Authors Note: I hope the lovely Ridley C. James won't mind me using her Caleb in this part of the story, she's done such an amazing job making him original I kind of feel like I'm stealing him. Anyway elements of him are from her Caleb who I adore. Sorry this chapter has taken since oh I don't know about the dawn of time to write (lol) but it's been a real bugger to get around. Anyway...I thank every one of you for your kind and thoughtful reviews.
Let the limp Sam continue.
John had never been torn limb from limb before but if he had been he was pretty sure that even that paled in comparison to the absolute pain he was feeling now.
It was like being wrapped in a strange ball of cotton wool, he could hear everything around him but it was muffled, distorted, paling into a vapid insignificance, he was aware people were trying to talk to him and he was aware he was crouched, could feel the cold concrete beneath his jeans but he just couldn't quite grasp reality.
Being in the marines had taught him a lot about regaining control, of pulling together at the most precarious and horrific of times but all his training had fled the moment the paramedics abandoned his son like some stray cat they'd regrettably had to put down. Why weren't they doing anything? Why was everything moving in slow motion? Was this actually happening?
That was it.
This was a nightmare.
John felt his body slowly let out a long breath as he decided upon that solution. Yes, a nightmare, it had to be, because there was just absolutely no way, no way for his mind to even contemplate the horror of the situation his little family were in. This couldn't be real, if this were real their was no way his little soldier Dean'd be crying as loud and as publicly into his shoulder, there was no way his baby would be bleeding out and dying against his chest. No way. None.
He wanted to wake up now. He wanted to wake up and see Sammy jumping onto his chest and bouncing up and down on the bed covers babbling about his new class and pulling him up, he wanted to see Dean smile ruefully at him over some over crispy attempt at bacon.
He had decided completely that it was a nightmare and was contemplating how the hell to wake himself up when someone tried to take Sam from his arms, and suddenly, as if someone had turned on a light switch, or clicked their fingers at once, everything rushed back, suddenly the voices were no longer smothered and cotton wool like, they were loud and shrill and in his ear, and the cries, oh god, Dean, the cries and the screaming and he wasn't stupid enough not to realise most of that noise was coming from him.
John's fist shot out, catching a paramedic off guard as he reared back in shock at the unexpected attack.
'Don't touch him.'
'I said don't touch him.'
The medic backed away slowly and exchanged sickeningly sympathetic looks with his colleagues as John's fingers found Sam's hair and fisted there, clinging more tightly than ever.
No. No. No.
Why wasn't he waking up now?
Oh sweet jesus why wasn't he waking up?
Immediately the knowledge that his baby boy hadn't breathed for over ten minutes hit him like a mack truck to the chest. Gingerly he uncurled Sam from his chest and lay him back down on the tarmac before him.
The ten year old's pallor was a dull almost grey and his lips were a deep blue, bruising starkly from the rest of his lax features. For the barest of moments John brought his fingers up to touch his son's lips, hovered there briefly.
"You my boy, are stronger than this." He managed when he found his voice through all the shaking.
And then he had Dean in his grip. "Dean, chest now."
Dean was staring at him like he'd just found himself offered a lifeboat after months stranded in the ocean. Yes. John needed to see that look in Dean's eyes. Needed Dean to believe he COULD save Sam, he would save their boy. John needed to believe that himself.
He leaned over Sam's tiny face and sealed his mouth over his sons. Breathing life back into the child he created.
One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four…
It was funny, in that moment, on that tarmac, with his hands over his brother's unbeating heart, Dean had never felt more alive in his life.
Instinct kicked in. And from a horror so sickening, so absolutely unspeakable he'd looked up and he'd seen his father's eyes, his father's plans, and he'd had something to believe in again.
Because for all the things Dean Winchester knew, the most important was John Winchester didn't lose, he never failed, he was as constant as time, and if John Winchester said they weren't losing Sam. They weren't fucking losing him. Simple as.
