For Your Shoes
Santa may have brought you some stars for your shoes,
But Santa only brought me the blues.
Those brightly packaged, tinsel covered
Christmas Blues, by Bob Dylan (cover)
the middle of the red and gold sign, there's a flaming
eagle, swooping down, wings arched back. Sam looks at
it, the ornate shield around it, slick gilding shining
brightly in the floodlights. It looks like a nice place
and he grins when the man beside him drifts sideways,
shoulder checks him. Swats his friend's arm.
meet with the royal approval, your highness?”
up, Jackson. Ass.”
short blond chuckles, gathers the small gang of students
together with purposeful strides towards the wide glass
and smooth wooden doors.
on, this place serves up the best beer in California.”
in the middle of them as they crowd in through the door,
shaking off the damp chill, shedding their coats and
draping them on the already over-burdened rack of hooks.
They're strung with tinsel, he notices, scarlet and
gold again, peeping out between the coats and jackets
and scarves and hats. The theme carries on around the
bar, strings of lights low enough to make him scrub
a hand through his hair and sigh, more tinsel and a
tower of bottles in the corner, decorated like a Christmas
tree. There's even a fairy on top, except... He peers
at it, grins as he sees it's an elf, biker boots underneath
a glittery tutu and a seriously ticked-off scowl on
the sort of thing Dean would get a kick out of. He pauses,
sobers as he flashes back to the bar he spent last Christmas
in, sitting silently with his brother, chugging back
cheap lager and stealing bar snacks, trying to keep
at least two layers of clothing between his skin and
any contact with any surface at all. He wonders sometimes,
when his friends are laughing and planning parties,
if Dean knew that last Christmas. Knew there wouldn't
be another one, not for a long while, at least. The
jokes he'd told had been brittle, desperate. Not funny.
You in there, dude?”
blinks, realizes he's stopped in the middle of the room,
Jackson squinting up at him, the rest of them snagging
an empty table and scrounging chairs. “Yeah. Yeah,
I'm fine.” Shrugs off the pervasive loneliness
that keeps sneaking up on him, every time he sees something,
hears something and thinks, It's nice. Nicer than...
before. “I'm fine,” he says again,
follows his friend as they head toward the mass of people
swarming around the bar itself.
himself think it.
would like it.
his brother's face looking at the elf-in-drag on top
of the tree and has to squash down a laugh. It's not
the sort of place they ever went in, before. Economics
aside, it's the kind of place where people remember,
and the one thing the Winchesters were raised knowing,
it's how to avoid being remembered.
in between a buxom red-head and a skinny bald guy following
her out of the crowd, Sam stretches out a long arm,
squeezes through and bellies up to the bar; a long,
gleaming length of wood stained a dark, dark red that
looks just a little too much like long-dried blood for
comfort. Pinning his eyes firmly to the glittering array
of bottles lining the wall, he waits to be served and
his gaze traces labels idly, wanders down the bar, skims
over the tender leaning forward on one elbow, black
shirt straining across his shoulders as he cranes to
listen to the girl yelling at him.
to a halt and skitters back and he stares in shock at
the man, short, spiky hair plastered to the back of
his neck, scattering highlights as he nods, starts mixing
drinks with the deft fingers and absolute concentration
Sam remembers threading a needle and sewing torn skin
he breathes and maybe he really shouts it because the
bartender starts, twists around and stares right back
at him, hands still blending and pouring automatically
as Sam stands there, rooted to the spot, watching emotions
chase each other across his brother's face, so quick,
so barely-there he knows no one else would see them.
Shock. Anger. Warmth. Guilt.
Dean smiles, quick and blinding, makes change with one
hand as he shrugs an open-palm gesture at Sam with the
other. That breaks the grip the floor has on his feet
and he starts shoving carefully through people, meets
his brother halfway as Dean brushes off customers.
time I checked,” his brother answers carefully,
and Sam gets the message, rusty as he is, as he's
made himself get. Dean is fine, Winchester
probably isn't but he can work with that, for now.
Dean,” he says again, can't seem to remember how
to say anything else past the anachronism standing in
front of him.
said that already,” the older man grins, hands
twitching like he wants to reach out, sling an arm around
Sam's shoulders like he always did but isn't quite sure
if it would be welcome. So Sam leans in, throws a mock
punch at his brother's bicep, lets Dean duck it and
throw his arm around the back of Sam's neck and pull
him closer. It's quick, a tiny moment of manly back-slapping
but he breathes in, smells leather and gun oil and beer
and forgets to be lonely.
the wake of the moment, he's left hollow, shocked out
of the mild funk he's been drifting through, feeling
out of place and out of time for the last week. Gropes
for something to fill the void that suddenly seems even
bigger now than it did when he sat on the bus and didn't
look back, four months ago.
a bubbling, seething anger that surprises him.
the hell are you doing here, man?”
drinks, what's it look like, Sam?”
squints, peers closer. His brother sounds normal, just
like he always has. A little snarky, a lot cocky, loaded
with the bright lie that bares his teeth to the world
in a grin not many can see past.
not many would bother to look past.
know what you're doing here, Dean. What are
you doing here?”
older man cocks a brow at him, splashes whiskey into
a glass and slides it across the bar to a trucker falling
asleep on his stool.
skippin' English class or somethin', Sammy?”
Sam. Dean, are you...”
stops so fast his tongue trips a little, flicks an unobtrusive
glance around the bar, sees Jackson and the rest of
his friends in a corner, laughing at something the short
man has said. Jackson's gaze slides to his, question
in his eyes and as he has so many times before, Sam
wonders how he could be so lucky to find someone who
is so much like his brother. Who can ask You okay
there kiddo? without saying a word, and who thinks
to do so every time Sam starts to feel the first edge
of the emptiness around him.
smiles quickly, nods, holds Jackson's gaze for a moment
until the other man shrugs and tosses back his drink.
Sam leans into the bar, lips twisting in a moue of distaste
as his elbow smears through a small, sticky puddle.
you on a job?”
scowls at him, something dark flickering deep in his
eyes as he takes in the disgust on Sam's face.
I'm not on a hunt, Sam.”
oddly cut off, and he knows Dean bit back the rest of
the nickname. Appreciates it, even as the awkwardness
of it grates roughly.
what, you just happen to be slinging whiskey in a bar
in Stanford? Come on, man. Don't lie to me.”
is it? A... a spirit? Poltergeist?”
nothing, Sam. I just... I'm just working. That's
frowns at him, dread curling cold fingers 'round his
stomach as he realizes the only other reason for his
brother to be working behind a bar instead of hustling
pool or scamming credit cards.
not... you're okay? Dad?”
fine. Dad's in Florida somewhere.”
younger man watches him, chews at his lip as Dean shrugs,
eyebrows climbing with an exasperated, “What?”
