“Hurry up, sir,” Sam says to the pharmacist. They’ve already done the whole please please don’t kill me and the I don’t want to hurt you thing and Sam’s back is killing him from lugging Dean around all fucking night and he just wants the guy to hurry up and load the motel pillowcase with pills so they can get the hell out this shit-ass town.
Sam has learned something about himself: unlike the girl at the gas station, the pharmacist has been crying since minute one, and Sam feels nothing but growing impatience.
“My girls,” the pharmacist keeps moaning between his hitching sniffles, “My girls, they’re so beautiful and Trish wants to go to Berkeley and they have such a bright future both of them and they’re such sweet sweet girls and I could show you a picture if you wanted and you’d never want to hurt two such beautiful girls because they’d be just devastated if something happened to me they’d be just absolutely—“
“Sir—” Sam rests his forearm against his hipbone because the gun is getting heavy.
“—nice-looking boy like you could really get somewhere in life if he set his mind to it, my daughters would throw fits for a nice-looking boy like you. My Trish, she—“
Sam raises the gun. “Sir. Sir, seriously. I need you to hurry up.”
“Pills are bad news, you know,” the tech says, “My sister had a C-section and—“
“I’m not a drug addict,” Sam tells the man indignantly. “They’re for my— just hurry up.”
The man wipes his nose on his sleeve and smirks. “An enabler, huh? My brother-in-law used to make all kinds of excuses. If you cared about whoever you’re stealing these pills for, you’d—“
“Shut up,” Sam silences the man by cocking the gun and jamming it against his temple. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. If those fucking doctors, if they had just… just put in the pills in the bag. Don’t—don’t make me shoot you in the face.”
The man’s mouth snaps shut. He bows his head and sobs—wails, really. A fat gloop of snot oozes from his nose and falls to the floor between them.
“Come on, I didn’t—I didn’t mean that. I didn’t mean… sir, you’re getting snot all over… let me find you a…” Stowing the gun in the back of his pants, Sam begins to rummage his person for a napkin or a tissue. He finds the Impala’s keys, his woefully thin money clip, a Zippo, the remains of a toothpick, a couple of tiny tubs of that apple butter shit Dean likes so much on his toast –
Sam turns around just in time to see the tech charging at him, one arm stretched high above his head, his face frozen in a tableau of carnal anger, red eyes sparkling with desperation. An anguished battle cry explodes from his mouth, pitched so high it’s almost comical.
“I WON’T LET YOU HURT MY FAMILY!” bellows the man, and before Sam can figure out what the hell’s going on he feels a sting in his pectoral muscle, right above his heart.
The pain spreads quickly, across his chest, down his arm, over the tense muscles of his shoulders. Years of experience tells Sam that he’s been stabbed.
With a nail file.
The man plunges again; Sam catches him by the wrist and twists until the nail file clatters to the floor. The man panics, flails, a rogue fist catching Sam hard in the nose. With a swish of a long leg, Sam knocks the man’s feet out from under him. Using the hostage arm to spin him just a bit, Sam drops the man on his stomach and pins both arms above his head.
The pharmacist yowls in defeat.
“J—Jesus,” Sam sputters, winded. “That was… wow. I’m bleeding, even.” He lifts the tech off the floor, slams him up against the wall and leans against his back, panting heavily into the pharmacist’s ear, until he catches his breath. “Fuck, man, I told you I wasn’t gonna hurt you.”
“You said you were gonna shoot me in the head!” The man whimpers. “My girls!”
“Yeah, yeah. Guess I’ve learned a lesson about idle threats, huh?” Sam chuckles; the pharmacist huffs in disapproval. “Listen, I’m gonna release one of your arms, and you’re gonna grab some bandages and put them in the bag for me, alright? Then I’ll get out of your hair. Promise.”
Sam is gentle when he handcuffs the guy to the u-bend of the toilet in the women’s bathroom. But he doesn’t feel an apology is necessary.
“You’re bleeding.” Dean’s rough voice breaks through the darkness when Sam opens the motel door. “Why are you bleeding?”
Sam damns the early sunlight for exposing him. “It’s nothing. Listen, we gotta get outta here.” He snaps the light on and catches his brother mid-wince in bed, trying to sit himself up.
Dean sags againsts his pillows, pretending that’s all the farther he’d wanted to go. “Come here. Let me look at you.”
“It’s fine, Dean, really. It’s not even bleeding anymore. How you feeling?”
“Sam. Let me look at you.”
Sam sits on the bed and waits patiently while Dean inspects his wound with trembling hands.
The exam seems to tire Dean out. After a moment he slumps back against the headboard.
“Make sure you dump some peroxide in it,” he says.
Thanks for the newsflash, jackass, Sam might have said, if Dean weren’t… if Dean were well.
