SUMMARY: A collection of missing scenes (and one original one), all of which involve one brother carrying the other, literally or figuratively.
SPOILERS: For the Pilot, Skin, Death Takes a Holiday, On The Head of a Pin, You Can't Handle the Truth, Unforgiven, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Girl Next Door
DISCLAIMER:The characters of Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke & Co. I am playing in their sandbox, with their toys, with much gratitude.
RATING: T for some swearing.
WORD COUNT: 10K+
A/N:For some reason, all but one (The Pilot) of these moments took place off-camera -an oversight, IMHO, this aims to fix. *g* There were plenty to choose from–these are just a handful. Unbeta-ed, so any mistakes are mine alone. Enjoy.
HE AIN'T HEAVY…WELL, YES HE IS
"Take your brother outside as fast as you can. Don't look back. Now, Dean–go!"
The first time Dean carried Sam, he didn't have time to think about how heavy he was. Dad just pushed baby Sammy into his arms and told him to run. And he did–down the stairs, out the front door and onto the front lawn.
"It's OK, Sam," he'd told his brother, hugging him tightly as much for the comfort it offered as it was to make sure he didn't drop him. But when he turned around and saw their house on fire, four-year-old Dean knew everything was a long way from OK.
He was far too young to realize how right he was, and that the first time he carried his brother would be far from the last.
The first time Sam carried Dean, his larger-than-life brother suddenly seemed very small. He was unconscious and bleeding, crumpled at the base of a long flight of stairs, down which an angry spirit had just shoved him. Sam had blasted the ghost with salt-shot, then tore down the stairs to get to Dean's side.
Dean was breathing and there were no broken bones that Sam's rudimentary first-aid skills could find, both good signs, but he had to get Dean away from the old farmhouse before the spirit came back.
At seventeen, Sam had just gone through a growth spurt; for the first time in his life, he was taller than Dean. But he hadn't filled out yet; pulling Dean over his back, he staggered under both the weight and the responsibility. He'd seen Dean hurt before, too many times–had helped carry him, too, but Dad had always been there to make the decisions, to bark out orders, to share the weight. This time, literally and figuratively, it was all on him.
And so he hoisted Dean onto his back, carried him out of the house and over to the Impala where he was safely beyond the spirit's reach. Dean started to come to as Sam returned from the trunk with the first-aid kit.
"Dean?" Sam crouched beside his brother and pressed a gauze pad to Dean's temple to stem the blood flowing from a jagged cut there.
Dean groaned, then blinked in confusion. "What-"
"Ghost threw you down the stairs." Sam tossed aside the bloody bandage and taped a fresh one in its place. "How bad is it?"
"Not good." Dean screwed up his face as he tried moving. "Ghost threw me down the damn stairs." With Sam's help, he sat up, leaned back against the Impala and glanced around. "How'd I get out here?"
"I carried you out."
Dean's eyes widened as he turned to his brother. "You what?"
"Did I hurt you?" Sam's heart started racing. "I didn't mean to. I just didn't know-"
"Sammy, shut up." Dean dropped his head back against the car and closed his eyes. "I'm fine-or will be. I just can't believe I let a dumb-ass spirit get the drop on me and my little brother had to haul my sorry ass out of there."
Sam relaxed a little. "How many times have you hauled my sorry ass out of the fire? You're a little overdue some payback, don't you think?"
"Well there's that." Dean peeled open his eyes and stared at Sam. "But it's my job to look after you, not the other way around."
Sam huffed in annoyance. "I'm not a little kid any more, Dean. We've got each other's back."
"But nothing." Sam was getting angry now. "I hate this job, I hate that you get hurt–but you gotta know that when shit happens, I'm not gonna stand on the sidelines. I gonna do...whatever it takes."
Dean smiled. "When did little Sammy–sorry, I mean Sam–get so smart, huh?"
"Jerk." Sam hooked his arm under Dean's to pull him up. "Come on. Let's go back to the motel. You get some rest, I'll do some research to figure out who that spirit is. We can burn the bones once you feel up to it."
"Sir, yes, sir." Dean leaned heavily on Sam as he struggled to his feet. "Listen to you. One save and-"
"Don't be a jackass." Sam yanked open the door and lowered Dean into the seat. "I'm just trying to help. Just…let me, would you?"
Dean grabbed Sam's arm. "Look…you gotta give me a bit of time to adjust here. This whole take-charge, bossy thing you've got going, it's all new to me."
"Shouldn't be." Sam grinned. "Everything I'm doing, I learned from you."
"Bitch." Dean's eyes slid closed as Sam slammed the door and moved around the driver's side. "You did good, Sammy. You did good."
He'd taken out Sam with a tire iron to the head. The kid wasn't waking up any time soon.
The shifter quickly scanned the dark street. There were no pedestrians in sight, no witnesses to his attack, but headlights in the distance told him a car was coming his way.
He glanced from the unconscious body at his feet to the sewer grate on the far side of the road. No way could he get Sam across the street and underground into the safety of the tunnels without being seen by whoever was in that car.
The lights of the approaching vehicle were just a couple of hundred feet away, now. The shifter crouched down, grabbed Sam by the arm and pulled him up and over his back, groaning as he straightened up. "Son of a bitch." The expression came easily, borrowed from the skin he now wore–Dean, Sam's brother. "You weigh a ton, kid."
Shifter-Dean moved quickly to the back of the brothers' car, slammed shut the false bottom which hid the weapons stash, then dropped Sam into the trunk. He barely had time to tuck in the kid's long legs before he was caught in the beams of the approaching car's headlights. He casually banged closed the trunk lid just as the car roared by. The vehicle's two occupants glanced his way and Shifter-Dean smiled pleasantly, but they were looking through him, not at him.
They'd seen nothing. The shifter nodded, pleased; it was easy to hide in plain sight in a city. People were everywhere but they rarely saw anything beyond their own scope of existence.
Shifter-Dean crossed the street, pulled up the sewer tunnel cover, then returned to the trunk to get Sam.