No way. You wouldn't be here without a reason. What's
Sam - ”
talk to me!”
you trying to get me fired or something? I gotta get
back to work.”
lunges forward as his brother starts to turn away, grabs
at the sleeve of the older man's t-shirt, growling through
gritted teeth, fear churning in his throat.
told you, Sam! Nothing's going on! There's no hunt,
no one's dyin', I just didn't want to be -
cuts himself off, yanks out of Sam's grasp, snatching
a towel from the bar and wringing the dregs out of it
with sharp, savage motions. He ducks away from the younger
man's still outstretched hand as Sam blinks at him,
tries to catch his eye. Finds someone he doesn't recognize
staring back at him and feels his breath freeze in his
lungs as he realizes just how much has changed in the
months he's been away.
can't read his brother, can't find a way past the walls
that turn his gaze blank and alien and suddenly, Sam
feels very alone.
could cheerfully throttle the man yelling to his brother
from the other end of the bar, doesn't miss the flash
of relief in Dean's sudden smirk.
Dupree! You lookin' to get paid tonight or what?”
rolls his eyes at Sam as he yells it back over his shoulder
and for a moment it's like nothing has changed, like
nothing ever will. He's little Sammy-whoever-they-are-this-week
again, kid brother and rebellious son and not Sam Winchester,
law student and top of his class and holding down his
4.0 like he always knew he could.
a mask slides in behind his brother's eyes, remote and
a little cold, aimed just past his shoulder.
You in next round?”
jumps, just a fraction at the too-loud call behind him,
the hand that slaps his back.
Uh... yeah. Just, uh... I...”
the bar, Dean snorts, swipes a damp rag through the
always this verbose?”
sidles around him, echoing the snort.
this is actually pretty chatty for Sam. I get five Slammers?”
nods, starts lining glasses along the bar as Jackson
eyes them both. “You, uh, you two know each other?”
freezes, two worlds colliding in his head, lies ricocheting
along his throat.
of his brother's,” Dean steps in smoothly, not
looking at him. “Haven't seen Sam here in years.”
brother, huh? Bet you've got some stories about him?”
hunter slides a tray across the bar as he says it, smiling
briefly. Sam flinches as his friend's elbow digs subtly
into his ribs, sees the minute quirk in Dean's brow
and grins feebly.
Sam, I'm gonna take these back before the guys start
suing your ass for cruel and unusual. Why don't you
he blurts, suddenly afraid his brother might introduce
himself with some big-haired, mullet-rock superstar's
stage name, then frantically wonders if he's actually
ever mentioned his brother by name.
Why don't you come on over when you get a break, and
tell us a few stories about Sam when he was a kid?”
If I get a break.”
to meet you.”
waits until Jackson snags the tray and weaves his way
back through the growing crowd to the table.
almost groans at the glint in his brother's eye, sobers
as he realizes Dean won't have a chance to use the nickname
won't get a break tonight, not with a crowd like this,”
the older man goes on, expertly flipping tops from bottles
and swapping them for a handful of bills.
we have to talk,” Sam hisses.
well, now's not a good time, Sam. I'll call you later,
phone in his pocket suddenly seems heavy, burning hot,
all the missed calls he never returned, all the calls
he never answered and never quite managed to convince
himself he ignored because he was too afraid it would
be some sorrowful doctor, and not because he was afraid
that if Dean asked, he'd go back.
damn well better,” is all he says, takes the beer
his brother slides across the bar to him.
the house, Sammy.”
he mumbles, gulps at the cold liquid as he makes his
way between the tables, moving on autopilot, his mind
whirling with the odd dislocation of seeing his old
life mingling with his new one. Jackson shoves a shot
glass at him as he folds himself into the too-low chair,
one quirked brow asking the same old question. He nods,
sinks the tequila and gasps at the burn of the liquor,
face screwing up to a round of applause and raucous
back in his chair and sips his beer as his friends chatter
loudly about exams and the Cardinals' next game. And
wonders what his brother didn't want to be.
low call startles Dean as he gazes blankly at his hands,
mechanically polishing glasses.
keep till the morning. I ain't payin' you anymore overtime.”
tiredly, the hunter tosses his cloth down to the bar
and saunters to the man leaning heavily on the far end.
night,” he mutters, reaching past his boss for
his jacket, hanging in a small alcove.
You did good, kid. You sure you ain't gonna be hanging
around after the holidays? Could use someone long term.”
you've asked me that every night for the last two weeks.”
every night you say the same thing. Well, can't blame
a guy for tryin'.”
grins again as he shakes the older man's proffered hand,
shrugging into his jacket, already feeling the first,
preemptive shivers creeping up his spine. He never would've
thought Palo Alto would be cold in winter, the damp
chill at odds with his mental image of the sunny state
populated with bikini-clad chicks and surfers lounging
in board shorts and bikini-clad...
your ass outta here, Dupree!”
shakes himself awake, shoulders through the wide doors,
throwing a salute over his shoulder. Sucks in a deep
breath of the cool night, and wonders what it would
be like to change his answer, to leave this place every
night and know he'd be back tomorrow, and the night
after that and the night after that.
like hell, Winchester. You'd go buckets've crazy before
the week was out,” he laughs to himself.
the first time it sounds faintly hollow.
already nuts, man.”
blinks at the voice to his left, starts walking to the
car, a vague shadow on the far corner of the small,
a quiet scuff as his brother pushes away from the wall,
falls in behind him. Tension he hasn't recognized bleeds
away with the presence at his back and he feels his
good to see you, Dean.”
younger man lengthens his steps as he says it, until
they're walking side-by-side and Dean shoulder-checks
his brother, grins as Sam stumbles, comes back with
a shove that he twists away from, barely breaking stride.
uh... we're having a party. Kinda. If you wanted...”
hunter shoots the taller man a glance, squashes down
a scowl as he realizes how far up he has to look now.
askin' me on a date Sammy? That's sweet, but you're
not my type.”
snickers, leans on the car as they reach it, elbows
folded on the roof as his brother skirts the hood, trailing
his hands over the metal.
gonna be any sorority chicks at this party?” God
help him, the kid blushes and Dean rolls his eyes, mutters
socco voce, “I swear you were switched at birth.”
It's just... it's been...”
of them seems to know quite how to say it, and the hunter
ducks his head, watches his breath fog on the roof,
fade away, fog and fade. Constantly shifting, impermanent.
could have called Dean. Told me you were coming.”
you were coming to Cali?”
nods, doesn't look up, holds his breath until the metal
reflects his face back, black-eyed. Lets it go in a
really isn't a hunt?”
what am I supposed to think, Dean?!”
supposed to think that maybe I missed you,
Sam! That maybe I didn't wanna spend this Christmas
alone in some crappy motel room while Dad's off celebrating
with Jim, Jack and Jose and you're partying with your
new best friend Jackson!”
he's glad the bulk of the Impala is there between them,
raw fury simmering under his skin as he shoves against
it, sets the car rocking on her suspension and spins
away, striding a few paces into the lot. His footsteps
echo back at them from the buildings, sharp cracks of
sound that just accentuate the silence.
frowns, wonders at the ringing quiet. He'd thought the
city would be louder, especially tonight, the noise
from a hundred parties layering into a blanket of static,
not this empty hush that makes every building feel deserted.
watching him, he can feel the younger man's attention
following him as he paces, and suddenly, he finds himself
thinking about just getting in the car and driving,
heading East, maybe Washington or Dakota. Clenches his
fists at his side to stop them reaching for the keys
jangling in his pocket.
