Every step away from his brother felt like torture. Like he was dragging his feet through mud, but still, Dean persevered, if only to get these innocent people out of here. Because it’s what Sam would have wanted. It’s what they were supposed to do.
Dean wouldn’t have given a damn of what he had to do if it weren’t for Sam wanting him to do this.
Feeling his throat choke up, Dean inhaled sharply, and increased his pace. Behind him, he can hear Corbin and Michelle speaking in soft tones, but he doesn’t bother listening to them. Instead, he pulls out his phone, trying to get a signal, but only failing. Suppressing a growl of frustration, Dean put away his phone, just as they reached a road.
Getting them into a car was something he hadn’t been expecting to do easily, what with the whole Winchester Luck. But of course, said Winchester Luck acted up when Dean tried to get back to his brother, only to find himself tased in the back.
As Dean falls into a pool of blackness, mind distantly cursing the sheriff, the more louder thought at the forefront of his mind is the worry for his brother’s… body still stranded somewhere in the woods, all because Dean couldn’t – didn’t – save him.
Sam’s eyes snapped open, suddenly awake with unease gathering in the back of his mind. It was quiet around him.
Groaning quietly and blinking furiously to try and get the black spots to go away, Sam looked around. He was still in the cabin where…
Sam bolted upright, a bright agony flaring through his gut. His hands desperately grasped at his wound, clutching the tatters of his shirt around the area while his mind was racing a mile a minute.
Where Corbin choked him.
“Dean?” Sam asked, the question little more than a desperate exhale laden with pain. “Dean!” Sam tried to shout again, voice hoarse.
The only response to his desperate question was silence.
Sam let his head fall back, hopelessness catching in his throat. His starting sifting through possibilities of what could have happened when he was out.
If Dean and the others weren’t here, then Dean must have believed him to be dead. There was no other reason Sam would have been left, alone, hurt, and with little to no protection.
Horror gathered in his mind. He very clearly remembered the fallout from the first time he died. And the time after that. And less than a month ago when Dean almost…
Sam pushed himself up, first to his knees, then to unsteady feet, terror for his brother giving him the strength to ignore the agony flaring through his entire body.
He lurched towards the door, his only thought to get to Dean before he does something unthinkably stupid .
The faint sound of a vehicle approaching sparked a hopeful light in his chest, but it was quickly blown out by the sight of truck that was obviously not the Impala. Sam ducked his head and tried to breathe, thinking frantically of how to get out of the situation.
Deep breaths, Winchester. Sam thought to himself. You gotta get out of this to get to Dean . His heart squeezed in terror, but he pushed it down.
First, he had to get somewhere a lot more defensible. Up here, where they’d all come in at once, with him injured… he wouldn’t stand a chance.
He lumbered to the stairs top the basement and almost decided to take death instead of figuring a way down those steps.
But he remembered Dean, most likely assuming him to be dead, and he gritted his teeth, and made his way down step by painful step. He had almost made his way down all the steps when his foot caught on a step and he wasn’t strong enough to keep himself from remaining upright. Sam tumbled down the stairs, landing heavily on his side.
He couldn’t keep the cry of pain in as red hot agony flared through his entire body. His hands desperately grabbed at his stomach, and found that the wound had reopened, blood flowing quickly again.
His head dropped back against the floor, despair settling in his chest.
He heard the door open above him. The werewolves were here.
When he came to, Dean was beyond infuriated when he realized he was in a hospital, of all places. On a gurney, no less. As if he was the one who needed medical treatment, when it was his brother who–
His throat choking up at the thought, Dean forced his mind to focus on the present. Looking around, the small action itself forced a groan out of Dean before he could stop himself, and immediately, a voice resounded nearby.
“Don’t try to move if you can help it. You got a couple broken ribs I haven’t tended to yet. That…” A female voice was soon followed by the appearance of a blonde head popping up in Dean’s vision, and he just barely caught glimpse of a white coat before the woman was moving again. “And what is probably…” Light erupted in Dean’s vision, as he tensed. “A nasty concussion.”
Dean tried to sit up, because seriously lady, personal space? Only to let out a groan again as he collapsed, pain rendering him useless for the time being.
“Hey, do us both a favor,” The woman, most likely the doctor, said, making sure Dean remained horizontal. “Get some rest.”
There were a thousand things Dean could have responded with at that moment, but as the threat of throwing up was greater, all Dean could manage was a terse, “Mm.”
Sam heaved himself up as quickly as he could without injuring himself further. He just managed to stand up when he heard footsteps above him. He quickly grabbed the small, hidden knife from his boot and brandished the small knife.
He looked around, trying to find a place to hide. His eyes landed on an obvious hiding spot and a half thought out plan started to form. He spun around, ignoring the sharp throbbing in his side, searching for a second, less obvious place.
He staggered over to the opposite corner, hands acting as an ineffectual bandage around his gunshot wound, still gushing blood. Each step he had to fight the labored breaths that threatened to become cries of pain but he couldn’t, he couldn’t say a word, not a sound, because the only way out of this one was through…
And he had to go through because Dean was there, and he had to get there.
