**Looks up from her hiding place underneath a huge rock**
Hi. Rememeber me? Yes, I'm still alive, I haven't forgotten about all you trusty people out there and I know I promised to finish this sweet little tale...it took me longer than I thought, with Real Life kicking my butt all the time and all that but HEY, I'M BACK! And I finished this story for you.
I can already hear my sweet Beta, MeAzrael, asking where the Epilogue is gone...Sweetums, I decided to skip it as I want this baby to be done an posted so I can concentrate on my other stories I started ages ago.
So, this is it, I hope I've managed to pull all the loose ends together...enjoy!
The next days turned out to be the hardest for all involved. With the pain medication being cut back, the full extent of his injuries hit Dean like a steam engine. Not that he suffered openly, no way. Of course he tried to make sure Sam wouldn't notice any of his struggles. Of course Sam read him like an open book. The fine sheen of sweat, the labored breathing and the request to be alone were just a few of the many signs of his big brother's fight against the anguish and distress.
It was right after lunch a few hours after medication had been discontinued completely when Sam had had enough. After watching Dean refuse to eat, again, and noticing hooded eyes that had been far too glassy to be just due to exhaustion and fatigue Sam had marched out to grab the next nurse and drag her into Dean's room, commanding her to give him something for the pain. Now. Thank you. Dean's acceptance had been the worst part. He hadn't protested when the nurse had applied the IV again, a testament to how bad it was.
Dean still slept a lot, but at least the spans of lucidity became longer. It took another week for the pallor to retreat and make room for a healthier color in Dean's face.
A side benefit of his brother's bed-stricken situation was the sudden amount of time they had together. With Dean being unable to walk and his vehement aversion for the offered wheel chair it was mostly the two of them, Sam sitting next to Dean's bedside, providing him with smuggled junk food and keeping him up to date with the events of the outside world. They talked a lot, about the recent events at the cliff, what had happened to Kane. Sam filled his brother in on the details of Stevie's death, unable to read Dean's feelings concerning the issue. There was no doubt the kid's brutal demise affected him, but it was almost as if Dean wouldn't want to admit any touch of sadness or grief. No surprise. Sam had at least been able to learn about what had been going on in that kid's head. Dean had only caught a bullet from Stevie's gun. And when it came to things like that, Dean was pretty resentful.
They talked about stuff in the newspaper, cases, maybe-cases, not-yet-cases, the things they should do or not do until Dean was up and running again, they even talked about Annie. Sam watched with big amusement the slight whiffs of jealousy flashing over Dean's face from time to time while he told him about his and Annie's long waiting hours together. But Dean never said anything. He knew that Annie wasn't his. That she couldn't be his. They would have to leave as soon as Dean was up for it and they would leave her behind, like everyone else who had come close to them. Voluntarily and involuntarily.
The very topic Sam bothered the most, causing him to lie awake for hours some nights, the thing that had cost him a few finger nails he had bitten off while he sat vigil at Dean's side, it was still there. The elephant was still palpable, this time leaning against the door jamb of the hospital room with raised eyebrows and an ugly smile beneath its waving trunk. Sam would love to leave it right here, to take his brother and walk past it, going on with a clean swiped slate. But he also knew that there would never be the right moment to talk about this, to resolve it.
Sam absentmindedly watched the cars and people in the parking lot, bustling around like ants. Dean had been moved from ICU to a normal room 36 hours after he had woken up – 36 hours too long for Dean's liking, who had started to gripe about the 'high-tech shoe box' as soon as he had been lucid enough to pick up on his surroundings. 36 hours Sam would have preferred to be ramped up because the thought of his brother not being monitored 24/7 had been horrible, at least over the first days.
Now it was Sam who benefitted from the relocation. No longer being pressed to stare at a jumping ECG or an unconscious brother, he could sit on the window sill and look outside while Dean had his meetings with his beloved physiotherapist.
Sure enough, Dean's mood was far from affectionate when Turner, a pretty massive wardrobe of a man, brought him back and helped him from the wheel chair into his bed. The giant man greeted Sam before he strolled out and let the Winchester's alone.
