A Long Road towards Recovery
Disclaimer : They don't belong to me, but I wish they did.
Summary: Dean has suffered a life-changing injury, can Sam help him find a way to recover when the supernatural has nothing to offer? And just how did it happen, because Dean sure as hell doesn't remember?
Thanks to Rae Artemis for... everything!
Chapter 1 - Nadir
It´s another dingy, dead-end motel, poorly lit thankfully, so that they can´t quite make out those nasty stains on the carpet. Sam Winchester stares at the TV in horrified fascination at the scene playing out on it. He´s seen the film before, knows what it´s about, knows what happens at the end. He is well aware that he is not Tom Cruise and Dean is most definitely not Dustin Hoffman, but somehow it just feels too close to home right now as he sees Dustin Hoffman as Raymond, rocking back and forth.
Sam draws his knees up towards his chest and rests his elbows on them, leaning his forehead into his hands and massaging his temples. He´s tired but he can´t rest. This is the best he can hope for at the moment. Later, when Dean is ready to rest, he can try sleeping but until then, he´s got to stay awake.
He looks up sharply as the sound of a smoke alarm comes from the TV. It shouldn´t be loud enough to be a problem, but Sam lowers the volume further in case. He watches Raymond´s reaction as he begins to panic and bang his head against the door. Sam's fascination evaporates, it's all too real, too personal. He reaches for the remote and turns the TV off. He puts his head down, he just wants the world to go away. He doesn't want this life; not for either of them, but since Dean doesn't get a choice and can't walk away, so Sam´s chance to do so dissipates with it. He stays. He stays because he loves his brother, he stays because if he doesn´t Dean doesn´t have anyone to take care of him, but worst of all, he stays because he feels guilty because Dean wouldn´t be in this position if Sam wasn´t the person he is.
The silence in the room is broken abruptly by the smacking sound of skin on skin. Respite over, Sam pushes himself clear of the bed and over to the chair where his brother is sitting. Dean´s hand smacks again against his forehead as Sam reaches him, struggling to catch Dean´s arm and still the movement. "Dean, no! Dean, stop, please. Stop, I´m here, just stop," but Sam knows the words are wasted on his brother. Dean is lost in a world of pain right now. He can´t speak, hear or see when he is like this. He is alone with a pain inside his head so intense that it is incomprehensible to others. Sam cannot imagine how bad it really is, but he grasps his brother firmly, stilling the movement, pulls Dean into his body so that he can free one of his own hands.
He digs in his pocket, throwing a handful of small colour-coded pill boxes onto the table in front of him, his fingers searching urgently for the one he needs now. Found! He flips the lid, emptying its contents out in front. He picks up the pills and forces them into his brother´s mouth, grasping the glass of water Dean had had earlier and tipping it up at his brother´s lips. Dean gags, coughs, water escaping from his mouth as Sam forces the glass back to his lips again, counting on Dean swallowing reflexively to actually get the pills down.
Sam hates this. It had sounded so simple in the doctor´s office. "When your brother has one of the severe episodes, just give him two of these with water. They are fast-acting and after a few minutes, he will be able to begin to relax and will soon fall asleep for a while." The problem is when Dean has one of these attacks, they often start without warning and Dean can´t help himself. He fights against the pain and against Sam, blindly unaware of the help being offered.
Sam has nearly choked his brother three times this week alone, trying to force these wretched pills down his throat, and the next time, they see a doctor, he´s going to demand that they find a better way to control the pain, because Dean shouldn´t be allowed to continue to be in this much pain.
The problem is that given his injuries, many of the doctors they´ve seen actually consider that Dean is lucky to be alive, let alone the fact that on a good day, he can walk and talk on his own. Their patronising attitude doesn´t cut ice with Sam. His brother is not lucky to be alive, his brother deserves to be alive and to be the independent free spirit he´s always been and they won´t be setting foot inside the office of the doctor who said that Sam was fortunate that Dean wasn´t just a vegetable. They won´t be going back there and it isn´t just because there is an injunction out on Sam now.
