Summary: They took down the Leviathans and now they suffer the consequences - Dean isn't talking and Sam doesn't know what to do.
Dean, Sam, gen, 7,000 words, PG-13
Written for hoodie_time's Dean-focused hurt/comfort comment-fic meme, for this prompt by nwspaprtaxis. It's probably a little (if I had a special font for sarcasm I would use it now) different from what she wanted and it's gotten so personal for so many reasons and so out of hand that I literally laughed at the story. Pointed at the monitor with my finger and laughed. For a while I thought I wouldn't even be able to finish it, but look at me! I did. I'm not sure what to think about it myself, though. Sorry if it disappoints you, nwspaprtaxis.
Fic is unbeta'd, english is not my first language, constructive criticism is always welcome. Also, be aware that it contains a puppy. And an OC.
Last thing - today it's been exactly one year since I've watched the Pilot for the first time. I am a baby-fan! Not even out of my diapers yet! Let's celebrate! Where's the alcohol?
We don't know what's wrong, we don't know how to treat it, we aren't sure if he's going to get better, we don't hold much hope for him.
When they ask Sam what happened he says that he doesn't know. He can't exactly tell the doctors how his brother got bit by a biblical beast into his right shoulder a second before he could gank it. How he stumbled back with a sharp yelp and clutched at his shoulder, how his face twisted from determination and anger into shock and pure agony just moments later. How Dean went down to one knee before toppling over completely.
"Mr Smith?" the doctor says and snaps Sam back into reality. He blinks once, twice and takes a deep breath.
"I'm sorry," he says, "I don't... We got into a fight and when I found him he was..." Sam's voice fades and the doctor nods.
They let Sam see Dean the next morning. He drops next to his unconscious brother, half covered in bandages, connected to more machines and fluids than Sam cares to count.
They told him they don't know how to cure Dean and how could they, really, when it's a Leviathan's venom burning through his body?
Sam brings in books and searches through them for a clue, a solution, and finds nothing. He calls Meg but she doesn't answer, so he calls the hospital they left Castiel in. They tell him that Cas disappeared without a trace and that they are sorry and Sam smashes his cell phone against the wall, pissed at the whole world.
His brother doesn't move an inch, not even when the nurse comes in with a frown and tells Sam to calm down before she has to call security.
Sam slumps next to Dean again, tired and weary.
The venom disappears as quickly as it appeared – it's just gone one day, doctors exactly as baffled about it as Sam - but the damage is already done.
They tell Sam they don't think Dean will wake up; with or without the poison in his system.
"His body is too weak and the injuries too great," they say and Sam thinks, just watch.
Dean does wake up. A week later, confused and hurting and frantically calling for Sam, tearing at his injuries while doing so. Then he goes back under again.
The doctors say Dean's a living miracle and Sam thinks so, too, surviving time and time again; but then the bandages are removed and for the first time in his life Sam sees a fourth-degre burn – on his brother's right shoulder.
Then Sam sees Dean's face and swallows and wants to cry.
Dean heals fast but he's still doped on painkillers, either asleep or too high to concentrate on anything Sam says to him.
"We got 'em?" he asks through the left corner of his mouth with slurred voice, his left eye drooping and the right one...
Sam swallows and nods. "Yeah," he says, "yeah, we got them. Bastards didn't see it coming," he says as if it should make Dean feel any better.
"Your brother really is a miracle," one of the nurses tells Sam. "It's like there's someone watching over him. Some kind of an angel." She's smiling, her eyes soft and sad. "Do you believe in that kind of thing?"
Sam isn't sure what he's supposed to say. "I do believe in angels," he says after a moment, "but I don't think they're watching over us."
The nurse says nothing for a long time, doing her thing around the room and around Dean who is – fortunately for all of them – deep under again. Then she says, "it could have been much worse. He could have been dead."
Sam looks at Dean and doesn't know what to say to that, either.
The damage is extensive, incredible and Dean visibly stops breathing when he sees himself in the mirror Sam brought to him on his request. Dean stills and stares at the scarring covering the whole right side of his face and Sam doesn't dare to move, waits for Dean's reaction.
Dean's bandages are gone for now, for a little while, so that Dean can see. His right eye is gone, the empty socket covered with scar tissue. His ear is almost gone, too, melted away into only a shapeless bulk on the scarred, half bald right side of Dean's head.
Dean's mouth looks like someone tried to sear it shut, a mess of angry, burned flesh.
