Title: A New Life
Author: Dhvana
Series: 1) The Monster Under the Bed, 2) A Little Help From Bob, 3) The Temptation of Dean, 4) Questions Without Answers, 5) Don't Lose Your Head, 6) Retribution and Remorse, 7) The Return of an Old Fiend, 8) Undulating Dynamics, 9) Personal Weirdness, 10) On the Road Again, 11) Doubletalk, 12) The Golden Agenda, 13) The Rescue of Dean, 14) Alone, 15) A Learning Experience
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Sam/Dean, but the Wincest is implied and unrequited (so far)
Summary: Dean wakes up.

***

When Dean woke up, he was alone. His eyes searched the sparse white room hoping to see his brother, but no matter where he looked, Sam was nowhere to be found.

For several minutes, he just lay there, staring up at the ceiling and trying to understand what was going on. He was in the hospital. Sam wasn't there. He didn't feel any pain, but he was in the hospital. Why was he in the hospital?

He closed his eyes, trying to picture the last few moments of his life before he woke up. Everything was frustratingly blank, his groggy thoughts refusing to focus, and then a flash of gold passed through his mind.

The monster.

Dean cringed at the sudden flow of memories, at the fool he'd made of himself, at the things he'd done with that thing. He couldn't believe how willing he'd been, how needy, how stupid. He'd taken whatever it had to offer and didn't think twice about the consequences. What kind of hunter was he? What kind of brother? It had been using him the whole time to get to Sam, and he'd practically served his brother up to it on a silver platter.

But that wasn't the worst of it. He'd been aware that what he was doing with the monster was wrong, but he'd done them anyway. He accepted full responsibility for having sex with it. He could have said no; he chose not to. The problem was that in his conceit, he'd convinced himself he had everything under control. It was just a monster, a demon. He'd hunted and killed hundreds of them. In his mind, he was better than it could ever be. He never once thought about what would happen to Sam if it ever got the best of him.

Squeezing his eyes shut, Dean pressed his palms against his eyeballs, trying to rub out the image of Sam's face when he had looked to him to deny the monster's words, and all he could do was turn away. Not once in all their years together had he seen that expression on his brother's face. Even the night when Sam had lost Jessica was nothing compared to this--the horror, the pain, the disbelief, and then the agonizing blankness. He'd seen a small part of his brother die that night, and he'd been the one to spill his blood. He was the lowest form of life to ever crawl out of the muck, and he knew he'd earned every ounce of his brother's hatred.

Damnit, he had to find Sam. He had to try and explain. He had to convince Sam to forgive him. Even if he knew in his heart it was hopeless, he had to try. He couldn't just give up on them--Sam meant too much to him for him to ever just turn his back and walk away.

Dean sat up and began pulling the tubes from his arms, unnerved by the way his muscles were trembling with the effort. His hands were weak, his fingers barely able to pry off the electrodes from his chest.

Just how long had he been here?

He pushed the thought from his head--it didn't matter. He could get answers later. Right now, finding Sam was more important.

Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, he tried to stand up only to find himself heading straight towards the floor.

"Hold on there, kiddo," a man said, strong arms there to catch him as he fell. "Where do you think you're going?"

Dean's heart skipped a beat as he looked up at his rescuer in shock. "Dad?"

John Winchester smiled down at his son. "Good to know you still recognize me. We weren't sure what sort of state your mind was going to be in when you finally decided to come back to us."

"Dad, what are you doing here?"

"Keeping you from taking a swan dive into the floor. Come on, back to bed with you."

"Okay, sure, bed," Dean said, nodding dumbly, still trying to understand what was going on. He was almost no help getting himself back into the bed, feeling more than a little embarrassed when his father lifted his legs back onto the mattress and tucked him in. When he tried to sit up again, his father pushed him back down and adjusted the mechanical bed so they could look at each other.

"I think we're going to have to get the nurses to stick these things back in," John said, holding the wires and tubes with a puzzled look as he tried to figure out which ones went where. Dean pushed them aside, not really giving a damn whether he was stuck with those things again or not.

"Dad, I don't get it. Why are you here?"