So Sam let the fear, the desperation born from uncertainty fill him and give him strength. The werewolf went down the stairs and straight into the trap, to Sam’s breathless pleasure.
A swift knife through the back and throat took care of the werewolf, but Sam couldn’t even feel the victory of the kill because less than a second after he heard a second set of footsteps above him.
Sam stumbled to the door and did a shit job of trying to hide himself, but he was too exhausted and in pain to care. The woman werewolf stalked through the door and Sam thanked his lucky stars and killed her from behind.
He let out a breath and looked up at the stairs. Then checked his stomach. Some of the bleeding had stopped, but there was still red flowing sluggishly from the wound.
He sucked in a shallow breath and began the painful trip up the stairs.
The first few were relatively easy.
The fourth was enough to get his stomach rolling. Sam swallowed hard, knowing that if he threw up now the pain would be unbearable.
The fifth reminded him of hell. With Lucifer.
And the only reason he got up the sixth was imagining Dean’s mindset right then, desperation fueling every step.
Gasping, Sam looked up and… He was only halfway up the stairs.
He put his head down and did it all over again, not bothering to keep his pained grunts and whines in as he used all his strength to keep going.
It was only after what felt like an eternity that Sam finally reached the top of the stairs. Using the wall as leverage, he managed to get to the door out of the cabin.
He paused, breathing rough, closing his eyes and mentally preparing himself to get across to the truck without a wall to help.
He allowed himself five seconds before starting his trek.
He only fell down once.
Sam reached the drivers side of the truck and grabbed the handle. He pulled, white hot pain lancing down his side. Sam fell to his knees, hitting the soft mud hard, his hand wrenched from the handle.
Once he got his breathing under control, he levered himself back up, glaring at the handle as if it was at fault. He wedged his shoulder into the door, and tried to pull without actually stretching his side.
With a painful grunt, he wrenched the door open and fell inside. With the key he rummaged from the woman’s body, he started up the truck and sent a quick thanks to no one in particular that he had made it out of that one alive.
Sam started driving the truck, blinking his eyes furiously in the hopes that it would make the black spots smaller.
He had to take a second to remember exactly where the Impala was. He swallowed back the nausea in his throat, fighting to stay conscious.
What could have been five seconds or five hours, Sam saw the Impala and almost cried in happiness.
Sam all but fell out of the truck and into the dirt. Sam spit saliva mixed with blood into the dirt before standing up, legs unsteady beneath him. He stumbled his way over to the only home he and Dean had ever had, a hand running along the side and patting it for good measure.
He could understand why Dean loved her so much.
He paused, his heart caught his throat.
If the Impala was here, where was Dean?
Hands shaking in terror, Sam fumbled for his phone and barely noticed that he had service before typing in Dean’s number.
Sam almost started crying.
This time when Dean got up, ready to get a move, it wasn’t the doctor that was standing in front of him.
It was Michelle.
“Hi.” She smiled at him, but he couldn’t bring himself to return the gesture.
“Hey.” Resigning himself to the fact that he probably wasn’t going to get up anytime soon, he settled back into his cot.
Michelle hesitantly glanced around the area he was warded into. “Can…” She paused, visibly uncertain. “Can I…” Deciding to grant her mercy, Dean acquiesced.
The small smile quirking the edge of her lips was shaky at best, but she moved in anyway.
“I… I just wanted to see how you were doing. And to tell you th–” She stopped. Her voice had already been shaking, so Dean stayed silent, letting her take her time. “I’m sorry,” She eventually said. “You saved our lives and… well, my mom used to say, um…” She looked down, her eyes flickering around the room before slowly setting back on Dean. “I didn’t believe her then, but I… I think do now.”
Dean couldn’t help the small quirking of his lips at that, the action absolutely dry and without any real humor.
“She used to say…” Michelle went on slowly. “Death… it’s not the end.”
Absently nodding, Dean looked at Michelle. A moment passed, and then the words sunk in.
It wasn’t the end.
An idea formed. A stupid, idiotic plan, one that Sam would certainly crucify him for, but he was Dean friggin’ Winchester, and he thrived on those kind of plans.
Standing up quickly, he was momentarily overtaken by a headrush and sharp pain in his chest, Dean started to run even before the spots faded from his eyes. Dimly, he was aware of Michelle running behind him, following him as she called out to him, worry evident in her tone.
It wasn’t until the sight of display cabinets had Dean veering into a room that he finally deigned to answer her. “I, uh…” And then got distracted anyway. He wasn’t aware of his voice trailing off, however, until Michelle prompted him.
“What are you doing?” Michelle asked, a quiet waver in her voice.
Not bothering to look away, Dean answered. “I need to… I need to talk to a… well,” Dean raised his eyebrows at himself. “I wouldn’t call it a friend, more like a…” And if Billie was already here, he had a feeling she would knock him out just for the sake of it. “Scary, crazy death machine.” He wasn’t wrong. “Werewolves aren’t the only monsters out there,” He finished, just as he whirled around. There wasn’t anyway he was going to break open the cabinet anytime soon, not if he tried to continue to grope at it uselessly.
Grabbing the nearest solid object, he registered it was an oxygen tank just as he slammed it on the lock. Not too long after, it and the lock was clattering on the ground, letting Dean pull the cabinet open.
