Hey guys, sorry this update took an insanely long time. Thanks for everyone that reviewed, favorited, and alerted last chapter, and thanks for sticking with it. I've been pretty busy with schoolwork and kind of unmotivated to write, and this chapter was relatively difficult. So I apologize beforehand for anything that's bad or doesn't make sense, and if you have any thoughts, just leave a review. I also apologize if some of the medical stuff doesn't make sense. I really know nothing about this stuff and my only source is the internet, so bear with me.
Disclaimer: I'm pretty sure we all know that I don't own the boys or anything Supernatural.
Well, guess I'll shut up now and let you guys read. Enjoy!
It had taken Jo 50 minutes to get to the old, abandoned house where she had found Dean. It took her 38 to get back to the Roadhouse. At first, she had worried that the fast driving would jostle Dean too much, but then she figured time right now was worth a little discomfort. And then she felt bad for looking at it so objectively; she wasn't the one with a broken leg and a gash in her stomach. Finally, she settled on the fact that going slower wasn't going to make the bumps go away—it would just prolong them. So she drove fast.
Dean was silent for the most part. His hands rested on the balled-up shirt that was tied over his stomach. He seemed to drift in and out of consciousness; sometimes when she glanced over to check on him his eyes were closed and his jaw and neck were slack like the rest of his body, while other times he seemed to be semi-alert and squinting around at the interior of the car.
At one of these times, Jo reached over to rest her palm lightly on his forehead. It was cold and sweaty—not a particularly good sign. His gaze slid over to her, but he didn't move away from her touch. She hoped it was because he didn't want to rather than that he couldn't.
"How're you feeling?" she inquired softly.
One of the tires hit a bump in the road that jostled Dean's leg and his reply was swallowed by a groan as he squeezed his eyes shut. He tried again, his voice gravelly.
Jo snorted humorlessly. "Right. Why would I ever think you would tell me the truth?"
He twitched a shoulder in a semblance of a shrug. "Dunno." His gaze sloshed towards her again. "Don' rem'ber . . . last time I tol' an'one th' truth. 'Cep' for Sam." Even in the state he was in, raw anguish flashed across his face at the mention of his brother and a stab of nausea drove down into Jo's stomach at the memories it elicited. "No one . . . cares t'ask for it . . . an'more."
It was a testament to how badly Dean was hurting and out of it that he had admitted to as much. His words also kindled a slow, burning anger in the pit of Jo's stomach. No one cared to ask anymore? The hell they didn't. How could he say that? The only reason she hadn't asked him was because she knew Dean didn't like people on his back all the time. She didn't remember how many times she was a tap-of-the-send-button away from calling him to see if he was okay, but had decided not to because she didn't want to bother him.
Jo opened her mouth to tell him exactly what she thought of that, and then shut it. This conversation would have to wait for a later date. She wouldn't feel justified yelling at Dean when he was like this, and besides, he probably wouldn't remember it. She wanted to tell him when he was fully cognizant and able to understand everything she was saying. And it wouldn't hurt if he was well enough to handle a good backhand or two. Just to drive the point home.
He said nothing else for the rest of the drive and Jo listened as his breathing came harsher and with more difficulty. For some reason, after the mention of Sam, Jo couldn't stop the flow of memories that overlaid the road stretching in front of her for portions of time.
She remembered the day Dean had come staggering into the Roadhouse, overflowing with grief that his stubborn will wouldn't allow him to express like a normal person—but everyone who knew him could see right through him. He spent a whole three weeks so drunk that half the time he was unconscious and the other half the time he was either at the bottle or kneeling in front of the toilet. Sometimes both.
Jo distinctly remembered the day when Ellen had decided enough was enough. She had dragged him out of the room he was borrowing, sat him down on a bar stool, moved the bottle of whiskey out of reach, and handed him a gallon of water with strict orders to drink the whole thing before the day was out. Jo remembered the paleness of his skin, the taughtness of it over his bones, the seemingly permanent dark stains under his dead green eyes. The way he could hardly lift the jug without his hands shaking. The way he would take a small gulp, then slump over the bar in abject misery with his head on an arm until Ellen forced him to sit up and take another drink. The way he more often than not lost whatever he had managed to get down within forty-five minutes.
It took him two days to get through the gallon of water. Four before he could keep down anything besides dry toast. A week before he did anything but stare listlessly at the floor. Ten days until he would glance at people for even a few seconds at a time. Twelve days and he gathered up his meager belongings, nodded a tacit, shifty-eyed thanks to Ellen, Jo, Ash, and Bobby, walked out of the Roadhouse, and was gone.
