Art by muchness-and-stars. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Rating G, PG
Disclaimer: I do not own, unfortunately, Supernatural or any of its characters. They are owned by Kripke, the CW and other alphabet beings/companies. No money or other compensation is being made from this. It's done out of love for these characters.
Mentions of past torture
The Mngwa is a gigantic cat, about the same size as that of a pony.
It has creepy yellow eyes, sharp deadly teeth and huge razor like claws. Its fur is a dark grey with black stripes and spots, similar to a nowadays domesticated tabby cat.
Its body is said to sport some hairless spots from victims clutching and ripping patches as they attempted to free themselves.
This feline was so strong and ferocious that it could kill a person with a single bite or strike of its paws. It is mightier than the powerful lion, faster and deadlier than a leopard. Many bloodied and mangled bodies have been left strewn about, clutching tufts of grey fur in their hands without explanation.
Many bloodied and mangled bodies have been left strewn about, clutching tufts of grey fur in their hands without explanation.
Counting coup refers to the winning of prestige against an enemy by the Plains Indians of North America. Warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, which could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories.
'' show thoughts
The hunt for the Mngwa had been a difficult one as few survived an encounter with the vicious cat like creature. How it came to be in Colorado from east Africa was something they hadn't been able to figure out. It was only after talking to a couple of recent immigrant families who were familiar with the legend had they been able to track and gank it.
Fighting with the creature had been hard and bloody. Scrapes, claw marks and bites could be found on both Winchesters. Fortunately, they had won, but that win had come with a price tag attached stating do not remove.
David Collier Hospital was having its usual night in the ER. People moving, hustling about taking care of patients, writing up records, cleaning up blood, vomit, urine…the minutiae of a busy emergency needs area.
At first, no one noticed the dark blond who entered half carrying, half dragging a dark-haired man with him. It took a loud yell of "Help!" for people with a gurney to head toward him in a run.
The answer to the inevitable question of what had happened, wild animal attack, didn't come as a surprise. Locals knew to be careful in the woods, but there were always a few problems every year with campers from out of area.
Upper state New York was beautiful with full, lush trees, lakes, and places where people just went to escape for a few days.
Camp grounds were common enough for locals and tourists to benefit from, but civilization tended to forget or downplay the dangers in the wild.
Hospital personnel were familiar with camping accidents from burns to breaks to occasional animal attacks, so hearing what had happened really raised no eyebrows.
What did cause surprise was the extent of the injuries. Bites and claw marks could be clearly seen, but the respiratory problems were setting off alarms among the staff.
And the blood, so much blood.
It'd taken three hours for over 100 stitches to be stitched, IVs to be started, blood typed and cross matched just in case, ex rays and lab work to be completed before the younger man, 'Sam Wellson' was admitted to the fifth floor.
While not ICU, the floor was a critical care unit. So, while, Sam wasn't in imminent danger of death, he was in serious condition.
Three broken ribs had raised concerns about lung stability, but had proven to be non-life threatening. Breathing treatments and strong pain medication had helped to relieve Sam's painful inhales.
A wrenched ankle, myriad stitches, broken ribs, IVs and a unit of blood, as well as possible infection, had been given for the reason for admittance to the critical care floor. If, as expected, Sam did well during the night he would be moved to a regular floor the next day. Hopefully, he'd be discharged in just a few days.
All of this had been explained in great detail to the patient's brother, Dean, who'd hovered about like his brother's own shadow while Sam was being treated.
Upon reaching the fifth floor, Sam had been wheeled into 503 where a rather stern woman was waiting for her patient.
Monica Momerie was not a deliberately cruel person. 5ft 3 inches, dull brown hair and eyes made her a physically unremarkable person. However, a rough childhood and abusive marriage had left her expecting, and usually finding, the worst in people even if only in her own mind.
"Ok Sam, let's get you settled. I have a few questions to finish your paperwork. Perhaps your brother could wait outside?"
Seeing Sean open his mouth and trying to avoid a confrontation, Sam spoke "No! I want him to stay."
Meaning to cut off a problem before it began, Sam had no idea he had just opened a Pandora's Box.
