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The Sin Eater
, The Winchesters should have kept driving
Member No.: 17,903
Joined: 13-March 07
Here's another chapter---have a great weekend
Bobby summed it up for all of them. "Holy mother of---"
Sam remembered to breathe, and he shook away his shock at the horrible imagery, and began to struggle hard against the rope that tied him to what was nearly their funeral pyre. The stench of kerosene fumes rose sharply around them, and it reminded them of their immediate peril. Bobby did likewise, but he stopped, turning his attention to Dean, who had said nothing in the aftermath. "You alright, boy?"
Sweat-soaked, from both fear and illness, Dean had shut his eyes and was trying to breathe away the dizzying spin of his vision. It wasn't working. He raised his head slightly but even that was too taxing.
He couldn't stave off the encroaching blackness . Thanks to Buell, Bobby's procedure with the blade was undone; his arm was running with blood, his shoulder an agony after being hauled through the grass and dragged onto the woodpile. He turned to look at Sam, shuddering, and moaned softly as he slipped in to stillness. It sent Sam into a frenzy. He roared in frustration as he pulled and strained and twisted with all of his considerable strength. The rope held, but the punky old grey tangle of wood finally gave way. The second he felt it snap, he hauled himself up and shook off the splintered pieces of lumber. The ropes were loose now, he flung them off and reached awkwardly for the knife still hidden in his sock. He flipped it open, and turned it up, sawing desperately at the tough nylon until the cable-tie was severed. He dropped beside his brother.
"Dean!...aw crap, c'mon, stay with me!" he begged. Beyond responding, Dean lay quiet, and Sam tore at the ropes and cut the tie that held his hands. He groaned as Sam carefully extricated him from the woodpile and dragged him gently into the grass.
"Still one more, here--!" Bobby reminded. Sam did the same for him, and the the two of them sat for a moment, still shaking with their experience, and rubbing sensation back into their hands. "What about you, Sam--? --that's a helluva gash there--"
Sam shrugged and gingerly touched his fingers to the place on his brow where he'd been kicked. "Hurts, but what else doesn't. Vicious little bastard--!" He scanned around warily. "Did you see where he went?"
Bobby shook his head. "--Lost track of him while your Sin Eater was putting on his show." He got up and crouched over Dean, who was asleep, for want of a better description. He laid a hand on his head. "He's real hot now. Jesus, and look what they did here!" he growled, checking Dean's wound. "Sam, we've gotta get him out of here pronto. It's a three hour drive to Bradford, can't waste any time--"
Sam nodded. But he remembered their new found friend, and what had befallen him. "What about Russell...?"
Bobby pulled off his cap, running his hand through his sweaty hair. He sighed miserably. "From what I saw, ain't much we can do for him now. I don't want to leave him behind here, that don't feel right, but this is a crime scene. Best we don't interfere with it, especially if it has any bearing on some kind of justice..."
But their attention was diverted by the deep, familiar rumble. The Impala door creaked and slammed shut, and the engine roared to life, and speak-of-the-devil, behind the wheel crouched the third man, --wild-eyed with his need to flee from all he'd caused and witnessed. He red-lined it, threw the car in reverse and spun clods of grass and clay in an arc behind the wheels in his haste to escape. That sound had more power over Dean than any words, he sat bolt upright and stared, choking back a howl as he watched his car being torn from his grasp once more. He scrambled up, but stumbled to his knees.
Sam held him back, growling in fury, and he leapt into the grass in pursuit. The weasel was driving in panic, without any consideration for the rough terrain. He kept the gas floored, but was surprised by the power under the hood. He fish-tailed and spun the car around, trying to aim it in the direction of the newly graded road. But the erratic driving allowed Sam his advantage, and he caught up with him. He clutched at the door handle, forcing the driver to brake hard, and the weasel reversed again, without plan or thought. The car shot backwards, and was halted with a whip-lash inducing collision against one of the apple tree trunks. Tail lights and wood splintered into shards, and the weasel flung the door open, scrambled out and stumbled away.
Sam overtook him and tripped him into the long grass. He grabbed him by the shirt front and thumped him solidly, until the man was on his knees, bloodied and crying for him to stop. Finally he did.
Sam delivered a final kick as he whimpered.
