Summary: All in all, the night pretty much sucked out loud. All their good luck was for naught, and Sam's bad luck left him bruised, with a high motel bill, and a need for some clothes shopping to replace the jeans and shoes. And that wasn't counting the freakin' gunshot wound.
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys. I'm in love with them, but they're not mine.
Rating: PG-13 (Gen, Sam, Dean) Spoilers for BDABR
A/N: Can I just say how much I loved this ep? But seriously, people, anyone who knows me knows what I had to write as a tag to this ep. I can't be blamed for it. Spoilers for Bad Day at Black Rock. Thanks tosendintheklowns who MADE me do this and geminigrl11 for beta'ing. All remaining mistakes are totally my own. This was written quickly, so be warned.
It was a long car ride.
The motel wasn't exactly far away, but distance wasn't the problem. Sure, he had his life, his car, and his little brother, which was what he'd started the hunt with, but damn, it was hard not to think about what he'd almost had.
Dean was out 46,000 dollars, he'd been shown up by a girl, and Sam was sitting next to him, probably getting blood all over the interior of the Impala. All in all, the night pretty much sucked out loud. All their good luck was for naught, and Sam's bad luck left him bruised, with a high motel bill, and a need for some clothes shopping to replace the jeans and shoes. And that wasn't counting the freakin' gunshot wound.
Which was really just great. If only they had some extra cash to pay for it all...
Dean sighed, gripping the steering wheel tighter as he spared a glance at his brother.
Sam, for his part, didn't seem to be enjoying the car ride much better. Hunched over, Sam was still gripping his shoulder, blood seeping over his fingers and staining the top part of his jacket. His face was scrunched with pain, and he looked a little pale, the bruising on his cheek standing out in the darkness.
"You still doing okay?" Dean asked, turning his eyes back out to the road.
Wincing, Sam nodded grimly. "I think so," he said. "It's not bleeding that much."
With another sideways glance, Dean could see that Sam wasn't lying. There was blood, no doubt, but not as much as there could have been. Just enough to ruin Sam's jacket--again. At this rate, he'd have to buy his brother one of those as well.
"Yeah, well, just keep some pressure on it," Dean said. "With the way our luck has been running, I can't deal with cleaning the seats, too."
The look Sam gave him was both pathetic and disparaging--a true Sam original.
Dean just rolled his eyes and pushed the pedal harder. "I just cannot wait for this day to be over," he muttered.
Sam stared out at the road, teeth clenched in pain. "Me, too."
The motel room was a mess and smelled faintly of smoke. The curtains were thrown over the window haphazardly, undoubtedly thanks to the cleverness of Sam's would-be killers. Strewn on the floor in front of the broken air conditioning unit was the comforter from the unmade bed.
He watched Sam trudge to the unmade bed before sitting heavily on it. Locking the door, Dean slung his bag to the floor. "At least Dumb and Dumber are gone."
Sam snorted. "Yeah, for now."
Dean sauntered across the room, pulling the first aid kit from out of the bathroom. "Dude, they have no idea just how lucky they were. Any other day, they never would have had a chance, even against a pansy like you."
From under the fringe of his bangs, Sam glowered.
Bag in hand, Dean made his way over to the bed, noticing that thin sheen of sweat on Sam's face with a twinge of concern. Sam's wound may not have been fatal, but it was certainly taking a toll on him. Dean's expression softened, and he eased himself down in front of his brother to get a better view. "Let's just see what we're dealing with."
The only real reply he got was a muted grunt, and Sam allowed Dean to push his jacket away from his shoulder. Carefully peeling away the layers of fabric beneath, Dean tried to see the bullet hole. "We need to get your shirt off," Dean said. "But first, let's get some painkiller in you."
They were well-stocked with various painkillers--some legal, some not. Dean figured after a day like today, Sam had earned the good stuff, but not too much--just enough to take the edge off.
