Title: Old Fears. Sequel to Old Ghosts
Author: Gillian Middleton
Total word count: 7450
Authors notes: AU Wincest - This story takes place in Sam & Dean's first year together.
Summary: Sam is injured in a car accident - and Dean meets Sam's parents for the first time - in the worst circumstances.
By Gillian Middleton
Dean looked at his watch for the tenth time in less than a minute, realized what he was doing, and swore under his breath.
"He's still not answering," Nick said, banging the phone down with forceful frustration. "It's not like Sam to ignore his phone."
Dean fought his own panic down, mind running through scenarios, sorting and discarding them. "Maybe he forgot it at his parents house?" he wondered. "I'll try them again." Dean turned his back to Nick, one foot tapping impatiently as the phone on the other end rang out.
"It's already dark," Nick said worriedly. "Are you sure he said he was leaving his parents before lunch?"
Dean bit back a snapping retort, placing the receiver down onto the cradle with deliberate care. "He called me at eleven from Lily's school. Said the presentation was winding up and he was driving to his parents place with his dad to pick up the Camaro." Dean drew a shaky breath. "Something's happened."
"We don't know that," Nick said. "There could be a simple explanation."
"He's four hours late," Dean said stonily. "He would have called, if he could."
Nick hunched his shoulders, grizzled brows drawing together worriedly. "It's too late to call his sister's school. Do you have cell phone numbers for his parents?"
Dean began to shake his head, then blinked. "No, but..." He pulled out his wallet and began to sort through the tattered cards and slips of paper in its bulging folds. Sam always joked that he needed a man-bag to keep his receipts and business cards in and had threatened to buy him one for his birthday. "Sam gave me the card for the grocery store his mom manages," Dean muttered, fingers finding a bright yellow square of card and dragging it out in triumph.
The phone on the other end rang in a depressingly familiar style and Dean gritted his teeth, huffing out a loud exhale of relieved breath as it was finally answered.
"Lorrimer's Grocery," a voice intoned down the line.
"Uh, hi," Dean stuttered. "Uh, could I speak to Colleen Fielding, please?"
"Mrs Fielding's not here," the young female voice informed him.
Dean's heart sunk, then froze in his chest at her next words.
"Her husband and son were in a car accident this morning. She had to leave in a hurry." The woman paused. "Sir?"
Dean's eyes sought Nick's, found him close by, gazed at him in shock.
"Is he... are they okay?" Dean managed. "Her husband and son?"
The girl seemed to realize she'd imparted more than just casual gossip, and her voice sounded a little more serious when she answered. "As far as I know," she said carefully. "The call Mrs Fielding got just said they had been taken to East Bay Hospital."
"Thank you," Dean said, dropping the phone blindly, wondering why he was thanking someone for the worst news he'd ever had. "Sam's been in an accident," he told Nick numbly.
Nick was already grabbing the truck's keys down and heading for the door. "Where is he?" he said, shrugging into his coat and pulling Dean's off the peg.
Dean just shook his head for a moment, then jolted back into himself as Nick's sense of urgency infected him. "East Bay Hospital."
He never questioned Nick's right to come, just shook his head when the old man offered to drive, then climbed into the truck and sat for a moment, drawing a deep breath. "I knew something was wrong," he muttered.
Nick settled next to him and buckled his seat belt, strong old hands clicking the worn metal into place with a determined snap.
"Let's just get to Sam," Nick said steadfastly, and Dean nodded and twisted the key in the ignition.
Dean was glad Nick was beside him on the long drive, even though they didn't speak. Dean found that he couldn't find anything to say that wouldn't sound like begging.
Please let him be all right.
Please let me see him again.
Questions marched through his mind, nightmare scenarios played out in full, screaming stereo as he hit the highway and put the pedal to the floor.
Sam hurt, his strong young body broken. Sam calling for him, wondering where he was. Sam in the hospital, pale, like Renie had been that last time, fingers feeble in his, voice faint.
Renie had died alone, drifting away in the depths of night.
In the depths of the night Dean dreamed sometimes, of Sam, fingers clinging, childish voice calling for him. In his dream he was mute, unable to answer, unable to move as Sam was pulled out of his arms, out of his life, out of his memory.
"Why didn't someone call me?" Dean gritted out, tears burning behind his eyes. "This happened this morning, it's been hours!"
Nick flicked him a glance and Dean met it and turned back to the road, anger tightening his throat, choking out the anguish. Dean welcomed it, and the rush of strength it gave him.
"Just concentrate on getting to Sam," Nick said.