Dean exhales (and so does Sam) and reaches for the notepad the nurses left here for him to write into because he can't really talk, not when he's lucid enough to realize that it actually hurts. He scribbles with his clumsy left hand because his whole right arm is still covered in bandages and unstable, the damage to his shoulder bigger than to any other part of Dean's body (but all the surgeries went well, the doctors said, he should regain mostly all mobility) and Sam watches him. Dean slides the notepad towards Sam and Sam frowns at it, deciphering Dean's uneven handwriting.
I CAN SAY I SAVED SOMEONE FROM A BURNING BUILDING, CHICKS DIG THAT
Sam lifts his eyes to look at Dean and thinks, 'chicks only dig scars when they're not covering fifty percent of your body,' but Dean probably knows that because he looks a little desperate for a second and then the look is gone. Dean reaches for the notepad again, snagging it from under Sam's hand.
I LOOK LIKE TWO-FACE MAN, IT'S KINDA COOL
Sam closes his eyes and sighs, trying to make it sound exasperated instead of hopeless.
Dean heals so fast Sam wonders if it's Cas' doing, somehow, even though he has no idea where the angel went.
He researches some and finds out that Castiel isn't the only one who's vanished – Richard Roman is missing along with most of his employees and business partners and if Sam's not mistaken – and he doesn't know if he hopes that he is or isn't – then all the Leviathans got sucked back into Purgatory. Along with Castiel, who's brought them out inside his own body in the first place.
He tells Dean and Dean sits silently in the hospital bed, looking smaller then Sam remembers him ever looking. He grabs the notepad and scribbles four fast words, SON OF A BITCH.
Dean's getting better at writing with his left hand and Sam is getting better at reading it and at reading his brother as well – and right now Dean's hand is shaking and his eyes – his eye – is damp and swimming with unshead tears for everyone they've lost and everyone they've failed to save.
"Maybe he just... Disappeared, Dean. Went back home. To Heaven."
Dean shrugs with his good shoulder and doesn't reply.
It's a painful proccess for both of them but as Sam watches Dean go through various motor skills exercises more or less successfully, for one reason or another he dares to hope that maybe – just maybe – they might pull through.
"Dean's physical healing proccess is going very well, all things considered," the doctor tells Sam, "there are no signs of gangrene or infections, and his wounds are pretty much healed up, which is a miracle given it's been only few weeks since he was brought in."
And that's true, Dean's scars look months old at least.
"What concerns us," the doctor says and Sam braces himself like a little kid would, hunches forward and crosses his arms over his chest.
"What concerns us," the doctor continues after a moment of silently observing Sam's posture, "is Dean's mental state. His wounds are healed enough for him to talk again with minimum or no pain, but he won't."
"He has been showing other sings of depression as well, such as the loss of appetite. I discussed Dean's case with my collegues and we have decided it would be in your brother's best interest if he started visiting a therapy as soon as possible."
The doctor talks for a few more minutes – and mentions 'more tests to see how is Dean healing so fast, it could be very helpful in the future' – while Sam stares at him and then he packs their bags, carefully tucks Dean into the Impala (and watches his brother run his left hand over the car's upholstery and almost hears Dean's voice, soft and low, 'welcome back, baby,') and hightails it out of the city.
They end up in Rufus' cabin, the only place they have left now since Bobby's house burnt down and so did Bobby, under a layer of salt and lighter fluid.
Dean shuffles slowly towards the couch, covered in bandages from his neck to his left thigh and Sam thinks he should be used to it now but he just isn't.
"You get comfortable, I'm gonna do some grocery shopping, stock up on some... Aloe lotion or something," Sam says and waves his hand vaguely in Dean's direction. Dean narrows his eyes – his eye – at him and nods.
He doesn't ask for pie like he did the last time Sam went out to get food, before all this went down. Sam tries not to take it as the bad omen it probably is.
Dean's injuries are not really injuries anymore – they look like scars months, maybe years old now.
THINK IT'S CAUSE OF THE LEV. POISON? Dean writes and Sam just shrugs.
"I have no idea, man," he says truthfully. He doesn't mention Cas because it's a tabu now, just another person on Dean's list of People I didn't save, but he thinks about it. Maybe it's something Cas did, with all the soul-bonding and whatever that he had going on with his brother, some small mercy Cas showed to help Dean out before Purgatory or Heaven sucked him in, or whatever else migth have happened to him.
Sam never thought he would miss the angel but he really, really does.
LET'S HUNT, Dean writes and Sam gives him a wry look.