"That's for my brother, you sonofabitch--!" His anger somewhat spent, he turned away in disgust, and began to walk toward the others. But the defeated man wasn't quite finished. He found a shred of pride still intact, and swearing some high-pitched hillbilly diatribe, he pulled a handgun from his coat. He stood up, a grimace of angry hate twisting his battered face, and aimed it squarely at Sam's spine..
Bobby roared a warning, but he didn't have to. Once again, an eery scene unfolded. A bloody wraith rose from the grass. But this time it leveled a rifle with a sure and steady eye, and pulled the trigger. With the sharp report of the shot, the target shrieked and flew backwards at the impact, landing sprawled, as good as dead in the grass. The weasel twitched and gurgled briefly as Sam spun around 360 in shock. The sight caused his jaw to drop. A figure stood, some fifty feet away, the face obscured by a veil of blood. It dropped the gun into the grass and staggered toward them. It was Russell Adams..
It was Bobby who leapt ahead now. He made his way to the injured man, and Sam joined him. They guided him back to where Dean lay, and sat him down. Bobby examined him for injury. "How many lives have you got, you lucky bastard?!" he asked, relieved, and incredulous. "You ok?"
Russell nodded wryly. "Yeah. Got my bell rung pretty good. And re-arranged my hairline some."
Bobby mopped at the blood that had washed down from the bullet crease. "Christ, boy---I was sure you were dead."
"Yeah, for a minute or two, I thought so too. Caught me on my heels, but Buell ain't the sharpshooter he thinks he is, I guess. Or was-- You really told him they'd shot off the top of my skull--?!"
"Well it sure as hell looked that way to me! Besides, I was a bit preoccupied with this lot!" He gestured toward his bloodied 'nephews' .
Russell turned to Sam. "Looks like you caught some yourself. How's your brother--?" He peered at Dean, who was curled in the grass.
"--the brother will live, thanks to you" Dean mumbled.
"Me? You're joshin' for sure. I saw that...that thing, come right outa thin air. It killed Buell, that I know. But I sure as hell don't know what I was lookin' at. I can hardly believe my old grandad was right...that there really was a sin-eater ghost after all--!"
Sam and Bobby stayed quiet, unsure about what to reveal. Dean spoke.
"What you saw was Nathaniel Willard Buell, and yeah, it was his spirit. It's a long story, Russ. But he saved our asses, that's a fact. We'd all be barbeque by now if he hadn't done what he had. Sam can fill you in later...but he was the reason we were out here in the first place. I..." He faltered, weakening.
Bobby took charge. "We have to get to the city. Russell, I'm gonna drive the Impala. How are you for driving? I can take you--"
Russell shook his head. "Thanks, but I'll be ok. I'll take my truck--I need to get on the radio. And I know the way to the hospital, so you can follow me. You think that old wreck is drivable?"
Bobby glanced at the Impala, still snugged up hard against the apple trunk. "I sure hope so."
Bobby was relieved when she roared to life. "Just a scratch, Dean--nothing we can't handle." It was a bit more than that, but it didn't matter. She was still road-worthy.
Dean didn't answer. Sam and Bobby had managed to carry the elder Winchester to the car. Russell Adams had walked the further distance to his truck. He had called the appropriate authorities, and they were dispatched and on their way. Bobby was in the best shape to drive. Sam sat beside him in front, and they'd put Dean in back. He was still running hot, and was frighteningly quiet. They negotiated the newly forged road away from the farm site, and stopped at the side of the highway, where Russ waited. Russell directed them to follow, he was going to floor it to Bradford with his emergency volunteer firefighter light flashing. The conversation woke Dean from his fevered slumber.
"No--wait, Bobby--where are we going--?"
"Bradford Hospital, Dean. Russell's leading the convoy."
Dean frowned. Something disquieted him, he shook his head in refusal. 'What? We're leaving?--We can't--not yet--"
Sam tried to calm him. "We're gonna get fixed up there, Dean. It's ok, We're all here--"
Dean struggled to sit up. "We're not done!"
"Done?! What do you mean? Buell's dead, Dean---and so are his men. This is over, and you need a doctor, or--"
"No--" he insisted. "Sammy, I don't care, ok? This---" he gestured at his arm, "this'll heal, it always does."
He stopped speaking for several moments, fighting the waves of emotion that were swamping him.
