Disclaimer: The characters of Supernatural were created by Eric Kripke and are owned by the CW Network. No profit is being made.
Special Note: This story is in response to the SFTCOL(AR)S monthly contest.
Side Note: this story takes place during the second season roughly sometime between "Everybody Loves a Clown" and "Simon Said."
Theme: Ultimate Limpness
By Dawn Nyberg
Columbus, Ohio … Ohio State University Medical Center, April 20, 2007
Dean stared through the glass in the observation room adjacent to the hyperbaric chamber treatment room. He watched helplessly and silently allowed himself to pray to a God he wasn't even sure existed, but Sammy always had faith, so he'd believe for Sam, anything for his little brother. Sam had been flown by Care Flight to the Medical Center in Columbus from Sandusky, Ohio because they had a hyperbaric chamber to try and treat Sam, to save his life. Sam was unconscious, lifeless and had been since the hunt had gone to hell over five days ago. Dean had performed CPR until the paramedics arrived, but his little brother had still been lifeless when the medics loaded him into the ambulance headed for Sandusky Community Hospital. The small hospital in Sandusky had been able to get Sam's heart beating again and were able to keep him alive, but after three hours of treatment they had called for the medical helicopter to take his little brother to Columbus where they 'might' be able to save him and it was that word 'might' that made the bile rise in Dean's throat.
He stared at Sam through the glass, unmoving and pale, so pale. They had to use a special chamber to accommodate the use of a small portable ventilator that could be attached to the chamber on the outside because Sam wasn't breathing on his own while he languished in a deep coma. Sam was dying and Dean knew it, but his heart wouldn't accept that. They had lost Dad and he wouldn't lose his brother, too. They had explained the carbon monoxide levels that Sam had been exposed to were toxic and the CO levels in his blood were too high and they were hoping the hyperbaric chamber would in a sense push the carbon monoxide out of his blood. It was Sam's only hope as they continued to keep him on life support and treat his condition.
Dean's head pounded with words and phrases like coma, possibly irreversible, pupils fixed and dilated, unresponsive to stimuli, cardiac arrhythmia, urine output low, possible early onset kidney failure, possible brain damage, EEG, low brain activity, life support, it was an unending litany of words that engulfed Dean's mind and all he could focus on was his little brother. Sam hadn't stirred and Dean wished he move, just a finger, anything and he'd be happy. At first, it had been easier to deny the severity of Sam's condition when the side effects of the acute carbon monoxide poisoning had given his brother an almost rosy appearance at first, but now five days later it was a much different story. Sam's chestnut bangs had fallen away from his forehead as he lay in the chamber and their contrast against his pale skin were a stark reminder to Dean that his little brother was closer to death than he was to life.
There was a sudden flurry of activity in the chamber room and Dean watched them remove Sam from the chamber quickly. His hands splayed against the glass in frantic unabashed panic as he watched them begin compressions on his baby brother and were starting to inject various drugs as a nurse hastily pulled a crash cart with a defibrillator over to Sam's side. He couldn't hear what was being said through the thick glass of the observation room but actions and facial expressions spoke volumes. He was losing Sam.
"Sammy," he spoke softly. "Please, Sammy," Dean begged. How did this all go bad, so fast, he silently questioned himself as he watched them try to resuscitate his brother. The hunt should have been a quick in-out …
Six Days Earlier, just outside Sandusky, Ohio, April 14, 2007
"So, what's the story on this place again?" Dean asked his brother as he drove. Sam shifted through the historical information Phil Calone had emailed them and the additional info that Sam had been able to glean from online archives. Sam shuffled the printed off emails and various other background information sheets in his lap.
"The plant was built back in 1945 it was renovated and updated in 1958. The records show four previous owners, but the third owner was arrested for several murders that happened at the factory." Sam shuffled some papers in his lap as the car continued down Route 6. "It looks like the third owner some dude named Vincent Delounge had mob ties and used the factory as a front for his illegal deals and apparently whacked a few people there."
"What no cement slippers and a quick dump in Lake Erie?" Dean quipped. Sam rolled his eyes.
"You've watched way too many mafia flicks man," Sam replied. "Anyway Phil's dad was the fourth owner and the factory has been in the family ever since."