“How exactly do you talk to an evil, scary death machine?” Michelle’s demure voice had him pausing, but not for long. That didn’t stop him from sending out a mental apology, but Dean didn’t have the friggin’ time to sugarcoat his words right now.
“Easy. I die.”
Dean sighed, knowing he should tell Michelle what he was doing, but not really having the energy or time to do so.
“Look, if you don’t… If you want to leave, I get it.” He stopped, finally taking the time to meet Michelle’s eyes, his demeanor firm and steady. “But if you want to help me…” He searched her eyes. “I’m looking for pretty much anything with “barbital” in the name.”
Her eyes hardened, empathy, if not understanding flashing in her eyes. Seconds after Dean turned around and starting rifling through the drugs, he felt her next to him, doing the same.
“Yeah,” she softly muttered, most likely talking to herself. And then she raised her voice. “This will work?”
Dean clenched his jaw. “It has to.”
Grabbing a couple of bottles, he moved over to the table behind them, spilling its contents and emptying the bottles completely. Scooping them into his palm, he turned around, taking a moment to slow down his movements as he looked at Michelle.
“Okay.” He exhaled. “After I do this, go get the doc and tell her to, um… Tell her to bring me back, if she can.” Swallowing, he nodded, more to himself than Michelle at that point. “If not…” He tried for a soft smile at her, understanding nonetheless written on his face. “No hard feelings, okay?”
Michelle abruptly surged forward, grabbing onto Dean’s hand. “You don’t have to do this,” She tried to beseech.
But Dean was beyond hearing her, beyond saving at this point.
He had always been ready to damn his soul if only it meant that Sam could be saved.
“Yeah, I do.”
Dean threw the pills into his mouth, and swallowed.
A moment passed.
A clock ticked.
An ambulance went off in the distance.
“How do you feel?” Michelle asked, bringing Dean’s attention back to her.
But the vision of her blurred, doubling, before slowly becoming clear again.
Only to blur again.
It all went fuzzy for a moment before he found himself standing a few feet away, staring at his own body lying on the floor in front of him.
Watching his own body writhe on the floor… It probably should have been a lot more disorienting. As it was, all Dean could feel was severely frustrated as he watched the doctor’s feeble attempts to revive him, even with the assistance of two other people.
One of which, Dean noted with distaste, was the sheriff that had tased him and gotten him into the hospital – and miles away from his brother – in the first place.
Put me on my back,” Dean grumbled, taking a step forward in annoyance at their continuous fumbling. “It’s easier to find a vein.”
And though he knew that by all means they couldn’t hear him, somehow, the doc must have come to her senses, as she suddenly halted all flurry of movements. “No.” She announced, decisively. “Roll him over.”
Michelle immediately rushed forward. “I got him.” Dean finally started to let his muscles relax as they get him into position. Despite the fact that he could see his body choking, a clear sign that they really needed to hurry up, Dean almost leaned back a bit as he watched Michelle and the Sheriff try to hold him down.
The doctor picked up an injection, and that was when the worry washed over him in large waves.
Billie wasn’t here, and they were about to revive him–
The scene froze, the needle only inches away from Dean’s skin.
He turned around, just in time to see the reaper finally make her appearance.
“Well, it took you long enough,” Dean said, and though he was irked, the worry he could still feel within him didn’t dissipate. Although, it was now swirling around him for a different reason.
“Dean Winchester,” Billie said, but there wasn’t any traces of warmth in her greeting.
Dean didn’t bother to acknowledge that. “What’s with the freeze-frame?” He asked, gesturing with his head to the scene in front of them.
“Just savoring this.” Billie said, coming to stand beside him. Facing forward, she tucked her hands into her pocket, looking completely at ease. “Though I have to say, of all the ways I thought you’d go… heart attack, some fang, choking on a burger while binge-watching ‘Charles in Charge…’” She listed out.
“Well, that was peak Baio,” Dean relented.
Billie rolled her eyes, pointedly inhaling deeply. “Point is, never took you for the suicide type.” Dean swallowed. His jaw clenching, he forced himself not to flinch at the word. “Doesn’t fit your whole martyr thing. So…” She turned to face Dean. “‘Sup?”
Taking a deep breath himself, he evaded her question. “We need to talk about Sam.” And really, that was the crux of it all. And now that Billie was here in person – or, well. As much as a person a reaper could be – Dean wasn’t going to let a few measly questions about him that didn’t even matter to get into his way.
Billie raised her eyebrows. “What about Sam?”
Dean forced himself to remain calm. No use getting in an argument with a reaper out of all beings, especially just when he needed a favor from said reaper. “I need him back.” He pushed out.
If possible, Billie’s eyebrows raised higher, and seriously, he knew he needed to play suck up, but her play of innocence was starting to get to Dean.
And that was apparently the extent of Dean’s patience. “Stop playing,” he snapped. “Look, you’ve got him, I need him,” Dean summed up. “Let’s make a deal.” He said shortly, staring Billie down. Which was why he felt the surprise burst within him when he immediately noticed Billie’s swift look of interest, turning to walk away.
“Pass.” She said, the absolute boredom in her voice reflected in her body language.
