, maybe.
"Wanna hole up here for a while?" Sam offered. He gave Dean a three second count and when his brother didn't answer, Sam added, "She can cook. Her house smells like flowers. It's warm. The bed's soft. She keeps a fridge stocked full of beer. And..." Hesitated. Let Dean look over at him. He held the gaze and slipped him a smile. "It's homey."
Eva felt her eyes prick. She shook her head. Don't start now. Don't start the fucking waterworks, you big baby.
She heard Dean release a sound. It wasn't a sigh nor was it a huff. It was somewhere in the middle. A place where these two boys lived their lives. Not on the inside. Not on the outside. But someplace else. In between.
She decided it was a puff. Yes, Dean released a puff and then he almost laughed but he didn't have enough air in his lungs to carry it through. "It's a girl's house, Sam."
No wonder Sam felt so at home here, Eva mused. Read the humor his brother was laying down but Sam... she leaned forward, squinted. They did a few small things next. Sam reached into his pocket and gave Dean some kind of a necklace. It dangled in the air, catching the light from outside the window. Dean's face lit up like a kid at Christmas. He snatched it quickly and threw it over his neck, smiling with childhood delight.
Then Sam's fingers found an abandoned string on Dean's blanket and he was busy twisting it one way as tight as it would go and then he'd stop and twist it the other way.
"You wanna talk about it?"
Sam stopped spinning the string. His eyes drifted near Dean but didn't make it to his face. Eva waited, wished she could look away but she was way too invested now. She felt her breath hot on the curtain and held it close. She made a wish, said a prayer. She hoped.
"You don't think I'll understand?" Dean asked and his face softened instantly. His voice dropped a register. "You think your problems are that complicated?"
Eva blinked. She remembered something her father once told her. He said, "Love is never enough." And she believed that, her whole life, until she met Abbey who taught her, "All you need is love." Eva hadn't lived long enough yet to know which of them had been right. But watching these two brothers, she thought maybe a person had to believe it was both. Maybe love had to be the foundation but it wasn't enough to keep growth alive. This, this bond that they had, it was deeper than the love she'd witnessed thrown around all her life. Tossed aside like garbage, picked up when needed.
This was commitment. This was real.
Sam shoved away from the bed and was on his feet in less than a second. He turned away from Dean, his tall build engulfing the window, his body a silhouette in the gray. Still, Eva watched him drag his hand through his hair and she counted the heaves of his chest as it filled with hot air. One. Two. Three. Four.
He stopped and tried to say something. His hand extended out. Five. Six. Made a noise this time. Seven. Eight.
And all the while, Dean waited. Waited because it wasn't his turn and he couldn't make Sam do anything that Sam couldn't do.
Sam held his breath. Held it until he was forced to release it and then he surrendered and sat down on his ass, the little pink seat under him squealing in protest and he went back to his string and the unbearable silence.
Eva watched Dean laid a gentle hand, a calming hand on his brother's knee. Giving him an extra opportunity, she understood. But the words fell through Sam and were lost on the floor somewhere.
Dean released another puff and must have drifted back to sleep sooner than later because before Eva knew it, breaths had evened out from the small room and quiet snores greeted her in the hallway.
A few days later she passed by Dean sitting at her kitchen table. He had one of her weights in his right hand and he was flexing it with those muscles of his. She bit her lip for a second before walking in.
"Need a drink?" she asked, paused at the refrigerator, hand perched above the handle.
He glanced over. Shrugged.
She grabbed a large glass and filled it with lemonade. It was early, only about 2:15 in the afternoon and she decided there wasn't any reason to encourage anything stronger while Days of Our Lives was still on.
"Where's Sam?" she inquired, not pushing, just genuinely wondering if she needed to grab another glass.
A hitch of his shoulders was her response so she brought over the single glass and sat down across from him. She mulled it over: to ask or not to ask. A fight or a disagreement or maybe just an over concerned little brother. She decided to let it go, asked about how his side was feeling instead. It was still wrapped. He was still hitting the Vicodin pretty damn good. Not that she was counting or anything.