John sat down on the edge of the bed, automatically reaching out to brush the hair from his son's forehead. "I just got lucky, that's all. I've been stopping by every couple weeks, hoping you'd give us some signs of waking up."

His father's explanation struck him with a sort of panic. "Every couple weeks? How long have I been here? Where is here? What's wrong with me? Am I going to be okay?"

"Slow down, son," John chuckled. "No need to hurry--you're going to be just fine. You're in Fredericksburg, in Texas. You've been in this particular place about a month, and you were in the hospital another month before they moved you over here. And now that you've woken up, there's nothing wrong with you. At least, I don't think so. They'll have to run a few tests to make sure, but you look like you'll survive to me."

"Two months," Dean breathed, falling back against the pillows. "I've been asleep for two months."

John nodded, giving his son's hand a squeeze. "We were worried it would be longer. No one knew what was wrong with you. You were pretty beat up when they admitted you to the hospital, but they couldn't find any head injuries, so we didn't understand what was going on up there. I thought it might have had something to do with the demon you battled last, but nothing I tried got a reaction from you, so I just had to hope you would wake up on your own."

"How did you know I was here?"

"Your brother."

Dean sat up a little straighter. "Sam? You've seen Sam? Where is he? Is he okay?"

John sighed, his smile fading. "I don't know. He left a message on my phone letting me know where to find you and a little about the demon that attacked you, but he didn't give me any real specific details. I got the feeling there was a lot he wasn't telling me. Dean, did something happen between the two of you?"

Dean tried to hold his father's eyes, but couldn't do it, his gaze shifting to the window instead. Two months had passed, and the world had gone on without him. The trees were completely stripped of leaves and the sun hung low in the sky. It was well into winter now, almost time for spring, and he'd missed it. Two months of his life, gone, all because of that thing.

"Dean?" John prompted, and he sighed.

There was no way he could tell his father about how he felt for his brother, or that he tried to hide from his feelings by taking solace in the body of the demon that almost killed them. He couldn't explain the look on Sam's face when his brother learned the truth--the pain, the anger, the betrayal he'd seen there. He couldn't tell his father that he'd crushed his brother's heart.

"I did something...stupid. I told myself it was for our own good--for his own good, but I was wrong. I was careless, I wasn't thinking, and my mistake nearly got him killed."

John frowned at his son. "That doesn't sound like you."

"Yeah, well, it was me. I did it, and now...I don't know. I don't know if I'll be able to make this right."

"Sammy loves you," John said, patting his knee. "He can't stay mad at you forever."

"I wouldn't bet on it," Dean said softly, and as happy as he was to see his father, he suddenly wished he was alone. All he wanted to do was bury his face in the pillow and cry or scream or smother himself--whatever it took to relieve the pain inside of him that was twisting his guts into a knot and clawing at his heart.

But John just smiled reassuringly at him. "I would. I know what you two are like. Do you remember when you were kids--you couldn't have been more than twelve, and I think Sammy was eight--and you overheard Sam talking to one of his friends about some of the monsters he'd seen and how to kill them? The kid thought it was make-believe so there was no harm done, but the second you got Sam home, you yelled at him until you were blue in the face and he was crying, yelling at you 'I'm sorry' over and over again."

Color crept up Dean's pale cheeks, his father's story not doing a whole helluva lot to make him feel better. "Yeah, I remember. When you made me apologize, he told me he hated me and would never speak to me again. He gave me the silent treatment for six weeks. Wouldn't even look at me, not even after you yelled at me for yelling at him like that."

"And for those six weeks, you were frantic. You did everything you could to try and make it up to him, but our Sammy's a stubborn little cuss. He made you work for it, but eventually, he did forgive you. That's just the way it is."

"Yeah, only, we're not kids anymore."

"No, you're not," John said, a little sadly, "but that doesn't change anything. Sam worships the ground you walk on--always has, always will. You're his big brother. His love for you is unconditional, no matter what you do. Oh, he may get mad at you--we both know that boy's got a temper on him--"

Dean snorted. "Gets that from you," he muttered.

