First appeared in Blood Brothers 6 (2012), from Gold'n Lily Press
For wolfpup for her birthday

Kith and Kin
K Hanna Korossy

"So, when are you replacing this piece of crap with a real car, Jeff?"

Sam grinned as he looked from his brother to the older hunter driving the truck. He didn't have to look far, with the three of them squeezed tight into the cab of Jefferson's pickup. Dean hadn't quit grumbling the whole trip about how it wasn't fair that he was the one in the middle because Sam had "totally missed the 'little' part of 'little brother.'" But what made Sam really happy was the light tone in Dean's voice. He hadn't heard that so much since Hell, let alone since Sam had inadvertently started the Apocalypse. Dean being playful almost let him forget the threat that loomed over them and the promises Lucifer whispered in his ear at night.

"Kid, my truck's newer than that batmobile you drive," Jeff shot back, eyes glued to road. It was dark and the road was poorly lit and snow dusted, but his arms were draped casually over the wheel. Like Dean, Jefferson had been driving most of his life, hunting almost as long, and his ease in any situation showed it.

"Yeah, but I take care of my ride better. Can't even tell what color this heap was, man."

"Pretty sure it's gray," Sam put in helpfully.

"Naw, that's the dirt," Dean drawled. "It's embarrassing to be seen in this thing, dude."

"Nobody made you come," Jeff answered pleasantly. "Oh, that's right—the javelins couldn't fit in your little crackerjack toy. Too bad, kid."

Dean growled a little under his breath, throwing Sam a scathing look when Sam couldn't restrain his chortle. But he didn't have a comeback to that and all three of them knew it.

Kelpies weren't that hard to kill, considering: any sharp blade would do the trick. But because they lived in water and often just dove deep to elude hunters, getting to them was the real difficulty. Javelins worked best, as affirmed by hunter lore going back further than John Winchester's journal. Add to that the rough terrain that had to be crossed to get to the kelpie's home waters, and a pickup truck made a lot more sense than a low-lying muscle car. Not that Dean would admit that. He'd only finally agreed to rope Jeff into the hunt when Bobby had added the weight of his advice to Sam's.

Sam sobered. That was the other hard part about this. Dean's trust had been burned, badly, those last few months. Castiel had turned out to be working toward the angels' agenda, against Sam and Dean, even if he'd made the right choice in the end. Sam hadn't made the right choice, listening to a demon instead of his brother, and had broken both his brother and the world in the process. And that was before hunters had started turning on them in droves, as word got out about what Sam had done. Sam wasn't sure who Dean was warier of at first, him or Jeff.

But they'd known the older man since they were kids, and Dean had slowly let his guard down during the course of the hunt. Didn't hurt that Jeff had been the one to land the mortal blow to the kelpie, right when it was about to yank Dean into the water. As for him and Sam… They were working on it. The leshii case had brought some things out into the open, and a possessed shapeshifter capturing Dean shortly thereafter had bridged some of those open gaps. At least Dean no longer had that miserable, disappointed look in his eyes when he looked at Sam, and he was starting to ask his brother's input on things again. But trust had taken a long time to lose, and would also take time to rebuild. Sam got that, really.

He just missed the ease he'd once had with Dean, and his brother's joy.

Dean and Jeff had moved on to discussing the best route to take. Considering the road they were on probably wasn't even on the map, Sam was literally and figuratively lost, but the two consummate drivers seemed to know what they were talking about. He tuned them out after getting the jist that they still had a way to go, and leaned his head against the truck window, letting himself doze.

The sharp swerve of the truck yanked him back to full awareness.

"Wha—?"

"Hang on," Dean ordered sharply, and Sam found himself flattened back into the seat by Dean's arm, his brother's hand flat against his chest. It was the soccer-mom move that Sam teased him about sometimes in the Impala, where they had no seatbelts, but Sam was buckled in this time.

Dean, however—

The truck swerved again, the front bucking. Jeff cursed as he fought the wheel. Dean's arm was a bar of iron.

And then everything was in free fall.

Sam's head slammed against the window as they tumbled. The door next to him crumpled inward as it hit something, and there was a sharp pain in his right lower leg. Before Sam could even register it, they were flipping again, upside down and over. Now he was on top, gravity pulling him to his left. And Dean…

With a groan, the truck died, sagging down on its left side.

