Summary: Sam isn’t sure how long they sit there, flanking their father’s lifeless body. His hands rest on Dad’s arm, while Dean’s remain in his lap, loose and empty. Sam and Dean try to cope. Set post-“In My Time of Dying,” with spoilers for that ep and the start of “Everybody Loves a Clown.”
Characters: Sam and Dean.
Rating: PG-13 (Genfic.)
Word count: 3,500
Disclaimer: Don’t own them. Not making money off of them.
Author’s Notes: Many thanks to marinarusalka for a helpful beta read. Also, I didn’t know about beta appreciation day until after the fact, so I want to take this opportunity to thankmarinarusalka and swanseajill for all of their hard work on my stories these past few months. My writing is better because of them.
Sam isn’t sure how long they sit there, flanking their father’s lifeless body. His hands rest on Dad’s arm, while Dean’s remain in his lap, loose and empty.
The quiet is jarring after the flurry of activity earlier. The medical staff filtered out not long after calling the time of death, turning off beeping monitors and leaving them alone to grieve.
Sam’s eyes fill from time to time, but he blinks away the tears. He thinks if even one escapes, he’ll lose it. Just fall apart right there, in front of Dean, and God, Dean doesn’t need that right now.
Dean, who should be dead but isn’t, who sits there with dry eyes and furrowed brow, as though he can’t quite understand what’s happened.
He looks so damned tired.
Sam thinks he should coax Dean back to his room, back to bed, but he’s frozen in time, unable to move or speak.
At some point a nurse comes in, shoes scuffing softly on linoleum as she offers a sympathetic smile, eyes warm with compassion.
“I’m sorry to disturb you,” she says, voice gentle, and then turns her attention to Dean. “But if you’re ready, we should get you back to your room. You need to rest.”
Without looking at the nurse, Dean shakes his head.
“We’ll take good care of him.”
Sam knows she’s trying to help, but he winces at the sense of finality in her words. It takes considerable effort, but he finds his voice.
“Can you give us a minute?”
The nurse nods and leaves, the door drifting closed behind her.
“Dean.” Sam waits until Dean meets his eyes. “She’s right. We should go. You … ” He waits for the tightness in his throat to ease. “You almost died, man. You need to rest.”
Dean’s expression shifts, the seeming confusion from earlier fading and pain flickering in his eyes. Shaking his head, he looks at Dad. “I can’t,” he says hoarsely. “Not yet.”
“There’s nothing we can do here.”
Dean places a hand over Dad’s and swallows. It’s a long moment before he speaks, and his words are a shaky whisper. “He’s still warm, Sammy.”
Sam’s chest clenches, and there’s not enough air in the room. “Dean,” he rasps, eyes stinging. “Please.”
Lifting his head, Dean studies Sam for what feels like forever before nodding slowly. “I just … I need some time alone with him.”
Sam nods and stands up, wincing as his sore body protests the sudden movement. There are bruises upon bruises hidden underneath his clothes, and his head aches. He’s long past due for some painkillers.
Moving closer to the bed, he lays a hand on Dad’s forehead, thumb stroking skin as he takes in the relaxed features Dad rarely wore while alive. They all knew the risks involved in hunting, but God, this doesn’t seem fair. Doesn’t seem right.
Breath hitching, Sam withdraws his hand and rests his forehead on Dad’s. He should say something, but he can’t. He just … can’t.
Tears blur his vision and he blinks them away before straightening. He doesn’t look at Dean as he makes his way out of the room. Just focuses on putting one foot in front of the other.
Once outside, he leans against the wall, sucking in shaky breaths and rubbing burning eyes. It takes a few minutes to push the grief far enough away to be tolerable. Feeling more in control, he looks into the room.
And wishes he hadn’t.
Dean’s sitting in the chair, eyes shut tight and head on Dad’s chest, as if listening for something no longer there.
After a quick trip to a drinking fountain to down some ibuprofen, Sam returns to Dad’s room and finds Dean pushing the door open, looking none too steady on his feet. Sam quickly puts a hand under Dean’s elbow and guides them into the hallway.
Dean doesn’t protest.
The walk to Dean’s room is silent, and Dean’s expression is painfully blank, eyes dull and focused on nothing in particular. Sam’s fretful gaze keeps sliding over to his brother, and he wonders if Dean’s retreating to the silent world he lived in after Mom died.
“You all right?” Sam asks as they enter Dean’s room.
Dean pulls away from him and sits on the edge of the bed, staring out the window. “Fine,” he says, tone neutral.
A one-word answer’s better than none, and Sam relaxes a little.
“We have to burn him.”
Sam freezes. “Dean -- ”
“It’s what he wanted. We should do it tonight.”
Recoiling, Sam shakes his head. “No. No, not tonight … We don’t have to do this tonight.”