"I'm looking for my... for Sam Fielding. He was in a car accident. They told me he was brought here?"
The desk-nurse in the Emergency Room studied her computer screen. "I have a Sam and a Nathan Fielding." She clicked a button, a frown flickering over her smooth forehead. She glanced up at Dean. "Are you a relative?"
"He's my brother," Dean said swiftly, the truthful lie slipping out easily in the necessity of the moment. A thought flickered through his mind.
Sam's gonna laugh his ass off when I tell him.
The nurse glanced at Nick standing at his shoulder, then nodded. "Your brother's in surgery."
Part of Dean relaxed, and part of him tensed up. Sam was alive. Sam was hurting.
"Surgery for what?" Nick asked.
"Leg injury," the nurse reported. "And your... father?" She waited for Dean's tight nod of confirmation. "Is in ER room five. He's just come back from x-ray, he sustained a head trauma." She pointed down the corridor. "The doctor attending will be able to tell you more."
Nick took his arm and squeezed gently as they walked down the hall. "Brother?" he hissed in disbelief.
Dean shrugged. "They're not gonna stop me from seeing him," he said tightly. Sam was in surgery, Sam was hurt.
Sam was alive.
No one had even bothered to call him.
"There's Sam's father," Nick said, coming to a halt in the busy hallway, sidestepping as a gurney was wheeled by. Dean followed his gaze to the big black man, sitting back on a bed, a green surgical gown covering him to his neck. He had a huge plaster on his forehead and his hand was being gripped by a plump red headed woman standing next to him, murmuring softly.
Dean recognized them from Sam's photographs, throat tightening as he recalled the pride on Sam's face as he showed off his 'rainbow family'. The pain that came and went in Sam's eyes when he looked at that picture now. They looked so cozy, so strong, side by side like that. Sam's family.
Bitter anger lodged in his throat, choked him.
Sam was my family before he was yours, he wanted to throw at them. He's mine now. Mine.
Sam's mother looked up, eyes widening, then narrowing. "Well, look who's here," she said angrily. "Finally decided to show up? Sam only went into surgery an hour ago. Do you even care that he was asking for you?"
"Colleen," Nathan said uneasily and Dean suddenly understood what had happened. Sam's father must have told his wife that he'd called Dean and told him about the accident. Sam's mother thought Dean hadn't cared enough to show up until now.
He was asking for you.
Nick was sputtering in outrage at his shoulder, and Nathan Fielding's eyes caught Dean's, then slid away. Seething with contempt, Dean could only stop and stare at him, the tension of the last few hours exploding in his chest. If the man hadn't been thirty years older than him and laying in a hospital bed, Dean would have struck him to the ground.
Colleen's voice died and she faltered, her outrage fading away to horrified realization as she followed Dean's glance to her husband, read the guilt on his face, and then looked back at the younger man.
"Oh, Nate," she said, lifting a hand to her lips. "What did you do?"
"It's what he didn't do!" Nick stormed, but Dean was already turning on his heel and walking back to the nurses station.
"Could you tell me the name of the doctor in charge of Sam Fielding?" he asked quietly. "I want to find out how he is."
"I cannot believe that man," Nick growled, pacing to the coffee machine and back again.
"Do you have a quarter?" Dean asked, examining the pocketful of change in his hand.
"What? Oh." Nick absently pulled out some coins and handed them over. Dean carefully selected a quarter and fed the last coin into the machine before pressing for a white coffee. "How can you be so calm?"
Dean shrugged and handed the old man the brew. "We're here now," he said, pulling out a couple of dollar bills and punching in the code for his own coffee. "And Sam's all I can worry about."
"He's gonna be okay," Nick repeated like a mantra, sinking down into one of the padded benches with a weary sigh. "The doctor said it was just his leg."
Dean sat down, holding the paper cup with two hands, gazing down into the creamy swirl. "He was asking for me. He must have wondered where the hell I was."
Nick sipped his coffee, flicking him a sideways look. "Are you gonna tell him why you weren't here?"
Dean didn't answer for long moments. "I just want to see him," he finally whispered. "I just need to see him, and touch him, and know that he's okay. I can't think of anything else until then."
They sat side by side on the benches, drawing quietly back into themselves as the busy life of the hospital went on around them. Dean couldn't help remembering the last hospital they'd been at, sat like this at. Drank abysmal coffee at. Nick must be thinking about that too.
Fresh pain assaulted Dean and he closed his eyes against it. This wasn't like that time. That time they'd sat there while a hushed doctor told them how Renie had just slipped away in the night. That time they'd stood up on shaking legs and had to walk away and leave her behind.
