Life As We Know It
Episode tag for The Benders.
Sometimes, Sam wished for a normal life. Sometimes? He shook his head. Hell, that was what he was supposed to have… was the reason he’d walked away from his father and Dean. They’d planned it all, him and Jess: the good job, 2.3 kids, house with the white picket fence and a dog in the backyard, the whole nine yards.
The tears that stung his eyes whenever he thought of Jess no longer surprised or embarrassed him. It was what kept him going, got him up in the morning or the middle of the night, ready to hunt again, to track down the one responsible for stealing his life from him.
Dean trudged at his side, favoring his wounded leg a little now they’d been walking for a while, silent as he often was after the hunt was over—as though the adrenaline that kept him going, kept him on his toes, just faded away in the aftermath. Sam, on the other hand, was still nervy, jumping at the shadows that loomed from the bushes abutting the road. This had been a weird one. He snorted at his choice of words. Like chasing demons and burning bones was ordinary, everyday stuff. But being locked in a cage, not knowing when one of those crossbred hillbillies was going to let you out and hunt you down for their latest meal was just plain creepy.
He glanced over at Dean and found his brother studying him with a thoughtful expression that he could just make out in the darkness. “What?” he asked.
Dean shrugged one shoulder. “Nothing. You okay, Bro?”
“Yeah, just thinking. How far to the car?”
Dean scanned ahead. “Should be almost to the town limits. So, how did it feel knowing you were about to end up as their next meal?”
“Can we not talk about it?” Sam snapped, wanting to take the conversation anywhere but there.
Dean grinned at him, but the smirk was lost in a grimace of pain when he reached out to whack the back of Sam’s head. “Son of a bitch!” he cursed. He pulled his arm close to his body, grasping at his shoulder and massaging lightly.
Sam stopped and scrutinized his brother. “You okay? What’s wrong with your shoulder? That little girl do more than stab you?” He smirked teasingly.
Dean shot him a warning look. “It’s fine. Let’s just get back to the car and get the hell out of here before we’re spotted.”
Sam paused a moment longer, uncertain just how badly Dean was injured. While Dean had a tendency to underplay his injuries, he looked like he was hurting pretty badly right now. “Maybe you should get checked out at the hospital first?”
Dean rolled his eyes. “I told you I’m fine.” He walked a few paces then stopped and turned back to Sam. “Will you get a move on already, Sam?”
Sam gave up. He jogged a couple of steps to catch up with his brother, then slowed to match Dean’s pace.
“What do you suppose will happen to the girl?” Sam asked after a moment.
“Probably put her in Juvie, I guess,” Dean replied. “I mean, I can’t imagine she was in on the killing. Kid was only doing what she’s been raised to do.”
Sam shook his head sadly. “Poor kid.”
Dean snorted. “Yeah, right. You want to be her foster daddy? You’d never be able to turn your back.”
“Still,” Sam insisted, “can’t blame the kid for being brought up like she was. And I thought our family was dysfunctional.” They’d finally hit bitumen, and, ahead, the lights of Hibbing beckoned welcomingly.
Dean stared at Sam for a moment, a frown creasing his forehead. In the glow of the streetlights, he looked worse than Sam had realized. A gash on his brow still bled sullenly, and he looked pale and sweaty. Sam suspected he wasn’t looking much better. “Just a joke,” he said, waving Dean’s concern away with his hand. He breathed a sigh of relief when the Chevy came into view. “Let’s hit the road.”
Dean reached into his pocket and pulled out his car keys, then tossed them to Sam, who just barely caught them, such was his surprise. “You drive,” Dean said. “I’m beat. Gonna catch some shut-eye.”
Sam unlocked the driver’s side and slid behind the wheel, then reached over and unlocked the passenger door. He waited until Dean was settled beside him. “Where to?”
Dean laid his head back and closed his eyes with a sigh. “Anywhere but here.”
Sam started the car and steered it onto the street. He reached out to the radio, but his hand was batted away.
“Radio stays where it is,” Dean said without opening his eyes.
“Figures,” Sam grumbled. He flicked the off switch, settling for blessed silence instead, something he was sure Dean would appreciate right now, if the gentle snoring from beside him was anything to go by.
Sam drove as far as he could until he felt as though he was going to join Dean in dreamland. Wiping at his gritty eyes, he found the cheapest, most out-of-the-way motel he could find in the next town and booked them in. He ignored the leering expression the clerk gave him, picked up the room key and headed back out to the car.
Dean was just beginning to stir, looking around in a befuddled way. “Where are we?”
Sam shrugged as he started the car and headed for the parking space outside their room. “To tell you the truth, I have no idea. Must have missed the sign.”
Dean struggled to sit up straighter. “Damn it, Sam, we need to keep driving till we’re out of the state.”
“Seems to me, we couldn’t drive far enough to avoid being spotted by the cops. And more chance of that if we’re on the road. Besides, I need to get some sleep, and you look like roadkill.”
Dean glared at him but slumped back all the same. “Yeah, well, you could do with a shower,” he grumbled.
Sam sniffed exaggeratedly at an armpit. “That bad, huh? Sitting around in that barn, I’m not surprised.” He parked the car and opened his door. “So, we hang out here till morning, then hightail it out of Dodge.”
“Jesus, Dean!” Sam shot upright on the bed as his brother exited the bathroom. “What the hell is that?”