"It's better," he answered and she kind of believed him. He looked at her and she saw his sadness shining through. His hand defensively laid across his left side and he let it rest there for a minute. "Sometimes if I turn just right or when I stand up, there's a pain that shoots all the way up past my shoulder. Gives me a headache."
Eva appreciated the honesty. She wanted to ask if he had told this to Sam but instead she said, "Your whole body has been beaten. It's not going to heal in just eight days. You're wounded. Give yourself some time."
Dean took in a shallow breath and let it out. He tilted his head and blinked at Eva. "How... how are you doing?"
It hurt, but she smiled. "A dragon, who may have been my father, and my half lizard-half brother are both dead, Dean." She licked her lips and grit her teeth. "And I'm having a hard time processing it. So I guess I don't know how I'm suppose to be doing."
He looked away. Focused on the photo of Eva and her father sitting on her table. He didn't offer her anything back. No words, no actions. She would have killed for that.
"Is that how you felt... I mean, how did you feel when your dad died?" Held her breath and almost blacked out from the words. Wished that she hadn't gone there but she had and it was out and there was nothing to do now but wait.
He kept a steady gaze on the picture. "Guilty."
She nodded. "And now?"
Dean's eyes skimmed over to hers. His face was streaked and stripped raw. "Guilty. And pissed."
Oh, she wanted to know more. "Guilty that you couldn't save him?"
He didn't flinch. "Guilty that I didn't save him."
She narrowed her gaze. Everything was a riddle with these two. It angered her that she would never be close enough to understand the way they lived. "Why are you still here, Dean?"
That seemed to shut him up. Eyes diverted away again and so she never knew if they were there because of Sam or Dean. Or because of their father.
"You know," Eva reached over, grabbed the picture frame and held it to Dean. "I only keep this out because it is the only picture I ever had of my father." She flipped it over and popped off the back. "And this…" pulled out a loose sheet of paper, "is what I thought was a poem that he wrote to me." She held it out to Dean who reluctantly took it. "See here? It's like a song but if you read it closely, I think all of these things are ingredients."
Dean's eyes narrowed. He sat up straighter in his chair. "Grains of Paradise. Madder root." He scanned the page. "You think this is the formula? But these are all… attainable. I mean, they're rare but anyone could get these things." He glanced at the poem again. "It does mention the blood of a Queen. I don't think it means of England, though. Or some other European Country."
"Or Elton John," Eva added.
Dean's hand turned, palm up. Giving her that possibility. "Or… Elton John." He thought about it a minute. "It talks about transformation."
"Marcel had it all in front of him. He just overlooked the missing ingredient." Eva scooted her chair closer, pointed with a hot pink nail. "A dash of love."
Dean gave her a look. "I'm not –"
"I think it only works if you love the Queen." She gave him a defiant grin. "I remember the night before my father died, he snuck into our house and came into my room. I hadn't seem him in a year…" Her smile disappeared. "He put his hand over my mouth and took out a knife." She locked eyes with Dean. "I was so scared. But he only pricked my finger and placed a few drops in a vial and then… kissed me on my forehead. And took off." She released a heavy sigh. "We didn't even know he had died in that fire until a couple of weeks later when they finally ID'd his body. But one thing I do know is regardless of everything, my father loved me very much."
Dean gave her his undivided attention, held a stare for a long minute and then gently folded the paper back up, handed it back. "You think your father turned into a dragon, Eva?"
She shrugged, took the poem back and placed it behind the picture. "I don't know. I only know that whatever he smoked, my mom always said took him in the end. And the way that dragon looked at me... it was like it was looking at me with a parent's love. You know what I mean?"
Dean just stared, though. No smile returned and Eva knew she had pushed the envelope too fucking far. Open mouth. Insert stiletto.