"And, Phil is sure there is an angry spirit causing problems?"
"He saw it Dean," Sam answered. "I guess the thing has hurt some employees, well, you know they all look like accidents, but he saw the spirit one night. The factory's been quiet for years, but they did some updating of the place again a few months ago and ever since then, well, ya know problems. I'm guessing it's one of Delounge's murdered stiffs haunting the place."
"Yeah," Dean agreed. "So, this Phil guy really knew Dad, huh?" Sam looked at his brother.
"Well, you spoke to him Dean," Sam replied. "He called Bobby and he put him in touch with us, so yeah, I guess he did know him. Anyway, Bobby said this Phil guy used to be a hunter until he said he was too old to play the game and settled down after his Dad died and he took over the factory. He's married and has a couple kids, one in high school and the other just started college."
Dean cast a look at his brother and went back to watching the road. "Which street do we need?"
"Phil said make a left on Cleveland Street and we'd see the factory about a half mile down on the right, Calone Iron Works he said for us to meet him in the administrative offices, so we can talk to him and he's giving the workers a day off tomorrow for a supposed factory inspection." Dean wagged his eyebrows at his brother.
"Well, at least it clears the place out, so we can hunt." Dean nodded.
The next day, Sandusky, Ohio, April 15, 2007, Calone Iron Works
"So, you boys make sure when ever you're in the furnace areas you pay attention to those carbon monoxide monitors, okay?" Phil surveyed both of John Winchester's sons.
"Yeah, if the concentration numbers get to 1,600 we should clear out, right?"
"Yeah, but the place has CO alarms that should go off if the room hits 3,200. At 3,200 you've got about 5-10 minutes of exposure time before you start getting dizzy and nauseous and at 30 minutes of exposure you'll pass out, but at 1,600 you've got a good 20 minutes before you experience any problems. There is some emergency oxygen in these rooms. Small canisters with about 5-10 minutes of air should you need it. They strap on. There in heat resistant containers like this," Phil Calone pointed to a bright yellow container. There always on a pole away from the furnace heat. The pole is painted yellow, too. Look, this bastard of a spirit has played with the furnace venting before … nearly killed five of my men last month with carbon monoxide poisoning, but they got out. I want you boys to be careful." Dean eyed the fifty-something, slightly balding man and smiled.
"We got it covered. So, where did you say most of the bodies were put after he killed them?"
"The scrap dump," Phil replied, but only one body was never recovered, although they found enough evidence to link Delounge to the disappearance and apparent murder."
"Where?" Sam asked.
"Furnace room 13," Phil answered. Dean rolled his eyes.
"Thirteen, eh? Figures," he groused. "Even ghosts can be unoriginal."
"Hey, if it's where he died," Sam hedged. "Not his fault it looks hokey."
"It's confusing to get there," Phil began. "I'll take you."
"We should split up," Sam suggested. "Didn't you say there was one other furnace room they found evidence in?"
"Yeah, the guy's wallet, Furnace room 8."
"And, what rooms have you had problems with toxic fumes?" Sam asked.
"Too many to count, but this is an iron works boys and maybe not all of the levels were spirit related." Sam and Dean nodded.
"Alright, Sammy, you take 8 and I go to 13. Keep your eyes open." Sam nodded.
Twenty Minutes Later, Furnace Room 8
Sam walked the entire large room. The furnaces were on despite no workers being there, but Phil had said you had to keep the metal hot, so they were turned down, but were never off unless they wanted the molten metal to harden. Sam pushed the sweat off his forehead. "Come out, come out wherever you are?" he coaxed as he held his salt loaded shotgun at the ready. They had decided to use consecrated Dead Sea salt to hopefully permanently dissipate the ghost. They figured Delounge had most likely thrown the guy in a furnace and torched his corpse, so there would be nothing to salt and burn.