Only the CPR wasn't working and Sam had been down too long now. Far too long.
You don't get to give up on us kid. He told his brother as he pumped. You don't get to go now.
His father's muttered counting echoed through the answering silence and Dean hazarded a look up to see the sympathetic and peering faces watching their little drama unfold.
Fuck you. Dean thought. Fuck you and your sympathy. We don't need it. We don't want it. He's making it through this. He's making it.
He turned his face back to Sam's. And everything faded away once more.
The spectators were gone, the ambulances silent, the light fading, the only thing that existed in that moment was the three of them, the way it'd always been. Dad. Dean. Sammy. Fighting for one another, fighting for themselves. Fighting.
Sam, the protected, Dad the general, Dean the second in command.
Sam had to make it. He would make it, because without something to protect what was the point of the army, without a cause who the hell were they fighting for?
He'd make it. Dad said he'd make it and that was enough for Dean.
One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four…
Except he didn't make it.
Sam that is.
He didn't breathe again while John and Dean worked on him. They made it twenty minutes before they were physically wrenched away, both unwillingly sedated by the paramedics who wanted to move the poor little boy's bruised and battered body to the hospital. The crowd watched in sympathy and horror thanking god it wasn't one of their own as the ambulances drove away and the demon watched from behind Sam's dead eyes with a smile that could have woken the dead with its malice, and almost did.
John woke to white light and prayed to god for this to be the moment he woke from the nightmare.
No Sam on his chest. No Dean or bacon. Just white, clinical, nothingness.
He was still in his jeans and shirt. He was alone.
He turned his head to the left and refused to think. Emptied his mind of everything until he saw Dean, lying asleep, drugged on the bed opposite him.
Staggering to his feet he made his way to his eldest's side. Dean's eyebrow's were drawn tightly down and tear tracks and smoke still smudged his wan cheeks. John took a shaking thumb and drew the soot away.
This wasn't supposed to happen.
He was supposed to save Sammy. He was supposed to protect his boys. His baby was supposed to make it to see eleven for fucks sake. But Mary was supposed to make it to 26 too, his inner voice screamed against the pounding of his heart.
He couldn't protect Mary, he could protect Sammy. He had to.
He had raised that baby, he and Dean, he had cuddled and changed and kissed and rocked that baby, and he'd be damned if he let him slip away now. He'd be damned if he let some motherfucking fire demon destroy his life a second time. Nobody touched his children, nobody.
John's body thrummed with an anger, a fierce primitive protectiveness so strong he almost went down under it. His boys were all he had. And he would march into hell himself to get them back if he had to. And he feared the time had come to do that for Sam.
Leaning down he swept back Dean's smoky hair, "I'll sort this Dean. Your Dad's got this one son. I promise. We're not losing our boy. Sam's not going anywhere." With a last sweep of his hair he placed his lips to his son's sleeping forehead and kissed him gently. "I'll be back soon."
"I don't want to hear that from you Jim. I want to hear you say you'll help me."
Jim Murphy's distraught voice echoed over the line "John you can't my friend. You know what the repercussions of this are. You can't play god."
"But the demon can right?"
"No Jim. No." His hand grips the bathroom wall so tightly it turns white. "It took my Sammy, it took him right from under us, it ripped his chest apart and almost burned him alive, it is not fucking taking him from us. I won't let it Jim. If you won't help me I'll do it alone."
"John…god…you know how much I love Sam, I'd give up anything for that boy, but I can't be a part of this."
"Then you won't, I just need the name of the ritual…"
"John you don't know what you're asking."
"I know Jim. I know."
A silence echoed through the line and John could almost see the cleric stalking across the rectory pondering his eternal damnation, he also knew without a doubt that Jim would help him. He was the only person in the world, bar Caleb, Mac and Joshua that John could trust with his boys. The only one.
"I know what I'm asking of you Jim, and you know me, I wouldn't ask you unless I had absolutely no choice. Jim, god, I'm sorry…' John ran a hand through his dark hair. "I'm sorry, but it's Sammy, Jim. It's Sammy.'