"..you know, he's not that hideous thing that you all saw. He's not some dangerous, tortured spirit, --not like we've seen before. He chooses to stay here, but he's staying behind for the wrong reason. It was never about revenge, or retribution, nothing like that. It's fear--- He thinks he's denied heaven, whatever that is. He thinks that because he absorbed all those sins, even if it isn't really true, that he's going to hell. But I know how to help him...ok? Only me--I know how--"
"Dean, this stop was a disaster from the beginning. As soon as we get you able to travel, we're heading as far away from this outhouse as we can. As far as I saw, and Bobby too---Nathaniel had his revenge for what happened in his life. You don't need to do any more--"
Dean threw his good hand over his eyes. He shuddered, trying to keep from showing his pain, physical and otherwise. "Yes I do." he said quietly.
Sam glanced over at him again. He'd seen Dean injured before. He's seen him while he was suffering, more times than he chose to remember, but somehow, there was more to it this time....
Bobby intervened. "Dean.....let me ask you this. Do you think that Nathaniel is a danger to others..?"
"And do you think that he is miserable, or in agony, where he is now?"
"...not exactly, but--"
"Do you think that it would be a terrible tragedy if we just let it be---?"
Sam watched his brother closely. Several minutes went by, and Dean seemed to struggle with something, some great emotional weight. Finally he took a steadying breath and answered. " I know what you two are saying here. But yeah...yeah, I do think it's a tragedy. He has nothing here...nothing. The last happy moment in his life was when his mother was alive, and maybe, maybe he has a chance for that again, I don't know. But if it's left up to him, he'll just hang around that farm site, bored and desperately lonely. I'm the only one who can free him to go on."
"You keep saying that. Why? How come you, over anyone else?" Sam demanded.
"Because he knows about...about where I'm going. If I offer to do the same thing he did for all those other people, eat the sins---he just might let me. He won't let anybody else, I know he won't---he'd never allow them to make that sacrifice on his behalf. But when I was under the backhoe, I talked to him about alot of things, he understands about me..."
It cut Sam to the quick to hear it. He turned away, he had no response to this. The car's occupants were silent for a while. Bobby and Sam exchanged glances after a time. Bobby nodded.
Sam sighed, his heart felt cramped and tight with a suffocating feeling of guilt. "Ok, Dean. We'll do that for Nathaniel. But only when you're healthy, ok? Wait til then, it can't happen right now, or we'll be putting you in the ground alongside him. Don't do that to me--"
Dean nodded. "--good-" He could let go at that. He drifted away, lulled by the comforting rocking of the seat, and the rumble of the Impala's engine.
Dean awoke slowly. He scanned around the room, bleary-eyed. Bobby was there this time, Sam was absent. "Bobby--" he whispered.
Bobby snapped to. "Hey, you're back with us. How are you feeling?"
"---like crap. Where's Sam--?"
"I sent him to go have a snooze. He was weaving on his feet. He's out in the car, in the parking lot."
Dean licked his dry lips and forced himself to remain aware. He caught sight of his arm. "Aw crap, what the hell is this--?!" He blinked hard at the rig surrounding his left arm. His doctor had entered, and he offered an explanation.
"You're awake---good. Ok, well--long story or short--?" The orthopedic surgeon waited patiently for an answer.
He smiled. "Ok, short it is." The doc pulled up a chair and sat for a moment. " Well, Mr. Hendrix, you have an open compound radius fracture, complicated by polytrauma and infection."
"You buggered up your arm. You shattered one of the bones, the radius. And you did a damned good job of it---it's an open wound, and a source of some serious infection. We debrided it and screwed it all back together, and right now it's held by what you see here---it's an external fixation device. We call it a cage, if you want. The cage is going to keep everything immobile for a little while, until the wound is healed sufficiently that we can consider some other kind of splint device. Are you following so far...?"
Dean nodded wearily. "And--?"
"And you are a sick man. You have some serious systemic infection, and as a result, you're being treated with a cocktail of antibiotics. We don't often see an injury like yours, usually forearm fractures are simpler, and don't have the complications you've presented here. I could go into endless detail about what exactly we had to scrape out of you there, but I have an idea you probably already know. Plus, we did a little work on your rotator cuff---you shouldn't have so much shoulder trouble after this. "
Dean nodded again. He glanced down at the complicated steel structure surrounding his hand and arm. Pins pierced his skin in several places, it looked and felt irritated and sore. "How long for this frankenstein rig...?"
