A/N: Shortest chapter ever!
It's been a little longer than I had hoped, and you can blame that on a shitty case of writer's block. All these ideas, and none of the skill to write 'em down!
Anyways, my damn teachers are on strike, so maybe I can crank out another chapter before the end of the week. No promises though! And a hearty thank you to all those who reviewed. You guys are my spinach!
Sam doesn't make it sixty minutes before he slips Dean's coat on.
He knows he looks like a loser, like any one who happens to glance at him would know that he's just an idiot dressing up in his brother's clothes. The leather jacket fits pretty well across the shoulders; Sam is at least as broad as Dean in the upper chest, but narrower through the waist and hips. One might think it is his. Of course, if Dean were to catch him wearing his clothes Sam would never hear the end of it.
Sam hopes Dean catches him, even if it means guaranteed teasing for the rest of his natural life. Especially if it means guaranteed teasing for the rest of his natural life.
It's only been forty-five minutes since they arrived at the hospital, but it feels longer. Sam periodically gazes at the door leading out of the waiting room, as though by keeping his eyes on it, he can wish someone to come through and tell him everything is going to be fine. He wants news on his brother, but at the same time he's afraid to hear it.
He reaches up with shaking hands, and flips the collar of the jacket up. Catching a glimpse of himself in the reflection of a vending machine, he quickly turns it back down. He has no idea how Dean can make it look cool when it still just makes Sam look like a psycho dressing up in clothes that don't belong to him.
The collar smells like Dean, that unmistakable mix of leather, gunpowder, sweat, and the little bit of cologne he puts on when he has to charm information out of some poor, unsuspecting women. The smell bites at Sam, makes his chest hurt, but he doesn't take the jacket off.
Something in the pocket rustles when Sam shifts on the hard plastic chair. He slips his fingers inside, and pulls out a handful of receipts, some from diners they stopped at during their journey, others from gas stations where they filled the Impala. He flips through them, reading the dates and the amount of payment. They're like a jumbled sort of scrapbook, bits and pieces of the last six months of their lives on random slips of paper. There are no real memories involved with the receipts, the numbers typed on their surface are fading fast and hold no real weight for Sam. But like the jacket itself, the papers offer a connection to his brother. At a time when Sam feels so lost and adrift, he grasps desperately at any link to the family that seems so fragile.
He stuffs the receipts back into the pocket, and reaches into the other one. His fingers dance past the car keys, a handful of change, a couple of bills and eventually settle on Dean's cell. He pulls out the familiar flip phone, scratched and dented from heavy use. Sam has his own phone, but like everything else besides Dean's jacket and Sam's jeans, he left it at the motel room.
Sam opens the phone now, wipes the small colour display screen on the knee of his jeans. The background makes Sam frown; it's obviously a candid snapshot taken with the phone's tiny camera. Naturally, it's of Sam, sleeping and dead to the world, head leaning against the car door and mouth hanging open. If he looks closely enough, he can see a line of drool working it's way down his chin and onto the collar of his own jacket. He rolls his eyes, and resolves to bring up this picture, among other things, if –no, when- he talks to Dean again.
Sam selects the phonebook option, and quickly skims through the entries. Most he doesn't know, a few he recognizes as contacts of Dean's and their father's, but he doesn't care about any of those. The cursor pauses next to the sixth entry in the list.
His thumb hovers over the little green button, hesitating to depress it and make the connection. Dean would want his father there, Sam knows. His brother hates showing weakness, but at the same time, he derives most of his strength from his family. Even knowing what John Winchester has done to them, both on purpose and inadvertently, Dean would want him there.
Sam sighs heavily, closes the phone and slips it back into the pocket. He can't call him. Not yet, at least. It's too soon. Sam will wait until he learns something about Dean's condition, and then he will call their father. There would be no point in talking to him without having anything to say.
He supposes there's a part of him that's afraid that their father won't come, even with Sam doing the pleading, and Dean lying on what could very well be his deathbed. He wonders what would be worse: watching his brother die with no one beside him, or knowing that Dean left this world with the knowledge that his father didn't care enough to come. Sam ducks his head to his chest, blinking rapidly to dispel the tears that rise with that thought.
