Title: The Wake-Up Call, Chapters 6-7
Rating: T (PG-13)
Characters: Dean/Sam/John/Missouri Mosley
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys or the show, just the story.
Spoilers: Season 1 is fair game.
a/n: I just wanted to let everyone know that Thru Terry’s Eyes has graciously allowed me the privilege of using her story, “Chipping Away” (which was the Winner of Best Story, SNFA awards, Round 2) as a point of reference in Chapter 7.
Chapter 6: Calling Missouri
Waking up slowly, Sam started to stretch his lanky body to its fullest potential – only to find the movement restricted by an IV line. Oh, yeah, forgot about that, he found himself thinking. His sleep had been so deep and refreshing that he’d forgotten about where he was. Feeling much better, both mentally and physically, he struggled to sit up while rubbing the last bit of sleep from his eyes.
Looking around his small room, he noticed his dad seated in a wheelchair next to the window, curtains drawn back. Clearly, there was something wrong with John. His body language was all wrong - shoulders slumped, head cradled between his unsteady hands and heavy sighs slipping past his drawn lips.
“Dad? What’s wrong?” Sam asked, tensing and becoming wary.
His dad’s head jerked up at the first sound of his voice, obviously startled from a burden of oppressive consternation. Quickly regaining his composure, John plastered on what he hoped was a reassuring smile and moved his wheelchair so that he was fully facing his son. “Hey, how are you feeling? That was some nap, nearly three hours long.”
“Actually, I feel pretty good, considering…” Sam paused and then pursued his earlier question with, “Didn’t you get any sleep? You look awful.”
John seemed reluctant to answer, but conceded, saying, “Well, I did try for a little while, but after about an hour I woke up. All I could think about was your brother, so I went down to check on him instead.”
“And…how was he?” Sam pressed.
Finally losing the battle with keeping up a good front, John let the smile fall away as his voice shook a little with his reply.
“Uh, well, he…seemed to be doing about the same, but…” John paused to clear his throat, “then… without warning…he bottomed out and his heartbeat became erratic. They immediately wheeled me back up here and told me that they’d send someone up to talk to me as soon as they had any news. That was nearly two hours ago. Someone should’ve been up by now. I can’t take much more of this waiting, Sam, I just can’t.”
Instantly alert, Sam swallowed and blinked before saying, “Why didn’t you wake me up, Dad? Dean could be dying…and…I wouldn’t get to be with him…”
Sam stopped, not able to finish the sentence.
“Well, Sammy, there really wasn’t anything more you could do and you needed the rest. I would’ve woken you up if I’d thought there was anything to tell.”
John shifted uncomfortably in his chair, wincing as he continued, “I didn’t see any point in both of us sitting here going out of our minds with worry. I’ve pressed that friggin’ button so many times now, my thumb’s numb. All I get is the same freakin’ response – something to the tune of ‘someone will come and speak with you shortly’.”
Licking his parched lips, Sam tried to be calm and think positive. “If Dean was…uh…if he had…”
Sam stopped again, taking a deep breath before continuing, saying, “If anything had happened to him, I’m sure they would’ve told us something by now. Maybe they’re still working on him, you know, running some more tests and crap like that.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. That’s probably it,” John mumbled, trying to dredge up a scrape of hope from the bottom of his soul. “Doctors do love tests…”
Lost in their reflections, each man sat going through their familiar habits. As John kneaded the back of his neck, Sam sat chewing his fingernail – which was nearly a nub at this point. The younger man concentrated on trying to recall each vivid detail of his dream with Dean as a distractive measure. Even now, he refused to believe it was just a dream. It couldn’t have been – Sam had just known that he was in Dean’s mind and that his brother was going to be okay.
He wondered if maybe he should share the experience with his father. After all, it could’ve been that exact moment – the moment Dean’s heart had stopped – that Sam and his brother had been out on that ledge. He’d known intuitively that Dean’s life depended on his every word, his every gesture. But why were the doctors taking so long to update them? It’d been two hours, already. Something was up.
As his nervous eyes contemplated the downy blanket covering his legs, Sam spoke what was on his mind.
“Hey…Dad? I…uh…had a really strange dream about Dean while I was sleeping.”
He waited for John to respond, feeling a little peculiar about explaining what he thought had happened.
“Yeah?” John responded, instantly attuned. “Was it a dream or a vision of some kind?”
John provided the encouragement Sam had needed.
“Well, honestly, I’m not sure. You see, I think I was in Dean’s head. You, know, his…uh…subconscious,” Sam answered, feeling a little flustered. He was highly unsure of how his dad would react to that little revelation.
Momentarily startled out of his disquiet, John pinned Sam with his dark eyes. In them reflected both confusion and blatant curiosity as he prodded, “His subconscious? How? I mean…are you sure, Son? Has this happened bef-”
John stopped mid-sentence as one of Dean’s specialists entered the room.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Anderson, I’m your son’s neurologist, Dr. Watts. I wanted to let you to know that Dean’s heart has stabilized and his vitals are looking better. I was called in as a consult after your son suffered an apparent seizure a little while after they’d normalized his heart rate.”
The doctor finished gripping their hands in greeting and tucked one hand in his coat pocket, then said, “We were concerned that this could be a direct result of his concussion, so we decided to do some more extensive testing before we updated you on his condition. I felt like it was best to be able to present a comprehensive report for you, that way we can better know what we are dealing with.”
The man waited for nodded acknowledgement before he went on.
“Fortunately, his CAT scan, EEG and MRI came back with nearly normal readings. Your son’s brain shows no indications of bleeding, which is a very good sign that he’s not suffered any brain damage as a result of the concussion. However, there was some slight swelling of the brain due to ischemic anoxia, which is a type of brain injury that results from a lack of oxygen to brain.”
Seeing the eyes of the other men widen at his words, the doctor hurried on.
“This specific kind of damage is caused by blood loss and cardiac arrest. We can’t be completely certain of a full recovery this early in your son’s recovery, but at this point, we feel like any symptoms that Dean may have as a result of this swelling will be temporary and mild in nature.”
