Sam shouted Abby's name in a panic.
Abby had witnessed it all. She snapped to action and bolted from the car. She skidded to a stop and dropped beside her fallen friend, casting a fearful glance at the two occupants of the other car. She needn't have worried; the driver was busy rolling and crying over his injury, and Badham was curled up and whimpering in the grass.
Sam was frantically tearing at Dean's clothing. "Oh god, Dean! Where are you hit? Talk to me, come on!"
Dean coughed and clutched his chest, still winded by the impact. "Sammy...I'm-"
The terrified young man continued to try to tear through the layers. Still gasping, Dean writhed on the ground, trying to roll away from his brother's grasp.
"Sam!" he coughed, pushing at him. "Stop! Stop it, I'm-"
Poor Sam grew frantic. "Abby, help me; hold him still! He's delirious, or in shock or something!"
Still wheezing painfully, Dean finally managed to shove his brother away. "For shit's sake, you freaking lunatic! I'm trying to tell you I'm ok!" he growled. He pushed himself up to a sitting position and glowered at the two hovering over him. His chest was on fire, he pressed a hand to it and groaned.
Sam wasn't convinced. "You're in shock, Dean; there's blood on your shirt, you've been hit!" He tried once more to assess the damage, but Dean rebuffed him again, with a none-too-gentle shove.
"Do I have to slap you? Cut it out!" But just in case, he pulled his tee-shirt neck away and looked down inside, wincing with the sharp pain. "aw…jesus!"
Abby went into triage mode at his exclamation, she tried to lay him down again, but she stopped at his very irritated gesture.
"Look, both of you; I'm not shot, ok? Just back off for two seconds!" He fished his amulet out from where it had stuck into his skin, and yanked it free from around his neck, frowning as he looked it over. It was unrecognizable; a twisted and misshapen ruin, resembling nothing of his prized and sentimental pendant. He wiped his blood off it, and realizing the significance, his anger turned to wonderment. "Sonofabitch! Sam!" He held it out to his shell-shocked brother.
Sam's mouth dropped open as he took it and examined it closely. "You lucky bastard!"
Dean winced a grin as Sam showed it to Abby. Her reaction was much the same. The amulet was ruined, but that was where the tragedy ended. When Badham had pointed that pistol and fired point-blank it should have been curtains for Dean. But as fate would have it, the bullet struck the amulet and glanced off. Had it not been there, Dean would have been dead, with a bullet embedded in his heart.
Abby shook her head in disbelief, handing it back to him. "You sure had somebody watching over you today!"
He closed his hand over it, as the reality of his close brush with death hit him. A wave of dizziness swept over him, and now he did lay back down. He finally allowed them access under his shirt, and Abby provided the necessary first aid. She did the same for Sam, who was nursing a nasty graze along his bicep. When she was done, she made them promise to get them looked after properly later. They humoured her by agreeing.
Dean lay propped on his elbows and worked to calm his breathing, and when he was finally able, he nodded toward the two men. "Better tie those two, Sammy; don't want to have them find some balls again and try another shot."
Sam picked up the rope and roughly trussed the two as if he were competing in a rodeo calf roping contest. He probably set a record. He returned, and tossed a small item to his brother. "Souvenir."
Dean caught it and shook his head in disgust at the tiny weapon. "A freaking purse-gun! Figures. Help me up, Sam."
Sam grasped his hand and hauled him up, and when Dean was sure of his equilibrium, he stalked over to where Badham lay. He stared at him with arms crossed, his face a sneer of contempt.
"Nice work, Jimmy Bill. Your little girly gun couldn't put a hole in a pair of pantyhose." He crouched over his enemy, and leaned close to his face. "But I tell ya, you sure freaked my poor brother out. I'd kick your fat ass for that, if you hadn't already crapped yourself. I guess we'll head on over to the land registry offices; got a couple of claims to stake… Oh, but don't worry; we won't leave you here all alone. The D.A.'s got state troopers on their way to pick you up any minute now.. " He smiled acidly. "Seeya."
He turned his back and walked away from the disgraced and fallen emperor as he began to blubber and cry. Returning to the others, he asked- "Abby, wanna have a go at him? You sure as hell earned it."