"How, man? You can barely walk without a limp and I'm pretty sure you can't run," he says and Dean stares at the paper in his hands as if he's forgotten what he wrote before. "You can't hold a gun in your right hand and you can't shoot with your left and... Dammit, Dean," Sam continues, "you don't talk. How are we... I mean, we can't hunt when you're not talking."
Dean just shrugs but he's frowning and Sam knows he's upset and pissed and goddamn bored out of his mind, having to sit holed up, waiting for nothing.
"Listen, Dean," Sam says one day because the moment he's been waiting for, a moment that would feel right for talking about everything, just isn't coming. "I... I know this is hard on you but man," Sam lets out a shaky sigh, "we have to talk about this, we have to figure this out, you can't just bottle it up – " he looks up and Dean is glaring at him, shaking his head slowly and then he lifts his left hand and runs his fingers across his throat. We aren't talking about it. We are DONE.
Then, for good measure, or maybe some sick sense of self-accomplishment, Dean grabs the notepad Sam bought and writes something with hard, long strokes.He sets the pen down, bangs it onto the table so hard it rattles and tears the paper out, hands it to Sam and gets up, slowly walking towards the bathroom.
Sam looks down at the paper in his hands that says, I'M FINE, underlined twice and the bathroom door bangs closed.
Sam figures out days later that Dean's visage is the least of Dean's worries. It's definitely there on his list of Things to be depressed about but it's on the bottom of it, somewhere below Bobby and Cas and Sam and god knows who and what else.
Sam doesn't know if he's surprised or not. He thinks about it at nights when he can't seem to fall asleep, listening to Dean breathing too soft for him to be asleep either (because Dean now always has nightmares, terrible ones; composed of people dying and Hell and Leviathans and fires, while Sam's nightmares and hallucinations disappeared along with Cas).
Dean has never prided himself in his looks – yes, he took them as an advantage, like a nice bonus but it was hardly his priority.
Sam remebers when Dean was a teenager, cocky and all-knowing, well aware of himself and compares it to Dean in his late twenties, when Dean got freshly out of Hell and was mentally much older than his physical body and has probably seen himself much more scarred than he is now.
So no, Sam decides, he's not that surprised about it.
Dean's still not talking, though, and Sam doesn't know what to think about that.
LET'S GET OUTTA HERE, Dean writes and Sam looks at him. Dean adds, TRAVEL AROUND.
And they are fit enough to do that; so they go.
MAYBE I'LL FINALLY SEE GRAND CANYON, Dean writes and Sam is slowly getting used to this, these clipped off conversations with Dean and you know what, he doesn't feel like talking much either, anyway.
Turns out travelling around was the worst fucking idea in the history of ever.
It happens one week after they leave the cabin. It's no one fault, really, there's no one to blame but damn Sam feels pissed because this is just. Not. Fair.
The little girl in the diner they stop at takes one look at Dean and yelps. It's cut off abruptly by her mother's hand over her mouth but it catches their attention; it catches everyone's attention.
"Julie, shush," her mother bends to her daughter who can't be more than six years old, brown ponytail and dark blue dress matching the color of her eyes that are opened comically wide and fixed on Dean, on his maimed face. She grabs at her mother's hand and pulls it from her mouth, whispering in that obnoxiously loud, child-like way, "but mommy, it's a monster."
She hisses the last words dramatically and Sam would have probably laughed if the monster wasn't supposed to be his brother; a brother who spent his entire fucking life fighting monsters to make sure little girls like Julie wouldn't get eaten and who is now standing frozen on the spot next to him.
"Jesus Christ, Julie," her mother gasps and clasps her hand over her daughter's mouth again and looks up at Sam with panicked, tearful eyes. She mouths, 'I'm so sorry,' shaking her head disbelievingly and really, really looks like she's about to cry.
Every single person in the room is staring at them now and Dean turns around and walks out of the diner. Sam gives the woman a little fake smile even though all he wants to do is yell at her, 'teach your kid some fucking manners,' and goes quickly after his brother.
He sees Dean get inside the Impala, climbing into the backseat and lowering himself into a lying position, disappearing from sight.
Sam slows down, wondering how to approach this situation because the only times Dean's ever curled up on the back seat was when he had the Great hangover of 1999 Sam swore to never mention again, when Dad banned him there when Dean kept falling asleep on his shoulder while Dad was driving and when he was coming down from the sky-high caused by the Leviathans' sandwich. And maybe few other times when he was hurt or out of it enough.
To put it simply, Dean never got into the back seat, not on his own free will anyway.
Sam sits on the sidewalk and waits.
It – whatever it is – takes Dean fifteen minutes. Then he opens the back door of the car and looks at Sam, takes a deep breath and then cocks his head, saying, let's go, without saying anything.