“One thing did interest us. We found some very unusual activity surrounding Dean’s pineal gland. The pineal gland is a cone-shaped organ about the size of a grain of rice and is located in the middle of the brain. Normally, the pineal gland regulates melatonin and other endocrinal functions – which just basically means that it controls our internal clock, if you will.”
“It can be viewed as a connection between our bodies and the external world around us. While I don’t believe that this is in any way related to Dean’s brain injury or any cause for further worry, it is extremely odd that this activity was picked up by our tests and I wanted you to be aware of it.”
The neurologist flashed a quirky smile before adding surreptitiously, “Although, parapsychological research maintains that the pineal gland is the center for all psychic phenomena like clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis, etc. Some mystic religions call the pineal gland the ‘third eye’, which is the source of all sixth senses. But, that’s all stuff of myths and legends anyway. The only reason I even mentioned it is because I sometimes study parapsychology as a hobby.”
At the disconcerting looks he was getting from John and Sam, Dr. Watts stopped – realizing he must have touched a nerve somewhere or perhaps said more than was needed.
“I’m sorry for rambling on,” he apologized, looking from one drained face to the other.
“To make matters short, I think Dean’s going to be just fine. That last troubling episode seems to have been the turning point we were looking for and he is doing better.”
“Naturally, we’ll run more tests once he regains consciousness and we’ll keep you apprised of the results.”
The doctor looked from one bewildered face to the other before hurriedly asking, “Is there anything more I can do for you? Anything you need at all? Okay, then, I must finish some paper work on your son. It was nice meeting you both and you be sure to let us know if we can do anything for you.”
As the doctor vanished out of sight, he puzzled over the strange looks each man had shared when he had mentioned the myth of the ‘third eye’. He’d meant it to be anecdotal, not something worth any serious thought.
“Uh…you don’t think…I mean…could Dean possibly-” Sam stammered.
Interrupting quickly, John answered, “Sam, let’s not jump to conclusions. There are other possibilities. Maybe your psychic connection to Dean, which is what it obviously was, stimulated that area of your brother’s brain. That could explain it just as easily.”
John dared not put into words what he knew Sam had been hinting at.
Exhaling, John remarked, “I’m just glad he’s okay.”
Sam agreed whole-heartedly, gushing, “Yeah, thank God. But, somehow…I sensed that he would be...it’s hard to explain what I mean by that.”
Sam let the matter drop, preferring to steer the conversation back to what the doctor had inadvertently revealed.
Doggedly, Sam continued, “Do you think this pineal gland anomaly is somehow related to what I was telling you about?”
At John’s obvious discomfort and puzzled looks, Sam compromised, saying, “You could be right, it could’ve been nothing more than a residual affect of my psychic abilities, but, just in case, we need to research this a little more. I mean, we are going to investigate this, right? I don’t think we can just hope that it was a blip on the proverbial radar and just forget it.”
Sam trusted his father wouldn’t just let this drop.
“I don’t know, Sam,” John replied, running a hand through his hair, feeling frustrated. Acquiescing, he said, “I guess I could put in a call to a couple of friends and see what they can come up with. I think I might call Missouri first since she would be the number one expert on this particular subject.”
“Call Bobby and have him fish my laptop from the hiding spot I left at the crash site. He isn’t too far from here anyway. I could be doing some research of my own while we wait.”
“Good thinkin’. I’ll call Bobby first and then Missouri second. Luckily, I have both numbers on speed dial right up here,” John said as he gestured toward his head.
With a snort, Sam remarked, “I’m surprised it’s not Swiss cheese up there after that considerable knock you took.”
“Well, you know what they say about us Winchesters, hard headed to a fault. Looks like it came in handy this time.”
“Yeah,” Sam smirked back. “Lucky us.”
Sam’s thoughts gravitated back to Dean and he surprised by his fierce need to see him.
“Okay, well, since you’re going to take care of the phone calls…I think I’ll go sit with Dean for a while. I’ve been thinking we should take turns so we can both get some rest and Dean won’t be left down there alone.”
Sam hadn’t forgotten his promise to his brother and wanted to make sure he kept it.
“All right. After a couple of hours, I’ll come down and give you a break,” John confirmed, wishing he could join Sam right away.
He knew that taking turns made more sense, but it didn’t squash his desire to see his elder son with his own eyes. He needed to know that Dean was really okay.
“And, Dad, make sure you get some sleep while I’m gone. You look like hell.”
Sam was a little worried that his father was pushing himself too hard. Guilt could be like that.
Caught off guard, John shot his youngest son a mock glare and sarcastically replied, “Why thanks, Son. It’s always a good thing to kick the old man while he’s down.” Then, sobering at Sam’s concerned scowl, John assured, “I will. I promise. Thanks, Sammy.”
John gave his son a grateful smile as he fumbled with the patient services pamphlet, trying to figure out how to make long distance phone calls. He sure missed his cell phone at times like this.
“Catch ya later,” Sam stated. He climbed cautiously out of his bed, being very deliberate not to bang his wounds or get his IV tangled up. By the time Sam had managed to traverse the short distance from his bed to his dad’s wheelchair, John had already slipped back onto his bed and was beginning to dial Bobby’s number.
“Yeah,” came his dad’s distracted answer.
As John pressed the correct buttons on the phone, Sam struggled to wheel out of the room and push the IV stand along with him. He was in too much of a hurry to bother buzzing the nurse’s station and hoped no one would notice. Dang near made it too, but a young and pretty candy striper caught him as soon as he prepared to step onto the elevator.
Flashing his best lost-little-boy smile, complete with dimples, he asked if she would mind taking him down to the ICU ward. Unable to resist his charms, the girl took her position behind the wheelchair and complied with his request. Lots of good things could also be said of the Winchester charm. Ah, Dean would be so proud, thought Sam and he felt oddly comforted by the notion.