“We gotta go. Now. We gotta get out of this town. Can we move you?”
Dean picks at cigarette burn on the bedspread, makes a production out of clearing his throat. “Where we going?”
“Told you. Vengeful spirit in Milwaukie.”
Dean nods, avoiding Sam's eyes. “Gimme a minute and we’ll go.”
Sam doesn’t bother to ask permission. He runs a hand along his brother’s arm and back muscles, feels them trembling and contracting, twisting themselves in knots. “Okay, okay. We can wait. I got you some muscle relaxers and some stuff for pain. We can wait. It’s fine. We can wait.”
The drugs hit Dean hard—as soon as they step out of the motel and into the sun, his eyelids droop, his legs tangle beneath him.
Sam catches Dean around the armpits before he falls, curses and pants through the pain that stabs through his shoulder. “Come on, buddy, we gotta go. We gotta get the fuck outta here.”
“Feel good,” Dean mumbles, and promptly passes out.
The sun is warm on Sam’s face but his breath erupts from his mouth in freezing puffs. Hermiston is even uglier during the day, like looking through a sepia lens at scenery already covered in dust. It’s only seven in the morning and citizens of Hermiston are milling in front of the convenience store, an intimidating number of teenagers and middle-schoolers with headphones and backpacks and new shoes.
Must be a school bus stop, Sam thinks. Of course they all stop to gape at the super-tall dude dragging a high-as-a-kite man who might be his boyfriend—or perhaps his most recent rape victim—out of a motel in broad daylight.
Two teenage boys are leaning on a lamppost at the end of the street, one in a dingy baseball cap and the other drowning in giant-sized Blazers jersey. They chuckle and leer when Dean suddenly folds in half and Sam has to hoist him into the car by the waist.
An alarm goes off in Sam’s head; he keeps the boys in the corner of his eye as he fiddles with Dean’s seatbelt.
The kid in the baseball cap nudges the kid in the Blazers jersey, who declares that baseball cap kid’s a motherfucker but starts limping toward Sam with a faux-confident swagger.
“You boyfriend alright, there?” the kid says.
“We’re fine,” Sam says. His eyes flicker to the other boy behind the lamppost. “How’s yours?”
The boy jerks his chin at Sam. “Better watch your back.”
Ha. Sam smirks. He shuts Dean in the car and opens the back door to free a blanket from their tangles of laundry. Goddamn Oregon desert is cold.
“Cause I know you robbed my sister last night, Sam Winchester.”
Sam’s chest explodes with adrenaline at the sound of his real name. Any normal person might have jumped, or stopped dead, or allowed their jaw to drop to the street. But Sam, expertly trained by his father to be a liar, a con and a sociopath, doesn’t let a single body part betray him, doesn’t even let his eyes widened with shock. He keeps tugging at the blankets like he didn’t hear the boy at all.
What he wants to do is drop to his knees and implore God for one, just one viable reason why any of this shit should be happening to him and Dean. At this moment in time. After everything else.
If God truly hates them—and it’s looking now like he really and truly does—Sam figures he might as well give The Man a good reason. He decides fuck it, I’ll just shoot the kid and drive away. Let’s do it. He slams the passenger door, reaches for the pistol in the waistband of his jeans….
And comes to his senses.
“How do you know my name?” He says, closing his eyes against a rapidly forming headache.
The boy shrugs. “I know things.”
“Look,” he pauses for a moment to allow his eyes to mist over. “Tell, um…your sister…?”
“Tell Jen I’m soooo sorry I did that to her. But my brother … my brother is really fucking sick, man. Really sick. We needed somewhere warm for the night.”
The boy steps closer, puffs out his chest. Swollen up to his full height, he barely reaches Sam’s shoulders.
“Nobody fucks with my sister. I want that money back.”
“Money’s gone. Can’t even feed my brother breakfast.” The pathetic truth of the statement almost makes Sam’s eyes misty for real.
“I want it back.”
“Come on, kid,” Sam says, dropping the dewy-eyed act. “I’m a foot taller than you. And I’m a robber, remember? I have a gun.”
“You? You gonna hurt me?” The boy snorts at the ridiculousness of it all but can’t quite hide the fear in his eyes. "You're gonna give me that money."
Sam sighs. Wrestling the keys from his jacket pocket, he opens the trunk. “Come here,” he beckons to the kid, “I wanna show you something.”
The kid raises his eyebrows, casts a glance back at his little friend cowering behind the lamppost. Sam can tell he kinda wants to run away, but his manhood’s at stake here, so he steps up to the trunk and peers inside.