She felt bad then that, like him, she had nothing more to give. There were no words that she could pull out of a magic hat to make that kind of pain go away. A dragon had been slayed - her brother had been killed - and by the very two men that she protected now.
But she couldn't fix everything. That would take years, she decided. That would take a team of psychotherapists and heavy antidepressants. She thought maybe this was as good as it got for these two. Questions left unanswered. Silence instead of words. Anger instead of compassion. She thought those things until she returned back to work and came home way too late on a Friday night. Dean was almost whole again. He'd been itching to get the hell out of there and Sam had been slowly packing their clean clothes back into their duffels. She figured the only reason why they were still hanging around was that there was more room in her house than in the car and when their arguments hit their peak, one of them needed an open door to get away from the other.
So it didn't surprise her as she was walking up her driveway that she heard the back door slam and saw a tall figure stomp across her yard. She halted in her step, felt a mix of sympathy and frustration for the young man. She wanted to help him, God knew she did, but it never did any good. Neither of them listened. Neither of them could let go of their own Egos.
Just then the door opened wide and Dean came barreling - well, limping, but quickly limping - down her back stairs. He stopped behind his brother and spread his arms out wide at his sides.
"You wanna hit something, Sam?" Dean's voice held a bite to it that Eva had never heard before. Eva frowned. She never knew what they were fighting about. Only that it was Dean always pushing Sam to talk about whatever it was that had happened before they had come to Cleveland. Something that Sam had apparently done.
Sam turned away from the shed that he'd been facing and toward his brother. "What?"
Dean's hand signaled to his chest. "Because if you're looking to wail on something, man, I'm here."
This seemed to surprise Sam. "You're a hypocrite, you know that?" His chest heaved, like it had the night Dean had woken up. This time, his head cocked to the right and his eyebrows stretched high on his forehead, disappearing into uneven bangs shielding the gaze that was fixed on Dean. Eva wished she could catch more of the exchange than she was seeing but she was meant to be left out. Somethings were meant to be kept between family.
Whatever look Dean had given to him, seemed to soothe Sam in some way. His breaths slowed and his voice evened out. "Dean, I don't want to hit you." Sam slapped his arms against his thighs and he shifted his weight from one leg to the other but said no more.
Dean raised a hand in question. "Then what do you want? Because I'm not..." There was more concern hidden in his voice than frustration. "I'm not a mind reader. You gotta talk about it."
He chuckled. "Take your pick."
Sam circled around his brother, kicking at defenseless blades of grass. He swiped at a low branch on a maple tree and then turned and leaned in close. He pointed a finger at Dean and narrowed his eyes. "You wouldn't talk. Not when Dad..." Swallowed. Blinked. Ripped his heart open an inch and wore it on his sleeve. Sam cleared his throat and tried to push past the tears in his throat. "Not when Dad..."
Dean took a step closer but Sam backed up. He met his brother's stare, both eyes glistened. Sam shoved on even though his voice was shaking. "You wouldn't talk."
Eva swallowed. She wanted to interject: He feels guilty. But instead, she placed a hand over her mouth.
"No. Not at first. It was like pulling teeth-"
"But I talked. I mean, I know, I beat the shit out of the car. I hit you. I went Rambo on some innocent vamps but... we all gotta talk it out in our way."
Whatever it was, Sam was going to hold it close. Even Eva could see that. It was funny to her that she had thought it was Dean, with his tough exterior that would've been the one to hold it all in but it was soft-spoken Sam in the end. He set fire to his internalizations.
Say something. For Christ's sake, say something. Please.
"Forget it, Sam. It's cold out here." Dean whirled away and started back toward the house but then must have given it a second thought and decided to make one last ditch attempt. He turned around. "You want to pretend like everything's okay, fine. I'm here. But if you change your mind and you want to hit somebody, I'm here for that, too. You want to get drunk off your ass, dude, I'm totally here. You wanna yell for no reason, you want to spar, you want to have a junk food fest, you want to paint clowns dying a hundred different ways, Sam, I'm telling you..." Dean took a deep breath and let it out. "However you want to do it, you need to talk this out and, goddammit, I'm not going anywhere."
