Days passed by in a blur of bad food, atrocious coffee, and not even one hot nurse, much to Dean's disgust. Daytime TV was the only form of entertainment, apart from watching Sam sleep, and if it weren't for Bobby's near constant presence Dean might have died of boredom.
"So, you know you boys are welcome at the yard while Sam recovers," Bobby remarked, between mouthfuls of Chinese takeout food.
Dean swallowed down some crispy chili beef, and grabbed up a honey and ginger rib.
"Thanks, Bobby," he replied, gratefully. "Appreciated." And stuffed his mouth with more food.
Bobby tilted his head to the side and studied both the boys.
Dean lounged in his chair with deceptive casualness beside Sam's bed, socked feet resting beside his brother's right hand, just inches away. That was the way it was, the older always within contact distance of the younger, just in case.
"No need to thank me, kid," Bobby murmured, simply. "Stay as long as you need to."
There was a whole world of unspoken love thrown into that statement, from you're my boys, to I'm always here, and Dean heard every word of it.
"By the way," continued Bobby. "That was some neat work back there."
"Huh?" Dean's mouth hung open questioningly, revealing a mass of chewed ribs and rice.
Bobby grimaced but chose to ignore it. "When I called Sam's cell, it was your voice on the other end of the line, but Hardwick gave himself away when I offered birthday cake." An eyebrow rose. "Last I heard you're still in love with pie, so I'm guessin' you had something to do with that."
Dean's grin was shaky. "I think so. Don't really remember too good. Guess I did what I could to lead him down the wrong path, so I could at least warn you something was up." He frowned, thoughtfully. "I think I told him you were our dad."
"Hmm," Bobby rumbled. "Well, it sure worked. Guy was stupid enough to fall for it, even though caller ID must've shown up my name. After all, how many people list their parents by Christian name in their cell contacts?"
Dean shrugged, and went back to his food. He'd always listed John Winchester under some kind of rock music pseudonym.
Bobby smiled knowingly, and dropped the subject. No point in poking at it any harder. There were more important things on the agenda.
The doctors would be waking Sam up at some point and, all being well, Dean had intended disappearing with him soon after, before the cops homed in on his little brother for a statement. Sam would have enough to deal with when he woke up, without being hounded by endless questions about his time in captivity. And as Bobby had already pointed out, there was no guarantee Sam would remember much, if anything at all.
Head injuries were tricky enough at the best of times, and Sam's had been trickiest of all.
The door to their room opened without warning, and a tired looking doctor peered in at them.
"We're going to start bringing Sam round now. You can stay so long as you promise to stand aside and give us room…"
The world came back, slowly but painfully.
The soft voice was filled with bright, over-enthusiastic cheer, barely covering the dark shadow of outright worry.
Sam moaned softly and winced. His head felt heavier than lead and a faint, throbbing, sickly ache pulled at him.
"D-Dean…" he whispered weakly on an exhale.
A warm hand gently cupped the back of his neck. This time the voice went an octave lower and softened even further. "Yeah, kiddo, it's me. Good to see you awake at last."
Sam struggled to open his eyes at first and, after a few frustrated attempts, managed to wrench them open to slits.
The room was dimly lit, a small reading light casting a comforting glow across Dean's pale face, and the minute Sam looked into his eyes he knew this was indeed his big brother.
Not Joel Hardwick. There was no way that rabid, evil spirit could project such genuine love, concern and guilt all in one glance.
Dean's smile was soft but Sam could read his tells; the licking of the lips, the clearing of his throat. His brother was nervous. Worried, mainly, but definitely nervous.
And sleep deprived. That much was obvious from the dark circles under his eyes.
Sam blinked slowly and cracked a tiny smile of his own. "Hey," he whispered back. "You look terrible, dude."
Dean's smile widened into a relieved grin. "Yeah," he replied, a shade sarcastically, clearly enjoying the first brotherly banter they'd had in way too long. "And you spent the past two weeks sitting for oil paintings."
Sam wrinkled his nose, feeling something shift and prod at his septum. "Lemme guess," he slurred. "Oxygen tube accessory. Big hit in the New York galleries, huh?"
His brother chuckled softly. "They're thinking of repainting the Mona Lisa because of you."
"Louvre," Sam pointed out, simply.
"What?" Dean looked puzzled.
Sam grinned, ignoring his incessant, growing headache. "She's in the Louvre, in Paris. Not New York."