The next time Jo had seen him, the vulnerable man drowning within himself was gone. True to form, Dean had formed his anguish into a whetting stone on which he sharpened himself constantly. He didn't smile anymore, didn't stop to get distracted by a good-looking rack or a seductive glance. His body was harder, stronger. He was more reckless, but he could afford it because his instincts were even better than they had ever been—which was saying a lot. When he looked someone in the eye, the other was always the first to look away, unable to lock gazes with the quiet violence, veiled turbulence, the deadly purpose of a man who has nothing left to lose.
He had shown up for an evening to get some information from Ash—now Jo couldn't remember what it was, and she didn't know why it mattered, but she wished she could recall. She wondered why it should hurt so much that he hadn't said a word to her that day, had only looked at her once, for a second—his face a study of mystery, concealed agony, and a hard devotion to the only purpose he had left in this world (hunting)—and then glanced away. And then he was gone again. That was the last she had seen of him. Until today.
And now here he was, bleeding out in her car. Funny how things happened. Except no one was laughing.
When they reached the Roadhouse, the parking lot was mostly empty—Ellen must have closed early in anticipation of Dean's desire for privacy if at all possible. Jo wasted no time in climbing out of her car and running around to the passenger side. Ash was only a few steps behind her, for all he had pulled in later. Jo opened the door and Ash started pulling the mostly unconscious Dean up in preparation of getting him out of the car, folding the blanket back off of him.
Dean was reduced to pitiful moans as the two of them levered him out of the car and carried him into the Roadhouse. As they entered the building, the dim light washed over Dean's bloodied form, revealing the shocking patchwork of white, purple, and crimson that was his flesh.
Ellen was waiting for them with all sorts of medical supplies laid out, including an IV stand and bag that they had acquired sometime over the years. Jo guessed that Ash had called her during the drive to tell her what he needed. She even had two tables pushed together on which they could lay Dean out full length so he could be worked on easily.
Once they had him up on the tables, Ellen and Jo worked at taking his jacket off, while Ash went to work sterilizing both himself and the tools he was about to use. At this point, Dean was pretty much unresponsive. To be honest with herself, this worried Jo more than anything. As she pulled the jacket off of his arm, it flopped back to the table lifelessly. She folded the discarded garment up and stuffed it under his head to serve as some sort of pillow.
Ash returned, supplies cleaned and hands and forearms pink from scrubbing. He laid the tools out next to Dean, and started with preparing and inserting an IV into his arm.
"I don't think he's hit forty percent blood loss yet, so I think he'll be ok without a transfusion," Ash told Ellen and Jo quietly. He glanced at Jo. "You okay helping through it?"
Jo nodded, swallowing. She was no stranger to the occasional patch-up job here and there—after all, she had worked and lived at the Roadhouse most of her life—but this was far beyond anything she had ever attempted. But that most certainly did not mean she was going to run away and hide in a corner while Ash stitched Dean back together.
"Good, go wash up."
Jo went to the back room of the bar to scrub her hands and arms, hearing Ash ask Ellen if she could run to the nearest store to pick up a few things. By the time Jo had returned, Ash had begun to clean up the blood around the area of the gash in Dean's stomach so that he could see to stitch it up. It was amazing the random skills the man had picked up from who knows where. Jo didn't know where or how he had acquired them, but she was grateful for them.
"We'll take care of this, first, and then we'll have to set his leg," Ash said, glancing down at the damaged limb with a grimace.
He picked up a needle and threaded it with some sort of synthetic thread. Picking up the needle holder and forceps that were laying in his pile of tools, he began the job. At this point, Dean was unconscious. Jo was almost grateful for this, because it meant he wouldn't feel what was to come.
Ash explained what he was doing to her as he worked. Jo figured it was as much to keep his mind off of the severity of the situation and to keep himself from wondering about what-ifs as it was to inform her of the process.
"I'm using the horizontal matress stitch, because it's a really secure stitch. It'll help stop bleeding and pull together the edges since they're so far apart." His brows were furrowed in concentration. "Will you wipe up that blood?"
Jo did as she was told, and he continued the sutures. Progress was painfully slow, as each suture had to be precise and done carefully. The wound was long and jagged, and some of the skin was missing or unsalvageable, so Ash had to simply do the best he could with what was available. Dean was going to end up with one hell of a scar when this was done. Especially since these sorts of stitches often left "railroad marks" on either side of the scar itself.