Dean couldn’t help but exclaim at that point, because a part of him was getting desperate. Billie was his last hope, only hope, and if she left him stranded… then Dean didn’t know what he would do.
That was a lie, Dean realized, as he glanced at the scene depicting a doctor about to try and save a man’s life.
A man who was suddenly unsure about his will to live.
Because there was no way Dean could walk on an earth that didn’t have Sam in it.
“Really?” He asked, his voice halting Billie in her tracks – for now, Dean was all too aware of. “Just like that?” He questioned.
“Just like that.” Billie shot back, but she did turn to look back at him at the very least.
“You know, the Darkness is out there.” Dean stated, and though he was starting to ramble at this point, anything to get Billie to see his point, he knew he wasn’t going to let Billie walk out of here – not without putting up as much of a fight a Winchester could pit against a reaper. Whilst being a spirit. “And the world is gonna burn. And once she gets started, that’s the end of everything, including you.” And there, that had to get Billie to reconsider his offer for a deal… right? “Now, Sam’s the only one who can stop it.” Dean pitched, ignoring how much he sounded like the desperate salesperson he essentially was at that moment.
Billie hummed, actually looking thoughtful, and for a second, Dean allowed himself to hope.
“How’s that?” Billie asked, and just like that, the hope was gone, as Dean was left floundering for words.
Billie nodded, her eyes sharp. “That’s what I thought. It’s cute though,” She said with a small shrug. “You pretending you’re trying to save Sam for the greater good, when we both know you’re doing it for you,” She said, circling Dean. Dean stayed still, his throat rapidly working as he felt each word coming out of Billie’s mouth hitting him hard and true. “You can’t lose him. But even if Sammy could win the title bout… the answer would still be ‘no.’” She finished, and Dean felt every ounce of hope and goodwill within him sink like a heavy stone deep below his guts. “The answer will always be ‘no.’ Game’s over, Dean. No more second chances. No more extra lives,” Billie finished circling him, coming to stand right in front of him. “Time to say bye-bye to Luigi, Mario.”
The despair and desperation flooding through Dean almost had his knees buckling, and he didn’t – couldn’t – stop the sadness from overwhelming every cell in his body, pouring outwards and showing on his face, in the weariness of his body that had him slowly sagging anyway.
“I’m asking you,” Dean resorted, making one last attempt. “I’m begging you, please.” He looked Billie right into the eye as he pleaded, his voice cracking, tears welling up in his eyes. He did nothing to stop it or conceal it. God knew he was too tired, too close to the end of his rope to bother to. “Bring him back. Bring him back,” Dean grit his teeth, strengthening his resolve, his spine straightening by an increment. “And take me instead.”
“I’m not here to bargain with you, kid.” Billie said, and even as he could see the merciless resolve, knew she wasn’t going to let relent at this point, Dean could already feel himself starting to fade. In more ways than one. “I’m here to reap you.” She said, essentially confirming the dark thought swirling within his mind.
Guess this was it then.
God, Sam was going to be so disappointed when–
“And the kicker is… Sam’s not dead.”
And like lightning had struck, Dean’s head snapped back to attention. He couldn’t breathe, disbelief leaving a gaping hole within him, making Dean wonder if he heard Billie correctly, because there couldn’t have been anyway, not when he’d seen Sam’s body…
“But you are.” And even the triumphant look on her face wasn’t enough to jolt Dean back enough to feel properly angered at her for holding that precious information back. But he would get on his way to being mad pretty soon, he knew. “Or will be, soon enough.” She snapped her fingers, and sudden movement had Dean shifting, turning to look as Dr. Kessler checked his body’s pulse.
“Pulse is fading.” Dr. Kessler announced. “Throw me that cardio tray.”
Dean turned his head to look at Billie, an empty chasm opening up within his stomach. “But how?” He pushed out.
Billie scoffed, not really turning, but not needing to to glance at him. “Trust me. If the big ‘W’ bit it, I’d get a call.”
There wasn’t a single sign of a lie written across her face. Which could only mean that Sam… his brother really was alive. Abandoned, in a warehouse, wounded, and god knows what else… and Dean had left his brother all alone, instead of going after him.
Quite possibly oblivious to his thoughts, Billie went on. “Come along now, Dean. It’s time.” And then her face softened, as if now she was sympathizing with him, properly doing her job as a reaper by being all understanding.
The cold, calculated gaze in her eyes wasn’t hard to notice, though. “The empty… it’s waiting.”
Dr. Kessler stabbed Dean in the chest, and even as a spirit, disconnected from his body as he was, Dean could feel the needle plunging through skin and muscle, the liquid spreading as the antidote rushed to dissipate the poison he forced himself to ingest.
And then the pain was a lot more solid, and Dean wasn’t standing anymore. No, he was on his back on the stone cold floor, and his lungs was all too keen on letting him know how congested he was feeling.
Gasping and coughing, he was distantly aware of multiple hands on his body, forcing him onto his side. They barely had turned him when Dean felt the bile rise, and he didn’t hold back. The vomit spilling under his face, he could already feel his system clearing up, even as he continued to cough and splutter, trying to completely clear out his body.
