"Dad? It's... It's Sam. Dad, I need your help. It's Dean… Dad, I don't know what to do."
John Winchester listened to the voicemail one more time before putting his cell phone away. The message was from three days earlier. There were four others, similar to that one, left on successive days. John cursed the damn poltergeist for taking up his time, for being a pickpocket and stealing is phone, knife, penlight and other small items before he'd had the chance to banish it. For keeping him from his boys.
He hit the speed dial and waited for Sam to answer.
God, he cried to himself. Sam had only said one word, yet it spoke volumes, his fear and weariness shouting out to him, begging for his help.
"Sammy, I'm sorry, I just got the messages. What happened? How's Dean?"
"He's…he's just empty. Won't eat, won't speak… he's just staring into space. It's like he's not even here, Dad. I don't know what to do."
"Where are you, Sam?"
"Charlotte. North Carolina."
"I can be there in a few hours. I'm in Virginia now. What happened?"
"God, Dad. It was awful. Some witch got a hold of him. She had him locked up. I couldn't get to him…" Sam's voice was breaking. John practically heard the tears falling. "She tortured him, Dad."
"What did she do?" he asked, needing, yet not wanting to know."
Sam told him all the horrible details, trying not to cry as he did so.
John gave him specific instructions and ended their conversation with, "I'm coming, Sammy."
Sam dropped his phone onto the bed beside him. He looked across the room, at the other bed, at Dean. He was just lying there, silently staring at the ceiling, or wherever his head happened to turn, when gravity gave in, when Sam moved him… He hadn't spoken a word nor made a sound since Sam had rescued him from the evil woman's clutches. Sam squeezed his eyes closed in frustration and anger. He wished he could kill her for what she'd done to Dean.
He got up and moved to Dean's side, sitting gently on the bed. He reached over and put a Black Sabbath tape into the motel's combination clock/radio/cassette player.
"Dean? Dean, can you hear me?" he called, lightly tapping his brother's cheek. "Come on, Jerk, I know you're in there." He sighed again. "If you don't start talking to me soon, I'll be forced to watch Oprah, just to pass the time. You wouldn't want that to happen, now would you?" Still no reaction.
He reached for the bottle of water on the nightstand. Gently lifting Dean's head and shoulders with one arm, he poured a small amount of the liquid into Dean's slack mouth and quickly put the bottle down. He got Dean's mouth closed before most of the water could dribble out and managed to help his brother swallow the rest. Sam did this several more times, managing to get about half the bottle into his brother.
While he was very worried about what that witch had done to Dean's mental well being, he was also starting to worry about his brother's physical well being. And while Sam had been able to rescue Dean, and had been caring for his needs for three days, there were still the two days he'd spent in the witch's clutches, where he was sure she didn't bother to give him any food or water. He was already coming close to being dehydrated. Lack of food wouldn't be too far behind on the list of ailments.
"Come on, Dean. You're stronger than this. You've got to come back to us. You can't let the bitch win!"
When Sam still received no reply, but only a vacant stare from Dean, he got up and began pacing the small motel room.
The memory of his brother's screaming, begging, calling out to him haunted Sam. He'd seen her latch onto Dean, drag him into her house, both of them powerless to stop her once she was on her own property. She'd thrown up some sort of force field, keeping her and Dean inside and him out. Nothing penetrated it – not bullets, rock salt, or knives – not even the Impala. For six hours straight he'd tried to get in. For six hours straight, he'd had to listen to Dean's voice become hoarse and hoarser and quiet and quieter.
Sam was finally forced to retreat, then, calling out to Dean, telling him to be brave and to resist her torture, as he did so.
It was two days later that he got the breakthrough – at the town's library – the answer to his prayers. He'd found out that the old woman was one of the town's founders, and, more importantly, that she had a criminal history – she'd been arrested in her youth.
Her whole beef against Dean, why she'd singled him out, was that she believed him to be a young criminal, someone who needed to be made into a model citizen. It was when Sam threw her own history at her, showed her that she was no better than anyone else, let alone, Dean, that her spell, her force field, was broken. But the damage to Dean had already been done.
There was nothing Sam could do then, but to gather up his listless, near lifeless, brother, and go.
Sam looked at his watch. He wondered when their father would arrive. Soon, he hoped. He didn't know what else to do for Dean. He leaned against the wall and slowly slid down to the floor.
True to his word, John arrived four hours later. He'd called Sam again when he'd gotten to Charlotte's city limits and got directions to the motel. Fifteen minutes after that, duffle bag full of supplies on his back, he knocked on the door.
"Dad!" Sam greeted him, hugging him tightly.
"Oh, Sammy. I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner," he replied, hugging back. "How is he?"
John walked into the room and over to Dean.
"Dean? Come on, Son. Time to wake up," he called. He adjusted the volume of the cassette player, which was now playing an AC/DC tape.
"I've tried Sabbath, AC/DC, Metallica… Nothing's worked," Sam told him.
"We're just going to have to give it some time, Sam," John replied, gently brushing his fingers through his older son's hair. "She had him for two days straight."
"It was awful, Dad," Sam said, nodding in agreement. "For two days straight she forced him to watch and listen to reruns of the Lawrence Welk show. She took away his leather jacket and forced him into a powder blue tux, with ruffles!" he cried, his body shuddering as he recalled the sight of his brother when he rescued him.
Even John shuddered at the description.
"Get his coat and put it on him. Let him smell the leather," John suggested. "And I've got some Alice Cooper in the truck. We'll get him back, Sammy. Trust me."
Sam nodded again.
Two hours later, in the middle of Alice Cooper's "Welcome to My Nightmare" album, Dean let out a groan as he moved his head back and forth.
"No more bubbles. Please. No more bubbles," he murmured. "I'll kick your polka dotted ass."
Sam and John smiled. Dean was back.