"--but the only reason he expects so much from you is because he knows what you're capable of. He's always seen the best in you, Dean, so when you show him you're only human, it tends to take him by surprise. But he knows you love him, and that you would never do anything to hurt him."

"Maybe not, Dad, but I did. I fucked up big time, and I don't know if he'll be able to forgive me."

"He will," John smiled. "I don't doubt for a second that he will. It just might take some time."

Dean didn't try to argue with him. Unless he told his dad everything, he'd never be able to understand, and that issue had already been settled.

"Why don't you get some rest?" John said, pulling the blankets up around his shoulders.

"Why?" he asked with a weak smile. "Do I look tired?"

John chuckled. "As tired as any man can look after a two month nap. I'll go get the nurses to put those thingamajigs back in place, and the doctor will probably want to get a look at you."

"And you? What're you going to do?"

"I'll be right here, for a little while. I might disappear for a couple days, but I'll keep coming back until you're ready to leave."

"Then start the car. I'm ready to go now."

"Nice try, kiddo, but I'm not letting you out of here without the doctor's okay. Get some sleep," John said as he stood up, then leaned over and kissed Dean's forehead. "It's good to see you, son."

John turned to walk out of the room, stopping at the sound of Dean's voice.

"Dad?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm glad you're here."

John stared at him for a moment, then nodded, smiling as he went in search of a nurse while Dean buried himself under the blankets. Oddly enough, he did feel tired, his arms and legs tingling and growing heavier with each passing second.

What the hell was he doing here? he wondered Not just here, in the hospital, but here at all? He'd really thought that bastard had killed him off--it certainly felt like he'd died, so what was he still doing amongst the living? It didn't make sense.

None of this made sense, he thought as his body began to shiver, multicolored dots swimming in front of his eyes, and he snuggled deeper under the covers. He closed his eyes, his thoughts growing increasingly hazy.

He needed to find Sam. He'd start looking for him just as soon as he stopped the baby from crying.

But wait--the baby was Sam. He'd made Sam cry.

No, there was no baby. That was a dream. He was awake. He was in a hospital. He'd been asleep--for two months, he'd been asleep. Sam wasn't here. He'd hurt Sam, and Sam had run away.

Why did he hurt Sam? He loved Sam. He had to explain...he had to tell him...he had to...

Dean felt himself being pulled away from his body. One minute, he was soaring through the air; the next, he was sitting on top of the world. Or so it seemed.

Looking around, he realized he'd been here before. Once, several months ago. He'd been searching for Sam, and all he'd found was--

Aw, fuck.

"Good to see you, too, you little pissant."

Groaning, Dean lay down on the granite surface and gazed up into the vast blue sky. The brightness of the sun made his eyes hurt and he lifted his arm to cover them, but at least the rock was warm against his skin. He could lie there all day.

"Take as much time as you need. Don't mind me. I'll just sit here and wait until you're ready."

He sighed, knowing it would be pointless to try and ignore him. "Spit it out, old man. Whatever you brought me here to say, go ahead and get it over with. I haven't seen the sun in two months. I'd like to be able to work on my tan in peace."

"Don't you know that the sun causes skin cancer?"

"After everything I've been through, you think I'm going to worry about skin cancer? A demon's going to get me long before any cancer does."

"And you're certainly giving them enough opportunities, aren't you?"

Dean raised his arm to glare at the old Indian sitting cross-legged next to him on the rock. "If we're here so you can yell at me for all the stupid shit I've done lately, you'll just be wasting your time. It's nothing I don't already know."

"That's not why you're here. You'll be yelling at yourself enough over the next few months for the both of us."

"Then why am I here?"

"I need to know what you're planning on doing next."

"I've only been awake for an hour--less than an hour. How the should I know what my plans are? All I do know is that I'm not going to be in any condition to hunt for a while."

Bob nodded. "So you're not going to give up on being a warrior."

"I said I was going to hunt. I never said anything about being a warrior," Dean growled darkly.

"You are your brother's warrior. It is the path that has been chosen for you."