Sam had to take a few breaths and cough before he could get any words out. It was almost pitch black, warm blood was trickling into his eyes, and his chest felt bruised and tight. His leg was also starting to hurt in earnest. But the worst part was that he couldn't see or feel anyone else beside him.

"Dean?" He coughed again. "Dean? Jeff?" He braced his left foot against the gear shift in the middle, pushing up a little so he wasn't hanging just by the seatbelt.

"Here." A groan, human this time, and the squeak of old vinyl seats. "I'm here, kid."

"Jeff, thank God. Y'all right, man?"

"Head's a little scrambled, but y-yeah, think I'm in one piece. You?"

"Something's wrong with my leg." He had enough experience, depressingly, to know the other injuries were minor. Besides, that wasn't important right now. "Jeff, where's Dean?" he asked urgently.

"Dean?" More squeaking, and the truck rocked gently. "I know he got thrown past me, but… Dean?" More swearing, more movement.

Sam pushed harder against the gears, trying to lift himself enough to undo his belt.

"Dean?" Jeff kept trying, concern rising with each repetition. "De— Crap. Sam, he's here."

Sam's heart sped up a little more at that. Impatiently, he shoved up, wincing as his ankle protested, and snapped the buckle open. "Where?" he demanded, lowering himself gingerly toward Jeff. "How is he?"

"He's—"

A weak moan, not Jeff's, filtered into the truck.

Thank God, thank God. Dean was alive, even if he didn't sound good. But Sam could work with alive. He reached forward blindly, hand fluttering over Jeff's seat belt. He unbuckled that by feel, too, and pulled at the older man's arm. "Where is he?"

"Careful," Jeff admonished. "He's… I think he's under the truck."

Oh, God.

Okay, a continued descent was out of the question, not unless they wanted to risk landing on Dean. That meant either up or…

The front windshield was a starburst of cracks, still in place but completely shattered. Sam braced himself on the back of the seat and the dash, then raised his good leg up and kicked, hard. The window bowed but didn't give. Sam grit his teeth, ankle hot and tight, and kicked again with his good leg. Two more blows, and the window crashed out.

"Can you—?"

"On it." Jeff's silhouette, now visible through the thin moonlight and Sam's darkness-adjusted eyes, scrambled through the windshield. He moved stiffly but seemed mostly unhurt, and Sam thanked God again at least one of them was intact. He couldn't think about Dean just then, not with his brother's silence since that one thin moan.

With Jeff out, Sam followed, more cautiously. Even not putting any weight on the ankle, it throbbed enough to make him break out in a sweat, and his whole leg was burning by the time he finally eased off the front of the truck into the dirt.

Next to an outflung arm.

"Dean!"

Sam forgot the leg, dropping to his knees beside to his brother.

Jeff had been right. With no seatbelt in the middle of the bench seat, Dean had been left to tumble through the truck's cab as it rolled. Somehow, he'd ended up on the outside, but instead of being thrown clear, he was half under the truck's bed, just behind the cab. Everything from his thighs down was hidden by the bulk of the truck.

Sam cursed softly under his breath, fumbling two fingers under Dean's jaw to feel for a pulse. There, beating fast and strong. Sam gasped in relief, and kept assessing: skull, chest, arms and torso.

No obvious breaks. Some blood, but not enough to be worrisome. He was breathing okay. If he didn't have a two-ton pickup truck lying on top of him, he might have even walked away from this one.

Sam drew in an unsteady breath and returned to Dean's face. In the moonlight, he saw every feature, from the pale skin to the black blood in his hair to every freckle. "Dean," he said, gently slapping a dirt-streaked cheek. "Time to wake up, man."

Another moan as Dean's eyes scrunched together. Then they feathered open, pupils wide in the weak light.

Sam smiled, wobbly with relief. "Hey."

"Hey," Dean whispered back, then frowned. "Sam?"

"Yeah. Kinda got yourself stuck here, but Jeff and I are gonna get you out. Hang on a minute, all right?" Patting Dean's chest lightly, Sam pushed himself to his feet and faced Jeff, who was half examining the truck and half watching them. "We gotta get this off him."

Jeff's mouth pulled skeptically to the side. "I don't know we can—incline's on his side. If we can flip it any direction, it's gonna be onto him."