Dean finally meets Sam’s eyes, looking weary but determined. “Yeah, we do.”
It’s all moving too fast, and Sam doesn’t want this. Doesn’t want to watch flames swallow another person he loves. Doesn’t want to feel the heat of the fire. Doesn’t want to smell burning flesh.
He sure as hell doesn’t think Dean’s up for this. Not judging from his pallor or the stiff way he holds himself or the exhaustion creasing his features.
“Dean, you need to rest -- ”
“I’m fine.” Dean pushes the call button for the nurse, and asks for AMA papers. The nurse hesitates, and then says she’ll bring them by in a little while.
Sam shakes his head. “Dean, no.”
But Dean’s already off the bed and going to the duffel bag Sam brought in earlier. Bending over, he briefly presses a hand against his stomach before unzipping the bag and rummaging through the contents.
Sam reaches out and puts a firm hand on Dean’s arm. “Dean, stop.” No response. “Stop!”
Straightening slowly, T-shirt and jeans in hand, Dean’s eyes flash. “I’m not staying here.”
“What part of you almost died don’t you get, Dean?” Sam’s voice is rising, but he doesn’t care.
Dean’s response is equally loud. “What part of my wounds have healed don’t you understand, Sam?”
“It doesn’t change the fact that you were in a coma less then twelve hours ago! You lost a lot of blood -- ”
“All I need is some sleep, and I can get that somewhere else.”
They glare at each other for a long moment, and then Dean’s expression softens.
“I can’t stay here, Sammy. Not after … ” He swallows. “Don’t ask me to stay here.”
Sam’s anger fades as understanding dawns, and he swallows. Truth is, he doesn’t want to stay here, either. “Okay. ” He sighs. “We’ll go. Bobby said we can stay at his place if we need to. Just … Promise me you’ll rest today. We can take care of Dad tomorrow night.”
“Sam -- ”
Sam doesn’t know if it’s the tone of his voice or the look on his face or simply Dean’s exhaustion that makes Dean give in. He doesn’t care, either. He’s just glad when Dean finally nods.
“All right, Sam. Tomorrow night.”
The doctor is understandably leery about Dean leaving, frowning heavily as Dean signs the AMA papers. He tells Dean to get plenty of rest and reviews a list of symptoms to watch for, things that will require an immediate return to the hospital. Dean nods, but it’s Sam who pays closest attention. Sam who takes the list, folds it up, and slides it into a pocket.
A little over an hour later, Bobby arrives in a faded blue pickup that’s seen better days.
“I’m sorry about your dad.” Bobby takes Sam’s duffel bag and puts it in the back. “John and I … ” He sighs heavily. “We had our differences, but I’m damned sorry he’s gone.”
Dean gives the barest of nods.
“Thanks, Bobby,” Sam murmurs.
“You think it was the demon?” Bobby asks as they get into the truck.
There’s only one long seat, and Dean goes to the middle, shrugging off Sam’s help.
“Yeah.” Sam sits down and shuts the door, glancing uneasily at Dean. They discussed this earlier, but it doesn’t make talking about it now any easier. “He said he wouldn’t go after it until Dean was okay, but I think he summoned it anyway. Or maybe it came to him.”
Bobby sighs, then shakes his head. “Dumb sonofabitch should’ve been more careful.”
“Don’t,” Dean grates out, jaw muscles twitching and eyes fixed straight ahead. “Whatever happened, don’t tear him down for it now.”
“Dean -- ” Sam starts, but Bobby cuts him off.
“Don’t mean no disrespect, son. Just wish things had gone different, is all.”
Bobby’s a gruff man, but Sam easily picks up on the regret in his voice and on his face. Dean must, too, because his tense features relax as he gives Bobby a long look.
“Can’t change what happened,” Dean says quietly, turning away and scrubbing a hand over his mouth. “Let’s just get the hell out of here, huh?”
Nodding, Bobby turns over the ignition and pulls into traffic, the hospital’s lights quickly fading into the distance.
It’s early afternoon when they arrive at Bobby’s. As they get out of the truck, Sam hefts his duffel bag over his shoulder and allows himself a yawn. He hasn’t slept much lately, and it’s catching up to him. He drifted off twice during the drive, although he jerked awake quickly both times.
Dean didn’t sleep at all, just stared disinterestedly out the windshield. He looks slightly pale and utterly exhausted as he scans Bobby’s salvage yard. “Where is she?”
Bobby raises his eyebrows at Sam before addressing Dean. “You sure you wanna do this now?”
Sam swallows a protest, because while Dean’s clearly wrung out, the set of his jaw speaks volumes.
“This way,” Bobby says, gesturing to their right and leading them down a dusty path marked with patches of weeds and the occasional spare car part.