Sam swallowed obediently, and Dean couldn't help but remember a younger Sam, a Sam who had depended on him, trusted him. He hated to admit it, but seeing his brother's bad luck had been like a flashback. As frustrating as Sam's misfortune was, it also made him rely on Dean exclusively. Dean could not deny that was what he wanted--that was what he liked. It made him feel loved, useful, made the thought of dying in eleven months meaningful because it was all about his sacrifice for Sam.
"Okay," Dean encouraged. "The shirt now."
Sam sighed softly, and Dean knew it was about the last thing Sam wanted to do just then. Not that Dean could blame him. Sam just needed to be grateful that it wasnt' Jo who was about to attempt the surgery. His shoulder still hurt when he thought about it.
"We'll do it nice and slow," Dean said.
Sucking in a breath, Sam nodded, and Dean began slipping the jacket away. Sam tensed as the movement jostled his arm, but he used his good hand to help maneuver it all the way off. The button-up was easily removed, and Sam allowed Dean to do most of the work. The t-shirt was harder to manage, and in the end, Dean reached for the scissors from the kit.
What was one more piece of clothing to add to the shopping list anyway?
Once Sam was disrobed, Dean had a much better view of the wound.
It was small and high in the shoulder, away from any vital organs. Bela did know how to aim, and apparently while she was willing to kill, it wasn't her first option. Gently, Dean probed it, trying to peek inside, to gauge just how deep the bullet had made it.
The examination left Sam taut with pain, his eyes squeezed shut against it as he breathed with even, measured breaths.
The bullet wasn't too deep, not from what Dean could tell, and he was sure he'd dealt with worse. Moving his fingers away from the wound, Dean ran his hand down Sam's arm, stopping at his brachial artery in the crook of his elbow.
He frowned. There was no pulse.
"What is it?"
Sam's voice startled him, and Dean looked up to find his brother staring at him again.
"Everything okay?" Sam's voice was thick.
Dean smiled. He was nothing if not good at keeping up appearances, especially for Sam's sake. "I just think this is probably going to hurt," Dean lied without a hitch. While the bullet had hit nothing vital, it was clearly impeding with the circulation in Sam's arm. The sooner it came out, the better.
That elicited a glare from Sam. "You think?"
Chuckling, Dean patted Sam's good shoulder, then moved again toward the bag. "Can you lie down?"
Sam nodded tersely, and Dean watched carefully as he eased himself back into the pillows. Once Dean was sure Sam was settled, he extracted the needed materials, laying them out carefully on the nightstand. Then, he washed his hands with antiseptic. Digging around in Sam's shoulder was bad enough; he didn't want to transfer any bacteria into the wound. With the motel room setting, there was a high enough risk for infection as it was.
Finally prepared, he let his attention go back to Sam.
It was hard seeing his brother like this. Not just because it always was hard to see Sam hurt, but because it was too eerily familiar. It had only been a month since Cold Oak. A month since he'd seen his brother die, since he'd sat by his brother corpse, pasty and bruised, body stretched out over the bed, long and well-built. Dean shuddered in memory.
This time, though, Sam wasn't dead.
With a shaky breath, Dean stilled his nerves, picking up the knife. He held it, hovering over Sam's shoulder, before giving his brother one last look. "You ready for this?"
Sam swallowed, a bit convulsively. "Yeah," he breathed. "Yeah."
The first cut was the hardest, and Dean's hands shook as blood welled up in its wake.
Sam gasped hard, and his body broke out into fine tremors. His chest rose and fell, fast and shallow, and Dean could see the tears that leaked out of Sam's eyes as he squeezed them shut.
Another steadying breath, and Dean was ready, pushing the knife deeper. It took effort to see past the blood, but Dean fixed his eyes, searching for the offending object. It was with skill he forged onward, and years of training that allowed him to do it while barely noticing Sam's pain.
Because it wasn't about Sam's pain. It was about saving Sam. It always had been. In the end, it was just that simple. That was why he'd gone to the crossroads. He didn't want to fail. It had nothing to do with Sam's feelings or Sam's future. It had everything to do with Dean's need to do his duty. He'd already lost his mother, his father--if he lost Sam, he'd have no one left to do his job for, and that just wasn't okay.
