OK, here it goes – the last chapter. I hope everyone is still with me and just in case I still need to say I – don't own them or much of anything else…
Dean barely made it through his breakfast the next morning. Not because it didn't taste good, which…it didn't, come to think of it, but mainly because he was just too damn anxious to leave already. Fearing that by waiting too long someone would figure out they'd made a mistake and make him stay after all.
Both Sam and Bobby stayed on during the final examination Dr. Parker gave him, no doubt making sure that Dean would not be able to keep any of the instructions and warnings he was given to himself. Dean sat and nodded through the whole ordeal, but was silently glad that Bobby was there too, because he really didn't think he would be able to remember all he was being told. He concentrated on keeping his breathing even and low, his eyes open while they changed his bandages, wrapped his ribs more tightly than before. His cast they had renewed the night before, so at least that wouldn't keep him from getting away any longer.
He saw the distraught looks on both his brother's and Bobby's face at the sight of his bare back and chest, his abdomen. He realized that they both hadn't seen the full extend of his injuries up until now. But if he just stared straight ahead, right at the doctor, he could almost pretend that their eyes weren't staring daggers into him, could pretend it was nothing, really. Dean wasn't used to feeling so self-conscious about his own body, never had had a reason to. With time, these scars would just melt in with the others, the older ones, grow fainter and fainter until there was barely anything else left but the memories. He just doubted that those would ever go away for good.
Somehow he apparently managed to nod at the appropriate times in the doctor's speech because finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the doctor came over to shake his hand – the left one, how considerate.
"You take care now…and take it easy, Dean. You did good so far, don't push yourself too fast, alright? And remember, a week from now you go see a doctor, get the stitches out and let them take a once over…do some x-rays to make sure your ribs are healing alright…"
At the doctor's somewhat stern look Dean nodded solemnly. Even though he doubted that it would happen quite that way. At least in removing the stitches they didn't need a doctor for…both Bobby and even Sam having plenty of experience in taking them out at home. About these once-overs, he knew it would be a lot harder to convince his two watch-dogs otherwise, so he'd need to think it over, see if he could find a way out of it.
Dr. Parker gave him another stern look that couldn't quite hide the smile that played on his lips and left the room.
Bobby excused himself right away, going after the man and Dean knew that they were discussing this whole thing over again, the older hunter no doubt getting written instructions and numerous bottles of pills and yet more instructions on how to administer them.
He knew he should probably feel patronized by their behaviour but just couldn't bring himself to get upset over the matter. It was nice to have someone care for him, to be honest. Plus, right now he had enough on his hands as it was, namely, trying to get dressed.
He had planned on doing it himself. Stubborn? Maybe, but it was his damn right. He couldn't stand his body betraying him the way it did as it was, having to accept help getting dressed just seemed to be too much at the moment.
With Sammy sitting in his usual chair, pointedly not watching while of course doing just that out of the corner of his eyes Dean slowly sat up, suspiciously eyeing the now closed door as if to make sure that nobody was lurking behind it to burst in on him just when he was stark-naked.
Getting his gown off was fairly easy. Pulling the grey shirt that Sammy had brought over his injured arm and head proved to be a much harder task already, muscles in arms and shoulders sore and stiff with lack of use, but still he did manage. It ended there, though. He realized that there was no way he was going to be able to bend over far enough to pull his jeans up by himself, a sharp pull in his abdomen, a stab in his chest pointing that out to him very impressively. He groaned, got even more frustrated when he realized that Sam was not going to come to the rescue unasked, not this time.
"Sammy…I could use a little help over here…"
It took all Dean's willpower not to snap at his little brother, to keep his voice even. God, he was so frustrated already and he wasn't even out of the damn hospital yet. Better not think about the days to come. He forced himself to calm down. It wasn't the kid's fault. Sammy had done nothing but help him, support him without ever complaining about anything. Still, this was just so damn humiliating.
