Title: the mandroid way he moved
Summary: The Impala is stolen during a snowstorm. Hurt!Pained!Dean.
Disclaimer: In no way affiliated with Supernatural, no copyright infringement intended.
Note: In the same verse as my fic "Marathon," but only because Dean has arthritic knees. No need to read that one first.
the mandroid way he moved
by wave obscura
How pristinely everything went to shit.
There was a woman, a dumb barely-woman from the apartment complex down the street. She still wore her hair in pigtails. She bought Dean a drink that tasted like sweet tea and nothing else. He drank seven of them and lost at poker, lost everything but the few hundred dollars they kept stashed in the Impala's trunk for emergencies.
Like this one.
When they left the bar there was nothing left of the Impala but a black rectangle in the snow. Dean went and stood in the space where she used to be, held his arms out a little and spun a quarter circle.
Instantly sober, he looked at Sam and said "Sam?"
"We'll find her," Sam told his brother, stepping forward into the empty space. "We'll find her."
Dean called Bobby, chewing his upper lip as he listened. Then he hung up.
"He's gone huntin'."
"You got any cash? Tell me you have cash."
Dean sifted through in his pockets. "Five bucks."
Sam had a gift card to Starbucks in his wallet, from his very first Christmas stocking. It was from Jess and he'd never been able to throw it away. He suggested coffee as an excuse to sit somewhere warm. The arthritis in Dean's knees was torturing him again, Sam could see it in the way his hands made white fists, the mandroid way he moved.
Dean grunted as they walked, but he kept his mouth in a pursed line. Sam worried. Dean usually didn't hold back when it came to whining about the arthritis; it was a white elephant gift from God, one of the few things Dean didn't believe he deserved, one of the few things he could bemoan.
Sam lowered his brother into an overstuffed chair in front of a mural of a fireplace.
The Starbucks card was expired. Flustered, Sam tried to tell the girl at the counter about the car, about the money, about the arthritis, tried to capture the comical tragedy of their lives in animated sweeps of his long arms.
The girl, sixteen maybe, had already stopped listening. Sam gave her The Look as he pulled Dean from the comfy chair. The girl snapped her gum and rolled her eyes.
They stepped outside as the random snowflakes became a wall of icey snow.
"Sam I want my car," Dean said. "How can my fucking car be gone?"
Sam suggested the police. As if it were an option. They couldn't remember which alias owned the Impala's title. Maybe it was in Dad's name. Sam's. Mom's. Who knew. They were all dead anyway. Legally, technically, the car belonged to no one.
They had just one ID between them, with Sam's picture, the one that read "bikini inspector."
"Was funny at the time," Dean said. He sat down gingerly on a fire hydrant and ran his palms gently over his kneecaps.
"We have to warm up," Sam said. "Then I can think."
They walked across the parking lot to the furniture department of a big box store and sagged into a leather sofa. After a while Dean stood and paced the length of the aisle. He said if he sat his knees would never unbend. Every once and a while he'd stop, hang onto a shelf, rub at his face and blow out breaths.
Sam went the pharmacy and opened a box of Advil right there in the aisle. On his way back he snatched a water bottle from a display. Dean wordlessly accepted the pills and the water and with a little coaxing agreed to sit down.
They sat, didn't talk. Dean rubbed at his knees. Sam discovered there were no plans in his head, just a deep, aching need to find the car, to spin back the clock, go back in time, stop Dean from drinking so much, or to forgo the bar and find a motel. He made a list of his belongings and clenched his teeth at the thought of never seeing them again. He looked at his brother's face, flickering between blank shock and nagging pain.
He was sure that only minutes had gone by. When he checked his (cheap, worthless) watch, the store was closing in a half an hour.
"Maybe we could go to a shelter," Dean offered. But they were deep, deep in suburbia and shelters were miles away.
The store's lights dimmed and without the halogen buzz everything went oddly silent. A be-mustached man in a blue vest shuffled by, stopped to study them, told them they had to leave. Sam pulled his brother up again, helped him limp into the cold.
"What are we, the little fucking match girls?" Dean moaned, sucking in a sharp breath as his feet slid sideways on a patch of ice.
"I knew you were watching Shirley Temple the other day. I knew it."
Dean rubbed his hands together. "What about our phones? They worth anything? Anything at all?"
"I could sell my gun. If we find a pawn shop." But there was no pawn shop and no one who wanted a gun or a phone. The streets were empty. Plus the idea of selling his gun, his only gun, sent his heart bouncing off his ribs.
They wandered. Followed their instincts to the shitty end of town. Gradually the houses got smaller, the lawns overgrew, sprouted toys and cars and rusty bicycles. They came to a greasy four-lane boulevard.
"There," Sam said, pointing at black-windowed shack. "Open 24 hours."
"The Hidey Hole?" Dean said. "Gross." But he took Sam's elbow and they labored across the street.
The funny thing was that wasn't a porn shop, but a convenience store with rows and rows of porno mags, all the naughty bits hidden by dark plastic. Sam watched his brother browse with disinterest. The clerk gave them a sideways glance.
