Title: From Yesterday, Chapter 16
Characters: Dean, Sam, and OCs
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title is from a 30 Seconds to Mars song of the same name. Rated very much PG-13 for language (mostly Dean) and a couple of mature scenes
Summary: See Prologue.Part 2: Chapter 16-A
"Rise and shine, boys!"
Virgil's voice boomed through the small clinic room where Sam rested on a cot across the room from Dean's hospital bed. He pushed upright, his neck and lower back cracking from the uncomfortable cot and the still-healing bruises inflicted upon it. The skin that had been burned by the taser pulled slightly as he stretched, and he winced, gingerly touching the area below the burns as he rubbed at his sleep-tangled hair and blinked blearily at Virgil.
"Wassat?" he muttered.
"Your clothes. And phones. And stuff."
"Dude," Sam stood up. "You are made of awesome."
"Thank you," Virgil smiled smugly. "I like to think so."
He headed over to the duffel bags, glancing at Dean as he crossed the room. "You awake?"
"Not sure I was asleep," Dean answered honestly, his bare torso clear of bruising, the white bandage around the cuts the only thing exposing his wounds. He'd swung his legs over the side of the bed, and was gripping the mattress with his left hand as if for balance.
Sam pulled out clean clothes, nodding sleepily to that comment, figuring it was probably true. Once he'd dropped off after they brought the cot into the room, he hadn't heard Dean make a sound loud enough to jar him from sleep. The way Dean's nightmares had been escalating lately, Sam was pretty sure if his brother had slept, it hadn't been for long.
"Phones," Virgil said, tossing their phones toward them. "I charged them for you."
"Thanks, man," Sam grinned, feeling like a kid at Christmas.
There were two messages from Stella checking on him, asking him to call, sounding worried. Sam felt his heart hammer in reaction to her voice, to the careful way she worded her message – riding the line between full-on freak-out and just casual musing as to his well-being. He immediately sent her a text to say he was still alive and was coming home…soon. He wanted to say so much more, but not while Dean and Virgil were in the room, and not when he was so far away from her.
No matter what happened with the situation in Argo, Sam knew he was heading back to Lawrence. He may have accepted the fact that he was a hunter, but also knew he had some place to call home. He wanted to go back there, and he wanted to take his brother with him.
He glanced over at Dean as he listened to his third message. It was from Rufus, returning his call and saying that he'd found a spell to contact an angel – his best guess in finding out more about the amulet. Sam frowned, wondering how summoning an angel was different from praying to one.
"Dude," Dean said.
Sam saw his brother was listening to his own voicemail. "What?"
"Got a call from Mason. Jackson got suspended because Sorensen came back from his little East Coast trek and started making accusations. Here," Dean pulled the phone from his ear and turned on the speaker.
"Something happened to the guy back East," Mason's baritone, no-nonsense voice echoed flatly from Dean's speaker. "I mean, he's not always been the easiest to get along with, but he came back…angry. Like dangerous angry. He started blaming you guys for everything from the crazy weather patterns to the deaths out at Stull. Jackson, well, he's never been one to keep his temper in check. Decked the dude and got himself suspended. I sure hope you're doing okay out there in Colorado, because…well, we could use you back around here. Call me when you can."
"What do you think?" Sam asked, feeling cold.
People they cared about were getting knocked around by the ripples created just by being pulled into the wave of the Winchesters. This druid hunt might be done, but it was no longer possible to simply move on. Another city, another motel room, another hunt. Now, they had roots. They had people. And they had a responsibility to take care of them.
"I'm thinking demon."
"Is one or talked to one?"
"Either way," Dean said, glancing at Virgil, then back at Sam, "it's not good."
"Well, Rufus," Sam lifted his phone, "thinks we need to summon an angel and ask them straight up about the amulet."
"Summon an angel?" Dean asked.
"That's what I was thinking," Sam agreed.
Dean paused. "Any angel?"
Sam shrugged, his brows pulling close as he watched his brother's eyes dart in thought. He knew how badly Dean wanted to talk to Castiel. He wondered if it was possible to summon an angel when its vessel had been annihilated.