She stared at the pathetic and whimpering mound in the grass for a few moments. Finally she flashed a teary smile to Dean. "No…that's his style, not mine. I'm happy to remember him just like that: whupped. And I'll have a sweeter revenge when he's had his day in court, thanks to you two." She hugged Dean close, in a cathartic and fervent embrace. The squeeze made his eyes water, but he bit his tongue and let her, despite his discomfort. Sam saw and smiled a little, prying her gently away and hugging her himself as Dean turned away, rubbing his aching middle.
She pulled away from Sam with a smile. "Time to file that claim? Dean, are you up to that right now? We can go to the hospital first-"
The discussion was cut short by the roaring arrival of the first car that had pursued them. It charged up and ground to a dust-choked stop, and it's two occupants leapt out. Dean grabbed Abby's arm, pulling her safely behind them. He still had Badham's little gun and he leveled it at the men.
The hired help took in the situation. Their quarry was clearly in control of the situation, and James Badham was lying trussed and weeping in the grass. They were well paid for their particular efforts, but not enough to guarantee any loyalty. One of them shook his head, and the other nodded, and spoke to the group. '"We got no issue. Seeya." They turned around, hopped back into the car and squealed off in the direction from which they'd come.
The trio exhaled a collective sigh of relief.
"We'd better get our asses out to that registry office." Dean said. They walked back to the Impala, and as they approached it, Dean groaned bitterly. He walked around the car, counting the holes and swearing. He was sorely tempted to run back and give Badham that ass-kicking after all.
Abby knew how much Dean loved that car. She gave his arm a sympathetic squeeze. "Dean, don't sweat this...getting this fixed is the least I can do for you. I know a good guy in town; he's quick and does fine work. Let me get it repaired, please?"
He was torn. He liked to do the work on her himself; the only other man he let near her was Bobby Singer. But he wasn't up to crawling all over and under the car, grinding and welding, in his current state. He was barely up to thinking about it. He sighed. "We'll talk."
Dean used his last remaining energy to coach Abby in her call to the District Attorney. It was delicate; he had to present a variation of the truth that would keep them out of needing to be future participants in whatever Badham and his lot would be facing. But she handled it fine. She hung up with a huff of relief, knowing squad cars were now racing to retrieve her adversary.
"Ok...the SOB is going to be picked up. What now?" she asked tentatively. The question was quietly directed to Sam, as she watched Dean, who'd uncharacteristically taken the back seat. His eyes were closing, she could see he was fighting his exhaustion, but his body was protesting the traumas and he just couldn't keep going. She turned away, her feeling of guilt nearly suffocating her. Sam saw her expression and gave her hand a squeeze.
"He's ok, Abby." he whispered. But he turned around and checked just to make sure. Dean was now breathing quietly in comfortable sleep. "We'll go to the county offices. He said he was alright to do that first, and he looks pretty happy at the moment. After that...well, I guess it's up to you. He'll need a place to crash for a little while. We can find another-"
"You'll stay with me. I'd suggest the cabin because it's roomier and quieter than my place in town, but I guess the police will be wanting to look through, now that Gran's death will be considered a homicide."
Sam agreed. "Yeah, cops will be crawling all over it for evidence. That's a good thing, but we can't be near it while it's happening. You sure it's ok for us to stay with you?"
Abby shook her head and looked at him like he was insane. "Uh, yeah! God, nevermind how indebted I am to both of you; I consider you guys my friends and it's my pleasure. Besides, Sam…to be honest, I have a lot of hard things to do in the next little while. I could use the moral support of somebody who has a real understanding of this whole thing. My friends are great, and they'll keep me from going under emotionally, but I can hardly talk about all this with them." She paused for a moment and stared ahead. "I think I'm a little shell-shocked. This has all been so awful, and I haven't had a spare minute to absorb everything. I guess I should warn you that when it does hit me, I'll be pretty lousy company." Her eyes were shiny, but she didn't allow herself to weaken beyond that.
Sam felt for her. He knew what it felt like to lose a loved one, and he knew that it would be bitterly hard for her after the drama quieted and the sympathetic friends went back to their own busy lives. He thanked her, and was spared further conversation as they arrived at the building.