The pause that greeted him lasted entirely too long.
"Tarot, and blood John, tarot and blood."
The dial tone screams Jim's guilt and John whispers thankyou to the air before punching the bathroom wall so hard his knuckles bleed.
Dean wakes to no one. And ain't that a kick in the balls.
An empty bed next to him makes him believe his Dad's with Sammy. Or Sammy's body. And that alone is enough to make Dean laugh somewhat hysterically.
Sam wasn't supposed to die. Dad said he wouldn't die. So how come he hadn't started breathing again? How come he'd lay cold and unresponsive for over twenty minutes till some son of a bitch injected something into Dean's forearm and he heard his Dad cursing like a sailor as he was given the same treatment.
My little brother is dead, he thinks. And then he thinks, no. Because denial's easier, denial he can cope with. Reality not so much right now.
He can't seem to stop his brain from transmitting those final moments with Sam, the ceiling, the fire, that blank look on his baby brother's young face. Oh god…oh dear god.
He needs to see him.
Suddenly as sure as he needs oxygen he needs to hold Sam, to feel him, to be with him. He wants his brother. Wherever he is Sam will be cold, and scared and alone, god he'll be all alone.
Dean hurls himself up and staggers out of the room.
Caleb throws the leather jacket down soundlessly and has his arms around John in a second.
"Don't say it Caleb. He's going to be fine, I'm fixing this."
Reaves nods at his friend, pretends not to notice the older man's hands shaking.
"Johnny you sure about this?"
John reaches out a hand and takes the book and the tarot cards from the dark haired man standing before him. "I can't lose him Caleb, I don't have a choice."
Caleb nods, and claps a hand to John's shoulder "then I'm with you man." He pictures a two year old Sammy, an angelic smile, under a mountain of brown curls swinging between his father and brother, "I'm with you all the way."
It's surprisingly easy for him to see Sam, and Dean's almost upset none of the doctors have stopped him, he's in the mood to hurt someone right now.
Instead he's surprised to be shown into a room, not a morgue, a simple white room with a dead little brother in the middle of it. Dean bites his lip so hard it bleeds. The nurse stands a moment, inquiring about his father, Dean makes up some lie about needing a break. Truth is he can't believe his Dad isn't here either, leaving Sam alone, unprotected, what the fuck.
"Still...", he thinks as he makes his way haltingly to his brother's side, "it's always been us anyway hasn't it Sam? Just us."
Sam looks pale and wrong and Dean thinks those people who claim dead people look like they're simply sleeping obviously hadn't met his brother before. When Sam slept it was spread eagled, sprawling across beds, hair standing up in tufts, mouth parted, when he was very little with a tiny fist in it, but now not so much.
This Sam, is straight, rigid, like he's been moved that way.
And Dean hates it.
He stands peering down at his little brother's face and feels bile rise up in his throat. Before him is everything he hoped he'd never have to see, every single darkest fear he'd ever held, laid out in a white sheet before him.
He takes Sam's cold hand in his own and breathes on it, rubbing it between his own. "You cold Sammy? It's ok," he whispers, "it's ok, I'm here now kiddo, I'm here."
The part of him, the part that refuses to believe this is Sam, that this is his baby brother lying before him dead, waits for Sam to answer, but it never comes and he sits down into the chair at Sam's side.
He brings his second hand out to push the curls back from Sam's forehead. Such a mess. Such a god damned mess. "What happened huh?" He manages, "What happened between me dropping you off at school and here Sam? God you were fine, you were a little grumpy, but you were ok, that was only this morning Sammy, what happened? What the hell happened?"
The absolute silence of the room breaks him, not even a beeping of a life support machine, there's no life here, not now, and that makes his heart ache so hard he wants to die right here with Sammy.