Things were going to get ugly.
Monica really did care about helping others, but that help was based upon what she thought was best. Her compassion had become twisted by bitterness and distrust.
So, when she heard Sam ask for Dean to stay, she didn't hear a brother asking for a brother.
She heard someone afraid of another, someone in emotional pain, someone being hurt someway.
Giving a calculating look at Dean, she moved protectively between him and his brothers. Watching carefully as she asked her questions, she didn't realize she was almost eagerly waiting for the answer of scars.
Sam knew he had a lot of scars. After his life, who wouldn't, but it was until he began to list them that he realized just how many he carried.
Face and neck: check, check, and add a few more checks
As she listed the information, Monica knew immediately the man in front of her was obviously abused. 'Extreme Sports' was just a cover up.
Someone was hurting this sweet, helpless man and she was going to make sure it stopped.
Monica knew just who was to blame. No spouse, no parents, no emergency contact outside of his brother…well, she would do everything in her limited power to fix this!
Briefing at shift change 11:pm
Shift change involved passing info to the oncoming shift. Names of patients, medical information and treatment, and upcoming procedures were all passed on to facilitate proper care being given. Personal observations were also part of the process. Patient interactions with staff and others, family issues, patient preferences, etc. were passed to help staff and patients as well.
Monica Momerie was known as someone who cared greatly about those under her care. She was regarded as a fantastic caregiver, so when she spoke, others listened.
The scars, the fear of his brother not leaving, the injuries in general with her whispered words and condemnation, made her words a living, viable thing.
No one grasped the bitterness she held like a warm blanket in cold winter.
No one grasped her self-righteousness she used to justify her ugly behavior.
No one would understand the pain they were about to cause.
Two days had passed since his admission and Sam was already restless. Wanting to stretch, he was about to sneak out of bed when a small, diminutive woman, showing a lot of teeth in her smile, walked quietly into his room.
Raising his eyebrow, Sam was about to ask her who she was when she introduced herself.
"Hi Sam! My name is Ida Mayhew and I'm with Social Services here in the hospital. Now, I understand often adults have problems discussing issues affecting their life, but I am here to help you."
Making a whirling motion with his hand for her to go on, Sam was bewildered when she continued. Whatever he had expected, it wasn't what he got.
"Sam, I do understand what you are going through and aren't here to pass judgement. I know these situations can be difficult, but you can get out of a dangerous relationship. I can help you if you'll let me."
"Huh?" came the less than intelligent answer.
"Sam, we've become aware of the scarring you have and believe your brother may be responsible."
"What is happening is not your fault. We just want to help you, if you'll let us" was chirped in what she supposed to be a comforting way.
"You think Dean is hurting me?! What the fuck, lady? Are you out of your mind? Dean's my brother and has never physically hurt me. Yeah we argue and maybe throw punches on rare occasion, but I give as good as I get! Where are you getting off?"
"GET OUT! Get out now and don't come back!"
Leaving some pamphlets on the bedside table, Ms. Mayhew turned to go. "I'm sorry, Sam. If you change your mind, please let me know. If not me then someone else help you."
Lying back, Sam was dumbfounded by the conversation he'd just had. Trying to figure things out, he decided to try for the nurses' station to get some answers before Dean came for visiting hours.
Struggling up with a grunt, he maneuvered his way into the wheelchair by his bed. Rolling toward the door, he stopped at the voices outside. Recognizing Ms. Mayhew, he waited to hear what she was saying.
"I tried, but he refused any help. Hopefully, he'll change mind the poor boy."
"I know Ida. That man had been so mistreated! Those horrible, ugly scars! How could someone do that to another person? No wonder he was wearing so many layers of clothing when he came in. He's probably ashamed of what's happened to him!" came a voice he didn't know.
"I know. It's a shame. He has such a handsome face and build. Having to cover up that way."
As the two voices moved down the hall, Sam sat in shock.
He knew he was scarred. The lifestyle he led, plus the torture he had undergone had left marks, marks he covered up and tried to ignore. He'd gotten so used to hiding them, he generally ignored they were there.
