Title: Ripple Effect
Season: 2 – set between the episodes Simon Says and No Exit
Category: General, Action
Tagline: ...and the effect spreads outwards, like ripples on a pond when a stone is dropped...
Total Word Count: 43,131
Total Chapters: 7
Chapter 6 Word Count: 5991
Story Banner: Chasidern
A low rumble grew on the night air and Saul Collins glanced up from his book, frowning a little. The noise increased in volume and he realised it was the sound of a car engine, not thunder as he’d originally thought. Laying the book aside, he got to his feet as the car drew up outside, its headlights bathing the living room in bright light for a moment before the motor was switched off.
Opening the door, Saul put a finger to his lips as his friend emerged from the black Impala, a duffle bag over one shoulder. He grinned when Bobby rolled his eyes.
“As if I could sneak anywhere in this thing,” Bobby muttered gruffly, running a hand over the sleek hood of the restored classic. His humour quickly vanished when he joined his friend on the porch. “How are the boys?”
“They’re okay, considering. They’re asleep.”
“Can I…” Bobby gestured to the darkened hallway; glad his friend couldn’t see the dull flush on his bearded cheeks. Dropping the small duffle of clothes by the door, he waited expectantly.
“Come on, Dad, I’ll take you to see your boys,” Saul joked softly. Moving on silent feet, the two men stepped into the surgery, stopping near the door so as not to disturb the sleeping young men.
Bobby’s shoulders slumped in relief. He smiled a little when he saw the two heads leaning against each other on the one tiny pillow. Dean’s arm lay along the side of the pillow cradling Sam’s plastered wrist, his hand gently grasping his brother’s elbow just above the cast. The fingers of Sam’s other hand rested loosely over Dean’s forearm. Bobby nodded, and backed out of the room.
Leading the way into the spacious kitchen, Saul poured coffee into two mugs from the pot on the stove, and pushed one toward the demon hunter. “Bobby – what happened out there? That older boy is hauling around a truckload of guilt – and so are you.”
Sighing, Bobby cast a glance up the hallway before settling onto one of the stools at the end of the wide kitchen bench. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the laminated surface as he curled his hands around the steaming mug of coffee. “How much did Dean tell you? Or Sam?”
“Not much,” Saul grunted softly. “They’re John’s boys, all right. I thought Dean was going to pass out at one time – I said that Sam’s back could have been much worse – that he could have ended up in a wheelchair. You should have seen that boy’s face, Bobby. He thinks this is his fault.”
“I don’t know all of it.” Bobby ran a tired hand across his face and took a sip of the strong brew before continuing. “They’d been arguing before they got to my place. Sam said Dean was kinda freaked after their last hunt, but he wouldn’t talk about it. We thought we’d let him get the bug out of his ass by himself – but Sam got hurt by that friggin’ chain lift snapping, and we had to get an ambulance. Dean had started stripping the Impala’s engine down, and I had the engine out of my truck, so I gave him that ’72 Dodge pickup I was rebuilding. I figure a tie rod must have snapped when they were comin’ back from the hospital, and they went off the road in those foothills. The truck rolled down the slope – ended up hitting a tree.”
“That explains the injuries. I can figure the rest from what you told me – Sam got flung out, Dean had an argument with the steering wheel.”
“I found Dean first. They’d been out there all night. It started to rain somewhere around dawn. It took me a couple of hours to find Dean – it was almost midday by the time I got him back to the road and in the car.”
“And Sam?” Saul prompted gently, refilling their mugs.
“Sam…” Bobby’s face fell. “After I patched Dean up as best I could, I left him on high ground while I tracked his brother. I found bits of Sam’s cast – he must have been looking for Dean, and fell down an embankment into a hollow in the dark. I found the cast – it had been chewed. Then I saw bear tracks a few feet away.”
Saul pursed his lips in a silent whistle.
“Then I spotted a torn piece of Sam’s shirt – it had blood all over it. I started down this game trail – that’s when I saw the bear. It must have been hunting – there was – blood – on its jaws. I thought…”
“You thought Sam had been attacked.”
“I thought Sam was dead,” Bobby whispered harshly. “Dean was up on the slope near the road – he was in a bad way. Fever, ribs, knee, concussion. When I found him earlier, he was unconscious. He was almost out of his head by the time I got back to him. He’d wandered away from the truck after the crash – probably tryin’ to find his brother and got turned around in the dark, and with that whack to the head...”