Beep … Beep … Beep
The three quick sharp beeps brought Sam's attention to the meter he was wearing on his jeans pocket. He looked at his meter and saw the blinking numbers of 1,650. He reset the meter. He looked at his watch and kept looking, he knew he had around 20 minutes before the headache, nausea and dizziness would force him to leave. He saw the yellow pole across the room, but didn't see a need to use the emergency air. He felt fine. Something appeared to coalescence to his left and he turned to see the transparent spirit hovering near one of the furnaces looking at him. He raised his gun but felt a force holding his arms still and he couldn't force himself to take a step. No sense yelling out for Dean he was on the other side of the factory.
Beep … Beep … Beep
He looked at his meter 3,200. His eyes widened at the quick rise in concentration of CO in the room. The internal alarm isn't sounding like it should, Sam's mind reeled as he figured out the ghost was manipulating the alarm system. The spirit hovered closer.
Sam struggled to move, to shoot. His head was beginning to hurt and he was wondering when the room started to spin. He knew he had at least thirty minutes at this exposure level before he passed out. He still had time.
Beep … Beep … Beep
Sam looked from the sneer on the ghost's transparent lips to his meter and his eyes grew wide once again and distressed when he saw 6,420 blinking wildly. He had read the CO concentration chart posted outside the factory room … at 6,400 you were dizzy and nauseous after 1-2 minutes and were at danger for unconsciousness and danger of death after 10-15 minutes of exposure. He struggled against this invisible vice like grip holding his arms and legs in place. The ghost hovered nearby seemingly enjoying the fact the young man would soon die. Sam looked at a clock on the far wall … he still had time.
Beep … Beep … Beep
He looked down quickly not caring that the ghost was only a three or four feet away. He felt bile in his throat. He swallowed it back down. His head was splitting in pain and he felt like he'd be sick any moment, but he held it back. The meter blinked rapidly and a warning red light was flickering like a wild fire across a dark night sky … the number read 12, 805 … and Sam knew it was now or never, he'd die here if he couldn't force his arm up to fire the shotgun. He knew that at 12,800 effects were immediate and that unconsciousness and danger of death occur after 1-3 minutes of exposure. His world was shifting rapidly away. He pushed through the force against him. "Christo!" it was worth a shot and the ghost flinched, it was enough for Sam to lift his arm and point the shotgun. He fired and hit the ghost squarely. There was a loud scream from the spirit and then it was gone.
The gun fell from Sam's numb fingers. He took a step and fell to his knees. He tried to stand again and just before his world was swallowed by darkness he vaguely realized that the internal alarm system was now sounding loudly throughout the factory. Sam pitched forward landing on his stomach with his head turned to the side.
Beep… Beep… Beep …
The monitor's plaintive alarm fell on deaf ears as Sam Winchester lay dying.
Meanwhile, Furnace Room 13
"Maybe, Sam's having better luck," Phil commented idly as he and Dean continued their search for the apparently now elusive ghost.
"Maybe…" Dean's words were cut off as a high pitch scream echoed through the plant. Dean and Phil both recognized the dying scream of a now permanently gone angry spirit. Dean grinned. "Way to go, Samm…." His words were drowned out as the factory system wide alarm sounded alerting to the carbon monoxide concentration somewhere in the factory. Dean squinted at the loud sound as it buffeted his ears.
"Dammit," Phil hurried over to a factory grid panel and searched it for the blinking light that would indicate the area where there was a dangerous level of CO present.
"What? What is it?" Dean barked as he scanned the grid with Phil not really understanding what he was seeing.
"Shit!" Phil hissed as he turned quickly. "Furnace room 8 is in bad shape." Phil was running and Dean followed.
"That's where my brother is, right?"
"Yeah, and…" Phil wasn't sure if he should continue.
"What?!" Dean yelled as he continued to run.
"I saw the numbers Dean they're over 12,800."
"That's bad, right?" Phil nodded tightly as he continued to run. "How bad?" Dean pushed.
"You can die in that kind of concentration in 1 to 3 minutes." Dean's heart was hammering not so much from physical exertion but complete, all encompassing fear.
Why were they so damn far away from Furnace Room 8? Hang on, Sammy. Please, be okay. Dean's mind questioned and begged all at once.
Eight Minutes Later, Furnace Room 8
"Dean, Wait!" Phil commanded as he yanked on Dean's arm before they pulled open the metal door to the room.
"What? Why?" Dean pulled roughly.