Sam feels like screaming but he only clears his throat and gets behind the wheel.
Dean pulls out Sam's old hoodie from somewhere and Sam almost says, 'hey, dude, where'd you get this?' because he lost all of his old clothes and Dean kept hiding this somewhere at the bottom of his duffel?
Dean puts it on, pulling the hood over his head. It doesn't cover his face enough to hide the scars from other people, but Dean keeps it on anyway. Maybe there's more Dean's hiding than the scars and if it helps his brother, Sam's willing to let Dean keep it up.
Except it doesn't help much and there are not many people Dean could be hiding from, anyway. He stops getting out of the Impala unless he really has to, stops leaving the motel rooms; all he does is wave at Sam to catch his attention when Sam goes out to get food.
But Dean never eats much of it and it's starting to show, the hoodie hanging on him like a sack, his jeans loose and low on Dean's hips.
BUY HOODIES, Dean writes when Sam leaves one morning to get food. He's not looking at Sam, eyes fixed on the ceiling and he looks nervous, as if asking for it was admitting to a weakness. Which, in all honesty, it kind of was.
"Why don't you come with me?" Sam asks softly and Dean looks at him, eyebrow furrowed and the corner of his lips turned down. And Sam understands because if it were him he wouldn't want to leave the room, either.
"Okay," he says and goes.
"Why won't you talk to me?" Sam asks one night when they're sitting in silence only filled by the crackling sound of the old motel television.
M TLKN 2 U, Dean writes and shows the paper to Sam. Sometimes he unnecessarily shortens words and sentences; usually when it's too late or too early or when Dean's too lazy or too tired or too depressed to care about grammar and stylistics.
He's still writing with his left hand even though Sam knows his right hand is now completely healthy – or as healthy as it will ever be, and that is healthy enough to move around some. But Dean rarely uses it unless he really has to, usually leaving it hanging along his side, ocassionally cradling it in his lap when he's sitting down.
"You're not talking to me," Sam says, "you're writing to me, with your non-dominant hand for whatever reason."
Dean is staring at Sam and then he starts writing again. Sam leans over and takes the notepad from Dean, snags it away and Dean throws his arms wide.
"Talk," Sam says. Dean stares at him for a few seconds, takes a deep breath and opens his mouth –
And nothing happens. Dean glares at Sam and then grabs the notepad again, yanking it out of Sam's hands. Sam doesn't try to stop him.
HAVE NTHG 2 SAY, Dean writes into it and shoves it back into Sam's hand.
"Fine!" Sam snaps and drops the notepad onto the sofa next to him.
They leave the next morning and Dean leaves the notepad on the sofa in the empty hotel room.
Every other night Dean wakes up gasping and moaning like he's pain and Sam purses his lips and closes his eyes tighter. He keeps them closed and listens to Dean move around, gasping and all but sobbing.
Sam tried to help him the first time it happened, and the second and the third, but Dean just panicked more and kept pushing at Sam's shoulders, pushing him away.
"It's okay, Dean," Sam said back then, trying to reach his brother, squeeze his shoulder or do something similarly reassuring. Dean shoved at him, breathing hard through his nose and kept shaking his head, covering his eyes with his hand.
"It's okay," Sam repeated crouching in front of his brother, knowing it was anything but.
Nowadays, Sam just closes his eyes and wills himself not to listen to Dean's ragged breathing because he can't help, Dean won't let him, and it tears at Sam's heart everytime it happens.
Dean stops talking altogether – stops writing. The notepad disappears and when Sam asks about it Dean just shrugs.
These gestures are the closest things to communication from Dean's side that he and Sam have these days – cocked eyebrows and shrugs and Sam is so not alright with it but he's tired of pushing his brother, of trying to coax him out of his shell.
He just watches Dean from the corners of his eyes while he's driving and except the hoodie covering most of Dean's head and face at all times he looks just like he did before from this angle, the corner of his mouth curled slightly upwards, eyes on the road even when Dean's not driving. It's only when Dean turns his head to look at Sam and the right side of Dean's face comes into view that Sam remembers how screwed up things are.
The next time Sam goes out he buys another notepad and then hads it to his brother who stares at it and then at Sam.
"I'm sorry I pushed you," Sam says, "if you don't feel like talking – physically talking – we can use this instead, if it's better for you, and..." he stops and swallows. "I just wish you'd tell me what the hell is going on with you, Dean. You're harder to read than ever, man."