She couldn't tell but the words seemed to sink in. Sam's shoulders were rolled forward and they didn't hold the tension Eva had seen before. His head bowed down, his arms hung loose. He was as close as Eva had ever seen him. And Dean knew it. He took the steps necessary until he was standing in front of his brother again.
"M-m-m..." Dean's lips held the sound, it vibrated for a few seconds, ping-ponging back and forth, before he spoke the name. "Madison's death. We both felt it, Sammy. There's no way it didn't bring up shit for you. Of Jessica." Dean's voice raised at the end of her name, like she was an angel. "Maybe stirred up something from Mom's death. Or Dad's."
He feels guilty.
Eva could feel the wetness race down her cheeks. She clumsily wiped at her face. Death and loss. Commitment and love. Hand in hand. None of it was enough. And it was all too fucking much.
Sam sniffed loudly. He brought her attention back and she watched as he raised his head and looked at his brother for what seemed like a long time but in reality was only a few stuttering heartbeats. "Could've done more." He pressed his palms into his eye sockets. His throat worked hard, sending his Adam's apple chasing itself for a few laps. "Could have done more for all of them."
There was a heavy silence and then Dean breathed. "They still would've died." Caught his brother's gaze. "All of them."
Huh, Eva thought, they weren't super heroes after all.
A broken cry cracked the air and Eva felt a shift between both brothers. One's resignation and one's relief. They were emotion in motion.
Dean reached a hand up and rested it on the back of Sam's neck. Eva felt her heart break as Sam pulled back and brought up his own arm, placing his head into the crook of his elbow. Hiding, she initially thought or maybe he was trying to gather some composure but then she realized he was just waiting for the final invitation.
"I'm here, Sammy," Dean whispered. And with that, Sam closed the gap between Dean and his own body, fiercely wrapping his long arms across his brother's shoulders. Dean took the extra weight, hands spanning across Sam's back to complete the circle.
The next day, without any note or any good-bye, they were gone.
The club was pumping.
Buy one get one free Wednesdays. The special: Cosmopolitans and Pink Ladies.
Dean already had four to Sam's two and it showed. Sam couldn't stop him from drinking them, though. The minute they finished one, two more showed up. Didn't matter that they were drinks a girl got drunk on. Alcohol was alcohol and everywhere they went, there was another appreciative Drag Queen buying them another round. Dean exchanged smiles. Sam tied messy bows. They had tabletops cleared away and before they knew it, they were seated right up front, just in time for the final act.
Sam looked over at his brother for a quick examination. Dean appeared pretty loose, not nervous or out of place. He picked up the dainty glass in front of him and sipped out of it like he was slurping one of his cheap beers. He slid one leg over the other, crossing them at the knee and rested a hand gently over the red silk covered chocolate box he had brought for their friend. Strummed his ring over the top of it. No price tag on this one but Sam had been there: $68. Used his own hard earned money, even. She probably wouldn't be satisfied, but it was a start.
The lights flashed above and music crashed around them. Sam turned his attention to the stage as the velvet curtain pulled up and she stood in front of them, tall and muscular, built like an Amazon. The spotlight illuminated her and she sparkled. Her eyes opened and she scanned the audience, her long curly hair cascading over her broad shoulders. She turned to her right until she found who she was looking for. Big, toothy smile. Recognition.
She opened up her mouth and she sang.
"Looking out in the morning rain. I used to feel so uninspired. And when I knew I had to face another day. Lord it made me feel so tired."
When they had stayed with Eva those twelve, thirteen days, she told Sam something he would never forget. It was over an English Muffin and some flavored coffee. "Dean is going to get there, Sam, he really is."
Sam nodded once, fidgeted in his chair.
"He's come so far already. He even changed his attitude toward himself. Toward… others."
Suddenly not hungry, Sam put the muffin down and raised his eyes. He swallowed hard and cleared his throat. "You." Because of course it was her.