Dean wasn't walking out of here without Sam.
He wondered if Sam's parents would make trouble for him and inwardly he girded himself to face it. Just let them say he was an imposter, just let them try telling the doctors that he wasn't really Sam's brother and that he had no right to stay. Dean would throw the truth at their heads and spit into their fucking eyes if they called him a liar. Let them do a freaking DNA test, they'd find out the truth, they'd find out just exactly who had the real right to be here and who the hell the interlopers were...
"Dean." Nick nudged his shoulder and he opened his eyes as Colleen Fielding walked down the corridor and paused in front of him. In contrast to Dean's inner fury, she was nervous, hesitant as she cleared her throat.
"The doctor told us Sam's out of surgery," she said quietly.
Dean lifted his head, eyes purposefully blank.
"They're bringing him down now to recovery. They say we can see him in half an hour." She half shrugged. "I thought you should know," she finished awkwardly.
"Thanks for telling us," Nick said, voice indicating it was too little, too late.
Colleen opened her mouth, then closed it again before scuttling away.
"Damned nerve," Nick muttered, hauling himself to his feet and laying his coffee cup aside gratefully. "Dean?"
Dean looked up, blinking in the harsh hallway lighting. Sam was okay, Sam was being wheeled down here now.
"I'm gonna call Gary," Nick told him, a hand patting his shoulder. "Ask him to come pick me up. I figure you're gonna want to stay here with Sam."
Dean nodded, that one certainty at least flooding through him. "I'll come home when I can bring him with me," he said resolutely.
"I can stay, if you like," Nick offered. "Maybe get a motel room?"
Dean stood up and caught a lean, muscled forearm, squeezing gratefully. "It's okay. You should get home, all your medication and stuff is there. I'll be fine."
"Course you will," Nick agreed. He smiled, deep set creases in his cheeks settling into familiar lines. He surveyed Dean for long moments, then reached out and caught him in a hug, wrapping his arms around him and holding tight. "Everything's gonna be okay," he murmured.
Dean stiffened, blinked, lifted his hands to Nick's back gingerly. Nick hadn't hugged him in years, and even then it had been a rough, half hug around his shoulders. After a moment Dean let himself relax into it, wrapping his arms around Nick's wiry body, feeling the relief and the love in the warm exchange. For a moment those tears behind his eyes threatened, but he blinked them away ruthlessly.
Not yet, he couldn't give into that yet. He still had to see Sam, hold him, look into his eyes and see him looking back.
Nick slapped his shoulder and then drew away, sniffing and rubbing ruefully at his cheeks. "I better call Gary," he said gruffly. "It's a long drive."
Dean watched him stride away, wondering what he'd done to get so damn lucky.
Dean leaned back against the wall, eyes averted as he counted down the minutes. A doctor had come out of the room, explained that Sam was still groggy and that only one person at a time could see him. Then he'd taken a look at Sam's parents and granted them permission to go in together, Colleen pushing Nathan in a wheelchair. Dean had simply stared stonily as Sam's parents crossed the threshold into the recovery room, pain and anger burning in his chest.
Dean wrapped his arms around himself, eyes lowered as people walked past, surgical scrubs crackling as they quickly went about their business. It burnt like acid, that he had no rights where Sam was concerned. Was Sam awake yet? Was he asking about him? What were they saying to him?
The door swung open and the tires of the hospital wheelchair squeaked on the smooth, shiny floor as Colleen pushed Nathan across the threshold. The older man had tears in his eyes, his hand covering his chin, and he looked away as Dean stepped forward.
"What is it?" Dean asked urgently, forgetting his vow to ignore the older couple.
"He's all right," Colleen hastened to assure him. She reached forward and placed a consoling hand on her husband's broad shoulder. "It was just such a relief to see him," she admitted. She squeezed Nathan's shoulder. "He wants to see you."
Her eyes were apologetic, but Dean barely acknowledged her words, now that the moment had come at last he wondered how he had lasted so long, how he'd had patience to wait and wait until all the obstacles were out of the way and he could finally see Sam. Pushing open the door and stepping into the dim little room seemed to take an age.
The door had barely swung closed behind him though before he stopped in his tracks, because there was Sam, propped up a little on the bed, smiling across the room at him. His hair was tumbled and there were flecks of shallow cuts down one side of his face, one, by his eye, covered with a plaster.
But his eyes were clear and steady and his shoulders were broad under the white hospital gown. And he lifted up one hand and held it out. "You look worse than I feel."