"Yeah, well, Sammy's following his own path now, isn't he? One that doesn't need me. Maybe it's time I found one that doesn't need him." Even as he said it, Dean knew he didn't believe it. The thought of living a life without Sam was never something he'd ever considered. Even at their worst moments, he'd known he and Sam belonged together. Still, this went far beyond the worst of their worst moments and now he didn't know how he felt--about himself, or about Sam.

Bob heaved an exasperated sigh. "Just what I needed," he muttered. "A couple of too stubborn for their own good white boys making decisions for themselves. Why am I being plagued with this now?"

"Because you've done nothing but sit here on your ass for several centuries?" Bob shot him a look intended to set fire to rocks, but Dean shrugged it off. "Just a thought."

"We've seen where your thoughts lead you. It'd be wise if you keep them to yourself from now on."

"Gladly. Send me back, and you won't have to hear another thought of mine again."

Dean saw his hand lift with the urge to smack him upside the head, but somehow, Bob was able to resist. Instead, he tried another tactic. "You can't not be a warrior. It's in your blood."

"Filter it out and stick it in someone else."

"If I could, I would."

"Ouch, Bob, that hurts. So much for your faith in me."

"I have faith in you, boy. You just need to have faith in yourself."

For once, Dean didn't have a snappy comeback handy, instead huffing and looking the other way.

"I can see it's going to be no use talking to you while you're sulking like a five-year-old. I'll send you back to your father now. We'll talk again when you've decided you can act your age."

"Really looking forward to it," Dean said in his driest voice, and this time the Indian did smack him upside the head.

"Just remember," Bob said as everything began to fade, "if he didn't love you, he wouldn't have been so hurt by what you've done."

Dean did have an answer for that one.

"If he loved me, he wouldn't have left."






After two weeks of tests and recovery, Dean was released from the hospital, but he couldn't quite bring himself to leave Fredericksburg, in spite of his father's reservations. "Dad, I swear, I'm going to be okay."

John glanced around the dingy apartment, eyes filled with skepticism. "Is this really what you want?"

Dean followed his gaze and grinned. "Yeah, it's the house of my dreams. As soon as I get the sound system installed and find a place to hang the plasma TV, it'll be perfect."

His father chuckled, though he still looked a little uncomfortable.

"Dad, we've stayed in worse places," Dean said, knowing his father's discomfort had nothing to do with the tatty d├ęcor or the few pieces of ragged furniture they'd picked up from Goodwill.

"I know. I just don't understand why you want to stay at all."

"I could still use a few weeks to get back up to my old strength."

"And...?" John prompted, knowing there was more than his son's health at stake.

Dean sighed. Might as well come clean--his father probably knew anyway. "I want to be somewhere where he can find me."

"If he wants to see you," John said, his voice lined with impatience, "he can always call and arrange to meet up somewhere."

"Dad--"

"Dean, you have to stop punishing yourself over this thing, whatever it is. You don't have to force yourself into isolation just because you think you deserve it. I can tell you right now, you don't. Sammy will get over it in his own time."

"First off, I'm hardly going into isolation. I'm not locking myself away in a cabin in the woods. I'm living in the open in a nice enough little town where you've already got half the residents promising to look in on me. Second, I'm not planning on staying here forever. Just a couple months or so, until I'm feeling better."

John sighed. "You want me to try to talk to him?"

"No!" he said quickly, then took a deep breath. "Thanks, Dad, but I don't think it'll help. This is something we'll have to work out on our own."

"If you're sure..."

"I am," Dean said, forcing into his smile all the confidence he didn't feel. He knew that, for once, the choice was Sam's. Always before, he'd been the one to cave and go looking for his brother. This time, it had to be Sam's decision, and if he never showed up, Dean would have his answer.

"All right," John said and clasped his oldest son to his chest, pulling him into a tight hug. "You know," he began as he moved away, "this is nothing like I pictured it."

"Pictured what?" Dean asked, puzzled.

"Moving you into your first crappy apartment. It was supposed to happen when you went away to college. You, me, and Sammy would spend all morning moving your stuff in while your mom directed us on where to put everything. You'd be impatient for us to leave, and we'd want to hang around for a while, see you settled in. I never thought it would be like this, not after you'd woken up from a two month coma from fighting a demon."