Long, agonizing minutes passed, before Dean could finally breathe without having to cough, though he couldn’t stop gasping, taking in deep lungfuls of the unrestrictive air. Positioned at his sides, Michelle and Dr. Kessler helped Dean to his feet, the Sheriff a few feet away, watching their movements with sharp eyes.
Dean couldn’t bring himself to care about any of that. Not when there was only one thought that was standing firmly in his head. “He’s alive,” He muttered, leaning towards Michelle.
She looked at him, her wide eyes peering up to stare at him. “He? Sam?” She clarified, but didn’t wait for Dean to answer before her face was already smoothing out in visible relief. “Oh, thank God.” She whispered.
Dean let out a wry scoff, small as it was. “Yeah, not so much.” He let out. “I need a…” He paused, trying to reorient his thoughts. And to push down the strong urge to just drop into a pile on the ground, as if whoever had been holding the strings that kept Dean standing cut through them. “I need a car.” He pushed out.
And then the Sheriff stepped forward, eyes widening pointedly as he held up his hands. “No. No, not a chance,” He stated.
Dean straightened, and yeah, all thoughts about the aches in his own body was pushed all the way into the recesses of his mind.
“Look, pal,” And he didn’t even have to force himself to change the tone of his voice just so, making everyone in the room all too aware of what exactly Dean thought of the Sheriff.
Dean, however, was still too aware of how his voice betrayed him, letting his weariness slip through. “I’m not asking.”
And then the Sheriff had the nerve to grab Dean’s hands behind his back. Had he not swayed and teetered despite being held, threatening to fall over, the guy would have been decked out by now.
As it was, the Sheriff was taking full advantage of getting to feel glorious about the whole thing. “Hey, look, psycho. I got you for stealing and consuming a felony’s worth of Schedule IV drugs–” Dean mentally snorted at that. God Bless America, where if you failed to off yourself, you’d end up in jail for fucking that job up. “–Plus assaulting a police officer. You ain’t going nowhere. Sedate him.” The last part was directed at the doc, but her vehement denial even caught Dean off guard. In his defense, he was still a little caught up in mentally kicking the Sheriff a new one.
Dean turned his surprised look to the doctor, unwittingly mirroring the Sheriff’s expression.
“Can we have a word outside, please?” The Sheriff suddenly said, but that was all the sign that Dean needed. Desperately praying to a God he knew was so not going to pay attention, he turned to Michelle, and thank whatever Almighty Being was in the mood to let Dean have his way, because she nodded in understanding.
The moment they disappeared, Michelle returned, and started picking at his lock. As soon as the handcuffs were off, Dean brought his arms to the front, rubbing the tender skin, ignoring the handcuffs that had fallen to the ground with a clatter. He only just remembered to send a grateful nod to Michelle’s direction before he was quickly striding out of the room, efficiently dodging from the Sheriff and Doctor’s line of sight.
As soon as he found himself breathing in the fresh air, climbing down the steps of the hospital’s entrance, Dean pulled out his phone, praying to get a signal – only for the device to ring in his hands.
The moment he registered the name flashing across the screen, it was like all the air he’d been inhaling had finally started to do its job and give him life.
Closing his eyes, Dean let out a sigh, his chest feeling lightened. “Oh, God. I…” And then suddenly, his voice abandoned him, and he was left gaping for a second, his jaw working uselessly before he managed to reroute his brain. “What happened?”
Only for Sam to neatly sidestep his question with one of his own. “Where are you?”
Dean shook his head. It was a valid question, and yet, it took him too long to come up with the answer. “I’m, uh,” He half turned to look behind him, the sight of the hospital apparently all his brain needed to jolt back into working order. “At the Urgent Care on 54.”
Whatever Sam meant to say was drowned out by the static that overcame the speaker. The small part he did hear, though, was asking about Corbin, and not Sam’s wellbeing that he actually wanted to hear.
“Sammy?” Dean asked, beginning to panic again. His hand curled into a fist, frustration welling within him as there was nothing for him to do, leaving him useless to force out the words he actually wanted to hear from Sam. He harshly knuckled at his forehead, the pain countering against the blinding headache resonating within his mind.
“Is Corbin with you?” Sam’s voice finally broke through, but the worry clear in his tone was enough to snap Dean to attention.
“Sam?” Dean yelled, panic forcing his voice louder.
“Dean!” And then the call cut, a beeping tone all that was left.
Dean hung up, heart in his throat as he lost his little brother for the second time that day.
He didn’t have time to despair, however, because noises were erupting from within the hospital, and not the kind that a hunter could ignore.
Dean looked down the road where Sam was undoubtedly in pain, and looked back to where the screams were coming out of the building. He cursed, hating himself as he turned back to the Urgent Care to investigate the noises.
He ran through the double doors of the entrance and followed Michelle’s - and it was definitely Michelle, Dean knew as his stomach twisted at the sound - screams. When he saw Corbin pulling his fist out of the Sheriff’s chest Dean didn’t hesitate.
Dean’s ribs screamed as he propelled forward, but that didn’t hinder him from leaping onto Corbin’s back, Michelle’s screams piercing his eardrums, his headache flaring.
