Chapter 24

Sam woke to a lovers' quarrel.

"Dean, don't touch him."

That was Abby. Sam didn't bother opening his eyes.

"Why the hell not?"

Dean. It hurt to hear the reedy weakness in his voice, but at least he had enough energy to be ticked off.

"I’m not sure what’ll happen while you’re so worried. You can't control the connection between you yet, the guardian thing. You need the energy to heal yourself.”

"What are you talking about?!"

Ah, Sam thought hazily. The big D, denial, rears its ugly head again.

"He's gonna be fine. Look at him, he's grinning."

"Sam? Sammy."

"Damn it, Dean," Sam croaked through vocal cords that felt like they'd been slow-smoked. "Don't call me Sammy." He opened his eyes cautiously to concerned faces on a backdrop of clear, starry sky. Dean was wearing the half ticked, half worried, don't-scare-the-crap-out-of-me look Sam knew so well.

This was the way it felt, always felt, when they found each other alive and whole after a job. Sam's lips twisted into a thin, crooked line. Dean swallowed hard, then quirking up one side of his mouth, lay back into Abby's waiting lap.

"You'll always be little Sammy to me, bro."

"Shut up." Sam’s chuckle turned into a coughing fit that speared his ribs. A paramedic appeared and strapped an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. Sam sat up with the medic’s help and concentrated on smoothing out his breathing.

Sam looked around. The cavalry had shown up just in the nick of time. They were close enough to the spectacularly burning ruins to feel the warmth, but far enough away to avoid most of the falling cinders that sizzled little craters into the snow.

Dean’s wrists were wrapped in clean, white gauze. He looked almost as hollow-eyed as the coven. "Shouldn’t you be heading to the hospital,” Sam asked, eyeing the ski-sled/ambulance a few yards away.

"We're not goin' anywhere." Dean shot a glance at something over Sam’s shoulder.

Sam forced his stiff body around to see what had brought the scowl to his brother's face.

He was surprised to discover that Dr. Q. was apparently a member of Abby’s cavalry. Clad in snow gear, she stood some distance away, next to someone hunched in a foil rescue blanket. It was the small, sad woman Sam had rescued from the fire.

One innocent soul, Sam was sure of it. He caught Dr. Q's gaze. This one's different, he tried to tell her with his look. This one deserves our help.

What Dr. Q saw in Sam's eyes brought a small smile to her lips. She gave him the barest nod. Her arm went around the woman's shoulders. Dr. Q spoke to her gently. After a moment the former coven member’s stricken eyes widened. Her lips parted in a little 'oh' then she covered her face in her hands and began to sob. Sam turned away fighting the urge to cough again as his breath hitched in his throat.

"What happened to the others?" Sam asked when he found his voice. A sudden cascade of memories flooded his head. He pulled off the oxygen mask. "Who fired the shots?! What the hell was that explosion? Was there an explosion?"

"Settle down. Put that mask back on,” Dean said.

“Daryl fired the shots,” Abby said. “Liz’s husband. You didn’t get to meet him. He's a homicide detective. He’s rounding up the last two coven idiots now. And it wasn’t exactly an explosion.”

As Sam sat back and breathed more oxygen, Abby explained. The cavalry, Daryl with his crew of cops and paramedics, and Dr. Q, had arrived just after the snow storm abated. They came on snowmobiles and in two huge snowcats. The cannon Sam thought he’d heard was actually one of the vehicle’s five-foot-tall tank treads caving in the church’s front doors.

"Officer McReynolds wants you guys out of here ASAP," the paramedic said walking over to them.

“Officer McReynolds is Daryl,” Abby said helpfully.

The paramedic looked worriedly at Dean. “I’ll take you in one of the snowcats, but they aren't built for comfort. There'll be a lot of rattling around. I'll make the ride as smooth as I can."

"Just make it fast." Dean told him.

They gave a collective sigh of relief half an hour later when they got back to Daryl's black SUV still parked where Dean and Abby had left it last night. They settled Dean gingerly against the corner of the back seat wrapped to the chin in one of Liz's quilts. Sam clicked the seatbelt across his brother’s lap then sat beside him.

Abby took wheel. “Hospital right?”

Sam shook his head. "That’s not a good idea.”

"What are you talking about? You walk in, tell them your names and hand over your insurance cards."

"Right. Names and insurance cards. It's not that simple for us. We can take care of him."

"Sam, he’s a mess. You probably have a concussion…"

"We've dealt with worse than this!"

"Shut up." Dean spoke barely above a whisper. He didn't even bother to open his eyes, but they obeyed him instantly. "I love you both. Just take me home."

There was stunned silence in the car. Those were a couple of four-letter-words Sam had not expected to hear from his brother.

Love. Home.

Abby bit her lower lip, sniffed and started the car. "I guess I can call Dr. Hanson.” She reached for her cell phone. "He’ll make a house call.”

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