I'm - ”
Sammy, just go to your party, okay? Go have fun with
your friends. We can catch up tomorrow, maybe.”
answer for a long moment, so long he almost gives in,
can almost feel his brother working through it in his
missed you, and God, he can't believe he said that
could come, Dean. You'd like the guys. And I'm sure
there's a few sorority girls who haven't gone home either.”
turns, looks back at his brother from the middle of
the lot, sees the way Sammy won't meet his eyes, just
leans uncomfortably against the car, fingers tapping
on the roof. And imagines his brother standing in a
room full of strangers who think they know him, slouching
so he doesn't tower over them, hunching his shoulders
to disguise his strength.
shakes his head, can't stand the idea of watching his
brother being someone he doesn't know either.
I'm kinda beat. Been a long-ass day already.”
I'll call you in the morning, we can do... Christmas
you want a tree now? Tinsel, candy canes, you can be
the fairy on top?”
huffs, unfolds himself from against the car.
mean it, dude. No skipping out of town on me, alright?”
spreads his arms, opens his mouth to say “Would
I?” and closes it again, turns the gesture
into a shrug when the younger man glowers. Fights down
a smug grin because, damn, just then it feels
like every Christmas he can remember, he and Sam half-arguing
in some random, interchangeable motel parking lot.
Alright! Now will you please just go? Drink beer, get
laid! 'Cause dude, you're way too tense.”
gives in to the smile.
laughs, smiles too and takes a few steps backwards,
finally turns with a rolling shrug that looks more like
discomfort than dismissiveness. He walks away, shoulders
hunched, hands stuffed in his pockets. Trying to make
himself look smaller, safer. Normal.
good-humor drains away with every step his brother takes,
until he's just weary.
eyes the car, feels like mimicking his brother's shrug.
Twists away instead, determinedly not shoving his fists
in his jacket, heading off in the opposite direction
dead halfway down the street, one boot hanging suspended
in mid-air. His back is just cool, but his front is
icy, bitterly cold, breath pluming thick from bluing
lips, fingers curling up into his sleeves as he shivers
way. No freakin' way,” he mutters, edges back
a step, forward. Takes three long paces in a rush, the
cold spot just getting colder and colder as he pushes
into it until he has to dance sideways out of it, bouncing
on his toes, slapping his palms against his arms, trying
to beat some warmth back into his skin. He shakes his
head, sticks one hand out and circles the empty asphalt,
letting his fingers trail through the edge of the phenomenon.
Sammy's gonna kill me,” he moans, turns back to
the car, already running through an inventory of the
arsenal in the trunk. His hand skates over his pocket,
the cell phone inside, twitches away again as he watches
a flicker of memory behind his eyes; Sam, looking angry
and betrayed, oddly scared. “So, what, you
just happen to be slinging whiskey in a bar in Stanford?
Come on, man. Don't lie to me.”
the car, Dean skims a hand along the edge of the trunk,
reaches for the catch.
like it's just you an' me this time, baby,” he
mutters, hauls the lid up and snatches a quick look
around before propping the false bottom open on his
sawed-off. Digging in the cache, he pulls out a bag
of salt, a small can of lighter fluid, stashing them
in his pockets, skin crawling with sensation of eyes
watching him. His hand hovers over a large knife, the
scant light catching the etchings on the dark iron blade,
finally snatches it up and slips it into a leather holster,
tucking both into the back of his belt.
on, he'll swear blind his feet didn't actually leave
the ground when the call startles a yelp out of him.
Dammit, man,” he snaps, shuts the false lid quickly,
hoping desperately that the older man hasn't seen inside.
Dean turns, scowls at his boss.
are you still doing here, kid?”
Getting ready to find the remains of a vengeful spirit,
salt and burn it, all without anyone noticing.
He swallows back the truth, stumbles over an answer,
trying to remember the lie that came so smoothly to
his lips when he was telling it to Sam's friend. “I
was, uh... talking. To a... a friend. Brother. A friend's
peers at him, one brow raised.
help yourself to a bottle from my top shelf in there?”
grins, quick and fake.
as a judge, man.”
older man laughs, comes forward to slap him on the shoulder
and the hunter turns a little, putting the heavily laden
pocket on the far side of his body.
get on home. Gonna be a busy day tomorrow. Christmas
Eve always brings out the crazies.”
nods, eases a step to the side and freezes as he sees
something behind Al's shoulder. A shape in the window
beside the bar's front door, standing there, watching
him. Dean almost gapes as the shape wavers, flickers,
lifts one hand to press it against the glass.
that thing freakin' waving at me?
mumbles some kind of acknowledgment to Al, attention
fixed on the bar as his boss claps him on the shoulder
again and turns to go, the shape in the window watching
him. Dean glowers, checks salt, accelerant and knife
with one hand, locks the trunk with the other and puts
his back to the passenger door, slouching against it.
Stares hard at the bar and the slowly drifting figure
at the window.
waits until the echoes of the older man's footsteps
have faded before he shoves away from the car again,
walking quick and sure across the lot. He swallows hard
as the shape turns to face him, and catches a glimpse
of wide eyes and teeth bared in something that's probably
meant to be a smile before he's just looking at a blank,
empty window again.
dry lips, Dean crouches in front of the door, tugs his
pick set from his pocket and slips the tools into the
lock. The tiny scratching they make seems strangely
loud as he works, sweat making his fingers slide on
the tension wrench as he twists it in the cylinder.
The hunter lets his eyes unfocus, cocks his head to
the side as he tries to hear the pins drop into place
over the pounding rush of his heartbeat in his ears,
curses under his breath when the wrench slips and the
pick jolts free of his grasp, clattering softly at his
grabs at it, forces himself to stop, presses both hands
flat against the door, pulling in a long, shaky breath
and holding it for a moment.
can't pick a lock if you're rushing, boy. Take your
time. Relax. Forget about anythin' else that's goin'
on. Just relax.
nods at the whisper in his head, remembers crouching
on the floor at Bobby Singer's, the gruff mechanic patient
as he waited for the young teenager to unlock the door
barricading him in the small closet. By the time Dean
had finally managed to wrench the door open, he was
shaking, drenched with sweat, the tiny room stifling
and oppressive in the August heat, but he'd never found
a lock he couldn't open since.
are no walls to close in on him here, no summer heat
to blur his vision and make his head swim, no claustrophobia
to shudder through his nerves. Gathering his tools again,
he eases the pick into the slot, slides the tension
wrench against the cylinder and twists, feeling the
tiny vibration as each pin falls into place. He grins
quickly when the lock snicks open, tucks the
tools back into their pouch and drops it into his pocket
as he stands, pushes through the door and lets it close
Sam, will you just answer the damn thing or put it away?”
blinks at the question, stares down at the phone in
his hand. Again. Ruefully, he admits silently that he
must have pulled the device from his pocket a half dozen
times before he even made it back to the dorm.
sorry,” he mutters, glances one last time at the
blank screen and tries not to feel disappointed when
it stays just that; blank and stubbornly empty. A glass
of amber liquid appears in his view, beer slopping over
his hands and he snatches the phone out of harm's way,
stuffs it into his pocket and grabs for the glass with
a nod of thanks. Jackson sinks into the other corner
of the sofa, slurps nosily at his own drink.
waitin' on a call or something, Sam?”