Unlike Dean, who had to have his body rebuilt to house his soul, Sam had been returned from Hell in his own form. Cas hadn't needed to make his a new body as he still had his own.
But now, hearing the words ugly, a shame, horrible brought some nasty thoughts to the surface.
Sam Winchester had never paid much attention to his looks except for his height. He knew it was intimidating so he tried to downplay how tall he was to make people he was dealing with more comfortable. As for his face, he'd never really considered himself especially attractive. Jess had often called him handsome, but he'd figured that was the voice of love. Yeah, he was muscular, but keeping fit was necessary to survive a Hunter's life.
He'd had a few lovers, but that didn't make him over the top attractive. No, that was Dean.
Now, hearing those words whispering through his head over and over, Sam rose and made his way to the bathroom.
Limping to the sink, eyes lowered, he slowly shrugged off his robe and hospital gown. Moving his eyes to the mirror, he studied his chest and upper arms.
So much of his life was written on his skin and not just the protection tattoo. Bite marks, claw marks, cuts, scrapes, and oh yeah, his favorite, torture scars liberally were scattered over a human palette, painted in tears, sweat and so much blood.
So very much blood.
Between the injuries from the latest hunt, a lifetime of depression, and PTSD, everything seemed to crash into Sam at once.
From his prospective, time slowed to a crawl while his respirations sped up.
Feeling his heart pound, he turned to go back to the bed, to cover up, to hide, to keep attention away when his vision became spotty.
Knees wobbling, he headed toward the floor only to be caught in the safest things he knew – his brother's arms.
Dean didn't say anything just quickly returned Sam to his bed while pressing the call light.
Asking for his brother to have some pain medicine, then proceeding to chew the nurse a new because Sam had been up when he was supposed to be on bedrest, Dean either ignored or didn't notice the reserved tone she used to talk to him. More than likely, thought Sam, he didn't care.
Sam had just begun to drift off when a nurse entered carrying gauze, tape and other things signaling time for dressing changes.
"No." came out before he knew he's spoken. "I want Dean to do it. Only Dean and no one else is to touch me."
After giving Sam an intense look, Dean shrugged and the nurse and asked her to teach him what to do unaware this only intensified the negative view the staff had of him.
Deciding not to say anything at that moment, Dean changed the dressing and settled into a chair to see if Sam had anything he wanted to say or talk about. When Sam remained quiet, Dean began to worry.
Just as he was about to try to get a conversation going to see if he could get to the problem, another person entered for another treatment.
Again, Sam refused and demanded Dean take care of him. Quietly, he took care of Sam, wanting to fix whatever it was that needed fixing. Something was wrong and it ate at him while he waited for privacy to talk the problem out.
Once Sam was settled, Dean tried to coax him into explaining what was going on, but Sam was having none of it. He angrily rolled over and pretended to sleep.
Sighing, Dean sat back and racked his brain trying to figure this puzzle out. Normally, Sam was a good patient for a day or so then began to agitate to leave. This, though was something different.
Waiting till he thought Sam was asleep, Dean walked to the nurse's station to see if they had some answers. A few minutes later, he was back in the room somewhat bewildered by the attitude he's been shown by the staff.
Being ignored was one thing, but the rudeness when he was finally answered was a shock. Thinking back, he realized the staff had been acting strange for a couple of days, almost since Sam had been admitted. As hard as he tried, he couldn't think of anything to have caused the situation. Sure, he'd been abrasive when they first came in, but he'd behaved since then and he knew Sam wouldn't have deliberately done anything to cause this sort of problem.
With a jolt, he heard soft crying coming from under the blankets his baby brother had rolled himself into like a life size burrito.
"Sammy? What can I do? Please let me help."
Dean was devastated when a broken "No, you can't. it's me, it's always been me." Came in such a sorrowful tone he felt his heart was aching.
Try as he would over the next few days, Dean couldn't get Sam to open to him. He watched with an aching heart as Sam fell further quiet and more withdrawn.
Sam began to refuse to eat anything brought by the staff, so Dean took to bringing salads and other foods he knew Sam would eat. Even then, his brother often left more than half the meals uneaten.