Dean had put up a good fight and the shifter had quickly realized he was a far better skin than the businessman he'd been wearing at the time. This Dean was strong, had great instincts and, as a hunter, offered insider information which would definitely prove useful when it came to avoiding those trying to track him down. Dean was also the first victim in a long time who'd almost–almost–taken him down. But a rusty piece of rebar found in the alley where the fight had taken place had tipped the odds in the shifter's favor. He'd smashed the rebar into the back of Dean's head and it had been lights out for the hunter.
He'd dragged Dean, unseen, into the sewer tunnels, and there he'd morphed into him, taking advantage of his latest victim's bigger, stronger body to carry the real thing back to his lair and truss him up before heading off in search of Dean's car.
Sifting through the hunter's memories, he'd quickly focused on the weapons stashed in the Impala's trunk; he could have some real fun with those, especially with that blonde woman, Rebecca–Zach's sister and Sam's friend. Dean thought she was hot, and the shifter couldn't disagree. Of course, he and his skin had very different ideas about how time with Rebecca would be spent.
But Dean had first planned to rendezvous with Sam. The shifter had been disappointed that the younger brother had figured out so quickly he wasn't the real Dean. OK, he'd only been wearing the skin a short time and the brothers spent so much time together they seemed to know every habit, every quirk of the other, but he still should've been able to fool him longer.
He popped open the trunk and scowled down at Sam's unconscious body-evidence of his failure. He slammed his fist into the bumper in anger and frustration.
By the time he'd got Sam out of the car and over his shoulder, the shifter was breathing heavily. By nature, he was strong and so was his skin, but the kid was big–all arms and legs and massive shoulders. Carrying him down the ladder into the sewer would be a bitch. But if his plans for Rebecca succeeded, the Dean skin would soon have a big target on his back. He needed options, and that meant keeping Sam alive a little while longer.
Shifter-Dean crossed the street as quickly as the weight he carried allowed, then slowly descended the ladder into the sewer, Sam's lax arms slapping the backs of his legs with each step. His knees protested the extra weight as he walked along the sewer tunnel and his back decompressed gratefully when he finally dumped Sam onto the floor.
Despite the rough treatment, his prisoner showed no signs of waking. The shifter gave him a kick to be sure then, when there was still no response, went in search of rope.
Shifter-Dean shook his head as he began tying Sam to one of the sewer's iron support columns. These Winchesters…they were hard to figure out. Dean had issues with his brother, no question there, but it was also clear that he'd throw himself in front of a bullet to save Sam. The bond between the two was like nothing he'd come across before.
The shifter looped the rope twice around Sam's neck, knotted it securely, then stared at his captive. The familiar anger and resentment began building again, eating at him like an acid. The Winchesters each had looks and an easy, natural charm that women responded to in ways they never would to him in his natural form. And the brothers' loyalty to each other...It was something that might be tested but could never be broken. Something else he would never know. He was alone...would always be alone.
The shifter moved across the lair to where Dean was similarly tied, pulled off the oil cloth covering him and pressed two fingers to his captive's neck to check his pulse; it was strong–too strong for an unconscious man.
He smiled, grabbed the skin on Dean's sternum through his thin T-shirt and twisted hard. The smile widened at the yelp of pain it drew. "Playing possum?"
"You son of a bitch." Dean glared up at his tormentor, his eyes widening when he realized he was staring at his own face. "What the-"
Shifter-Dean nodded at his captive. "It's good we have this chance to talk. You and I, we have a lot in common."
Dean snorted. "Other than my highly photogenic mug, I doubt it."
"We're both hunters, Dean. Both good at our jobs."
"Right." Dean's glare intensified. "You hunt down innocent women to torture and kill, then let their loved ones take the fall. I hunt down scum-sucking freaks of nature like you. It's like we're twins."
"Innocent? You think my targets are innocent?" The shifter snorted. "They're users–drawn to a pretty face, to power, to money. The world is a better place without them."
"Oh, god." Dean rolled his eyes. "This is all because you were stood up at the prom, isn't it? You-"
"Don't mock me!" The shifter had Dean by the throat. "The people I target, they're a disease. They have everything and still want more...destroy anyone, anything, who gets in their way." He tightened his grip. "But before I'm done, they know what it's like to lose everything–to be alone." He leaned in closer to his captive. "And that's your real fear, isn't it, Dean? To be alone."
Dean's eyes flashed with fury. "Fuck you."
The shifter smiled coldly. "Your dad ditched you, so Sam's all you've got left. If I killed him-"
"You piece of crap." Dean had to fight to get out the words, the shifter's fingers still around his throat. "Touch my brother, and I will rip your heart out-and I will be smiling when I do it."
The shifter chuckled as he released his hold. "But there's the beauty in what I do, Dean. If I kill him, I'll be wearing your face. I'll watch the love and the trust he had for you die with him, then leave you to take the blame."
"He'll know..." Dean's struggles to free himself increased. "He'll know it's not me."
Dean's confidence in that belief made the shifter's earlier failure even more bitter. "But you'd still be alone. Or I could just slip into Sam's skin–make baby bro one of America's Most Wanted. He's real pretty-how do you think he'd fare in super max?"
The ropes securing Dean to the post slipped a little and he smiled at the shifter. "I think I'm gonna rip your head from your fucking shoulders. I think-"
The shifter smashed his fist into Dean's jaw. The hunter's head snapped to the side, slammed into the iron post behind him, then lolled forward as consciousness was ripped from him.
Shifter-Dean was breathing heavily, fighting to contain his fury. "Well I think Dean Winchester is gonna have a little fun at Rebecca Warren's expense." He threw the tarp over Dean, then glanced to where Sam was tied. "Then I'll decide what to do with Sam. But, either way, you're gonna know what it's like to be alone."
Early March 2009…
Sam's chest was heaving, each exhale frosting in the night air as he watched the black smoke that was Alistair spiral away and disappear into the dark sky.
The demon hadn't been able to hurt him this time. Oh, he tried, but the demon blood gave Sam the strength to not just fend off the attack but to go on the offensive–and that had shocked Alistair. He'd abandoned his latest meatsuit, the cemetery watchman, moments after Sam slammed him into a tree.
But not before hurting Dean.
Sam moved quickly to where his brother was out cold, crumpled in the snow by a gravestone where Alistair had tossed him. "Dean?" Sam pulled off his thick gloves and pressed two fingers to his brother's neck's, exhaling audibly when he found a steady pulse.
