A/N: Thanks for reading!
"I'm going to kill that son of a bitch," Dean said. "As soon as you open your eyes and show me you'll be all right, I'll find it and kill it with my bare hands."
Three days he'd sat there, sometimes lain in the bed next to Sam's when his own body had had too much of its own detox. Drugs were bad, who knew? Three days, and still Sam was unresponsive. Dean didn't care about the medical mumbo jumbo about second impact head injuries and the statistics for survival didn't apply here. Sam was going to be fine. He didn't sell his soul for Sam to live in a persistent coma until he faded into nothing. No way.
"You'd be too late with that," Bobby said.
Dean turned and found Bobby leaning on the doorframe, half in and half out of the room, arms crossed over his chest. At Dean's nod, he entered and approached Sam's bed.
"Sam's mysterious black-eyed benefactor got a little overzealous when grilling the aforementioned son of a bitch for information." Bobby shrugged. "I can't say's I'm too torn up over her indiscretion in this case. That witch was bad juju."
"Yeah, I suppose you're right."
"Surprised she didn't tell you herself. Modesty ain't that walking demonic pestilence's strong suit."
Sometimes it gave Dean comfort to know he wasn't the only one who'd rather use descriptors than call her by name when it came to Ruby. He didn't trust her as far as he could throw her, but as more things became clear in his own head about what had happened to him and Sam, the more he realized he owed her. With Sam out for the count and him, as Ruby put it, with his brain set to run circles like a hamster on a wheel, chances were they would have bought it in 1975. It'd be a cold day in Hell he gave her anything but begrudging thanks, though. Winchesters didn't make friends with demons. Period.
"It's not like we're BFFs, Bobby. We don't talk, we don't text. She's got a thing for Sam, not me."
"I thought maybe it was that unresolved sexual tension thing." Bobby had the decency to look vaguely ill for even implying that. Or maybe it was something else, Sam hovering barely on the right side of death, for example. "I gotta tell you, that poor girl she's wearing … it wasn't pretty, sitting with her while the demon went to collect you two idjits. That creature is dark and nasty, I don't care what she's trying to peddle to your brother."
Bobby shuddered, then straightened his shoulders as if to say they'd talked enough about untrustworthy demons. Dean was more than all right with that.
"How's he doin' today?"
"No change," Dean said. He leaned his elbows on his knees, blew out a breath and glared at the monitors hooked up to Sam. "I dunno, I guess I thought that modern medicine would be able to fix him right away, you know?"
At the heart of it, he felt guilty. Sam must have been injured from the start, the first blow to the head happening when the witch whammied them back a few decades. If Dean had been normal, he'd have noticed Sam was hurt. If Dean had been normal, they wouldn't have been in the warehouse with it burning and falling around them. The second impact wouldn't have happened and Sam's brain would be just fine right now. What he remembered was in pieces, flashes, really, but it was enough. Intellectually, he knew it wasn't his fault his head got scrambled.
Emotionally, it was all his fault.
"He'll come out of it soon," Bobby said gruffly. "That boy is stubborn just like all you Winchesters are."
"I hope you're right, Bobby."
"Ain't I always?" Bobby eased into the chair on the far side of Sam's bed. "You need to lie down again, son. You're starting to look as bad as Sam."
"Bullshit. What did I just say about always being right?" Bobby narrowed his eyes in closer appraisal. "Actually, you could probably use a decent meal first. Get yourself to the cafeteria. Their sandwiches are good, and so's the mac and cheese. I'll be here with your brother."
"No arguin'. Go. I'll call if we need you," Bobby said. "And bring me back an oatmeal raisin cookie."
He was hungry. What he remembered from 1975 cuisine called to mind dumpsters and things pumped with preservatives and wrapped in cellophane. Neither of those things bothered him that much, but it wasn't like it was ever his first choice. Since their sudden, nauseating return to the present, food hadn't been first and foremost on his list of things to worry about. Dean reluctantly headed for the door and to the cafeteria. He told himself Sam would be pissed to wake up and find Dean down ten pounds and looking like an extra from Night of the Living Dead. Which was, he thought with a sardonic smile, made before 1975, so being an actual extra would require more time travel.
The worker ringing up his food had nametag on. Barbara. He couldn't resist the, "They're coming to get you, Barbara." that came out of his mouth though he regretted it immediately. Win some, lose more. That was his ratio lately and in the near future, but he didn't want to think about that. Couldn't think about that until Sam woke up. Appetite almost gone, Dean picked a table by a big picture window and the sharp cheddar scent from the pasta whetted it again.
He was half done with his second roast beef sandwich and dish of macaroni and cheese – both things Bobby had not exaggerated about, but his enjoyment was probably more indicative of his hunger than anything – when his phone rang. He made it to his feet before the first ring completed, already walking for the door and food forgotten. It was Bobby's ringtone.
"On my way," he barked into the phone without waiting to hear what the call was about.
He skipped the elevators and jogged the stairs instead, reached Sam's room in under ten minutes. Dean rounded the corner, saw a doctor obstructing his view of his brother. He watched Sam's legs move. He started forward, but was held back by a hand on his left arm.
"Give the doc a minute," Bobby said, voice thick. "Didn't I tell you, boy? He's gonna be fine."
Bobby was always right.
A head injury severe enough to put a person in a coma wasn't something anyone woke up from ready to dance a jig or even read a book. The first twenty-four hours of his reemergence into the world were ones Sam would never remember or understand, much the way he couldn't remember how he ended up hospitalized to begin with. The day and a half after that, he remembered as someone seen as a medical anomaly, a living miracle.