Sammy helped him put his feet through the jean's legs, helped him stand up and then proceeded to pull the damn pants up over his hips. Dean just closed his eyes and let it happen, tried not to think about it too much. Just when Sam was about to go buttoning him up he had enough though and gently but decisively pushed Sammy's hands aside to struggle with the buttons himself. Not easy with the damn cast but not impossible.
He needed help with his socks, too, and lacing the boots needed to be done as well so Dean just resigned himself to it, watching Sammy do it with such implicitness it seemed almost casual, as if it had never been different.
Dean had to smile at the memory of himself lacing up little Sammy's shoes when he had been younger. It seemed to have been not all that long ago, come to think of it. But if you looked at them now it seemed like an eternity nonetheless. Still it did feel wrong seeing his baby brother do it for him now, big brother prerogative and all.
When he was done Sam rocked back on his heels, locked up at him expectantly.
"You OK? Anything else you need?"
Dean shook his head worked himself into his over shirt.
"No, Sammy, I'm good."
Sam smiled at him, got up to throw some things into his own duffel. Books and some magazines, all the little things the two of them had somehow managed to splatter across the room during the past weeks of their stay. Dean just watched him clean up after them meticulously, much like every time they moved out of a motel after a hunt, taking everything with them, nothing to be left behind.
When Sam was done he placed the bag next to the door, ready for them to leave anytime. He then came over to where Dean was still sitting on the edge of his bed, painfully straight but not for all the money in the world was he going to lie down in that bed again. Sam hopped up to sit next to him, hands resting in his lap, their shoulders just short of touching. They sat like that for a while, just waiting for Bobby to come back.
There were so many things Dean wanted to say, should be saying, but somehow couldn't. He'd never been good with words, not in this department. He cleared his throat unconsciously before saying in the softest of voices:
Now that hadn't been too hard.
He felt the bed shift as Sam straightened himself, turned to look at him with an incredulous look.
For being there for me…for holding my hand and not making a big deal out of it…for staying with me when I can't wake up – and yes, I do know about it - and for still being there when I finally do... for still believing in me, for not loosing faith.
"Well, you know…everything…"
Sam just stared at him for a while longer and Dean finally got himself to look right at the kid, seeing the confusion in his eyes.
"I didn't do anything!"
"Yeah you did…just…don't look at me like that. I'm fine, just thought I should tell you...well…you know...thanks for everything. Don't make a big deal out of it."
But it was…to Dean it was a big deal. Because in all honesty, what would he have done without Sam?
Sam just kept staring at him and Dean challenged him to it until finally the kid looked away.
"Uhm…you're welcome. You know there is nothing to thank me for, though. You would have done the same for me."
Dean shrugged noncommittal. Sure he would have, he was the big brother after all. He'd changed Sammy's diapers, there was nothing that could faze him anymore. He chose not to tell his little brother though.
Another couple of minutes of silence passed between them.
"Dean, dad's gonna come back, right? We're going to be OK…right?"
Now where the hell had that come from? Dean didn't need to think about the right answer for more than a second though. It was the only answer that was acceptable, after all.
"Sure, Sam. He'll be back as soon as he has taken care of this…whatever it is he's after right now. Try not to worry too much. We'll be fine, you'll see. I'll make sure of that."
He didn't know how he did it, especially now in his so not reliable state, but Sam nodded, satisfied with the answer. He looked almost relieved, tension draining out of his body. How he got his little brother to trust him like that was beyond Dean but it made his heart swell with love and pride and, just like that, he felt so much better. Far from OK, but he'd get there…they would get there. He was almost sure of it now.
When Bobby finally re-entered their room he had to give the boys just one look to be sure that they were more than ready to leave this place, Dean almost out of bed before the older hunter had completely cleared the doorway, and who could blame them after all. Still there was something he needed to discuss with them before they could finally go. Dean fidgeted impatiently on the bed, not willing to lie down again or even lean back for support, not willing to give in to his body's needs just yet.
From the serious look on the older hunter's face Dean could sense that it was something that he wouldn't like to hear, probably, and for a second there his breath caught in his throat. Surely Bobby wasn't going to confront him, again, not in front of Sammy? He loved Bobby, with all his heart, but he wasn't sure he would be able to forgive him something like this, not when he had thought he could trust the older man.