Dean nods but writes nothing, although he toys with the pen Sam handed to him together with the notepad. Sam's heart sinks but he smiles at Dean reassuringly, gets up and locks himself in the bathroom, feeling absolutely helpless.
When Sam goes out Dean is sitting at the table and he's writing, not looking up or acknowledging Sam at all and Sam doesn't dare to go to Dean to read over his shoulder. He's done pushing his brother; it didn't do either of them any good. So he waits while Dean writes.
What Dean's written is a fucking novel. Well, compared to their clipped, two-words-at-a-time conversations from before it is. It's just a page long letter, really, in Dean's thick, large handwriting. Sam clutches at it and looks at Dean who just waves his hand at him dismissively, shoulders slumped. He looks tired, worn out, empty and so unlike Dean.
SORRY I'M NOT TALKING TO YOU, it says, I CAN'T. AT FIRST I DIDN'T BECAUSE IT HURT AND THEN I DIDN'T BECAUSE I DIDN'T WANT TO AND IT WAS EASIER TO DEAL WITH EVERYTHING BY NOT TALKING ABOUT IT. NOW I JUST CAN'T. I PHYSICALLY CAN'T FORCE MY VOICE OUT AND I'M KINDA FINE WITH IT TO BE HONEST.
Sam glances from the letter at Dean who is sitting on the couch, looking up. Sam can only see the left side of his face and he realizes that it's been months since Dean let Sam see the scarred side completely, freely, without trying to hide it with hoodies or turning so that Sam could only see the left side. He wants to say something about it because Dean can be hiding from the rest of the world and Sam can't hold it against him but he is Dean's brother and seeing a couple of scars won't change anything; but then Sam thinks it over and decides to keep his mouth shut – for now. He looks down at the paper again.
I'VE BEEN A JERK TO YOU LATELY, NOT YOUR FAULT, NOT PUSHING. ARE YOU OK? SORRY
"Dean," Sam says and takes a deep breath, "I'm fine, man, really. I'm not the one who can't go through the night without nightmares and who barely eats and doesn't leave the motel except to get into the car."
Dean's gaze is fixed on his hands in his lap, the left cradling the right one, fingers running over the scared flesh that reaches as far as Dean's palm.
They stop in a small town Sam doesn't even know the name of and Dean lets Sam book them into a motel, then gets out and heads straight for the room just like he always does. It's their new normal; Dean hiding and Sam ignoring it.
"I'm going to get some food," Sam says the next morning and Dean nods a little, eye not leaving the tiny television. Sam looks at Dean for a moment, wondering how can Dean even watch daytime TV because it's so crap and then asks, "you want something specific?"
Dean shrugs and shakes his head.
Sam will get him a burger and Dean will eat a bigger half of it (on a good day) and then throw it away. That's also their new normal, something Sam ignores.
Getting out for food and supplies and groceries is the only time of the day when Sam can get away from Dean. And Sam really does love his brother, more and more with each time he almost loses him (or loses him completely), and has learned to share his whole life with him since that's what his life has always been. But Dean is a hard person to take nowadays, hard person to be with and generally not someone you'd want to spent your time with.
And Sam loves Dean anyway, even though Dean would never let him say it; but he needs a break sometimes, too, a minute of peace and quiet that is not filled with despair because it shouldn't be quiet.
So every morning when Sam goes out for food while Dean waits in the motel – sometimes watching TV, sometimes sleeping, sometimes doing whatever else it is Dean does when Sam is away – Sam sits outside for a while, drinks his coffee and feels guilty that Dean has to be hiding in a dark motel room.
"Are you alright?"
Sam snaps back to reality, quite literally – he turns his head so fast his neck pops loudly and locks eyes with a middle aged woman who is standing in front of him, hands up in the air as if she's placating a wild animal.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," she says and lets her arms down. Sam follows them with his eyes and notices that she has four dogs with her, all different sizes and breeds, on four different leashes. "You just looked a little sad and... I'm sorry. I'll go now," the woman says but stands in place, looking at Sam.
"It's alright," Sam says and shakes his head, closes his eyes. "I'm sorry, I... It's alright."
"You do look sad," the woman says and frowns. "Are you alright?"
Sam lets out a breath close to a little laugh. "I'm.. Fine. I'm fine," he adds hastily. "You have a lot of dogs there. Are they yours?" he asks, desperate to steer the conversation away from himself but also desperate to keep it going. It's rare for him to actually talk to someone who answers back and it's those moment that Sam almost understands why was it so easy for Dean to slip into muteness.