Sam felt himself blanch a little, which considering the shape he was in, just made him dizzy. He lightly put a hand against the top of the truck's cab. "Maybe we can rock it just enough to pull him out."

"Maybe." But Jeff still sounded skeptical. "Don't know how he's trapped under there, though. Might make things worse."

"Well, we can't leave him there," Sam argued hotly. Then remembered his phone. He dug quickly in his pocket for it, giving a sigh of relief at finding it unbroken. But there was no reception. "Jeff?" he prompted, looking up.

Jefferson was screwing up his nose at the phone in his own hand. A quick flip toward Sam showed the screen was crushed.

"Just a second." Sam crouched again, balancing quickly to not put weight on his ankle, and dug into Dean's pocket.

"What're—?"

"Just borrowing your phone, man. Gimme a second and I'll fill you in, all right?"

"'Better," Dean mumbled. He didn't look concussed, but exhaustion and pain dragged at his face.

Sam turned the phone on. Nothing. His shoulders fell.

"Mountains," Jeff said softly. "Won't get reception until you get out of the valley."

Sam looked up at the man, determination tightening his mouth. "We gotta get him out, Jeff."

The hunter hesitated, then nodded.

Sam turned back to Dean, who was trying to focus on him. "Hey. Jeff and I are gonna try to get you free. We'll try to take it easy, but it's gonna hurt."

Dean blinked slowly. "Truck rolled on me, di'n't it?"

Sam huffed. "Yeah, pretty much."

"Y'all right?" Dean was studying him again.

Sam felt his eyes unexpectedly well at the question. Not that he hadn't heard it a million times before, half of those when Dean was battered worse than he was. But with all their recent history, it was freshly humbling to have the guy he'd turned his back on worrying about him. "I'm all right," he promised quietly. "Messed up my ankle, but that's it."

"Stay off't," Dean tiredly advised, eyes sliding shut. They opened again before Sam had the chance to tell him not to go to sleep, but it was an obvious effort.

Sam picked up each of Dean's hands and tucked them carefully into his jacket pockets for warmth, then looked up at Jeff. "Let's do it."

A moment's debate decided the best place for them to try from: Jeff wedging himself against the front left edge of the truck cab, and Sam at the rear left, Dean right behind him. Close enough to reach down and pull, too, if they lifted the truck high enough. Sam braced himself as best he could with one good leg, then looked over the cab at Jeff and nodded. On three—the real three, not the fake-outs he and Dean used—they both put their backs into it.

Dean cried out, arching up from the ground.

Sam let the truck go as if it had become red-hot, then quickly steadied it as it rocked back a little. The second he was sure it was stable again, he was back on the ground.

Dean was gasping, head rolling a little against the gravel underneath it. "That…sucked."

Sam quickly rubbed his brother's involuntary tears of pain away with the palm of one hand, then pressed gently against Dean's forehead. "Hey, easy. Try not to move, okay?"

"Not a…problem," Dean ground out, swallowing hard.

Jeff had knelt at Dean's other side, and his dark eyes met Sam's. "We need help, kid."

"I know." Nodding, Dean's clammy skin under his hand, Sam bent his head. "Cas, we could really use you here," he whispered. "Please. Dean needs help."

"You…praying?" Jeff asked hesitantly.

Dean breathed a laugh between them.

"No, I'm just…" Sam looked around, hoping to see the angel appear. Even if Cas couldn't heal anymore, he could still get Dean out of there. But it was dark and still around them, stray falling snowflakes the only movement. Sam shook his head. "Nothing. How far are we from the next town?" He looked back at Jeff.

The older man shrugged. "Town? Probably another sixty miles or so. But should be a gas station a lot closer, and reception a few miles down. I could hike it easy."

Sam chewed his lip. He wanted to go get help for Dean, badly. But his ankle wouldn't let him go far, and then there was the matter of leaving Dean, trapped and hurt and vulnerable. And while Dean wasn't always happy for his company those days, Sam didn't think he could bear the thought of leaving his injured brother to someone else. "You sure?" he asked quietly, fully aware they didn't have many more options. The chances of someone coming by on that road anytime soon were slim, and Dean needed help urgently.