Bobby stood in front of them, like the father he almost was, looking down on his two charges while absentmindedly scratching the back of his head. Finally, he sat down in the chair as if suddenly remembering that it was even there, leaning in towards them, now actually positioned lower then them.
"Your father called me this morning…"
Now that had been a tad unexpected.
Dean thought he could actually hear Sam's jaw drop and he really didn't need to look at his little brother to be able to see those eyes as big as saucers right about now. His own face he kept straight and guarded, almost painfully so and it took all his self-restraint not to blurt out what he really wanted to ask right now.
Sure enough, Sammy took care of that for him.
"What did he say? Is he alright? When will he come back?"
"Well, Sam, why don't we take it one after the other, shall we? So, yeah, he did call the hospital to ask how you were doing and they told him that I was here now so he called me instead. He's really sorry that he couldn't make it back sooner, you know. He went on a hunt, over in Washington State, thought it was a simple thing but it turned out to be a bit more than he anticipated…"
"But he IS alright, is he?"
Sammy again all worry and fear and Dean could feel his brother unconsciously moving closer towards him, seeking the security his older brother always seemed to be able to provide him with in the past.
And Dean really, honestly wanted to reach out and offer all the comfort he could give right now, only he somehow couldn't, his mind and body too numb to process the signals he'd been trained to react to so well over the last 12 years or more.
"Yeah, he is Ok, as far as I could tell…a little banged up but nothing serious. He's teaming up with another hunter in a couple of days to end it, then he'll be on his way to my place, pick you guys up. I told him he'd have to stick with us for a while though, that you guys won't be going anywhere anytime soon! Not until tough guy here is up on his feet again."
Bobby spoke to both of them but his eyes were trained on Dean the whole time and Dean couldn't help but blink a couple of times under the close scrutiny.
What was he supposed to do, how was he supposed to react? He was afraid to look Bobby in the eyes for fear of what he might see there. Was the older hunter actually telling the truth, or was this just a way to make up for yet another failure of their dad?
Whichever it was, Dean resolved then and there that he would play along with it, for Sammy's sake, and maybe just a tiny bit for himself, as well. He looked up and straight at the older hunter, forcing his hands to relax in his lap to keep up the appearance of calm.
Bobby couldn't have missed the look, or the lack thereof so far and as soon as he caught Dean's eyes with his own he held on to them, pleading with him to believe him. And that look was enough to make Dean believe, in an instant.
Bobby never had lied to them so far, not even when the truth had been anything but pretty. He had never spared them any of the most gruesome details, even when they were far younger and most people most definitely would have lied to them out of the believe that they'd protect them from the terrible things in life.
Not so Bobby. Always straightforward, always treating them as equals, too. Accepting them as who they really were and that included Dean being Sammy's protector so whenever the older hunter had had something to say to them, he'd run it by Dean first, getting his permission, kind of, even though he most certainly never needed to.
"You know, your dad's awfully sorry he can't be here right now. Said to tell you hi and not to worry, he'll be there as fast as he can. Apparently he didn't think you'd make it out this fast. Told me to make sure you take it easy, that he'd have your hide if you did anything stupid and make life difficult for your brother and me…got that, sport?"
It took all Dean's will not to crack but instead he just nodded, quickly and almost invisibly, letting Bobby know that he was with him, that he understood. Lowering the walls just an inch or two to thank him for what he was doing.
"Did he relive me of cleaning-up-duty too? Because I really think I'm far too weak to do the laundry and the washing up for still a while to come, you know?"
Dean was amazed himself by how well is voice worked, not giving away what his eyes were saying.
Bobby actually laughed at that, still keeping eye-contact though and Sam grumbled unhappily next to him, murmuring something underneath his breath.
"What was that, Sammy?" Dean nudged his brother gently in the ribs, finally breaking contact with Bobby when casting an almost amused glance at his little brother.
"I said great, now I get to do all your chores…it's not fair, you know?"