“You did what you had to do, Bobby.”
“I left him, Saul. I left the kid out there. If we hadn’t found him…” The bearded hunter shook his head slowly, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“How did you find him?”
“Dean didn’t believe Sam was dead. He insisted on going back. And he was right – we found Sam down an old bear trap – beat to hell, but alive.”
“Bobby – you can’t blame yourself. It wasn’t your fault. You did what anyone would have done in the circumstances – you had one live one, so you had to see to him first.”
“Doesn’t make me feel better, Saul. Those two – they’re like…”
“I would never have forgiven myself.” Bobby dropped his head into his hands. A hand squeezed his shoulder, and he glanced up, frowning when he encountered Saul’s surprised countenance on the other side of the bench. Whipping his head around to see who had grabbed him, Bobby stared in shock at a lean, tanned face dominated by soft hazel eyes.
“It wasn’t your fault, Bobby,” Sam whispered, his eyes alight with sympathy for his friend. “I don’t blame you.”
Saul recovered his voice first. “You’re supposed to be asleep.”
“I was, until I heard footsteps and voices. Figured Bobby was back.” Sam pulled out a stool and sank onto its padded cushion, looking hopefully toward the coffee pot.
Shaking his head, the doctor plucked another mug from the cupboard and filled it with coffee, sliding it across the bench. He raised an eyebrow as the young hunter grimaced a little. “What?”
“Uh – cream and sugar?” Sam smiled his thanks as Saul retrieved milk from the fridge and the sugar bowl from the bench near the stove.
“For a big guy, you move real quiet, young Sam,” Saul observed, leaning one hip against the stove as he folded his arms across his chest. “Never even knew you were there.”
One broad, blanket wrapped shoulder rose in a shrug. “I’m a hunter.”
Recovering his wits, Bobby glanced down at the long feet propped up on the rung of the stool. “And no boots kinda helps, too.”
Grinning, Sam took a sip of his coffee.
“How much did you hear?”
Bobby grunted softly, his gaze on his coffee as he turned the cup around and around in his hands. A sudden thought struck him – if his arrival had woken Sam… “Where’s Dean?”
“Here,” Dean’s sleep-roughened voice muttered from the doorway. He had his blanket wrapped around his body like a toga, and he glared at the trio as he limped into the room. Heading for the stool next to his brother, he settled onto its seat and grimaced, wriggling a little before he got comfortable.
“You’re supposed to be asleep, too,” Saul muttered in exasperation.
“Who can sleep with you two yelling and the Sasquatch pounding around on those big flapping feet of his?”
Sam rolled his eyes at his sibling. “Nice. Thanks.”
Dean snagged Sam’s mug and took a sip of the steaming liquid, pulling a face at the sweetness. “Dude – how can you drink that crap? You’re ruining good coffee.”
“Better than ruining my stomach lining.” Sam grabbed the mug and pulled it back toward him.
Grinning happily as a brimming mug of black coffee was placed before him; Dean nudged his brother gently and pointed to the brew. “See this? This is real coffee.”
Bobby shook his head at the familiar bickering. Retrieving the duffle from the front door, he handed it to the elder Winchester. “Here.”
Taking the bag, Dean peered inside, finding two complete sets of clothes, right down to clean socks. “Thanks, Bobby.”
Sam eyed his blanket-wrapped sibling. “I dunno, Dean – that could be a whole new look for you. Kinda Greco/Roman.”
“Shut up. Anyway, you’re not supposed to be talking.”
The young psychic held up his left hand and extended his middle finger in a universal gesture. He got to his feet, stepping close to his sibling when Dean tottered unsteadily toward the hallway. Together they made their way back down the passage to the bathroom to dress, leaving the two older men in the kitchen.
Saul shook his head in sympathy as he gazed at his friend. “Bobby – I don’t envy you.”
“Those two? They’re quite a handful. And they’re gonna be nursing those hurts for the next few days, so they won’t be able to move around much. They’re gonna drive you crazy.”
“They’re good boys, for all of that.”
“Yeah, they are. John – well, guess he did some good with them. Although with Sam – that was mainly Dean.”
Saul grunted softly in agreement. “Figured as much. I’ve seen parents pay less attention when their kids were hurt than that boy did with his little brother.”