"Those sweethearts?" the woman asks and shakes the leashes she's holding, "unfortunately not. They are from the local shelter, I just help out by taking them for a walk every morning," she says and pats the head of the biggest dog that looks like something between a golden retriever and an irish wolfhound – Sam would know because he spent ages picking out a dog when he was in his early-teens, even though he knew they could never get one.
"I'm Laura," the woman says and Sam holds out his hand, standing up from the bench he's sitting on.
"I'm Sam," he says. The dogs all gather around him now, sniffing the hem of his jeans and his shoes. One of them shoves its nose into Sam's palm and licks it.
"Sorry," Sam smiles, "I don't have anything for you to eat." He sits back down on the bench and Laura sits next to him. Sam glances at her quickly while petting the dogs' heads.
She's older than Sam, older than Dean and overweight; her hair is thick and frizzy, sticking out from a low ponytail. She's dressed in plain black pants and a stretched and washed out grey sweater. She's wearing dark brown lipstick and then Sam quickly looks away when he realizes he's cataloguing her, just like he was taught when he was still a kid ('always pay attention to small details in your enemies' appearance – and remember that everyone is a potentional enemy') and clears his throat.
"So you work at a dog shelter?" he says and Laura shakes her head.
"No, I just walk the dogs. My brother used to work there," she explains. "But he died few years ago and I volunteered to help out."
Sam looks at her. "I'm sorry about that," he says and Laura shrugs.
Sam takes the coffee he bought for Dean out of the bag and hands it to her. "You want coffee? Black with no sugar."
Laura looks at him and smiles, "Thank you, I'd like that," she says and takes it from Sam's hand. "It looks like you drink a lot of it."
"No, no," Sam laughs a little. "Well, yes, but this was for my brother. I'll buy him another one," Sam says. Laura smiles sadly while Sam pets the dogs.
They talk for more than an hour and Sam is thankful because he's missed this, quick conversations. Laura tells Sam how her younger brother suffered from depressions for years before he finally snapped and commited suicide, hanging himself in his tiny little appartment. She tells him how it took years for her to overcome the guilt for not saving him somehow.
"That's why I can't just overlook people who are sad, even if they're strangers."
"Yeah, I know how that feels," Sam says and lets out a quick little breath, a small bitter laugh. He tells her how his brother died to save his life, and how the other died because of his recklesness – he lies, of course, because he can't exactly tell her the truth; can't tell the truth to anyone. But in the end, when Sam thinks about it, what he says is not that far from it.
"I'll never not feel guilty, but I need to be here for my brother now while I can," he says and remembers all those months he spent juggling his balls with Lucifer tagging along, shouting nonsense at him and sidetracking him from what was really important.
"It sounds like you had a big family," Laura replies, "my brother and I, we only had each other. And the dogs, he loved the dogs from the shelter. He kept saying dogs were better than people, always knowing a good person no matter what he looked like," she says and smiles at one of the dogs - a small dirty maltese, more yellow than white with matted hair, that crawled into her lap and buried its head in the crook of her arm. "People usually do the exact opposite. They judge your character based on your looks."
Sam thinks of Dean hiding in the dirty, dark motel room and nods.
"My brother," he says, "the one I'm travelling with. He's had this accident few months ago. He's pretty scarred now and people..." Sam shakes his head and looks down at the dog curled next to his feet.
"That's awful," Laura says and Sam realizes he lost count of how many times they've said this to each other.
They're quiet for a while and then Sam's cellphone vibrates in his pocket.
Did you get lost or something dude, i want my coffee
Sam sighs and looks at the time and admits that Dean has a point – he's been gone much longer than he normally is.
On my way, Sam replies and turns to look at Laura. "I have to go," he says and stands up, turning back to her as she pushes up from the bench, too, trying to untangle her dog leashes.
"Alright," she says and smiles at Sam and for the first time he notices how short she is, probably no taller than five feet.
"Thanks for the chat, it was... Nice," Sam says, "uh, I'll just," he waves his hand in the vague direction of the motel, "so, good luck."
"Good luck to you, too, Sam."
Sam smiles and turns around, starts walking away and then Laura calls after him, "Sam, does your brother like dogs?"
When Sam comes back to the motel room, Dean is sitting on his bed with the notepad ready in his hand and he just lifts it for Sam to read; it says, in his brother's giant, exaggerated handwriting and underlined, WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?
"Sorry," Sam says, and tugs at the dog leash to get the puppy inside the room. Sam sees Dean's whole body jerk even though he's not looking at him and hears his brother scramble around, probably to get his pen. He sets the bag of food on the table and crouches in front of the little white retriever, no older than 3 months. It's a tiny little thing and Sam takes its leash off, points his finger straight at it, only an inch from it's nose and the dog sniffs and then licks it.