No, I just... I thought...”
brother's friend? Dean?”
has to swallow down the proud declaration of truth.
My brother. He's my brother.
at least. Had walked home from the bar, waiting to hear
his name at first, then praying he'd hear his ring tone,
some last dregs of betrayal and anger keeping him from
just... when I saw him, in the bar. It was kind've a
shock,” he finishes on a weak laugh. Jackson slouches
down on the couch, rolls his head along the back to
peer at Sam.
never talk much about your family.”
shakes his head, the motion almost habitual by now.
Most of his friends have stopped pushing him for answers,
just understand that his past is ancient history and
let sleeping dogs lie. It still startles him, the simple
acceptance when he'd been prepared to spend the next
fewyears defending his silence. Startles him, warms
him and leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, a faint
crawling of guilt at the back of his mind.
we didn't exactly part on the best of terms. You know?
I haven't spoken to them in... jeez. Four, five months?”
It comes out hushed and surprised, the weeks passing
him by without him even noticing and he doesn't look
up from his beer, sees the other man nod in the corner
of his vision. Sam drains his beer in three long gulps.
ever call him?”
tips his head back, sighs gustily at the ceiling.
mention the countless times he's sat there, staring
at Dean's number, blinking slowly on the screen. Waiting.
his eyes and listens in his head, to the message he'd
played, over and over, in those first weeks. “Hey
Sammy. It's Dean. I...uh, I'm not mad, dude. I'm...
I'm not. I know you probably don't wanna hear that right
now. Hell, I'd be surprised if you're even still listening
but... anyway. Just don't... don't do anythin' I wouldn
always heard what his brother never said.
not mad. I'm scared. Don't forget us.”
Maybe,” he murmurs, feels the couch shift as his
friend clambers out of it, grumbling vague promises
of more beer. Sam nods, blinks once, and behind his
eyes he watches the moment he looked along the bar and
saw his brother, Dean, attention fixed tight
on the layered drink he was pouring with exquisite care.
Dean, right there, scruffy black t-shirt faded
to gray, hair spiked, green eyes glittering dark when
he glanced up. And it's only now that Sam realizes,
he knew. He already knew I was there. He'd
seen the way his brother's shoulders lifted, tightened,
glimpsed a muscle in his jaw start ticking, a dozen
pounding heartbeats before he'd met Dean's gaze.
thumping beat from the corner of the room suddenly feels
like fists, pummeling his skin and he flinches, throws
himself out of the couch and bolts for the door past
a startled Jackson. Outside, it's too quiet, too dark,
too empty when he knows his brother is there
just a few blocks away but not there beside
him, where his mega-watt grin and snark fill a space
that's been hollow around Sam for weeks.
hesitates just once, fingers already dipping into his
pocket. Calling feels uncomfortably like giving in,
like admitting he was wrong. It's startling, and unnerving
to discover he'd do that in a second if he really thought
it would erase the new mask behind his brother's eyes,
if it would make Dean Dean again, but it was
leaving that put the distance there, not being gone.
his phone is trilling shrilly, tinnily into his ear
and he doesn't even remember dialing, just knows he's
holding his breath as it rings once, twice, three, four
times and click -
hey, listen man, I...”
stumbles to a halt as his brother's voice mumbles over
is Dean. Leave a message.”
just gapes at the tone, actually pulls his phone away
from his ear to peer at the display, checking he's called
the right Dean and not some other random man he doesn't
remember putting into his contacts. The call disconnects
while he's gazing blankly at the screen, and he feels
acutely alone, the party on the other side of the doors
carrying on without him.
always answers,” Sam breathes, suddenly almost
bereft for a moment. He always
answers. Okay, so I haven't called in five months but
he always, always answers. Unless he's hunting.
Dean. You promised me...”
trails off into silence again, thoughts raging in his
head, his brother's impatience, frustration, edging
the sorrow out of his gaze and Sam winces as he belatedly
recognizes the hollowness that had seemed like walls
in Dean's stare.
supposed to think that maybe I missed you, Sam! That
maybe I didn't wanna spend this Christmas alone in some
crappy motel room while Dad's off celebrating with Jim,
Jack and Jose and you're partying with your new best
suddenly, he knows something's wrong. In the back of
his mind, there's a flash, a flicker of negative shadow
and if he squints, it looks sort of like his brother,
outlined for an instant against fire, arms thrown out
in the instant before it swallows him whole. He blinks
and it's gone and then he's running, grabs the top of
the fence ringing the tiny garden and vaults it with
a convulsive heave that he knows he'll feel in the morning.
a startled cry somewhere behind him but he shoves it
to the back of his mind as he lands in a sprinters'
crouch, pushes off again and the beat of the music is
soon lost in the pounding of his sneakers on the sidewalk.
The phone is clamped against his ear again, ringing
its shrill tone until his brother's voice chimes in
with its terse command. Sam's heart is already racing,
but every time he hangs up, dials again, his pulse kicks
up a notch, until he's sure his heart's about to beat
its way clear out of his chest.
slides around the corner at the end of the small, residential
street, grabs at the lamp post when his feet start to
slide out from under him, puffs out a breathless curse
as he stumbles onto the campus drive. Dials his brother's
number again, heart lodged solidly in his throat by
now when it clicks over into voice mail yet again.
you better... be... in seri... serious trouble...”
he gasps into the phone, snaps it shut. Makes it another
two blocks around the drive before he can't stand the
thought that the last message he might ever leave is
brother is that and digs the phone out again,
dials without looking at the keypad.
that... just... be okay. Okay?”
as he runs he tries not to think about how weird it
felt to invite Dean to their Christmas party, how strange
and awkward and wrong it felt, when a year ago, he would
have laughed long and loud at anyone who even hinted
that one day, he'd ask the brother he hasn't seen in
five months to come, and lie.
ducks off the road, mud splattering his jeans as he
cuts across the practice field, hears the thwack
of softballs and wonders who's playing a game the
night before Christmas Eve. Pants out a desperate laugh
when he wonders who'd go hunting spirits and monsters
the night before Christmas Eve, and forces a little
more speed out of his burning legs. He skirts the edge
of the stadium, pauses for a second, a brief moment,
clinging to the wall and trying to suck in twice as
much air as his lungs can actually hold with each heaving
breath. But when he squints his eyes shut to focus on
breathing he gets that flash again, that searing shadow
and the silhouette he'd know anywhere, any when, drowning
in the middle of it.
starts running again.
a few revelers who stagger out of his path when he bellows
at them to “MOVE!” and cheer him
on drunkenly, like he's heading for the finish line
of the quarter-mile in the Olympics. Loses his footing
again as he charges headlong onto University Avenue,
no convenient lamppost to save him this time, and he
goes down hard, skins his knees and palms and bounces
back up again, lips drawing back unconsciously in a
snarl as the cold, damp air stings the raw nerves through
the new holes in his jeans.
busier here, off the mostly deserted campus and he has
to slow down, dodge people and traffic and not everyone
is obliging now. He yells at pedestrians to move, and
some do but others don't quite seem to realize what
he means and just stand there while a few actually refuse
to get out of his way, turn and seem to try and square
up to him like they think he's maybe a bag-snatcher
and they've just now decided to play have-a-go-hero.
just barges through, elbows striking out when he needs
to, getting them out of his way with minimal
damage and leaving them gaping after him. He never even
thinks about it, just processes need and obstacle
and acts on the answers his hind-brain throws up and
if there's a tiny voice, wailing “I don't
do this anymore! I got out!” in the back
of his head, he doesn't let himself hear it.