The brothers stared at each other for a moment.
"So we're back to angels and demons," Dean said tiredly.
Sam swallowed and nodded.
"What are you going to do about it?" Virgil asked, looking tense and worried.
Dean reached for the IV, starting to pull it out of the back of his hand. Sam called out, but Virgil was already on the move.
"What are you - crazy? I'm standing right here!"
"I need to get this leash off, man," Dean grumbled.
"Well hang on a damn minute and let me help you," Virgil grumbled, muttering something that sounded to Sam like stubborn bastard under his breath. He began working to remove the IV without causing Dean more damage. "This leash saved your damn life, you know."
"Yeah, well, my life is needed for other things now," Dean shot back. "Saving it isn't that important."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Sam held up a hand. "Let's think about this a second."
"What's there to think about?" Dean shot back. "We tried the normal life. We tried to hunt just this once. It's not going to work."
"I know, but—"
"But nothing," Dean snapped. "We did it your way. Now we go back to what we know."
Sam watched his brother hold the gauze over the spot on his hand where the IV had gone in as Virgil readied a wrap to stop the bleeding. He thought of the moment in the mine just before they'd entered the alcove and faced down the druids; he'd known in that moment they were hunters. It didn't matter what they might want in the face of that knowledge.
Hunting wasn't what they did, it was who they were. But that didn't mean they had to throw themselves in front of every moving train of evil and hope they came out alive.
"There's a smarter way to do this. There has to be."
Dean stood up, swaying for a moment before catching his balance on the bed. Without regard to the other two men in the room, he grabbed his clothes from the duffel Virgil had dropped on the floor, stripped out of the hospital pants provided to him, and tugged on boxers, jeans, and a T-shirt, before searching for a long-sleeved shirt to pull on.
"We got demons looking for us, Sam," Dean grumbled. "And other people are getting hurt because of it."
"Nothing's happened that we can't deal with, Dean," Sam countered. "Let's just…talk to Rufus. Maybe call some other hunters—"
"Who, man?" Dean asked, once more forcing Sam to back up his hope, provide evidence of the possibilities he tossed into the ring. "Name me one hunter and I'll call them right now."
Dean stood up, his jaw set, but Sam saw the color drain from his face almost as quickly as the fire lit his eyes.
Virgil stepped forward again, grabbing Dean's elbow. "Sit the hell down before you keel over," he ordered, all-but pushing Dean into a chair next to his bed.
Sam stepped forward, feeling his skin tighten with anxiety and anger. "I'm not saying we should avoid this, Dean." He bit off his words. "I got more reasons to go back to Lawrence than you; I'm seeing this through." He dared Dean to call him on that statement, showing his brother with the set of his jaw how serious he was about returning home. "I'm just saying, it doesn't always have to be a sacrifice, and we don't always have to be the ones left bloody."
"I don't know any other way," Dean confessed quietly, a low, dangerous hum riding beneath the wave of his words.
"Well, before you head back to Lawrence to get yourself beat to hell by demons," Virgil broke in, "how about you get some food. Some strength." Sam could feel the heat of Virgil's glare from where he stood; he was glad it was directed at Dean and not him. "Sam's right; nothing's been done that can't be fixed. And you're no good to anyone if you end up back there," he finished his tirade by pointing to the rumpled hospital bed.
Dean opened his mouth to retort, but a knock at the door stopped him. All three men turn as the door opened slowly and Brenna peaked around the corner.
"Everyone decent?" She asked.
Sam felt his mouth go dry as he nodded. Brenna pushed the door opened a little wider and stepped in, her other hand grasping her daughter's firmly as Aislinn followed her mother inside. Sam looked over at Dean; he could see his brother's freckles from across the room, Dean was so pale. The thin, pink scars around his left eye seemed to stand out and his large eyes were lit – not from any angelic power, but from emotion.
"I, uh…we," he glanced at Virgil, "can go."
Dean shot him a look. "No, it's okay."
"I'll go," Virgil said quietly. He stepped over to Aislinn and crouched down to her level. "Hi, Munchkin."
