Much to Dean's surprise he'd fallen asleep not long after Sam but he now felt refreshed and ready to make some plans.
"Okay, I think Dr. Osmond is the key to figuring out what's been going on with you so as soon as we can spring you I was thinking you should stay at Bobby's while I look for him," Dean explained.
Sam felt pain spike behind his right eye. Despite it he still managed to shake his head no. The head of his bed was raised and he leaned back against several pillows.
"No, you don't think Dr. Osmond is the key, or no, you don't want to go to Bobby's?" Dean asked patiently. He watched as Sam flinched as though in pain before pulling over the tray table holding the laptop computer. Squinting past the pain in his head he began slowly typing with his left hand.
Dean leaned over Sam's shoulder and read stay together.
Dean couldn't argue the point. "Well then maybe I could call the Roadhouse and ask Ash to see if he can find Dr. Osmond for us," Dean suggested instead.
Without warning, blinding pain flared through Sam's head. Taken by surprise he pulled both of his hands up to his face, forgetting his right arm was in a cast, and bashed himself in the cheek. His head flew backward, connecting with the head of the bed, and then he ricocheted forward, careening into Dean who had been standing next to him.
Dean's arms instinctively grabbed Sam to halt his descent.
Dean was stunned. One moment he was talking about their next step and the next Sam was bashing himself into unconsciousness.
Dean leaned forward and activated the call light while carefully cradling Sam against his side. He was afraid to move his brother in case he caused further damage.
The nurse who had asked if Sam was always so talkative entered the room, took in the scene before her with a wilted Sam held securely against Dean, and scrambled out into the hall to summon more help. More staff poured into the room and Dean soon found himself displaced.
A familiar panic bubbled up inside Dean. Not only did he have to protect Sam from the world but now he had to protect his brother from himself.
Dr. Larsen had been paged and after yet another CAT scan it was determined that Sam hadn't done further damage to his skull. He was back in his room, resting comfortably, unaware of the chaos he had caused.
Dean couldn't help but think that Sam's hard headedness had finally been useful. His skull might have taken a licking and kept on ticking but the same couldn't be said for his cheek -- it now sported a spectacular bruise. It fit right in with the finger marks dotting his jaw and the bruises around his neck. It also balanced out his black eye.
Dean ran down to the cafeteria to grab a quick bite to eat and some coffee. Sam was still sleeping off the effects of his cast versus cheek disaster (score one point for the cast) and Dean really needed a break.
How had they come to this? It seemed like Sam had spent the better part of a year in the hospital but that was a slight exaggeration. He just wanted Sammy to get healthy and then they could get back to doing what they did best. Although it was Dean's thirst for action that had triggered Sam's sudden decline. At least that's the way it seemed to him.
While lingering over his coffee, Dean realized he hadn't thought about his Dad or his whispered words to Dean before he abruptly died. Maybe his grief was finally subsiding. No, more likely he just hadn't had any time to think on it since watching out for Sam had consumed so much of his energy lately.
With a final swallow Dean felt the last of the coffee burn in the pit of his stomach. Acid reflux or anxiety?
A wave of hopelessness washed over Dean. He considered himself an adrenaline junkie but he wasn't sure how much longer he could keep up the pace.
Man, I really need a vacation.
Not one for much introspection, Dean pulled out his cell phone and dialed the Roadhouse. Maybe Ash could do some leg work on his computer while they were holed up in the hospital.
He knew Dr. Osmond was in on it but he didn't know why. His first order of business was to find him and make him talk.
Dean wouldn't be able to relax until he figured out who was after Sam and how to stop them.
When Dean returned to Sam's room he found his little brother stirring awake.
Sam stretched out in the bed and grimaced in pain. There was a new pain to catalog. He reached up to touch his throbbing right cheek.
Dean watched in amazement as Sam lifted his right hand, cast and all, and placed it on a trajectory to meet his cheek again. Dean lunged forward and caught Sam's arm before it made contact.
"Jesus, Sam. It was so much fun the first time you thought you'd do it again?" Dean bit out as he dropped Sam's arm back to his side none too gently.
Sam flinched back against his pillows and looked at Dean with confusion.
Dean swallowed back a curse and regret. Sam couldn't seem to remember that he had a cast and he certainly didn't remember laying himself out by smacking it against his cheek. Dr. Larsen had warned him that Post Concussive Syndrome played havoc with a person's short term memory. Sam was a shining example of this at the moment.
"Hello, McFly," Dean made as if he was knocking on Sam's forehead. "I guess you forgot you have a cast now," Dean finished with as much patience as he could muster.
Sam brought his uninjured hand up and fingered his bruised cheek, nodding in understanding.