The Impala looks as bad as Sam remembers, twisted and crumpled and scarred in ways that suggest it’s a goner. Dean flinches a little as he slowly circles it, gliding a hand along its mangled frame here and there, and ducking down to peer inside. When he finishes, he purses his lips and nods.
“I can fix her.”
Sam’s not surprised to hear it, and hell, it just might be possible, because there’s steel in Dean’s voice and determination in his eyes, and in the past, those things have always produced results.
“Dean.” Bobby shakes his head. “There’s not a lot to work with here. She’s a mess.”
Dean turns narrowed eyes on Bobby, and his voice is nearly a growl. “I said I can fix her.”
There’s an awkward silence, and Dean looks away. His next words are quiet.
“I can fix this.”
Sam catches the slight emphasis on “this” and thinks Bobby does, too, because Bobby simply nods and heads toward the house. Dean casts one last look at the car, and then joins Sam in heading up the dirt path.
When they step inside the house, the sight that greets them is nearly identical to their last visit. Scores of books are crammed onto shelves, strewn across the desk and piled precariously high on the floor. The fireplace gives off a warm glow and faint heat. A quick look in the adjoining room confirms the Devil’s Trap is still painted on the ceiling.
Sam’s glad they’re here and not in some anonymous motel.
This feels far safer.
“Only got the one spare room, but there’s two beds in it.” Bobby jerks his head toward the back of the house. “Sheets are clean.”
Sam smiles faintly at Bobby’s hospitality. “Thanks, man.”
Bobby nods. “There’s leftover spaghetti and lunchmeat in the fridge, if you’re hungry. Bread’s on the counter. Got a fair amount of beer, too, if you need it.”
“Appreciate it,” Dean says, but neither he nor Sam head for the kitchen.
“So.” Bobby pauses, eyes shifting away momentarily and fingers scratching his beard. “You gonna take care of the body yourselves?”
Dean’s shoulders tense, but his expression is neutral.
Sam nods. “We made arrangements to pick him up tomorrow night. We’re hoping you might know of a place where we can … ” He bites his lip, uncomfortable with the words, with what they have to do. “Somewhere a small fire won’t be a big deal.”
“I know a place,” Bobby says. “It’s quiet. Out of the way. ’Bout an hour east of here. I’ll draw you a map. “He tilts his chin toward the salvage yard. “Got a truck you can use, and I’ll see that it’s loaded up with the supplies you’ll need. I’ll park it out front.”
They thank him, and he excuses himself to go work in the yard.
With Bobby gone, Sam suddenly feels awkward. He’s looking at Dean, but Dean’s staring at the floor, eyes vacant. They’re so close they could touch, and yet Sam feels like he might as well be back at Stanford, with thousands of miles and hurt and regret separating them.
“I’m tired,” Dean says, and heads toward the bedroom. He takes only a few steps before stopping. “You should sleep, too, Sam. You look beat.”
Sam sighs heavily. “Yeah. I am.”
He follows Dean into the bedroom, tossing the duffel bag on the floor as he looks around. It’s a fairly decent-sized room, but the beds are twins, and Sam knows his feet will hang off the edge. He’s too tired to care, though.
The mattress is firm, and he winces as it presses against tender bruises. Taking a deep breath and slowly releasing it, he forces stiff, aching muscles to relax. Exhaustion becomes all encompassing, and his eyes soon drift closed.
It’s not long before sleep pulls him under.
Sam wakes slowly, eyes blinking drowsily open and fixing on the wall. For a few seconds, he doesn’t remember. He’s simply waking from a much-needed sleep.
And then it comes back to him, washing over and nearly drowning him.
Squeezing his eyes shut, he blows out a long, shaky breath before turning over.
Dean’s still asleep. Sam can’t make out his features in the dark, but recognizes the long, steady breaths. Normal breaths, so very different than the ones the ventilator forced out of Dean not too long ago.
Checking the digital clock on the nightstand between them, Sam sees it’s a little after eight o’clock. His stomach is painfully empty, and while it’s partially from hunger -- he hasn’t eaten since this morning -- he knows it’s largely from grief.
Dean shifts in his sleep and Sam holds still, wondering if Dean’s waking, but there’s no further movement, no change in breathing, and so Sam relaxes.
He tries to go back to sleep, because he’s still so damned tired, but his mind won’t let him, conjuring unwanted images and sounds.
Dad, sprawled on the hospital-room floor and then lifeless on the gurney. His own voice, angrily accusing Dad of caring more about killing the demon than saving Dean. Of going after the demon last night, as Dean lay dying.
God, he wishes he could take those words back. But he can’t. He has to live with them.
Dad died with them.
Sam presses the heels of his hands into stinging eyes, and tells himself that no matter what angry words they exchanged over the years, Dad knew he loved him.
It doesn’t make him feel any better.