"You got a bum leg, and Dean's not going anywhere. You got a better idea?" Jeff asked wryly, then reached over to drop a hand on Sam's shoulder. "I'll be fine. Be back with the cavalry before you know it."

"No horses," Dean mumbled from the ground. "Don' like horses."

Sam winced; was Dean already slipping into delirium? But then he saw his brother's twisted grin.

"No horses, got it," Jeff said, and also clapped him on the shoulder, lightly. "Let me just get some stuff out of the truck for you two and I'll get going."

The cold was just starting to register. The light snow should've given him a clue, but Sam had had other things to worry about. The truth was, however, that the temperature had fallen since their mid-afternoon hunt, and they were outside and injured. Hypothermia was as real a threat as the unknown damage to Dean. Sam considered a fire, then discarded the idea just as fast as he realized he could smell gas. They'd just have to bundle up and wait out Jeff's return.

Hunters were grown-up boy scouts, always prepared, and Jeff was no exception. He returned with a folded tarp, several blankets, a thermos, and a flashlight. "I'm gonna rig this up over you two, trap some of the warmth, but you're gonna have to get cozy to conserve body heat." Jeff unfurled the tarp and started fixing it to the top corners of the truck's bed.

Sam agreed, shimmying closer in to Dean and the truck. His brother's upper body was twisted half to the side, and with Sam lying awkwardly on his own side, his injured ankle out at an angle, he was able to tuck himself against his brother, head to waist. He folded his legs up to his chest. It worked best with his back to Dean's chest and side, but considering they were about to cuddle up, Sam wasn't sorry they weren't face to face. As it was, he felt his cheeks redden a little as he curled up to Dean like he had as a kid after a bad dream.

"We're spooning, aren't we?" Dean mumbled from behind him.

"Just a little," Sam said. He watched as Jeff somehow got the tarp pinned from the truck bed to the ground, forming a neat little tent.

"Awesome," Dean sighed. "Jus' don't get any ideas."

"Don't flatter yourself," Sam shot back.

"Right. You only go for demons these days."

Sam flinched.

The tarp lifted behind them and Jeff stuck his head in, thrusting a pile of blankets at Sam. "You need any help with these?"

"No, I got it," he said quietly, taking them and starting to unfold the first one.

"Okay. Got water, a flashlight, the med kit, and some flares here. I'd start you a fire but—"

"Gas. I know."

"Right." Jeff gave him a hard look. "You sure you're okay, Sam?"

"I'm fine." He put weight behind the words. What was wrong with him was nothing Jeff could help with.

"Hmm. There's some coffee left in the thermos, not too warm but might help you stay awake. You can't go to sleep, you know, either of you."

"I know. We'll be fine, Jeff."

"Okay. I'm taking your phone, all right?" Jeff held it up. Sam didn't even remember giving it to him. "Keep Dean's just in case." He stared hard into Sam's eyes. "I'm coming back in a few hours, boys. I'm expecting you both to be here."

"Hey, Jeff." That was Dean, sounding husky and grim.

"Yeah, kid." Jeff leaned in low to hear him.

"Guess…you'll have t'get a new ride now."

Jeff cracked up. "Wanna bet?" He squeezed Dean's shoulder and gave Sam a last look. "Stay warm, you two." Then the tarp flap came down and was tucked in, sealing them in their little world.

Sam finished opening up the blankets and laying them over Dean, tucking them in on his far side. He lay down again and maneuvered himself in under the trailing end of the blankets on Dean's right, careful when he pressed up against his brother's injured body. "You wanna play I Spy?" he asked with fake levity.

"Not really." Dean coughed. "S'pretty warm. Hey, we should get some more blankets for the car."

"Yeah, sounds good."

"'Least it wasn't my baby this time," Dean mused.

Sam could hear the smile in his voice, and it made him smile a little, too. "Yeah." He paused. "How long do you think it's gonna take Jeff?"

Dean was quiet a moment, hopefully doing the math instead of trying to cushion the blow. "Three hours, maybe? He's…pretty fast for an old guy."

"He's younger than Bobby," Sam countered.

"Not saying much," Dean muttered.

More quiet, not so uncomfortable this time. "He hit the kelpie pretty good," Sam ventured.

"Yeah. Need'a practice throwing."

"Javelin's a little different from a knife."