"What is it with you and gravestones, huh?" Sam's hands were quickly numbing in the bitter cold but running his fingers over Dean's head, he easily found the large welt where his brother's skull had slammed into the granite edge of the headstone. "Damn it."
He glanced across the cemetery; the Impala was parked at least five hundred yards away. He could throw Dean over his shoulder in a fireman's carry to get him to the car, but holding him upside down would do his brother's head injury no favors.
"OK, I'm gonna have to leave you for a few minutes." Sam shrugged off his jacket and rolled Dean to slide it underneath him to protect him from the cold ground. "Don't worry about the car-the grass is frozen nice and hard so I should be able to drive right up to you. We'll have you inside and warmed up in no time."
He'd just fished the keys from his brother's pocket when he noticed a pair of unfocused green eyes were staring up at him. "Hey. You're back."
Dean blinked a few times but there was still no comprehension in his gaze.
Worry stole Sam's relieved smile. "You got you bell rung pretty hard. Hang in there, I'm gonna sit you up."
Dean groaned, screwing his eyes shut as he was pulled up. He stayed upright until Sam tentatively released his hold, then tipped sideways and fell against Sam, his cheek pressed to his brother's chest. "Sammy?"
"Why you hugging me?"
Sam snorted softly. "I think you've got that backwards. You're the one doing the hugging."
"Nah. Definitely you hugging me."
Sam grinned as he picked up his jacket and wrapped it around Dean's shoulders. "You smacked your head on a gravestone. You've kind of out of it." He rubbed Dean's back, trying to generate some heat. "And before you ask, you're freezing. I'm just trying to warm you up."
"Such a girl," Dean muttered as he turned his head to look around. "We're in a graveyard."
"Yeah–that's kinda how you managed to hit your head on a gravestone." Sam felt Dean tense against him. "Relax. We get some painkillers in you, get you warmed up, you'll be fine."
Dean shivered. "Yelloweyes did this, right?"
"Wrong graveyard." Sam rubbed Dean's back again. "It was Alistair, remember? Caught us trying to summon the kid's spirit to figure out why people around here aren't dying."
"Al-" Dean twisted his fist in Sam's shirt as he looked up at his brother. "He hurt you?"
"No." Sam quickly decided that details on how he'd chased off the demon could wait until later. "He tossed you, said he had a date with death, then smoked outta here." He grabbed the jacket around Dean's shoulders and threaded his brother's arms into the sleeves.
Dean scowled indignantly. "You're dressing me?"
"You're freezing." Sam studied his brother' face as he zipped up the jacket. "Scale of one to ten, how's the head? And no bullshit."
"Two or three." Dean huffed in annoyance at Sam's raised eyebrow. "Fine. Four. It's nothing-I've had hangovers that felt worse."
"That's comforting." Sam pressed his fingers to Dean's neck to check his pulse, again. "How's your vision?"
"It's dark out, Sam. What the hell am I supposed to see?" Dean tried to bat away his brother's hands but his co-ordination was shot and he was shaking noticeably.
"OK, we seriously need to get you out of this deep freeze. Think you can stand if I help?"
"Don't need help." Dean quickly made a liar of himself when he started to fall over the moment he pushed himself away from Sam.
"Right." Sam reeled him in again. "This'll go a lot faster if you just pretend you do. On three." Sam pushed himself up and hooked his arms under Dean's. "Ready–one…two…three."
With a grunt, Sam hauled his brother to his feet, pulled Dean's arm over his shoulders, then wrapped his own arm around Dean's waist. Dean's knees buckled and Sam tightened his hold, grunting as he took on most of Dean's weight.
"See." Dean's head flopped onto Sam's shoulder. "Told you I can do it myself."
"Uh-huh." Times like this reminded Sam that while Dean might be the smaller of the two, he was no lightweight. He was lean but solid and when injury, illness or alcohol left him unable to walk, it took all of Sam's strength to support him. He groaned as Dean's legs gave out and, again, he was forced to shoulder all of his brother's weight. "Damn, Dean, I think you need to lay off the burgers for a while."
Dean snorted. "What's the problem, princess? All those muscles just for show?"
"Jerk." Still, Sam relaxed a little; if Dean was being a smartass, chances were the injury wasn't too serious. "Remember where the car is?"
Dean scowled at his brother. "Where we left it."
"Good one." Sam shook his head. "OK, let's go. You set the pace."
"Follow me." Dean took one step, then another, but his legs were like rubber, threatening to give way each time his foot touched the ground. By the time they reached the Impala, Sam was sweating from the exertion of basically carrying his brother. Dean was shivering violently and exhausted from the effort.
Sam yanked open the passenger door, the groan of the Impala's hinges a welcome sound. Dean grunted softly as Sam lowered him into the seat.
"Damn, Sammy, it's cold."
Sam leaned over his brother, fired up the engine and cranked the heat. "It'll be better in a minute." He moved to the back, grabbed their old army blanket from the trunk and quickly returned to his brother's side, draping the blanket over him. "There. That should help."
Shivering under the blanket, Dean frowned at Sam. "No wonder you're cold, asshat. You're not wearing a coat."
Sam bit back a grin. "I'm fine-and you're wearing my coat."
Dean's frown deepened. "Why the hell would I be wearing your coat?" He glanced down. "Son of a bitch. How'd that happen?"
"Long story. It'll keep." Sam slammed the door shut, jogged around the car and slid behind the wheel. He glanced at Dean, whose eyes were already sliding shut. Sam smacked him on the arm. "Hey, stay awake. In case you'd forgotten, our room's on the third floor. No way am I hauling your sorry ass up three flights of stairs."
Dean snorted, his eyes sliding shut again. "Why would you need to do that? I made it to the car by myself, didn't I?"
Late March 2009…
Sam walked robotically toward Dean, his legs giving out as he reached his brother's side.
Killing Alistair had used up every bit of strength his latest hit of demon blood had given him, but it wasn't weakness that took his legs out from under him–it was the sight of Dean on the floor, pummeled to a bloody pulp.