"Oh yeah? Well, you know, life isn't always fair, Sammy. Better get used to it."
But it was all light brotherly banter and even Sam had to smile at him, nudging him back ever so slightly.
"Still, I'm not going to wash your dirty socks. No way."
Dean huffed at that, which was all he could do right about now. It still hurt too damn much to laugh out in the open. Just as he was about to shoot a smart remark back at Sam, Bobby chose to cut the brotherly banter short, though.
"Well, we'll see about that, alright guys? Now I say I go get the nurse so we can get you out of here. Still got a long drive ahead of us!"
With a last reassuring nod at Dean Bobby left the room.
Bobby returned only a couple of minutes later.
Unfortunately, along with the hunter came a nurse pushing a wheelchair that she insisted Dean should sit in for them to wheel him out of the hospital.
Dean had fought her over it, but just for show really because in secret he wasn't all that eager to walk any longer distances yet, the crutch being more of a hindrance than actual help to him. He didn't once turn back as they wheeled him down the endless halls to the exit, shaking a couple of nurses' hands on the way. Apparently his charm had still worked pretty well, even with him all messed up as it had been.
At first he'd been sorely disappointed at the sight of Bobby's old truck waiting for them out in the parking lot. But of course…what else had he expected? The Impala was safe and sound at the motel-parking lot they had told him. Of course Bobby would use his own car to get them back to his place. Still he was just a little bit sad, he hadn't seen his girl in such a long time. But he didn't show how he felt about it, silently accepted Sam's and Bobby's help in getting into the car. Once he was in he leaned his head back against the worn vinyl of the seat, slid down until the pain in his chest and abdomen was reduced to but an ever present yet dull pressure and closed his eyes to let out a deep sigh. Not home, not his baby, but at least he was out. He hadn't felt that relieved in a long time.
Dean tried to find the most comfortable position to sit in. He had fought and won Sam over who got to sit in front, riding shotgun. He was the older one, after all, it should be his prerogative. Of course he knew that he would probably be more comfortable in the back, would be able to lie down and rest because the journey sure would be long and probably painful as well. But there was this one thing he needed to do first and for that he needed to be up and alert, couldn't afford to be sluggish and sleepy.
He gave Bobby the address and then busied himself with watching the scenery fly past the window until finally, after about twenty minutes, the car pulled to a stop in front of a well kept, two-story house. Bobby stopped as close to the curb as possible and before Dean could so much as say anything, let alone touch the door handle Sammy was out and by the door, getting it open for him and extending a hand to help him get out.
He considered denying the help briefly but thought better of it and accepted, let his little brother steady him until he was stable on his feet, took the offered crutch and started limping up the drive towards the front door of the house.
Suddenly he wasn't so sure that this had been the right decision anymore. He faltered, ever so slightly, the cane catching his vertigo in time and in an instant both Bobby and Sam were by his side to steady him.
"Dean, what is it. Are you OK?"
He waved them off distractedly. This wasn't anything physical, not right now. They didn't know, didn't need to. Probably never. Certainly not now. It was hard enough to keep his focus as it was.
Dean took a step forward then, willing himself to place one foot in front of the other. Both Bobby and Sam started to guide him up the driveway, like watchdog on either side of him without touching. Just there to make sure, to be there when needed. Halfway up the drive Dean stopped, took a step back so they had to turn around and look at him.
"Sorry guys…but this is something I need to do by myself."
He noted their confused faces and added quickly:
"It's just someone I need to say goodbye to. I'd like to do this by myself. If you don't mind staying with the car, I'll just be a minute."
Dean covered the rest of the way by himself, hesitated only a second before knocking.
Sam watched his brother from his vantage point on the front-passenger seat, trying hard to appear nonchalant. Bobby leaned next to the open door, arms crossed before his chest. Both didn't try to hide that they were watching Dean, though.
It took almost a minute until the door was finally opened and a woman in her early forties appeared at the door, listening to something Dean said and nodded before disappearing back into the house, leaving the door open. Dean apparently didn't want to go inside to wait, he shot a quick look over his shoulder as if to check if they were still there, leaning a little on the doorframe, but standing tall and steady nonetheless. If anything, he appeared a little too composed but you wouldn't know if you didn't know him well enough. Which most people didn't.