His musings stopped when he saw a flash of darkness--not blood, not bone, but something metal. The bullet.
Sam groaned, shifting on the bed, his body bucking a little against the intrusion, and Dean used his free hand to brace him. "Careful, Sammy," he murmured. "You need to be still."
Sam whimpered, but stilled, and Dean waited a second more to be sure.
Then, carefully, Dean held his position with one hand, using the other to reach for the forceps. Finding the bullet was one thing; getting it out was another.
The bullet was nestled against Sam's shoulder blade, which had likely been the reason it hadn't gone clean through. Pushing the forceps through the layers of skin and tissue, willing himself not to stop when Sam twitched again, moaning this time. The movement jarred the forceps slightly, enough for Sam to feel the pain anew.
This time, Sam bucked in earnest, hissing in pain.
"Damn it, Sam," Dean grumbled. "I need you to be still. I don't want to hurt you, but it needs to come out."
With ragged breaths, Sam was crying now, and Dean could see his brother's lip caught between his teeth in an attempt to quell the pain.
"I'll be quick about it," he promised.
He didn't wait for Sam to nod, just for him to still again, then Dean turned his attention to the bullet again. Purposefully, Dean reached the forceps inward, straight toward the bone. Without hesitating, he clamped down, pulling backwards with even, steady force.
The bullet slid free with a sickening slurp, and Dean couldn't help but grin as he held it up. It was small, blunted on one side, and was now free from Sam's body.
"There," Dean said, plunking the metal down on the table. Maybe he could clean it up and put it on a chain--offer to Sam as a keepsake to remind the kid not to pick up cursed objects. He grabbed the antiseptic, feeling relief spreading throughout his own extremities. "It's almost over now."
His words, however, seemed to fall on deaf ears. Sam's body was slack now, limp against the sheets. His eyes, while still shut, weren't screwed up with pain. The pain or the medication, Dean couldn't be sure which, had finally relieved Sam of the struggle.
Taking a towel, Dean blotted away the fresh blood and liberally poured the antiseptic. He had barely started when he had to wipe the blood back again.
Satisfied, Dean tabled the antiseptic and grabbed the gauze. His attention back to Sam's shoulder, he realized something was wrong.
Wounds usually bled more when the impediment was gone. Dean knew that much. But they shouldn't bleed that much.
Blood was gushing now, in even spurts, bright red and fast in time with Sam's heartbeat. It coated his shoulder, ran down his chest and was already staining the bed.
An arterial bleed.
Panic edged into his awareness. No wonder Sam hadn't had a brachial pulse--the bullet had impeded the artery. When he'd removed it, Dean had left it open to bleed, and it was going to bleed Sam dry if he didn't do something--fast.
"Sam?" he called, tapping his brother's face. "Sammy!"
Sam's head lolled toward him and his eyes fluttered, but nothing else.
Dean's attempts at surgery had been sure and fluid. His efforts now were rushed and terrified.
Quickly, Dean pressed the gauze down, pushing hard with one hand while the other grappled to drag the kit closer. He noticed with fear that Sam barely reacted, only furrowed his brow minutely--which wasn't a good sign. Keeping his contact solid, Dean could feel the blood, pushing back against him, and he fumbled faster for the thread. A hospital was out of the question--they were running out of aliases and they were teeming with enemies. No, Dean started this one. He had to finish it.
Finally, he found the thread, and this time he couldn't find a way to make his hands stop shaking. Sam was nearly colorless now, his mouth open as he took gasping breaths, his hair doused with sweat. Shock was setting in, taking hold with a frightening quickness.
Dean let up his pressure. The blood kept coming, fresh and thick, and it was nearly impossible to see. Wiping away the blood with one hand, he prepared the thread and needle with the other. Quickly, eschewing any thought of technique or scarring, he stitched the wound, hoping it would be enough to stem the flow of blood.
He didn't wait to see--instead he retrieved a new piece of gauze, pressing it down firmly before taping it down. Once it was secure, he eased Sam to the side, wrapping another piece of gauze around Sam's entire shoulder to increase the pressure.