They fell silent, listening to the faint sounds of scuffles and muted voices drifting down the hall as the boys got dressed. Finally the Winchesters filed out into the living room, their dirty clothes stuffed into the duffle swinging from Dean’s hand.
Bobby slid from the stool, holding out his hand to his long-time friend. “Thanks Saul – I owe you one – again.”
“Buy me a beer next time you’re passing through. Or service my car – whatever.” Saul shook Dean’s hand, and gave the tall hunter a packet of heavy-duty painkillers. “There’s enough there for the both of you for a couple of days – just till the worst of the pain is over. Then you can take Tylenol or Ibuprofen, or ride it out. Stay out of trouble, huh?” He patted Sam’s shoulder.
Ignoring his brother’s disbelieving snort, Dean nodded. “Thanks. I will.” He nudged his sibling, herding Sam toward the front door as he stuffed the painkillers into his jeans pocket.
Lifting his hand in a wave, Sam smiled at the medico before he stepped down to the waiting Impala. Climbing into the back seat, he was surprised to see his brother get in beside him. Dean’s glare silenced the question on his tongue and he settled back against the seat, his brow wrinkled in a faint frown.
The Impala roared to life, and Dean felt the tension hit him full force as the vehicle began to move. He closed his eyes, but that only made it worse. Hoping Sam couldn’t see him in the dark, he slowly slid his hand down the door to grasp the handle, hanging on for dear life. Sweat broke out on his face, trickling down his neck while he re-lived the accident. His sense of direction became skewed as he recalled the sickening rollover. Dean’s head swam dizzily and he panted softly, trying to get the sudden nausea under control before he embarrassed himself by hurling all over the back seat.
He flinched when a hand settled on his shoulder. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on his breathing, and the warmth spreading from the long-fingered hand. Slowly, the tension lessened and the nausea died down, leaving him shaky and wasted. Feeling as vulnerable as he had back in Bobby’s junkyard when Sam had bared his soul after the hunt for the Rakshasa, Dean frantically tried to shore up his walls. Twisting his hands together, he focussed on the road whipping past the window, trying not to think of dark shapes on the asphalt, the screech of crumpling metal, the crash of breaking glass – or his brother’s agonised gasps.
By the time the Impala turned into the weed-covered drive, Dean was almost ready to fling himself bodily from the vehicle. Holding himself so tightly that his muscles trembled from the strain, he slid from the back seat and pushed up on legs that were barely able to hold his weight. Not bothering to wait for his sibling, he staggered drunkenly toward the steps, shivering violently as the cold night air hit his sweat-soaked skin.
Sam followed his sibling into the house, staying silent while he watched Dean battle his inner demons. He’d felt the tension in his brother’s body, as well as the warm flush of the low-grade fever. Figuring Dean would want to head up to their room, he paused by the stairs, arching his brows in surprise when the elder Winchester continued on to the kitchen. Giving a mental shrug, Sam followed.
Dean sank down onto a chair with a heartfelt sigh, feeling as if every nerve in his body was jumping. He scrubbed his trembling hands over his face, not bothering to look up when Bobby began making a pot of coffee. Anger over his weakness in the car rose up in a suffocating wave, closing his throat. His vision blurred and he shook his head sharply, growling under his breath when he felt Sam’s hand on his arm.
“No, you’re not. You have a fever, and you’re –”
“I said I’m fine!” Dean pushed himself to his feet and glared at his hovering sibling. “You shouldn’t be talking – you know what the doc said.”
Sam gazed steadily at his brother, keeping his face carefully neutral. “Dean, I –”
The elder hunter’s face twisted into a mask of anger. “No talking! How many freakin’ times do you have to be told? Can it hurt you to just shut up for five freakin’ minutes?”
Sam flinched at the snap in his brother’s voice. He dropped his gaze to the floor, hurt and confused by his brother’s outburst.
Dean clenched his hands into fists, the look on his sibling’s face cutting him like a knife. “I’m sorry,” he whispered raggedly. He saw Sam’s eyes track to his face and he turned abruptly, needing to be away from his brother’s worried gaze before his fragile defences crumpled completely.
Dean’s boots thudded rapidly across the floor and out to the porch, and Sam chewed on his lower lip, wondering what was up with his sibling. Sighing softly, he dropped onto Dean’s vacated chair, raising his left hand to pinch the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.
“You all right?” Bobby inquired softly.