Finally, another couple of minutes later, a girl about Dean's age appeared in the doorway and even from where Sam was sitting, too far away to actually make out any details or hear anything that was being said, he could see her tense at the sight of his brother, shrink back immediately. She was about to close the door on him but Dean held out a hand, his cast-covered one, to keep the door open and she hesitantly complied.
Sam wanted to get up to move in closer, wanted to hear what was being said. He knew his brother's body language better than anyone else and there clearly was too much tension there for it to be just the casual encounter that Dean had made them believe it would be.
Sam couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't quite alright.
The girl had wrapped her arms around her body now, drawing her cardigan closer around herself as if trying to hide between the comforting folds of the fabric. They kept a far enough distance not to be able to touch so Sam quickly ruled out that she might have been a girl Dean had dated like he had first thought. What else was confusing was the fact that his brother's posture clearly suggested forced relaxation, something his brother knew how to do so well. He appeared completely at ease while at the same time instilling this sense of…urgency…seriousness, some sort of power that always made people nervous. He used this matter of intimidation well, had mastered it and even though his body now clearly wasn't up to the task there still was something there. It seemed to work quite effectively on the girl, too.
They stood there for a while. Dean appeared to do most of the talking, the girl only listened, shrinking even further into herself if that was even possible. Well, it would be understandable if you considered the way Dean still looked. Maybe they had been friends and he was telling her now what happened…but then, he didn't remember, right?
They talked for about five minutes, tops, but it seemed a lot longer. Dean stood strong and unwavering the whole time while the girl seemed to deteriorate right before his eyes. Finally, very abruptly, Dean turned around, leaving his leverage point on the doorframe and started limping back towards the car. The girl didn't waste much time, she stared after him for only a second or two before hurriedly retreating back into the house closing the door with a little too much haste behind her. Sam was almost sure he heard the lock turn right after, which of course was nonsense, it was just something that sprang to mind in the situation.
Dean walked tall until about halfway back down the drive before his steps again faltered slightly. He didn't fall, caught himself just in time, but it was enough to spring both Bobby and Sam into action, hurrying up to meet him and this time Dean let them help, accepted Bobby's arm around his waist and Sam's reassuring hand at his elbow.
Together they made it back to the car without speaking. Dean's breathing a little forced and pained, his lips closed too tightly to be nonchalant anymore. He allowed them to lead him up to the curb, carefully lowered himself into the offered backseat of the truck, not complaining or arguing about not sitting up front. He was spent, really, just wanted to lie down and rest. The backseat would do just fine. He lowered himself down until his head hit the seat, scooped back until he was as far in as he could go, head now resting against the armrest on the opposite door. Someone tugged up his legs, bedded his brace-clad foot carefully onto something soft, before closing the door.
He heard the front doors slamming shut but the car didn't start so Dean again cracked open his lids to find two sets of eyes watching him intently from the front seats. Both of them questioning and definitely a little worried, too. He flashed a smile, wide and not at all insincere, just a little worse for wear maybe.
"Whenever you're ready…"
"So, kiddo. Care to tell us what this was all about?" The gentle gruffness of Bobby's voice making Dean's smile freeze in place, but he did manage to keep it there.
"Yeah, Dean, who was that anyway?" Sammy now leaning closer, feeling a lot braver with Bobby there as backup.
Dean quickly contemplated his options and came up with only one possible strategy. It was two against one now, not really fair but he thought he could deal with it. He had prepared a story to tell, just in case, had known that they would group up against him eventually and was actually surprised that they had waited this long to get a go at him.
"She…that was Janie. She was in my class. I just…I wanted to tell her goodbye. Just wanted to make sure she knew…that I was leaving. Wanted to make sure she knew…I would not forget about her. I told her I'd keep an eye on her, catch up with her in a while, maybe…"
He thought he'd done a pretty good job in keeping his voice even, his emotions in check. Dean didn't look directly at them but past them through the windshield, focused on something else so they wouldn't see the lie in his eyes. He didn't trust himself entirely anymore lately. Even though, it wasn't a lie really, not flat out. He'd told her all that…only for a different reason than they'd assume.