With flourish Sam lifts the Impala’s false bottom and waves his hand Price Is Right-style at the piles and piles of pistols and shotguns and steaks and zombie nails (as Dean is fond of calling them). He watches the kid’s eyes graze over the crucifixes and salt shells and crossbows, watches him pale and take a step back.
The kid’s Adam’s apple bobs up and down, and he looks up at Sam with pleading eyes.
“Pick a different battle, kid,” Sam says gently. “You’re not winning this one.”
The kid raises his eyebrow and that’s when Sam gets a bright idea. An evil one, and one that makes him feel like shit but it’s necessary. He leans into the trunk and puts his hand on the barrel of Dean’s favorite sawed-off, which isn’t even loaded, not even with rock salt.
“Now you are going to give me everything in your wallet,” Sam says, stroking the weapon with his fingertips, “And I’ll let you walk away with your skull intact.”
Sam watches every ounce of the kid’s maturity drain away, from the narrowed eyes to the cocky smirk. Suddenly he looks like a goddamn grade-schooler.
After he empties his wallet into Sam’s palm, the kid walks away slowly, his swagger a little less swaggery. When he’s at a safe distance, he spins on his heals and calls out “I’m not afraid of your fuckin’ toy guns! I’ll be seeing you!” Then he and his friend disappear around the corner.
Sam sits in car unmoving for a good twenty minutes after he’s swaddled Dean in a couple of blankets. He rubs the four twenty-dollar bills between his fingers, pleased that it’s something and freaked that it’s nowhere near enough.
Dean sounds like he’s having trouble breathing—he should really be on oxygen for at least part of the day— but Sam chooses to ignore it because right now it’s just too goddamned much.
He starts driving. Five minutes later he looks over at his brother, who looks about five years old, gaunt and pale in his nest of blankets, and, just like that, his resolve is completely fucking gone. He pulls down a long side road, stops the car in a shallow ditch, combs through all the plans in his head and they all the sudden look and feel ridiculous. What the fuck is he thinking, anyway? Dean’s sick, really fucking sick, and Sam’s grand planned is what? A ghost hunt in Milwaukie?
He’s shaken by his encounter with the snot-nosed little bastard. Really and truly fucking shaken, and he sits there trembling, staring blearily at the foggy windshield until he figures out what’s bothering him so much.
He's not necessarily scared because the kid knew his real name. He's scared because he couldn't pull it together long enough to find out how the kid knew his real name. He's scared because lately all he can think about is we need gas, we need food, we need a warm bed, we need we need we need, and god what would happen to Dean if something happened to me, what if he had to go back to that place, what if they dragged him back to that place, and what the hell are you thinking, shoplifting and pickpocketing and robbing children and pregnant women?
He should be finding Dean some sort of supernatural cure, some world-famous heart specialist, something. He should down south seeing every crackpot and hoodoo priest that might knows a thing or two about genuine healing. He should be making long term plans to get an apartment somewhere. He should be driving to Palo Alto to dig his degree out of the dumpster behind his and Jess’ blackened apartment. He should be looking for a job. He should be paying more attention to Dean’s medication schedule—like getting Dean the medication he was actually prescribed instead of pumping him to the gills with stolen narcotics. He should be checking him into another facility, becaue they can't all be like that last one, where he could have proper pain management, proper meals, an actual bed to sleep in—
Stop it, he tells himself. He just needs to talk to Dean. Really talk to him. Dean has only been in a delirium of pain for twenty-four hours but it’s felt like a week. He just needs Dean to be okay for a few minutes, just a few fucking minutes…
“Hey.” Sam shakes his brother, just a little. “Dean. Hey.”
Dean comes around slowly, as he often does these days, his eyes fluttering open and shut for several long minutes before he’s truly conscious. His lips are bluish, or maybe Sam’s just paranoid.
Finally Dean sits up with a groan. He digs his fingers into his chest, like he’s unaware that Sam’s watching him.
“Hey,” Sam says quietly, “You awake?”
Dean grumbles under his breath.
“Dude, we need to talk.”
Sam cracks a grin when Dean yawns mightily—the theatrical, overdone yawn that was his trademark before he got sick. It puts some color into his cheeks. He’s pink for a moment, then grey, then an odd shade of greenish-yellow, and then—
“Oh shit, Dean. Are you gonna—“
Dean opens the car door just in time. He’s too weak to really hold himself up so he just sort of falls forward, his arms in a tangle beneath him as he lays chest-down on the Impala’s seat, his head hanging over the edge. As he heaves, the bones in his back writhe beneath his skin.
Sam knows his brother is too lucid to want any help. He stares out the other window while Dean retches.
After a while Dean pulls himself up, then falls over on his other side so that his head is almost resting in Sam’s lap.
Sam gives Hermiston the finger and heads west.
He doesn’t know what else to do.CHAPTER THREE