Before leaving Sam alone with his deeply sedated brother, the candy striper thoughtfully lowered the rail on Dean’s bed so that Sam could scoot up and lean across the bed, which he did. The younger Winchester eased his brother’s hand in between both of his warm palms as he scrutinized Dean’s still form, hoping to see visible signs of improvement.
Wanting and needing that kinship with his brother, he sat like that for several long minutes, not saying anything. Sam wondered if Dean knew he was there, holding his hand. He smiled to himself at what he knew would be his brother’s typical reaction to that. But, Sam wanted him to know that he was there for him, waiting for him to wake up –just like he said he would. Sam intended to be there for Dean this time, he wouldn’t leave – no matter what.
Timidly, Sam whispered, “Hey, I hear you gave Dad quite a scare earlier. Not nice, big bro, not nice at all. You know, though,” Sam went on as if Dean was hearing every word, “I am glad you saved that particular little practical joke for Dad and not me. You’ve given me enough heart attacks these last few days to turn my hair prematurely gray.”
Sam’s lips quirked as he said, “Yeah, that’s probably your plan, right? Secure your rightful place as best looking Winchester brother. Yep, I’m onto you now, I’ve got your number, so you can just stop while you’re ahead. You can have that title so long as you get better.”
Then, as an after thought, he added, “But, I want you to know, I refuse to give up my title as geekiest Winchester brother. I earned that one fair and square.”
Haltingly, Sam brought his forehead to their joined hands and blew out a frustrated breath. “Oh, man, Dean, I don’t even know if you can hear me. Where are you? I know you’re in there somewhere. I just hope you’re some place better than you were a little while ago.”
Sam couldn’t help but remember the vicious winds and the haunted look on Dean’s face.
Looking back up, he stifled those wearisome thoughts by saying, “Hey, I talked to your doctor before I came in and he said that if you keep improving, they’ll try to wean you off of the ventilator in about five days. He also said that tomorrow they’re going to start cutting back on the barbiturates so you can wake up on your own. That’s good news, huh?”
Unable to keep avoiding the topic and not really wanting to, Sam confessed, “Dean, you know that I meant everything I said to you earlier. Every word. So, you just hang on to that, just keep hangin’ on to that, okay? Okay.”
Not knowing what else to say, Sam lowered his head down into the little nook made by his brother’s head and shoulder. Sam watched Dean’s chest rise and fall in union with the ventilator, hand still entwined by his brother’s.
He closed his eyes and concentrated on absorbing as much of Dean’s essence as he could. And the slow minutes ticked on, as if they were in some surreal vacuum of space and time, not knowing what the future would hold for either of them.
Several hours later, back in his newly made bed, Sam was intently summoning the phone to ring. John had spoken with Bobby, who was waiting for nightfall to go retrieve their stuff. Unable to reach Missouri, John had opted instead to leave a message on her machine.
When Sam had come back up, his dad had been simmering like a feverish kettle and was already half way out of their room just as the elevator doors had closed behind Sam. Soon enough, though, the young hunter knew the nurses would be shooing a petulant John back up to his own room, insisting that he eat his dinner. Sam desperately wanted to have something to report by then.
Pastor Jim had always taught the boys that patience was a virtue, but Sam felt that his virtues were very loosely tethered at the moment. It only made things worse knowing that the one person who was even more impatient than he was would soon be tearing through that door ant minute.
Sam had tried to distract himself with a short nap. When that didn’t work, he’d tried to watch a little TV, but Dean had been right – daytime TV sucked. As a last resort, he’d even tried to solve the crossword puzzle in the newspaper the nurses had brought up at his dad’s request, but he found that his mind was unable to focus on the task and had quickly given up. He was going out of his mind not being able to do something productive. Only one thing blared through his mind like a siren, when was Missouri going to call?
It’d seemed like a miracle straight from God himself when the telephone finally rang, sending Sam into a frantic dive for the hand piece.
“Hello?” he answered, holding his breath in anticipation. Thankfully, he wasn’t disappointed.
“Hi, sweetie,” came Missouri’s familiar, welcome voice. “Dang near fell out of your bed, didn’t ya?”
“Well, uh, yeah, I guess I did,” he quickly agreed, smiling to himself in wonder.
“Oh, Hon, I’m so sorry for your fam’ly. If I had the means to get over there, I’d be there in nothin’ flat – you bet I would. Why, it would be one big Psychic Friends reunion if my car wasn’t broke down,” she laughed robustly.
After her mirth lifted, she turned serious again. “Dang if you boys don’t live on hard times. I wish y’all could find some peace in your lives. Y’all deserve it more than anyone else I know.”
“Anyway, I got your dad’s message to give ‘im a call. Don’t tell ‘im I said this, but I really could’ve called sooner. I was just waitin’ until I knew I could speak directly to you, Sam. I don’t particularly like havin’ someone barkin’ orders at me the way your dad does when he is beside himself with worry over one of you youngins. Now, what is it I can help y’all with? No, Sam, even powerful psychics like me don’t know everythin’. Now, spill, boy, and make it quick before I hang up on you.”
Spurred on by Missouri’s threat, Sam quickly recounted everything the doctor had said. After he finally finished with the pineal gland speech, he waited silently for her response.
“Whoo-we, boy, you got to be kiddin’ me! That doctor actually knew about that ‘third eye’ thing?” her voice rose an octave.
“Most doctors don’t know their butt from a hole in the ground, much less anything to do with the supernatural. Now, don’t you worry your head over it, while paranormal powers may be connected to that whatchamacallit-gland, don’t cha’ go believin’ in that Eastern religious pish-posh. Chi, my back-end! I’d like ’ta chi somebody’s hide for making it so hard for us psychics to appear credible.”
Realizing she was off on a tangent, she reined her tirade back in and got to the heart of the matter.
“Now, about your concerns. I really doubt that Dean has become a full-fledged psychic per se. It’s more likely that his near-death experience has just made our little Deanie a little more sensitive than your average bear. It happens more than you think.”