"Until we deem it strong enough to put you into something more conventional. I can't give you a date and time, it depends on how quickly you heal. Shame you couldn't have gotten in sooner---you could have avoided a lot of this."
Dean snorted. "Sorry--I was a little occupied."
But despite the device that was surrounding his arm, he was grateful. He'd been tortured by dreams of amputation, and despite the pain, this was a far better alternative. But it did pose a unique problem...he was used to going AWOL from these places long before it was wise to do so. But he could hardly escape while he was encased in this unwieldly thing. He pressed his head back into his pillow in defeat.
The doctor rose to leave. "Don't worry...we've got it under control. If you experience an excessive level of pain, give the call button a beep."
Bobby thanked him. When he'd gone, he turned back to Dean. "Anything you need, boy?"
Dean shook his head. "No. I guess I'm pretty much taken care of. How's Russell?"
"He's ok. Headache and stitches. He's out at the police station, giving statements. I talked to him---he understands the importance of keeping all of us out of the story. He figured that since the three of them were all dead, he could do that."
Dean yawned. "Oh. Good. So what happened with you? How come you were out in Spencerville?"
Bobby frowned. "My purpose in Bradford decided to kick off before I got here. It don't matter now, but it's a damned shame. I'll tell you all about that when you're more awake."
Dean was mid-yawn again. " Sorry--"
Bobby rose. "Don't apologize. You know---If you weren't such an obsessive headcase about that damned car of yours, we'd all be on a slab in the basement here. Or fertilizer out at Buell farm. Good job." He patted Dean's good arm. "I'm beat---I'm gonna go switch with your brother. Glad to see you mending, Dean. You had us worried."
Dean swiled wanly. "Well--thanks for tracking me and Sammy down--if it wasn't for you and Russ--"
Bobby grinned. "Yeah, I know. You owe me another one."
Member No.: 29,179
Joined: 25-December 07
Ha! --got it right this time....
Sam came in from his cat-nap. He approached the bed quietly, as Dean appeared to be sleeping. He performed his well practiced ritual of pulling two chairs together and snagging a spare blanket, and settled down to his vigil. He shifted in an attempt to find comfort, and sighed. Bobby had warned him of the state of things. He looked over the metal bars and pins that ran the length of Dean's forearm. It looked raw and sore, and he mumbled something sympathetic.
Dean's eyes fluttered open. "--yeah, how do you like that little torture device? As if this didn't freaking hurt enough--"
Sam whistled softly. "Man...I guess you really did a number on that. Did they talk to you about how long--?"
Dean rubbed his eyes and motioned for his glass of water. "I don't know yet. He just said 'until it had healed enough'."
He swallowed some sips and Sam took it from his trembling hand. "Sucks to be awake...I feel like crap in a pothole."
"Guess it doesn't help to say you look it. So, what did they have to do--?"
"I don't know. Scrape out some stuff. Screw some stuff together. They can't put it in a regular cast until the hole is closed. Did you talk to Russell?"
"Uh, yeah, He called Bobby from the station. He got all the statements done. None of it mentions us, so the cops won't be asking anything as far as we're concerned. He's saying that Buell got in a fight with that third guy, and that he was the one that choked him with the apples. The rest was easier to explain. And they'll be busy cleaning out those tunnels anyway. Biggest bust in years."
Dean grimaced, and groaned despite his company. The last blessed mist of anaesthetic was wearing off, and he was beginning to really feel the steel pins newly piercing the flesh and bone of his arm. "So no explaining about Nathaniel either--?"
"He didn't think that would be very helpful to his credibility. He was gonna head home after, and he said he'd fix the lock on the door at May's. He's offered us that room until you can leave the hospital, otherwise it'll cost a fortune for a motel."
Dean squinted hard at him. "A fortune? Why--? It'll only be a few days, and if you and Bobby share a room--"
Sam shifted uncomfortably, instantly regretting his words.. "Um..it actually might be a little longer than that. I did talk to a nurse, Dean... she said that these things stay on for six weeks on average.." He winced, waiting for Dean's reaction.