"I tell you what, I don't remember hell, but I'm sure he was there", Dean growled, shifting on the mattress, a move that was followed by a sharp intake of breath and pained grunt. Sam jumped to his feet but hung back, knowing how much his brother hated the mother hen act. He watched Dean settle and leaned back against the window sill. It was a miracle that his brother had spent so much time in hell without a single memory. He would thank God for it if he'd be still sure there was one out there. But after everything that had happened...
"You good?" Dean looked expectantly at him, a fine sheen of sweat covering his face. He was even a little bit out of breath, an unnerving and scary sight.
"Yeah", Sam replied, clearing his throat, "Turner seems like a nice guy."
"Sure, he's just waving at you. Me, I'm his modeling clay. I swear, sometimes I think he forgets that I have bones and all that not so flexible stuff in me."
"Come on, if he were a girl you wouldn't whine at all."
They fell silent, an awkward pause Sam used to chew on his fingernails and stare ahead. When he looked up again he noticed that Dean was watching him.
"What's eating you?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.
The younger Winchester sighed. His brother and his sensitive antennas.
"I...you know...there's still a record to set straight between us", Sam started, and sure enough the change of Dean's facial expression was equatable with the process of a shutter crashing down.
"Aw, you gotta be kidding me..." Dean mumbled and let his head drop back into the pillow.
Sam felt a surge of anger bubbling up inside him. "What, you wanted to know what's nagging me, now you could at least listen."
"I kinda hoped it had something to do with a broken nail or something, okay?"
"Now's not a good time, Sam..."
"It's never a good time, we had this conversation already, remember?" Sam pushed himself off the window sill and pulled the chair to Dean's bedside, sinking down onto it and deliberately ignoring his brother's heated glare. Licking his lips and trying to calm himself, Sam searched for the right words.
"Did you mean what you said?"
Dean raised a hand to his face and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I said a lot, Sam", he replied quietly, the looming conversation seeming to unnerve him.
"Back at the Motel. That you don't trust me anymore. That you...that it's actually your job to kill me." Sam didn't know why he had asked the question. He wasn't even sure if he wanted to know the answer. He tried to catch Dean's gaze but his brother kept his eyes glued to the blanket. "Dean?"
"It's nothing", the other man growled, "I shouldn't have said that, I was angry."
Sam pressed his lips together and nodded. "Do you think it's your job to kill me? Because of my abilities?"
Dean's head snapped up so hard Sam almost flinched. "Woah, wait a minute. Abilities? Seriously?You do realize that abilities are usually something good and useful, like flying or climbing walls."
Sam raised his eyebrows in disbelief. "Oh, and what's so wrong with mine?"
"They're demonic, Sam. Why the hell do I have to discuss this with you, huh? With YOU, of all people?"
"Because I believe in them, I know they're good, I can save people."
"How can they be good when they come from hell?"
"They might be from hell but maybe it's...I don't know, with the right person using them they can help."
"Come on, Sam, are you even listening to yourself? What did Ruby do to you that you believe this crap, huh?"
"Leave her alone, Dean."
"Oh, I'm sorry, did I hit a nerve?"
"Just stop it!" Sam's outburst set an abrupt end to their heated discussion that had grown in volume with each sentence. He jumped up from the chair and started to pace. "She was there for me, if it weren't for her I wouldn't have been able to move on. Do you realize that? You were gone."
"My bad", Dean retorted flippantly, obviously irritated by his moving sibling, "It's still no reason to BFF with that bitch to learn the dark side of the Force."
Sam stopped when he was back at the window again and took a look outside before he whirled around to face his older brother. His rage and the tirade on his lips died immediately when he took in Dean's pale appearance.
In between the marks of exhaustion and pain the last weeks had left on his face, traces of sadness and bitterness shone through. Dean was carrying a lot of stuff with him, so much Sam could see, and he doubted that it had all to do with him and his powers.
"You okay?" Sam asked, forgetting his anger.