Aislinn grinned at him and Sam's breath caught. It was his brother's smile, right down to the twinkle in her eyes.
"I've missed you," Virgil continued. "Can I get a hug?"
Aislinn leaned forward, not releasing Brenna's hand, and offered Virgil a shoulder as if she were allowing him to hug her. Virgil obliged and then kissed the top of her head before standing and sending a soft smile toward Brenna.
"I'll be at the station, if you need me," he told her.
"'K," she replied softly, watching him walk out, shutting the door behind him.
Leading Aislinn over to where Dean sat, Brenna rested her free hand on her daughter's head. "Baby, I'd like you to meet a very good friend of mine. His name is Dean."
Sam stepped backwards until he was against a wall, leaning on it heavily and watching as his brother's eyes never left the little girl's face, seeming to need to drink her in with a glance. Dean smiled as Brenna introduced him. To Sam's surprise, Aislinn released Brenna's hand – which until that moment had seemed like her lifeline – and stepped closer to Dean.
"Hi," Dean said, his voice soft and a bit husky with checked emotion. "How's it going?"
Aislinn tilted her head slightly, studying him. Sam saw her eyes track the scars on his brother's face, then look down his body to his scarred, bandaged hand. Dean stuck out his left hand, offering a shake and without hesitation, Aislinn grasped his fingers. Sam saw Brenna flinch, as he did, when Dean and Aislinn both gasped at the contact.
Brenna moved forward, as if to pull the little girl away, but stopped herself, both she and Sam watching as color brushed Dean's pale cheeks, his eyes widening and filling with tears, and a soft smile relaxed Aislinn's mouth.
Dean gently pulled his hand away and cleared his throat, but when he blinked, the tears that had been balanced on his lashes slipped loose and tracked down his face, finding a home at the corners of his mouth. Aislinn frowned and moved closer, touching the bandage on the back of his hand where the IV had been.
"Yeah, that's not pretty, is it?" Dean said in a relaxed, almost conversational tone. Aislinn moved her fingers to his side, touching the wraps covered by his T-shirt. "I got a little hurt, but I'm okay. Your friend Virge helped fix me up."
At that Aislinn grinned, tilting her head again as her eyes traced his face; she was openly curious about his scars, but didn't reach up to touch them. Sam shifted, trying to see the little girl's expression better, and her eyes cut over to him at the movement.
"That's Sam," Dean told her. "He's my little brother."
Aislinn looked at Sam from his feet to his head and Sam heard Dean chuckle as if he'd heard something no one else had.
"Yeah, he's not so little anymore," he told her. "But he still needs looking after sometimes."
Sam stepped forward, then crouched down as Virgil had. "Hi," he greeted smiling.
Aislinn offered him a small smile, then looked back at Dean, this time reaching up and touching the scar beneath his eye. Sam was close enough to his brother that he could feel Dean go still, barely breathing as the little fingers caressed his cheek. She dropped her hand and narrowed her eyes at Dean a bit before smiling once more.
"Coimiceoir," Aislinn said, surprising them all.
Sam shot a look over at Brenna, who was covering her mouth with her fingertips. "What did she say?"
"It's Gaelic," Brenna said, her voice trembling. "It means guardian."
Dean gave Aislinn a half-grin. "Yeah, you're right. He needs a guardian."
Aislinn matched Dean's grin.
"Your mama told us how smart you are," Dean continued, his eyes never leaving the little girl's face. "And how brave."
Aislinn looked back over at Brenna, who stepped forward, reaching for her daughter's hand. Aislinn reached up as if her hand was draw by a magnet and leaned slightly against her mother's leg. Dean straightened, a hand pressed almost unconsciously against his wounded side.
"I'm really happy I got to meet you, Aislinn," he says, the name rolling off his tongue as though he said it every day.
He glanced up at Brenna and Sam could see his throat working overtime. Brenna nodded and gently tugged on Aislinn's hand.
"C'mon, kiddo," Brenna said. "We got some stuff to clean up back at the house. Let's let Dean get some rest, okay?"