It was no miracle.
Sam knew that, and he suspected Dean and Bobby knew it as well even though neither of them mentioned it now, or ever would. He owed his good neurological and general physical health to Ruby. She was the first thing Sam remembered with any clarity, her standing above him with what passed for concern on her face; she was a demon, after all, and he was under no illusion that she cared for him in the way Dean or Bobby did.
"Ruby?" he asked, throat sore, thoughts foggy.
Her face and hair had a faint green tint. Light from monitors, Sam realized, and he was in the hospital. He had a pain in his head and a full body ache he recognized as being from inactivity. He lifted his head, expected Dean to be right there. He was, but he was sleeping deeply. He frowned. That wasn't right. Dean had a hair trigger on consciousness.
"What's going on? What happened?"
"You had brain damage. Now you don't," Ruby said with a shrug. "You were in 1975 LA, now you're in Bumfuck, South Dakota and it's 2008. I had to steal someone else's mojo to do it, but I bent space AND time for you."
He blinked. None of it made a lick of sense to him, but his brain was stuck on … brain damage. That could mean quite a few different things, but most people meant the bad things when they said it. It was hard for Sam to glean meaning from Ruby's words and tone even when he wasn't waking up from, well, brain damage. He blinked again, to really emphasize his confusion.
"It's a long story. Being the kind and generous person that I am, I'll let Dean tell it to you. He'll be creaming his pants when he wakes up and sees you're back to your usual genius self."
Said with the undisguised derision Ruby always had when she spoke to or about Dean, of course. Sam sneaked another look at his slumbering brother. It wasn't normal for Dean to sleep this deeply, and in the dim light, Sam thought Dean looked pale. Maybe Dean had … had, he remembered Dean had been broken. Was he still?
"Don't worry about Chachi over there. He's fine, or as regular stupid as he always was," Ruby said, then with something that sounded softer, more genuine, "I consider it my job to protect you, from everything. Try not to do something this stupid again, huh?"
Sam closed his eyes. He didn't know what stupid thing he'd done, not really. He tried to recall. All he remembered was Hellhounds that weren't real, a warehouse that wasn't real. That nothing was real except a witch that was too strong for them and Dean being wrong and fire. Everything else was shadowy, just out of reach. He thought maybe in time it would come to him, and apparently he had that time thanks to Ruby.
"I…" he said.
He was talking to no one. Ruby was gone.
"You ready to blow this Popsicle stand?"
Dean had been ready to skip the hospital the morning he woke up to find Sam one hundred percent Sam, but that plan had been thwarted by the appearance of the doctor in charge of his care. Upon seeing Sam upright and talking as if nothing had happened and he hadn't been in a coma, the doctor ordered about a billion tests and Sam had become like that rare animal in a zoo – put on show for certain hours and poked, prodded and generally not left alone for a minute for a solid day and night.
"More than," Sam said.
He was down almost six days, which was in a way something to be thankful for. Apparently Ruby had explained to Dean and Bobby something about a time dilation effect and that she could only do what she could do (with a side of acerbic hints that they should be grateful they'd gotten even that, an aside Sam didn't need to hear had happened but didn't doubt did), but Sam didn't much care. A full week in 1975 had translated to one day in 2008, followed by a few days in the hospital in their own time. He was down a little, but not as much as he could have been. He could still save his brother. Not if he stuck around here as a lab experiment, though.
"Let's break for it before Doogie Howser comes back to test your pee or poop or spooge again."
Yes, that was the man Sam was ready to lay down everything to save. He knew Dean was trying to get a rise out of him, so he rolled his eyes. To tell the truth, he was so damn glad to have Dean acting like his regular self that he didn't mind much. He didn't remember the hours leading up to his near fatal injury, but he doubted he'd ever forget Dean unhinged, himself but not himself. He had no intention of sharing that part of the story with Dean, not if he could help it. Dean didn't need to know his obsession with fire and demons had gotten that bad. He had to hope Dean wouldn't remember on his own; he knew they wouldn't talk about it if that were the case anyway. There wasn't time.
He wondered if there would ever be enough time. His brain might be all right, but that sick pit in his stomach kept getting worse and worse.
"Gross, Dean," Sam said. "Weren't you around each time they tested me for something?"
Dean grumbled under his breath and walked out.
Sam followed, without a backwards glance. There hadn't been a minute to actually talk about what they'd been through, the whole time travel thing, and he had questions he wasn't sure he'd ever get the answers to. Like, why and how the witch shipped them decades in the past. Now that they were leaving the fishbowl environment, maybe they'd put some pieces together. He wasn't sure any of it mattered, he was just grateful Ruby had been able to make things right. She really had been instrumental in fixing everything: she saved them from dying thirty years ago, unscrambled Dean's brain, fixed Sam's, and killed the witch that started it all.
Ruby's assistance was a convenience Sam wasn't going to bat an eyelash at, not in this case. He still didn't trust her, but at the same time thought now she was the only one who could help him save Dean, just like she'd told him all along. He watched as Dean managed to flirt with everyone wearing a skirt as he made for the elevator. Even the sad remnants of mutton chop sideburns didn't lessen Dean's charm. He vowed to try to memorialize the look before Dean came to his senses and shaved. Sooner or later Dean would realize he looked like a giant dork. He smiled, but was suddenly struck with a hint of sadness and that desperate feeling cropped back up. If trusting Ruby would help him keep Dean topside, Sam resolved that he would do what he had to do. No more stupid hunts.
No more stupid mistakes.