“Yeah. It’s just Dean…” Sam cupped his chin in his hand and looked up at the bearded hunter. “I don’t know how to help him, Bobby.”
“Kid, I don’t know that one, either. But I do know one thing – you look all in, and so does he. How about you go on up and get some sleep. I’ll wait around down here and make sure that stubborn brother of yours is okay.”
Sam’s jaw tightened in determination. “No, I’ll –” he broke off, staring in shock as the demon hunter slammed a hand down on the table in front of him.
“Damn it, kid – you’re supposed to be the sensible one! You’re dead on your feet –” Bobby swallowed rapidly. The memory of how he’d felt when he’d thought Sam had been dead for real was still far too fresh and painful. He cleared his throat and lowered his voice. “Just – go upstairs and get some rest. Humour an old man, okay?”
The young hunter read the worry and guilt in the faded blue eyes, and reluctantly gave in. “All right. Thanks.” Getting to his feet, Sam wearily climbed the stairs to the spare room. Peeling off his shirt and jeans, he slid under the covers, turned onto his side to ease the strain on his bruised back, and was asleep in minutes.
* * * * *
Dean stood on the porch, holding onto the rail as he stared out into the night. He fought to get his anger under control, taking in deep gulps of the cool air as he tried to slow his breathing. “Damn it, Sam!”
Not his fault, his mind ranted. Yeah, but I keep making him think it is. Dean’s lips trembled when he thought of the hurt in his brother’s eyes. You’ll have to kill him… “Damn you, Dad! Why did you put that on me?” Leaning his head against the porch support, Dean stifled a sob. “I can’t kill him – I can’t. He’s my brother.”
Angrily, he dashed a hand across his face and gazed up at the stars. “There’s gotta be another way. He’s not evil – he’s not. You hear me? I’ll save him. I don’t care what it takes.” Feeling as if he was being buffeted by forces beyond his control, he turned and made his way back inside.
Dean limped slowly into the kitchen, drawing Bobby’s curious gaze. The elder hunter wisely stayed silent, and pushed a cup of coffee toward him as he lowered his battered frame onto a chair. “Where’s Sam?”
“I sent him up to bed. Figured he couldn’t do any good down here.”
Dean groaned aloud and buried his face in his hands. “Crap, crap, crap!”
Bobby poured himself another cup of coffee, adding a dash of whiskey to Dean’s cup.
The young hunter raised his head, his green eyes troubled. “Bobby – I’m sorry. I’m an ass.”
“Well, if it helps any – so am I. I’m the one who left Sam out…”
Dean held up a hand, bringing Bobby’s self-recrimination to a halt. “I’m the one who caused him to be out there in the first place.” His lips trembled, and he clamped them tightly together.
“What do you mean?”
“I – was driving – too fast.” The damning admission came out in a hoarse whisper as Dean dropped his head into his hands once more. “It was my fault. The doctor at the hospital – he accused me – of beating up on Sammy – I got so mad… And then there was a deer in the road – I didn’t see it in time – tried to avoid it – the tie rod snapped, and we…”
“Dean…” Bobby’s face twisted in anger at the thought of what the young hunter had gone through. He made a mental note to track down the doctor in question and have a little private talk.
“I just – it just…” Dean drew in a ragged breath. “After Dad – I just…” Feel like I’m drowning…
“I know, son. I know.” Bobby reached out and clamped a hand on Dean’s shoulder, squeezing it in reassurance. “Your brother doesn’t blame you, Dean. He’s worried about you.”
Dean shook his head. “He should blame me. He should be pissed as hell at me. I deserve it.”
“Dean, you know Sam won’t blame you, or stay pissed at you. It’s just not his way.”
Shaking his head again, the young hunter fell silent, staring miserably into his coffee cup. He wrapped his hands around the cup, feeling the warmth seep into his cold fingers. Dean found himself wishing he could get rid of the chill in his soul as easily as the one in his hands.
Bobby left the young man to his thoughts, and Dean sat for a long time in the kitchen, wondering how he could repair the rift that was steadily growing between himself and his brother.
* * * * *
Dean turned out the lights and made his way upstairs, wincing when his knee protested the movement. He crept softly into their room, hoping not to wake his brother. The soft, deep respirations coming from the other bed reassured him, and he undressed in the dark as quickly as his bruised frame allowed.