It seemed like forever until Ash was securing the last stitch. Finally, he straightened up, arching his back to stretch it out, and rubbed a clean part of his forearm across his eyes tiredly. His hands were coated in blood to the wrists, despite all of Jo's efforts to keep the area clean, although the bleeding had mostly stopped by two-thirds of the way through the stitching.
Ash looked up at Jo. "Can you disinfect that and bandage it?" he asked. She nodded, and he went off to wash up. Jo grabbed a clean medical pad, doused it in disinfectant, and began gently cleansing the wound. When she was done, she grabbed another pad and spread it gently over the wound, layered some gauze over it, and taped it to Dean's sides.
Ash returned and stood beside Jo, surveying the wounded man quietly. "We need to cut off his pants to set his leg." Jo nodded.
The two of them set to work once again. They removed Dean's boots, and Jo pulled out her knife and sliced his jeans open from waistline to hem on each leg, spreading the pieces away from his frame so they laid flat on the table and were out of the way. Finally, he lay there in only his boxers. His leg was swollen, black and blue, and still bent oddly.
Jo looked back up at Dean's face and frowned when she saw how flushed it was between the bruises. Reaching up, she placed her palm gently on his forehead, finding that he was beginning to radiate heat.
"He's got a fever," she said. "I'll get some cloths to cool him off."
Jo went down the hall to the bathroom, which was next to her room. She dug some old washcloths out of the cupboard, then went to the back room behind the bar and found a bucket, which she filled with cold water. Throwing the cloths in the bucket, she brought it back out to where Dean was lying on the tables. She and Ash then commenced with wringing them out and placing them on his forehead and around his neck and shoulders.
When the first cloth touched his neck, Dean stirred, turning his head against the cold, but didn't completely wake up.
He muttered something, and it took Jo a moment to figure out what he was saying. A cold chill ran down her spine when she realized the word he was trying to get out.
"S . . . Sam . . . Sammy . . ."
He twisted a little and Jo pressed his shoulders back to the table gently.
"We should set that leg now," Ash said quietly. Jo nodded. There wasn't any use in waiting.
Ash instructed Jo on where to place her hands—right above the location of the break—while he put his own below it and prepared to set it.
"Just hold it as steady as you can," Ash said. Jo sucked her lip into her mouth, biting down on it in concentration, and then gave a brief nod to signal that she was ready.
Ash began putting pressure on the inner part of Dean's leg, pushing the bone outward. Jo winced at the friction she could feel through her grip on his leg.
A few moments in, Jo felt Dean's muscles go hard as rocks and glanced up to his face. His eyes were open again; his teeth were bared in a fierce snarl, but there was such a strange, pitiful sound from deep in his throat that juxtaposed his countenance.
Ash cursed under his breath and seemed to double his efforts. After what seemed like forever but was probably only a few seconds, Jo felt something grate into place. At the same time, Dean made that horrible noise again, somewhere between a moan and a sob and some un-nameable sound in which his vocal chords were tearing themselves apart.
She let go of the injured limb instantly and moved closer to his head. His eyes were hazy with pain and fever and wandered around the room aimlessly.
Suddenly, his throat convulsed and his chest bucked a little and he gagged weakly. He instinctively turned his head enough so that when the vomiting began in earnest, bile spilled out and pooled beside his head on the table.
She gently lifted up his left shoulder and tried to tilt his torso as far as possible without moving his legs, holding him by wrapping an arm over his chest. He lay there awkwardly, temple resting against the table, unable to do anything but let the spasms run the course of his body, carrying the contents of his stomach out with them.
To Jo, it seemed to go on forever, his gasps for breath growing shorter and more desperate in between bouts. Lines of pain creased his face and when he was finally finished, he squeezed his eyes shut in abject misery. Jo eased him back to his previous position flat on the table and soaked another cloth to wipe his face off with.
"Dean?" His eyes stared blankly off towards the ceiling. "Dean, you with me?" Jo disliked how much her voice shook.
For a moment, he managed to drag his gaze back to her and focus shakily on her face. For a moment, he overcame the fever, pain, and blood loss, and grabbed onto a few last remaining shreds of lucidity. For a moment, he dredged up the famous, Dean Winchester, I-am-invincible-and-nothing-can-touch-me smile and plastered it on his face, although it was threadbare and seemed to fit a bit wrong. For a moment, he spoke.
And the next moment, just as Jo was about to reply, his face crumpled in pain, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he passed out.