Abby turned to him, a little panicked- "Christ, Sam; I haven't got a clue what I'm doing here."
"I'll come with you. Shouldn't be hard to figure out." He glanced at the snoring figure in back. "Dean? Dean, can you wake up for a sec?"
They were treated to an irritated growl. "Yeah, what?" he frowned.
"I'm going in to file the claims with Abby. Are you ok to stay here snoozing? We're in the parking lot at the county offices."
"Mm hmm" he nodded, drifting off again.
Sam locked the doors and they left.
The process was a little time consuming, but they were relieved that no one had attempted to stake anything before they had a chance. Abby filled out everything, they got all the information required to start the process. She was now officially registered as the first to pursue the issue, even if Badham still wanted to keep his grip on that land, he couldn't do it through this avenue. They returned to the car, and Dean was where they'd left him.
"So now the hospital." Abby directed.
Sam shook his head. He knew enough to see that Dean would recover, and it wasn't worth the risk. "No, let's just get to your place-"
"Come on, Sam! Both of you are bleeding! You need to get checked out!"
He was tired and his patience was running out. "Abby, with things as they are, it's iffy for us to go there. And besides, you're qualified to fix him up, if he needs anything. Trust me, if he wasn't asleep, he'd say the same thing."
Dean quietly seconded the motion. "Get home...need bed…need bourbon."
She smiled a little, knowing she was over-ruled.
They spent the next few days as low-key as possible. Dean was pretty much a non-entity, he was finally able to take the time he needed to rest and heal. He hardly left his cozy place on the futon in her den. They checked on him regularly, carrying meals in to him, Abby playing her role of nurse with efficiency and care. Dean was thoroughly spent after everything he'd gone through, but after the second day he was feeling stronger.
Abby was trying to get him to drink his tea while it was still warm. She was about to put it to his lips when he gripped her wrist, gently pushing it away as he wriggled up to a reclining position. He made a face at her, and his eyes lingered on hers. "Abby, you got to stop playing this mother role. It's gonna make it weird for me to sleep with you."
That caught her off guard. "Excuse me?" she said, blushing.
His smile widened and he released his grip and slid his warm hand onto hers. "Your little confession, in the hospital...were you hoping I forgot?"
She was flustered, but clearly not offended. She leaned closer to his face. "I told you; you were just hallucinating. I have standards, you know."
He pulled her closer and whispered, "Lock the door…"
Long after Abby crept out, with the excuse of needing groceries, Dean emerged to shower. Sam was at the table, reading. He looked up. "Hey, Dean. Feeling better?" His query was innocent, but he wore a sly expression.
"Yeah, a lot better."
A smile played over Sam's lips. "I'll bet."
Dean knew they were busted. He smirked. "What?"
Sam shook his head. "You know; I'm as much of a hero as you are. How come you're always the one to get the girl?"
Dean grinned like the proverbial cat who'd had his way with the canary. "Sam…Sam…so many reasons."
Sam snorted and rolled his eyes. "Well, I call next one."
"Yeah, good luck with that." Dean teased.
As Dean dressed, Sam sighed with relief. He was really glad to see his brother up and around, and it seemed he was back to his old hound-dog self. That meant they'd be hitting the road soon, leaving this strange hunt far behind. And now that Dean had entertained Abby, he knew he'd want to leave the entanglement as soon as possible. It wasn't personal; just Dean's way…don't get close to anyone.
Abby and Sam had spent a lot of time together while Dean slept. They had some long and serious discussions; she had endless questions, as people new to such otherworldly experiences always did. And he was able to help her through the trials of calling family and friends and arranging Hedda's funeral. He liked her, she was bright and strong. She'd do alright.
Dean rejoined him, looking refreshed, and stronger.
"So I guess we'll be leaving soon?" Sam asked.
Dean nodded. "After the service. Abby has things handled; no point in us hanging around."
Sam got up and rummaged in the fridge, returning with a couple of beers. He cracked them and handed one over. "Yeah, I guess it's time. I talked Abby through everything that's coming up; what to expect from Badham's trial, what to say and not to say. She's nervous, but she'll be ok. Won't be for months anyway; so at least she has time to get her head straight about her grandmother's passing."