The stab wound in Dean’s leg had opened a little in the warm water and was oozing blood down his leg, but it was the nasty-looking, blistered mess on Dean’s shoulder that had Sam worried.
“What?” Dean’s tired eyes followed Sam’s concerned gaze. “Oh, this?” He waved desultorily at the wound. “Daddy decided to burn some answers out of me.” He flopped wearily down onto his own bed and lay back with a sigh.
Sam crossed to his side and examined the burn more closely. It looked ugly; blistered and blackened, surrounded by a wide circle of inflammation. Sam could still smell the lingering odor of burnt flesh. “This is bad,” he said. “We need to get you to the hospital.” He reached out a hand to help Dean to his feet.
“No!” Dean’s own hand flashed out, gripping Sam’s in an iron grip. “No way! We can’t.” He closed his eyes. “Besides, it’s not that bad. Doesn’t even hurt much.”
“That’s because it’s so deep,” Sam said. “It needs to be treated, Dean, or it could get infected.”
Dean waved away his concern, already drifting back to sleep. “You take first watch,” he murmured around a yawn. “I’ll spell you.”
Sam straightened and ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. “Yeah, right,” he muttered. Striding across the room, he fished the car keys from Dean’s pocket and headed out into the night.
Searching through the first aid kit, he came up pretty much empty-handed. They really needed to stop somewhere long enough to restock supplies. What he really wanted to do was to stop somewhere long enough to catch his breath, to not search the Internet for weird happenings in towns he’d never heard of before. When did that suddenly become routine? he wondered?
It seemed it was all catching up with Dean too, if tonight was anything to go by. Ever since Dean had been electrocuted, Sam couldn’t help keeping a closer eye than usual on him. Dean had apparently been fully cured, according to the doctors, but Sam couldn’t help the niggling worry at the back of his mind that all wasn’t as good as it seemed.
He supposed it might just be the result of the terror he’d felt when he’d found Dean’s lifeless body laying in that basement, of the fear that he had just lost another person he loved — but regardless of the reason for it, he continued to monitor his brother. He allowed Dean, of course, to think he was still calling all the shots, still in charge — most of the time, anyway. Dean had held that responsibility for so long, it was second nature, but Sam figured it didn’t hurt now and then to turn the tables, to take control, in a subtle way, at least.
He closed the trunk in disgust. Dean needed more than just a Band-Aid this time, and Sam figured a couple of painkillers would go a long way in dousing the pounding headache he’d had since he’d woken up in the cage. Walking back to the motel room, he opened the door carefully and poked his head inside. Dean was sleeping solidly now, soft snores barely stirring the air. Mind made up, Sam turned and headed back to the car.
Oh, yeah. Just another ordinary day in the life of Sam Winchester.
Sam hurriedly dressed in the scrubs he’d appropriated from a laundry cart and grabbed an empty supply cart. He walked out into the hospital hallway, striving to look as professional and calm as he could — given the circumstances. Spotting a nurse just ahead, he summoned her. At her questioning look, he gave her his most charming smile and explained, “I’m new here. I need to find the supply cupboard.”
She studied him for a moment then nodded. “What do you need?”
“I need to restock the emergency supplies cupboard.” At her frown, he rushed on, “First night on duty and I’ve already forgotten where everything is.”
“Of course.” She motioned down the hall. “Second doorway on the left.” Glancing at her watch, she sighed, “Think you can find it without getting lost?” At Sam’s nod, she scurried on her way.
Easy, Sam told himself. He found the supply room and set to work gathering gauze squares, antibiotic cream, disinfectant and anything else he thought might come in handy. Grabbing a paper bag from the cupboard, he stuffed everything inside and headed back out.
He was getting entirely too good at role-playing, Sam decided as he let himself back into the motel room and unpacked his stash. Dean was still sleeping, his face screwing up from time to time as he shifted on the bed, his injuries obviously causing him pain.
Gathering the medical supplies, Sam filled a bowl with warm water and placed it on the bedside table. Dean stirred when he sat beside him on the bed. He squinted up at Sam. “Sam? Where you been?”
“Out to get some stuff. Take these.” Sam held out two pain pills.
Dean shook his head. “Need to stay sharp.”
Sam pressed them into Dean’s hand anyway and held out a tumbler of water. “Won’t hurt us to rest up for a little while.” He placed a restraining hand on Dean’s chest when he tried to struggle upright. “Easy. Just lay back and let me clean that wound.”
Dean, to Sam’s surprise, obediently slumped back, watching with a somewhat bemused expression, while Sam cleaned and dressed the burn, then did the same to his leg.
“Shouldn’t go out there alone, Sammy,” Dean whispered suddenly. “There’s bad things out there. Dad’ll kill me if anything happens to you….” Then he was sleeping again, his face flushed but free of the lines of pain.
Sometimes, Sam wished he’d been the older brother, the one to make the decisions, to be at his father’s side, the one protecting Dean.
You couldn’t always get what you wished for—he’d known that since Mom, since Jess — but sometimes you could work at it and end up with something almost as good. He stood carefully, not wanting to wake Dean, and picked up the bowl and medical supplies. Hesitantly, he reached out and rested his hand for the briefest moment against his brother’s cheek. “Take it easy, Bro,” he said softly. “I’ll keep watch.”