When he'd walked through the warehouse doors, he'd seen only Alistair exorcising Cas, the angel battered and bleeding and clearly outmatched. He'd focused his powers on the demon, slamming him into the wall and grilling him about who had been killing the angels. Then, as he used his powers to rip the demon apart, Sam thought about what Alistair had done to Dean in hell, the mental and physical agony he'd put his brother through, the nightmares he'd forced him to live with since, and he'd relished every second of pain the demon endured until he was gone.
He turned away from Alistair and was met with the shock and disbelief painted clearly on Cas's face. Sam's gut twisted, the angel's scrutiny too much to deal with on top of his own churning emotions, and he dropped his gaze. That's when he'd seen Dean.
And in that moment, physically sickened by what the demon had done to his brother, he wanted to bring Alistair back and rip him apart all over again.
"Dean?" Sam had no memory of moving across the room and dropping to his knees at his brother's side. His hand was shaking as he reached for Dean's neck, to search for a pulse–he found one, but it was slow and weak. "Cas, you can fix him, right? You can-"
He turned, but the angel was gone. "Oh, you son of a bitch." Sam was yelling now. "He did this because you asked him. Get you ass back here and fix him. Now!"
There was no flutter of wings, no buzzing of lights, nothing. The only sound was Sam's terse breathing as he glanced around. They were alone.
He turned back to Dean and forced a smile. "It's gonna be OK, Dean. I'll take care of you…get you some help." Sam's hands were still shaking as he grabbed his phone. He started to dial, then stopped. God only knew how long it would take an ambulance to find this place, then… He glanced around. How the hell would he explain Alistair's vacant meat-suit, the torture rack the angels had set up and the table full of tools, if you could call them that, Dean had been forced to use on Alistair. No, he needed to take Dean to the hospital himself.
Sam quickly triaged his brother, swallowing against rising nausea as he did. Alistair had focused his attack on Dean's head and neck; swelling in his throat was obvious, and that threatened to cut off his breathing, swelling in his brain was likely, and it threatened…everything else.
A fireman's carry was out. Sam needed to protect Dean's head, jostle him as little as possible as he moved him and that meant…
Sam remembered picking up Lenore the vampire when Gordon had threatened to kill her, and carrying her to safety. He hadn't thought twice about it, just scooped her up and walked outside to the car. But he never thought the day would come when he'd have to pick up his brother the same way.
He knew he was strong enough, it was just… It was Dean–his smart-mouthed, larger-than-life, take-no-prisoners big brother. Holding him that way just seemed all kinds of wrong. But it was also the only way to save his life.
Sam scrambled to his feet, then crouched beside his brother, slipped his hand behind Dean's head and gently sat him up. Resting Dean's head against his shoulder, Sam slid one arm around his brother's back, the other under his knees. Then, closing his eyes, he pushed himself up.
Sam's leg muscles screamed under the strain of the dead lift, and he shuddered as the term came to mind. He staggered, adjusted his hold on Dean, then began moving toward the door. He could hear his brother's strained breathing, feel the slow beating of his heart. "You hang in there, Dean. Don't you quit on me now."
As he walked through the warehouse, memories flooded Sam's head: Dad snatching up his five-year-old self and running down a flight of stairs as they fled a motel two steps ahead of a social worker; Dad cradling ten-year-old Dean, burning up with fever, as he strode into the ER, Sam running behind just to keep up; Dean pushing aside a coach to help carry Sam off the soccer field after he twisted his ankle; Dean holding up Dad as he limped back home after a hunt gone wrong; the brothers carrying their dad one last time en route to his funeral pyre.
They'd each carried the other too many damn times to count, and it never got easier. If–when–he got Dean through this latest crisis, he knew this wouldn't be the last.
When he reached the car, he fumbled with the handle to get the passenger door open, then lowered Dean into the front seat. Head injuries like this meant he needed to keep Dean upright and the best way to do that was to sit him up and keep hold of him as he drove.
Sam slammed shut the door and moved quickly to the driver's side. There, he slid behind the wheel, fired up the engine and slipped the Impala into drive. But before hitting the accelerator, he pulled Dean toward him, placed his brother's head on his shoulder and wrapped his arm around Dean's waist to hold him securely against him.
Sam snorted softly as he pulled away from the warehouse and onto the road back to town. "You'd hate this, wouldn't you? Every damn second of it. Calling me a girl would be about the nicest thing to came out of your mouth." His chest tightened when he realized Dean's breathing had developed a faint whistle. "But you make it through this and you can call me any damn name you want."
That was the first of several bargains Sam made with his brother en route to the hospital, the inane chatter of the one-sided conversations distracting from darker thoughts, like why Dean's breathing was becoming more strained, why his heart rate seemed to noticeably slow.
The trip seemed to take forever but then, finally, he was at the hospital, bringing the Impala to a stop in front of the glass ER doors. Slipping his arm out from behind Dean, he shoved open the car door and climbed out. Picking up Dean this time seemed easier somehow, maybe because he was lifting him from the car and not the floor, but Sam hated that it did; it wasn't something he ever wanted to get used to.
As he stepped on the mat, the glass doors slid open and Sam carried Dean into the ER. "I need some help here!" His shout sounded weird, like a tape being played at the wrong speed, and the people inside the ER all seemed to be moving in slow motion. Heads turned toward them and eyes widened.
Sam knew they must make quite a sight; a big man cradling another man of almost equal size in his arms. Dean would be mortified if he was conscious. For the first time since he found his brother, Sam was glad he was out cold.
A doctor and a nurse were running toward them from the far end of the ER. An orderly appeared from around a corner with a gurney. The doctor was suddenly right in front of him, talking, but Sam couldn't make out a word he said. It was like the teacher in those Charlie Brown TV specials he loved as a kid–all wah-wah-wah noise that made no sense.
He mumbled something about Dean being mugged, then realized the orderly had arrived, too, and they were motioning for him to place Dean on the gurney.
Sam stared stupidly at the stretcher and then at the doctor, suddenly not wanting to let go of Dean. It was his job to keep his brother safe, so-
"Sir, please. Let us help him."
The doctor's plea cut through the fog in Sam's head. He nodded, took a step toward the gurney and gently lowered his brother onto it, the nurse steadying Dean's head and the orderly unfolding a blanket over him. Then, the second the safety rails were up, the gurney was being pushed out of the public area toward the treatment bays.