He coaxed and cajoled Sam into drinking juice and water as much as possible.
Dean Winchester was experiencing a feeling he was not accustomed to: failure.
The next three days went much the same way. Sam refused all treatment unless Dean did them, refused to eat any meals brought by staff, and continued to bundle up in his covers like they were a cloak of invisibility.
In his mind the words went on and on.
Except they had morphed into
Shame he's alive after all he's done
He should cover up and hide from everyone
Ugly, ugly soul
Sam had always carried guilt on his broad shoulders, along with remorse, grief and sorrow. They were comfortable, familiar old friends.
This time, he was spiraling down into a dark place he was afraid he couldn't leave.
Sam was reaching the point of being hysterical when staff entered the room by day four of his stay. He wasn't seeing the compassion or concern in their eyes. No what he saw was disgust, unwillingness to help, or out and out hate.
Finally, he demanded Dean get him discharged or bring the paperwork for him to sign himself out.
Not wanting to upset his brother further, Dean hunted the Dr. down and asked about a discharge. When the Dr. became vocal about Sam staying in the hospital, he quietly walked to the station and demanded A.M.A. paperwork. After minutes of argument and plain old runaround, it was finally handed over.
As fast as he could manage, Sam dressed and left the room. Without stopping, he walked to the elevator, waited for Dean and left without a single word.
What neither brother knew was the hospital and Social Services were looking at possible ways to keep Dean from Sam.
They didn't realize that would completely break the two brothers.
The ride back to the bunker took two days with the brothers stopping at night for a few hours' rest at less than fashionable motels. Food had been drive through as Sam refused to stop. When Dean tried to push the issue by pulling into a diner, Sam simply refused to leave the car.
Sam also refused to have his dressings changed except in the privacy of their room. Dean had offered to stop along the way but the answer was an adamant "NO!"
Shame he's alive after all he's done
He should cover up and hide from everyone
Ugly, ugly soul
Sam tossed and turned at night hearing the words over and over. He couldn't explain to Dean cause the thought of his brother perhaps feeling the same was more than he knew he could bear.
Being away from the hospital was helping though. Without the staff being around as a constant reminder of what he'd heard, he felt his head was clearing a little.
Still, all he wanted was home. Home seemed to have become a mental good luck talisman to him.
Sam found it funny in a sad sort of way that he'd never realized he thought of the bunker that way. He knew the Impala was home, but somehow the bunker with its doors and locks and mystical protection had hit that magic button as well. He felt safe there, even after Lucifer/ Cas, Billie and all. He just wanted to get there to try to regroup.
Sam wasn't stupid by any means. He knew he was having a depressive episode. Intellectually he understood what was going on, but emotionally and physically he was caught in a vise of hurt.
He was scared he wouldn't be able to climb out of the dark hole he felt he was in. He felt raw, as if everything was exposed for anyone to see.
He didn't want food as it had no taste, he didn't want to look Dean in the eyes afraid of what he's see. It felt like trying to swim through jelly and knowing you were going to drown anyway no matter how hard you fought against the current.
He knew he was worrying Dean almost to a panic point, but he wanted HOME and wanted it now. Something was driving him to get to the bunker where he would be safe and out of sight.
Sighing a deep heartfelt sigh as the Impala pulled into the underground garage, Sam could feel relief thrumming through him as if it were a living, breathing entity.
He was so comforted to be home. He felt as if he could breath for the first time since this nightmare hunt had begun.
Opening the door into the bunker proper, the brothers walked through the kitchen and started toward their rooms.
Both were quiet, almost reverent in their steps.
Dean was grateful to be back in a familiar place after the past week or so. He wanted downtime to strategize how to deal with Sam and take care of whatever was bugging his younger brother. Make it better! Make it better! Make it better! Was something he lived and breathed body and soul where Sam was concerned. He knew his brother was an adult, capable in his own right, but the big brother prerogative never slept and never would.