Dean let out a breath he felt he'd been holding in for hours. "You dumb shit," he said shakily. "You scared the crap outta me."
Then he was by the bed, taking Sam's hand, feeling the long, supple fingers grip his hand firmly. "Yeah, I love you too," Sam murmured.
Dean couldn't help it, Sam's skin was warm and alive under his fingers, even in the sterile environment of the hospital his scent was manly-sweet and achingly familiar. He lifted Sam's hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to raw knuckles, closing his eyes and breathing Sam deep.
"Hey," Sam whispered, hand curving, cupping Dean's cheek, broad thumb sweeping under his eye. "It's okay."
"You really scared me," Dean repeated unsteadily, and Sam tugged him closer, tilted his head, pressed their lips together in a long, gentle kiss.
"Scared myself," he whispered, and Dean drew back, opened his eyes, then pressed another kiss to a bruised cut. Sam's words were soft against Dean's cheek. "Thought I was never gonna see you again."
Dean shivered a little as recent terrors ghosted through his head, but he pushed them away and smiled as reassuringly as he could manage. "I'm not going anywhere, and neither are you," he said firmly, fingers of his free hand stroking through Sam's tangled brown locks.
Sam smiled sleepily and Dean indulged himself for a moment, finding every shallow cut on Sam's cheek and bestowing a soft kiss upon it, while Sam hummed and half closed his eyes and tilted his head for the caresses. Finally Sam's eyes were drooping and Dean just rested their foreheads together before gently pressing Sam back against a snowy pillow.
"Don't go, okay?" Sam murmured, and Dean pressed another kiss to his forehead.
"I won't," he promised.
"Hey, Dean?" Sam's eyes opened a crack. "What took you so long to get here, anyway?" A rueful smile quirked the corner of Sam's lips. "I wanted to see you before my surgery, you know?"
Dean's heart caught and he gazed into Sam's sweetly slanted eyes, wondering at how young Sam looked, laying there, gazing sleepily up at him. Words of defense crowded his throat, angry words, hurtful words. But Sam was blinking trustingly at him, and they died on his tongue as he forced another smile. "Just took a while for the message to get to me," he returned quietly. "Now go to sleep. I won't be far away."
Sam's hand tightened for a moment, then slowly relaxed as the younger man drifted into slumber.
Dean gazed for long moments more, eyes eating up his lover's face, fingers gently stroking Sam's fine young skin. Then he straightened and turned to find himself gazing into the eyes of Sam's mother.
"Thank you," she said, outside the door.
Dean shook his head and pushed past her, but she caught at his sleeve and clung tightly, forcing him to stop. "Nathan should have called you," she said quickly. "And I'm sorry he didn't. But he wasn't exactly thinking clearly himself, you know? He had a head injury and he was sick with worry over Sam."
Dean cast a glance at Sam's door and then pointedly down at Colleen's hand, still clasping his sleeve. Her lips tightened, but she let him go and followed him down the hall. The minute Dean judged they were far enough away from Sam's room, he stopped and swung around to face her.
"So he was worried about Sam?" Dean spat bitterly. "But not so worried that he would bend his stiff neck and call me. Not even when Sam was asking for me?"
"Dean." Nick was at his side, hand on his arm. His voice was a quiet reminder of where they were. "This is not the time, son."
Dean shot him a glance, then swung about as he caught sight of Sam's father, still sitting slumped in the wheel chair, hands gripping the metal sides tightly.
"You're damn right it's not the time," Dean said. "When Sam was hurt and asking for me, that wasn't the time to indulge in your bitter little bigotry. You couldn't put it aside this one time, and do what was right for Sam?"
"Maybe I think it's right for Sam to be with his family instead of you," Nathan sneered.
"Nate!" Colleen snapped and Dean's anger boiled over.
"You smug prick," he snarled. "You hate me more than you love your son. If anything had happened to Sam," Dean ground out. "If anything had happened to him and I didn't get to see him before..."
"Nothing happened to him," Colleen interrupted.
"You'd what?" Nathan overrode her loudly.
Dean stepped closer to the wheelchair and met the older man's defiant brown eyes. "I'd make sure you never saw him again."
"Dean," Nick said again, and Colleen shook her head and pressed a shaking hand to her brow.
"You really think you have that kind of influence over my son?" Nathan scoffed.
"That's enough!" Colleen yelled, stepping between Nathan and Dean and stamping her foot. "And I mean it! You two are fighting over Sam like two dogs with a bone!"
A nurse was hovering by the corridor and Dean could see a couple of doctors looking up from their clipboards.