Sam feels the miniscule levels of relaxation in Dean´s tense and trembling body as the drugs begin to take effect. He gradually releases his firm hold, but keeps a secure, reassuring arm around his brother. He recognises the moment, those few seconds when he can lead his brother over to the bed, those few seconds when Dean´s body will respond to Sam´s insistence. Too soon and the pain will still be too great, too late and Dean will be too out of it to respond to anything short of a bomb blast next to his ear.
He gently pulls Dean down to sit on the edge of the bed. It´s all the prompting he needs to lie down, although Sam lifts his legs and places them on the bed, pulling off Dean´s sneakers as he does so. This isn´t Dean, this submissive pliant body. It´s a shell and right now, it´s a broken one at that.
Sam settles beside his brother, gently running his fingers across Dean´s forehead, temples and through the stubble that is all that has regrown of his brother´s hair so far. At one time, he´d have been embarrassed by this touch, this affection, but now it isn´t worth the wasted time. He´d done it once wondering, curious as to the feel of the stubble. Unlike his own dark mess of hair, Dean´s has always been shorter, well-groomed, but this is too short, too harsh and Sam hates the fact that it is not even long enough to hide the network of scars that now cover Dean´s scalp. He remembers that first time, his own shock at what he´d been doing exceeded only by the fact that once he´d withdrawn his hand, Dean´s hand had moved seeking that touch, that... Sam has no idea what it was that Dean sought, reassurance, contact, support, it doesn´t matter. It´s something Sam can do, something Sam found that helps, not the doctors who push, prod and talk around his brother to him. They ask him how Dean eats, sleeps, walks, talks and ignore his brother sitting there, still and waiting. They send his brother for endless tests and scans and then tell Sam what he can do for his brother. It makes Sam feel sick to the stomach that Dean sits there and takes it, submissive as he only ever was for their father. He hates it and he hates the fact that Dean climbs wearily into the passenger seat and then takes his anger and frustration out on Sam. It isn´t that he doesn´t understand, it isn´t that he doesn´t think he deserves to suffer under all that anger and frustration, it´s that the doctors who treat Dean like a case study, a curiosity, deserve it too.
But for now, Sam is doing what he can, and right now that means gently running his fingers through Dean´s hair until he falls asleep.
Dean´s breathing has evened out, his body relaxed into the sleep that brings reprieve from that onslaught of pain. Sam lies down beside him hoping that he too can sleep for a while. His body aches with weariness, but his mind still rages on as he drapes one arm over his brother and closes his eyes. They share a bed now most nights because Sam has woken to too many mornings with Dean not where he should be, in the neighbouring bed.
He´s woken before to the sound of his brother vomiting in the bathroom, to his brother seizing on the floor, to his brother sitting silent and motionless, bag packed, by the door, waiting to leave. Worst of all though, were the times he woke to Dean not there at all. He knows if it happens again where Dean will be but it doesn´t make it any easier to take. Dean never goes far without Sam any more. He doesn´t say it, but Sam can see he´s frightened by this body that betrays him. Dean, the fearless soldier, is afraid of what will happen without his brother by his side, what will happen when the pain comes or the seizures, or when he stumbles and falls; what will happen if no-one is there to pull him out of this hell. On those mornings when Dean has gone, he will have left the door open and he will be sitting or standing by the Impala waiting to leave.
Dean never explains why they are leaving and Sam doesn´t ask anymore. He asked at the beginning, but seeing his brother distressed by something else he can´t explain wearies him and so now, Sam just unlocks the car, puts in the bags and makes sure Dean is settled before he heads out of the parking lot and into the distance, because it never seems to matter where they go, so long as they are moving.
Kind of a secondary disclaimer or just information the film Sam is watching at the beginning of the chapter is 'Rain Man' for anyone who hasn't seen it.