Sam was just glad to be back in familiar surroundings where he felt he could take a deep breath properly for the first time in days, someplace where he could let his guard down somewhat and try to deal with the whirlwind in his mind. Calmer now, he needed to decompresses and get back on an even keel.
Sam Winchester trod slowly down the hallway of the MoL bunker mentally swearing that it got longer each time he went down it.
Tired, worn out, and less than deadly injured, all he wanted was a hot shower, something light to eat and drink and his bed.
As tired and hungry as he was, the siren call of strong water pressure, unlimited time with sore muscles under the hot spray and a clean hair of head came first.
'Priorities Sam' wryly came into his mind loud and clear. 'Priorities.'
Walking past Dean's room, he saw his older brother has simply walked in, laid down, and immediately gone to sleep still in his clothes and boots.
Softly laughing that he wasn't the only one exhausted, he trudged to his room, grabbed clean towels and hit the showers.
Relaxed, and feeling much better, his mind clearer, after his shower, Sam padded his way to his bedroom after brushing his teeth and hair.
Walking over to the dirty clothes hamper, he happened to pause in front of one of his few indulgences. He never really understood why he had wanted the old full length mirror he saw in one of the thrift stores in Lebanon, but it had appealed to him.
The mirror seemed to carry pieces of history within it carved wood and polished reflective surface. It seemed to Sam to be, well dignified. He'd often wondered what stories the mirror could tell if it could talk.
Looking in the mirror, wearing nothing but a towel, he studied his reflection contemplating what the mirror might tell others of him. Smiling slightly at the flight of fancy, he went to turn away when something caught his eyes.
That something was a long scar on his left side from shoulder to navel. Cocking his head, he began to catalogue others he could either see or knew were present on. His body.
Scars, so many scars.
Long scar on left torso from a Chupacabra age 12.
Small scar right lower quadrant from appendicitis age 12.
Claw mark scars right side over lower ribs from a Werewolf age 13.
Scar over right eyebrow after being thrown by a witch into a curio cabinet age 14.
Left thigh jagged scar from a Wendigo age 15.
Right knee, a scar that looked like it had been made with a steel wool pad, Crocotta age 16.
Bite mark scar left neck, Ghoul age 16.
Right calf, Skinwalker age 17.
Right shoulder, Poltergeist age 22.
Small scars everywhere from Demons, Women in White, Black Annis, Rugaru, Vetala, Wraith and so on and so forth.
When Sam was growing up, he'd always dressed in layers to hide the multitude of scars and bruises one inevitably carried from hunting. What no one could see, no one could question or draw wrong conclusions. He felt less… vulnerable.
He's continued that habit of dressing at Stanford. He knew Jessica had been shocked when she saw him naked the first time and never understood why she hadn't asked. What could he have told her? The truth, a lie, pretend he didn't know what she was talking about?
The truth was, he believed Jess thought he came out of an abusive home and since he never talked about his family, it had just seemed best to never correct her assumptions.
Jess. Even today, after so many years, just thinking of her caused an almost unbearable sadness. He'd loved her more than he had ever thought he was capable of loving anyone except Dean.
Along with the sorrow came regret. Regret for the lies, lies of omission, half-truths and keeping so much of who he was from her.
Regret for entering her life, believing he inadvertently caused her death.
Regret for what might have been if she'd lived and their lives had worked out as planned.
'Scars, so many scars both physical and mental.'
Facing himself in the mirror, Sam, for the first time, visually contemplated the other scars his body carried. Those he rarely acknowledged and never discussed.
The scars from the cage. Unlike Dean, he hadn't had his body rebuilt. It had come back to Earth bruised and bloody from his 'lessons' with the Archangels.
Keloid scars from whip marks marred the broad back, sharp, precise cut marks all over from having his skin removed, scars from beatings were littered everywhere. Random scars from cut marks made for fun or for the removal of internal bits and pieces. Scars above his eyelids because they were so often removed. Bloodied soles of his feet and palms of his hands showed the damage done. Scars all around the wrists from being restrained and fighting for his freedom. Scars from ice cold burns. A thin scar around his neck from strangling.
Scars from having sharp talon like claws randomly rip chunks of skin away or tear into his body to get to internal organs.