“Okay, but what do you mean by ‘sensitive’?” Sam asked, sniggering a little when he imagined how Dean would probably react to being referred to as sensitive.
“Hmm, well, you see,” she searched for the words to explain, “you can be sensitive to paranormal phenomena without it actually originating from within yourself like it does with you and me. Dean is a conduit, of sorts. Like when he pulled you into his subconscious. Basically, he was usin’ your psychic powers to draw you in because he needed you. If you’d been your average, ordinary Joe, he couldn’t’ve done diddly squat.”
Nodding to the phone and quirking his lips, Sam answered, “Yeah…um…I think I get what you mean. So, if Dean is sensitive to all things paranormal, what exactly does that mean for him? You, know…will he be able to communicate with others…like us… and will he be able to just pull me in any time he wants?”
“Well, Sam, it’s really hard to say to what extent he’ll have control, if any. It’s more than likely he’ll be most susceptible when he’s unconscious or in a deep sleep. It’s also likely, however, that there may be times that he’ll be able to communicate much like a clairvoyant would in times of duress.”
“But only if the entity truly wants to initiate contact - because, remember, Dean has to have a viable, willing participant– he can’t just create one from within himself. It’s more like he’s a bridge between anyone and anything paranormal or that has paranormal abilities. Think of it like this, Dean is a blender. Now the blender won’t work if it doesn’t have a source of electricity to power it. Same thing here.
“You mean Dean will be able to talk to ghosts?” Sam asked incredulously, eyebrows shot up to the ceiling. Mentally, he tucked the blender comparison away for more appropriate times – like when Dean was conscious and out of danger.
“Only if the entity wants to communicate through him. Outside of that, he may just feel emotions, get glimpses of memories, impressions mostly. ‘Specially if there’s a strong emotion or presence around.”
Intrigued, Sam asked, “Now, you said this is possibly a result from a near-death experience…why wouldn’t this have been an issue when he was electrocuted?”
“Sam, Honey, these things can’t really be explained. They don’t follow any set rules or have any concrete laws to them. They just are what they are – unexplainable. Even though he may have been looking death literally in the face that last time, I’m not sure it really qualifies as a NDE. This time, however, your brother was on the brink of crossing that line that no one comes back from, short of a Biblical resurrection.”
Missouri allowed Sam a few minutes to digest that.
“Hmmm…well, okay, I have another question I hope you can answer.” Sam thoughtfully organized his thoughts for a second before continuing, “Since other entities can…in a way…access Dean, I was wondering if I can do the same thing. You know, mentally link with him when I want to…like he did with me.”
“Uh, uh, Sam, I don’t like where you’re goin’ with this…I mean, while it is possible, I am not sure it would be wise. Dean wouldn’t like it and you know it. You have to remember that whatever happens, he’ll know it and he will remember it,” Missouri explained.
“Not even if it’s in his best interest? I mean, c’mon, he’s in a freakin’ coma, right now. He nearly chose to give up and die. I just want to make sure he’s okay. I want him to know I’m still here for him. It’s not like I’m trying to invade his privacy, read his diary, or something like that.”
Sam blew a breath of frustration out, causing his hair to lift with the movement.
“I just want to know what he’s going through…I need to know, Missouri.”
Sam waited, hoping she wouldn’t try to talk him out of it or refuse to tell him how to do it.
After a long silence, the voice on the other end cautioned, “Well, let me put it like this. Whatever you do, make certain you’re sure it’s the right thing for both of you. Don’t force yourself on him and don’t pry around. You might not like what you see. I understand you’re feelin’ anxious right now and you need some assurances, but just be very careful that it’s really worth it. Dean is probably in a lot of pain right now and if you go pokin’ around in his head, you might get an upfront and personal taste of that pain.”
“Having said that, there is a way you can do it without forcing your way onto him. You can leave yourself open, so to speak, and give him the opportunity to seek you out – then you can help him in a way that leaves the man with his dignity intact. Especially now, while he needs someone to be there for him. Like I said, be sure he wants you there. Nothin’ like unwelcome company that doesn’t know when the gettin’ is good.”
Sam solemnly promised, “Yeah, I understand. No forcing – only if he wants my company. All I need now is for you to tell me how to do it.”
He could hear Missouri weigh her words carefully before saying, “This is what you’d need to do. First, establish a physical link with your brother…hold his hand, touch his forehead, something along those lines. After that, just relax your mind and body – try to become as still and calm as a lake on a windless day. You want to concentrate on making yourself a mirror to Dean. Let him reflect his thoughts off of you, you know?”
As she continued to drone on, Sam committed each instruction to memory, attentive to every detail, mindfully nodding his understanding to an unseeing telephone. He made sure that nothing she imparted went unheard.
Once she’d finished sharing all that she knew, Sam blustered out, “Wow, Missouri, you really know your stuff. And I’m very grateful for your help.” Sam was impressed to say the least.
Her chuckle accompanied her words as she dodged the compliment, saying, “Oh, go on now. I know I’m good, but let’s not get all tied up in pats on the back. That’s Dean’s specialty,” she laughed at that and then added for good measure, “But you know that’s why your dad has me on speed-dial up here.”
Sam suddenly got a mental vision of Missouri pointing to her head.
Suddenly, he found himself laughing right along with her. It truly felt good to release some tension through guileless mirth and the woman’s abilities never ceased to amaze him.
Growing more serious, Missouri asked, “Now, Darling, before I have to go, tell me how your dad’s doin’. I can see quite well for myself that you’re gonna to be right as rain in no time, but how’s John doin’.”
Sam gripped the phone tighter and checked the doorway before answering.
“Ah, well, you know Dad. He likes to play it close to the vest. He seems pretty okay, though. He’s pretty broken up about Dean and I know he’s having some trouble with headaches and dizziness – though he would never admit to it. I think he sometimes struggles with short-term memory. It is especially noticeable when it comes to mundane, everyday things - like when he’s just read the newspaper. He tends to repeat what he has already told me.”