Dean kept his face innocently blank, but his eyes gleamed with mischief. "Who is?"
"The Mona Lisa," Sam carefully avoided rolling his eyes, not sure he could take it in his current state without throwing up. "The Louvre. Big glass pyramid. Paris. That's in France, in case you didn't know."
Dean did roll his eyes. "I know that, moron," he replied, smugly. "I watched the Da Vinci Code. Twice."
Sam snorted, softly. "I know for a fact you've watched it at least five times," he said. "Last time we saw it, you even kept up with the dialogue."
Banter over with, Dean's grin faded.
"You were awake a couple of times yesterday and earlier this morning, but not for long," he told him, withdrawing his hand a little, but not by far. His fingers still brushed lightly over the soft hair curling round Sam's ears. "How you feeling?"
Sam licked his dry lips. "Head hurts, but I'm mostly ok."
Dean's eyes narrowed and there was no mistaking the angry guilt that flashed through them. "Well, that's no surprise. I busted your skull real good." He finished on a shaky whisper: "It was bad fracture, Sammy."
Sam sighed. Dean carried enough on his shoulders as it was, and had done for most of his life, but up until today he'd always born his burdens with pride and strength. Today, he seemed broken by it all, and it wasn't a look that suited him.
He never had to say it; Sam knew Dean loved him and would give him the whole world if he asked. But there was only one thing Sam wanted from him at that moment.
He reached up and gently grasped Dean's wrist, giving it a small squeeze.
"Hardwick busted my skull real good, dude," he stated as firmly as he could with a road drill hammering away inside his brain. "You were just dragged along for the ride. There was nothing you could do, Dean, so stop blaming yourself."
Dean blinked rapidly, eyes suddenly bright and wet. "I should have fought harder for you…"
"Remember Dr Ellicot at the asylum?" Sam said, suddenly.
Dean nodded, frowning at the apparent change in subject. "What's that got to do…?"
"I fought him, Dean," Sam stared up at him. "I fought him, and I fought the rage with everything I had, but it wasn't enough and I nearly killed you."
Dean looked away, ashamed. "Yeah, and I remember all the shit I gave you for it afterwards."
Sam smiled and squeezed Dean's wrist again. "But when we talked about it a few days later, you understood what happened, that I had no control, and you got over it," he waited for Dean to look at him again before continuing. "My point is, we've been through worse than this, and no doubt will again. This is nothing, and we'll get over it. Together, if you'll let me." His tired, pained gaze turned pleading. "Please?"
They stared at each other in silence.
"Duuude," Dean finally huffed out a small laugh. "Turn off the eyes, ok? I'm sold."
Sam grinned fondly, feeling his eyelids droop. Exhaustion was nosing its' way back in, and he had little left to say for himself. "Glad to hear it, jerk."
Dean's fingers curled around Sam's. "Get some more sleep, bitch. We're leaving tomorrow, if you're up to it."
They ended up staying another two days, as it turned out, because Sam was still way too fragile for travel. The truck was decked out in pillows and blankets, water, pain meds and clean bandages, ready and waiting for their departure. All three men were getting twitchy and nervous from staying in one place for too long.
Sam and Dean had used the time wisely, of course, by bickering and fighting over the TV remote, or arguing over who was cheating who at poker. Bobby privately concluded that it was pretty much six of one and half a dozen of the other. They were Winchesters after all.
In the quieter moments, the brothers had tried to thank him for coming to their rescue, but Bobby had just waved them off, and told them to "Shut the hell up, ya idgits."
Little more was discussed about Hardwick, until Kimberly showed up one afternoon with an envelope filled with cash and a hug for each of them.
Sam tried to turn the money down, but Kimberly, having grown tough and uncompromising after the harsh experiences of the past five years, insisted, and stuffed the envelope into Dean's jacket pocket.
An hour later, she left the hospital with a somewhat lighter heart, anxious to start her life all over again. This time free from abuse. She would never see her saviours again after that day, but they would always be remembered, with deep gratitude.
Tonight, Bobby watched his boys sleep, Sam in bed, Dean in the chair beside it, and silently thanked whatever deity was watching that the brothers were going to be ok. Over the years, he'd learned the hard way that paying one's respects for unexpected good fortune to unknown forces ranked high in the top ten of Prudent Hunting Practices.
But he wasn't going to push their luck. Word had gotten round that the police would be arriving tomorrow in hopes that Sam was fit for interview.
The three hunters would definitely be gone by then.
