banner by JessicaRae
Title: What Comes After
Character’s: Sam and Dean Winchester, Jessica Moore, Sam’s Stanford friends, and a brief appearance by Missouri Mosley.
Category: Hurt/Comfort, Horror, Angst, and AU
Rating: T (PG-13)
Spoilers: None beyond second season if any…it’s pretty much AU.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and the CW. This is solely written for fun and not profit.
Summary: Sequel to "The Wake-Up Call." Sam and Dean travel to Palo Alto to investigate recent deaths. Meanwhile, as Dean recovers from his injuries, his new and bizarre visions of Jessica continue to haunt him and Sam.
A/N#1: To ease your minds, there will be no romance between Dean and Lori, see author's notes at the end for more information....
Chapter One ~*~ Chapter Two ~*~ Chapter Three ~*~ Chapter Four
Chapter 5: The Web I Spin For You
“Wow. Sam can drive,” Lori said, pulling into a parking space. “That was…impressive.”
Rebecca was already unbuckling, fingers fumbling in her haste. “Yeah, I guess.” Her voice trembled and broke on the last syllable.
Lori laid a hand on Rebecca’s forearm. “Bec, I’m sure Aaron’s okay. He looked more shook up than anything. He’s gonna be fine.”
Rebecca smiled gratefully. “Yeah. Yeah, I hope so.”
Lori hoped so too. Becky had been wide-eyed and quiet the whole drive; too scared to talk.
As they both got out, Lori stuffed her keys in her jacket pocket. Nearing the emergency entrance, they could see the Impala parked haphazardly in front. “Looks like someone’s still in the car,” said Lori.
Becky squinted at the indistinct shadow. “Really? But why would…” As they got closer, they could see the person in question was slumped to the side.
Lori’s heart rate sped up, her instincts kicking in. “That doesn’t look good.”
“It’s Dean,” Rebecca said. Both girls broke into a sprint.
Lori wrenched the door open and leaned in, Rebecca hovering behind her. “Dean?” Lori shook his shoulder, pinching at the muscle near the base of his neck. “Dean? Hey, can you hear me?”
There was no response save for his slow slide down the seat. Training kicking in, she checked for breath sounds and then pressed two fingers to the inside of his wrist.
Behind her, Rebecca fidgeted. “Is he okay?”
“I don’t think so,” Lori hedged. Dean’s heart rate was sluggish and she could’ve sworn he’d stopped breathing for a moment. “Go get help—quick!”
“Got it.” Rebecca whirled and ran into the building.
Uncertain, Lori rechecked Dean’s vitals and began a head to toe. The only outward signs of injury she could find were minor burns on his cheeks, jaw line, and what looked like severe burns on his hands. Once again, she pressed shaky fingers into Dean’s pulse. The beat felt stronger, closer to normal and his breathing seemed steadier. Patting his face, she called again, “Dean, can you hear me. Hey! Wake up for me.”
Finally, his eyes rolled under their lids. His lips pressed together, thinning out in a closed-mouth moan. So softly she almost missed it, he whispered, “I promise.” With another murmur that trailed off, he opened his eyes and looked at her.
“Dean?” she questioned.
With purposeful blinks, he managed to keep his eyes open.
Lori crouched into his line of sight. “Dean. Can you hear me?”
His gaze steadied on hers. This close, even in the dim lighting, the green depths of his eyes caught her. Green that went so deep she felt she could get lost just by looking. Secrets, pain, and fear commingled there. So expressive, she thought, so expressive without knowing. She shook herself, but let her hand continue to rest on the side of his neck, thumb stroking his jaw line. “Hey? You with me now?”
This time, he seemed to register her voice and struggled to sit up.
“Easy, easy does it. Not too fast. I don’t want you passing out on me again.” She helped him lean back against the headrest.
He blinked, looking around, awareness filling his face for the first time.
“There you are. How’re you feeling?”
Dean coughed then cleared his throat, peered back at her. “Good, fine. I’m-I’m—where’s Sam?” His voice was rough and uncertain.
She patted his chest, keeping him still. “He’s inside. Do you know where you are?”
Dean nodded, grimaced when her light touches skimmed over his burns. “Hospital.”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.” She leaned out of the car, looking over her shoulder. “We need to get you checked out. Think you can walk in on your own?”
He grabbed her arm, then hissed, fingers spasming against her flesh. “No doctors—no hospitals. And don’t tell Sam. Please, don’t tell him.”
She looked at the angry, burned flesh of the hand wadded in her shirtsleeve and knew how much pain that grip must be causing him. Giving him a stern look, she used her firm voice, “Dean. You’re vitals weren’t good when I first checked you. You were unconscious. I think Sam needs to know about that. At the very least, these burns need to be treated. You need to be checked out by a doctor.”
Dean didn’t let go of her arm, but his grip loosened. He swallowed hard then pushed out between his teeth, “Look, I’m not…staying in a hospital. My brother doesn’t need…Sam doesn’t need more to worry about—especially when it’s nothing—”
“Nothing!? I hardly think—”
“You could do it.”
“What? No. No, that’s not a good idea.”
“You’re an… EMT or something like that, right?”
“A paramedic. Technically, a med student, but—”
“Perfect. You can take care of it. Otherwise, I’ll just refuse medical attention. Go get the form. I’ll sign it.”
Lori hesitated. She’d had extensive training both as paramedic and as a current med student—she knew enough to do basic treatment. But still, it wasn’t a great idea. Dean’s face was pale, his vitals weren’t great, and her training screamed that burns should always be taken seriously. Plus, she could feel him shaking right through his clothes.
But those eyes. Those eyes pinned her straight through. She wanted to make whatever it was she saw there all right. She wanted to take it all away, whatever it was, just like she always had with her siblings. And, she believed him when he said he’d refuse treatment if she didn’t meet his compromise.
“Okay,” she heard herself agree. “Okay, but if I think for a second you need a doctor—”
Dean nodded, letting go of her, cradling his hand back to his chest, “I’ll think about it.”
“Okay.” Please, God, let this be the right thing to do.
Behind her, she heard heavy steps hitting hard on the pavement.
“Hey,” Sam called, “What’s going on? What happened? Is he okay?”
Then Sam was pushing her roughly aside.
“He’s okay. I guess with all the excitement I may have overreacted a bit.”
Sam studied her face not looking convinced. He turned back to Dean. “You sure?”
“Yeah,” she nodded at his back. “But—”
More pounding feet on the pavement saved Lori from what she was about to say. Rebecca was back with help. Ted, an intern at the hospital and a friend, pushed his way passed Sam and, recognizing Lori, said, “What’ve we got?”
Dean caught her gaze and she nodded at him. “Ted, can we talk over here a minute?”
Ted let his hand drop from Dean’s wrist, looked puzzled, but agreed, “Okay...”
As they moved away, she saw Sam kneel beside Dean, lay a hand on his brother’s shoulder and ask, “You sure you’re okay? You look like death, man.”
Dean was nodding, trying to gently brush off Sam’s concern as if he weren’t obviously pale and haggard even in the spotty lighting. She almost changed her mind right there…but then he caught her eyes again and the look he gave her fortified her resolve to keep her promise. Facing her friend, she lowered her voice, hands working in front of her, “You trust me, right?”
Ted cocked his head, brow wrinkled in confusion, “Yeah, of course. What’s going on?”
Lori bit her lip, considered what she should say. “These people are friends of mine. Dean, the patient,” she gestured behind her, “is refusing medical attention…but he’s got some burns that need to be treated…the only way he’d agree is if I looked at them—no doctors, no admittance to the hospital.”
“Lori—” Ted began.
“No, I know. I know, but I promised…and I think if we push it, he’ll just refuse medical attention anyway.”
Ted looked over her shoulder at the group behind them. Rubbing a hand over the back of his neck, he said, “I don’t know, Lori. He looks pretty rough.”
She shook her head. “What are we going to do, then? He needs help, but he won’t listen. He asked for an AMA when I tried push it.”
Ted looked down, propped his hands on his hips, shaking his head as he studied the tips of his shoes. He rubbed a finger along his lower lip, then nodded. “Why don’t we just get him in a room and I’ll take a look without officially admitting him. He’ll be able to go home tonight—there’ll be no paperwork or anything. That way, everybody wins.”
Searching his face, she whispered, “You’d do that for me?”
“Well, yeah.” He smiled at her. “Look, Lori, you’re good at what you do and you care. You are meant to be a doctor. I don’t want to see you do anything that would slow that down or keep it from happening.”
Lori felt a curl of guilt twist her stomach. “What about you?”
He laughed. “What about me? I’m just doing my job—minus pay.” At her hesitation, he continued, “Look, no one—and I do mean no one—is going to miss the paperwork that never existed. We’ll have him sign something, just in case. It’ll be fine.”
Reluctantly, she nodded. Truth be told, she was relieved that it was out of her hands. “Okay.”
Ted placed his hands on her shoulders, gave her a gentle turn. “Now, let’s get our patient inside. You can prep me on the way.”
As they approached, Sam stood, asking, “What’s going on? Is my brother okay?”
Ted stuck out a hand, “Hi—” he left the long pause for Sam to fill in.
“Sam, name’s Sam.”
“Okay, Sam. We’re going to take a look at…Dean, right?” Sam nodded and he continued, “I’m, Ted, by the way.”
Lori tuned them out as she crouched in front of Dean, laying a hand on his knee. “Dean, I know I promised no doctors, but Ted’s a friend and he’s—”
Dean shook his head, “No—”
“—wait, just listen. He’s not going to admit you unless he really thinks you need it. This is strictly off the books. No paperwork, no staying overnight.”
“He’s not going to admit me, period. Don’t you need my permission?” She nodded. “Well, I’m not giving it.”
She clenched her jaw against all the protests building in her throat. Taking a deep breath to steady her voice, she whispered, “Why are you being so stubborn? When I found you earlier, your heart rate was far too low—Dean, you stopped breathing for a minute, you obviously need medical attention.”
“You promised,” he hissed.
Closing her eyes, she sighed and lowered her voice even further, darting her eyes at Sam and Ted a few feet away. “Yes, I did. Against my better judgment. And, so long as Ted thinks you’re okay, I won’t tell Sam any different. But you’d better not make me regret this.”
Dean’s eyes flickered to Sam coming up behind her. For a split second, she saw the emotion twist his face, saw him swallow, her words sinking in.
“Hey,” Sam started, “time to get you looked at. Think you can walk?”
“I have legs, don’t I?” Dean’s voice held unwavering resolve despite what she’d just witnessed in his expression.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Sam rolled his eyes. “C’mon, let’s get you inside.” Sam held out his hand, helping Dean get to his feet. Dean wobbled on the first step, but with Sam’s support, he stayed upright.
Watching them, Lori had second thoughts. Sam obviously loved Dean, she could see it in the careful way he handled him, in the way he took his time to keep Dean steady without being too obvious about it. It was written in the set of his mouth and the look in his eyes. She could see he was worried about his brother. Lori knew if the tables were turned, she’d want to know the full extent of her sibling’s condition.
Then there was Dean. She knew something was going on with him, something in her gut was uneasy. But the way he was now…steady and strong for his brother, so confident… It was so important to him not to cause Sam more worry. And maybe she’d been mistaken about before…he seemed a lot better than her initial assessment. Keeping her promise, she swallowed her doubts and followed the group inside.
It didn’t take Ted long to find an empty room. Rebecca left to find out what she could on Aaron, so now it was just the four of them in the small, basic room.
Lori helped Ted assemble everything they needed on a tray. Turning to her, Ted said, “I’m gonna go get the Silvadene…you’ll be okay on your own for a minute?”
“Sure, sure. Go ahead. I’ll get him prepped.”
“Okay. Back in a sec.”
As Ted pulled the door half-shut, she turned to Dean. “Go ahead and take off your coat and long-sleeved shirt so we can see how far the burns go up.”
Dean froze, looking down. When he looked back up, his face was set with reluctance though he smirked. “If you wanted to get me out of my clothes, you might’ve picked a more private place. Sammy’s not really a group sex kinda guy.”
“Dean!” Sam hissed, throwing Lori an apologetic glance.
She just smiled; this was a game she knew well having brothers of her own. Holding up her hands, she started to back toward the door. “Hey, fine. You don’t want to take your clothes off for us, maybe a doc—”
“Wait.” Dean looked like he was being force-fed something dreadful. “Fine, whatever.” Slow and easy, he shrugged out of his coat and over shirt, being careful to protect his burned skin as much as possible. Underneath it all, he wore a worn, gray t-shirt that damply clung to his well-muscled body. No doubt about it, it was a very provocative sight.
Lori fought to maintain her professionalism and suppressed a slow-rising blush that had nothing to do with embarrassment. So, okay, it wasn’t like she was blind. Surely no one would fault her for taking a second to notice how gorgeous the man was.
Beside her, she heard Sam whisper, “God, Dean,” and that was all it took to pull her back into the seriousness of the situation. Burns covered most of Dean’s arms, disappearing underneath his t-shirt. But the burns seemed faded, stretched in weird patches that made them look days old. Most of it was light, no worse than a sunburn and not particularly worrying. His hands were the worst, second degree—but even they were better than what she’d witnessed in the car. How could that be?
But any burn, even a minor one, was painful and concerning when covering this much skin area. Risks included loss of body fluids, swelling and even shock, and Dean’s hands were swollen to the wrists already. She cleared her throat. “I guess we’re gonna need that t-shirt off too.”
Dean rolled his eyes, but complied, reaching an arm to grab the back of his shirt collar and draw it over his head—still trying to be careful of the blistering around his knuckles and fingers. Halfway through the action, his face crumpled and he hissed.
“Hold on, let me...” Then Sam was there, easing the shirt over his head. More burned skin was revealed, but it was little more than a blushing of skin. Most of his upper chest and shoulders looked like he’d stepped from a warm shower, nothing more.
“Well, okay, that doesn’t look too bad…but I’m going to start an IV to make sure you aren’t dehydrated. You don’t have a problem with needles do you?” she asked.
“You’re kidding, right?” Dean’s eyebrows rose as if that were the most ridiculous statement ever made. “Do I look like the kind of guy who would pass out at the first sign of a needle?
“You never know. You just never know.” She smiled back, secretly thinking of all the men she’d help pick up off the floor or peel off the ceiling. Working on his IV, she asked, “How did this happen? I didn’t smell any smoke or see any signs of a fire.”
“Uh,” Dean began.
Sam cleared his throat, and arched his eyebrows—instantly interested. When his brother didn’t automatically answer, he prompted, “Dean…?”
“Well,” Dean stammered awkwardly, “It’s kinda a long story.”
“Well,” she looked up curiously, but kept working, “I’ve got time.”
Dean lifted one shoulder part way. “Um, see, I’ve been having vis…uh, dreams about Jessica.”
This stopped her and she straightened, more questions immediately forming. “Dreams? Or…visions?” She asked cautiously.
The brothers looked at each other. “Both?” Dean answered.
“But, I thought Sam…” she trailed off.
“Well, yeah. Yeah, Sam does…but this is… different.”
“Different?” she repeated.
“Well, see, Sam has visions of the future…not the same thing. I’m able to communicate with…spirits and things, but no future. I’m kinda like a shortwave radio picking up on supernatural signals.”
“I see.” She answered. “Were you born with this…ability?”
“Uh…no. I kinda had this near death experience a few months back—seems this was the courtesy parting gift.” He chuckled a little; though she was sure he found nothing funny about it whatsoever.
“Oh.” Nodding, she said, “Yeah, well, makes sense.”
“It does?” Both brothers said, obviously not expecting this response.
“Well, yeah. Ever since all this began, and Becky told me about the two of you, I’ve been doing some research. I’m kinda fascinated by it all.” She rolled her shoulders. “And what you’re saying goes along with what I’ve read.”
“Huh.” Dean looked at Sam and shrugged.
“But,” She said, “what does that have to do with your burns?”
Dean’s eyes shot nervously to Sam’s then slowly shifted to hers. His lips pursed thoughtfully as he began, “I’m not entirely sure. This is the first time anything like this has happened.” His eyes darted to Sam again and then fell away. “I think it’s residuals from experiencing what Je—the spirit was experiencing.”
Sam choked and his face paled—he looked away and said nothing.
Lori’s heart jerked awkwardly in her chest. “You mean, you’re saying that-that…you experienced,” her eyes darted to Sam and then back to Dean, “her death?”
Not looking up, Dean nodded. “Yeah. I think the vision was so strong, it manifested physically.”
“God,” she whispered, not daring to seek Sam out this time.
So quiet, she barely caught it, Dean whispered, “Sorry, Sammy.”
In her peripheral vision, she saw Sam nod once, stuffing his hands in his pockets, head hanging to allow a veil of hair to hide his face in shadow. The tension in the room was suffocating. Lori decided it was time for some immediate subject changing.
“Okay, Dean,” she began sharply, “I’m going to have to clean the burns on your hands with medical soap. They have some blistering, and it is essential we keep them clean to prevent infection and scarring. It’s not going to be pleasant by any means…”
“Yeah, I figured as much,” he muttered with a put upon tone. His face, however, said he was utterly grateful for the change in subject. That having his raw flesh scrubbed clean would be a relief compared to hurting Sam with the truth.
“Before I do that, though, is there anything else you need to tell me? Any burns anywhere else? Any other injuries?”
He shook his head immediately. “No. That’s it.”
She turned to Sam. “This is going to hurt. It might be unpleasant for you to watch. Do you want to stay in here or would you rather wait outside until we’re done?”
Sam shook his head. “I’m staying.”
“All right, let’s get started then.”
It didn’t take long to figure out Dean had an unusually high tolerance of pain—maybe was used to worse things…which caused a shudder to run through Lori’s veins. Even Ted, who got back in time to help with the other hand, seemed impressed. Dean took the cleaning really well, far better than she’d expected, and since they didn’t have to stop to let him catch his breath every so often, it was over fairly quickly. Throughout the process, Dean kept prodding Sam to go check on Aaron, but Sam refused to leave Dean’s side despite the growing conflict warring across his face.
When the worst was over, Lori grabbed rolls of gauze and tape, and handed them over to Ted. She said, “Hey, Sam. While we finish this up, why don’t you go see how Aaron’s doing for me?”
Sam hesitated. “I don’t—”
“Sam.” Dean rolled his eyes again, disgust making his features comical. “I’m fine, dude. Go check on your friends.”
“You sure—” he began, but swallowed the rest at one look from Dean. “Okay. I’ll be right back.”
Dean smirked at his brother, “Not going anywhere.”
As soon as Sam left the room, Dean sighed and relaxed completely into the bed. He leaned his head into the pillows, closed his eyes and seemed to mentally separate himself from them and everything around him. Lori spared a glance at Ted who looked back with raised eyebrows.
“You okay, Dean?” Ted asked.
“Just super,” came the response. The heavy drag in his voice contradicted his words and caused yet another exchange of glances between Lori and Ted.
Ted hesitated mid-wrap. Lori knew he had something to say, but maybe didn’t want to overstep with one of her friends. When they finished, she caught his eye and inclined her head toward Dean, widened her eyes pointedly, giving Ted encouragement to say what was on his mind. Smoothing the last piece of tape over the gauze, she gathered their supplies and turned to put them away while Ted checked Dean’s heart rate and blood pressure one last time.
When Ted was finished, he cleared his throat and said, “Look, I know you probably don’t want a lecture and it’s probably not my business to give one, but I feel like it needs to be said.”
Dean scowled, but his eyes popped open to indicate he was listening.
“Right now, your vitals seem mildly concerning, but stable. Blood pressure is a little low, but not alarmingly so…”
Dean nodded impatiently, “And?”
Ted paused a second, then emphasized, “To be honest, you don’t look so great. Your body seems stressed…and I’m not entirely convinced it’s just the burns. But, without admittance and testing, I can’t be sure. Just, please, whatever’s going on, don’t let it go too long without getting yourself checked out and definitely don’t let infection set up in these burns.
It is very important that you take care of them, keep them clean and dry—take all the antibiotics I’m going to prescribe. If you have any problems with dizziness, confusion, chilling, fever, cold sweats—those kinds of things—get yourself to the emergency room as quickly as possible.”
Dean inclined his head. “I appreciate the concern, really, but I’m fine. Just a little tired, is all.” Dean lifted his hands and squeezed them open and shut. “They already feel a lot better.”
“Just be sure—” Ted began.
“Thanks for patching me up, doc,” Dean interrupted. “Am I good to go?”
Blowing out a breath, Ted replied, “As soon as your IV bag is empty, you’re free to go. I can’t keep you here. Feel welcome to make use of the bed until your brother’s ready. I’ll be back with your script for the antibiotics and pain meds.”
Coming back to Dean’s bedside, Lori watched him fiddle with the t-shirt in his lap, a look of longing on his face. “Would you be more comfortable dressed?”
He shivered. “It’s a little cold in here. Why are hospitals always so cold?”
She nodded, “I’m not surprised you feel cool. Your low blood pressure probably isn’t helping. It’s no problem to disconnect your IV from the port long enough for you to put your clothes on.” Eyeing his pronounced gooseflesh, she added, “I’ll bring in some warmed blankets too.”
Dean gave her a lop-sided grin, “That’d be great. Thanks.”
She unhooked the IV from its port and picked up his shirt. “Want some help?”
“Definitely,” Dean affirmed, waving his mummified hands in front of himself.
Once he was dressed, she reconnected his IV, pushed in some pain medication and bundled him into two blankets fresh from the warmer. Unsurprisingly, he was asleep within minutes. Lori watched as he sunk deeper into unconsciousness, body stilling and breath evening out. One hand had managed to avoid the cocoon of warmth and rested on his stomach—stark white against the pale blue cover.
As the minutes sluggishly ticked away, she watched over him, letting her mind begin to wander. Ted had long come and gone, delivering Dean’s scripts and a detailed patient care list before disappearing again. Nothing else to do, she relaxed into the cold, vinyl chair left for patients’ family and let her mind rummage through the night’s events.
What interesting men these Winchesters are, she thought to herself. Watching the subtle play between Dean and Sam earlier had been fascinating. Never had she met two men, two brothers, more bonded and attuned to each other. Being a people watcher, Lori had spent her life quietly observing those around her. She had seen brothers close as could be and brothers who couldn’t stand to be in the same room together. But these two...
It was like they were two parts of a well choreographed dance. Constantly, they shifted, changed and adjusted to unspoken messages being telegraphed between them. It was the first thing she’d noticed about them. It hadn’t taken long, though, to see that something troubling was going on with Dean and that Sam ping-ponged between being unaware of things that should be obvious and outright blatant concern.
Maybe it was because Sam, too, was stressed and struggling—being here, being back at this place was obviously difficult for him…or maybe Dean was just that good at counter measures. It was hard to tell in just the few moments she’d spent with them. Most likely both. But she’d noticed that Sam seemed to alternate between being protective of Dean’s physical health and, yet, a little blind to his brother’s emotional state. But, then, wasn’t that the way it often went with men? Always so quick to focus on—
“How’s he doing?” Sam’s gentle voice made her start.
Jerking around in surprise, she smiled, then stood. “He’s okay. Stubborn, anxious to get out of here, but okay. How are the others?”
Sam spared her a quick glance then set about studying his brother with sharp eyes, moving to the head of the bed. “Well, looks like Aaron’s arm has a partial break, he has a mild concussion and some bruised ribs. His doctor says he’ll be fine, but they’re keeping him overnight. Becky’s sitting with him. Thought maybe they could use some privacy, so Chris went for coffee and I came here.”
“Yeah, Bec was pretty uptight on the way over,” she agreed. “I’ve wanted to check on them, but I figured you wouldn’t want Dean to be alone.”
Sam looked at her, an odd expression making his eyes shine. “I appreciate that. Thanks.”
“Not a problem. Got some brothers and sisters of my own, had lots of practice on the worrying front.”
She watched as Sam’s hand hovered and skimmed over Dean’s shoulder, finally coming to rest on the pillow instead. Long fingers tentatively pressed against the short hairs behind Dean’s ear—a press and nothing more. Feeling awkward in the silence, she asked, “Did you know they were together? Becky and Aaron.”
Sam smiled slyly. “No, but I’m not surprised. Aaron’s had a thing for Becky for a long time now. He was just too shy to show it. I’m glad, though. They deserve to be happy.”
Hearing the unspoken sadness, she heard herself murmur, “Yeah, well, so do you. And, Dean, too.”
Sam’s head jerked around. “What?”
Blood rushed to her cheeks, definitely embarrassment this time. “Sorry. Just thinking out loud.” When he continued to stare back at her, she elaborated, “Well, it’s just, this kind of life, it can’t be easy. No permanent home, no daily support system of family and friends…it has to be hard—lonely—doing what you do. Plus, I saw Dean’s scars, Sam. I know that probably comes with the job description.”
Sam nodded and huffed, “It’s just…odd having people around that know about us.”
“Yeah, I’m sure.” She laughed quietly.
“Hey, don’t mean to interrupt…I brought coffee,” Chris called from the doorway.
They both turned, shushing him in unison.
“Sor-ry,” he complained quietly, moving into the room. “I didn’t know this was a library.”
Rolling her eyes, Lori asked, “No coffee for me?”
Chris just shrugged, passed Sam the off-white cup brimming to the rim. “I wasn’t sure where you’d be.”
Inhaling the coffee, Sam closed his eyes and sighed. “Thanks.”
“Sure thing, dude.” Gesturing with his own cup, Chris asked, “So, what’s the problem? Shouldn’t he be—I don’t know, doing whatever it is he does to fix things?”
“What’s wrong with you?” Lori blurted. “Why do you have to be so rude?”
Chris held his hands out to the sides. “What? It’s not like he’s got a concussion or broken bones like Aaron.”
“No,” Lori growled, aware of Sam’s eyes weighing on her, “he’s just got burns on his hands, arms, chest and face. Do you have any idea how serious burns can be?”
“Wait, I thought you said he’s okay.” Sam’s eyes narrowed.
“Well, yeah, he is.” And she hoped it wasn’t a lie. “I said, ‘could be.’ The burns on his arms and chest are more like sunburn.” She hesitated, not sure how much she should elaborate. “It’s really kinda weird. The ones on his hands were the worst, but even they seem much better then when I checked them in the car—the ones on his chest look a few days old already.”
“So, what are you saying?” Sam’s brow furrowed.
Lori sighed, then threw her hands out. “Honestly, I don’t know what I’m saying—but I get the feeling that Dean’s burns were much, much worse when he first got here than they are now.”
Three sets of eyes swiveled to find the man in question looking back at them.
“Hey, you’re awake,” Sam said softly.
“Yeah, well, who could sleep with the three of you yammering at each other like a bunch of monkeys?” Dean threw off the blankets and pushed himself up.
Sam pressed on his shoulder. “Take it easy.”
“Dude, I’m good,” Dean resisted, swinging his legs to the floor. “See that?” He pointed at the empty IV bag. “That means I’m ready to get out of here.” He went to stand, but sat heavily down on the edge of the bed again, one hand to his forehead. “Whoa, head rush.”
“Man, don’t be an idiot!” Sam bit out, one hand pressing on the top of Dean’s shoulder with more force this time. Steadying him or holding him in place, maybe both, it would be hard to say.
“See, even Sam agrees—oof!” A quick jab to the side shut Chris up. Lori just glared back when Chris shot daggers her way.
“Maybe you should try to take it easy, Dean,” Sam said, putting steely emphasis on Dean’s name, completely ignoring the others.
“I’m fine, Sam. Just got up too fast.”
And there it was. Lori suddenly felt like she was eavesdropping on something personal, that there was so much more being communicated between these two than what it seemed.
Sam was giving Dean a mulish look that said he didn’t believe Dean for one minute. For effect, he rocked back onto his heels and crossed his arms over his chest.
Dean, meanwhile, rolled his eyes. “Oh, for the love of… C’mon, Sam. I just need to sleep—and I can do that at the motel as well as I can here.” Dean shook his head when Sam remained unmoved. “Please don’t give me that look.”
“Lori, what do you think? Is Dean fine?” Sam drawled out.
Lori blinked. He was bringing her into this? Her stomach flipped as she struggled to come up with an answer that would betray no one. “Well,” she hedged. “I’m not sure I’d call him fine, exactly, but Ted did say he could leave as soon as the drip was finished. I’ve got his scripts here and Ted wrote home care instructions down in detail.”
Dean smirked in triumph, but Sam ignored him, zeroing in on the patient care sheet instead. He plucked it from the bedside tray and studied it with a line of concentration marring his forehead. Lifting his eyes, he said, “All right. We’ll go…on one condition. You follow these instructions to the letter and take all your meds like a good boy.”
Chris snorted, then tried to cover it with a cough.
Waving a hand at Sam, Dean said, “Sure, sure, whatever will get me out of here.” He moved to stand, but, once again, Sam’s hand fell to his shoulder and pressed him back down to the bed.
“And, I’d like to say goodbye to Aaron and Becky before we leave.”
“Okay,” Dean nodded and his voice softened. “How is he, anyway?”
Sam worried the paper in his hand. “Got a mild concussion and a broken arm, some bruised ribs—but the doctors are planning on releasing him late tomorrow if everything goes well. He’ll be fine.”
“No thanks to you,” Chris grumbled sourly.
“Dude—” Sam began, a real flare of something in his eyes.
“No, he’s right.” Dean tugged on the edge of Sam’s shirt. “I should’ve been watching him better.”
“No, damn it. He got hurt because I got distracted.” Dean looked up at Sam again. Something passed between them, more of that non-verbal communication that made Lori’s insides inexplicably squirm and her heart squeeze for these men she barely knew.
“Look, we’ll talk about it later,” she heard Sam say. “Just—you stay here. I won’t be long.”
Making shooing motions with his hand, Dean nodded. “Dude, I’m not five. Go already.”
Sam scoffed a little at that, but smiled broadly. Giving Dean a final pat where his hand had been resting on his shoulder, he turned to Lori. “Want to come with?”
“Yes, absolutely.” She handed Sam the scripts. “Here, you’ll need to get these filled.” Then, turning back to Dean, she said, “You listen to your brother and take care of yourself.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dean groused.
Piercing Chris with a fierce look, she asked, “You coming?”
Chris sprawled lazily in the chair Lori had occupied only minutes before, looking rather smug and unbearable. “In just a second.”
Lori paused. “Chris,” she warned. She knew that boy only too well. Well enough to know when he had an agenda. Sam turned to watch Chris, curiosity and confusion plainly written on his face.
“I’ll be nice. I promise,” he said, crossing his heart with his finger.
Lori pressed her lips shut, not sure what was going on exactly, but also knowing it really wasn’t her place to intrude, either. Just as she and Sam neared the threshold, she heard Dean say, “Lori. Thanks. For everything.”
She turned back and smiled at him. “Anytime.”
“Careful,” Dean rumbled, “I might take you up on that offer.”
“Promise?” she teased.
“Oh, gawd.” Sam exaggerated an eye roll. “Let’s go.” He grabbed Lori by the arm and propelled her out the door.
The look that passed between Chris and Dean as she went tickled her intuition and she hesitated, but Sam was already pulling her down the hallway. Clearly, he mistook her hesitation for reluctance of another kind. Blushing a little at the thought, she let him drag her along, letting out a long sigh of resignation.
As always, big shout out of thanks to Sodakey for steadfastly standing by me and keeping me going o
Lastly, before anyone begins to read this chapter, I want to let you know there is NO planned romance between Dean and Lori. I know some of you were worried about that…and I admit, at first that’s where I wanted to go with it…but since people felt so strongly against it, I’ve dropped that part of the story. They will be friends and nothing more. At least, not at this time, in this story. We will be back to the boys' POV next chapter!
n this. For inquiring about it and for looking it over and making it better. She may never ready this note, but I hope she knows how grateful I am for her help and her interest.
Thanks also to Tidia for MAKING time in her busy new schedule for some added corrections. You really didn’t have to, but I’m glad you did.
I always look forward to reading your comments, but, above all, I hope you enjoy it.