Tying it off, he fell back to the bed, exhausted, taking stock of the situation. He'd charged into this blindly, cavalier, and now he could barely remember how it happened or figure out what to do.
For all that Dean had asked Sam to stay still earlier, now he was too still. Sam's body was lax, his complexion pale and milky. Running a hand across Sam's brow, Dean found it clammy, cool. A hand down Sam's left arm revealed it to be equally cool. A light pulse thrummed at Sam's elbow, though, and a hand over Sam's chest told of Sam's pounding heart.
The top layer of the bandage was white, which was about the only other good sign Dean could find at the moment. Everything else had gone to hell, just like Dean was supposed to in one year's time.
The problem was that there was nothing else he could do. He could keep Sam warm, try to keep him hydrated, and monitor him. Check his blood pressure, check the circulation in his arm, clean the wound, and change the bandage. Beyond that, all he could do was wait it out, let Sam sleep, and hope that the bleed was contained and that Sam's body rallied against the blood loss and fended off infection.
Rubbing a hand over his face, he sighed. It was going to be a long night.
Dean had sat through more than one bedside vigil in his life, and he'd been on the other side of them as well. They were painfully uncomfortable, wrought with doubt and emotions that Winchesters didn't let themselves feel. But the vulnerability, the feeling of teetering on the brink--it made everything different, everything fair game. Dean's nerves were shot, he was exhausted, and Sam remained still throughout the night.
Dean had pulled off the stained top sheet, carefully maneuvering it from under Sam's limp body. The sheet beneath was also stained, but he had no way of removing that, and he didn't want to risk jostling the wound by shifting Sam to a clean bed. Once Sam regained consciousness, he'd take the trouble, but until then, it wasn't like Sam would know the difference, anyway.
It had been hours since Sam as much as twitched, hours Dean spent in a chair next to Sam, moving only to check on Sam. His pulse remained too fast, his breathing erratic. Dean changed the bandage hourly, pouring on more antiseptic before rewrapping it with as much force as before.
It had only been a month since Dean had sat vigil, and truthfully, Dean had thought that had been his last time. Because that time, it wasn't a vigil to watch Sam heal. It wasn't to make Sam better. It was his attempt to say goodbye.
He had failed that, given into his grief, and he hadn't really regretted it. He hadn't let himself. Despite what awaited him, he'd willingly traded everything to keep from seeing Sam like that.
Dean could handle a lot of crap--this entire hunt proved that much. He could handle Sam keeping secrets, he could handle Sam lying to him. He could handle Sam being emo, and he could even handle breaking Sam's heart. He could handle scraped knees, black eyes, and a flesh wound.
But Dean couldn't handle Sam dying.
Not again. Not ever.
The unfairness of it all was not lost on Dean. Just a month ago, he'd sold his soul to prevent Sam's death, and here he was watching it teeter on the brink yet again. He didn't have any soul left to sell, didn't have any life left to give. All he could do was wait.
He was angry. Angry at Bela for breaking into their father's lockup, angry at Gordon for siccing the hunters on Sam. Angry at his father for dying, the FBI for chasing them, the demon for starting this. Sam for touching the foot, for losing it, for being hurt.
It wasn't rational, this anger, and he knew it. Nothing was rational anymore, though. Nothing in his life made sense. He went out and looked for dark places, pretty girls, and fast movement. Food, beer, sex--anything to mask all the things he was trying to run from. Like the fact that he didn't want to die, like the fact that he wasn't sure he'd make the deal again if he had the choice, like the fact that he wished he'd thought of something else to bargain in the first place.
Even sitting there, seeing Sam lay so still, so pale, he wasn't sure why he'd made it. It was the first thing he'd done for himself, and he wanted it to feel good, feel right.
