No Refunds

Chapter 44

They drove for hours without stopping. They knew they had to put a good distance between them and the hospital, and they certainly weren't going back to the motel. They needed somewhere safe and secure right now, and seeing as they didn't have Bobby's, they went to the next best thing; Rufus's cabin.

The drive was quiet. Neither of them spoke much, with the exception of Dean occasionally barking at Sam to be more careful over bumps in the road and such. He had stayed in the backseat with Cas.

To begin with, the comatose man had simply been slung in with more thought for speed and convenience than for comfort and welfare. But after a few sharp turns and bad bumps, Dean moved them around. While he had been at his feet, he moved over so that he was on the right, with Cas lying on his side, legs curled under him, and the seatbelt buckled under his waist. His head lay in Dean's lap; a pillow, Dean had told himself, to protect his neck from further jolts.

Sam would occasionally glance in the mirror, checking on the two. To start with it was out of anxiety, to make sure they were both still alright, that Cas was still in one piece, and that Dean wasn't falling apart again. But as the journey went on, he would look out of curiosity; Dean's demeanour was perceptibly more and more relaxed, starting out as agitated impatience, but he gradually seemed to sooth, relaxing more into the seat, alternating between keeping an eye on Cas and watching the road out of the window. His hand was resting out Cas's right shoulder, ready to secure him if need be, ever vigilant. But like his physical presence, that soon changed too; his thumb began to stroke up and down the crisp hospital pyjamas covering his upper arm, soothing circles. Sam didn't even think that Dean noticed he was doing it. Every so often Dean would seem to jolt back into reality and check Cas's pulse, almost reflexively, as if reacting to some silent thought he had, but each time he was placated.

Eventually they reached the cabin. It was dark by this time, and Sam thought his brother might've drifted off. He actually seemed to be sleeping peacefully, no visible nightmares as far as he could tell and he regretted that he had to wake him.

"Dean." Sam called, clearing his throat, expecting Dean to jolt awake suddenly, but was surprised to find that he merely opened his eyes, somewhat blearily. "We're here."

"Finally." Dean said, looking down at the head in his lap. "I need to stretch my legs."

He carefully moved Cas, as if forgetting that he wasn't actually simply asleep, and stepped out of the car. Sam got out too, and leant on the roof of the car, looking over to his brother. "So, Crowley knows."

"Was bound to happen eventually." Dean replied, glancing down at Cas.

"Pretty bad timing." Sam pointed out. "He isn't exactly in a position to defend himself, right now."

"Yeah, well; that's what he's got us for." Dean told him as he stretched, arms high above his head, curving his spine after the long journey. His neck ached, and he rolled his head, trying to ease out the pain. It was minor compared to some of the injuries that the boys had incurred over the years, but it was still a general nuisance. "How's your shoulder?" Dean asked, nodding to the blood stain on Sam's shirt. The younger Winchester winced, and Dean nodded again. "Let's get inside and patch it up."

He tugged Cas out from the back seat, always gently, and slung him over his shoulder again. Sam watched him, watched as his brother set his jaw and began the short walk up to the front porch. Dean seemed... okay? After days of panicking and worrying and being a wreck, the showdown at the hospital seemed to have pushed him past some of it. Perhaps the adrenalin rush from the fight had kicked his brain back into gear, or getting out of the sterile hospital had cleared the cobwebs. Either way, as Dean padded up the steps, carrying the smaller man with ease, he seemed a bit more like the elder brother that Sam had always looked up to.

Cas got the bedroom, of course. Sam and Dean were so used to sleeping on couches or floors or cars that beds were generally a luxury. Far better to leave it to the guy who actually needed it right now. While Sam checked on the demon proofing, Dean climbed the stairs and put Cas into the bed, placing him down carefully, and throwing the covers back over him.

Dean could've just left him at that, but instead he took the time to rearrange him; he fluffed the pillows under his head, he pulled the sheet up, making sure to keep him warm. He even went so far as to run a hand through his hair to sort out the flat patch on the top of his head to the scruffier look that Cas usually sported.

