Author's Note: Review replies next weekend – I didn't have time for those in between flights, but I do just have time to post the epilogue and I thought it was better to just do that than wait until I had time for both. The tags should be back next weekend as well. In the meantime, I hope you like this!
My thanks to Cheryl and SandyDee84, and to everyone who's read/reviewed/bookmarked this fic. You guys are awesome!
When the light faded, Dean's hands were bloody and Sam was limp in his arms.
For one panicked moment he fumbled frantically at Sam's wrist; then he felt the pulse under his fingers. It was weak, irregular and uneven, but it was there.
He lowered Sam to the ground, barely taking the time to notice that they were back in their motel room.
Before Dean could begin checking his little brother for injuries, Sam stirred and moaned. A moment later, he was blinking his eyes open, looking up at Dean with an expression halfway between fear and bewilderment.
"It's OK," Dean soothed, one hand on Sam's chest to keep him from trying to get up. "Dude, I know you don't like lying on motel room floors, but this one is less gross than usual. Just stay put for a minute, and if you start breathing easier I'll help you up."
"Don't even try it."
"I'm not hurt, though," Sam said quietly. "Just really tired."
"Blood loss? Maybe coming back didn't cure that, and, dude, you pretty much leaked out all the blood in your body back there."
"Mmph… Are we back home?"
"Let's check." Dean reached into the pocket of the old jeans he was incredibly grateful to find himself wearing and pulled out his cell phone. "Well," he said, flicking through the menus, "even if this isn't our world, it's a world where I have some annoying dude called Sammy as my Speed Dial One."
"Jerk," Sam muttered.
"Bitch," Dean responded affably. "Ready to try sitting up, Sam?"
"I was ready hours ago. You were the one who was being stupid about it."
"Don't exaggerate. We've only been back for about a minute and a half." Dean slid one arm around Sam's shoulders. "Ready?"
Sam nodded. Dean pulled him, gently, into a sitting position. Sam tried to help, but Dean still wound up doing most of the work, and when they finally had him sitting up Sam was breathing hard enough that Dean just sighed and pulled his baby brother against his shoulder.
"Idiot," he muttered. "Should've told me you weren't ready."
"Ready," Sam insisted, although he showed no sign of pushing himself out of Dean's arms. "Just… tired."
"Tired means you're not ready, moron." Dean lowered his head over Sam's. "Right, you've made me sit here and cuddle you long enough. Since you've insisted on sitting up like an idiot, try to stand and we'll get you to bed."
"Sorry," Sam mumbled, flushing and trying to take his own weight.
Dean sighed again. He should've known better than to joke with Sammy before the kid was one hundred percent.
"Don't be stupid. Just – damn it, just stay, Sam!" Dean glared at Sam until his little brother subsided against his shoulder again. "Good. Now let me do the work and you worry about keeping your balance. You know the drill."
It was slow work and Sam was heavy, but it was (fortunately) only a couple of steps to the bed. Dean lowered Sam carefully onto it, sitting him up against the headboard.
"OK?" Sam nodded, too breathless for words. Dean dropped to the edge of the bed. "Good. I'm going to order dinner – I don't remember eating much in those insane places and my awesomeness needs to be fed. What do you feel like eating?"
"I'm not hungry."
"I didn't ask if you were hungry. I asked what you felt like eating. You're going to take some fluids because you need to compensate the blood loss, and then you're going to eat something because I'm telling you so. What do you want?"
"I want you not to be a jerk."
Dean pulled out his phone and ordered pizza for himself and soup and salad for Sam. Then he turned back to his little brother.
"So. That witch."
"Yeah," Sam said, smiling grimly. "We should go talk to her."
"And by 'talk to' you mean carve the words into her with Ruby's knife, right, Sam?"
"Dean!" Sam protested. "She's a person."
"She almost got us killed."
"I thought I was going to lose you. Back there in the library? I thought I wouldn't find the book and you would die and it would be my fault. You're not telling me I don't get to kill the person who almost got you killed." Dean smirked. "Besides, I have a promise to keep."
Sam scowled and fidgeted. Then he frowned, reaching under the covers.
"What?" Dean asked, alarmed.
Sam pulled out a slim paperback book. "I guess this came back with us," he commented, glancing at the title.
"Dude, no way!" Dean grabbed the book and opened it. "I'm reading about myself sitting here reading about myself sitting here – oh, screw it. And you're about to say –"
"It's an interesting paradox for the writer," Sam and Dean chorused. "For Chuck, in this case," Sam added.
"Shut up and go to sleep. I'll wake you when dinner comes."
"Read to me?" Sam asked.
Dean hesitated, unsure if Sam was serious or joking, and therefore not knowing whether the proper response would be to sit up against the headboard and let Sam curl up against him or to laugh it off. He settled for saying, "No way. I'm not reading anything until we know the witch's spell is done."
"Fine." Sam nodded at the book in Dean's hands. "Read that. Worse comes to worst, we'll only wind up here again."
"You want me to read to you from Chuck's book? It's going to suck."
"The book isn't the point."
Dean sighed. How was he not supposed to cave when Sam said things like that and followed it up with looking at Dean like he was the one who made the stars shine? It was just unfair that Sam got to pull those stunts.
"Fine," Dean grumbled. "Scoot over." Sam scooted, and Dean settled down on the bed. Maybe one arm found its way around Sam. That wasn't Dean's fault. It was Sam's fault for being so freaking big and taking up so much space.
Sam settled his head on Dean's chest, eyes closing as Dean began to read.
I turn over the last page, close the book, and look down. Sam's fast asleep, cheek mashed into my shirt, and he looks so comfortable that I don't have the heart to wake him. I'll have to move when the food gets here anyway. I might as well let him be a little longer.
After all, we have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow. I have a witch to hunt down and a promise to keep.
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