"She's right," Nick muttered, and took his arm. "Sorry about this," he said genially to the staring people around them as he towed Dean past the nurse and nodded at the doctors. "Stressful day, you know how it is."
"Nick," Dean protested. "I told Sam I wouldn't go to far."
"You need to cool off a bit," Nick insisted. "Gary and Ronnie are going to be here in an hour, and I want to see Sam myself before I go. But they're not going to let us anywhere near his room with you snapping and snarling." He slanted a glance at Dean and relaxed his hold a little. "You haven't told me how Sam is yet."
Dean felt his anger drain away a little at the thought of Sam.
"He's okay. He's sleeping."
"Best thing for him," Nick said, stopping at the end of the corridor. "And what about you? How are you?"
Dean glanced back down the hallway, but Sam's parents had disappeared. "I'll be okay if I don't have to see that asshole again in my life."
"I'm not defending the guy," Nick said mildly. "But he's not a young man, and he did look pretty beat up."
"That sounds a little like you are defending the guy," Dean pointed out.
"Well, I'm not. I just know how I'd feel if it were you laying in that hospital bed. I probably wouldn't be at my best either."
Dean felt his heart warm a little at the sentiment, and shrugged as Nick patted him fondly on the shoulder. "For what it's worth, I think the guy needs to get his head out of his ass, seriously," Nick continued, and Dean's half-smile cracked and he laughed ruefully.
"But I also think he's Sam's dad, and Sam loves him. Which means you're kind of stuck with him."
Dean acknowledged that with another shrug and Nick just shook his head. "You know what else?" he continued thoughtfully. "Sam didn't come from nowhere, Dean. That guy raised him, which means there must be more to him than the total butthead part he's been showing you. Maybe in time, you might get to see that side of him."
"I'm not holding my breath," Dean retorted, but he thought about what Nick had said, long after Nick had spent a few minutes with Sam, and after Gary and Ronnie had shown up to make the trip back to Palo Alto with him.
Before Sam had come out to his parents, he'd talked to Dean a lot about growing up with them. About working with his dad on their car. About fishing trips and school plays and soccer games his father never missed. Dean had listened in a kind of a wonder to the sort of childhood he'd thought only existed on TV. At the time he'd just been glad that Sam had had such a happy life. He'd figured he owed Sam's parents for the man he'd turned into.
But that took on a whole new meaning, now that Dean knew the truth, knew that he and Sam were brothers. Now Dean knew he owed them another debt. Because they'd taken in the only person in the world Dean loved, even when he only half remembered loving him. And they'd loved and protected him. Given him the strength and confidence to be the man he was today, a man who was strong enough to take the odd hand fate had dealt them, and make the very best of it.
Right now he was still so angry that Dean couldn't imagine holding a civil conversation with Nathan Fielding, let alone finding common ground with him. Except, of course, that they already had that common ground, didn't they?
They both loved Sam.
Colleen Fielding was standing in front of him, looking determined. Dean sighed, feeling the weariness of the day catching up with him.
"Can't this wait?"
And it was the oddest thing, because even though he knew she was no real relation to Sam, Dean could swear he recognized that stubborn angle she set her chin at, as one his lover had perfected.
Dean sighed again. "Fine."
"You know, Dean," Colleen said quietly. "Nathan and I grew up in very different times from the ones you and Sam grew up in. Nathan's father..." she paused, and sighed. "Well let's just say he's not the most enlightened of men. I was married to Nathan for ten years before he finally forgave me for being white."
"So, if I hang around for ten years I might get forgiven for queerifying Sam?" Dean asked. "I can hardly wait."
Colleen gave a small smile and shook her head. "I guess what I'm saying, Dean, is that it really isn't anything personal. It's just the way Nathan was raised."
Dean shook sugar into his coffee and stirred it with a plastic spoon. "No offence, Mrs Fielding, but it felt pretty personal to me. Standing there hearing some stranger tell me that the man I love has been in an accident, is hurt, maybe dead." Dean's voice faltered and he cleared his throat. "Spending two hours driving here, wondering if I was ever gonna see him again."
Colleen reached out to touch his hand but Dean pulled it back, dropped it to his thigh under the table, balling it into a fist. He wasn't finished yet. "And that stuff about prejudice, and not being able to help it, that's bullshit. Your husband is a grown man, and old enough to know better."
"It's not as clear cut as that," Colleen said defensively. "A lot of people still think that way."
"Well, they're wrong," Dean interrupted bluntly. "But hell, so long as they leave me alone I don't care what kind of crap most people run through their heads, your old man included." Dean leaned forward, dropping his voice. "But this stuff, it's hurting Sam. It's breaking his heart. And that I do care about. That I can't forgive."
