Summary: A ghost is visiting hospital after hospital and Sam and Dean are in a race to save more lives than their own…
Disclaimer: Not mine. And yes, still sad about that, thank you very much.
One week… Just one more… we can do it… we can… Think happy thoughts.
Sam and Dean strode into the hospital. Sam warily eyed the security guard lounging to one side of the foyer reading a newspaper, while in typical fashion Dean walked in like he owned the place. It felt odd to be walking into a hospital side by side. Normally one of them was being carried in and either there was a lot of blood involved or one of them was unconscious. At the very least one of them had been threatened with something worse than a hospital visit to make them go.
"Where to?" Sam asked.
Dean stepped up to the information desk and pulled a badge out of the breast pocket of his suit coat. They were in full FBI gear and Dean was doing his best to look official. Sam faced the elderly female volunteer sitting behind the desk and did his own slightly less intimidating version of dour and businesslike since she looked to be about 70, complete with faintly blue-tinged beehive hairdo.
"We need to speak with Nurse Porter," Dean said.
"Margaret?" the woman practically squeaked, cowed by the badge and the clout the FBI carried. Dean had chosen it just for that purpose. Normal people worked along with the Feds. It was somehow more chic than local law enforcement.
"Yes, Ma'am," Dean said formally, his tone clipped. "Can you tell us where to find her?"
"I… I'll have to page her," the woman said, and Sam was momentarily afraid she was going to keel over from too much excitement. "If you'll have a seat across the way?" the elderly volunteer pointed.
"Thank you," Sam said and smiled, trying to soothe her. The smile seemed to work and beside him he heard the barest of amused grunts from Dean as they walked toward the waiting room.
"Stop making eyes at the senior citizens, Sam," Dean muttered.
"I can't smile at people who help us now?" Sam raised an eyebrow.
"You're supposed to be a Fed. Look stoic, will ya?"
"There's a difference between stoic and snarling at the nice candy striper lady who's gonna page our witness," Sam protested.
"Did I snarl?"
"Did I snarl?" Dean repeated.
"You kind of-"
"Did. I. Snarl?" Dean glared.
"More like growled," Sam replied.
Dean sighed and rolled his shoulders, loosening the muscles. "Old ladies give me the creeps. Knitting and cookies. It's creepy."
Sam pursed his lips. "Right."
Sam sat down on one of the sofas while his brother continued to stand. After a few seconds Dean began to pace back and forth, walking a long path down the large waiting room. There were several other clumps of people waiting and something in Dean's bearing must have worried them, because Sam saw several of them either move farther away or decide on a trip to the cafeteria.
Dean had never been a patient person, but week by week, he was becoming less and less understanding of people and their slower timetables. Sam guessed that Dean could feel his time growing shorter by the minute. Everything about Dean these days seemed pressured. When Dean drank, or when he played pool, or when he talked to girls, it was all so determined. Dean was determined to make use of the time he had left. The trouble was that the more Dean tried to convince himself of how much fun he was having, the less Sam believed it.
This case wasn't helping either, Sam thought. He realized he was fidgeting to match Dean's pacing and quickly ordered himself to stop. They both needed to stay cool, though it was clearly getting harder and harder. They were here at the hospital because they were playing catch-up and as had been the case with everyone else they'd been able to track down, they were too late. Again.
"Easy, Dean," Sam said firmly. "You're making the natives scatter."
Dean stopped his pacing only a few feet away from him and looked at the now nearly empty waiting room in surprise. "The natives should man up."
That was the other thing. Dean was even less patient with other people's perceived weaknesses. If Dean could sacrifice himself and everything that his life might have been, then the rest of the world could be freakin' adults for the next few months and stop acting like the infantile morons they really were. Except Dean. Who thought he had every right to be infantile on occasion.
Then again, it might all just be Dean being Dean. Hard to tell.
Half of Sam wanted to throw his brother in the car, leave it all behind, and spend the next few months in a nice quiet place where nothing would bother Dean and they could be as peacefully occupied as possible. The other half of him knew, however, that Dean would never go for that because they had a job to do, imminent familial disaster or not.
Beyond that and far more importantly, Sam had research to do. Finding what he needed to save Dean was taking every bit of research skill he had and it required moving from library to library, person to person, trying everything he could think of. To save Dean they had to be on the move. So no nature retreats for the Winchester brothers. They hated camping anyway.
Sam watched as another man hurried out of the waiting room, heading toward the gift shop to get away from Dean's scowl.
"Dean, they have a family member who's sick, maybe dying, or they wouldn't be here," Sam said testily. "Cut 'em some slack."
Dean shook his head and muttered something Sam couldn't quite catch.
"What was that?"
Dean looked at him, his mouth quirking up on one side. "Dying's no excuse."
Sam tried not to flinch, but finally he couldn't hold Dean's gaze any longer, a stirring of real anger rising to the surface. "Not everyone can be as stoic about it as you, man." Like me.
Dean sighed and scratched at the back of his head absently. Whatever he'd seen on Sam's face had him actively trying to calm himself. Sam did the same, though he had a sudden urge to go find Nurse Porter himself and drag her down here. He and Dean had no time to waste. They were both tired, mentally and physically, angry at the lack of progress, and just worn thin. This case on top of everything else… Sam took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
Sam and Dean both turned to see a woman wearing hospital scrubs standing only a few feet away. Dean was clearly displeased that the nurse had managed to sneak up on them. While he got his game face back on, Sam quickly stood and stepped forward.
She nodded, looking from one of them to the other with that no-nonsense air about her that nurses seemed to exude somehow. "Can I help you?"
"I'm Agent Koch," Sam said. "This is Agent Wesson." They both produced their badges which she gave a cursory glance. "Do you have a moment to speak with us?"
"Of course," she said. The nurse was in her mid-thirties with dark, close-cropped hair. She was a little on the plump side, but then scrubs really never did much for a person's figure. She sat in one of the chairs that were arranged in a group while Sam and Dean sat across from her.
"We need to talk to you about Harold Cogdill," Sam started.
"I didn't think the FBI was here for the health care," she said curtly.
"Can you tell us what happened?" Dean asked. "We've read the reports, but we'd like to hear it straight from you."
The woman took a deep breath and for the first time her competent façade slipped for a second. "I was checking on Mr. Cogdill and everything seemed fine. The surgery had gone well. It was early, but there were no signs of complications, rejection, etc."
"He received a lung transplant, correct?" Sam asked.
"Yes," she answered, growing more agitated.
"So you were in the room with him and then what happened?" Dean urged.
"I left to check on another patient," she said. "And it couldn't have been thirty seconds later that all the alarms went off."
"Those rooms are almost entirely open." She shook her head, still not quite believing what she knew to be true. "The front walls are glass so that we can see in without having to actually go in the rooms."
"You didn't see anything odd? Or anyone?"
"No." She shook her head again, almost too vehemently. "They even checked the video footage from the corridors. No one went into that room after I left."
"Just tell us what you saw," Sam said gently.
"It was gone. Just gone. In thirty seconds," she almost whispered. "It looked like someone had just ripped his lung right out of his chest."
Well, it's a start, eh? We'll see where it goes…