"Trust me, Dad," Dean grinned, "it would have been nothing like that, either. The only reason you'd be moving me into an apartment would because I got kicked out of the dorms for getting caught drunk with a co-ed in my room. Again. You'd be pissed off, mom would be disappointed, and Sam would be smug that I'd gotten into trouble. To be honest, I think I like this scenario a little better."

John laughed. "You may be right, son, you may be right." He looked around the apartment one last time as he patted his pockets for his keys. "I guess I should be going. You need anything, you call me. Money, a bus ticket, anything, you let me know. I promise I'll check in on you just as soon as I can."

"Take your time. I'm not going anywhere."

Though he didn't look happy at the thought, John hugged him one last time and made his way reluctantly down the sidewalk to his truck. Dean waited until his father was out of sight, then shut the door and turned to study his domain. His dad was right--during those rare moments when he thought he might want to have a place of his own, this was not the place he'd dreamt of. The apartment wasn't exactly fit for a king, but at least it was several steps up from a roach motel. Though, roaches were notoriously laid-back when it came to choosing their living environments, and he was pretty sure they'd be quite comfortable here. For the most part. Once he ran out of Raid. It may not have been much of a home, but he was still going to exercise his right to defend it from the six-legged nuisances.

However, potential roaches aside, he was sure he could grow to like the place. It just needed a bit of help.

The walls were freshly painted a sort of gray that looked almost cream in the right light--nothing a few posters wouldn't cure. The carpet was a threadbare blue-gray and the pale blue linoleum in the kitchen was yellowed with age, but how much time did he spend looking at floors? The appliances were at least thirty years old, and acted like it. The refrigerator rattled when it turned on and spilled out ice that smelled like feet--he made a mental note to pick up some ice trays next time he went out. The stove made an unnerving ticking sound when he turned it on, and he wasn't going to touch the oven until he'd cleaned it. Twice. There were windows in the living room and the bedroom that were severely lacking in curtains, but the cobwebs in the corners helped provide a little cover. The bathroom was relatively recently remodeled, at least, compared to the rest of the apartment, and only mildly stained, but he didn't feel the need to wear socks in the shower and that put it several steps above several of the motels he'd stayed in.

All in all, the apartment wasn't too bad. Sure, it smelled like mold and he was thankful all his shots had been updated during his stay in the hospital, but with a little work, it might be livable.

Sidling into the kitchen, he emptied out the grocery bags filled with cleaning supplies onto the counters. First, he was going to scrub down the entire place, then he was going to ward it like he was expecting the Apocalypse to erupt outside his door at any minute, and then...and then...

Well, he hadn't figured that one out yet.

He'd agreed to take on a part-time job at the restaurant, but that wouldn't come close to filling up the many empty hours he had to look forward to. Unless he wanted to spend them brooding, he'd have to find other ways to occupy his time.

It was a strange, actually having to search for ways to fill up his days. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a few minutes to himself, much less several hours. There was always something to do, something to research, something to hunt, something to worry about. Unfortunately, he still had plenty to worry about, but now he had all the time in the world to do it.

Maybe he should take up quilting.

Chuckling to himself, Dean grabbed a beer from the fridge. Finding the right hobby could wait--right now, he needed to clean. He flicked off the top of the bottle and walked over to the cheap stereo he'd bought at the local monument to mass consumerism. Flipping through his recent purchases, he pried the wrapper off a CD featuring the greatest rock hits of the 70's and popped it in, cranking up the volume. Sam would keel over to see him with a CD player, but a man had to do what a man had to do, and he was not going to live without his music.

Nodding his head to the beat as Led Zeppelin filled the small apartment, Dean took another drink of his beer, then grabbed a sponge and a bottle of cleanser and got to work. Of the three of them, he'd always been the one to make the best of a situation and he wasn't going to stop now. Everything else might have changed, but some things had to stay the same.

Otherwise, how would Sammy recognize him when he came to find him?

***

Next story in series - Two Words.