Sam followed reflexively, only to be stopped by another nurse.
"Sir, are you hurt?"
Sam frowned at the question. "What?"
"Are you hurt? Did the muggers attack you, too?"
"No, I…" Sam was staring at his hands; they were shaking again. He jumped when a blanket was wrapped around his shoulders and he was gently but firmly pushed down into a wheelchair, the nurse saying something about shock.
Sam started to object, to stand up, then thought better of both when he realized he was being wheeled out of the public area and toward the same treatment bays Dean had been taken to. In that moment, the logical hunter took over from the frantic brother; he could tell them he was fine and be stuck in the waiting room filling out insurance forms, or let them figure it out eventually but, until then, stick close to his brother.
His eyes slid closed and as images of Alistair and Dean filled his head, the perverse irony of the past few hours hit home: demon blood had given him the strength to kill Alistair, but it was his love for his brother, his humanity, that had given him the strength to save Dean.
Maybe they could win this fight after all.
Sam eyes were bruised and swollen shut, his nose broken, his face a bloody pulp.
Dean wanted to look away but couldn't. He'd done this. He'd battered his brother into oblivion.
But then it wasn't really his brother, was it? Whatever had come back from Hell wearing his meatsuit, it wasn't Sam. It wasn't Sammy.
Dean glanced down at his hands, still curled into fists, still covered in his brother's–in that thing's–blood. It had lied to Veritas, which wouldn't be possible if it was Sam, and it had lied to Dean–again, and again.
"There's something wrong with me, Dean–really wrong."
That much was true and, deep down, Dean had known it from the jump. But he'd wanted so desperately to believe that Sam had clawed his way out of the cage and made it back in one piece, made it home, that he'd ignored what every instinct as a hunter, and as a brother, was screaming at him: this wasn't Sam. Would Sam wait a full year to let his brother know he was back among the living? No.
Dean's stomach lurched as he stared down at the face he'd pummeled, as he listened to the wheeze and gurgle as the thing posing as his brother tried to breathe through blood and broken bone. It wasn't Sam. It couldn't be–because he couldn't do that to the brother he'd spent so much of his life protecting.
'I lied to you.'… 'I let you get turned by that vamp…' The fury that had fueled Dean's attack was building again as Sam's words replayed inside his head. No way in hell would the real Sam stand by and watch as a vampire turned him. When he thought about what he could've done to Lisa or Ben under the vampire's influence, hell, what he could've done to an innocent stranger, he wanted to start punching all over again.
'I need help.'
But there it was. The reason he was still frozen in place, stomach churning, chest so tight he could hardly breathe. Dean closed his eyes to shut out the mangled face on the floor, but he couldn't shut out that plea, couldn't stomp out the belief that Sammy was in there somewhere.
His eyes snapped open, worry briefly overriding rage in his expression. "So let's find out." Dean crouched down, grabbed Sam's arm and hauled him up to a sitting position. He was nowhere near as gentle as he would normally be; didn't have to be–it wasn't his brother, right? Dean's face hardened again as he hooked his arms under Sam's and, with a grunt, pulled him to his feet. Ducking his shoulder, Dean let the unconscious body flop over his back in a fireman's carry.
He staggered under the weight. Whoever–whatever–it was, was just as big as Sam and every damn bit as heavy. Dean balanced the unconscious form, deliberately ignoring the head hanging over his left shoulder, long hair flopping over the disfigured face, as he moved slowly toward the stairs.
"Dean, put me down." Five-year-old Sam giggled as Dean hoisted him over his shoulders. "Stop it. Lemme go."
Dean just tightened his hold. "Quit wriggling, squirt. Pretend you're asleep."
Sam snorted with laughter. "If I'm supposed to be asleep, why're you giving me a piggy back?"
Dean sighed. Once his little brother started asking questions, they never stopped. "Dad says I'm supposed to practice carrying you–you know, in case there's…I dunno, a fire drill or something and I have to take you outside."
Sam screwed up his face. "Why wouldn't just wake me up? I can walk you know."
Dean rolled his eyes. Dad's instructions had been clear. 'Always make sure you're strong enough to carry Sam in case he's sick or hurt and we have to move quickly and for some reason, I can't do it. Practice, but don't scare him–make it a game.' Dean was trying, but Mr. Twenty Questions wasn't making it easy.
He turned to Sam."In case you slept through the alarm, I'd have to-."
"Nuh-uh." Sam was shaking his head vehemently. "I wouldn't. I'd wake up way before you."
Now it was Dean's turn to snort. "Right."
"Would, too." Sam started struggling again to pull himself from Dean's hold. "I'm always awake first–listening to you snore."
"I don't snore." Dean dropped Sam onto the bed, making him giggle even louder as he bounced on the mattress. "And I always know if you're awake 'cause I sleep with one eye open."
"Do, too. It's my job to keep an eye on you–so one eye is always open."
Sam's face crumpled suspiciously. "How can you-"
"I just can, Sammy–'cause I'm the big brother. Can't keep an eye on you if my eyes are closed, can I?"
"No, but…" Sam chewed his bottom lip, staring up at Dean as he considered whether sleeping with one eye open was even possible.
Dean smiled at the long-forgotten memory, even as his legs threatened to give out after carrying Sam up that long circular staircase, through the main floor of the goddess's home and down the wide front steps. The smile disappeared quickly as he yanked open the passenger door of the Impala, slid Sam off his back and folded him inside the car. Dean was breathing heavily, his T-shirt stuck to his back with sweat. Sam was still out cold, his head flopped against the seat-back, long hair falling over his face and obscuring the blood and bruises.
Dean hung onto the Impala door as he caught his breath, then smashed his fist into the car roof. What the hell was he supposed to do to fix this? Sam wasn't Sam, he knew that, but what was he? And where the hell was his little brother?
He slammed shut the door, moved quickly to the driver's side and slid behind the wheel. He'd get them both back to their motel and then he'd figure out…something.
Five-year-old Sammy was restless, which meant he was about to wake up. Since most nights the brothers shared a bed, that shuffling always woke up Dean first–and that meant Dean was ready when Sam decided to find out if his big bro was full of bull.