He turns his head away at the sudden voice, sniffing noisily and wiping the remainder of the tears on the shoulder of Dean's jacket. Which he realizes with a start he is still wearing. Face burning crimson, he shrugs out of it and lays it on the seat next to him.
Ben the paramedic is standing over him, holding a cup of steaming coffee in each hand, and perfecting the concerned older brother look. Sam hates seeing that look directed at him from anyone who isn't Dean, but he manages to hold onto the urge to wipe it off the other man's face with a well-placed right jab.
Sam nods emphatically, for once glad that he let his hair grow long enough to fall over his eyes. He leans forward, rests his elbows on his knees as Ben sits down next to him.
"Thought you could use a little pick-me up." He passes over one Styrofoam cup, and though the coffee is black, just the way Dean likes it but a little too bitter for Sam himself, he takes a deep, grateful gulp. It burns his tongue and the inside of his throat on the way down, but he thinks it's only fitting given the situation.
"You know anything?" He asks Ben, and he'd like to blame the hoarse quality of his voice on the too-hot coffee.
Ben sighs, leans back in his chair and takes a sip from his own cup. "They're still working on him, Sam. It doesn't look good, but the fact that no one's come to talk to you is a good thing. Trust me."
Sam sends him a sidelong glance. He can't quite believe that sitting here going through a thousand possible scenarios could in any way be better than being informed on what's going on. But then he remembers the saying 'no news is good news' and knows that things could be worse. The fact that they're not talking to him must mean they're busy working, and if they weren't busy working, that would mean…He pushes that thought out of his mind before it can materialize. Nothing good lies that way, and he refuses to go down that path.
"Is there someone you can call, Sam? Going through something like this on your own isn't recommended."
Though they're not meant to, the words sting. Sam realizes that he must look like an ordinary college-age kid, one whose mom and dad would come running at a mere phone call, when his reality couldn't be more different. He shakes his head sadly.
"No. No, it's just me and Dean."
Ben nods slowly, taking another drink from his coffee. He seems willing to let that go without further explanation, and for that, Sam is grateful. He doesn't want company, but the fact that Ben is here at all, when he obviously has more important things to do, isn't something Sam is going to cheapen by refusing to answer questions.
"You said earlier that you didn't know how those wounds happened."
Sam turns his head sharply, and sees that Ben is feigning casualness, one arm slung over the back of the chair next to him, and his legs crossed at the ankles. His words and their implications are anything but casual, though.
"I did. And it's as true now as it was then."
Again, Ben nods. He leans forward, rests his elbows on his knees in a mimic of Sam's own posture. "And I believe that. But you have to understand how it looks. Your brother's not in any position to tell us what happened, and you were there with him, in that motel room."
Sam doesn't need anything spelled out for him. He did go to college, after all.
"You called the police. That's what you're trying to say, right? You think it looks like I shot my own brother, and so you called the cops."
Ben's shaking his head before Sam's even finished talking. "No. Not me, Sam. The hospital. The pattern of bruising on Dean's chest is identical to the marks a shotgun leaves. The fact that you were in the room means nothing as far as that goes; the hospital is required by law to call the police when any gun shot victims come in."
He favours Sam with a careful look, one that nearly begs for honesty. "I shouldn't even be telling you this. But something tells me that you're not going to run off and leave your brother here. Am I right, Sam?"
Sam can't find the words, so he nods. Ben continues.
"They're going to want to know everything, Sam. Everything that happened before you woke up to your brother suffocating, and anything you can tell them about what he was doing before you two hooked up. Okay?"
"I didn't know it was that bad." Sam looks down at his hands hanging between his knees, and is perplexed by their shaking. He sets his coffee down on the floor before he drops it. "Dean, he's always been really good at hiding it when he's hurt. When he's really hurt, that is. If he gets a little splinter, or a paper cut, he'll whine about it for as long as he can get away with it, to anyone who will listen. But the real injuries, the ones that can really cause some damage…When he was twelve, he walked around with a broken foot for three days before our dad finally found him out." Sam pauses for a minute. He remembers with perfect clarity how angry their father had been when he caught a glimpse of the damage, before Dean could get his sock on quick enough to conceal it. He remembers how white-faced Dean had been when the doctor was poking and prodding the foot swollen to nearly twice it's size, and he still remembers how Dean winked at him from the gurney as they wheeled him down to x-ray. "I could never understand why he did it. I think he thought he was saving my dad money, and trouble, but it always got worse and cost more once he finally got it taken care of."