"Sit," he says and the dog does, cocks its head to the side and then glances at Dean. "No," Sam says and repeats, "sit." Then he stands up and turns to his brother who is staring at Sam, eye unnaturally wide. He waves the notepad around, and it reads two gigantic words, THE FUCK.
"I met this woman, Laura, in front of the diner and she works at the local shelter," Sam explains while pulling out Dean's coffee and breakfast, "and she said they do this thing where they let you take care of one of their dogs for a few days. I asked if I could keep one overnight, because..." Sam shrugs and gives Dean the most innocent smile, "you know I love dogs." He hands his brother the food but Dean is staring somewhere behind Sam and Sam turns around and looks at the puppy. It's on its feet now, wobbling around the room.
"Her name's Lucky," Sam says and shoves the paper coffee cup into Dean's hand.
The thing is, Dean's scared of dogs – ever since his crossroad deal came due and Dean got torn apart and dragged to Hell by hellhounds he flinches at the sound of barking and howling in the distance and doesn't come near dogs if he can avoid it.
Sam knows that. He said so to Laura when she offered to give him a puppy for a while, saying that it could help Dean a little in his solitude. 'Nothing can show affection quite like a dog can,' she said and winked at Sam.
Sam was against it at first but then Laura introduced him to the puppy and Sam fell in love a little. And even Dean knows a puppy can't hurt him; Sam has seen him do it – will his phobias away. And this has got to be the cutest dog in the whole world.
So he takes it. For one day. To see what happens.
What happens is that Dean sits on his bed, back propped up on the headboard with his feet up and ankles crossed while Sam sits on his own bed with the puppy in front of him, gnawing at his fingers.
Sam glances at Dean whose eyes are fixed on the TV and not at all on the little dog in the room with them; although Sam has seen Dean glance his way in his peripheral vision once or twice.
The dog gets bored after a while. She shifts and shuffles across Sam's bed and then half jumps, half falls down.
"Shit," Sam says and cranes his neck to look at the dog that landed on the floor with a dull thud. Dean snorts from his bed and Sam looks over at him as his brother reaches for the notepad and quickly scribbles, NICE TUMBLE DOWN.
Lucky is already walking around the room, sniffing everything she can reach – Sam's duffel and his shoes. She lies down heavily, tugging and biting at his laces and Sam says, "hey," and shuffles down on the bed to nudge to dog away with his feet. "That's not dog food," he says and shakes his foot a little as Lucky playfully snaps at it.
Eventually she leaves Sam alone and sets to explore around the room, steadily making her way towards Dean.
'Good girl,' Sam thinks.
Dean pretends he doesn't care, doesn't even notice. He stares at the TV instead but Sam can see, even from across the room, that Dean's eyes dart towards the puppy every now and then, more often as she gets closer.
She stops under Dean's bed like she knows that this is why she's here – to annoy Sam's older brother, to get some sort of reaction that isn't faked out of him. The dog stares up at the bed and makes a little whiny noise and barks sharply in her little puppy voice.
"She wants up," Sam says and Dean gives him a look. His hood is pulled up even when he's laying on a bed inside the warm hotel room and Sam doesn't get it, doesn't understand why Dean's hiding from Sam of all people. "Dude, she's kinda like a little kid. You wouldn't refuse to let a kid up, right?"
Dean takes a deep breath and shoots Sam another murderous glare but he streches his left hand out and pulls the dog up. He sets her on the bed next to him and eyes her suspiciously while the puppy sniffs at his fingers, his wrists and then licks it tentatively, waiting for a reaction.
Dean is still, his eyes set on the little dog while Sam is still, too, his eyes set on Dean.
The puppy then licks Dean's hand one more time and when he doesn't pull away she starts gnawing at his fingers.
Sam sees Dean's eyebrow shoot up as he winces slightly at the tiny prick of the sharp puppy teeth.
He's calm, he's not freaking out and he's not pulling away or shoving the dog off the bed and Sam can feel his lips curl into a smile already.
In the end, the puppy falls asleep curled up next to Dean after she exhausted herself with almost biting Dean's fingers off. Sam pretends he's watching TV and not his brother as he slowly runs his left hand over the little dog's back and strokes it behind the ears.
Sam goes out to get lunch some time later, leaving Dean with the puppy. His brothers shoots him a panicked look, but Sam just waves him off, asking if he wants anything.
Just like always Dean shrugs and then points at the dog that's stretched by Dean's side, her nose hidden under Dean's upper arm.