"Mmm…" Dean grunted.
"Did she tell you what she's going to do with Hedda's property?"
Dean shook his head. "Not sell it, obviously. But she doesn't seem the rustic cabin type, though. Has she got plans?"
"Uh huh. The Hedda and Peter Baldwin Memorial Conservation Area. She's going to donate it to the Parks Service, with a covenant in place that says it can never be sold for any purpose other than a park. She's looking into petitioning to have the Blackvale forest declared protected. Badham's environmental report was bogus, of course—that huge oak tree alone is so old, and part of a virgin stand—it'd probably be enough to get it designated as protected. Plus, now that the radon issue is there it's worthless in terms of investment. It'll probably fly."
"Huh. Yeah, she would have liked that. Weird old broad, Hedda." Dean sighed. He was glad to hear that her death would bring something positive in it's wake. "When is her funeral?"
"Thursday. Her body was released to the funeral home this morning, so it's underway. Abby's got a small memorial planned—hardly any family in the states—most are distant cousins in Britain. Hedda and Peter's old friends from the naturalist club, and Abby's friends. After that, she's gonna spread the ashes in the woods. I already told her we couldn't really attend the service without triggering questions. She understands. But she wants just us to go into the forest with her later."
They both sat in silence for a while, remembering Hedda, reliving the past days. The reverie was interrupted when Abby came in laden with sacks and accompanied by a bright-eyed Beowulf.
"Hey, buddy!" Dean said with genuine delight. The dog was shaved and bandaged, and still showing the orange stain of pre-surgical disinfectant. But other than that, he looked healthy. He wagged and barked once or twice as Dean rubbed his head roughly.
"The vet called me just as I got on the road." Abby said, as she put her purchases on the counter.
"He looks great!" Sam said, giving him a good scratch.
Beo hardly noticed him; he only had eyes for Dean. Dean was not so romantic as to think it was because he'd been the one who'd saved the poor mutt. It was just a dog thing; they pick their friends just as any person would. And Dean was definitely high on his list, it seemed.
"Ok, get off me, gopher-breath!" Dean said, trying to fend off the front paws that insisted on planting on his tender middle. Abby called the dog into her room with the lure of kibble and shut the door.
"The vet said he'll be fine. Now I've got to figure out what to do with him." She got a beer herself and joined them.
"You have to get rid of him?" Sam asked. Dean shot him a Don't-even-think-it! warning glance.
"Well I don't have to. This place allows pets, but he's just so damn big, and he's used to such a different lifestyle. It wouldn't be fair to keep him cooped up in an apartment all day. But at the moment, I can't even think about giving him away. He's pretty much the only family I've got now." she said, her voice trailing off. But she steered herself away; no time for emotional episodes. "I know there's doggy daycare places, and people who do dog walking. That's a start."
Dean remembered Sam's news. "I heard what you're thinking of, for Hedda's property. That sounds really cool...pretty much perfect."
"I thought so. I loved visiting Gran, but I'm not the woodsy sort that she was. I could never live in the cabin; it's way too rustic and isolated for me. And with everything that happened there, well…I'd just as soon do it this way. I was going to ask you two to go through the place, after we sprinkle her ashes. If there's anything you want, please take it. I'm going to donate anything I'm not keeping anyway. There's probably a few things you nomads could use. Gran had a lot of camping type gear, colemans, that sort of thing." They thanked her awkwardly. "Mmm, that reminds me; Dean, your car's ready. I can drive you over to pick it up."
He blanched slightly. "Ready-? ..Uh, weren't we going to discuss that first-?"
"Oh, we did. I told you all about it a couple of days ago. You snored your agreement." she grinned. "And don't panic; your baby is pretty again. Rob appreciates those old junkers." she winked.
They had to go immediately, of course, once Dean was informed. They left with a promise to return with pizza.
Dean was relieved to find the Impala beautifully restored. Abby was accurate; Rob was a master, there was no evidence she'd ever been pock-marked with Badham's bullets. Dean talked cars with him for a while as Abby slipped a few doors down to pick up drinks. Rob glanced at the Impala- "Yeah, nice work, she's in great shape. I heard you did it yourself?"