Sam's aware he's never been to that bar before tonight,
that it should maybe be harder to find, even right on
one of the main streets as it is. But it's like there's
a map, laid out in glowing neon before his eyes and
as long as he doesn't actually think about it, as long
as he doesn't stop to wonder, “Did we cross
the Freeway?” his feet just seem to know
where to go.
of course, he does stop, he does think, and then he's
standing stock still, staring blankly at the cars streaming
by on the underpass.
frustrated yell bounces back from the walls around him.
He twitches in place for a moment, takes a few steps
one way, turns to peer down another street, all of them
looking familiar but not quite familiar enough.
of practice, he thinks, wonders if you can really
lose a sense of direction if you never use it.
buddy, you lost?”
jolts at the rumbling question, spins around and sees
a huge colored guy, towering over him, even leaning
on a door jamb as he is. Not just tall, this guy is
massive, he looks like the bastard offspring of an NBA
power forward and an NFL quarterback. Sam actually swallows
as he backs up a step, something twitching inside him,
an instinct almost dormant as he tries not to stare
and fumbles for an answer. Too big. He's just too
big. The shadows behind the guy
are deeper than they should be too, the streetlight's
hitting him full in the face but Sam can't see anything
behind him but emptiness.
at shadows, Sammy. Don't have time for this. The
voice berating him silently is his brother's, always,
and he jumps again, shakes himself. Wishes his own voice
would stop squeaking when he stammers, “Yeah.
Kinda. I'm lookin' for a bar. The, uh...” He almost
closes his eyes again as he tries to remember the name
of the bar, catches just a flicker of a fireball with
a black shape at its heart and flinches, snaps them
open again. “The Firehouse Grill.”
the guy rumbles again, and Sam can feel it in his chest.
“Straight down the avenue over the freeway, then
hang a right onto Donohoe Street. The Firehouse is just
in behind Office Depot.”
he grins, turns to go.
time. Good luck, kiddo.”
stops, squints back over his shoulder at the door as
it shuts the last inch and speculates on the likelihood
that he could just happen to catch the attention of
someone willing and able to help when he needs it the
way he said it,' he thinks, '“Good luck,
kiddo.” It sounded like...' like the way
his brother always says “Sammy,” and Sam's
breath hitches at the reminder. He turns a third time,
jogs to where the road climbs up over the Bayshore Freeway,
the sidewalk narrowing as it crosses the bridge. At
the apex, each breath he drags in comes flavored with
salt and mud as well as exhaust fumes and north east
of him, he can make out the way the light changes, stops
suddenly where the city gives way to the ocean.
partly why he came here in the first place, amazing
school and the fact that this is where his scholarship
took him aside. He'd wanted to be near the sea, the
sun and the sand and the normal. The first time he'd
gone out to the shore though, he'd hung back at the
edge of the dunes, inexplicably nervous of the shifting
water, the way it changed everything around it. He'd
wanted stability, permanence, and found a little too
much familiarity in the exact opposite.
hasn't been back to the beach since.
road drops down again and he picks up speed as he heads
down the long incline, until he's loping along with
the long-legged stride that had every coach in every
school he went to after the age of thirteen eying him
greedily. Throwing a quick glance back over his shoulder,
he dashes across the empty street, cuts into the small
park in the corner of the roads and barrels through
it, straight across the quiet street on the other side
and hurdles the fence ringing the parking lot. He recognizes
where he is now, pours on speed as his head swims dizzily
and his vision blurs but he keeps going, sneakers slapping
loud against concrete as he crosses the lot, squeezes
through a narrow gap between the edge of the fence and
the gates, barely noticing the long, thin scratch one
sharp end of wire leaves across his bicep.
stumbles onto the sidewalk, trips a little, chest heaving
as he runs on, following the road as it curves south
again, sees the way it opens out up ahead, the edge
of the shopping mall parking lot, the long, low building
on the other side and he smiles, breathless relief at
finding the building still standing making his knees
tremble with every long stride. He gets closer, close
enough to see the Impala on the edge of the lot, smile
turning into a grin, worry to the kind of anger that
burns itself out hot and fast and he digs in his pocket
for his phone again, certain, like ninety-nine percent
sure that Dean's just crashed out in the car in the
middle of the deserted parking lot, or maybe, even more
likely, is 'entertaining' some random chick in the backseat.
thumb is just hovering over the 'dial' button when there's
a flash of light in one dark window of the bar, a flicker
of white-heat that stops his feet running before his
brain quite gets the message that he's stopping. He
trips, goes down hard and rolls in an untidy tangle
of arms and legs, his phone skittering out of his hand
in a jumble of plastic and circuitry, etched with golden
light as the flicker in the window explodes into an
something hard under his side. Hard, with sharp corners
digging into his ribs, shifting painfully every time
he breathes. He blinks one eye open, thinks hazily about
reaching up to try and wipe away the glue that's apparently
sticking the other closed but his left hand is so numb
he almost looks down to make sure it's still attached.
The right is trapped under his side and when he shifts
to pull it free, ice shoots from his toes to his hip
and he sucks in a surprised gasp, which ignites fire
in his chest and when he flinches at that the dynamite
apparently packed into his skull detonates and sends
him spinning down into the dark again.
he wakes up, he isn't sure how long he's been out. Long
enough for most of his side to go numb, for the screaming
roar in his head to mute down to a ringing like a thousand
old fashioned alarm clocks all going off at once. He
cringes, rolls his head back and squints through his
a floor, battered and scarred and littered with scorched
glass that flickers and dances. It takes him a moment
to realize that it's the light that's moving, blurry
vision and depth perception that's shot to hell making
it seem like it's the world that keeps twitching around
all over the damn place. He groans as he tips backwards,
lets himself slide over onto his back and looks at the
scorch marks on the ceiling.
gonna be pissed,” he mumbles, realizes then that
his lip is split and swollen as he tastes copper on
his tongue. Dean blinks, drags the arm he can still
feel up to his face and rubs carefully at the blood
closing one eye, manages to pry the lids open enough
to squint at the ruined bar. “I'm so fired.”