"Dude, I am so up to it," Sam whined out.
Dean eyed him with frustration. "I'm not doing this again, Sam. Get in the damn chair."
"Nope. Not happening," Sam's sulky pout was beginning to get on Dean's nipples. "I can walk."
The kid was sitting on his bed, dressed in clean, faded jeans, a dark red tee-shirt and his scruffy old hoodie. There were just one or two things missing.
His bare feet swung back and forth. "Now gimme my damn socks and shoes so we can get the hell outta here."
"Nuhuh," said Dean and jiggled the wheelchair, pointedly. "Not 'til you sit your ass in this thing."
His whining was becoming more and more petulant, and Dean was half tempted to turn the little-big brat over his knee.
"No way are we letting you walk outta here on your own two feet," he announced, sternly. "You only woke up a couple days ago, your noggin's still cracked, and you can barely move with those broken ribs. Now, get in the damn chair!"
Bobby cracked open the door a fraction. It was his job to keep a strict eye on the hallway in case anyone came looking for them, but it was kind of a moot point when the squabbling going on behind him was delaying their escape.
He couldn't help shaking his head. The brothers were equal parts frustrating and entertaining when they disagreed over the little things, but if it weren't for their recent injuries he might have been tempted to bang their damn heads together.
"Hey! Quit bitchin' and get on with it!" Bobby whispered loudly over his shoulder.
He listened in amusement to the scuffling noises and low, muttered curses as Dean helped a reluctant little brother into the hated wheelchair, then wrangled clean socks and brand new sneakers on to the kid's humungous feet.
"Here," Dean shoved a blanket at him. "It's cold outside."
Sam immediately pulled it over his head.
"Thanks," he said, voice comically muffled. "At least no one can see me in this thing, now."
"Sure," said Dean, rolling his eyes again. "'Cos that's much less embarrassing."
"C'mon, you two," Bobby grumbled, good-naturedly. "Get a move on, before someone sees us. The doctors' rounds are in fifteen minutes, and they're supposed to be checking on Sam first, make sure he's well enough to make a statement for the cops."
A single eyeball peeked out from the folds of the blanket, wide and somewhat alarmed.
"You heard the man; move, for Christ's sake!" Sam whispered, that eye darting around in a panic. "We can't be here for that."
"No shit!" Dean tipped the wheelchair onto its back wheels and carefully swung it around, heading for the door. "Keep ya panties on, Victoria Secret."
He steadfastly ignored the answering "Up yours, Jerk!" and concentrated on listening for voices outside the room.
Bobby glanced at Dean, and nodded.
Two and a half pairs of eyes and a hospital blanket peered around the door, checking that the way was clear.
Once satisfied there was no one to witness their escape, they hurried out of the room and down the hallway as quickly as they could without drawing too much attention. It wasn't until they were outside the front entrance and heading for the parking lot that people started noticing the odd-looking, blanket wrapped form hunched down in the wheelchair, and when someone muttered something along the lines of "Is that a kidnapping in progress?" Dean sped up until he was almost running, Bobby lumbering along beside him.
"Where's Baby?" Dean hissed, looking around frantically and ignoring Sam's muffled snort.
"Already told ya... she's back at my place," Bobby puffed and panted. "Had her towed there… last week. She's safe… unlike us. My trucks over near the emergency access road."
"Good thinking, dude."
Bobby eyed him with disdain. "Gee thanks," he huffed out, sarcastically. "'Cos it's the first time I've done this… breakin' you two idgits outta hospital."
The blanket was pushed aside in a crackle of static, revealing Sam's bandaged head and long hair sticking up around his ears, like some kind of oversized troll doll.
"Won't be the last either," he said, then frowned up at Dean. "What are you laughing at?"
Dean shook his head and schooled his features as best he could. "Nothin', dude. Absolutely, nothin'."
Turning the wheelchair towards the truck, he winked at Bobby over his little brother's head.
Covering a smirk, Bobby opened the door to the cab. "Quit ya gassin' and get in. Let's go home."
Suddenly, the smile disappeared from Dean's face, replaced by something akin to gratitude which made Bobby feel stupidly warm inside.
"Thank you," Dean mouthed, and Bobby knew it was thanks for more than just a place to stay.
These two sure were gonna be a handful when he got them home, and he was looking forward to every damn minute of it.
Many thanks everyone. Hope you all enjoyed that and it wasn't too crap.
Sorry it too so long to post: not feeling too well this weekend.
Love and hugs,