Aislinn nodded and started to follow, then paused and turned back to Dean.
"See ya," she said brightly.
Dean smiled back at her, lifting his hand in a wave, and Sam felt certain he'd never seen his brother's eyes brighter than they were in that moment. As the girls left, closing the door behind them, Dean shifted his eyes up to meet Sam's and the light bled out, leaving a trail of uncertainty and despair in its wake.
"What did you see when she touched you?" Sam asked.
"Nothing…just her," Dean replied. "But she saw something. I felt it. Like…a hand inside my head."
"She didn't look scared by what she saw," Sam pointed out. In fact, she'd looked happy, he remembered.
"Jesus…, what the hell am I gonna do now, Sammy?" Dean asked, his voice cracking across the words. He looked back at the closed door. "What am I gonna do now?"
Waiting until they were officially released from the hospital had never been one of the Winchester habits, so Sam was certain it came as no surprised to Virgil called him for a ride back to Argo later that same afternoon. Dean had allowed the nurse to change his bandage, giving both of them a wince-worthy glimpse of the bruised skin around the multiple angry stitches that covered him from his belly to his spine.
Sam had seen enough wounds of that nature to know that the puffy, red skin around the stitches wasn't a good sign, but he'd also seen the determined, closed-off-to-reason expression on his brother's face enough times to know that trying to get Dean to stay longer was not an option. When Virgil opened his mouth to make such an attempt, Sam cut him off with a shake of his head. Dean needed to get out of there; they could figure out how to take care of his wound later.
They'd certainly done it enough times before.
Once the AMA papers had been signed, the brothers climbed into Virgil's truck for the ride back to Argo where the Impala sat waiting for them.
"So, that's it?" Virgil said as they wove around the curving mountain roads on their short decent. "Bad guy's handled, you're not bleeding anymore, you just…head on out? Like always?"
Sam, sitting in passenger side of the front seat, looked in the side mirror where he could see his brother's reflection from the seat behind him.
"No," Dean sighed.
"So, you're not leaving?" Virgil pressed.
"We have to leave," Dean replied, meeting Sam's eyes reassuringly in the mirror. "But…it's not like always."
Virgil nodded, a muscle bouncing in his jaw. "She's not going to just pack up and come back to Lawrence with you," he said, his tone hard. "Believe me. I tried that tactic already."
"I'm not planning on asking her to," Dean replied.
"But you're part of this now," Virgil said, his blue eyes flinty as they caught Dean in the mirror. "You're not going to just walk away from them, even if you think it's for their own good."
It wasn't a question and everyone in the truck knew it.
"Listen," Dean said, his tone matching Virgil's and offering no quarter. "I'm not going to abandon her. But you know better than anyone that my life isn't safe. It's going to have to be Brenna's choice how much she wants her daughter involved in that."
"Your daughter," Virgil corrected. "She's yours, man. And she's amazing. You don't have to live a life that isn't safe for her. You can make another choice."
Sam watched as Dean turned to look out at the passing scenery.
"You got no idea how much I wish that was true," Dean replied softly. "But…some of us don't have a choice."
Sam rested his head on the window, feeling the world press down on him as he listened to the loss in his brother's voice.
"You asked me once," Virgil continued, "if I'd quit this job. Being a fireman and a paramedic."
"Yeah, and you said nothing made sense if you weren't doing this job."
"I meant that," Virgil replied. "But…maybe that's because I've never had a good enough reason to stop."
Dean met Sam's eyes in the rear view mirror as Virgil passed the sign marking the town limit of Argo. "Some of us don't get a choice," he repeated.
Sam bit his tongue to keep from drawing the argument out. He saw where Virgil was trying to lead his brother; it was a path he'd gone down many times before only to have Dean veer off into the woods to get lost. He knew there had to be a way to keep them grounded in the small brush of consistency they'd found in Lawrence and not betray their hunter roots. If only he could convince Dean to help him find a way.