"Dude, you can't eat the dog," Sam says teasingly and Dean narrows his eye at him and then carefully reaches for the notepad, quickly writes something down and then holds it up for Sam to read.
MORON, it says and then Dean turns it around and scribbles something else on the other side of it before tearing the paper out of the notepad and tossing it across the room for Sam to catch.
BRING FOOD FOR IT, Sam reads and then looks at Dean who fixedly stares at the TV. He smiles and leaves the room.
He comes back to find Dean sitting on the floor and playing with the puppy. It jumps around and yips occasionally but when Sam walks in the dog bolts for him, leaving Dean sitting on the dirty carpet glaring at Sam.
Daring him to comment on it; just say something, man, just do it.
Sam doesn't, he just pats the dog and ushers her back to Dean.
Turns out that a puppy, as cute as it may be, is not enough to drive Dean's nightmares away. Sam wakes, like he does almost every night, to Dean at first moaning and then trashing around. He cracks one eye open, certain that in the dark Dean wouldn't notice even if he was awake.
Dean's on his back, his left hand clutching at the bed sheets, his right lying slack even in his sleep. The puppy – the puppy is halfway on his chest and then it licks Dean's chin and Dean startles awake so violently Sam almost startles with him.
He closes his eyes and listens to Dean grunt and then – Sam cracks one eye open again – sees Dean push the puppy away. Sam almost snorts at that because pushing away a determined puppy is pretty much a futile trying.
The dog, of course, crawls back up to Dean's chest and despite Dean's protests (pushing and groaning and more pushing) the puppy licks his chin again. And again. And again.
Dean eventually gives up, succumbs to it and lets the dog settle on his chest.
Sam closes his eyes and goes back to sleep.
"Um, you wanna go with me to return her?" Sam asks the next morning. They're in the Impala, Sam behind the wheel, Dean in the shotgun and the puppy sitting happily between them.
Dean just shakes his head and waves his hand dismissively, but he gives the dog a pat.
Sam feels a little pang of disappointment but reality quickly overweights it. Of course one dog, one day, wouldn't change anything. Then he glances down at Dean's hand stroking the puppy behind the ears and he's still happy he brought her in.
"Alright," he says and grabs the leash, tugs at it a little. The dog turns to Sam and crawls into his lap now, wiggling her tail.
"Such a good girl," Sam says and scratches the dog behind the ears himself. "Dean, you wanna say good-bye?"
Dean turns to him and glares at him and Sam chuckles. "That's not what I meant," he says and opens the door. He ushers the dog outside and bends over to look at Dean. "I'll be right back," he says and Dean nods.
Laura is not at the shelter at the time. The girl who's working the morning shift, a little too young and little too stoned-looking, smiles at Sam.
"Hey!" she greets him and kneels down to pick the dog up. "Hey, Lucky!"
"Laura's not here?" Sam asks and looks around.
"Nah," the girl says, "she's out with the dogs right now. You could wait for her, though."
"No, that's... I gotta go. My brother's waiting for me outside."
"Oh, yeah, right. Too bad, though, she's been looking forward to meeting you again," the girl says, still smiling and she sounds sincere enough for Sam to feel a little bad for not staying long enough to get to talk to Laura.
"Uh," he says, "I'm sorry but... We really gotta go. Would you please tell her that I said thank you?"
The girl grins so wide her face looks like it's about to split. "So it helped?"
"Um," she says and her grin falters, "Laura told me about your brother and... I'm sorry if I'm not supposed to know."
"No, that's... That's fine."
"So did it? Help, I mean?"
Sam takes a deep breath, thinks about it for a second. "Well," he says, "I don't know if it helped but... It was... Well, it was nice."
"Oh," the girl draws out, "but that's good, though, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Sam says quickly, "yeah, that's great. It was... It was good for him, I think."
The girl grins again. "That sounds good," she says and Sam nods. "So," she says, "I'll tell Laura. She's gonna be real happy. Right, Lucky?" She jogs the puppy in her arms.
"Yeah, so... Thank you. Bye, Lucky," Sam says, adressing the puppy for good measure and walks out of the shelter.
They drive for two hours before Dean grabs the notepad and writes, WHERE WE GOING?
"Grand Canyon," Sam replies and glances over at Dean. He smiles when he sees Dean's mouth quirk up a little.
ABOUT TIME, he writes then.
Sam is silent for a few second before saying, only partly joking, "maybe after that we could settle down, you know... Get a dog..."
JUST DRIVE, Dean writes. Sam snorts and does just that.