He could feel Dean shrug. "Same principle." A few beats. "Maybe I could make…c'llapsible one, keep it in'a trunk."

Sam smiled into the dark at that. "Yeah, I bet you could." He felt Dean shift behind him and suck in a breath. "Y'all right, man?"

"Yeah, just… Leg hurts. S'okay."

"Not having…trouble breathing or anything, right?"

"No, Sam, I'm not having a panic attack."

Chastened, he shut up. He hadn't wanted to raise the issue of Dean's claustrophobia, but being pinned under a truck seemed a prime trigger for one. Sometimes Sam forgot, though, that it wasn't the tight spaces or being trapped that was what really got to Dean, but being alone and helpless. He'd never had a full-on attack with Sam okay and beside him.

Sam hummed for a while. Then recited herbs in a whisper, followed by every exorcism he knew. Finally, weary, Sam let himself go silent, just listening to Dean breathe, making sure he stayed awake.

When Dean finally spoke into the chilly darkness, Sam jolted in surprise. "Hey, Sam?"

"Yeah?"

"Shouldn't've said that before, 'm sorry."

Sam frowned. "Said what?"

"'Bout you an' Ruby."

If anything, his heart sank a little more at the words. "No, you're right. I deserved it."

There was a scrape of movement. He was just about to ask if Dean needed help with something, when he felt his brother poke the back of his shoulder. "No. You didn't." A pause, while Sam didn't breathe. "I shouldn't've left you 'lone. If I'd done my job right…none o' this would've happened—you gettin' killed at Cold Oak, the deal, me going to Hell. That demonic bitch…would've never been able to sink her claws in you."

Sam sputtered a laugh. "Dude, only you would blame yourself for leaving me alone while you went to Hell, to save my life."

"Tell me you're not s-sorry I brought you back."

Sam opened his mouth, closed it again.

"Yeah, 's what I thought." Dean made a soft sound. "But you know what? 'M sorry I left you, but…I'm not s-sorry about…makin' the deal."

He was shivering, and Sam pressed back a little more tightly to him, pulling the blankets closer in around them. He had to swallow a few times before he answered, "You sure about that, man?"

Dean was silent a long moment.

Sam felt himself start to shrink.

"You know—" Dean had just begun when there was a rustle outside.

"Shh," Sam ordered softly and dug himself out of the blankets. Jeff had left him a gun, too, and Sam palmed it, lifting the tarp just enough to see outside.

It seemed almost bright in the moonlight. There was a dusting of snow covering their tracks now on the road a dozen feet away. As Sam's eyes scanned the quiet landscape, a bush shook again, and a raccoon looked out at him, assessing Sam as seriously as Sam was him. Then it bounded off into the darkness of the woods.

Sam shook his head and nestled back into the limited trapped warmth of the tarp. "Raccoon," he answered Dean's unspoken curiosity. "You're not hungry, are you?" he joked lamely.

"We hit the deer?" Dean asked.

Sam frowned. It only just occurred to him that he'd never asked Jeff why he'd run off the road. "I didn't see it, but there's no carcass out there. That's why we crashed?" He turned and inched back against Dean's side again.

He could feel his brother's slight nod against his back. "Jumped out in the road in front of us."

"Oh. Guess not." God, he was tired. He wanted nothing more than to go to sleep, forget the accident, the cold…the past two years.

Dean, however, wasn't done. "Was gonna say…when you left for school? I almost w-went with you."

He'd heard this story before, that Dean had started out after him, only to be called back to a hunt John needed him for. "I know," Sam murmured.

"I stayed with Dad 'cause…he needed me. You didn't. But…I'd'a chosen you, S-sam. I'd always choose you."

He was shaking. Sam opted to focus on that for the moment, turning back to Dean. His brother was too pale, but fumbling for his pulse while Dean halfheartedly pulled away confirmed his blood pressure was still okay. Either the truck hadn't damaged his lower body, or the weight of the truck was providing the pressure to keep him stable. For the moment, Sam would take good news where he could find it, but he had to keep Dean warm. He turned around completely, worming himself chest-to-chest with his brother, wrapping an arm around him, knees butting up against the truck. Sam tucked his head in under Dean's chin, and after a slight hesitation, he felt Dean roll into him, relaxing a little into his warmth.