"Mostly. Got a friend with a knack too; he gives me a hand." Dean scanned around the shop. There were other cars there, awaiting a rebirth. One in particular, caught his eye. "Hey, I know that car—"
Rob followed his gaze. "Sixty-nine Dodge Charger. Yeah, that belonged to a friend of mine, who passed away recently. Man, he loved that car. We were gonna paint her the weekend he... Well, I'll keep working on her."
"Yeah…you knew Mike?"
"I met him. Good kid...too bad."
Rob cleared his throat and nodded after a moment. "Yeah, well anyway, here's your keys. I was gonna see if anything needed a tweak, but nothing did. That's a real nice car you got, it was a pleasure working on her, especially considering who it was that poked all the holes in it. 'Bout time that bastard got his due."
"Yeah, amen to that. Thanks."
Dean met Abby in the parking lot. "How did it turn out?" she asked.
"Perfect. You know you didn't-"
"Shut up." she smiled. "Come on, your brother will be starving."
Abby made it through the funeral. It was hard, and despite her resolve she bawled along with the rest of them. She got a lot of support for her park idea, and she certainly got an earful of the unanimous sentiment regarding James Badham. She was regarded as the town hero now, she had no idea how far-ranging an impact their efforts would have.
When it was finally over, and it was quiet again, Dean and Sam followed her out to the cabin. Beowulf was ecstatic to be home; he searched every room for Hedda, and Abby broke down when he whined his question to her. After some comforting, she and the brothers found a suitable and lovely spot, and Hedda Baldwin was returned to the rich forest earth that she'd loved so dearly. To Beowulf, it was all a game. He took up the cause and promptly scattered her ashes further afield. Somehow it seemed fitting.
They had several pints in her honour. Abby had bought the strong, black stout that Hedda preferred, and the boys downed it without complaint. "It's an acquired taste." she apologized.
"I guess so!" Dean blurted with a grimace, and they had to laugh.
A while later, they reluctantly went through things to see if indeed there was anything they could take. There was a well made bowie knife with a handle of antler; it was grampa Peters, and Abby insisted Dean have it. Sam found a number of books that interested him, one of which was particularly important. It was the ancient leather bound book that Hedda had read from to conjure Herne. Abby was happy to give it to him, she wanted nothing to do with it. Sam knew it would be a valuable addition to Bobby's collection of deadly literature. Dean took the old .22 as well, promising to make it shine as new. They always needed guns.
Sam walked up the path to the car with their bounty. Dean and Abby were alone for a moment. He put his arms around her. "You ok..?"
"Yeah…sort of. I will be. Thank you, Dean... for everything you two did for us. I know Gran felt so, so awful when you got hurt, and she really appreciated your help fixing things. I wish she were here to see her victory."
"That sly old lady knows, Abby...don't ever think she doesn't. I know she would have been drinking to Badham's fall. Probably is right now, somewhere."
Abby laughed and cried equally. "Yeah, toasting and cursing him."
They gathered around the Impala. Abby knew they needed to go; she was expecting the words that followed. She would have loved them to stay longer, but she knew she was strong enough handle things. Sam passed her his email address. " Abby, call us, or email, if you need any help. We can always come out."
Dean held her for a while, until she finally pulled free. "Ok.." she sighed. "Get going, you two. If you stay any longer and I'll have to keep you for good. You and Beowulf."
Dean gave her a last, lingering kiss and they closed the heavy doors and drove away.
After some time on the road, Dean broke the silence. "This is right, isn't it? She'll be ok?"
"Yeah…she'll be ok, after a while. Doesn't matter how long we stay, Dean; Hedda will still be gone and she'll have to deal with that. Don't feel you're abandoning her; she's got her own life. We did what we're supposed to."
He needed to hear that. He knew Sam was right.
Sam had first driving duty. Dean slept intermittently, refusing Sam's insistence that he stretch out in back. Sam couldn't help but snicker every time Dean shocked himself awake when his head dropped to his chest or his open-mouthed snork jolted him into the present. Finally they stopped for a much needed infusion of caffeine. They switched at that point.
"So...where to?" Dean asked.
Sam pulled out a fresh National Enquirer. "I have no idea, Dean. But I'll tell you in a few minutes."