Colleen absorbed this, fingers clenched around her styrofoam coffee cup. "But you didn't tell Sam what his father did," she probed carefully. "Why?"
Dean sat back and sipped at his own coffee. "I don't want Sam to be hurt. Do you think it's easy for him, being so cut off from his own family? It's a strain on him every day." Dean met Colleen's blue eyes. "He loves his father. And it doesn't matter that it's Nathan's choice to turn his back on Sam, Sam still feels like he's let him down some way. D'you know what he asked me once?" Dean demanded, then stopped, setting his jaw.
He shook his head. "I shouldn't have said anything. It's too personal, Sam wouldn't like me talking to you about it."
"Too personal?" Colleen said wryly. "Sam's my son, Dean. Up until he met you he told me everything." Long sandy lashes fell over blue eyes and Colleen shrugged sadly. "At least I thought he did. I didn't know he was... attracted to men."
"And if he had told you?"
"Well," Colleen said slowly. "I guess he did tell me, when he was ready. He came to me first."
"He was worried about your reaction," Dean said. "But he never really doubted that you'd accept him. He wasn't so sure about his father."
"You said he asked you something once. What was it?" Colleen asked quietly.
Dean surveyed her, seeing the lines of worry and pain bracketing her mouth, the paleness of her fair skin. He was still hurt, and angry, and part of him wanted to tell her just to see it hurt her right back. He wished Nathan was here too, wondered if it would chip that stubborn old bastard's shell even a little.
"Sam told me the story of how you wanted to adopt a little girl, that first time," Dean said brusquely. "And that the social worker took you two to him. He wondered if his dad ever regretted his choice."
Dean watched impassively as Colleen's skin paled even further, as a wash of tears started in her pretty eyes. He felt no satisfaction in her pain, as it happened. But even knowing that Sam wouldn't want his mother hurt, Dean couldn't regret his words. Nathan was her husband, and she obviously felt the need to remain loyal to him and defend him. But Dean still had a thousand nightmare scenarios running through his mind, the first one the true one, where Sam was hurt and in pain and calling for him. And Dean wasn't there.
It was Dean's oldest nightmare, and it cut damn deep.
"Of course we never regretted it," Colleen said shakily. "He's our son, Dean. Our boy, and we love him."
He was mine before he was yours, Dean thought again, but he couldn't sustain his cold anger in the face of her pain. Because the nightmare hadn't come true, Sam was alive and well, and he would be just fine. And when this was over it was Dean he would be going home with.
Dean sighed, letting out the anger he felt he'd been holding for hours and hours, releasing the the tension and the ache in his chest. Suddenly bone weary he rubbed his face, pressing his fingers into his eyes to ease the burn of unshed tears.
"It's not me you have to convince any more." He pushed away from the table and stood up. Then he walked away, found a bathroom and locked himself inside a stall.
One deep, sobbing breath and he finally released the tears as well.
"We'd like to keep an eye on you for another few hours or so, Mr. Fielding," the doctor said, scribbling a notation on the chart. "Head injuries can be tricky. If you're not showing signs of concussion by morning, we'll let your wife take you home."
"What about Sam?" Nathan asked.
"Your son? The surgery went well, he'll probably be released in a day or so."
"Thank you, doctor," Nathan said, leaning back against his pillow with a sigh. He glanced at the clock, blinking in surprise. It was past midnight, more than twelve hours had passed since he and Sam had been brought in here. It felt as if they'd spent days in this place already. Outside his little cubicle the bustle of the Emergency Room went on, despite the late hour. Just down the hall Sam was probably fast asleep already.
Nathan closed his eyes, a twist of anger shaking him. The words that young punk had thrown at him earlier haunted him, he just couldn't get them out of his mind.
You hate me more than you love your son.
The injustice, the untruth of it burned like fire. His children were everything to him, he couldn't possibly love them any more. For that... man to say something like that, to throw that kind of accusation at him... Nathan rubbed wearily at his eyes.
He couldn't help wondering though. What had that man said to Sam about earlier that day? When Sam had been asking for him, and Colleen had assured him that his father had called. Sam must know by now that he hadn't ever made that call. Was Sam angry at him?
I'd make sure you never saw him again.
Now it was a twist of fear in Nathan's chest. Surely that had just been an idle threat. Surely no one had that kind of influence over his son?