When Dean landed on Corbin’s back, all the breath left his lungs, agony flaring – whitehotbright – and leaving him stunned. His vision whiting out, he nonetheless raised his head to where he guessed Michelle to still be standing. “Run!” He yelled out, and then all the air in his lungs left him again, as Corbin heaved and threw Dean off, and Dean barely managed to get his feet underneath him in time to hit the ground. But he was still too late, too slow, as Corbin tossed him to the ground and wrapped his hands around Dean’s neck.
White, red, black, colors exploded in Dean’s vision, and his respiratory system was making it very clear as to how much oxygen his brain had not been getting throughout the day, even as Corbin continued to choke the life out of him. He desperately tried to pry Corbin’s arms off, but all he could do was uselessly scratch his fingernails against Corbin’s arms, able to feel the abnormal amount of strength surging through the muscle.
Just as Dean’s vision began to black out, his hands still fruitlessly struggling for purchase against the werewolf when Corbin suddenly went slack and fell against him. Dean gasped for breath, adrenaline and panic giving him the strength to scramble back, pushing the dead weight off of him.
When Dean looked up and found his little brother, senses returning, all Dean could feel was desperate, utter relief at the sight of Sam standing in front of him.
“Took you long enough,” Dean said, voice muted to his own ears.
In reply, Sam grunted, his face scrunched up. He fell to the ground like the undignified sasquatch he was, his face smoothing out as he leant against the wall. Dean exhaled, a hand going up to clutch at his ribs. He was partially relieved that it was all over… but mostly that he’d gotten his brother back. That Sam was still alive and in front of him. He was breathing heavily, the hand still holding the gun resting atop the knee close to his chest, the other as loose-limbed as the leg sprawled out in front of him.
Heaving himself up until he was leaning against the wall as well, Dean let his head tilt to the side. “You good?” Dean asked, eyes trained intensely on his brother anyway. From what he could tell, Sam was so far so good, but he knew that his brother wasn’t going to be able to walk out of the hospital just like that.
Regardless, his brother nodded anyway. “Yeah,” and then he groaned, a pained smile stretching his lips as Sam let his head fall back against the wall, clearly knowing that his brother caught the lie anyway. “I’m okay.”
Okay. His brother was okay. He wasn’t a hundred percent, he wasn’t good, hell. His brother wasn’t even fine, no, he was okay.
He was alive, though, and that’s what Dean had to focus on.
Nodding, more to himself than Sam, Dean turned his head to look straight ahead. “Gotta get the doc to look you over before I’m willing to move your lazy ass even a foot out of this place.”
Sam scoffed. “Oh please, as if you don’t wanna get out of here as much as I do.”
Glancing back at his brother, Dean paused, his intestines twisting uncomfortable. “Yeah,” he admitted. “I do. But I can’t have you failing out on me, can I?”
Dean slowly made his way to Michelle, sitting in the corridor where Sam’s room was. He couldn’t get too far away from Sam – not yet.
“Hey,” He greeted, wincing at how hoarse his voice sounded. He sat down when she reciprocated his greeting. “How you doing?”
Michelle looked down, and Dean could tell that she was fighting back tears. He was grateful when she didn’t respond to his question and asked one of her own instead.
“How’s your brother?” Michelle looked desperate for a change in subject, and, personally, Dean didn’t really want to dwell on Corbin either.
“The doc says that, um…” Dean paused, not wanting to remind her of her husband’s final actions. “Well, when Corbin choked him, um, Sam's body went into shock and his breathing, his heartbeat slowed down to almost nothing. So he was, uh... He was just mostly dead. But he'll be okay.”
“That wasn’t–” Michelle hesitated, conflicted emotions playing out on her face. “That wasn’t Corbin. He wasn’t a killer… He was trying – He did it for me.”
“I know,” Dean sympathized. After years of this job, he’d seen regular people do things they would never do when they got mixed up with the supernatural.
“Michelle,” Now it was Dean’s turn to hesitate. He hated that she got caught up in this, and wished she could have her husband back like he got Sam back. “This is gonna be very hard. But you’ll be okay, and… Eventually, you’ll get back to normal.”
“No, I won’t.” Her voice was so sure, so desolate and Dean’s heart broke for her. “They said I could leave an hour ago. But,” She looked around, then focused her gaze on her hands in front of her, fingers playing with her ring. “Where am I even supposed to go? After everything…” She looked at Dean and his breath caught at the despair in her eyes. “I watched the man I love die. There’s no normal after that.”
With those words, Dean’s mind played all the times that he’d seen his little brother die, and he couldn’t help but agree with Michelle.
All those times he’d seen Sammy die… Jesus, how fucked in the head was he, really?
Michelle excused herself, getting up and leaving Dean, alone, on the bench.
Dean put his head in his hands and tried to reassure himself that he and Sam were okay. It didn’t help that he knew he was lying to himself.
They descended the steps past midday, leaving the hospital behind them and hopefully never having to look back either. Eager as he was to let this place bite his dust, Dean couldn’t shake away the unease that had settled too comfortably in his chest, and it only continued to strengthen when he saw his brother holding on carefully to where Dean knew the bullet had been buried at.
“So, that’s it, huh?” Dean spoke up, forcing his tone to be light. “Two quarts O-neg, and you’re good to go.”