“The doctor’s say its no big deal and it is the least we can expect after that nasty blow to his iron core head. They’re still amazed he isn’t in a coma himself. But that’s Dad, for ya, using sheer will to overcome injuries that would kill most people.”
Sam chuckled, but it came out sounding a little hollow even to his own ears.
“Oh, Sam, I’m sorry you feel so helpless. I know what a toll this has taken on you. You tryin’ to be so strong for everybody an’ scared witless yourself. Its okay to admit you’re scared, too, darlin’. Anyone in your position would be. I want you to trust what I’m going to tell you, though. Your dad’s too stubborn not to be all right, his body will heal in good time.”
“As for that brother of yours, God has plans for that young man, big plans, even though he doesn’t know it yet. Mark my words, he’ll be back to his usual ornery self in no time. You stick close to him. That boy needs you as much as you need him. Two peas in a pod, you boys are. Or maybe more like yin and yang.”
“Dean is going to need you to help him through this, and with his stubborn temperament, it won’t be easy. But don’t you let him push you away or let him shut down on you. Remember, persistence is also a virtue – one you’re gonna need. That poor boy only puts up a cocky front for protection – deep down he’s really the person you saw in his subconscious.”
“That unsure, scared and self-defeated young man is just as much a part of your brother as any of the other faces he wears. That’s why he needs you, Sam. You give Dean a purpose, a reason to live…and that’ll have to be good enough for the time being.”
“Are you saying that Dean is suicidal?” Sam asked in alarm.
“Oh, heavens, no, child. What I mean is that the boy is hell bent on self destruction. He believes that he’s less than deserving to live than the people he tries to save. He gets his self-worth from saving others. He doesn’t realize that in order to keep saving people he must first stay alive. You can show him that.”
Pausing slightly, Sam tentatively asked, “Are you saying that this is all I have to look forward to? Following Dad and Dean around on these hunts, watching their backs? Because I want more from life, ya know. I want something a little more normal. I want a home, a job, the whole nine yards. And…I want it for Dean, too. Is that too much to ask?”
“Of course you do, baby. Though that stubborn fool would never admit to it, Dean has dreams of his own as well…and both of you deserve a real home. But both of you are looking at it the wrong way. It’s not a matter of giving up one for the other. No, it is a matter of learning how to balance one life with the other. You can have both.”
“Once this fire demon thing is resolved, it is up to you and your family to try and find a way to reconcile both lives together. It’s your calling to help others, but you can still have a slice of that American pie to go along with it. Eventually, I know you and your brother will get it right. John, on the other hand, will struggle with it. He’s too set in his ways now. Although, I can’t really get much of a reading off of him concerning his future – but that is not necessarily a bad thing, ya know. Just some things I don’t see clearly.”
There was a long pause on the other end of the line as Sam struggled with her words.
Then, he asked,“You mean you have seen all that in our future, a normal life and hunting-” Sam stopped, too stunned to go on.
“Oh, no, nothing quite as vivid as a vision of the future,” Missouri rushed to say, “it’s more what I was talking about earlier. I get impressions, glimpses of what could be. It’s still up to you and Dean to make it happen. John, too. I’m just saying that it is a possibility, don’t give up on it – and don’t let the others give up on it.”
Sighing heavily, she continued, “Well, now, I think I’ve said enough. It’s time for me to get goin’ – your dad is on his way back up and I know you’ll want to discuss Dean’s ‘sensitivity’,” Missouri chuckled at the irony, “with John. You take care, now, young man. I expect you boys not to be strangers, either. Don’t forget what I said about your brother and give everyone my best wishes. Bye, now, Sweetie.”
And just like that she was gone. She didn’t even give Sam a chance to reply. Before he could stop stuttering his own inane goodbyes, his dad came through the door looking a little bit grumpy and out of sorts. Sam smiled inwardly, he knew his dad was miffed and precisely why it was that he had that ‘stormy thunderhead’ look in his eyes. Sam didn’t even have to ask what was wrong and it had nothing to do with his psychic abilities and everything to do with hospital regulations.
Chapter 7: He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother
As Sam sat listening to his father’s latest rampage, which came between spoonfuls of food, he realized that his father hadn’t changed much over the years he had been away to Stanford. Well, okay, he had changed a little, but not when it came to certain things. John was still stubborn to a fault, all too ready to intimidate when the opportunity presented itself, and he was as lousy at being a patient as he was at taking orders from someone.
But, then, Sam had changed, and not changed, too. Sam had grown up a lot these last four years. He supposed it had something to do with his increasing age, but it also had to do with having spent so much time around strangers – strangers with their own set of familial problems. After devoting many a night to listening to his college friends complain about their own parents, he finally came to the stunning realization that every family had problems, fights and complications. Some of his friends’ stories had made him glad he’d grown up with his dysfunctional family, such as it was.
Some things about Sam had not changed and probably never would. He still wanted something of a normal life. He didn’t want to wile away his best years constantly on the move. And, he still didn’t like it when his father ordered him around. Especially without an explanation. Unlike Dean, Sam needed to know why he was being expected to follow a plan he wasn’t included in on. It was childish, he knew, but so was his dad’s “need to know” policy.
But in retrospect, unlike Dean, he had never been made to feel that his primary responsibility was to see that his brother was kept safe at all times. That was a tall order in itself. But his older brother had taken it one step further by equating Sam’s safety with following John’s every word without hesitation. Their dad had made sure of that. He’d made sure that Dean had gotten the message the day Sam had nearly fallen victim to the Shtriga. He’d continued to drill that point home anytime Dean had ever failed at protecting little Sammy in any way. No wonder Dean was so screwed up.
Still, even with all of his dad’s faults, Sam loved him. In some ways he’d never confess to, Sam had missed his dad all those years away. He never would’ve thought it possible after they’d had that last big blow-up, but Sam had missed both his brother and father every single holiday that had silently passed him by without their familiar company and every other day in between.