Dawn broke, sneaking through the crack in the curtains. Sam was moaning, now, slightly, shifting marginally on the bed. This time when Dean stood, leaning over his brother, he thought his brother looked a little less pale. With a hand to Sam's chest, he could feel the breathing, somewhat deeper, the heart rate, somewhat slower. Running a hand down Sam's arm, he found it warmer, the pulse at his elbow throbbing with more vigor than he remembered. Sam's forehead was drier, and Dean let a hand run gently through his brother's hair. He didn't even have to check the wound to know that the bleeding had stopped, to know that Sam was going to be okay.
At least one of them was.
The hours slipped into the day, and Dean slept on and off, wavering somewhere between wakefulness and oblivion. It was the sound of Sam groaning that woke him. He was used to the small murmurs, the hints of vague awareness, but this was different.
He startled awake, and found his brother blinking at the ceiling.
The relief surged through him. He grinned, pushing himself out of the chair, ignoring the aches of his body, and moved to sit next to Sam. "Hey, kiddo," he said.
Sam turned to look at him, squinting a little. He swallowed hard and licked his lips. "Dean," he answered, the word grating.
Dean snagged the glass of water from the table, lifting Sam's head gently while he held the glass to his brother's lips. "Easy," he said, watching Sam try to gulp the water. "Just easy."
Sam sagged back then, letting the water moisten his throat. Placing the glass back on the table, Dean gave his brother an appraising look. "How are you feeling?'
"Terrible," Sam said.
At that, Dean raised his eyebrows. "You should feel terrible. I had to dig a bullet out of your shoulder last night."
Sam winced at the memory. "I remember that," he said. "What happened?"
"Turns out your bad luck wasn't over quite yet," Dean told him. "It hit an artery. You started bleeding out."
Sam took the news thoughtfully. "That makes sense," Sam said. "If she was aiming at my shoulder and my luck was still terrible, it would probably hit the worst possible place."
"Yeah, yeah," Dean said. "I'm not so sure that's bad luck."
Glowering, Sam tried to prop himself arm, leaning heavily on his good arm. Dean reached out a hand to help him up until Sam was resting against the headboard. "Yeah," Sam said, "then what do you call it?"
"Typical Winchester luck," he said. "If we didn't have bad luck, we wouldn't have any luck at all, rabbit's foot or not."
"I might have to agree with that."
"Might?" Dean raised his eyebrows. "Considering everything, I think it's a certainty. I mean, hell, Sam, you died a month ago. At this rate, I'm going to need a few more souls to cover all your misfortune."
It was an attempt at humor, one that he hoped would subdue Sam's angst, but it seemed to have the opposite effect. His brother's face darkened. "Don't talk like that," he said.
"Dude, don't take it so seriously," Dean said, easing himself off the bed and back into the chair. "What's done is done."
"So, what?" Sam asked, and Dean couldn't miss the hurt in his voice. "I'm just supposed to live with it?"
They'd already had this conversation, and Dean wasn't going to have it again. It'd been too long of a night, too close of a call, and Dean just didn't have it in him to be patient with the kid at the moment. "Yeah," Dean said with an emphatic nod. "You're supposed to live."
Dean knew that would never be enough, not tonight. Sam's emotions were just as frayed as Dean's were, and the blood loss and shock had stripped Sam of his defenses. His brother was hurt in more ways than one, and Dean had picked the wrong time to joke. He could see the weariness in Sam's eyes, the utter exhaustion that made him unable to keep back the truth any longer. Sam: the perpetual angst machine. The kid couldn't see the humor in anything.
Sam just shook his head, and his eyes shone. "I won't live."
Just because Sam wanted to talk feelings didn't mean that Dean did. Just because Sam was hurt didn't mean that Dean would change his tune. "Yes, you will," Dean said with an annoyed shrug. "You'll be free to go back to whatever you want to do. College, a girl, hunting--whatever you want."
"No, Dean," Sam said, stronger this time. "I won't. I can't. God, Dean, do you think--do you really think you're the only one who can't live without someone?" Sam's voice cracked with that, and he looked down, his jaw set as he failed to fend off the tears.
Dean just stared. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Sam sniffled a little, and he looked up, tears clinging to his eyelashes dangerously. "You're everything to me," he said. "I've got nothing left. The only way I do anything now is with you. If I fail--if I fail--" His voice caught rough in his throat and his eyes turned haunted. "I can't fail, Dean. I can't. Whatever fairy tale you have in your head that I'll be able to get over this, you're wrong."
