Characters: Dean, Sam, Bobby
Spoilers/Warnings: Not canon; warnings for scenes of torture
Word Count: 27,500 over 15 chapters
Disclaimer: I don't own them
Someone - or something - is scaring people to death in New York; Bobby's on the case, but opinion is divided on whether or not he needs the Winchesters' help.But those boys; they just won't take no for an answer …
Sam spun round on hearing Dean's voice and stared, wet-eyed at his brother, trying his damndest not to laugh at the sight of Dean's indignant face staring huffily back round the soft curve of his bare ass.
Bobby, still sitting beside the bed, shook his head; "idjit" he chuckled, trying to bring a sense of normalcy to the situation. Patting the elder Winchester on the shoulder, he stood slowly, rising on stiff legs. "Goin to run a bath," he announced, watching as Sam stepped over to the bed, discreetly attending to his brother's request on the way.
Dean closed his eyes, shifting slightly as he mashed his face into the pillow, and fell silent again under Sam's touch.
"We'll get you all cleaned and patched up, then get you somethin' to eat, huh?" Sam murmured as he fussed and fiddled with the bedsheets, the pillows, Dean's drink and with the thermometer Bobby had left. "How's that sound, dude?"
Dean moaned quietly, "jus' wan' get clean an' sleep," his voice was barely more than a breath, "not hungry…"
As he spoke, a comically loud gurgle erupted from his stomach.
"Liar," grinned Sam, as they both stared down at Dean's belly in surprise.
Sitting on the bed, Sam glanced at the thermometer, and relaxed slightly; Dean’s temperature was a little high, but not worryingly so. He decided to take the opportunity, while Bobby was filling the bathtub to examine the grotesque bruising which was painfully evident across Dean's torso. Although Bobby had kept the room dimly lit, this was the best opportunity he'd had to get a look at the damage.
Gently lifting Dean's arm, he took a deep breath, and folded the sheet down to Dean's waist. He nervously scanned the damage, his shaking hand moving gently and skilfully, palpitating the ribs with his palm, apologising sadly to each muffled grunt and groan.
The mottled expanse of bruising traced the outline of Dean's ribcage, looking like some horrible travesty of an X-ray. The blossoming medallions were of mostly uniform size … fist-sized; and their wide range of colours, of purple, grey, blue, green and yellow pointed to the fact that the punishment had clearly been meted out at different times and at different levels of severity. At least one of Dean’s ribs were almost certainly broken.
The terrible sight squeezed the air out of Sam's lungs as the sheer horror and blind rage overwhelmed him, and he found himself wishing Bobby hadn't killed the two assholes just so that he could have the satisfaction of doing it himself; slowly and painfully
He softly traced a palm over the bruising on Dean's abdomen which, he was hugely relieved to see, was much less severe. A heavily bruised abdomen could have pointed to all sorts of dreadful possibilities; of vulnerable and delicate organs ruptured and damaged, unseen internal bleeding. No; Sam had to hand it to those two sons of bitches, they knew what they were doing: targeting the ribs; inflicting maximum pain with minimum life-threatening consequences.
And now Sam and Bobby were there to pick up the pieces.
Carrying Dean to the bathroom without putting any pressure on his chest or back proved to be a near impossibility. Sam tried his hardest, and Dean bore the brief trip silently, his face buried into the crook of Sam's neck to avoid showing any discomfort.
Lowering Dean's not-insubstantial weight into the bathtub without wrecking Sam's back proved to be even tougher, but Sam had managed it admirably, one foot in the bathtub, one out, with barely a creak or twinge to show for it. He wasn't celebrating just yet, though; they still had to get Dean out of the tub and back to bed.
Dean gasped when he first entered the water. Bobby had run it somewhere between tepid and warm, taking into account Dean's slightly elevated temperature and his open wounds, But he settled quickly, leaning heavily against Sam's arm and shoulder as he knelt beside the bath and gently squeezed spongefuls of the bathwater down his brother's brutalised back.
As the water rinsed away the splashes and smears of blood staining Dean's skin, the sharply delineated lash wounds became horribly clear to see. Each one a dark red slightly curving rip in the skin, each one raised along the length of an angry red welt. Some long enough to span the entire width of Dean's broad shoulders, others mere inches long where only the tip of the lash had made contact.