"We gotta wear some respirators in there. These are quick rescue ones. They have 15-20 minutes of oxygen. Here," Phil handed a mask and small canister that hung below the chin of the mask. Phil reached over on a console and hit a red button.
"It'll start the room venting. It pulls in outside air rapidly while dispersing the CO at the same time through the large turbine vents. "Come on!" They opened the door quickly and entered.
"Sammy! Sam!" Dean yelled as he quickly scanned the immediate area as they entered.
The room sweep was quick. Dean saw the abandoned shotgun first and the remnants of salt lying about and then his nightmare came true as his vision caught something in the peripheral. First it was feet, then long legs and then the horrible image quickly became his little brother. Sam was lying face down on the floor. His right arm reached out, as if in some request for help. His left arm was bent beneath him across his stomach. His head was turned and resting on his right cheek.
"Sam!" The scream was guttural. Both Phil and Dean ran toward the youngest Winchester. Dean reached his brother first and quickly turned him over. His cheeks and face were crimson in color and his eyes closed. "Sammy?" Dean was frantically reaching for his brother's pulse point on his neck.
"Jesus, we gotta get him out Dean," Phil knew the signs of acute carbon monoxide poisoning. His brother Larry, a funeral director, had mentioned once that carbon monoxide deaths were always the easiest to prep a body after. Apparently they required little make-up for a viewing. It was a morbid thought that passed through his mind quickly and was gone. "Dean, come on!" Phil shouted. "You grab him under his arms, I'll take his legs." They quickly lifted Sam and took him from the room. They got to a safe area just outside the metal door and placed Sam's lifeless body on the concrete floor. Both Phil and Dean tore their masks off and knelt by Sam.
"I can't find a pulse," Dean shouted. "Sammy! No!"
"You know CPR?" Phil asked urgently as he was reaching for a phone next to his head on a console table.
"Yeah," Dean's voice was shaking.
"I'm calling 911 then I'll help you." Dean nodded tightly.
Dean gently arched back his brother's neck and pinched his nose. He sealed his mouth over Sam's and gave him a long breath. He watched his little brother's chest rise and fall and he gave him another breath. He tried to ignore the coldness of Sam's lips. The rosy complexion was a lie. There was no life in his brother's body. He pulled back after the second breath and traced the point on his brother's chest to begin compressions. He counted them off under his breath.
"Come on Sammy," he huffed through the final compression. He bent and gave his brother two more breaths. He raised once again back on his knees to deliver the compressions. He felt the acrid taste of bile rising in his throat as he watched his brother's rib cage bend and compress under his hands. It made him sick. "Fight, Dammit, Come on!" he shouted. He'd use anger to control his fear and threat of being sick.
"They're on their way, there's an access driveway to each plant. They're just down the street. They'll be here in five minutes. They know this plant by heart." Phil was suddenly across from Dean. "Here, you breathe for him," he encouraged. "I'll do the compressions." Dean was reluctant to allow help when it came to his brother, but this was Sammy's life he was fighting for and he needed all the help he could get. Silently Dean was thankful the man was taking over the compressions on Sam. He pushed in two breaths and watched Phil deliver compressions. They were strong, forceful compressions and Dean knew Phil was fighting for Sam, too.
Ten Minutes Later, Ambulance Bay, ER Entrance, Sandusky Community Hospital
The paramedics burst through the door with Sam rattling off his condition as one paramedic rode on top of the gurney compressing Sam's chest until they reached the trauma room. They briskly helped to transfer Sam's unresponsive body to a trauma gurney. "We had a pulse in the field after a high dose epi got us V-fib and he was shocked times three before he converted. We lost pulse three minutes out. Acute carbon monoxide poisoning … no known allergies … twenty-three year old male." The medics continued to inform the doctor and medical personnel treating Sam and then left. The doctor and staff took over resuscitation efforts.
"Okay, people, I need a blood gas on this kid right now. Push an amp of atropine and continue compressions." The intern working with Dr. Lowe nodded and followed orders with the CPR while a trauma nurse took a blood gas sample. "Does this kid have any family here?"
"In the lobby," a nurse offered. "I think his older brother." Dr. Lowe nodded.