His hand lingered in Cas's hair for a minute, teasing the strands there for a few seconds, and exhaled. Dean had tried his best to make Cas look like he was only sleeping, that he would wake up any second, but even that looked wrong. Cas never used to sleep, Cas would barely blink. Dean took a deep breath in, trailed his fingers down the man's cheek, and checked his pulse again. Still there, still beating.

When he went back downstairs, he found Sam Sitting at the table, bottle of whisky beside him and a needle and thread in his hand. Dean frowned and walked over, shaking his head.

"Let me." Dean told him, knowing from experience how much simpler it was to not have to stitch your own flesh back together. Especially at an angle like that one.

"Thanks." Sam handed the needle over, and shucked his shirt off his shoulder, giving Dean better access to the wound. Dean took a swig of whisky before pouring it onto the skin, and Sam winced.

"Baby." Dean mocked. "S'barely anything."

"I've had worse." Sam agreed.

"Won't even need 5 stitches." Dean mused. "Fight like that and you don't even have a decent wound to show for it."

"Yeah, you're right." Sam scoffed. "Next time I'll let a few get me before I take them out."

"Atta boy." Dean grinned, making the first stitch, ignoring Sam's flinch. They stayed silent for the first few stitches, Dean focusing on the task at hand. He glanced up, checking on his brother. "You did good, though."

"Hmmm?" Sam looked down.

"In the fight. Few years back, we couldn't've handled a fight that big." Dean told him as he finished the final stitch. "Even with the help of some heavenly host."

"That's our job." Sam agreed, pulling away as Dean finished, rolling his shoulder.

"Yeah, it is." Dean agreed, putting the needle back on the table. Sam saw his brother's face darken, his jaw clench, and he took another drink from the bottle.

"Dean," Sam began, not sure what to say.

"It's our whole life." Dean stood up, bottle in hand, and leant against the wall. "At least we're good at it."

"It doesn't have to be." Sam reminded him. He knew what Dean was thinking, he knew how he felt; it was their life, over and over, that hurt them and everyone around them. They knew nothing else, nothing but the constant kill-or-be-killed life that they had been a part of since they were children, and it was because of that, that Cas was lying comatose upstairs. "You got out before."

"Oh, and that went so well." Sam thought of Lisa and Ben, safe knowing nothing of the dangers they once faced. He knew that Dean checked up on them every once in a while, though he never mentioned them.

"Just because it didn't work once-" Sam tried, but Dean interrupted.

"What are you thinking, Sammy?" Dean asked, suddenly short tempered. Sam remembered Dean's threat, that they must never be mentioned again. He regretted bringing them up, now of all times. "That I find a nice girl and settle down with her? Have a few kids? We can't have the apple pie life, you know that."

"I don't, Dean." Sam sighed.

"Well, I do." Dean's voice had risen, practically yelling. "We broke the world, again. So we have to fix it. We can't just give up because we're tired of it."

Sam looked at his brother, and noticed the shiny dampness in his eyes. "What about after?"

"There isn't an after. There will never be an after. We just keep going until something kills us."

Sam shook his head. "Yeah, maybe." He looked down at his knees.

"Yeah, maybe." Dean mimicked. "What? What do you have in mind? Got a girl in mind? Someone who can handle the life? Can she balance breastfeeding and ganking at the same time?"

"I wasn't thinking about me." Sam explained, and Dean raised his eyebrows, folding his arms.

"What, me?" Dean scoffed. "You're trying to set me up. She hot? Because if I'm going to get her killed, she better be hot."

Sam folded his arms, mirroring Dean. "Not a she."

Dean frowned. "You lost me."

Sam sighed, not sure how far he was willing to push this. He was working purely on speculation, on what he'd seen and considered, but it was by no means fact. Sure, Dean clearly liked Cas a lot, cared for him; the last few days had proven that. But who was to say if it was anything more?

But Sam knew that Dean was hurting. Sure, Dean had improved slightly, but he was still torn apart inside over it. What if Sam pushed Dean too far. What if Cas never woke up and Dean...

"Nothing, never mind." Sam said, standing up. He rolled his shoulder again, testing the stitches. It stung and tugged, but held. "It's been a long day. I'm going to sleep." He smiled at his brother as he left the room, leaving Dean somewhat bewildered.


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