The bed dipped as Sam moved closer. Dean bit back a smile, opened one eye–and snored for effect.
When he heard a surprised gasp, he rolled his head toward Sam and feigned waking up. "Morning, Sammy. What's the problem?"
His brother's eyes were wide. "You really do sleep with one eye open. I saw you."
Dean yawned. "Told you I did. What? You thought I was lying?"
"I…I…." Sam looked uncertain for a minute, then grinned and shook Dean's arm. "Show me. Come on. Show me how. I wanna do it, too."
"No, Sammy. You-"
"Come on, Dean. Pleeeeease–it's really cool."
Dean groaned and rolled his face into the pillow. He'd created a monster.
Dean parked the Impala in front of their room, turned off the engine and glanced over at Sam, who hadn't budged since he dropped him into the car. This monster, whatever it was, had stolen Sammy from him and now it was his job to get his brother back.
Carrying Sam into their room was a little easier this time because the distance was shorter, but the imposter's pained groans told Dean he was close to coming to. He felt a whole new kind of sick to his stomach when he dumped Sam onto a hard chair and tied him there.
"Cas!" He was shouting at the ceiling, not caring who heard him. "I need your help–now! There's something wrong with Sam. He's in rough shape and-"
"I'm here, Dean." The rustle of wings faded and Cas was staring at his brother. "Why is Sam tied to a chair?"
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face, suddenly feeling exhausted. "That's not Sam. I don't know what it is, but I need you to find out if he's in there someplace." He grabbed the angel by the arm. "I need you to fix him. I want my brother back."
"Cas, you son of a bitch!"
Dean dropped to his knees beside his brother. Sam was sprawled on the ground in the alley where Cas had felled him with a simple touch to the temple.
Bobby crouched opposite Dean, glancing around the alley then down at Sam as he pressed two fingers to his neck. "He's still breathing. His pulse is racing but-"
"Nobody's home," Dean snapped, but the anger quickly morphed into a look Bobby recognized all too well; it was the same devastation that had ripped Dean apart when Jake had killed Sam at Cold Oak. This time, Sam wasn't dead, but he was locked in a coma, one they had no idea how to wake him from. Worse still, this time the angel was to blame.
Dean didn't give his trust easily, but he'd trusted Cas, considered him a true friend and brother in arms. But now the angel had betrayed that trust in the most heartbreaking way possible–by attacking Sam.
"Cas brought the damn wall down, Bobby?"
Fury built quickly as Bobby's gaze traveled from Dean to Sam to Ellie, whose body still lay slumped next to the dumpster. He hurt to see Dean this broken, hurt for Sam and for Ellie, yet another victim in this damn war between Heaven and Hell.
"I know." He cleared his throat as he pushed himself to his feet. "First thing we do is get Sam someplace safe, then we figure out our next move. Gimme your keys."
Dean moved like he was on autopilot, sticking his hand in his pocket and handing over the Impala keys to Bobby. "Where we going?"
"Panic room. I think I finally got the damn angel-proofing right so we can keep out all comers 'til we're ready to take the fight to them. Hey." Bobby gave Dean's shoulder a light smack to get his attention. "Snap out of it. I won't be gone long but you need to keep your eyes peeled 'cause God knows who or what might show up."
Dean nodded slowly, his fingers still fisted in Sam's jacket but his gaze sliding over to Dr. Visyak's body. "What about the professor? She meant a lot to you, didn't she?"
"Yeah. And she didn't deserve this." Bobby exhaled slowly. "But it's too late to help her now. I'll call in a favor or two, make sure we do right by her, but our focus is Sam. We take care of the living. And Sam's still alive in there–we just have to figure out a way to pull him back."
Dean seemed to rally at that, and he nodded.
Bobby clapped Dean on the shoulder, pushed himself up and headed off down the alley toward the Impala.
Dean watched Bobby go, then glanced down at Sam. He flashed back to Bristol, Rhode Island when the first cracks in the wall had sent Sam into convulsions and shuddered at the memory of his brother thrashing on the floor. The only thing worse was when he stopped thrashing and became completely unresponsive–like now.
"Damn it, Sam. You fight this. Cas doesn't get to call the shots." Dean tightened his hold on his brother's jacket. "You came back then, you can come back now. Just remember that whatever happened in Hell, however bad it was, you got through it. We both did. I know, Sammy, I know…. So you lean on me, you lash out at me…. Hell, you haul off and hit me if that's what it takes, but you fight."
Just minutes earlier, Sam had been standing with him, the big, hulking presence at his side he always was. Now, lying on the ground in the alley, he seemed small and vulnerable. Dean shook his head as he pulled Sam's jacket together. "Damn, you were such a klutz when you hit your growth spurt–tripping over your own feet, dropping things. I remember thinking, 'How the hell are we ever gonna turn you into a hunter? The fuglies will hear you coming a mile away.'" He smiled. "But once you got used to your new Sasquatch-sized self, you showed me, didn't you? You showed all of us."
And that's how, deep down, he'd known something was off when Sam came back from Hell. Despite the life they led, the world they'd grown up in, Sam was by nature a gentle soul. There was no one Dean would rather have at his side in a fight but violence for Sam would always be a last resort. While the man who had spent a year hunting with their grandfather and cousins had worn his brother's face, the way he thought in cold, calculating terms, the way he used his size to intimidate, that wasn't Sam.
When he'd been all dosed up on demon blood and wrapped around Ruby's finger, he was still Sam–doing the oh-so-wrong thing for all the right reasons. But post-Hell Sam with a penchant for hookers and brutal, black and white reasoning–that would never be Sammy.
Dean listened to all the arguments why Sam shouldn't get his tortured soul back but he couldn't live with the automaton his brother had become. More importantly, and despite the imposter's protests, he knew deep in his heart Sam wouldn't want to live that life.
When he had to stop RoboSam killing Bobby, he knew he'd made the right call. Then, when his brother had emerged from the panic room and hugged him–really hugged him–he knew Sammy was finally back.
Dean looked up as he heard the familiar rumble of the Impala's engine. The big black Chevy turned into the alley and came to a stop right in the front of the brothers. Dean moved behind Sam, then slid his arms under his brother and sat Sam up. His stomach lurched as Sam's head fell limply forward.