With a grumbled curse, Nathan threw back the bed covers and fumbled for the hospital robe by his bed. It was no good. He wasn't going to rest until he'd seen Sam, talked to him. Explained why he'd lied.
The Emergency Room corridor was littered with empty gurneys and complicated looking machines, and Nathan walked slowly down the hall, fighting a wave of dizziness. He'd protested his wife wheeling him around in the wheelchair earlier, but, manly pride aside, his head was throbbing like the devil. Colleen was off getting some much needed rest though, and Nathan didn't think the nurse would agree to letting him disturb his son at this late hour.
Sam was still in the recovery room and Nathan peered up and down the corridor before pushing open the door and slipping quietly in. Then he stopped dead in his tracks, because Sam wasn't alone.
That man was there, chair pulled up to the bed, slumped over and sleeping next to Sam. His head rested on the mattress, one hand up, fingers curled in Sam's lax hand.
Time seemed to freeze, and Nathan was aware of a hundred things, all at once. How quiet and hushed this room seemed. How young his son looked. Those two hands twined together, fingers clinging, even in sleep.
Numbly, Nathan stepped closer.
Dean's face was turned towards him, his skin looked pale, even against the starched white hospital sheets. There were shadows under his eyes, his eyelids were faintly blue. He looked young too, dozing fitfully there, next to Sam. Nathan was reminded all of a sudden of that stupid investigation report he'd waved in Sam's face. That picture of Dean, defiant, angry. Painfully young.
A pang of guilt abruptly hit him and Nathan swallowed hard.
This man... This man had stepped into Sam's life and changed everything. This man had taken away Nathan's dreams for his son of a happy marriage, a houseful of children. A real future. This man had threatened to take Sammy away from them.
This man slept uncomfortably by Sam's side, holding his hand, being here for him.
Sam loved this man.
Tears filled Nathan's eyes. This was not fair. He didn't want this. He didn't want to feel any sympathy for Dean. He'd ruthlessly squashed it, months before, reading that terse little report about Dean's sordid past. He'd choked it down when he'd stubbornly refused to call Dean and let him know about the accident, even when Sammy had been asking for him. He did not want to feel it now, just because he was confronted with this clear truth.
Dean loved Sam. The wild fear in his eyes earlier, the rage, that gentle hand now, wrapped around Sam's, connecting the two of them.
Nathan hated this. Sam was his son, his boy. He bragged about Sam at the Post Office, about grades and scholarships and sporting achievements. Sam was going to be a lawyer, Sam was a man to be proud of.
Sam was gay. His son was gay.
Unable to take it any more, Nathan crept from the room and down the hall, finding a hard chair and falling down on it. He dropped his aching head to his hands, fingers rubbing against his temples. It was time he faced the truth.
There was no going back. Sam was who he was, and even if this Dean was no longer in the picture, that wasn't going to change. It was Nathan who was going to have to change, to try and go against beliefs he'd held his lifelong. If Nathan wanted to keep his son in his life, he was going to have to come to terms with this.
Nathan rubbed at his eyes and straightened, determination flooding him. He still didn't want this. He still hated the idea. Just thinking about Sam being with Dean, climbing into bed with him... It made him sick to his stomach.
He couldn't change it, so he had to learn to live with it. And that meant talking to his son, really talking to him for the first time since this all happened. And, Nathan thought, that probably meant listening to him as well.
"Hey, Dad!" Sam greeted him cheerfully the next morning. "They're cutting me loose this afternoon. Isn't that great?"
"The doctor told me," Nathan said, glancing casually around the room.
Sam's excited expression faded a little. "Dean's gone to get something to eat."
"Right." Nathan stood by the side of the bed and studied his son's face. Sam looked better this morning, the shadows under his eyes had faded, the color of his skin was a little better.
"Everything okay, Dad?" Sam asked.
"There's something I have to tell you," Nathan began slowly.
"You're okay, aren't you?"
Nathan smiled reassuringly at the anxious tone. "I'm fine. It's about yesterday. When I told you I'd call... Dean."
Sam lowered his eyes, jaw clenching. "You didn't call him, did you?"
"Did he tell you that?"
Sam shook his head, then lifted his gaze, pain stark in his eyes. "No, he covered for you. Trying to protect me, no doubt. It's just, he's a lousy liar."
Nathan nodded his head. "I'm sorry, Sam. It was wrong of me to lie to you."
"I'm not the one you should be apologizing to," Sam said. "But I guess that's not gonna happen any time soon, is it?"
Nathan felt his heart clench in pain at the weary cynicism in his son's voice. It was hard to admit that his own stubbornness had brought then here, where Sam thought the very worst of him, and not without reason.