"That a turn-on for you, honey?"

Sam snorted. "Shut up, dude. You're cold."

Dean grumbled something but didn't wriggle away.

Sam licked his lips. "I was scared to leave. You and Dad, you were all I knew. I just…I had to find myself, Dean, you know? It wasn't about leaving you."

Dean's breathing was congested in the quiet, his chest hitching under Sam's cheek with every inhalation.

"I barely even remember those first few weeks. Or…or when you died." Sam blinked a few times. One thing their dad had never taught them was how to lose someone. "I was really lonely," he said in a small voice.

"Sammy…" Dean whispered. He pulled in a ragged breath. "Just…me too, y'know?"

Sam nodded. He understood, and knew. He always had.

They breathed together in the silence, Sam sniffing sometimes as his nose ran, Dean wheezing when he tried to move and couldn't. He never made a sound, but grew increasingly restless as time stretched on with no release in sight.

"Easy, Dean," Sam whispered sometimes. "He'll be here soon, gonna get you out and someplace warm."

"Sam." Dean's back bowed, his hand scraping uselessly against the twisted metal that held him in place. "S-sam, don't…don't leave."

He was getting colder. Sam wasn't sure if it was shock setting in or just the weather, but this wasn't good. Dean's heartbeat was more sluggish, too, and his words were starting so slur. Jeff needed to get back, fast.

All Sam could do, though, he did. He threaded a blanket between Dean and the ground, and wrapped it tightly around him. Folded arms and legs around him so he could share every inch possible of body heat. Offered him the last of the coffee, and turned the flashlight on for small breaks of light. And then just held him and promised him he wasn't going anywhere, not again, not if he could help it.

Dean went unresponsive shortly before dawn.

Sam's tears had just begun when he heard the sound of the arriving trucks.

00000

"Sam!"

The bark right by his ear sliced through the layers of sleep. Sam shot up in his chair, blinking fast, and snapped, "Yes, sir!"

Two sets of chuckles brought him fully awake.

Sam glared, first at his brother, then the new arrival. "Dude, I was sleeping."

"I know," Dean said, relaxing back onto the half-raised hospital bed. He was still grinning, but it was with such quiet fondness, Sam couldn't be disgruntled with him.

He turned instead to scowl at Jefferson standing by the door. "What?"

Jeff raised his hands in surrender. "Hey, just stopped in to see how you cripples are doing, not to get my head bit off."

Sam breathed out, running a hand through hair that felt matted and wild. Great, no wonder the nurses had been smiling at him. He glanced at Dean, who was still pale but awake and looking comfortable, then back at Jeff. Considering the older man had saved Dean's life, Sam couldn't stay annoyed with him, either. "He's okay. Charming the nurses and whining about getting out already."

"Dude, I don't whine."

"Shut up, you so do." It was easier to snark than to think about how scared he'd been. While the truck had miraculously not broken any bones, it had masked a deep cut in Dean's thigh that had been sluggishly hemorrhaging the whole time they'd waited for Jeff's return. He'd nearly bled out, saved only by, ironically, the cold and the pressure of the truck's frame on the injury. After they'd reached the hospital the morning before, there'd been a few stressful hours while the staff worked to get Dean's blood pressure and temperature up and his readings stabilized. But once they did, the rest was actually pretty easy to treat: bruised ribs, two broken fingers, and a small tear in his spleen that healed on its own. They were letting him go home in another day, no break-out necessary.

Dean glowered, and Sam just smiled back.

Jeff cleared his throat. "And how 'bout you?" He nodded at Sam's wrapped foot, propped up on the end of Dean's bed.

"Just a sprain," Sam shook his head. "Didn't even break it."

"It's turning purple and we're callin' him Bigfoot," Dean added helpfully.

Sam's turn to glower at Dean.

Dean ignored him, shifting his attention to Jeff. "How's the bucket of bolts?"

Jeff frowned, hitching himself up onto the opposite end of Dean's bed from Sam's foot. "She's battered but I think she's gonna pull through—needs a new windshield and she's got some pretty big dents, but the engine's fine."

"Too bad," Dean deadpanned. "Thought you'd at least get a real set of wheels out of the mess."

"Naw." Jeff shook his head. "They build 'em solid."