Missing Dean was a given, even if he was a big pain in the butt, but Sam had never expected to miss his dad. He’d been so completely enraged when he’d left that cold, rainy night in May that he’d been absolutely certain that if he ever saw John Winchester’s sorry face again it would be too soon.
Now, watching his father wolfing his food down by the mouthfuls, Sam felt a twinge of regret. John inhaled his food like that only when he felt anxious about something. The younger man was finally beginning to see how much his dad really did love his boys. Clearly, the eldest Winchester was besought with worry over Dean and feeling a tremendous amount of guilt over everything that had happened to his sons – about the life he’d given them and not given them. Moved by this knowledge, Sam decided against going down to see his brother alone. Instead, he’d offer to have his father accompany him and put all his other plans on hold.
Knowing how his father needed to be with Dean, he decided to let his dad have first divvies on the 8:00 AM visitation as well. It really was no problem…his plans could wait that long, couldn’t they? Of course, it had nothing whatsoever to do with any nervousness he might feel regarding the plans he’d made.
Okay, maybe he was a little nervous, but he was also resolute in his decision. Sam had already gone over and over it, planning it out as best he could. His mind had been made up the very instant Missouri had confirmed the possibility. Also just as firm was his decision not to breathe a word of it to his dad. He didn’t want to give him the opportunity to come up with some good reason why he shouldn’t do it. Yep, this was going to be his little secret, his and Dean’s.
Apathetically returning back to his cardboard meal, Sam tried to pretend everything was status quo. He knew he needed to distract himself from his own thoughts before his pensiveness caught John’s unwanted scrutiny.
“Dad, I’ve been thinking. Since this is the last visit they’ll give us for the night, why don’t we go down together – instead of taking turns?”
“Really?” his dad mumbled around a mountain of mashed potatoes. “I guess great minds do think alike, Sammy, ‘cause I was thinkin’ the same thing. I figure that’ll give us about two, maybe three hours, before the nurses get the nerve to approach me again.”
John smirked to himself; he still had it – good, old-fashioned, intimidate-your-enemy marine tactics worked every time.
Sam smiled knowingly; he knew all too well exactly how his dad could be.
“Yeah, at least that” Sam replied.
Once they had settled in next to Dean, John calmed down considerably. Sam understood the sentiment wholeheartedly; it just felt good to be close to his brother. Maybe they just felt that Dean wouldn’t dare die as long as they were sitting by his side. While his brother was still drained of all color, he did seem to be improving, if only slightly. The nurses had assured them that he was doing as well as could be expected for someone with his type of injuries.
They also reported that the doctor had left standing orders to begin decreasing the barbiturate drip in his IV first thing in the morning. Sam was relieved to hear that for multiple reasons. One being that the less deeply sedated Dean was, the better able he could communicate with him. He might be more susceptible while unconscious, but Sam didn’t want him too deeply out of it either. And two, it gave him hope that his brother might awaken soon.
Later, settled in his own bed for the night, Sam asked for some sedatives of his own. Tomorrow was going to be a big day and he wanted to make sure that he was well rested and ready to go.
Sam checked the clock for what seemed like the millionth time that morning. Good, it was just now ten o’clock. Plenty of time to pull this thing off before anyone would be in to bother them. Sam felt the stirrings of nervousness from the night before…and, was that shyness he felt? C’mon, man, pull it together; this is Dean, your brother, nothing to feel shy about. Yeah, but, this is Dean your brother – God only knows what you might encounter in his brain. Some things a man just doesn’t need to know about his brother, Sam thought.
It was too late to turn back now, though. Sam needed to know that he hadn’t left Dean in a bad place, mentally speaking. This was the only way he would know for sure. Okay, just calm down, Sam. You can do this. First thing Missouri said was to relax my mind and my body – think stillness, like a windless lake, ready to reflect whatever Dean projects…motionless, peaceful and smooth…
Taking a deep, cleansing breath, he mentally coached himself to let go of all his reservations and relax. Crap, he thought, breaking out of his meditations. He had forgotten the physical link. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Okay, he thought, taking Dean’s cool hand into his, let’s try this again. Sam focused on becoming serenity itself, not forcing, just reaching - ready to receive whatever his brother had to dish out. He felt his heart rate slow to a steady, even beat. If only he had known what was to come.
Flinching, Sam caught a brief flash of pain and helpless terror. It was gone just as quickly as it came. Before he had a chance to recover or question, another one slammed into him, punching through his soul with a piercing jab of agony and fear. Sam struggled to keep his wits about him; it was already too late to stop this train wreck from happening and panicking wasn’t going to help. Shockwave after shockwave seared his mind with alarming speed, leaving behind the vestiges of Dean’s broken emotions, tattered and battle worn.
Then, as they began to slow, they became more like TV screen images trying to focus and then winking back out in quick succession. As the images and feelings increased in their lucidity, Sam began to understand that Dean was very much aware of the ventilator shoved down his throat and of the various sharp pains that flared in his lungs, chest and head.
Before he had time to respond to this knowledge, Sam promptly found himself pulled into Dean’s nightmare. There was no childhood backdrop to welcome him this time, just darkness – pitch-black nothingness, smothering and cruel. Dean’s anxiety was all-encompassing and horrific. Sam could feel his brother’s panic stifling all other emotion, all other thoughts. Dean seemed to be fighting against pain, darkness and tight, invisible bonds keeping his arms pinned by his sides. Sam understood what the fight against the darkness was about, but he was confused by Dean’s struggles against his constraints. Dean wasn’t tied down, not like…last time.
Remembering something long buried in the past…it hit Sam with stinging clarity what was going on. Dean was remembering that hellish week when he’d been hospitalized with pneumonia, the week that Sam had left home. Memories of being on the ventilator that first time, his arms immobilized by restraints, were replaying themselves across Dean’s psyche over and over again.
Oh, thought Sam, this is not good. Not good at all. Until now, he had never really understood just how traumatic that incident had been for Dean. Apparently his brother’s feverish mind had worked up quite an aversion to ventilators and tie downs. But, in hindsight, who wouldn’t – especially someone who didn’t like being held down, kept weak and out of control in the best of circumstances.