Lifting his head an inch feels like someone chained
it down with barbed wire wrapped around the inside of
his skull, but he strains up, teeth gritted, looks around
at the scattered kindling that used to be chairs and
tables, the gaping holes where the glass was in the
he rolls painstakingly to his hands and knees, listing
awkwardly to one side as sensation returns like a million
tetanus shots, all at once. His arms shake with the
strain, the tremor spreading fast across his shoulders
and down his back. Sweat, stained pink, drips from his
nose, from the point of his jaw as his head hangs low,
trying to ride out the waves of pain that are screaming
he wonders if pain has ever had a voice before, one
that sounds almost like...
can barely hear his own croak, so he isn't really surprised
when the yelling just carries on, getting ever more
frantic, loud enough for him to hear it clearly, even
though it sounds like someone tied a pillow over his
Dean,where are you! Can you hear me? DEAN!”
struggles to push himself up to his knees, suddenly
wanting, more than anything, for his brother to not
find him helplessly crouched on all fours, or threes,
whatever. He loses time in the struggle, blind to the
effort that seems way more difficult than it should.
When hands clamp around his arms, haul him up, he chokes
out a startled cry, sags into his brother as ice explodes
in his hip and distantly, he wishes that the numbness
would come back.
God, Dean, hey, hey, come on.”
comes out as a whimper and he coughs raggedly, tries
What the hell, man?”
pries open his eyes, gets a blurry, too-close vision
of letters, words he can't make out against a dark background.
Blinks, and discovers he's crushed against his brother's
chest and he's looking at Sam's shirt, listening to
the younger man ramble on at him. He can feel Sam twitching,
jerking, constantly shifting as he searches the bar
strange, unfamiliar now to let his eyes slide shut again,
to let someone else take watch.
no no no, Dean, open your eyes. Come on, look at me.”
a moment he wonders when Dad got there, follows orders
and looks up at Sam's face, screwed up with worry and
fear. He wonders why his brother isn't pissed.
blinks at him, pulls back, eyebrows climbing.
can almost watch the wheels turning behind his brother's
to nod, gives up when the motion burns from his skull
down his neck.
spirit blew the bar up?”
No. Think... that might've been me.”
almost funny to see the color drain right out of Sam's
blew the bar up?!”
shrugs, tries to shake some life back into the other
arm. It's still numb, tingling, even when sensation
has mostly returned to the rest of his side. His fingers
exactly part of the plan, but... yeah.”
winces as the yell starts the alarm clocks going in
his head again, levers himself gingerly away from his
brother, props his back against the side of the bar.
had smashed most of the bottles behind the bar. When
I tried to torch her, she tossed me. Lighter landed
in the booze. Booze caught fire. Boom.”
wraps his arm around his ribs as he speaks, gasping
in sooty air between each sentence as they shift, stomach
churning as he feels bone grating.
sinks against the bar beside him, shoulders brushing.
Dean frowns, rolls his head along the wood, hissing
as it presses against a lump behind his ear.
are you doing here, anyway?”
quirks an eyebrow, feels dried blood crack and flake
know what you're doing here, Sam. What are
you doing here?” he parrots, sees Sam
grin, but it's tight, strained.
just... You weren't answering your phone.”
'cause it's over there. And over there.” Dean
waves a hand vaguely at the far corners of the room
as he speaks and his lips twitch into a smirk when Sam's
shoulder hitches against his in a silent laugh. He doesn't
ask why the younger man had tried to call him, recognizing
in Sam's quiet sigh the helpless strain of knowing,
bone deep that something was wrong.
bites back an echo, rubs absently at one ear, the ringing
still playing a shrill undertone under everything and
watches his brother. There's something different about
the younger man, he looks more like the pictures of
Sam Dean carries in his head. It takes him a minute
to realize it's the lines bracketing his brother's eyes,
the simmering tension in his shoulders that's familiar,
that he hadn't even noticed were missing until now.
makes a non-committal grunt, half turning to look back
sorry, he wants to say. I shouldn't have come,
dragged you back into all this. But he doesn't
get the chance to do more than open his mouth before
the air shifts around them, whispers cold across their
you did torch the remains, right?”
has to think about it, prying apart the confused jumble
of memory, scouring the building with the EMF meter
dark in his hand until it lit up, all thematically red
and gold over one battered square meter of floor, ripping
up floorboards in the bar as bottles shattered behind
him, pity lodging in his throat when he found the desiccated
husk in the tiny cave carved into the ground beneath
the crawlspace, stifling his breathing as he sprinkled
on salt and lighter fluid and flicked the flame on his
zippo to life and...
the spirit materialize in front of him, hovering over
her bones, lashing out with a blow that sent him spinning
to the floor and the lighter sailing out of his hand.
throws himself sideways, feels his brother dive in the
opposite direction and lands heavily, scrambling away
from the long shard of table leg that's embedded where
his head was a moment before. Her shriek is like an
ax driving into his skull as she fades in, looming over
him and he cringes away, buries his head in his arms,
trying to block the sound out. He can feel the vibration
in his throat, knows he's yelling, but he can't hear
anything other than the feedback-roar of the explosion
that had ripped apart the bar around him and is playing
out again, on seemingly endless repeat inside his head.
rain down on him where he cowers against the bar, stinging
in the myriad of cuts on his face and hands and he flinches
before he realizes it's salt, looks up to see his brother
whip one long arm around, spraying the rest of the contents
of the canister through the mist between them. It shreds
away, disappears with a howl that leaves him cupping
his hands over his ears, convinced they must be bleeding.
Sam steps forward, leans down to him, confidence and
surety suddenly gone as he mouths something unintelligible
and holds out a shaking hand, looking abruptly young
shakes his head, scrubs hard at his ears, winces when
his fingers catch against a shard of glass lodged in
the shell of one.
can't hear you!” he says, surprised when Sam jerks
back and frowns at him. He gets it when his brother
flattens his outstretched hand in the air, pats it a
few times. “Sorry,” he says, deliberately
softly, sees his brother smile tightly and nod.
Sam mouths with exaggerated care and he shakes his head
again, answers in the same near-whisper.
the bells of Notre Dame playing in my head.”
brother quirks a brow at him and Dean scowls.
dude, let's just torch this Carol Anne. Tell me you've
got a lighter?” he almost pleads, grabbing Sam's
hand and hauling himself painfully to his feet. The
younger man nods, fumbles in his pockets for a moment
and pulls out a small, plastic lighter as Dean starts
dragging himself toward the middle of the floor, where
a tangle of shattered furniture is piled in a heap almost
as tall as they are. The hunter manages to yank half
a chair away, staggers as he tosses it aside and then
his brother's there, shoving the lighter into one hand,
a bundle of salt sachets into the other. It's just like
it always was, no need to speak, no need to look back
over his shoulder to see where his brother is, just
playing the same old scene and he finds himself grinning,
even as he feels something wind tight inside, a whisper
he pretends he can't hear behind the screaming in his
Sam's there, grabbing his arm, turning him and reaching
for the lighter. Dean twists it out of his reach, grimacing
as bone grates in his chest again. He's broken ribs
before, knows he hasn't done that now but they're cracked,
badly, and he breathes carefully, smacks at his brother's
hands when Sam goes for the lighter again.
torchin' her, Sammy.”