There were others – non-hunters – who knew the truth, who didn't abandon them, didn't shun them, didn't want to lock them in a cage. There were those who knew the truth who trusted them, who believed them. Who needed them. Sam had to find a way, somehow, to have both a semblance of a normal life and be a hunter.
The only problem was, every conclusion he drew ended with someone they loved hurt or worse.
"What the hell?" Virgil broke in, drawing the brother's attention.
Gathered on the front lawn of the fire station were over a dozen people from Argo, including Damien, the priest, Mr. Riker, and Sheriff Maddox.
"Did you let anyone know we were coming back?" Dean asked, his voice tense.
"Just Maddox," Virgil replied. "Replacement fire chief was asking about me and I let him know I was bringing you two back to get your car today."
"Swell," Sam grumbled. He glanced back at Dean. "You ready to make a run for it if we have to?"
He watched Dean press a hand to his still-tender side and nod, his expression grim.
"I'll cover for you," Virgil told them.
"No," the brother's replied in unison.
"You stay clear of it, Virge," Dean told him. "You've been through enough because of us."
Pulling up to the curb behind the Impala, Virgil shut off the engine and glanced over at the brothers. Sam looked over the bench seat at Dean, nodded once, and they both exited the cab of the truck, closing the doors behind them in one motion. Virgil grabbed their duffels from the bed of the truck and stood behind them, holding both bags at his sides.
The group of people were utterly silent, all staring at the brothers with serious eyes. Sam had zero read on the situation and it made him nervous, sweat gathering along the collar of his jacket and sliding down the valley of his spine. The only thing he felt they had going for them was the fact that he could see no visible weapons.
Dean took a quick breath and walked up to Maddox; Sam wished his brother didn't look like a strong gust of wind might topple him.
"Maddox," Dean greeted, nodding once.
"You boys heading out?" Maddox asked.
Sam waited on Dean's reply, unsurprised when Dean said nothing.
"You probably heard the Denver folks are here, crawling all over this case," Maddox said, hooking his thumbs in his belt and spitting a thin stream of tobacco off to the right of Dean. "Haven't told them anything about you boys. Yet."
Dean lifted his chin, visibly taking the words as a warning.
"Maddox," the priest sighed, stepping forward. "For God's sake."
Dean shifted his focus to Damien. Sam saw the priest's face was bruised and he stood slightly hunched forward, as if his ribs were sore. He knew from personal experience that the taser burns probably still ached.
"We owe you a debt," Damien began. Sam blinked in surprise and saw Dean tilt his head in question. "The truth is, this town," Damien glanced around at the people gathered behind him, then turned back to Dean, "all of us in some way…we knew about the darkness. We knew there was evil here. For a long, long time. And we," he looked down, shrugging slightly as if in an attempt to dismiss the voracity of his words, "ignored it."
Riker stepped forward, his face seeming to have aged thirty years in the three days since his daughter was killed. "We drew lines," he said, his voice rheumatic, thick with regret and remorse, "just like you said." He nodded at Sam and Sam saw Dean turn slightly to look back at him.
Stepping forward so that he flanked his brother, Sam nodded back at Riker, letting the man continue.
"We chose sides and instead of trying to find a way to fight the evil that had infested our town, we decided to fight each other," the old man sniffed, wiping his face with the back of his hand. "You boys…you knew. You knew what was killing our people and you knew how to stop it and you didn't hesitate. Even when we tried to stop you, you did what was right."
Dean shared an astonished glance with Sam, neither of them able to speak.
The priest reached into the pocket of his jacket and withdrew an envelope. "This is for you…," he said shoving it into Sam's hands. "Both of you. For the pain you went through to save us."
"What is it?" Sam asked, looking at the envelope.
"A collection," Damien replied.
Sam gaped at him, then looked at Dean seeing an equally shocked expression on his brother's face.
"It's not a lot," Damien continued. "But it's from everyone in town. We can only hope it helps and…shows our gratitude for what you did."
"Wait…you're…this is…money?" Dean stuttered a reply. "You want to…pay us?"
"Yes," Riker replied, looking back at Maddox. "Even this old bastard chipped in."
"It's hush money," Maddox grumbled, but Sam saw the smile lines around his eyes.