“Dean,” Sam called out gently, hoping to quiet his disturbed brother. “Dean, its Sam – I’m here, everything’s going to be okay. Please, just relax and feel my hand in yours.”
“Sammy?” Dean hesitantly called back from the dark. “Is it really you, little brother?”
The blackness that had surrounded them gave way to a familiar place and time. Dean had brought them back to that night Sam had finally walked away from him. Eerily, Sam could feel the icy rain pelting his back as he stood facing his brother outside their temporary home of so long ago.
“Yeah, man, it’s me. I came back for you. I…wanted to make sure you were okay,” explained Sam, feeling a little more than weird about being forced to relive that horrible, ugly night.
Dean paused for a moment, the fat raindrops dripping from his hair and long eyelashes, just like last time. He stood before Sam, rapidly blinking the wetness from his eyes, rubbing his arms and shaking uncontrollably from the chilled night and his remembered fever, looking very much like a lost little boy. He didn’t say a word at first, leaving Sam to wonder what he was thinking. But Sam didn’t have to wait all that long.
Accusation transforming his face, Dean wailed, “You left me! You sorry son of a bitch, you left me! I was hurt and sick, but you just walked away and left me lying in that puddle of water – not caring that my heart was being ripped from my chest.”
Taken aback by his brother’s uncharacteristic bluntness, Sam could only gape at Dean while his mind worked quickly to rationalize this situation. He could feel that his brother was getting way too worked up and opted to try for a soothing, even tone, despite the turmoil he was really feeling.
Hoping Dean was willing to listen, he said, “C’mon, man. That happened years ago. It’s over, Dean, this isn’t real. I’m here now and I’m not going anywhere.”
Why did he have to keep reassuring his brother like this? Sam still didn’t fully understand the haunted look glittering in his brother’s unfathomable eyes.
Then, something strange and unexpected happened. Sam was no longer himself; he was no longer looking through his own eyes or seeing the situation with his own mind. Unwittingly, he found himself seeing through Dean’s eyes, feeling Dean’s pain, thinking Dean’s thoughts.
“Oh, God,” he cried out from beneath his brother’s crippling burden, years of repressed sorrows assaulting his senses at once. Some of them Sam remembered, but some he had never known about. Flashes of memory paraded through his mind, starting as early as their mother’s death. Oh, how Dean’s world had been turned upside down then, never to be the same thereafter. Forsaken, that’s how it had felt to lose a mother, and in some respects, a father. Forsaken and so very lost.
Sam felt it again when their father left Dean, not once but twice. The first time was the emotional abandonment his brother had felt after the Shtriga incident. The second time was the physical abandonment when he awoke one morning to find his father gone without a word, not even a note. Then, Sam saw Layla’s mom asking Dean why he deserved to live more than her daughter. He felt Dean’s pungent guilt and anguish when the tortured young man had no suitable answers for her, speechless for once.
Next was the image of the Reaper touching his face with his dead, frozen fingers. Falling to his knees, he felt his brother’s suffering as the Reaper scorched his soul with a burning torrent of agony. To his shock, he felt Dean’s willingness to be sacrificed for Layla’s healing. As that image faded from his mind, Sam was doubled over by a new scourge of painful wounds as the demon tore into his heart, trying to rip it from his body as his father’s face stared back at him, stony and uncaring.
Unwilling to see more, he blinked the hated memories away and found himself staring back into his own eyes as an eighteen year old boy. Teenage Sam was tightly gripping his older brother’s arms, trying to keep him from crashing down into the flooding rain and mud. Seeing himself from Dean’s perspective was completely unnerving. He could hear himself telling his ailing brother to go back to the house – that he had no choice but to leave.
Most of all, Sam could feel Dean’s crushing heartache as his baby brother let go of him and walked away, taking his whole reason for living, his entire world as he had known it, with him. Sam felt his knees crack hard on the unforgiving ground as Dean stumbled, crying out one last time, “Sammy, please, don’t do this…”
He watched helplessly as his younger version turned his back and walked away, disappearing behind an impenetrable wall of water and nighttime haziness. Full of melancholy and despair, Dean’s body wretchedly slumped backwards, making a desolate splash as he collided with the soggy, cold ground. An empty void of hopelessness opened up and swallowed him whole.
His brother had no longer cared about what happened to himself after that and all awareness of his surroundings had faded to a blurry background. That his brother had lain broken in the rain no longer caring about his own well-being scared Sam more than anything. The power he held to affect his brother was nearly unbelievable and an awesome responsibility.
Overwhelmed, Sam tore his mind away from the harrowing scene, dropping Dean’s hand as if it were a lightening rod. He was himself once again. Managing to stand by putting most of his weight on his good leg and using the IV rack as a balance, he stumbled out to the nurse’s station, weakly asking where the nearest bathroom was. Not wanting to wait for the nurse’s assistance or the wheelchair, Sam limped awkwardly toward his destination.
He managed a rough, “Thanks, I just need a minute,” to silence the nurse’s alarmed inquiries.
Once he reached the bathroom’s entrance, he shoved himself inside the nearest stall and emptied his stomach of every single thing he had eaten in the last 24 hours. Once the dry heaves abated, he sunk back against the wall and let the wracking sobs rip from his burning throat. Sam hid his overwrought face behind his hands and wept for his brother.
He wept for the child Dean had once been before their mother’s death, he wept for the way his brother had wanted to make a sacrifice of himself for Layla, he wept for the unspeakable pain the demon had caused, but mostly - he wept for his brother’s destroyed heart each time he and his father had walked away, either emotionally or physically. He allowed his brother’s grief to wash over him until he thought he would surely drown in it.
“I’m so sorry, Dean - I’m so sorry. Why couldn’t we see? Why didn’t we know? God, Dean, how do you keep it all inside?”