Two and Half Hours Later, ER Trauma Room
"What's his rhythm," Dr. Lowe instructed. "His vitals are all over the place. I'm surprised as hell we got him back let alone he's still hanging in. His blood gases are the worst I've seen in my career for a person with a heartbeat. Tamara adjust his tidal volume on his ventilator."
"Yes, Dr. Lowe."
"Pupils are fixed and dilated, sir," the young intern spoke.
"What about corneal reflexes?" Dr. Lowe questioned as he watched Dr. Kenneth Brady, his intern touch each of Sam's corneas with a sterile cotton swab. "Minimal, but present." The doctor nodded. "I'll go talk to his brother. Lucinda, go ahead and push an amp of lidocaine his rhythm is looking a little erratic. He crashes again I'm not sure we'll get him back." The nurse nodded.
"Yes?" He looked at his intern.
"What are you going to tell his brother? I mean … he's not going to make it is he?"
"He's still fighting, so we'll help him fight. He's in grave condition and I'm going to be honest with his brother. I think his best chance is a hyperbaric chamber."
"You callin' OSU to request?"
"Already did and they are ready for him. I just need to place a call into the medical chopper to fly him there on life support."
The Waiting Room
It was a small hospital but they seemed on top of their game here Dean idly noticed. No one really seemed burned out like they should be headed for private practice or retirement. There were a few people in the room waiting to be seen or to hear news. Phil sat next to Dean for silent support. He ran a hand across his stinging eyes as he refused to allow himself to cry. He knew Sam was in a bad way. I can't lose you Sammy, his mind repeated over and over like a mantra.
"Family for Sam Thomas," the doctor entered the waiting area.
"Sam's my brother," he said quickly. "How is he?" Dean had been told that his brother's heart had stopped again just before reaching the hospital, but he didn't know if he was alive. Dean noticed the doctor look at Phil. "Family friend," he replied quickly as he looked from Phil to the doctor once again.
"Your brother's alive but in grave condition Mr. Thomas," the doctor began.
"Call me Dean," he urged. "What can you do for him?"
"Honestly, we're unable to do more for him here. I've placed in a call for a helicopter to fly him to Columbus the OSU Medical Center has a hyperbaric chamber to treat the CO poisoning. It's his best chance at survival." The doctor saw Dean's tense look with a hint of confusion. "The chamber will in a sense force the CO out of your brother's bloodstream. His blood gases are extremely poor and we are fighting very hard to keep his heart beating. He's on a ventilator right now and is unresponsive."
"But, he'll make it though once he's in the chamber thing … he'll be okay?" Dean dared to hope.
"I can't say. Your brother is about as close to death as he can get right now without being dead," the doctor was blunt. "He's in a coma and I'll be honest if he survives this the coma could be irreversible and if he does open his eyes there is the chance he won't be the same person he was before the poisoning." Dean swallowed back the bile once again. He felt Phil place a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"He's fighting Dean. He's alive," Phil finally spoke. The doctor nodded.
"He's right," the doctor encouraged. "He is fighting and we are doing everything we can here to help him fight. The chopper will be here in ten minutes and you'll need to drive down to Columbus."
Columbus, Ohio, OSU Medical Center, April 20, 2007
Dean's mind snapped back to the present as he watched the doctors try to resuscitate his little brother. His hands were still pressed against the thick glass to the hyperbaric chamber treatment room. Dean watched in desperation as Sam's body arched up from the electrical shock the defibrillator delivered. His mind was reeling.
Two Days Later, ICU
The hyperbaric treatments had done all they could in improving Sam's CO levels and now they had said it was up to Sam.
Dean never left his brother's side. He switched between holding one of Sam's hands and rubbing circles with his thumb across the top of Sam's hand. He glanced at the cast still on his right arm and smirked at the memory of his baby brother being taken down by a zombie chick. "Sammy, please, man you gotta wake up, okay? You know me and hospitals. Prove these quack bastards wrong … open your eyes," Dean dropped his head fighting back the emotions. "I won't lose you like we lost Mom and Dad … I can't."