"No fucking loitering," he said.
They had come for warmth, but Sam didn't argue. He stuffed his coat with candy bars and encouraged Dean to do the same, but pain and shock were making his brother increasingly useless.
They made it a couple more blocks before he announced that he couldn't walk anymore. Sam figured any doorway would do, so they huddled there in the alcove of "Clogs N More."
"We can stuff our shirts with leaves," Dean said, his teeth clattering, "I saw it on Man Vs. Wild."
"No." Dean swallowed. "Sammy. We don't have too many options, here. You're gonna have to sell your ass."
"I'm not selling my ass."
"If I could walk I'd do it for you. You know I would."
"No one around to buy my ass anyway," Sam said. "Shut up. Let me think."
Sam looked around, dizzied for a moment for a lack of a reference point. There was nothing forward, nothing ahead. Just Sam and Dean in a fucking alcove with nothing.
His eyes scanned a Chinese restaurant, a closed steakhouse. A bar with a neon-sign: Lottery.
"Can't win if you don't play," Sam said contemptuously. "Come on."
"With our luck, we'll end up in the negative," Dean replied, but he allowed Sam to lead him across the street, into the bar.
The bartender had a spectacular mullet, crimped and French-braided and permed.
"Closin' in ten minutes," she said.
"Gimme the five dollars," Sam said to Dean.
Dean handed it over. He rubbed at his knees, his eyes rolling for a moment with a spike of pain. "Play that pizza game. I have a good feeling about pizza."
"You would," Sam said. He fed the machine the last of their money, pausing to meditate on the encircled likeness of Lucky Luigi. His eyes traced the impressive wingspan of the cartoon's mustache, his jutting, bulbous chin. He begged Lucky Luigi like he was in image of God. My brother can't walk much farther, Luigi. It's this or we're freezing in the snow tonight.
He chose twenty-five lines, one cent each. Twenty spins. Twenty chances.
"Please," he whispered, and hit Spin.
He hit it again. Six cents. Hit it again. Nothing. Hit it again, twelve cents.
The machine toyed with him, took him back up to five dollars, down again. Beside him Dean inhaled and exhaled heavy and measured. "Sam. God. Can I have. God, can I can more Advil?"
Fuck this, Sam thought. He hit max bet and reached out for Dean's jacket sleeve, tangling his fingers in the fabric and--
No five dollars. No car. No Bobby. Just two worthless timekeepers, ten bars of stolen chocolate, two guns, twelve bullets, twenty-three Advil, one eroded belief in God.
Sam gave the lottery machine a smack.
"HEY," the bartender said, "I'm closing up. Out."
Dean's eyes were closed, his hand over his mouth as if he were about to vomit.
"We have to go," Sam tugged at his brother's jacket.
"Sam it hurts," Dean said, his eyebrows raising over his closed eyes, in a tone of voice like he was reassuring Sam rather than making it all seem exponentially more fucked.
"You have to get up. We have to figure out what the fuck we're gonna do."
"Huddle up. Find a pawn shop in the morning. Help me up."
The bartender waited impatiently at the front door, her keys in hand while Sam hefted his brother out of the store. He was far passed the point of walking on his own. The Advil was for show, as effective as a glass of salt water to treat strep.
They huddled in the alcove shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee. It didn't seem cold at first but it was creeping in, that was for damn sure.
"Find a little cutey," Dean said through chattering teeth, "Tomorrow. At that goddamn bar, right there. Find her. I'll get some money out of her. Play pool with some dumb fuck, triple it."
"Sounds like a plan," Sam said, shoving closer to his brother. "I'm-- I'll hold the guy down. The one who stole the Impala. Hold him down while you beat the shit out of him."
"I'm gonna find my fucking car." Dean said it with such resolve that Sam damn near burst into tears.
Because they weren't stupid. They couldn't sit here all night and live. Sam already couldn't feel his fingers. The cold was seeping through his jeans, and the snow kept falling, falling, falling. An awning was still protecting the alcove but soon enough it would fill with snow, too, blanketing them.
"We need a cardboard box or something," Dean said. "Like a big refrigerator box?"
"Where we gonna find a cardboard box big enough for both of us? For one of us, even."
For a minute Dean shook silently with laughter. "I don't know. From Hobo Harry?"
"Who's Hobo Harry?"
"I don't know."
"He'd probably charge. We can't afford it," Dean said, and his laughter shook them both. "Can't afford a fucking cardboard box."
Then they were both laughing like loons, like when they were teenagers and they drove across the country alone in the Impala for the first time, stayed awake for so many hours that even the dumbest thing would send them into fits of stupid laughter, laughter so gut-busting and intense that Dean would come dangerously close to swerving off right off the road.
The laughing ended abruptly. They huddled closer, tangling their shivering arms. The snow muted everything but the clouds of their breath.
After a while Dean laughed again. "Dude. My knees hurt so fuckin' bad."
"Why is that funny?" Sam asked, but he was laughing too. "That's not funny."
