When Sam awoke, it was to find that he was comfortably warm. Not on fire, like he had been earlier, with heat searing through his veins and making him want to tear his skin off just to cool down. No, not like that at all. He was comfortable. He felt... safe.
It probably said a lot about what his life had become that Sam found the feeling strange. Safety had not been on the cards just lately.
He didn't want to move, ever. His muscles felt loose and floppy, unable to move even if he'd wanted them to. Eventually, he managed to coax his eyelids into lifting, and he stared out at the world through bleary eyes.
He was in a bed. A soft bed. That was unusual, for a start. The kind of beds he slept in were usually not soft. Further investigation revealed numerous blankets and several plush pillows. He wriggled around a little and then tried to push himself up on rubbery arms, only managing to fall back down onto the mattress. A snort directed his attention to the side.
A pair of green eyes stared back at him, amused smile on his brother's face. "Hey, Sammy. You finally wakin' up?"
"Mmffh," Sam responded, too tired to form proper words. Dean just chuckled and Sam felt the mattress dip as Dean sank down onto it, close beside Sam. He squinted around, taking in his surroundings. They were at Bobby's, that much was obvious, but he couldn't figure out much beyond that – like why he was so exhausted, or why he was up here at all when it was obviously the middle of the day.
He tried again to sit up and this time Dean, clearly seeing Sam wasn't going to give up, helped him so that he was slumped against the headboard. Dean swung his legs around so that the brothers were sitting together, shoulder-to-shoulder.
"D'n," Sam said again, trying to dislodge the cotton wool that was clogging his brain up. "Wh't happen'd?"
Dean smiled wryly and wrapped an arm around Sam's shoulders, squeezing him to his side like he was scared to let go. "Demons happened, Sam. You remember the blood thing?"
Oh, yeah. He remembered that. It wasn't the kind of thing you could forget. Ducking his head, Sam nodded. Dean squeezed his shoulder again, a constant tower of support. "Dad and Bobby did this weird-ass summoning thing, tried to get the demon to work its mojo on you – y'know, get the blood outta your system."
Sam opened his mouth to ask if it had worked – it certainly felt like it had, the addiction no longer clawing at his insides – but Dean wasn't finished yet. "Turns out he's got a daughter. She did some ritual or spell or something on you. I don't even know, dude, but you slept for like, a day after." He nudged Sam gently. "Did it work?"
It felt like it. If it weren't for the wool in his head, Sam might have been able to concentrate on things. His stomach was no longer a hollow cave that demanded blood. His body was his own again. It felt good.
"Yeah," he murmured after a moment. "I think so."
"Huh." Dean tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling. "So the bitch actually did it right. That's demons for ya. Sometimes they tell the truth, just to mess with your head."
They just sat there for a few moments, content in each other's company. It couldn't last, though. There were still questions that needed to be answered, things that needed to be said, because the last time Sam had seen Dean properly his brother had called him a weak, pathetic freak and Sam wasn't really sure what to do right now. At least he felt a little more awake now. That was something.
Eventually, he asked the simplest question. "Where's Dad?"
Dean shrugged. "With Bobby. I think they're doin' some research."
Another hunt. Of course. Now that Sam was better, they'd be moving on soon. Sam swallowed, trying to bring himself to say what he really wanted to. "Dean?" he asked at last, staring hard at his hands.
Dean turned his head towards Sam. "Yeah?"
He didn't know how to say it. He couldn't back down now, though, or Dean would know something was wrong. Clenching his fists, Sam finally choked out, "Thanks." It wasn't what he'd wanted to say, but it worked. Thanks. For being his brother. For being there. For not leaving him alone, even though he clearly thought he was a weak, pathetic freak.
He didn't understand.
Dean seemed to get it, though. He grinned. "You're welcome. Bitch."
"Jerk." The word was hollow and empty. Sam didn't know what else to say. Dean was acting like nothing had happened, like he'd never called Sam a freak, never said he was weak, never said he wasn't his brother.
He swallowed again and zeroed in on his hands. He could almost see the demon blood, staining the skin beneath his nails a bright crimson. He'd never even touched the blood, but it felt like it covered every inch of him. No longer in him, it seemed to smother him, made him feel dirty and tainted and freakish.
Sam leaned his head on Dean's shoulder and enjoyed the little bubble of peace while it lasted.
Dad came upstairs eventually, smiled when he saw Sam was awake. It was a genuine smile like Sam hadn't seen in a long time. Dad didn't often smile at him these days, what with all the fights they had. "You okay, Sam?" It wasn't a personal question, Sam knew. It was about his physical health, and that at least was easy to answer.