Three Days Later, ICU
Dean watched the mechanical rise and fall of Sam's chest. He was tired but he had to keep talking to his brother, keep stroking his forehead or his arm and hand, anything to let his sibling know there was someone here for him that needed him. Sam was pale and Dean clung to his cool, limp hand. "The doc says I should think about lettin' you go," Dean shook his head. "They're all freakin' stupid asses Sammy. You're in there. I know you are. Your hand twitched the other day and it wasn't any damn muscle spasm either. Sammy, please … open your eyes little brother." Finally, exhaustion both physical and emotional reached its zenith in Dean and he leaned forward against Sam's arm with his arm gently across his brother's stomach and cried. "Don't leave me Sammy," he begged. "I know I've been an ass lately since we lost Dad … I'm sorry. I can't lose you Sammy," Dean pleaded through the tears.
There was a weight that settled on top of his head and he lifted his face. Sam was looking at him with those dark expressive eyes he's known since his kid brother came into his life. There was confusion and panic in them. "Sammy it's okay kiddo, don't fight the breathing tube … you're okay, you're gonna be okay," Dean soothed as he hit the call button.
Seven Days Later, Step-Down Unit, OSU Medical Center
"You're hovering," Sam complained as he tried to put a shirt on. He was still weak and according to his big brother looked like week old road kill.
"Am not," Dean groused as he stepped closer when Sam started to stand up. Sam turned a pointed glance in his brother's direction.
"Are too," he said with an irritated smirk. He couldn't fault Dean. He'd be hovering, too, if their situations were switched. Sam's hands shook as he tried to button the shirt Dean brought him to wear when he was discharged this morning. "Dammit," he complained. Dean didn't say a word as he stepped in front of his little brother to button the shirt. "Dean," Sam started.
"Shut up will ya," Dean countered. "I used to change your diapers ya know. Dress you, too. Let me help … you're shaking like a leaf, maybe they should keep…"
"The doc said I'm ready to leave Dean," Sam assured. "He just said I need to take it easy for another week or two. I'm okay." Dean finished buttoning his little brother's shirt. "Thanks," Sam replied quietly.
"No problem." He answered with a soft smile. "I got us a decent motel just down the block where you can recoup for a couple weeks."
"We could just drive to Bobby's," Sam suggested.
"No way in hell, I'm putting you in a car and driving from Ohio to South Dakota Sammy. Anyway, I could use a vacation. Hey, I even made sure the place had Wi-Fi to keep you adequately geek-a-fied."
"Yeah, and I bet it has Pay-per-View to keep you perve-a-fied," Sam answered with a glint in his eye. Dean smiled it was good to have his brother back.
"Bite your tongue," Dean smiled. "It has HBO … you know HBO After Dark," he waggled his eyebrows and Sam rolled his eyes. The doctor stepped inside.
"I see you're ready to go."
"No offense Doc," Dean started. "But, I hope I never see you or this hospital again."
"No offense taken. I have to admit Sam you surprised us all, but I think your brother had something to do with it. He never left your side. He wouldn't let us take you off life support. He never lost faith in you waking up from the coma." Sam looked at Dean and smiled as his brother's cheeks colored slightly and he looked away.
"Yeah, I'm lucky I have a hard headed big brother," Sam answered softly and saw Dean look quickly at him and then back to an interesting spot on the far wall, but he didn't miss the hint of a smile that his brother was clearly holding back.
Five Minutes Later, Lobby Pick-up area, OSU Medical Center
"Sorry, I couldn't get closer Sammy," Dean complained.
"The cars twenty-feet away Dean. I'm okay," Sam replied. Dean hovered nearby and Sam decided not to complain.
Dean got Sam settled in the Impala. "You ready?" he asked.
"You have to ask?" Dean smiled.
"Yeah?" Dean answered as he waited at a stop sign in the visitor lot.
"Thanks, you know for everything … I mean it." Dean cast a glance at his brother.
"No chick-flick moments Sammy … house rule remember?" Sam grinned.
Sam knew how to translate Dean-speak, I Love you little brother. "Yeah, I remember," Sam replied.
"Good," Dean answered flatly. "Glad we got that cleared up." Dean smiled warmly at his brother when he knew he wasn't watching. Life was good.