He covers his face with shaking hands, and breathes noisily through his fingers. He's forgotten Ben is there at all, so deeply ensconced in memories and emotions he has become. He's no longer answering a question, but merely speaking out loud to hear his own voice. "I knew he was hurt. I knew it, and I tried to get him to go to the hospital, but he was just so damn stubborn. He always is, and I usually fight harder than I did. But it was just easier to let him tell me he was fine. Easier to believe that a couple of ibuprofen chased with orange juice would make him all better. God, I'm a horrible brother."
"You're not a horrible brother." Ben lays a hand on Sam's shoulder, and though the touch isn't entirely unwelcome, Sam flinches beneath it. "You probably have a lifetime of trusting your brother, of listening to him when he tells you to do something. It's not your fault that you believed him. If you want to blame someone, blame whoever shot him."
His words mimic something Dean said to Sam months ago, during the time they spent researching the Bloody Mary legend. 'If you want to blame something, then blame the thing that killed her.' Logically, he has always known that even if he had warned Jessica, he probably couldn't have prevented her death. The same could not be said about Dean's injuries. Ben has no idea how spot on he is with telling Sam to blame the shooter. He already does.
He takes a shaky breath, and straightens up slowly on the chair. "So when are the cops going to get here?"
Ben takes his hand of Sam's shoulder, and his gaze flickers down the hall. "Uh, looks like they're here already."
Sam follows his eye line to where two men in the telltale dark blue uniforms of the police are speaking quietly to a middle-aged woman in bright pink scrubs. She listens to them talk for a few moments, then nods her head and points down the hall in Sam's direction.
Sam picks up the coffee from the floor, and drains it in one smooth gulp. His hands have begun shaking again; he wipes the suddenly sweaty palms on his jeans. He doesn't want to do this; he's never been a convincing liar, even in the best of situations. Dean and their father did it effortlessly, apparently willing to sacrifice their morals for their cause, if those morals even existed in the first place. But to Sam, things had never been that black and white. Every credit card scam, every little white lie told to victims' families, they all added on to Sam's already guilty conscious.
Beside him, apparently mistaking the cause of his nervousness for something else, Ben lays a strong hand on Sam's shoulder again. "Don't worry about it, Sam," he says, speaking under his breath. "You didn't do anything wrong. They just want to know what happened to your brother. You're not in trouble."
Logically, he knows this. The police have no reason to believe Sam is the one who injured his brother. No weapons were left in the motel room; the shotgun Ellicott/Sam had used to shoot Dean is hidden safely in the trunk of the car. Sam knows with conviction that even if he were able, Dean would never point the finger at him.
And while Sam may not be as adept at weaving a complex web of lies and then remembering all those fake details as Dean is, he has to admit to himself that he is certainly no slouch. After all, he does have the experience of lying to someone he loved, consistently and without doubt, something that Dean never had to do. Surely he can handle a couple of strange cops. He has no conceivable reason to be nervous.
And yet, he can feel his heart rate beginning to climb. His sweaty hands give way to trembling, and he hides the offending appendages deep in his pockets. The coffee in his empty stomach that until now had been quiet begins to bubble, and Sam worries he might throw up right here.
The room suddenly throws him for a loop, the floor tilting up beneath him until he loses all sense of up and down. Someone's talking to him, but it's like they're speaking in the wrong end of a megaphone; the sound is so distorted Sam wouldn't have any chance of deciphering it even if his head isn't currently trying to separate from his body. He tries to take a step towards the chair he just vacated, to sit down and regain his equilibrium, but the newly adjusted angle of the floor makes that impossible, and before he can reach out an arm to catch himself, the floor is rushing up to meet his face.