“How is she?” Sam asked instead. Only to visibly cringe. “Ooh.”
Clenching his teeth, Dean pinned his eyes on his brother. “She’s strong,” he answered distractedly. “She’ll be alright. Those stitches gonna hold?”
Sam paused, glancing at Dean before concentrating on taking the steps one at a time again. “Oh, yeah… uh. Professional grade,” he quoted, eyebrows raised for emphasis. “Couple days of antibiotics and some bed rest, and I’m, uh, back to normal.”
He groaned again anyway as they got into the Impala. Dean took a moment to close his eyes, breathing deeply as he grounded himself. When he opened his eyes again, the world swam from his view, momentarily going topsy-turvy before righting itself again.
His ribs throbbed.
“Hey, so,” Sam broke Dean out of his reverie. “What did you do?” Dean glanced at him, raising his eyebrows. “When you thought I was dead.” Sam elaborated. “What did you do?”
Looking back outside the windshield, Dean refrained from clearing his throat, knowing that it would be an instant giveaway. “Thought about redecorating your room,” he said simply. Beside him, Sam gave a disbelieving chuckle. “You know, putting a Jacuzzi, a nice disco ball…” ‘cause he was going to need it if Dean wanted to explain away why his vision was flickering like he was already knee deep in a club. “Really class up the joint.”
“Right.” Sam said skeptically. “Seriously.” And Dean could hear the edge in his voice, Sam’s way of giving him one last chance to come clean, because he knew there was something Dean wasn’t saying.
Thing was, there wasn’t anything that needed to be said, in Dean’s expert opinion.
“What?” Dean challenged anyway. He had to make his point show his brother everything was just fine. “I, uh… I knew you weren’t dead.”
And the kicker is… Sam’s not dead.
You can’t lose him.
“I knew.” He didn’t know why it sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than Sam. Not when he already knew that – that Dean couldn’t even tell when his brother was still alive. Had left his brother to die.
He turned the engine on, and drove.
The door slammed open, Dean taking lead but wishing he could linger behind. Practically dragging his duffel behind him, he dredged his feet down the stairs, distantly aware of his brother closing the door behind them.
His… everything hurt, really. So focused as he was on his pain, it took Dean a moment to realize Sam was talking to him. Coming back to his senses, Dean realized that he’d already crossed the hall, about to reach the corridor to their bedrooms, and Sam had an arm on his shoulder, an increasingly look of concern overwhelming his annoyance.
“What?” Dean snapped, desperately trying to mask the fact that he hadn’t heard Sam obviously calling out for him the first who knew how many times.
“Dean, I asked if you were alright,” Sam said, his brow furrowing, before frowning. “Did you let the doctors look you over when we were at the Urgent Care?”
Dean shook Sam’s hand off, ignoring the pain the movement elicited. “I’m fine,” he lied. “I wasn’t that hurt. Just a couple of bruised ribs.”
“Why didn’t you say anything? Dean, you were driving for almost an entire day straight.”
Dean waved a dismissive hand. “You and I both know I’ve had worse, Sammy.” He made to move again, before Sam stopped him.
“Fine, but I’m gonna get you painkillers before you hit the sack, ‘kay?”
Dean faltered, coming to a jerky stop as he stared at his brother. Sam stared back at him with a raised eyebrow in question.
Dean shook himself, trying and failing to quickly come up with a lie, something to cover up that he didn’t need pills – couldn’t take any pills.
And not just because he felt nauseous even thinking about taking any more. The doc had pulled him aside and told him, very, very clearly, that if he took any medication within two or three weeks then he would go right back to a hospital. If not to the morgue.
And he couldn’t–wasn’t going to do that to Sam now.
“It’s–” Dean faltered, knowing he had to say something now. “It’s not that bad,” Dean finally settled on, knowing that it came out as more of a question than something he was sure of.
“Then why don’t I believe you?” Sam said, eyes narrowed while quickly searching Dean’s body for injuries.
Dean shifted uncomfortably under Sam’s scrutiny.
“Dean,” Sam’s tone turned dangerous. “What aren’t you telling me.” It wasn’t a question.
Dean made an effort at a calming, dismissive tone, “The doc already dosed me up with enough meds to last me a while.”
Sam shifted, facing Dean head on and crossing his arms. Dean suddenly felt like a monster Sam was going to hunt down. “So you’re telling me that you drove for an entire day , high as a kite, and it still hasn’t worn off yet?”
“ Bull. ” Sam growled, not moving an inch. “The truth, this time?”
Nostrils flaring, Dean straightened, looking Sam dead in the eye as he made a decision he knew he was going to regret. “I downed a bunch of pills. So if I take anymore, I’m gonna end up back in the Urgent Center. Happy?”
Sam’s arms fell to his sides, the anger washed away from his face as he gaped at Dean, eyes wide and disbelieving. “Dean–”
“There’s the truth.” And ignoring the blinding pain that Dean wasn’t exactly sure was physical or not, he turned around, and resumed his course to his room.
Sam didn’t follow, and Dean wasn’t sure if he was entirely grateful about that. Because his senses were starting to completely abandon him, and Dean… didn’t know if he was going to make it to his bed.