A smiled bended her lips and she patted his hand. It was warm. "No, Sam. You."
"Before the day I met you, life was so unkind. You're the key to my piece of mind."
They had returned to the club on one condition: Sam was not allowed to tell Eva of Dean's deal. A few months had gone by since they had been at Knuckers and been right up there on that very stage. And a lot of things had happened. Like, Sam had been saved. He'd been stabbed in the back and had died. And then his totally awesome, totally stupid brother had the brilliant idea to sell his soul to bring Sam back from the dead. He'd changed the course of both of their lives. And deaths.
But that was all a secret. Eva wasn't to know.
Sam's eyes skated to his left. Dean was six drinks down, head back, body swaying with the rest of the audience screaming, "You make me feel… You make me feel… You make me feel like a natural woman!"
He had to let it go. At least for tonight. He and Dean were dancing on the edge of darkness and neither one of them knew how rough the fall was going to be. Sam downed his Cosmo and glanced back up at the stage.
Eva was a star and they had saved her. Sam smiled and saw her smile back. Huh, he thought, the Queen has dimples.
A funny thing happened after the show that night, Dean and Sam went to the after party and they had a good time. There had been no ghosts to kill, no demons to summon, no worries about what the future was going to bring and if either of them would make it out alive.
No, this was just a normal, Drag Queen after party. And they had fun.
Eva had invited them back to her house, for the bed of course. And the breakfast. Dean kindly refused. He and Sam already had a motel room booked on the outside of town and they needed to get up and leave in the morning anyways. She was disappointed, but she understood. She placed an arm around a new friend's shoulder - Fonda? Dean couldn't quite remember but she made Eva smile. More importantly, their new friend was happy.
She gave them both a hug and asked them to stay in touch. They said they would. He knew when she looked behind her shoulder, though, that that would be the last time any of them saw one another.
The hotel was worse than their normal. It smelled of mold, only had two squeaky twin beds, and apparently the only running water was cold.
"We just need a few hours of sleep, Sam," Dean replied when Sam complained about the room. Bitch.
Two hours in a girl-drink-drunk induced sleep, he heard it. It started as a moan. Dean opened his eyes. He flexed his hands and wiped away the sleep. Everything felt numb. He slowly twirled to his side and had to wait for his eyes to be able to track. Clock said something-thirty. And then he focused on the lump sleeping on the opposite bed. Another moan.
Dean sighed and sat up. He placed two heavy feet down on the shaggy carpet and stretched his toes. It was a chore standing up and he'd lie later if he was asked if he made it to the bathroom without tripping. It was a son of a bitch walking around Sam's bed and into the one and only chair in the room. Stubbed his goddamn toe. But he made it to the sink and grabbed a washcloth from the towel bar. Gave it a good once over - looked clean - and wetted it down. He filled a plastic cup full of water and grabbed a couple of Tylenol.
Walking back into the main room, Dean grabbed the chair he had previously tripped over and dragged it over to the edge of Sam's bed. He quietly set the Tylenol and the water down on the bedside table and then sat back in the chair with a long sigh.
Every ass has a seat.
He held the washcloth in his hand. Sam whimpered and Dean knew it was going to be any minute now. His brother didn't dream of girls burning on the ceiling anymore. No. Now his dreams were about blood and Dean and being left alone in the world.
But they never talked about that.
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. Tried to work the kink out of his neck. Waited and knew they would never escape this. And this would become that. And he hoped they were strong enough to survive whatever that would be.
Sam tossed an arm out wildly. His breathing increased and he let out a short scream.
Dean sucked in a sob. It's not his fault. Bit his lip hard to stop himself from breaking down. "Screw you, Dad," he whispered in the dark. Because Dean was going to save Sam. Even if it killed him.
Sam suddenly shot up like a rocket and Dean braced himself.
Natural Woman performed by Aretha Franklin
-End- And, thanks for reading. I respond to all notes left to me!