"Sam. We gotta get arrested."
"Spend the night in a nice warm holding cell. We're gonna die out here."
Sam tried to find holes in the idea, but he was too sleepy. "What should we do?"
"A crime. We need to commit a crime."
"Um. Throw a brick through a window at The Hidey Hole?"
"We don't have a brick."
"We could kick it in."
"Okay. Do you remember your social security number? I don't remember my social security number."
"It's five-seven... we could do a beer run. Then we could go to jail drunk."
"You can't run."
"I could if I was drunk."
"But you..." It seemed like there was a hole in that idea too but Sam couldn't put his finger on it. He laid his head on his brother's shoulder. Dean was warm.
"Inna minute," Dean mumbled. "Inna minute we'll find a rock or something. Throw it. Go to jail."
"I wish we still had that five dollars," Sam said. "A beer sounds good."
Sam had a falling feeling, which jerked him awake, which made him realize he had nodded off. His brother's head was thrown back against the door of Clogs 'N More and he was asleep. That must've meant his knees weren't hurting him so bad anymore and for that Sam was glad.
But something was off. Something wasn't right. Sam kicked his boots free of the snow. It had crept all the way up to his ankles. His fingers were unmovable claws tangled in his brother's jacket. The snow was so beautiful. Made the dark sky reflect purple-grey-pink. There was something he was supposed to do. He couldn't remember what. He put his head back on his brother's shoulder. He'd just sleep. He'd sleep and in the morning he'd figure it out.
Sam found himself blanketed in a shroud of indifference. Who cares. Really. Who gives a flying fuck. Patterns flashed on the backs of his eyelids, black and white hieroglyphics spiraling around and around. Then it was dark, dark but a prick of purplish, same color as the sky. He watched it on the back of his eyelids, pretending to reach for it, ignoring the heaviness of his body, the stretched sensation that sat in his limbs. He thought about the sub-zero sleeping bag dad stole out of truck bound for G.I. Joes. If he had that, if he could wrap it around himself and Dean--
From outside of himself something began to rumble. It was familiar, almost nagging, a low growl that made him feel like he was being rocked to sleep. Or like Dean telling him to wake his ass up for school. Or like Dad. This flooded him with an odd sense of panic. His hands, his frozen hands, unparalyzed and reached for his gun.
"Dean wake up," he shouted through the fog of his brain. "It's the car. I hear the fucking car."
Dean opened his eyes but they closed again. His mouth was mumbling.
"Dean the fucking car," Sam said again, hauling himself up out of the snow.
The rumbling was getting louder now, almost like she was bitching, mother-henning, maybe calling out to them for help. He could see her headlights in the distance, undulating as she picked her way through the piles of snow. He limped to the corner, crouched behind a newspaper box that did little to hide him. But it didn't matter. As soon as the motherfucker stopped at the stop sign he'd stand up. Point his gun. Shoot the motherfucker if he had to.
But she didn't stop. She rumbled up close enough that Sam could make out one of his jackets bunched up under the rear window, a bag of Doritos Dean had left on the dash. He saw the whites of the driver's eyes. But Impala was still moving, she ran right through the stop sign, wasn't going to stop, was about to drive right out of whatever was left of their lives.
So Sam jumped.
As he his body sailed into her path, he somehow had plenty of time to regret his decision. He was going to die, get crushed beneath her wheels. And then maybe she'd just drive away again, fussy and rumbling like the car equivalent of kicking and screaming, leave Dean dying of hypothermia in the alcove of Clogs 'N More.
He also had time to wonder what would have happened if they'd gotten off their dumb freezing asses and gone to jail.
He had time to wonder what would have happened if they'd just sat there and died.
He had time to wonder which one would have been easier.
But it was too late to un-jump.
The Impala knocked him in the hip, sending him flying forward into the snow. The entire left side of his body exploded in pain. He didn't give himself time to realize he was still alive. He dragged himself up, up and out of the snow, stood and pointed his gun between the eyes of the man inside.
"Get the fuck out," He roared. "Get the fuck out!"
The man didn't have a chance, not really. By the time he got the door open Dean was already ripping him out of the car, throwing him to the ground. Dean drew his gun and pistol-whipped the man in the face, twice. Blood fountained from his nose, made veins in the snow.
Then Dean righted himself, still straddling the man, heaving and breathless. He wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.
"Sammy. Get in the car."
Dean folded himself into the Impala and pressed his forehead to the steering wheel. Sam took his place in the passenger seat.
"I should drive," Sam said.
"Tomorrow," Dean replied. "Definitely tomorrow."
Sam caught his brother's sideways glance, saw his Adam's apple working, the violent tremble in his hands.
"She found us," Sam found himself saying.
"Yeah." Dean winced a little as he pushed his foot to the gas. The Impala's wheels spun for a moment, then she leapt forward over the snowdrifts like an eager horse. "She did."
Sam didn't look back at the alcove, the place where he and his brother had almost sat down and died. But behind his eyelids it grew smaller and smaller and then it was gone.