His tired eyes flew open. "What?! --aw, no way--you gotta be kidding me--!" He swore and tried to pull himself upright to sit, but it jarred his arm, and he blanched, and was forced to settle back. "Six weeks?!" he whispered. "Christ--!"
"I know it sucks Dean, but it could have been worse--"
"Oh yeah?! How?!"
Dean raised his good hand and covered his eyes. He felt like a rat caught in a trap, pain forcing him to lie still and wait in quiet fear, until someone came along and either sprung him, or flushed him. He hated hospital stays more than flying. Almost. With their aliases, short stints were safer, he knew that the longer people had to scrutinize them, the greater the chance that they would be caught. He felt nauseated and beaten, and his emotions were close to the surface. He cursed softly. "I only have a year, for shits sake---Now I've gotta spend six weeks of it in here lying on my back eating tapioca and watching Regis?!"
Sam stared at the tiles on the floor, waiting for him to calm down. "Dean, they said you would be wearing it for that time, not necessarily that you'd be stuck in here the whole six weeks. Just give yourself a little time, ok? Maybe we can move you to May's after your intravenous is done..."
Dean didn't answer. He was devastated at the thought of what amounted to imprisonment, not to mention the threat of the real thing as well. And after seeing the stricken expression poor Nate wore when he realized what he'd done, the self loathing, the misery on the gentle spirit's face--- he wanted more than ever to give him the peace he deserved. At least then, maybe someone would appreciate his sacrifice...
He decided that he would really rather be alone for a while. He tapped one foot in growing agitation, he wanted to push the damned call button so hard his jaw ached, but he would never do that in front of his little brother. He took a deep breath and sighed. "Look, I know you must feel pretty rough too. I'm pretty wiped, maybe you and Bobby should go get some lunch and find a motel room just for tonight. I'm not gonna be very good company, and there's no point in you lying there like a cold pretzel waiting on me."
Sam was loathe to go, but he read his brother's mood. He needed space, and the best thing he could do for him now was give him his breathing room. He nodded, and got up, stretching. "Probably a good idea. And it's supper time, by-the-way--- lunch came and went."
"--are you serious? It was only morning when we got here--"
"You were under for a really long time, Dean. We were getting pretty worried " He smiled. "..You should have seen Bobby---he was pacing a groove into the floor, twisting his hat into knot. They got pretty tired of his questions."
Dean smiled slightly at that. Nice to know--- "Alright. Go." --just not too far--- "Do me a favour and send mother hen in, will you?"
"Sure Dean. Have a good night, ok?"
The second Sam was out of sight, Dean pushed the call button. Bobby entered while the nurse was busy administering something helpful. "Hurts bad, does it...?"
Face still taut and pale, Dean shrugged. "Nah. Just a scratch."
Bobby snorted. "Sam told me what the short term plan is. Sounds good to me. You're ok for the night?"
The shot was already taking effect, Dean was visibly relaxing. "I am now. Listen, Bobby, this six week thing, --you know as well as I do that that can't happen. They'll have run our cards by then and figured out there's no insurance. They don't really like insurance fraud a whole lot, they'll pull in the cops."
He frowned down at the steel rig. "What the hell am I gonna do with that?"
Bobby sat down again for a moment. "Ok, listen, you--- I know your MO, and you better not even be thinking of heading out of here before your course of drugs is up. That's at least a week, so get it through your head, you are staying put at least that long. We'll see where things stand after that."
"I want your word, Dean. I've been treated to the experience of you burning up sick after leaving your bed too soon, more than once, remember? Don't put your brother, or me, through that again!"
He sighed, softening . "I do hear what you're saying, and I agree with you, we can't hang around here that long. But take your time, leave the details to me, alright..?"
Dean didn't have much choice. The painkiller was swamping him with a comforting sleepiness, he could barely stay alert. He nodded.
"Atta boy. See you tomorrow, Dean." He patted his shoulder and left to rejoin Sam. Dean let go and was adrift before his friend reached the hallway.
Bobby climbed into the waiting Impala. He rubbed his eyes, frowning. "We're gonna have to tie him to that bed."
"Yeah.." Sam sighed. "I know."
They found a decent place a half hour away from Bradford General. Bobby took care of the payment while Sam loaded what they had with them into the room. Most of his own things were still at May Adam's. They ordered chinese and settled down in front ofthe tube, quaffing some cold beer and toasting the missing member of the trio.