Sam gave up counting at fifteen because it became too distressing.
The warm water softly trickling down his back had soothed Dean to a point where he was leaning heavily against Sam almost asleep, his slow wheezing breaths huffing softly against Sam's shoulder, and Sam was happy to let him stay that way for a while.
Rinsing the sponge, Sam began to wash the blood from Dean's arms, the exercise once again bringing to prominence the gruesome wounds around his wrists. He swallowed back a dry heave. That was a God-awful mess and would scar; absolutely no doubt.
He sought solace in the relaxing exercise of washing his brother. Not only was he washing the blood and grime away, but he was wiping the stink of those two bastards from Dean's body brutalised body. He couldn't bear the thought of their foul evil paws assaulting and mauling Dean and the vile, mindless damage they had inflicted on him. Black thoughts of hatred and revenge that he would never have thought he was capable of darkened his mood and he forced himself to swallow back the feelings. They were dead. They had suffered. They were scum. Forget about them; think of Dean.
Blood had turned the water a soft pink. Trickling freely from the newly-cleansed wounds on Dean's back and arms, it entered the water, curling into soft crimson tendrils which snaked out from his hips, eventually dissipating into the pink water around him as Sam continued his careful work.
Finally, satisfied that Dean was cleaned up nicely, Sam became aware that Dean was shivering slightly.
"C'mon dude," he smiled, softly wrapping a towel around Dean's bare, wet shoulders, and gathering him up as gently as possible. With a pained heave he lifted Dean to something resembling a standing position before manoeuvring him out of the bath. Staggering backwards across the room, he decanted Dean on a stool in the corner, where he set about drying him off as quickly and as gently as possible.
As he patted Dean's skin dry, he couldn't help but smile, watching as Dean fought to keep his eyes open, leaning heavier and heavier into Sam's solid presence until Sam was sure he would just slide off the stool into a heap on the floor.
"Y'joyin' too much, bish…" Dean's voice was almost comical in how weak it sounded, but Sam grinned in delight at hearing his brother trying so hard to be himself. He knew Dean was doing it to protect him; and he reciprocated enthusiastically, "don't flatter yourself, jerk …"
Wrapping Dean in a towel, Sam moved to lift him, but Dean looked up at him; "I c'n walk..."
Sam shook his head, "not just yet dude." He knelt down in front of Dean; "let me help, we can try to get you moving around tomorrow when you've rested and had something to eat."
Dean sighed, beaten down by the logic of Sam’s argument, and reluctantly allowed Sam to carry him back into the bedroom.
Waiting for them in the dimmed light of the bedroom was Bobby, standing beside an impressive toolkit of gauze, antiseptic liquids and creams and sewing needles laid out on the night stand.
"OK Sam," he said matter-of-factly, as Sam placed Dean carefully down on the bed, helping him to arrange himself in a comfortable position; "you take care of his arms and legs. Stay in front of him where he can see you. I'll deal with his back."
Sam nodded and knelt down to face Dean, whose eyes had already closed as he became less and less able to resist the pull of sleep.
"Just gonna patch you up, and get some antiseptic on you. You gonna be okay?" Sam whispered. Dean blinked heavily and looked up at him, "Yeah, m'good," he sighed; "wanna sleep."
"Soon bro’," Sam smiled, squeezing his shoulder.
Sam and Bobby set to work, and between them they had Dean's wounds carefully and efficiently disinfected and dressed within a few minutes. Dean endured the treatment without comment; burrowing his face deep into the pillow, determined that the others shouldn't see if they were hurting him.
Bobby was heartily relived to see that none of the lash wounds were deep enough to require stitching; that inadequate weasel didn't have enough weight or strength behind his arm to inflict that sort of damage. He sighed, thankful for one small mercy. Finishing the job, he taped a thin layer of gauze over Dean's back to prevent his t shirt chafing as Sam worked quickly and discreetly, spreading a soothing cream over Dean's legs before working him into a clean pair of sweatpants.
Sam knelt down by the bed, "how's that feel now, Dean?"