Dean hooked a foot around 'his' chair and pulled it up next to Sam. "How's your head doing?" Dean asked with concern. Just looking at Sam's collection of bruises made Dean's own head ache.
Sam started to raise his right hand, felt the weight of the cast, and instead lifted his left hand and indicated so-so.
Dean tried to conceal his exasperation. Sam kept trying to use his right hand.
"Do you want something for the pain?" Dean asked although he was certain it was an exercise in futility. He wasn't disappointed when Sam set his mouth in a mutinous expression and shook his head no.
Dean decided to change the topic. "Well, why you were taking a cast induced siesta, I called Ash and asked him to see what he could find on Dr. Osmond. Ash will call me when he has something," Dean brought Sam up to speed.
Sam winced at the first mention of Ash. Pain ignited at the back of his head when Dean said Dr. Osmond's name. He knew he should be making some sort of connection but by the time his brother uttered Ash's name for the last time Sam was too busy fighting extreme nausea to think about it.
Sam brought both hands up to cradle his head as pain danced across it.
Dean's quick reflexes saved him from another collision with the cast.
"Dude, is there a magnet in this cast? You can't keep it off your cheek." Dean exclaimed.
Sam rested back against his pillow, misery etched on his face.
"You ready for the pain meds yet?" Dean asked without expecting an answer. Reaching forward he depressed the call light. Leaning back he tried to get comfortable. It looked like it was going to be a long night.
Despite Sam's run in with his cast he continued to mend and as promised Dr. Larsen signed his discharge papers a few days later.
Sam sat in a wheelchair, his attention wandering around the room, unable to focus on the aftercare instructions Dr. Larsen was discussing. Sam's lack of attention span was due to the Post Concussive Syndrome and Dean couldn't wait for Sam to get better and leave it behind. Not only did Dean find it worrisome but it was really irritating because he had to repeat everything multiple times if Sam was going to have even a chance of remembering it.
Dean listened raptly as Dr. Larsen droned on about Sam's feeding and care: "Now remember, if Sam has to take more than three doses of this pain medication for his headaches within a twenty-four hour period you need to contact me because this might be a symptom of a more serious problem. And he needs to completely rest his voice for one more week and if everything is going well we'll have a speech therapist work with Sam at that time. He's going to be weak initially so someone will have to help him with his ADL's..."
After a while Dean found his own attention wandering as he tried to concentrate on Dr. Larsen's words. The task of taking care of Sam now was more daunting than ever. What if he did something wrong or missed a symptom? He just couldn't stand the thought of Sam having another decline. Neither one of them was strong enough at the moment to deal with it.
Not for the first time Dean found himself wishing he could have just a few moments of peace without having to take care of Sam. He would be completely lost without that responsibility but after the last couple of months, with medical emergency on top of emergency, Dean craved some alone time.
If Sam had only agreed to staying at Bobby's…then Dean could pursue some leads on Dr. Osmond and recharge his battery.
But Sam was his responsibility and he couldn't forsake it.
Dr. Larsen interrupted Dean's thoughts, "So please sign here to show that you understand these instructions," the doctor said as he handed Dean a clipboard. "And here's a copy of the instructions," he said as he handed Dean what seemed like a ream of papers.
"Sam, I'll expect to see you back here in one week for your check up, okay?" Dr. Larsen asked Sam who roused himself enough to realize this was goodbye. Sam held his left hand out and grasped Dr. Larsen's hand and mouthed the words 'thank you.'
"Just take care of yourself. That's all the thanks I need," the doctor responded with a smile on his face. He nodded to Dean before leaving the room.
Just then Dean's cell phone rang. Dean's lips stretched into a small smile as he noted the caller on the display. "Hey, Bobby…We're just leaving the hospital…Where?...Okay, sure…He probably should be resting but this should just take a couple of minutes to check out, right?...Thanks, Bobby." Dean nodded his head as he disconnected his call.
There was a gas station not far from the hospital where Ash had found a debit transaction on Dr. Osmond's bank card.
Dean took in his brother's slightly spacey expression and let out a small sigh. He loved Sam but taking care of him was turning into a full time job. It couldn't be helped. His brother needed him and he wasn't going to fail him.
"We're going to take a little detour on the way to Bobby's," Dean explained to Sam whose head was tilted inquisitively. "Buckle up and hang on," Dean said as he released the brake on Sam's wheelchair.
The rest of the phrase sprang to Dean's mind unbidden…we're in for a bumpy ride.
A/N: Well that's the end of this ride. I hope it wasn't too bumpy. I'd like to thank Faye Dartmouth, again, for all of her ideas. I couldn't ask for a better beta. I've already started on the last story in this arc, The Outsiders. Hopefully I can convince Faye to make the final leg of the trip with me.
Thanks again for anyone who read this story and especially those who reviewed.