Sam murmured in his sleep, his voice a rough whisper, and Dean thought he heard the young hunter say his name. Turning on the small lamp on the nightstand beside his bed, he grabbed the chair that Bobby had sat in and dragged it over to his brother’s bedside. As the elder hunter sat down, Sam muttered Dean’s name again, his body twitching beneath the covers.
Reaching out his hand, Dean rested it on Sam’s shoulder. “Easy, Sammy, I’m here. I gotcha.”
The psychic settled down, the frown between his brows smoothing out as he sighed softly.
A faint grin tugged at Dean’s full lips. He got to his feet, retrieved the packet of painkillers from his jeans pocket and put them on the nightstand beside Sam’s bed. Making his way back downstairs, he rummaged through Bobby’s cupboards for a glass, filled it with water, and halted on his way back to the stairs. A frown creased his brow as he looked down at the glass in his hand and he returned to the kitchen, scooping up the Impala’s keys. Letting himself out the front door, he unlocked the Chevy and searched the glove compartment, finding what he wanted buried under a map of Iowa.
Grinning in triumph, Dean twirled the little plastic cylinder between his fingers as he went back inside, locking the front door behind him. He retrieved the glass from the table, dropped the straw into the glass and made his way upstairs. Dean put the water glass down beside the prescription painkillers and sat back down on the chair, letting his thoughts wander, ignoring the shivers rippling through his battered frame.
Life was fragile – hunting had taught him that. When had he forgotten it? His gaze roamed over the face of his sleeping brother, taking note of every scratch, every bruise. Dean swallowed convulsively. Life was fragile – and life was precious. And no life was more precious than the one lying before him on the bed. The life he’d been given to protect – the life he’d sworn to protect with his very own, if necessary. The life he loved with a fierce passion, and had defended with all the ferocity of a cougar defending her cub. When had he forgotten that, too? It was time he stopped being an ass, and started being a big brother again.
Dean reached out to pull the blankets up a little higher on Sam’s shoulders, the need to do something, even something as small as straightening the bedclothes, becoming so overwhelming that he could feel his nerves jumping under his skin. He didn’t remember exactly how old he’d been when he’d seen his first dead body, but he remembered the details of the hunt as clearly as if it was yesterday. His dad had only just started taking him on hunts. Sammy had been too little at that time to go, so he’d been left at Pastor Jim’s while their dad and Bobby Singer had gone after a poltergeist causing trouble in a nearby town.
But it had ended up being more than just a simple ghost hunt. The culprit turned out to be a minor demon, bent on causing as much havoc as possible before it moved on. John and Bobby had been led a merry dance before finally managing to corner it in the boiler-room of the local school. Shivering a little, Dean rubbed his hands over his arms, his eyes losing their focus as he recalled the final confrontation with the possessed human – the screams of the man as John doused him with holy water, Bobby’s gravelly voice reciting the Latin exorcism ritual, the way the very air turned dark as the incantation came to an end, and the almost subsonic boom that heralded the departure of the demon for hell.
Little Dean had hidden behind his father’s tall frame, his hands wound tightly in the hem of the worn leather jacket, and stared wide-eyed at the human slumped bonelessly in the chair. Tremors of fear had shaken his small body as Bobby glanced up at John Winchester and announced that the man had not survived the exorcism. On the way back to Blue Earth, and Pastor Jim’s comfortable house behind the church he ministered to, Dean had answered his father’s concerned query with a quavery, “I’m fine, Dad.” Once he’d gotten inside the house and away from his father’s searching gaze, he’d rushed upstairs, dragged his little brother from a deep sleep and hugged him tightly, his fierce glare silencing Sammy’s startled question before he could get a word out.
Smiling wryly, Dean remembered that his baby brother had been only too happy to hug him back, revelling in the show of affection from his big brother. Little Sammy had burrowed against Dean’s chest, his silky hair tickling his big brother’s cheek as he’d wrapped his arms around Dean’s waist.
“Don’t know where you got all that sappy emo stuff from, Sammy,” Dean murmured softly. “It wasn’t from me – and you sure didn’t get it from Dad. Must have…” Dean trailed off into stunned silence for a moment as his brain followed the unfinished thought to its logical conclusion. “Must have come from – Mom,” he whispered. He stared at his brother with new eyes. Why hadn’t he noticed it before?