His eyes fixed, Dean struggled to make sense of it. He had no fairy tale, just the knowledge that Sam would live. That had always been enough. Being together, doing his duty--that had always been enough for Dean. Even if Sam and their dad fought, even if John was drunk, even if Sam was miserable--if they were together, Dean had done enough.
But seeing Sam, the look in his eyes, the determination, the desperation--the love.
Sam loved him.
Sam wasn't a child, he wasn't a petulant teen. He was a man, a strong, independent man, who loved Dean more than any human should. Dean didn't deserve it, not after putting Sam in this position, but Sam loved him anyway.
"You haven't stopped searching, have you?" Dean asked suddenly.
Sam looked down at that. "If I don't tell you, then she can't say you're wiggling your way out of it."
"Damn it, Sam," Dean said with a sigh. "Why would you do that? After what I told you?"
A choked laugh rippled through Sam, and he looked back up. "The same reason you made that deal to begin with. Because you don't deserve to die. Especially not for me."
That hit hard--the loss, the desolation, the utter loneliness--Sam wouldn't just feel it when Dean died; Sam would feel it all along. But their motives weren't the same. Dean could see that now.
He wasn't sure it changed anything. He still couldn't let Sam die, no matter what his motives were. With a solemn shake of his head, he held his brother's gaze. "You can't do it," he said. "I won't let you."
Hurt flashed in Sam's eyes. "I won't let you stop me."
They sat like that for several seconds, neither willing to give, neither capable of giving. It wasn't the first time they'd been at odds, and Dean knew it wouldn't be the last. He sighed.
"Look, this is how it is," Dean said. "Sometimes I'm just not going to ask, and sometimes you're just not going to tell. Because if I hear of you doing anything that might get you killed, I'll stop you. Break your laptop, burn your books, tie you to a chair. I'll stop you."
The intensity of Sam's gaze hurt a little, but finally his eyes dropped, and he shifted in the bed. "Don't ask a lot of questions then," Sam advised, wincing slightly.
Frowning, Dean let his attention move to Sam's shoulder. "How are you feeling there?" he asked.
Nose scrunched, Sam looked back up. "Like I've been shot and lost a third of my blood supply."
"Yeah, well, judging by the blood on the sheets and the amount of gauze, you're not far off there," Dean said. "You won't be doing anything until you've got your strength back."
At that, Sam nodded wearily. "Next time someone has a gun on us, don't tell them you can read them," Sam said.
Dean glared. "Whatever," he said. "I can still read you."
The scowl that crossed Sam's face was juvenile and petulant.
Pushing himself up, he pulled out a bottle of Tylenol, the convenience store kind, and twisted off the top. "And right now, you're hurting and you're exhausted. Let's get you pumped full of drugs and back to sleep. Next time you wake up, we'll try some real food."
For a second, Dean thought Sam might complain, might whine like a little boy tired of being told what to do. Sam, however, didn't complain. His scowl eased and his brow smooth as he reached out his good hand to take the pills. Popping them into his mouth, Sam then accepted the glass. Dean watched cautiously as Sam held the glass to his lips, ready to catch it, but Sam didn't drop it. He just handed to glass back and scooted himself forward and eased back into the pillows.
His eyelids were fluttering before Dean could think of anything else to do. "Thanks, Dean," Sam said, his voice a mere whisper. "For everything."
The gratitude shocked Dean, and his words left him. He just watched, perplexed, as his brother settled back into a sleep, his body relaxing almost instantly.
After a moment, Dean just shook his head, exhaling heavily before sinking back into the chair, hoping that he was worth thanking, and wishing that he could say the same to Sam. It would be just Dean's luck, about the time he finally started seeing his brother as an adult, the time that Dean finally realized that he'd been wrong all along, it was too late to change it.
Slumping low, he propped his feet up on the bed, and closed his eyes to join his brother in sleep.