They exchanged stories. Bobby filled him in on his disappointing foray; the supposedly freed individual, who had somehow managed to break his cross-roads contract, only to die ignominiously, not to mention with very poor timing. And Sam filled him in on all the details regarding their encounter with the Sin Eater. In the end, they decided that it was some fairly bad luck all around.
"So...you don't know anything at all about this guy's method? Nobody left behind who could fill in the blanks..?" Sam asked.
"Nope. He kept it all close to the vest. His widow doesn't know anything about the event in the first place. It took me weeks to get him to agree to meet with me, he was pretty skittish. --Said he didn't want to jinx anything.....looks like he did after all. Or it was just his time, I dunno."
"Huh." Sam drained the dregs from his can. "Too bad. I would have liked to talk to him, for sure."
"You and me both."
Bobby was quiet for a while. He framed his next query delicately. "Sam, your brother seems real, I dunno--concerned--with this Nate character. He's pretty obsessed about seeing this through...any idea why--?"
He knew why already. But Bobby wanted to see what effect this had on the younger Winchester. Sam had said little about the whole thing, about the deal Dean had made for him. He thought it was time they talked.
Sam always wore his heart right out there, pinned to his sleeve for the world to see. He looked away now, pained, the turmoil within him rising up.He swallowed hard and spoke.
"I think it's pretty obvious. Nate was a kid when his life went sour. He had a father that was a domineering SOB and a mother he loved. And she was taken, in violence. And then the whole abandonment thing--Nathaniel probably felt like second hand garbage---like he was less worthy of good things. And in the end--he's made a life of sacrifice, dies bloody, and is terrified of going to hell. Sound a little familiar..?"
There was a painful bitterness to Sam's words. "..and plus--"
Bobby watched him quietly. "Plus what..?"
Sam rubbed his eyes angrily. "Plus...he thinks that the deal he made, to bring me back....is one I would never do for him."
"Why would he think that, Sam..?"
"Because...because I pretty much told him. I didn't say it exactly, but it's what he read from my reaction.. He caught me off guard, in the tunnel. He asked me if I would. I hesitated, Bobby. I was... I am-- screwed up over the whole thing, we had Buell hunting us down, Dean was starting to get sick with his arm... I just... froze for a minute. And then I answered him, in this totally lame way. He got a look on his face, for a second. I can still see it, Bobby, it was like...I dunno, just pain, pure and sharp, and nothing else. But then the mask dropped down and we covered it up."
Bobby sighed in shared misery with his young friend. "Sam....mind if I ask? With everything you know....would you..?"
Sam looked up. Tears welled and he swore softly. "Yeah.. Jesus christ, yeah. For him and only him!"
Bobby reached out, laying his comforting hand on Sam's shoulder. "Then you gotta find a way to tell him. Make him believe it, Sam. 'Cuz you and I both can see he's hurting. He's erratic and self-destructive, even if he don't know it. He always goes off the reservation when he's feeling like this. We have to work to keep his head above water, you and me."
Sam cried quietly, able to, at last. Finally he wiped his eyes, and nodded. "Yeah."
Member No.: 29,179
Joined: 25-December 07
Hey. a saturday night update--too pathetic....
"You did a number on that arm, there. Gonna have to take it off. Don't worry---we brought in a top man, well recommended, just for you.. Dr Angus here has done hundreds of amputations, and some of 'em even survived."
The grinning surgeon made way for the specialist. A withered old man, dirty and foul-smelling, approached. He wore a ridiculously large headband with a reflector, and he leered over Dean where he lay. His once white gown was stained, sodden with the gore of previous patients. He brandished his rusty, red-crusted buck saw. He winked, and grinned a snaggle-toothed parody of a smile.
"Told ya, didn't I? Old Angus knows everything. Like I said--all you need is whiskey and a sharp saw!" He gripped Dean's arm at the elbow, poised to begin. "Too bad about the whiskey, though. I used it up when you was gone. Sorry--" He cackled and pressed the dirty, jagged tool against Dean's skin--
"Dude--wake up--it's a dream....hey---- it's just a dream--!"
Dean had sat bolt upright, with a strangled cry. He stared at his brother, uncomprehending, sweating in terror, for several moments. Sam talked him back to reality with comforting words, as he gently pressed Dean back down to the pillow.