Blackness overwhelmed him, and Dean fell.
The urgent tugging was starting to grate Dean’s nerves, and he was just about to shove whoever it was away from him when a sharp smack had Dean’s head snapping to the side, his eyes instantly opening.
Still falling from the force of the blow, Dean instinctively lashed a hand out, flailing until his fingers caught onto someone’s shirt. Using that, Dean pulled himself back, his free hand forming a loose fist as he aimed it in the general direction of his attacker’s face, only for his fist to be met in a steady hold, a large hand easily capturing his hand.
“– ean, Dean! Stop it! It’s just me!”
Blearily, Dean peeked through his closed eyelids, wincing at the bright light that was swift to assault his senses. “Sammy?”
With an audible sigh, Sam let go of Dean at the acknowledgement, Dean immediately slumping back down on his bed. Twisting to regard his brother, Dean glared. “Jesus, Sammy. Where’s the fire?”
Sam wasn’t impressed, if the glare he returned to Dean was anything to go by. “Right here, apparently. You’re running a fever.”
“I’m – What?” Dean blinked. He didn’t feel–
“Yeah. It’s a risk of overdosing on barbiturates. Funny how that happens.”
“Huh.” His mind drawing up a blank for a witty retort – not for the first time – Dean pushed himself up instead. Only to immediately tilt dangerously to the side.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Sam lunged forward, grabbing onto Dean’s arms and righting him before he could fall off the bed. “You with me?”
Closing his eyes, Dean tried shaking his head – only to immediately regret it. He still couldn’t hear any better, and the action only served to give him a severe headrush. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m with you,” Dean muttered, disdain somehow still evident through the weariness Dean hadn’t realized he’d let out.
Sam humphed , looking like he didn’t believe Dean. “Sure. I’m just gonna ignore that like I should have ignored you saying you were perfectly okay at the hospital, and I’m going to treat my idiot of a big brother for the aftermath of an overdose.” Sam stood, a hand still outstretched to Dean in case he decided to dive off his bed again.
“Whatever,” Dean grumbled, frowning. He hadn’t gone swimming recently, so why did his ears feel waterlogged? “Don’t need your help.”
The death glare his brother directed at him was one of specialities - bitchface number sixteen, in fact. The one reserved for when Dean was usually being a bitch and thickheaded.
Dean didn’t feel like he deserved it right now, so he ignored it.
“I’m fine,” He repeated, trying to get up again, but was stopped almost instantly.
A heavy hand practically pinning him to the bed, Sam refused to let Dean budge. His other hand shoved a bottle of water in Dean’s face, until he took it in his own hand.
“Drink.” He ordered.
Though he rolled his eyes, Dean couldn’t help but be grateful to his brother. He hadn’t noticed how dry and sore his throat was until he was given water.
As he started to uncap the bottle and drink from it, Sam settled on the bed again, propping open a first aid kit beside him. Warily raising an eyebrow at Sam, Dean almost choked on his water when Sam started to tug Dean’s shirt up.
“Woah, woah!” Dean almost threw the water bottle as he tried to push away his brother’s grabby hands. “I need to be wined and dined first, Sammy.”
Shooting him bitchface number seven Sam didn’t relent, instead reaching around Dean’s hands to latch onto his shirt firmly. “I need to check your ribs, unless you want something breaking in there?”
With a measured exhale, Dean gave in. He still muttered a, “I’m fine,” even as he let his brother have full range of his chest.
“Uh huh,” Sam murmured doubtfully, his attention now focused on Dean’s injuries.
His eye twitching as his brother poked and prodded, Dean turned his focus to the ceiling, willing his breathing to remain steady. But with his shirt bunched up around his neck, Dean was all too suddenly and painfully reminded of the bruises around his neck, a clear imprint of Corbin’s fingers when he’d been trying to strangle Dean.
“Shouldn’t I be taking care of you?” Dean murmured, uncomfortable. “How’s your stomach, anyway?”
“It’s fine,” Sam wasn’t deterred. “It’s a whole lot better looking than you right now.”
“Ouch,” Dean stated flatly. “You wound me.”
And for some reason, Sam chose to poke Dean particularly hard at that. Yelping, Dean pulled back to glare bloody murder at his brother, but Sam didn’t let go.
“No, you do enough of that yourself, don’t you, Dean?” Sam looked Dean right at the eye. “I thought we promised we wouldn’t do this again.”
Chose to dive right into it, then.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Dean lied smoothly.
Leaning back, Sam closed his eyes. “This, Dean. Offing ourselves if the other isn’t there. Being so codependent. Giving up just like that. I thought we were over that, Dean.”
Dean smirked, yet his face was soft as he stared at his brother. His little brother, whom, despite all these years of everything they’d gone through, despite being taller and bigger than Dean was… was still so innocent.
“I was trying to save you. You can’t ever expect me to be over that , Sammy.”
Sam let out a measured exhale, obviously trying to maintain his composure.
But then he visibly faltered, his head dropping. And Dean knew he’d gotten to his brother there.
“No.” Sam admitted, his voice soft, reaching out to put a hand on Dean’s leg. “I guess we can’t.”