"As a matter of fact that's the first thing I'm going to do when I see him," Nathan said firmly. "Although I wouldn't blame him if he threw it back in my face."
Sam gaped at him. "Dad? You mean it?"
Nathan sighed and nodded his head. "I do, I do mean it, Sam. This thing, it's not... Dean's fault." He faltered a little over the name but doggedly persevered. "It's my fault, it comes from me. And I'm the one who's going to have to do something about it."
Hope was kindling in Sam's eyes, but it was so tentative, so cautious, that it was almost painful to watch. Nathan reached out and took his son's hand, smoothing his thumb over Sam's long fingers.
"Sammy," he murmured. "I'm an old fool, and parts of me are set in stone. But I'm going to try, son. Because I love you so much. And I don't want to lose you."
Tears filled Sam's eyes and he shook his head. "You could never lose me, Dad," he said, his voice thick.
But Nathan knew he'd already lost something precious between him and Sam. There had always been a trust between them, and now that was gone. Sam was wary now, and worried, and a boy should never have to worry that his father might not love him. No matter what he'd done. And Sam's crime wasn't so very great.
Just loving someone.
"You and Dean," Sam said carefully. "I know if you give it a chance, you could be friends. You guys... You're a lot alike, in some ways."
Nathan raised a curious brow.
"You both work hard, and family comes first," Sam said. "You both love classic cars and crap rock music."
"Excuse me," Nathan said, feigning indignation. "If you're talking about my sincere love of heavy metal bands, I have to take exception to that."
As he'd hoped, Sam grinned, the lines of worry chased away. Nathan swore to himself that he would do whatever it took to keep that smile on his son's face.
His resolve was tested as soon as he walked out of Sam's room. Dean was approaching, eyes averted as they passed in the corridor. Nathan took a deep breath and held out a hand to stop him.
The young man stopped and looked at him coolly.
Nathan thrust out his hand.
Dean's eyes dropped to it, one brow lifting in surprise.
"I wouldn't blame you for not accepting my hand," Nathan said firmly, keeping his hand extended. "But I hope you'll accept my apology. I had no right to try and keep you and Sam apart yesterday. Or any other time." He met Dean's blank stare. "I'm sorry."
For long moments Nathan thought Dean was just going to brush past him, a small part of him even hoped he would.
"See, I tried to make amends, he wouldn't accept."
Nathan pushed that small part of him down, ashamed of it.
Finally, eyes still shuttered, Dean extended his hand and they met in the middle and shook.
"You know, Sam just got through telling me how alike we are."
Dean blinked, looking surprised. "Really?"
"He might be right, I haven't really given us a chance to find out yet. But there is one thing we have in common."
Dean flicked a glance at the door to Sam's room and Nathan nodded, knowing the younger man had figured it out.
"See you around, Dean," Nathan said, and he walked away, down the hall, feeling curious eyes on his back the whole way.
And a light sensation, like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
"Dude, you look like you've seen a ghost," Sam said.
Dean shook his head, still a little dazed. "Your father just apologized to me." He lifted his hand and looked at it as if he didn't recognize it. "He shook my hand."
"Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?" Sam said thoughtfully.
Dean looked suspicious. "What did you say to him?"
Sam held up his hands. "Nothing, I swear. That all came from him."
"Huh." Dean perched on the side of the bed. "Remind me to buy a lotto ticket."
Sam grinned and leaned back against his pillows. "The doc came while you were out stuffing your face. They're cutting me loose this afternoon."
Dean pushed away his worries and doubts and smiled back. "Awesome. Did I ever tell you how much I hate hospitals?"
Sam caught his forearms and pulled him a little closer, fingers stroking over the fine golden hairs on Dean's skin. "Did I ever tell you I hate sleeping alone since I started sleeping with you?"
Dean carefully slid his hands around Sam's ribcage, delighting in the warmth of supple flesh through the thin hospital gown. "We're gonna have to get extra creative, what with that cast of yours."
Sam smiled wickedly. "Creative I can do."
Dean leaned into the gentle kiss, closing his eyes and breathing in the scent of Sam. He hoped for Sam's sake that his father had turned a corner, but it didn't mean much to Dean beyond that. All he needed was here in his arms, everyone and everything else in the world faded beside that truth. Every moment of every day was precious, and he knew he'd never need reminding of that again.
So he savored every moment as they touched and talked and decided how they were going to manage the basics of life with Sam in a cast. And he wondered again, for a moment, what he'd done to get so lucky.
But he didn't waste much time worrying about it.