And then it struck him, the truth of the demon’s words shone before him like a neon sign. Dean was using his wit to mask all that pain. It had partly told the truth. Then he remembered Pastor Jim telling him that demons always sow just enough grains of truth along with their lies to make it convincing.
The demon’s head trip had struck a chord deep within his brother by telling a simple truth. Sam doubted that Dean was even fully conscious of just how much those words spoken to him in the cabin that night had messed with his head. But what can I do to help him? Sam wondered as the tears began to dry from his red-rimmed eyes.
Up until now, he really hadn’t known just how deeply his leaving had affected Dean. All he could remember from that night was how furious he’d been at his father. John had never laid a hand on him before, and while the slap itself hadn’t hurt all that bad, the fact that his father had dared to touch him in that way was more than enough to send him packing without ever looking back. Until now. Sam wondered how many more memories like those were trapped behind his brother’s hardened façade. It all explained so much about Dean and his behavior.
Reaching up a weary hand, Sam finished off the last of his tears with a quick swipe and took a deep, steadying breath. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Sam began to concentrate. He knew he had to work out some kind of plan, some way of reaching through Dean’s fortress of pain and fear. Recovery of the soul would speed recovery of the body, Sam thought. How he wished Pastor Jim was still around to give him advice.
“Mr. Anderson?” questioned a soft, female voice. “Mr. Anderson, are you okay?”
No, he thought, but said, “Uh…yeah. I, uh, might need some help getting up, though.”
His legs were still shaky from the vomiting and the leg brace was very cumbersome to deal with from his current position on the floor. Quickly, the middle-aged nurse rushed in and bent down to help him up.
“Sorry for intruding”, she stated sheepishly, “I thought I’d better see if you were okay. Once we get you to the door, I have your wheelchair waiting for you so you can get off that leg. Then, I’ll take you back up to your room,” she stated matter-of-factly.
“No! I, uh, it’s just that…I need to be with my brother right now. Please?” Sam wheedled.
“Are you sure you’re up to it? You seemed pretty upset and it’s not good for you or your brother to get agitated. Maybe you should just take a breather and give yourself some more time,” she suggested.
“No, no, I’m fine now. Really, I won’t lose it like that again, I promise.” He hoped he was more convincing then he felt.
“Well…if you’re sure. But, seriously, no more upsetting yourself or your brother, okay?”
Sam gave her his best dimpled smile as he said, “Okay. You have my solemn vow.”
He knew he had her on his side the instant she returned his smile with a big, warm, toothy one of her own. He probably reminded her of a son or a favorite nephew. Nice work, dude, he could almost hear Dean’s praise.
After Nurse Rhonda, as he had learned from her name tag, had gotten him settled back into his place beside Dean, Sam patiently waited for her to exit the room and leave him and his brother alone again. He wondered if maybe he should just wait until Dean had come up to a more aware state of consciousness before attempting to reason with him. It would be easier without the effects of the drugs messing with Dean’s perception of reality.
But the idea of leaving his sibling isolated with his nightmares left Sam nauseous and shaky all over again. As much as he dreaded giving Dean any chance of exposing him to more self-repressed memories, Sam knew he had to at least try to make it better. How else could he keep what he’d witnessed from tormenting his days and nights?
This time, he wouldn’t go in unprepared like last time. Sam brainstormed quickly, noticing that his time was nearly up. Putting his hastily constructed, figurative suit of armor on, Sam tentatively gathered Dean’s limp hand back into his strong, lean fingers and concentrated on the serene images he had used before. Images, feelings, memories and emotions began to invade his mind once again, threatening to suck him under the tide. This time, instead of giving in to it, Sam wrested control back by mentally projecting an image of his own.
He purposefully rebuilt the portrait of the night he’d left for college. The rain, the chilled air, the shabby little house – everything in exact detail. Dean seemed to be allowing it and stood in the downpour waiting for Sam’s cue. Instead of saying a word, the younger Winchester grabbed his brother into his arms and pulled him tightly into an embrace. As Dean stood stiffly in his sibling’s arms, not understanding what was happening, Sam began to replay some of his own recollections.
This time Sam allowed Dean to see through his eyes, with his thoughts and feelings. He showed him touching scenes from their childhood that had meant so much to Sam even now. Memories of when Dean had let a frightened Sam share his too-small bed after a nightmare or bad storm, the times Dean had wiped snot and vomit from an ailing Sam’s face, the times his brother had taught him how to tie his shoe and ride a bike, the times he’d been there for him when no one else had been, not even their dad. He replayed every single moment that Dean had been personally responsible for, even all the times he had saved Sam’s life – time and time again.
Next, Sam shared the depth of his love for his brother by recalling how he’d felt when he’d thought Dean was going to die in Nebraska, how overjoyed he’d been when his sibling had been healed, his guilt for Rockford and for deserting him in Indiana, his burgeoning gratitude for every single moment they’d shared on the road this past year and, last but not least, how he’d achingly missed his big brother those years away at Stanford. Finally, the younger man showed Dean how much it’d hurt to leave him behind that night in the rain. Sam let all of his emotions and sentiments enfold around Dean, hugging him with everything he felt for him right at that very moment.
Haltingly, Dean reached up and accepted Sam’s gift by returning his brother’s fierce embrace. With one final shudder, he let his head fall onto Sam – hot, grateful tears splashing softly onto the younger man’s shirt and neck. The painful release of his misery was finally eased by his baby brother’s steadfast love. For the first time in his life, Dean Winchester allowed his grief to be swept away by an onslaught of tears and sobs that had been a long time in coming. And maybe this moment wouldn’t put right all that afflicted the broken warrior, but at last he would taste the peace of knowing he wasn’t alone anymore.
a/n2: Thanks again to Thru Terry’s Eyes for allowing me to use parts of “Chipping Away” in this chapter. Terry is queen of angst!
Special thanks, once again, to Mady Bay and sojourner84 for patiently e-mailing me back and forth trying to work out the kinks. Your help was great, not to mention much needed.