Sam took after their father in so many ways, but his soft heart, his strong sense of empathy, and what Dean laughingly called his emo stuff had been inherited from their mother. Somehow, that bound him even more closely to his brother than before. Dean dropped his head, a soft chuckle clamped firmly behind his teeth. It still wouldn’t stop him calling Sam a girl every chance he got – needling his brother was one of the fun things in life that he refused to give up, no matter how grim the situation became. Dean snorted softly, and cursed under his breath when Sam jerked, startled awake by the sudden noise.
The hazel eyes fluttered open, and Sam immediately focussed on his brother’s face. “Hey,” he croaked. “You all right?”
“I’m fine, dude. And you shouldn’t be talking – you know what the doc said.” Dean watched his brother wince as he moved a little on the bed. “You got pain? You want some more of those meds?”
Sam gave a tiny nod, grimacing as he tried to sit up. He found himself quickly restrained by his brother’s hand on his shoulder, and slumped back against the pillows with an aggrieved huff. Eyeing the glass Dean held out to him, he couldn’t help the faint grin that tugged at his lips when he saw the flexible straw sticking out of it. He palmed the painkillers, washing them down with a few sips of water. The straw allowed him to drink without the strain of lifting his head.
Dean returned the half empty glass to the nightstand, and straightened the covers over his sibling.
“Did it have to be pink?” the younger hunter whispered, indicating the candy-striped straw with a roll of his eyes.
One corner of Dean’s mouth quirked up in a grin. “I got a pink one just for you, Samantha.”
“No more talking. Go back to sleep.”
Sam frowned, fighting the enveloping arms of sleep as he gazed at his brother through half-lidded eyes. “Sure you’re all right?”
“I’m fine, Sammy. Go back to sleep, now, okay?” Unconsciously using the same tone he’d used for years to comfort his little brother, he watched as the younger man’s eyes drifted closed. Waiting until Sam’s breathing evened out in sleep, Dean again fussed with the covers, making sure his brother was warm and comfortable.
Getting to his feet, he pushed the chair back against the wall and climbed into his own bed, rolling onto his side to face his sibling. Dean slid one hand under the pillow; his fingertips brushing the cool handle of the bowie knife nestled beneath his head, reassured by the familiar touch of the razor sharp weapon. He fell asleep, his dreams filled with images of his brother’s broken body lying on the cold, wet ground.
* * * * *
Sam wasn’t sure what had woken him, and he lay for a minute in the soft pre-dawn light, blinking up at the ceiling in confusion. For a moment he thought he was still outside in the rain and he shivered, running his left hand along the top of the blankets to reassure himself that he was safe and warm.
The sound came again – a ragged, hitched gasp, and the young psychic rolled painfully onto his side to peer at the other bed. “Dean?” he whispered.
A low moan drifted from the other side of the room, and Sam levered himself up on one elbow. He jolted in shock when he realised that Dean’s bed was empty, and he pushed his bruised frame into a sitting position as he reached for the lamp on the nightstand.
A soft glow lit the room, and the young hunter clambered stiffly to his feet, his eyes narrowing when he spotted his sibling lying in a crumpled heap underneath the window. “Dean!”
Dean moaned again, his hands weakly scrabbling along the floor as though searching for something. Sweat poured down his wan face, soaking the neck of his tee shirt. He flinched away from the hand that rested on his forehead. “Sam…”
“I’m here.” Wincing, Sam settled onto the floor near his brother’s head. “I’m here, Dean. Look at me, big brother.”
Blinking rapidly, the dazed hunter peered up at the tall dark shape at his side. “Sammy?”
“It’s me, Dean. What are you doing out of bed?”
“Sammy.” Pushing himself along the floor, Dean bit his lip when his knee twisted painfully underneath him. “Got to find Sammy. Got to save…”
“Oh, God.” Sam shuffled closer, reaching out with his good hand to draw his brother to his side. “Dean, I’m here. Come on, man, look at me. I’ve gotcha. We’re safe.”
“Sammy?” Fever-bright eyes glittered in the half-light.
“Yeah, dude, it’s me. I’m right here, Dean.” Sam ran a hand across his brother’s head. “I’m right here.”
“Got to find…” Dean closed his eyes, his face twisted in pain. “Got to save…”
“You did save me, Dean,” Sam rasped, trying to get his voice above a whisper. “I’m right here. Remember? You saved me. You rescued me. I’m all right.”
A sinewy hand snaked out and wrapped itself in the front of Sam’s tee shirt. “Found you?”