Bobby was out of the car now and back beside them. He stood between Sam's feet, crouched and hooked an arm behind each of Sam's knees. "On three we lift–one…two…three."
Locking his fingers together in front of Sam's chest, Dean pushed himself up. Together, they carried him over to the car and to the back driver's side door which Bobby had left open. Dean snorted softly when he realized they'd done this often enough they didn't even have to think or discuss how they were going to get Sam into the car. The person they were carrying sometimes changed, but the way they carried them didn't.
Dean backed into the open doorway, ducked his head and stepped into the car. Once he had one foot inside the car, he sat down, slid across the seat and pulled Sam after him. Bobby guided Sam's legs inside, gently tucked them into the foot well, then slammed the door closed.
As Bobby slid behind the wheel, Dean realized his hands were resting over Sam's heart and he could clearly feel the slightly fast but steady beating through his brother's chest. He'd focus on to that. It meant his brother was alive, and that meant they could bring him back.
He zoned out for most of the trip. Bobby said something here and there, but Dean wasn't sure what. He counted each of Sam's heart beats, all the way to one hundred, then started all over again. He'd long lost track of how many times he'd been through the cycle by the time they pulled into Bobby's scrap yard.
"Dean?" Bobby was now standing in the open passenger side door beside him. "You ready?"
Dean nodded, tightened his hold on Sam and slid forward on the seat. He dropped one foot out of the car and onto the ground. Bobby was behind him, supporting him, as he pushed himself up, still holding onto Sam.
Again, Dean nodded and he slowly backed up. Bobby quickly moved in front of him and grabbed Sam's legs and lifted them out of the car. When they were clear of the Impala, Bobby shifted his hold so he was standing between Sam's knees, facing the same direction as Dean, with an arm hooked around each one of Sam's legs. Then, together, they moved forward; it was the safest way to carry Sam through the house and down the basement stairs into the panic room.
As they slowly moved down the stairs, each old tread groaning loudly under their combined weight, Sam stirred, his head rolling back and forth across Dean's chest.
Bobby concentrating on safely getting them all down the stairs, didn't turn around. "Dean? What's going on?"
"I dunno, but he's getting a little restless. Let's pick up the pace before we drop him."
They did, and inside of a minute they were lowering Sam onto the cot in the panic room. Dean quickly checked his vitals then straightened up, scrubbing a hand down his face as he stretched out his back.
Dean shook his head. "He's back under again, but something's going on inside that noggin of his. I just wish to God I knew what."
Bobby adjusted his ball cap. "You stick with him, talk to him if he gets agitated–that seems to help. I'll go upstairs, see if I can dig up any signs of demonic or angelic activity and pinpoint when this eclipse is supposed to take place. We connect the dots on the two, we should be able to track down Cas."
Dean nodded, but just kept pacing at the side of Sam's cot. When he looked up again, Bobby was gone. He grabbed an old wooden chair, dropped it beside the cot and sank down into it. He leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. "Come on, Sam. We didn't go through all this crap just to dump you in the panic room again. You hate this place–and with damned good reason." Dean reached forward, hesitated, then closed his fingers around Sam's forearm. "Just keep fighting. I'm right here…we'll fight this together. We'll get you back."
"Saw something that should work about a half mile back. Just sit tight until-"
"What? Why" Dean blinked at Bobby who was still seated behind the wheel of the ambulance. "Where you going?"
"Dean, focus. We've been over this four times already–we need a new ride. This thing might as well have a target painted on the roof." Bobby sighed. "Look, I know it's the morphine pickling your melon, but I need you to keep it together and look out for your brother while I'm gone."
"Been looking out for Sammy since I was four," Dean muttered as he strained to look into the back of the ambulance where Sam was still strapped to the gurney Bobby had used to get him out of the hospital. "He awake, yet?"
"No." Bobby pushed himself out of the driver's seat, clambered into the back, then quickly checked Sam's vitals. "Pulse is strong enough…breathing's good–but he's gonna have a helluva headache when he wakes up."
Worry for his brother helped sober Dean in a hurry. "It's bad, isn't it?"
"It ain't good." Bobby picked up the chart that had accompanied Sam back from his CT scan, flipped through the notes and shook his head. "If the mouthbreathers weren't running the show back at Sioux Falls General, best thing would've been to leave him right where he was."
Dean was struggling to stand, but between the morphine and his cast soon gave up in frustration. "Son of a bitch. How can I take care of Sam if I can't even get my ass to the back of the bus?"
"First, ask for help, idjit." Bobby dropped the chart and moved behind Dean, hooking his arms under the younger hunter's and hauling him up. "As for Sam, as long as he's just asleep, that's good. Best way for the body to heal itself. Just look out for the danger signs."
"You mean like trouble breathing, bleeding from the nose or ears, convulsions…that would be check, check and check," Dean grunted, leaning heavily on Bobby as he hopped backwards, dragging his casted leg after him. "Sam hit every one of those when they took us from your place. If they happen again…" He exhaled loudly as Bobby lowered him into the attendant's seat opposite Sam. "Brain injuries are a little beyond my first-aid skills, you know?"
"Yeah." Bobby turned back to Sam and raised the head of the gurney. "But we'll do what we always do–the best we can."
"And if he takes a turn for the worse, you'll deal with it. You're in a damn ambulance. There's oxygen, a defibrillator… Read Sam's chart, poke around, see what else there is." Bobby clapped Dean on the shoulder. "Like you said, you've been looking out for him a long time. You got him through everything else–you'll get him through this."
"Right." Dean shot a look at Bobby. "'Course, he died a few times along the way."
"Wasn't meant to be." Dean turned back to Sam, studying him carefully. "He's not on oxygen any more. That's a good sign, right?"
"According to the chart, Docs didn't send him up for the head scan until he was stabilized." Bobby's voice softened. "Like the rest of you Winchesters, he's a tough S.O.B." He cleared his throat as he turned away to open the back door of the ambulance. "You good?"
At Dean's nod, Bobby climbed out. "I won't be long–half hour, tops." He offered a quick smile, then slammed shut the door.