"Yeah...ok...sorry--" Dean mumbled, embarrassed, but still shell-shocked by his nightmare.
"You alright now? Bobby and I are here, Dean. You're doing fine--you just had a nightmare."
Dean turned away and stared hard at his arm, assuring himself that it was still attached. The wildness in his eyes lessened. He took a deep breath and smiled wanly. "Ok. Just a dream. But christ--!" He closed his eyes and worked to calm himself, to dispel the ugly imagery that had struck such terror into his heart.
Bobby spoke to him. "Well. Good morning. I guess we came just in time, didn't we..?"
Dean snorted. "Yeah, guess so. I was just dreaming that it was...they were...well never-mind. It was just stupid." He chose to redirect the attention of the room. "You guys have a good night?"
Sam and Bobby arranged themselves toward some semblance of comfort. "Yeah, we were good." Sam was pleased that his brother had been drugged into some apparently comfortable state during the night. "Did you talk to a doctor yet?"
Dean had some better news. "Yeah..he said some stuff. Pretty much what you said, Sam. Four to six weeks---but as soon as I'm done with the antibiotic I can get out of here. Then they want to check on things in a couple of weeks, and maybe even take the thing off at that point.." He looked sourly at his left arm. "I can't get this surgeon guy to sit still for more than five minutes, so I still can't get a real picture of this. I don't know yet how far I can push the limits on it." he growled.
"Well you know my limits, boy---they're a week long, so remember them." Bobby reminded.
Dean scowled at the both of them. His mood was combative, it was difficult, but it was nonetheless a good sign. Sam changed the subject. "Well that's a lot better than what we first heard, Dean. At least you can ditch this place soon. I figured you'd be bored miserable already, so we ordered cable for you----should be on by this afternoon . We paid to connect it for you, for the sake of the poor staff around here. So at least you can see something other than ceiling tiles."
Dean was mollified somewhat. "Thanks. Any porn channels..?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Sorry. Wasn't offered."
"Too bad." Dean was interrupted by the arrival of another visitor. Russell Adams walked in, nervously approaching the bedside.
"Hey, Dean." he mumbled. He stared at the external fixation device. "Wow...nasty. But at least they didn't cut it off."
Dean had to laugh. Russell was nothing if not brutally direct. "Yeah. Thank god for small blessings. Nice zipper on your head there, Russ."
Russell touched his hand to bandaged hairline. "Yeah, well...you saw my grandad's dome---that hair was gonna leave eventually." He sat down, relieved that Dean was not a typically sick person. Russ, like many men, had trouble dealing with such things. "How long are you in for?" He made it sound like incarceration.
"Just a week. Then after a few more I lose the metal. How'd it go with the cops..?"
"Fine. They're all excited about the bust. Lot of that stuff being grown around here lately, but not on such a scale. They didn't seem like they needed any complications, so I didn't offer none." he grinned. But he sobered for a moment. "Hell, boys. I really need to talk about some things with you, but I'm almost afraid to ask..."
Bobby knew where he was headed. "You mean about the sin-eater--"
"Yeah...and what you was saying---about it being the reason you come here in the first place."
Dean met his eyes. "You really sure you want to know? Because this isn't fairytale crap, Russell. You saw a little of what we deal with. It gets worse, it can get real ugly. The less people know about what's out there, the better they sleep."
Russell frowned. "Well, I'll tell you. Folks around here have a lot of tales. Most of it is bullshit, but certain things stay constant. I know that we're a superstitious lot of hillbillies sometimes, but god damned if some of it ain't true. My grandad talked about that whole Sin Eater business a few times. He was around when the the story played out, way back. He always told us kids to stay away from that place, and we always did. Hell, everybody did. But you grow up, and those stories start to look like foolish nonsense after a while..."
"Well, some are. And some aren't. Sam and me, and Bobby here---we look for these things. We read about them, research them, and we try to figure out which are just stories and which are dangerous. And when we come across the real deal, we try to fix the problem."
Russell shook his head, trying to absorb the new reality. "Well, ok, but what I don't understand is why--- I mean, far as I can see, you don't come out holding the longer straw in the end. And you ain't gettin' rich off it. Why go through that--?"