“Couldn’t find you.”
“You did find me, remember? You pulled me from that hole. Got me back to the car.”
“Left you – thought you were dead.”
“I’m not dead. I’m here. It’s all right.” Sam chewed on his lower lip, listening to his brother’s ragged gasps. He had to get his sibling up off the floor and back to bed, but there was no way he could lift Dean with one hand. The tall hunter was lean, but all muscle, and deceptively heavy. And Dean would be no help at all in his fevered state. “Okay, big brother – I’m just gonna go get Bobby, all right? I’ll be right back.”
“No!” Dean tightened his grasp, dragging his brother back down onto the floor. His breathing sped up until he was almost hyperventilating, his eyes widening in panic. “No – got to save…”
“All right – all right. I won’t go. It’s all right – just breathe, Dean. I’m right here.”
“Couldn’t find you…” Dean’s face crumpled. “Tried…”
“You found me, Dean. You did. I’m here, man.” Sam drew in a deep breath and turned his head toward the closed door. “Bobby!”
The yell came out as a faint squeak, and the young hunter swallowed painfully. His mind raced frantically as he tightened his hold on his shivering sibling. Sam couldn’t leave Dean, and he couldn’t yell, so he needed some other way to make a noise. His gaze skated over the smooth wooden floorboards, and then his eyes narrowed in thought. Raising his right leg, he brought his heel down hard, making a hollow thump. Grinning a little in relief, Sam shifted his position against the wall and beat a tattoo against the floorboards.
* * * * *
Groaning, Bobby peeled his eyes open, a scowl forming as he looked toward the window. “Who’s got friggin’ drum music blaring at this…” He tapered off into silence, sitting up with a jerk when he realised the annoying thumping noise was coming from the next room. “Shit – the boys!”
Throwing the covers back, he dashed into the hallway and wrenched open the door of the room next to his. Springing inside, he swore when he found the two young hunters huddled under the window. “What the hell?”
“Bobby – help me with Dean.” Sam looked up as the bearded hunter dropped to one knee.
“Sammy,” Dean moaned, rolling his head onto Sam’s shoulder as Bobby wrapped one hand around his bicep.
“Okay – let’s get him up.” Together, Bobby and Sam hauled Dean to his feet and got him back to his bed. Bobby pressed a hand to the young hunter’s forehead. “Fever.”
“He keeps saying he couldn’t find me.” Sam shrugged as he settled on the edge of his brother’s bed. “I think he was looking for me – he must have thought he was still out there in the woods.”
Shaking his head, Bobby disappeared into the bathroom, returning moments later with a glass of water and some Tylenol. Handing the items to Sam, he watched while the psychic coaxed his confused brother to take the pills and drink the water. He went back to the bathroom to grab a washcloth and soak it in cold water.
Sam smiled gratefully, took the damp cloth and wiped down his brother’s sweaty face. “Easy, Dean – it’s all right. I’ve gotcha.”
“I’m here, man.”
“You did, Dean. You found me.”
Dean settled back against the pillows, the panic fading from his eyes. He reached out, grabbing a handful of Sam’s tee shirt and hanging on as if his life depended on it.
Sam exchanged a worried glance with Bobby as he handed the washcloth to the elder hunter. “Guess I won’t be going anywhere for a while,” he murmured.
Bobby scrubbed a hand over his face and rose to his feet. “I’ll go make some coffee.”
The light outside was gradually getting brighter, and Sam reached over to turn off the lamp. Yellow light was replaced by soft grey, the colours in the room slowly fading in as the sun drew closer to the horizon. The first faint rays kissed the glass, streaming in to fall softly across Dean’s pain-lined face, highlighting the smattering of freckles standing out starkly against the pale skin.
Dean’s eyes fluttered open, and he stared wildly around the room before his gaze settled on his brother. “Sammy?”
“I’m here. It’s okay.”
“Got to save you.”
“You did, big brother. You did.”
The green eyes blazed in sudden anger as Dean lunged partway up from the bed, transferring his grip to the neck of Sam’s tee shirt. He dragged his brother down until the startled hazel eyes were mere inches from his own. “Got to save you!” he gritted, before releasing his grip and falling back onto the pillows. His head lolled, and his eyes slid closed as he slipped into a restless sleep.
Sam straightened his rumpled shirt, his eyes wide as he stared at his brother. “What the hell was that all about?”* * * * *