Dean smiled; "much better; don' stink now." He closed his eyes with a sigh; "wanna sleep, S'my, lemme sleep."
Slipping an arm under Dean’s neck, Sam gently hoisted him up against his shoulder, trying to ignore the barely audible moan of frustration that escaped his brothers lips. "Real soon, Dean. You just need something to eat first, okay?'."
Dean shook his head, his heavy-lidded eyes pleading; "sleep; please S'my."
Sam kneaded Dean's neck as he waited for Bobby to bring the food. The delicious smell of tomato soup wafted up the stairs making his mouth water.
"Need to get some nutrition inside you to get your strength up, man," he looked down at Dean, "you haven't eaten for four days Dean, sleep or no sleep, your body can't heal if it's too weak."
Dean sighed, "knowitall…" he grumbled
Bobby marched into the room with a tray, on it stood a bowl half filled with tomato soup, small squares of dry toast sprinkled into it.
Thanking Bobby warmly, Sam took the tray, settling it on his lap. He looked down at Dean once more, "smells good, huh?"
The delicious smell of the soup stimulated Dean to some degree of alertness. Wrinkling his nose, his eyes fluttered open and he instinctively moved to grasp the tray, but Sam's heart broke as Dean's arms reached out stiffly and painfully, but his fingers could neither feel nor grasp the tray.
Since Dean's release Sam had become aware that Dean had no strength or feeling in his hands or fingers. In addition, his arms and shoulders were so stiff and strained as to be virtually immobile. Sam sighed, looking down at the soup; he knew what had to be done, and so did Dean. They were both crushed by the realisation.
Sam gave a watery smile as Dean looked down into his lap, unable to look his brother in the eye. "Hey, no problem, dude," Sam smiled sadly, "we'll get to work on these tomorrow," he grasped Dean's clawed, grey fingers which still felt icy cold.
"Let’s just get this down you first, huh?"
Dean looked up at him wet-eyed, a picture of frustrated despair.
Sam loaded the spoon, "Hey look," he attempted to bring levity to the situation; "you know you're eating in a classy establishment when there are croutons in the soup."
He offered the spoon to Dean who hesitated miserably before reluctantly opening up and draining it. Unseen, Bobby stood in the doorway watching; delighted that Dean was eating, but torn apart at how helpless he looked.
It took Dean little less than five minutes to finish the meal, finally admitting he was hungry after all in the process. As Sam carefully passed the tray back to Bobby, he noticed Dean looking slightly flushed.
Laying the back of his hand along the side of Dean's face, he felt a clammy warmth, but no more so than before. Sam guessed the heat of the soup plus Dean's shame at having to be fed like an infant were the main culprits, but he looked up at Bobby who immediately knew what he was asking for.
Sam helped Dean to settle back and find a comfortable position on his side in which to lay, reaching up as Bobby passed him the cool facecloth he'd silently asked for.
He spent a few moments, cooling Dean's face and neck, helping him to relax. Sam knew his work was done as Dean sank deeper and deeper into the cosy softness of the bed; relishing the first real warmth and comfort he had been able to experience since his ordeal began.
Sam sat beside Dean, fussing with the pillows, adjusting the bedclothes, talking to him, listening to the sound of his slow breathing. He remained there even after he was sure Dean had slipped into the sleep he so desperately craved; determined to maintain a contact so that Dean knew he was still there.
For the first time since before the whole terrible saga began, Sam felt an overwhelming need to sleep. He was physically and emotionally drained; shattered by what he had seen and done today. Seeing Dean this helpless, this weak was frightening beyond anything they had ever experienced, and he never wanted to see it again.
Tomorrow he would begin to put the shattered pieces of his brother back together again. He would help Dean along every step of the way as he mended; watch him get stronger, faster and louder; watch him walk again, drive the Impala again, drink beer again, laugh and flirt and torment Sam again.
It was then he looked up into the doorway and saw Bobby wiping his eyes.
And Sam realised that he and Dean weren’t the only ones who had suffered today.
Chapter 10 here
Number Fifty is taking a very brief hiatus while I go away and visit family for the weekend. Normal service will be resumed on Monday!