He drags himself out of bed ten minutes later, needing a distraction from the thoughts banging around in his head. He finds Bobby sitting at the small, worn kitchen table, digging into a pile of spaghetti.
Bobby motions to a large white dish on the counter. “There’s more in the bowl. Plates are in the cupboard to the right of the stove. Forks are in the drawer underneath.”
Sam grabs what he needs and dishes up a small pile of spaghetti. He’s not really hungry, but he needs food. It won’t help anyone if he passes out. So he sits down and eats without enthusiasm, motions mechanical and mind somewhere else.
“Still need to draw you boys that map,” Bobby says after swallowing his last bite of spaghetti. “Just take me a few minutes.”
Nodding, Sam watches Bobby get up and clean off his plate and then follows suit, loading their dishes into a dishwasher that looks at least ten years old. After Bobby disappears to find pen and paper, Sam finds a glass and fills it with water. He’s just sat back down when Dean walks into the kitchen, face pale and eyes dull, but looking a little more rested. Dean nods in Sam’s direction and then stares at the bowl of spaghetti on the counter.
“It’s good,” Sam says, although he didn’t even notice the taste. “You should have some. We just finished up, so you can take the rest.”
Dean fishes around in the drawers until he finds a fork, then grabs the bowl and takes the chair opposite Sam.
Taking a sip of water, Sam tries not to frown as Dean picks at the food. It’s been too long since Dean’s had a decent meal.
Bobby soon walks back into the kitchen, sets a hand-drawn map on the table, and starts going over it. As they listen to him, Sam casts furtive glances at Dean. He’s somewhat relieved that Dean eats about half of the spaghetti before throwing the remains down the sink. He’ll have to keep a close eye on Dean for the next few days, make sure he doesn’t forget to eat.
“I’m going back to bed,” Dean says, tone flat, and walks away before anyone can comment.
A small frown pulls at Bobby’s lips. “I reckon he needs all the rest he can get.”
Sam watches the bedroom door close before turning his attention back to Bobby. “Yeah, he does.”
“So do you. You look like hell, Sam.”
Smiling wryly, Sam takes a last drink of water and gets to his feet, bidding Bobby goodnight. He thinks he could sleep for days, and recognizes this drained feeling, remembers it from when Jess died. Grief has a way of weighing a person down. There’s nothing to do for it, though, but keep going. Keep living, no matter how hard it is.
He has to find a way through this, for both of them.
For Dean, most of all.
They sleep late the next morning and barely interact the rest of the day. Dean spends most of his time staring at the car or sifting through Bobby’s tools. Sam tries to bury himself in Bobby’s large book collection, though it’s hard to focus.
Their conversations are brief, and relatively harmless. Is Dean hungry? Did Bobby get everything they need for tonight? Is ten o’clock a good time, or should they wait until later?
Safe topics that don’t make Dean bristle, and Sam’s more than okay with that, because as much as he wants to comfort Dean, and himself, he wants to avoid a fight even more.
A warm hand on Sam’s shoulder shakes him awake, and Dean’s voice is quiet but gruff.
Their door is open, and the hall light spills into the room, casting shadows across the planes of Dean’s face. Dean’s expression is nearly void, but Sam doesn’t miss the tight set of his jaw, or the way his thumb worries the edge of his jacket.
Sam aches for both of them.
“I’ll be in the front room,” Dean says, leaving Sam to get ready.
After pulling on clothes and shoes, Sam pads into the bathroom and takes stock of himself. Bruises and cuts mar his face, and there are faint circles under his eyes. His head and muscles throb in time with his heartbeat. Grimacing, he digs an ibuprofen out of his pocket and washes it down with a cupped hand of water.
After relieving himself, he washes up and heads into the front room. Dean’s waiting at the door, face impassive.
Sam gestures at the keys Dean’s holding. “I’ll drive.”
Dean hesitates for only a moment before relenting, and then follows Sam out to the truck Bobby’s loaned them.
There’s a faint chill in the air, and a light breeze ruffles Sam’s hair as he opens the driver’s-side door. The stark reality of what they’re about to do hits him and he stops, feeling like someone’s rammed a fist into his gut.
God, he doesn’t want to do this. He doesn’t want to say goodbye to Dad anymore than he wanted to say it to Dean.
Dean’s staring at him from across the hood of the truck, and Sam gives himself a mental shake. He can’t lose it now. The next few hours will be tough enough as it is.
Taking a deep breath and releasing it, Sam focuses on slipping into the soldier persona he grudgingly learned from Dad.
Spine straight. Shoulders squared. Emotions blocked.
He nods at Dean.
“Let’s go,” Sam murmurs, settling into the driver’s seat. He waits for Dean to get inside and then turns over the ignition. The truck rumbles to life, and he pulls out and heads for the highway.