younger man just rolls his eyes, steps back and Dean
limps up to the edge of the hole he's uncovered. He
half crouches as he strikes the flint, tosses it in,
watching the tiny flame streak through the dark, skin
crawling with anticipation but the fumes rising from
the fluid ignite with a whoosh he can feel, if not hear,
and the bones follow a heartbeat later. He turns to
Sam, grins triumphantly and reaches out to slap his
brother on the shoulder, and that's when he feels the
pressure of her scream against his skin, sees Sam cringe
and throw his hands overs his ears. He knows what's
coming, can feel it building, like a dozen atmospheres
all suddenly crushing down on him and he fumbles at
his brother's shirt, shoves the younger man in front
of him; all he can think about is the solid mass of
the bar, just like earlier when he saw the alcohol ignite
in the split fragment of time before the explosion shattered
pushes Sam hard, sends him tripping forward, dives down
and lands more or less on top of his brother, huddled
against the bar, arms wrapped around his own head and
then it's like deja vu all over again.
a voice that calls him back, drags him up through the
nothing. It's familiar, rough and gravelly and worn.
remember when you were small, Sammy? You wanted Christmas
in the worst way, but Dad was away hunting somewhere
and I didn't know how.”
drifts away again, fades back to watching his big brother
pace in front of the window, a thin, scraggly tree decorated
with thinner, scragglier tinsel scraps tied expertly
together into a chain.
watched Santa Claus The Movie, you remember? And I asked
you what you wanted for Christmas, and all you said
was “Stars for my shoes.” I didn't even
know what it meant. Hell, I don't think you did either,
remembers walking around a small town strip mall, everywhere
draped in red and silver garlands and playing “Winter
Wonderland” or “White Christmas” and
then one bar, tucked into the far corner of the mall,
thin strains of a scratchy guitar and a ragged voice
crooning something different. “The jingle
bells are jingling, the streets are white with snow.
The happy crowds are mingling, but there's no one that
I know.” It stuck in his head then, and years
later, stalking through the shoving Californians, he'd
jolted as he heard it again. “Oh Santa may
have brought you some stars for your shoes, but Santa
only brought me the blues. Those brightly packaged,
tinsel covered, Christmas blues.”
remember,” he whispers, hears a rustle of sheets
and soft footsteps, feels someone grab his arm.
cracks open one eye, squints at his brothers, hovering
above him. All three of them.
askin' me or telling me, Sammy? Come on dude, wake up
awake,” he murmurs, peels open the other eye and
blinks the three Deans into one. Hears a soft beeping,
smells starch and too much pine air freshener, sees
industrial beige walls and vertical blinds on the windows.
nods, pales, turns a disturbing shade of green and Sam
looks at him, hard. He's pale, sweating, one arm cradling
his ribs, the other hand clamped around Sam's arm. From
the way he's swaying, Sam figures that's more for support
than out of worry, rethinks it and decides it's a measure
of both when his brother's smile breaks out, tired and
you even be out of bed?”
shrugs and Sam twitches his arm in the older man's grip.
“Seriously, dude. You look like crap.” He
works himself up the bed as he says it, panting by the
time he's propped half up on the pillows and shoving
insistently at his brother, trying hard to not
see the blood still flaking out of Dean's spiky hair.
Dupree? I can and will have you restrained if you don't
stay in that bed.”
new voice has them both bristling and Sam twists, flinches
as a buzz saw starts up in his skull, bounces down his
spine. In the corner of his eye, he watches his brother's
face close up, shoulders squaring with a wince as he
stares levelly at the door. A man stands there, short,
white coat brushing the backs of his calves as he flips
officiously through the chart in his hand.
used the call button. I'm assuming that was to tell
us your friend was awake?”
know what they say about people who assume, doc.”
The hand on Sam's arm tightens fractionally and he nods
to show he got the message. They're sticking with the
cover story Dean gave Jackson, it seems, and although
he knows it makes sense, being there as friends instead
of family twists a knot inside Sam's stomach. He can
only guess at what sort of tale Dean had to spin to
get them in the same room.
doctor raises one elegantly trimmed eyebrow and ignores
the older Winchester's snark, crossing to Sam's bed
with quick, snappy steps.
Winchester. How are you feeling?”
some reason, the older man is solicitous, obsequious
around Sam, practically fawning over him as he checks
the hunter's pupils, blood pressure, heart rate.
I'm fine,” he answers, craning to meet his brother's
amused gaze as Dean shuffles back to his own bed and
perches on the edge.
don't... I'm fine.”
seems to be stuck on “I'm fine” but the
doctor doesn't notice, just “Hmm”s and scribbles
down a note on the chart. Over his shoulder, Dean is
laughing silently, grimacing with every other chuckle
as the short man nods and sweeps back through the door
with a curt promise to check on them both in grand rounds.
soon as the door clicks shut, Sam rolls painfully up
to mirror his brother's pose on the edge of his own
what hell? What happened?”
sobers, shifts uncomfortably.
do you remember?”
closes his eyes, watches the bar explode again inside
his head. He'd clambered to his feet in the parking
lot, staggered to the door hanging limply from one pretzled
hinge and peered inside, felt his heart slam to a standstill
when he saw the wreckage inside and started yelling.
blew the bar up?” he hisses, waves one hand in
a vaguely incoherent gesture. Dean shrugs.
time, yeah. Kinda.”
time?” Sam strangles, can feel the blood rushing
to his head and wavers, teetering on the edge of the
high bed, suddenly dizzy. “Whoa,” he mutters,
faintly aware that there's a scrambling sound, then
a hand clamped around his arm again, steadying him.
He leans into it, for a moment, like he's sixteen, just
woken up with his first hangover and Dean's there with
a rueful smile and concern tucked away beneath the snark.
take it easy, Sammy.”
breathes in leather and gun oil and smoke, feels the
scratchiness in his throat, heart stuttering loudly
on the monitor when he realizes how close, how really,
scary-close this one was. Forces out, “I'm good,”
and hears his brother sigh a little.
nods against Dean's shoulder, catches his brother's
twitch and shoves carefully at him. “Get back
to bed before the doc throws you in restraints.”
The older man chuckles tiredly, hobbles the few feet
between their beds and hitches himself awkwardly up
onto his mattress. It's silent for a while, just the
monitor beeping, plastic ticking against metal as Dean
fiddles with the IV in the back of his hand. Sam watches
him, sees the spectacular bruising peeping out under
the collar and sleeves of his brother's gown until he
can't stand the restless fidgeting anymore.
who blew the bar up the second time?” he murmurs,
after a quick check to make sure there's no one in earshot.
flicks a smile at him. “Freakin' spirit did. She...”
he waggles his hands, brings them together in fists
in demonstration. “Imploded.”
for the journal.”
reminder of John drops like a lead balloon, sits there,
the elephant in the corner, lurking behind the tiny,
scraggly Christmas tree. Sam worries at his lip, thinks
he liked the beer-bottle-tree better. “Hey. That
elf in the bar. That you?”
grins, elephant forgotten as he nods, almost proudly.
the hell, man?”
little goth place couple of states back. Had 'em in
hides a frown in a laugh, wonders why his brother was
buying Christmas decorations at all.