"Yeah," Dean said wryly. "Got that, man."

Jeff made a face. "I didn't mean—"

"No, it's cool. Could've been a lot worse. Sam could've landed on me."

Sam rolled his eyes, then looked pointedly away, at Jeff. "I didn't really get a chance to thank you before, but thanks. The doctor said if you'd come any later—"

Jeff shook his head. "Hey, it's my driving that got us there in the first place, so let's just call it square, huh?"

Sam exchanged a look with Dean, then nodded his agreement. In his book, he still owed Jeff big time, but hunters had a way of making things up to each other.

"So." Jeff stood, thumping Dean's good leg lightly. "If you guys are okay, think I'm gonna hit the road. Heard about a 'cabra a few states over."

Dean raised an eyebrow. "Assuming you can find a ride."

Oh. Yeah, he'd kinda forgotten to tell Dean that part. Sam cleared his throat. "You know what they say about assuming, dude."

"It makes an ass out of you and Ming?" Dean said glibly, then narrowed his eyes. "What aren't you tellin' me, Sam?"

Sam licked his lips. "I, uh, kinda loaned the car to Jeff. Went and got it last night."

Dean's mouth almost dropped open. In another circumstance, it would've been funny. "What? Dude, did you see what he did to his truck? And I use that term loosely."

"Yeah," Sam said dryly. "I saw it pretty close up, Dean. But that wasn't Jeff's fault. And he's gonna bring it back by the time you can drive."

Jefferson smiled agreeably.

Dean was still grimacing. "I didn't say yes."

"It's my car—you willed it to me, remember?" Sam said without missing a beat.

"That was when I was dead, Sam. Which is the only way I'd let Bo Duke here drive my car!"

"Pretty sure Luke was the one with the dark hair," Jeff pointed out.

"You would know," Dean growled. "Sam—"

"He saved your life, Dean," Sam said quietly. "And he's our friend. We haven't got a lot left, man."

Dean huffed but deflated. He couldn't argue that and Sam knew it. He finally sighed his capitulation and pointed at Jeff. "Don't push her above seventy. Fill her up when she gets down to a quarter tank, and check her oil when you get there. And stay on the back roads, just in case. Five-oh thinks we're dead, but I'm not taking any chances."

Jeff laughed. "I'll take care of her like she was my own."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Dean grumbled.

Jeff didn't lose his grin. "Keep him out of trouble, kid," he said to Sam, then gave Dean a quick half-salute and left.

Dean folded back into the pillow, looking pale and worn.

"Hey," Sam frowned, "you okay? You want me to call the nurse?"

"No, Sam, I don't need the nurse," Dean said wearily. "What I need is my car."

"You're not driving for a while, bro. Might as well get comfortable." Sam hesitated. "I'm sorry, man, I should've asked you first. But Jeff needed a car, and I knew we'd be stuck here for a while…"

"No, it's fine." Dean's head rolled on the pillow. "You're right, I trust him." He turned to Sam. "I trust you, too, you know."

Sam swallowed, flicking a loose thread in Dean's blanket. "You sure about that? I've made some pretty spectacular bad calls lately, Dean."

"Yeah, well. I didn't exactly make things easy for you."

The nurse came in, the pretty brunette from before with the French-Canadian accent. Sam watched with amusement as Dean put the moves on her in half-decent French, earning a giggle and a look that said maybe later. Dean settled back with a satisfied sigh as she bustled back out.

"French, huh?" Sam said wryly. "The other week you couldn't even figure out what that Spanish housekeeper was saying."

"Select vocabulary, dude. I can say, 'give me a beer' and 'I want to go back to your place and—'"

"Dean!"

"—in ten different languages," Dean finished with a grin. "Not including Latin."

Sam shook his head, picking at the thread in silence. Pulled at it a little, then hastily smoothed the blanket down when it bunched up around the thread. He took a breath and peered up through his mussed hair. "So…truce?"

"We weren't at war, dude." Dean sobered as he got a look at Sam's face. "We're good, Sammy," he said with compassion. A beat. "But I'm not hugging you or anything."

The laugh that bubbled up in him surprised Sam. "Fair enough." He sat back, shifting his foot more comfortably.

Sam kept watch as his brother dozed and, for the moment, everything was good.

The End