Sam opened the envelope, looking inside. "Dean," he said in a low voice. "There's over five hundred dollars here."
Dean stared at him, then looked back at the crowd, unable to speak. The moment was compounded when someone in the back of the small crowd began to applaud. The rhythm was picked up until even Virgil was clapping behind then, the duffels having been dropped to the ground beside him.
Sam stared around him, completely flabbergasted. Dean looked like someone had put him in a cage. But they both stood, staring a bit shell-shocked until the clapping stopped and the people of Argo came forward in small groups to shake their hands and pat their shoulders and thank them. As Damien came over, Sam tried to thrust the envelope back toward him.
"We can't take this," Sam said.
"You can," Damien said, closing his slender fingers over the envelope and Sam's hands, pushing it back toward Sam's body. "You saved my life. I owe you so much more than this. But it's a start."
Sam nodded, his chest tight with emotion. Never, in twenty-nine years of hunting, had anyone ever thanked them – at least not in a public we know what you saved us from and what you sacrificed in order to do it manner. He felt slightly lightheaded with the ramifications of this moment.
As the crowd began to disburse, Maddox walked up to Dean and Sam faced them squarely, wary of what the sheriff might say to ruin the warm rush of awe he was swimming through.
"Thought you should know I resigned," Maddox said.
Dean lifted his chin, clearly surprised. "Why?"
"Because," Maddox sighed, "I let eleven people get killed by the same man and never once realized that the bastard was part of my own family."
"No way you could have known," Dean offered, for some reason Sam couldn't fathom, trying to let the man off the hook.
"Yeah, there was. Plenty of signs and I chose to ignore them because," he shrugged, "they were all impossible. But I guess we learned that word has a whole new meaning." He glanced over at Sam, then shifted his eyes back to Dean. "My last act as Sheriff was to order a full investigation into August Smith and his family. His whole family."
"You might not like what you find out," Dean cautioned him.
"Son, at this point, I think I'd rather know than be lost in the same cloud I was for twenty years. Truth is," he spat once more, crossing his arms over his chest and looking out across the mountains framing the shallow valley where Argo rested, "I didn't make a good drunk. Or, hell, maybe I made an excellent one. Either way, I spent a lot of years hiding from the truth inside a bottle just to get the job done...and it turns out, I missed the whole point of the job. Because of that, this town – and you boys – paid the price."
Dean worked his jaw a bit, clearly chewing on the best reply to that confession. "You going to have them look into the original cave-in?"
"Yep," Maddox replied.
"You might want this," Sam told him, pulling from his pocket the timeline he'd taken off of David's body back in the mine tunnel. "Depending on how much truth you dig out…it could come in handy."
Maddox took the paper with a nod of thanks, tugged on the brim of his hat in goodbye, and turned to follow the crowd as they dispersed to their various haunts. Dean turned slowly to face Sam.
"Son of a bitch," he said slowly.
"Couldn't have said it better myself," Sam replied, his eyes shifting over Dean's shoulder as he saw Brenna approach.
"Hey," she called, making Dean turn quickly, if a little unsteadily. "Saddle up. You're coming up to my house tonight."
"We are?" Dean replied.
"You are. And if you hurry, I'll feed you dinner."
"Can you cook?" Dean asked, tipping his head inquisitively.
"It's free food; does it matter?"
Dean glanced back at Sam, lips folded down in a frown. "Point taken."
"I'll drive," Sam declared.
To his surprise, Dean didn't argue. He simply moved over to the passenger side of the Impala and waited. Sam exchanged a worried glance with Virgil, then grabbed their duffels from the paramedic's feet.
"You coming?" Sam asked.
"I'll meet you there. Something I gotta pick up first."
Sam nodded and headed to the Impala, dropping their duffels in the trunk and unlocking the doors. He didn't comment as Dean stifled a groan when he slid into the passenger seat, nor did he mutter when Dean slumped over to rest his forehead against the glass.
He did, however, chuckle quietly when Dean said, "She better have pie."Chapter 16 continued in Post 17-C, here.