Dean looked up at him, not answering, looking as if he was contemplating his words. Sam was sure he'd get the standard 'Yeah, sure.' reply. He wasn't prepared for the open words Dean slapped him round the head with.
"No, Sam. I'm not okay", he answered quietly, blinking at his younger brother. It was that serene, indifferent look on Dean's face Sam dreaded. He could deal with an angry Dean, with a furious Dean, hell, somehow he could handle a gloomy Dean as well. But Dean opening up, talking, all honest and serious...it was something Sam wanted so often, but when the moment came he didn't know if he was ready.
"I'm tired", Dean sighed, holding Sam's gaze, "I don't wanna argue about this anymore because it's useless. You're stubborn, I'm stubborn. You feel that you've done the right thing and you won't listen to me, no matter what I say or how loud I holler at you. You feel that we should talk about this, I don't think so because we'll never agree on this. Not today, not tomorrow."
Sam straightened, "Dean..."
"Sam...I believe I said it already, I will say it again. I'm not going to approve your weird powers. I can accept it, I can try to live with it. But I will never approve them. And the fact that you lied to me, well..." Dean shrugged and raised his eyebrows , "If I try to understand that you did it to protect me or to talk to me about it later, maybe I can swallow my anger. What else could I do, right? But please...just leave it be, okay, Sam? Leave it alone."
Sam blinked. He opened his mouth to protest, to keep this conversation from being over, as ugly and unpleasant as it was. But when Dean let his head sink into the pillow and turned slightly away from him, Sam knew that this debate was over. Probably once and for all.
He tore his gaze away from Dean and swallowed, all of a sudden feeling utterly alone. It was the moment this whole thing could escalate into a full-blown controversy, ending with Sam stomping out of the room, maybe even stomping away from his brother forever. He was angry for Dean being so obstinate, so ignorant for warding off a powerful weapon that could be so precious for them in their line of business, so valuable even for their lives.
Sam cast a furious glance toward the door. Then, words popped up in his head, spoken by a demon with Dean's stolen voice.
Me whizzing back into the pit by your hands…or hand…it's a pretty heavy blow to your brotherly relationship. And that makes me grin, wide and toothy.
Sam looked back at Dean who had his head still turned away from him, eyes closed. The rage that held him in a tight grip slowly ran down on him like sticky liquid bitumen, releasing him, taking the urge to flee from this room with it.
Exiting these walls would destroy what he had missed and wanted back so badly during the last months. Leaving now meant they all had won.
Sam ran a hand through his by now far too long hair and stood up.
"Coffee?" he asked and almost flinched at hearing his own surprisingly booming voice crashing through the silence of the room.
Dean dragged his eyes open as if they weighed a ton and rolled his head around to meet Sam's gaze. He looked wary, as if he had pondered on the same ending of this story as Sam had. Standing at the same bridge, contemplating to walk to the other side and burn the steps behind him.
Sam pressed his lips together. Which decision had his brother made?
"I don't know if I'm allowed to have one", Dean replied quietly. Was there a flicker of a pouting flashing over his tired face?
Sam raised his eyebrows. Slow, tender steps on a very thin coat of ice. "You weren't allowed to have all that junk food I brought the last days, either. I won't sneak this little secret to nurse Ratched", he vowed, looking mysteriously at his brother. "So what do you say, could you do with a strong black Arabica?"
Dean blinked, but he hesitated only for a second before his haggard features broke into a shit-eating grin. "Hell yes", he gasped, "make it extra large."
A smile and an assuring nod was Sam's answer. He held Dean's gaze a second longer, relieved, grateful, before he walked towards the door, patting the back of his pants to make sure he carried his wallet.
They could be okay. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not tomorrow. This was probably just another little grain of sand predestinated to turn into a rogue sandstorm in their future. But they knew how to handle those, right?
As always, I'm hugging one of my biggest joy in life: MeAzrael, who never stopped encouraging and praising me – thank you once again for being my sidekick during this journey, for all your smiles and comments in every chapter, for taking the time to read my clobber.
And a huge thank you for all you out there who read this one and took the time to leave reviews! You all totally made my days!
See you next time!