Maybe I didn't wanna spend this Christmas alone
in some crappy motel room!
echo in his head is so sharp, so clear he almost thinks
Dean said it again and he looks up, catches his brother
looking almost wistful before the older man ducks his
head to his IV again.
you get here, anyway?” Sam asks, just for something
you...” he trails off, not sure how to ask what
he wants to know, not actually sure if he really wants
to hear the answer. Were you going to hide from
me? Were you going to come here for Christmas and never
shrugs, sliding his eyes up to meet Sam's and the younger
man forgets how to breathe for a moment when he sees
the raw hurt in his brother's stare.
we got both you boys for company tonight then?”
sucks in air when his brother twitches away, smiles
over at the middle aged nurse standing in the doorway.
She's forty if she's a day, olive skinned and carrying
twenty extra pounds, but her eyes are warm, greeting
Dean easily, comfortably and Sam can almost feel the
flirt in his brother's answering grin. She shakes her
head as she walks in, a small tray steady in her hands,
the syringes and vials on it rattling slightly when
she sets it down on the mayo stand between the beds.
Sam?” she asks him, smiles when he nods mutely.
He can hear his brother shifting around on the bed,
a quick hitch in his breath almost lost in the rustling
sheets and wants, badly, to shove the nurse out of the
way and make sure Dean's alright. “Well, Dr. Lesh
seemed to think you may need some more pain meds?”
I... I'm fine.”
the meds, Sammy,” Dean tells him from behind the
nurse's back and she looks at him, one thick eyebrow
arched telling him they're so busted. She just holds
up the syringe, waits for his nod and slides it neatly
into the port on his own IV, shifts her fingers around
to start pressing down the plunger when Sam grabs her
hand, stares an urgent message at her. She nods, ticks
her head over to the second syringe on the tray and
he sighs as the drugs spread warm through his veins.
not strong, but it ratchets down the throbbing in his
head and back and shoulders, lets him lie there limp
and lax in the bed, hearing her turn to his brother.
you doing, Dean?”
takes her time with the older man and Sam rolls his
head sideways, watches her check Dean's pupils, tug
at the edge open his gown and probe gently at the spread
of black over his hipbone. Dean winces once or twice,
just the tiniest flinch but every time she pulls back,
eases off, and her touch is even more gentle when she
carries on, stretching out his leg, manipulating the
hip with exaggerated care. Still, his brother is chalk-white
under the bruises, panting a little, sweat beading on
his brow as he sinks back into the pillows, and he doesn't
protest at all when she pushes clear liquid into his
IV, meeting Sam's gaze as she does.
okay?” Sam murmurs, and the nurse nods.
be out in a few minutes.”
winces, because drugs strong enough to knock you out,
to knock Dean out in a few minutes, are pretty
ain't out yet,” Dean growls, and both Sam and
nurse jump, blush, refuse to meet anyone's gaze. She
bustles around a bit, straightening blankets and tidying
equipment that's already tidy and Sam realizes she's
waiting for his brother to go under, for his unsteady,
too-quick breathing to settle.
it does, she turns to the younger man, arms crossed.
has to nod, can't bring himself to deny it but by her
satisfied hmm he wonders if maybe Dean had some help
getting them admitted into one room together.
take care of him, you hear me? He only woke up a couple
of hours before you did.”
in the way she says it makes his mouth dry up.
he's okay though, right?”
will be. He's got a few broken ribs, and the blow to
the head caused a pretty nasty concussion. It did some
damage to his ears, too, so he'll be dizzy for a few
days, probably nauseous.”
bruised. Keep it iced for now, maybe a few heat packs
once the contusions have faded and the swelling's gone
smiles at him, sweeps out and Sam's still nodding thoughtfully
when he realizes he's been filing all the instructions
away like he's going to be there to catch his brother
when he can't walk straight, to press ice or heat packs
on him. He looks past the nurse, sees Dean lying pale
and small in the other bed, face taut with pain even
in his sleep. Thinks about Jackson, sitting drunk on
the couch. You never talk much about your family.
about the loneliness that sneaks up on him sometimes,
the way he could never quite manage to answer his phone,
'cause no news is good news, right? And if he never
hears, Mr. Winchester? I'm sorry, it's your brother
then maybe it'll never happen.
thinking so loud, Sammy. You're giving me a headache.”
be the concussion,” he retorts, trying to hide
the way his heart is racing after jumping a mile at
the sudden order.
it's fine,” Dean murmurs, slurs a little and Sam
looks over at him again, sees the way he's still pale
and bruised but limp has turned to simply relaxed,
utterly and completely.
drugs?” he asks, feels something unwind inside
him when his brother nods slowly and grins.
watches for a while, just watches, etching the memory
into his mind, the loose, easy smile as his brother
rolls over, stares at the ceiling, hears Dean shift
what?” he asks, doesn't manage to pull off the
innocence he was trying for.
lookin' for reasons.”
for what? he wants to say, can't quite bring himself
to play straight man tonight. Reasons to leave,
to come with me. He can't get the words out, so
he doesn't say anything, feels his brother's gaze rake
Dean breathes softly, startling after the quiet. “You
got the time?”
Sam looks at his wrist, finds just a faint tide mark
where his watch habitually sits. Frowning, he casts
around, sees a clock on the wall.
Christmas, Sammy,” Dean murmurs, voice full of
his smile, eyes sad when Sam turns to him. The walls
slide back into place, somehow brittle and thin when
the older man's pupils are dilated by opiates and Sam
can see the goodbye there already, knows this
is it, that this, right now, is all the chance
he'll get to say everything.
sorry, Dean. For not calling, for not answering. For
teeters on the brink, more than ready to go back to
his dilapidated dorm and throw what few belongings he's
managed to scavenge into his bag and slide into the
never even got me anything, did you?”
laugh is surprised out of him, deep and full and it
hurts but he gives in to it, gives in.
Sam gasps out between peals, the moment gone, slipped
past. “I s-s-saved your a-ass.”
cocks his head sideways, shrugs a pained acceptance,
lips twitching. The laughter fades slowly, leaves the
room comfortable and still, just the beeping of Sam's
heart monitor and their breathing, steady and synched
still want to get that tree?”
smiles at the ceiling.
got another elf?”
Maybe we could call up a faerie, compel her to sit on
top, or something.”
quirks a brow, slides a glance sideways at his brother,
poker faced and huffs. Grins.
gonna be around for a while?”
guess. Heal up some, head out and find Dad. Heard rumors
of a Black Shuck down in New Orleans, might run down
there. Stay around for Mardi Gras.”
no space in there for him, he knows, and he knows Dean
will call, knows he won't answer but not answering is
an answer in itself, even if it isn't one either of
them want to hear. Still...
I could - ”
bites off the instinctive protest, chokes it down at
the near plea in the angry refusal.
don't,” Dean whispers, and Sam nods, locks his
jaw against the tremor in it.
all he has to give.
you think you're fired now?”
brother's turn to laugh now, hitching and startled.
mean, blowing up the place kinda leaves a bad impression.”
catches the pillow that rockets at his head with unerring
accuracy, misses the chart that sheds his brother's
notes on its flight into his stomach.
freakin' Christmas, Sammy.”
all he needs to be given.
Merry Christmas, Dean.”
if it is a little too Walton's for their liking.
the episode here