Dean looked to the others for input. He still didn't have a solid answer for that. Bobby tried to explain. "Well, I guess it's a different reason for each one of us. Me--I got into it because I lost..some one... to something evil. At the time, I didn't know anything about it all. But I knew that what happened wasn't right, and sure as hell wasn't normal. So I started learning. And the more I learned, the less I was comfortable knowing these things were out there, screwing other folks up. And these boys here---well, they learned through their old man, after the family had their own sad experience with the darker side. And of course, Dean here's just an obsessive and tunnel-visioned nut-job, and his poor brother is just hanging on, trying to keep him from blowing up on a daily basis." He grinned at Dean, who mouthed something off-colour back.
Russell was quiet for a while. "Huh. Well, I think I'll leave it up to you all, then. I got my hands full with the crap that regular folk do around here. Think I'll just keep my eyes closed to the rest of it, if you don't mind."
"You're better off, Russ. Trust me." Dean snorted.
"Yeah, I see that." Russell got up, and got ready to leave. "Well, you boys know you're welcome to keep on at my mother's house. I fixed that door, so nobody will be surprising you no more. Dean--hope you heal up quick...and I'll look in on you from time to time." He tossed the new key to Sam, and paused in the doorway. "Oh--- one think I gotta ask you... now that I know that there's lots of things from the kids' books that might be out there, you gotta tell me this...Santa Claus--- real or fake..?"
Dean laughed. "Nope. Fake, sorry. But stay away from that tooth fairy bitch. You don't wanna know about that crap."
Russell smiled uncertainly, not quite sure if they were joking, and left.
Bobby leveled his stare at Dean. "You're not horseshitting us over this one week and you're free thing are you? Cuz we can ask the doc--"
Dean rolled his eyes in exasperation. "No, I'm not, alright? All they do is send me out with some kind of ointment and a bunch of instructions, and then they see me again in a week. If things are good, they'll pull this off two weeks after that and put it in a regular cast after that. It's nothing."
"Alright. Good." Bobby was satisfied he was telling the truth. "Now listen, boy. We've gotta talk about this Nathaniel Willard. That police investigation sounds pretty cut and dried, so there's a good chance that work will go on on that farm site any day now. From what Sam and me have learned, the widow of Munro hasn't got much choice---if she doesn't stick to that part of the deal, then she stands to lose her sale of that property."
"And---maybe Sam and I should go do the salt and burn as soon as possible. Nate's a risk, Dean---He could harm the next poor SOB that gets into a tractor expecting a dull day of grading--"
Dean shook his head vehemently at that. "No---no way! Look, you two don't get it---he trusts me! And I have something that can convince him...something neither of you can offer--"
"What, Dean? Come on---all we need to do here is what we always do---dig up the bones and deal with them. You know that it's the way it works. You've done it a hundred times--"
"NO! Jesus, no--!" Dean looked away, distraught at the turn of events. He knew that he was a prisoner in the room for the next six days. The idea that Nate would be, for all intents and purposes, dispatched---felt profoundly wrong. He fought to control his irrational feelings. "Look---we don't have to force him away. He can go willingly, he can see everything he's been missing. He wants too, all he needs is the right encouragement."
Bobby glanced at Sam. "Go on then, what do we do to help him go?"
"He needs to believe he's sin-free. Just like all those others, the ones he ate the sins for. Nobody ever did it for him, so he thinks he's carrying around this huge burden of everybody elses' evils, and he'll go to hell. It's bullshit, I know. But he believes it. And the only way he'll go into the light, or whatever the hell he's supposed to do, is if he knows that he's going up instead of down. He knows about my deal, so he knows I'm going to hell no matter what. So that's why I'm the only one who can do this for him. He would never put that on another person, but if he knows it won't make a difference to my end, then maybe he'll let me return the favour."
Bobby sat and said nothing for a while. He could see the burning need in his friend to right this wrong. And knowing that the months to come would be difficult for all of them, he had no choice but to facilitate this thing. If they could bring this boy his peace, then maybe they could bring some to Dean Winchester as well. "Ok, then. We will wait out the week. Sam and I will keep an eye on that property, and Russ can fill us in on the local gossip. If we can keep a lid on the problems, then we can do it your way when you're discharged."
Dean relaxed visibly. "Thanks."
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