Dean had told her that he knew, that he still knew and wouldn't forget. That he'd have an eye on her, on them and that he'd be back, in a heartbeat, if they'd ever tried anything, ever again, on anyone. And then he wouldn't hesitate, not one second.
He'd been concerned about whether or not his still weakened appearance would even get his point across, would make her believe him. Because yeah, he could push past what they'd done to him. Barely so, but he could, with time. Had been his own damn fault anyway. He should have just been stronger. His priorities were set now, the safety of his family came first, before his own, before revenge.
But he would never forgive himself if he walked away now and later find out that they'd picked another victim. That he couldn't live with.
He'd keep an eye on them, check up on them, drop a message every now and then. Make sure they wouldn't forget him. Just like he'd never forget them. He had his scars, inside and out and probably a whole lot of nightmares to make sure he never would. He'd give them a little something in return. Made sure they'd feel the urge top look over their shoulders whenever they planned anything stupid, or just for the sake of it. Not knowing was the worst part, he knew that better than anyone. And he'd make sure that they'd never quite forget, never felt entirely safe anymore…
So that would be his revenge. It didn't seem to be much in comparison, but he would make the best of it. And who knew. Maybe one day, they'd meet again. Wasn't there a saying that you always meet two times in a lifetime?
He'd make that second one count, then. Besides, revenge was a dish best served cold, right?
So until then he'd just have to concentrate on getting stronger, better. Learn from his mistakes.
"Dean…?" Bobby's voice ripped him out of his musings.
"I asked if you were OK with leaving now or if you might want to stay on for a couple of days. We always could go back to the motel if you've got some things to finish up…"
Now there would be no use in that. Absolutely not. He wanted to get as far away as fast as possible. For now he needed distance to work it all out.
He actually looked forward to the small room he and Sammy had at Bobby's, always theirs whenever they needed it. He'd feel better once he was out of here, off to the only place he even remotely considered a home anymore.
"Nah, I'm good. Let's just hit the road. The sooner we get there, the sooner I get better, the sooner I can get back to get my baby…"
Sammy rolled his eyes at that and Bobby just smiled.
Dean again leaned back, closed his eyes and listened to the car coming to life, pulling away from the curb and easing onto the road. A long road ahead, no doubt but at least he knew where it would lead to this time and the prospect was more than he could have hoped for.
He listened to Sam and Bobby talk in hushed tones and let the sound of their voices and the turned down tunes of some country music from the radio lull his aching mind and body to sleep.
Well, so, that's it…feels kind of strange to finish a story that has been a part of me for so long… It's actually the first story I ever finished, ever. Because so far nobody ever got to read anything I wrote and as soon as I picked up something else, another train of thought, another storyline I just started following that. No harm done, since it was for my own entertainment only.
But this actually feels great and so much better.
Thank you guys so much for giving me this – I never though it possible that I would actually feel so good about my writing. I know it's far from even good, but to see that someone does care and appreciate it is more than I could have ever asked for! So far I always felt like a freak, writing fan fiction (I didn't even know something like this existed until some 6 months ago – a hospital stay and following 4 weeks of recuperation time introducing me to this amazing new world…) but now at least I know that I'm not the only freak in town ;-)
So thanks for giving me all this (plus listening to my incoherent ramblings!) and I really hope that you enjoyed my little story.
As of next week I will be on a 5 week-vacation in down under, but already my head is swarming with a couple of new story-lines and I sure hope that I will get those out in the open soon. I'm actually working on a new story already– I don't know a title yet but I sure hope you'll come to check it out as soon as I dare upload it here…still nervous about this part but getting a little better every time!
As always – please let me know what you think of this last chapter and/or the whole story…reviews are my own private drug – I can never get enough (and please, please, please be gentle…;-)) !