Mental scars from the agony he'd endured both physical and mental. Lucifer was the master of psychological abuse.
Being told "You're useless, worthless, nothing," eventually became a belief. The constant belittlement became gospel. The "Why didn't you just accept your destiny?" became mantra. Sexual assault became routine.
Centuries of abuse were still being dealt with, often at night after nightmares of being trapped, abused and unable to escape. Many times, he awoke shaking in sheer terror before remembering he was here and not there.
Scars he couldn't and wouldn't ever talk about. His…penance he felt was to carry this alone since he'd never been able to forgive himself for the past.
Oh, he knew Dean had, Cas acted as his friend even if not on the same level as Dean. He could count Jody and Donna as friends. His mother, who he missed.
Grateful, he was so grateful for the people in his life who treated him as Sam, not as someone to distrust or be afraid of. Someone not to view with disgust.
Small mercies so treasured and held close in the dark.
There were others, though who hadn't forgiven or forgotten. If they couldn't, how could he?
Scars. So many scars. So many times, he asked himself which were worse, those he could see or those he could feel.
Thinking about it, Sam realized, with a shock, his scars recorded the story of his life. A life spent fighting evil things that preferred pain and suffering. Life that told of battles fought and battles lost and won. A life of sorrow and pain. A life with death as a constant companion.
Yet it was also a life of laughter with a much loved brother playing pranks on each other. A life of feeling safe so long as his brother was by his side supporting him and holding him steady. A life of joy for each person saved by their actions. A life of happiness when he spent time with friends, or reading in the vast library. There were times of contentment, pleasure, and glad of being alive.
Looking at his scars, his mind was barraged by other thoughts crowding in.
Long scar on left torso from a Chupacabra age 12. Angelo Moreno, victim rescued
Claw mark scars right side over lower ribs from a Werewolf age 13. The Mendelsohn family rescued, mom, dad, three kids
Scar over right eyebrow after being thrown by a witch into a curio cabinet age 14.
No more victims brutally murdered.
Left thigh jagged scar from a Wendigo age 15. Two campers rescued, one critically injured but she lived.
Right knee, a scar that looked like it had been made with a steel wool pad scrubbing vigorously, Crocotta age 16. Victoria McKee rescued. They still received Christmas cards from her at one of their many mail drop boxes.
Bite mark scar left neck, Ghoul age 16.
Donnie Holloway, injured but alive
Right calf, Skinwalker age 17. Billie tall Trees, last of his family saved from a vicious vendetta.
Right shoulder, Poltergeist age 22. The Jackson twins would never be harmed by the creature again.
So many other names and faces flashed into his memory. Men, women, children so many faces People HE had either saved or helped to save.
Scars from Lucifer and Michael meant no Apocalypse, the world saved for another time.
As he remembered the ones he had helped save, a small thought crossed his mind. As he turned it over and over to analyze, he reached revelation.
For the first time, Sam realized he was a SURVIVOR! From that simple and complex acknowledgement came a sense of peace in longer than he could remember.
He'd endured the worst that could be thrown at him and he was still standing. He'd faced his enemies, and though often felt beat down, he was still in his feet.
Drawing up to his full height, Sam did something he rarely did. He looked straight into his own eyes, searching for what he might see.
Pain was there.
Grief and sorrow resided.
Suffering could be seen.
Guilt, a constant companion, was always present.
But, for the time in a long time, there was something else.
A sense of peace, acceptance, and a touch of self -respect shone in the hazel orbs as well. Small it may have been, but nonetheless present for him to see and perhaps grow.
Unaware Dean had woken, and was leaning on his doorframe, he startled at his brother's voice.
"Sam, what are you doing?" was softly asked as if Dean realized something profound had happened.
Suddenly, he remembered an anthropology class he'd taken about Native Tribes. When studying the Plains Tribes, he'd learned about Counting Coup. Warriors won prestige by acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, which could be recorded in various ways and retold as stories.
Looking over his shoulder, Sam gave a joyous smile that seem to go on forever.
"I'm counting Coup, Dean. I'm counting Coup."