He brings his forehead to Sams'. Looks down at those closed eyelashes, so close his breath is on Sam's face. "I can't get my head around this you know? I can't. I promised you I'd always protect you, why'd you have to go make a liar out of me? Huh?" His hand stills on Sam's hair and a lone tear drops onto the younger Winchester's cheek from above. Dean heaves in a shuddering breath and sees Sam age 2 days, cradled in his mother's arms, Sam at one stumbling towards him on wobbly legs, sees Sammy at five riding his bicycle to fast and falling into Dean's waiting arms, Sammy 's indignant expression as he wrenched his hand from Dean's this morning, "I got it Dean", turning with one last glance to Dean as his brother gave him a thumbs up as he entered the school. "It wasn't supposed to be this way Sammy. You were supposed to be safe there. You were supposed to be safe."
The tears fall harder as Dean brings his lips to his brother's forehead, kisses his brow, then each eyelid and his little nose, his mom's nose. "I'm sorry Sam. I'm so sorry Sammy. My Sammy. So sorry."
John hadn't expected that, thinking his eldest was still out for the count he moves forward and immediately pulls Dean from Sam tight into his embrace. He purposefully avoids looking at his baby for fear he'll lose it right there.
Caleb's sharp exhale of breath as he takes in the little boy who'd become a part of his family, has John's head snapping up from Dean's hair.
"It's alright son, we're going to fix him, we're going to fix this."
Dean looks up at him and John breaks a little inside to see the lack of trust there right now. "You said that back at the school."
And damn if that doesn't hurt.
"I know Dean, but we have a plan now. I promise buddy. I need you to trust me now son."
Dean's eyes flicker back to Sam, but he's desperate, desperate for something to hold onto and John sees the moment he believes in his old man again. "Ok."
Dean moves back slightly from Sam and Caleb moves forward and pulls Dean into his arms. "Hey Deuce."
"Reaves." Dean manages, struggling to maintain his façade around the man he'd always idolized.
"Kid's really gone and done it this time huh?"
Dean sniffs and pulls back, "yeah I'm going to give him hell for scaring the shit out of us like this."
Caleb nods noticing that Dean is a mere hairs breath away from losing it completely. He claps him on the shoulder and looks up to see his friend standing frozen, staring at his youngest son.
John's rigid and shaking and Caleb can't remember ever seeing him like this. He brings his hand to Sam's forehead and lets it hover there a moment. Then he leans down and whispers in a tone that could only be described as desperate. "I have you now Sammy. Dad's got you now baby. You just come back to us. And we'll do the rest."
"What's going on? What are you doing here?"
Caleb turns to Dean uncomfortable to witness such a private moment. "Your Dad's a man with a plan Deuce, we're getting Sammy back."
Dean snorts and glares for a moment, "excuse me for pointing this out to you here demon boy but Sam's dead, aka no pulse, aka no heartbeat, aka no breathing, how the fuck are we going to sort this?"
"Dean, Dean, Dean…" Caleb says with a wicked smirk, "oh ye of little faith."
"Well excuse me if I'm a little dubious right now, see I just watched my baby brother bleed out before me."
Reaves bristles then, god the thought of Sam in that much pain, doesn't bear thinking about, to any of them. "Deuce, you and I, we've had our differences right?"
Dean cocks an eyebrow.
"Now in all the years you've known me man, you ever known me to put Sammy in danger? You ever known me to lie to you unless it was for your own good?"
Dean sighs begrudgingly scuffing his trainer against the linoleum floor. "No."
"Exactly. Your Dad and I are going to handle this."
"Doesn't matter how it just…"
"Reaves I said I want to know how."
Caleb sighs, meeting the mutinous gaze of a kid eight years younger than him that could challenge him like few others could. "We got our hands on a spell…a binding spell…we're gonna catch ourselves a reaper Deuce, and then we're getting Sammy back from the dead."
Preview: Next chapter look for serious drama as Dean struggles with a nightmare scenario, the demon makes a reappearance and John messes with something he really REALLY should have left alone.