The sudden quiet magnified the buzz in Dean's head. The effects of the morphine were waning but his thoughts were still muddy, his body numb. But maybe numb was good; his muzzy brain was coming up with enough worst-case scenarios–God only knew what it would dream up if he was firing on all cylinders.
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face as he again studied Sam. His great big little brother looked young and small. Unconscious on the gurney, he was pale and still, the tiny square of gauze on his forehead seeming ludicrous in relation to the enormity of the injury.
"First Lucifer subletting your attic, now this... What the hell did we step into this time, huh, Sammy?" He grabbed Sam's chart, waited for his eyes to focus, then glanced through it. The more he read, the more his stomach churned. The doctors wanted Sam under observation in the neuro unit for 48 hours. Instead, he and Bobby had snatched him out the hospital and taken him on a wild ambulance ride, breaking the speed limit for the better part of two hours before Bobby had pulled over here–wherever the hell here was. The hunter in Dean knew it was the right move, but the big brother in him, the one hard-wired to protect Sam, cursed every bump and jolt they'd put him through.
Dean dropped the chart on the seat beside him when he heard Sam groan softly. "Hey." He leaned forward, grabbing his brother's arm through the blanket. "'Bout time your lazy ass rejoined the living."
Sam rolled his head toward the sound of Dean's voice and his eyes slowly slid open. He was looking directly at his brother, but there was no focus in the gaze.
"You in there?" Dean forced a smile but his heart started racing, words from Sam's chart like possible brain damage popping into his head unbidden. "I know how much you hate hospitals so, first chance we had, we got you the hell outta there." He gestured at the ambulance. "This ride's kind of obvious, so Bobby's gone to get us something that'll blend in a bit more. Soon as he's back, we'll head to Rufus's cabin outside Bozeman. We should be safe there until your elevator rides all the way to the top floor again."
Sam's forehead furrowed and his arm jerked under the blanket.
Sam's struggles intensified, his head snapping from side to side on the pillows, his fists punching the underside of the blanket.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa…What's going on, huh?" Dean's first thought was convulsions, but these movements weren't quite as violent as those Sam has suffered en route to Sioux Falls General. Still, Dean heart rate escalated until the reason for Sam's agitation suddenly clicked. "OK, OK. Chill, Sammy. I'll take care of it."
Dean quickly unbuckled the gurney's straps that pinned Sam's arms. He folded back the cover, grabbed Sam's arms, then laid them at his sides on top of the blanket. Sam relaxed almost immediately. "There. You never liked being tucked in tight as kid, and given the number of time some fugly has hogtied you, you've never cared too much for it as a grown up, either. That's better, right?"
Sam's eyes slid closed and stayed closed, his breathing evening out.
"Good." Dean exhaled loudly and sat back, slumping against the side of the ambulance, but allowing himself a tired smile. "I'm getting too old for this crap, Sammy. But, hey–you told Lucifer to take a hike, so you can lick this, too."
By the time Bobby returned, Dean had riffled through every cubby-hole in the ambulance, tossing whatever he thought they could use into a large plastic bag.
Bobby pulled open the ambulance door and frowned when he saw the blanket around Sam's waist and the safety straps hanging loose. "Problem?"
Dean shook his head. "He came to just enough to let me know he wasn't happy all trussed up like that, then went right back to sleep. He's good."
"Oh." Bobby opened the second back door. "Let's get him moved, then."
Dean glanced out the back doors, his face falling when he saw their new ride–an old VW van. "Oh, no. No way. We are not getting in that thing."
"Beggars can't be choosers, Dean."
Dean scowled. "Do I look like a hippie to you?"
Bobby snorted. "The farmer's market parking lot is kinda slim pickings, genius–especially when we need something big enough to put a gurney in."
Dean's gaze jumped between Sam and Bobby. "We're taking the gurney?"
Bobby didn't use the word idjit, but his look said as much. "Your brother ain't walking and he's a little big these days for me to throw over my shoulder so, yeah, we're taking the gurney."
"Let me do it. I've carried Sammy tons of times."
"Not with a cast on your leg, Einstein."
"Oh, son of a bitch." Dean scowled down at his right leg, the injury momentarily forgotten. "Still got one good leg though and that means I can help."
Bobby knew better than to argue. "Fine. Once we get the gurney out, you can help push. And, since you ditched your crutches in your sprint to catch this ride, you can use the gurney as your walker." He snorted softly. "Looks like Sam'll be carrying you, as much as you're carrying him."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Sounds really lame when you put it like that, but yeah. It's kinda what we do, you know?"
Bobby smiled. "I've noticed." He waved his hand at the safety strap hanging lose. "Do that up–just 'til we get him inside the van. Ground around here's kinda rough. Last thing we need is him falling off."
Dean snorted as he quickly fastened the strap. "But if we do drop him–we're not telling him. Otherwise, I'll be hearing it about it 'til I'm ninety–if I live that long."
"Idjit." When Dean sat back, Bobby gave the gurney a tug and it rolled out of the ambulance, the wheels unfolding and locking automatically.
Dean slid along the seat to the back, lowered himself to the floor then swung his legs out the doors. With Bobby's help, he got his good leg planted firmly on the ground, then pushed himself up, grabbing the end of the gurney to keep himself steady.
"You good?" When Dean nodded, Bobby moved to the opposite end of the gurney. "Okay, slow and steady then-"
"Ingrate." Bobby turned around and slowly pulled Sam toward the van. He braced the gurney as they moved, allowing Dean to support his weight on it with each hop forward.
Dean was breathing heavily by the time they reached their new ride. He leaned against the side of the van as Bobby slid the gurney inside. It was tight, Sam's head basically pushed up between the two front seats, but the gurney fit – just.
After securing the doors, Bobby moved over to Dean, pulled the younger hunter's arm over his shoulders and helped him around to the passenger side. "You're out of shape, boy."
Dean snorted. "That–that was hard work. Whoever said He ain't heavy, he's my brother never met Sammy."
Bobby just smiled.
A/N: Hopefully before the series ends, we'll get to see one brother haul the other to safety.*g* I, for one, would love to see it–and the outtakes which I have no doubt would be equally entertaining! If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers.