He moves as slowly and carefully as possible and gets the cup from the nightstand, takes a cautious sip, then grimaces at the all too familiar bitter taste. Bobby’s coffee then. Great. He pulls a face but takes another nip, mourning their non-existent sugar/milk supply for the appropriate amount of time, before he slowly shuffles—approaches the next room.
Sam is sitting on the bed, long legs over the edge of it and feet on the floor. He is swaying slightly and Dean can see how difficult it is for him to remain upright and sitting: Sam’s face is tense, lips pressed together in a small line. Yanni is standing in front of him and Sam’s hands are resting on the kid’s shoulders and this support seems to be the only thing that is keeping the unsteady hunter from toppling off the bed. Bobby is half-kneeling, half-crouching at Sam’s side, talking softly while he carefully wraps bandages around Sam’s ribs to stabilize them.
Nox is kneeling on the bed, behind Sam, both of his hands resting on the young hunter’s neck. His eyes are closed in concentration and for a moment Dean wonders what he is doing. Then his position and Sam’s more or less relaxed expression suddenly make sense and he knows the Scot is using his famous ‘Jedi-emergency-grip’. It’s Nox’ unique term for one of the most useful psychic powers Dean has ever witnessed, with nothing but a touch and concentration on his part the young man is able to block whatever pain his target is suffering. It doesn’t heal anything, the power doesn’t stop bleedings or reset bones but it enables you to get up and get moving if you are injured during a fight and it has saved their asses more than once already.
Dean has been on the receiving end of it once, when he dislocated (broke) his shoulder a few days ago, it had been the only way to get him to the car without him passing out from the pain. He remembers bone-deep warmth enveloping his shoulder, how it had driven the pain completely away and he is pretty sure he promised Nox his first-born to make sure the psychic would be helping him during the drive to their hideout.
Something moves in his line of sight and pulls him out of his memories, back toward his brother. Sam’s shirt is lying in a dirty heap on the floor, giving Dean a clear view of his battered torso: colorful bruises decorate the greater part of the exposed skin, concentrating on his right side, just below his ribs. His face is pale, drawn, cheeks flushed with a fever Dean can almost feel from where he is standing outside the room. And still his eyes are awake and clear, no doubt thanks to the psychic behind him and whatever magic Nox is channeling into his body.
And then Sam looks up and their eyes meet.
For a moment neither speaks or moves, they just stare at each other. Dean knows his brother had been drugged and half-asleep last night while they were talking and he suspects that this is the first time since they got him away from the demons that Sam realizes it’s really him.
“Dean…” Sam’s voice is still barely there and he looks like he doesn’t believe his eyes. Dean fights to keep the smile on his lips and he walks into the room, getting closer to the bed.
“About time you woke up…” he grins, watching how his brother takes in the sling that holds his right arm and a worried frown appears on Sam’s brow.
Dean looks down at the sling, then back at his brother, nodding slightly. “I’m fine, Sam.”
Something flickers in Sam’s eyes and he pulls back slightly, which, in turn, has Dean take a step forward—
—right into an impressive upper cut that hits him on his jaw and whips his head to the side. It happens so fast and there is such force behind the punch that it knocks him off his feet and he crumbles to the ground with a shocked grunt.
A pained groan from above cuts him off and Dean blinks up in time to see his brother topple off the bed and crash down to the floor next to him.
There is a moment of stunned silence and nobody moves, then Nox’ face peers down at them over the corner of the bed while Sam chokes out a strained wheezing sound before he curls around his middle, his eyes squeezing shut in pain. Dean is too dazed to react at all and even Bobby seems unsure of what to do for a moment, but then Sam moves his head and Dean is suddenly faced with his brother’s pained eyes.
“You left me behind, you son of a bitch,” Sam huffs breathlessly, but his voice is still strong enough to carry enough accusation and hurt to stop whatever angry words want to break out of Dean.
“I thought you were dead, I thought they put a bullet through your brain for helping us, helping psychics, Dean!”
His voice rises slightly and there is more, Dean can see that his brother isn’t finished by far, but Sam is running out of air and suddenly he is choking for breath, head falling to the floor as he curls in on himself and starts panting.
The breathless, but still heartfelt curse finally breaks the spell of the moment and suddenly there is movement around them; Nox appears next to Dean, kneels beside Sam and puts his hand on the young man’s heaving back. The Scot grumbles something under his breath and shoots an annoyed glare at Dean, then closes his eyes in concentration. Then Bobby is there and Dean flinches slightly when his good arm is pulled over the other hunter’s shoulder and he is dragged to his feet.
“Give ‘em some room…”
As soon as he is upright the room tilts sideways and he thinks that maybe he blacks out for a moment because when Bobby’s head is no longer a dark shape obscuring one half of his vision he finds himself sitting down on the chair next to the bed.
Bobby is already moving back to where Nox and Yanni are kneeling next to Sam and Dean manages to focus on the healer in time to see him nod slightly.
“As long as he disna move he’ll be fine.” Nox moves his hands and squeezes Sam’s shoulder. “Pretty dumb move, mate, almost cracked yer ribs for good this time.”
Sam slowly relaxes beneath him, no longer panting or wheezing in air, and after a moment he forces his eyes open, blinking a few times before looking up at Dean, a familiar stubborn glint flashing through the tired gaze, followed by something else.
“Was still worth it…”
It’s an apology, Winchester style, asking if the other is okay without actually saying the words. The appropriate answer is a glare followed by a frequently used brotherly insult. It takes Dean a moment to come up with the right words.
“We’re good now, jackass?”
Sam is still scowling at him from his position on the floor and although the punch is no longer an issue between them Dean knows his brother is still pissed as hell at him for leaving him behind. And, knowing him, they will talk about it at some point in the near future, but this is neither the time nor the place, much less the audience to do it. Sam seems to agree with him and he nods slowly.
“Yeah, we’re good.”
“You idjits finished now?”
Bobby’s growl finally puts an end to it and Dean watches how he and Yanni slowly get his brother up from the floor and back on the bed. Nox’ magic seems to help a lot and still Dean sees all too clearly how Sam sways between them and squeezes his eyes shut, throat working as he obviously fights against the vertigo. They steady him until he is able to open his eyes again and Sam gives Bobby an apologetic grin.
Bobby waves him off, picks up one of the bandages and goes to work on the dressings around Sam’s chest that have come loose after his spectacular dive to the floor. Sam’s eyes find Dean’s and they stare at each other, then Sam looks down at Bobby.
“So, about those scavengers you were talking about… what are they?”
Bobby grumbles something under his breath, then straightens a little. “Demons. Small groups of demons who search the city for psychics.”
“Nasty sons of bitches, always show up where ye don’t want ‘em to be,” Nox growls from behind Sam’s back and his hands tighten on his charge’s neck for a moment. He follows his words with what sounds like a Scottish curse which no one of them understands, then grins at Bobby. “Go on.”
“Most of the times there are groups of four or five and some of them have what we call a tracker.” Bobby stops for a moment, looks up at Sam, expression serious. “Vampires.”
Sam blinks. “Vampires? Working together with demons?”
He sounds incredulous and Dean can relate, he couldn’t believe it either when he first heard about it.
Bobby nods. “We don’t know what exactly they get out of the deal but the demons use them to hunt down psychics. Once they get your smell vampires will always be able to find you if you don’t cover your tracks—”
Yanni makes a soft noise at that point and Bobby breaks off, turns to the youth next to him and reaches up to squeeze his neck softly. “You’re safe now, they won’t find you here, kid…”
His voice is soft in a way Dean has only heard him use if he talks the boy out of one of his panic attacks and when he looks over at the teen he finds him trembling slightly under Bobby’s touch.
Considering what Bobby told him about how they had found the kid a few weeks before Dean had showed up he can’t blame him. The older hunter had not given him many details about that incident but what he did tell him had been enough. When they had found him it was only Nox’ magic that had kept him barely alive for over two days, the teen had almost bled dry from the dozens of bite-wounds they had found on him.
Yanni relaxes under Bobby’s touch and smiles shyly at him, then squares his shoulders as if to brush off the memories.
“That certainly explains the smell…” Sam’s voice is soft and Bobby looks back at him, eyebrows raised in question.
Sam manages a small grin. “This house doesn’t exactly smell like roses, you know?”
He is right, Dean is so used to the smell that he doesn’t realize it most of the times. It stinks.
Yanni chuckles softly and Bobby snorts at that, nodding at him. “We use different incenses to keep them off our trail and the most powerful ones usually don’t smell that good. Beats being dead, though.”
There is a short silence, then Sam starts shifting nervously on the bed, looking anywhere but at Bobby.
“You found out what they want the psychics for?”
Sam sounds anxious, almost afraid, and Dean wishes for a moment they could spare him the truth, his brother has been through enough already, he really doesn’t need another thing to worry about.
Bobby seems to agree, he flashes Dean a look that tells him the older hunter would rather not talk about it but they don’t have this luxury anymore, Sam needs to know.
“They need their powers, some of them are strong enough to control psychics, not by possessing them but by mind-controlling them. I don’t know how they do it, I’ve never seen it myself, but from what I’ve heard they make them do whatever they want. The strongest I’ve heard of are capable of controlling four or five psychics at once which makes them extremely dangerous.”
Nox sounds thoughtful and doesn’t elaborate, seems to concentrate on healing. He gets that way sometimes, throwing bits and pieces of his thoughts into a conversation without telling them what they mean, as if he isn’t really aware he is thinking out loud. Which, considering his usually rather scatterbrained nature, may be entirely true and most of the time they simply ignore him. Sam is not used to it yet and he shifts slightly, tries to look behind him.
Nox blinks and meets his gaze, then grins. “Just like in Episode I, ye ken? The commando ships that were controlling the androids on the planets, destroy them and yer androids are no longer under control.” His grin gets even wider, more cheerful. “We’re all just some mindless androids tae them, that’s kind of funny!”
Dean fails to see the joke in his words and judging by the confused frown Bobby doesn’t see it either. Yanni is the only one who chuckles softly and makes a quick, one-handed sign near Sam’s shoulder. It’s too fast for Dean to read but the Scot seems to catch it and throws a mock glare at the kid.
“Watch yer mouth, laddie!"
“Anyway,” Bobby goes on, ignoring the two of them, “we have some people out there to keep in touch with the locals and if what they heard is true then there’s a troop heading our way, we don’t know if they know we’re here, or even if it is true, but we didn’t make it so far by ignoring rumors.”
Sam nods slightly, looks around the room. “So this here… this house, you… it’s like a sanctuary? For psychics?”
Bobby huffs softly, finishing the bandages. “Yeah, you could say that, we help them get out of the city so the demons won’t find them.”
“Then why don’t you leave, An—Nox?”
There is a moment of silence, then the Scot answers in a soft voice, “Figured I had some debt tae repay, Bobby saved my ass, if it wasn’t for him I’d be part of the Empire by now, healers are wanted personnel, ye ken?” He chuckles softly. “Sometimes it just sucks to be one with the Force, gets you into more trouble than it’s worth…”
Bobby grins at him over Sam’s shoulder. “Don’t talk like that, you’re one of the few reasons we’re still here.”
Nox rolls his eyes at that, but Dean sees the smile he tries to hide.
“So who’s we?” Sam asks after a moment, looking over at Dean. “You’re a part of this?”
Dean feels his lips turn into a teasing smile.
“Couldn’t leave the old man on his own now, could I? You know most of them, Bobby, Yanni, Nox, me. Then there’s Maro, he’s always out on the streets keeping his ears open and getting information with his overdeveloped people-skills.”
Sam raises an eyebrow when everybody but him snorts in amusement. Dean grins at him.
“He’s kind of like you but without the puppy dog eyes and the emo crap. You’ll know when you meet him.”
“That’s it? Five against the rest of them? Against billions?” Sam seems so surprised by it that Dean cannot help but grin at him.
“Come on, Sammy, before that it was the two of us against the rest of the world, I’d say we’re getting better.”
Sam looks over at him and there’s something weird in his eyes for a moment, but then it’s gone and he grins slightly.
“Guess you’re right about that... So where are we going? You got another safe-house?”
Bobby helps Sam shrug into an almost clean shirt before they get him to lay back down on the mattress. It’s obvious that dressing his ribs, even with the help of Nox, took a lot out of him and Dean can see his eyes slowly flutter closed.
“We have to leave in about half an hour, don’t get too comfortable,” Bobby tells him and Sam nods in response, though Dean isn’t sure he really understands him, he seems on the verge of nodding off.
And once again Dean can’t help but think how much this sucks; Sam should not be moving so soon, he should be resting for at least a week so his ribs can heal. But they don’t have time for that; if they stay in this place they’re dead, it’s as simple as that.
They leave the room quietly and while Bobby and the boys go through the empty rooms to make sure they won’t forget anything, Dean stays in the open door to Sam’s room, watching his sleeping brother thoughtfully.
They are not out of the woods, yet, they will probably never be really safe again. This world, this city is no place for a psychic, hell, it’s not a place for any human, they are nothing more than possible meat-suits for the demons. And Sam and all the other psychics with their goddamned powers… they will be forever hunted and always just one step away from being taken over and used, but still…
Dean feels happy, right now, he feels stronger than he’s felt in months. This is where he wants to be, this is where he belongs, no matter what their future might bring. The Winchester brothers are back together again and that’s all that counts, that’s what his life will always be about.
And crazy as it might be, he’s okay with that.
A/N: Yes, I know, not a nice place to end this. But it is done, it was always supposed to end here. I do have one or two ideas for other scenes in this setting, but it's highly unlikely that I will come back to this story. Still, it was fun while it lasted and this is officially the first multi-chaptered story I've ever written and completed and I'm a little proud of that... :)
Dedicated to ko-chan, may the force be with you! ;)