"Yeah," he answered softly. "Yeah, I'm good."
"Good." John leaned against the door frame of Bobby's spare room. He looked tall and suddenly Sam felt very small, slumped on the bed directly opposite his dad. "Boys, we need to talk about all of this."
Sam and Dean stared at him.
John actually initialising a meaningful conversation did not happen often.
Almost never, in fact.
John huffed out an unamused laugh and strode into the room. "I know, I know." He sank down onto the bed beside them. "Sam, what did the demon say to you?"
Sam blinked, not expecting that to be the first question out of his dad's mouth. "Um," he said at last. Dean and Dad were both looking at him. Waiting. Waiting to hear what had been said. The words drifted around inside his head, but none of them made it to his mouth.
What was he supposed to say? That the demon had told him how it was his fault their mom was dead? That he was a freak and that Dean and Dad shouldn't care about him?
"It killed Mom," he blurted at last.
Dad looked unsurprised, but Dean's eyes widened almost comically. "What?" In that instant, Sam knew Dean was thinking back to a few weeks ago – back to when Sam had asked Dean whether he was to blame for what had happened to their mother.
It took a while, but the whole story eventually came pouring out. Through stops and starts and shaky breaths. John and Dean just sat, listening to Sam as he told them. Everything the demon had said. Everything that had happened. Even how he had made a deal, willingly drank the blood.
They were silent through it all, until Sam got to the part about Dean, calling him a weak, pathetic freak. He hadn't even meant to say it. It had just slipped out.
"Wait, what?" Dean was staring at him like he couldn't comprehend what Sam had just said. "I never said that."
Sam blinked. "But you-"
"I'd never say that, Sam." Dean's eyes were wide, hands on his shoulders. "Never. Maybe... I dunno, maybe it was the demon blood?"
"Yeah." Sam shifted uncomfortably. "Maybe. Whatever. What do we do now, though?"
John scrubbed a hand down his face. "There's this gun. The Colt. Supposedly, it can kill anything. If we find it, we could kill the demon. Finish this." There was a glint in his eyes that Sam hadn't seen in a long time.
A gun that could kill anything? That wasn't possible, surely. "It can kill anything?" he asked doubtfully.
"Yes, Sam." John sighed. "The problem is finding it. I mean-"
"John?" Bobby was standing in the doorway now. "I found somethin'."
So it turned out, they did have a lead on the gun. Several, in fact. That might be a problem.
Dad didn't seem to see it that way. They were going to check them all out, he said, one at a time. The gun wasn't going anywhere. Probably.
And so they were loading the car up again. Back onto the road. Sam might have felt sad about it, except it meant he was safely by his family's side. Where he belonged.
Dean had his arm casually slung around Sam's shoulder as they walked out to the Impala, goodbyes already said. "Sam, dude, talk to me," he said at last, leaning back against the side of the car. "Something's wrong."
Sam shifted anxiously. "I... nothing," he lied. "Nothing's wrong." Except for the whole freak thing. And Dean saying he wasn't his brother.
"Sam." The tone brooked no arguments.
"I- I... Did you really not say any of that?" Sam burst out after a moment, looking up at Dean desperately.
"'Course I didn't, Sammy." Dean crouched down a little, hands on Sam's shoulders. "I would never say that. Never. Look, demon blood has some weird side effects, and you had a fever. You were probably seein' things."
That... made sense. Surprisingly. Not a lot had made sense lately, but this did. And Dean wouldn't lie to him. He wouldn't.
"Okay." Sam smiled for the first time in... well, he couldn't remember exactly. A while. It felt strange, but nice too. Like they could finally move on from this. Kill the demon. The end was in sight.
And Sam was scared shitless.
"Ready, boys?" John came striding out of the house, towards the car and his sons. The truck was going to stay at Bobby's and get fixed up. Hopefully the next time they stopped by, Dad would have something that wasn't a pile of crap to drive.
"Ready." The answer came as one, both Sam and Dean speaking at once.
"Great." John opened his door and swung into the driver's seat, Dean slipping into shotgun and Sam sliding into the back, where he sprawled comfortably along the seats. The way they always were. A family. "Let's do this." John started up the Impala and they sped off down the road.
They still had a long way to go. They didn't have the gun, or any idea where the demon was. Sam was still a freak, and terrified at that. He was going to have a lot of nightmares, he was sure.
But he had his family with him. That was enough. For now, everything was okay.
A/N: Well, this is it. I hope the ending hasn't disappointed anyone! :) As you can probably tell, I've left it open for a sequel which I will hopefully write at some point. Until then, though, I have lots of other ideas for fics, so stay tuned!
Thank you to everyone for reading, and please review one last time!