Part 2 of 2
Sam was settled in bed upstairs. He was still pale and weak but after a pint of blood he was a little more with it.
The ER doctor had poked and prodded Sam, drawing vials of blood for testing as well as sending his young son for a variety of x-rays and scans. The diagnosis was anemia.
The symptoms certainly dovetailed nicely with the diagnosis – pale skin, fatigue, malaise, always feeling cold, decrease in attention span – but John couldn't figure out how it had happened. Granted, in the last week Sam's appetite had taken a nosedive but up until that point he'd been eating the same things, more or less, as Dean and his oldest boy was the picture of robust health.
At least the other tests had come back negative. For several heart pounding moments John had feared that Sam had leukemia. John's cousin had died of leukemia when he was about Sam's age and he'd firmly kept it out of him mind until now; his boys were extremely healthy despite their rough and tumble lifestyle and John had never entertained a thought that a child of his would succumb to such an illness.
Despite the relief of Sam being released to come home, John still wasn't satisfied with his son's condition. The doctor had given him a list of foods rich in iron, suggested plenty of rest and declared Sam couldn't return to school until he was cleared by a doctor after at least a week's worth of rest. If his condition hit a plateau or he declined then John was to take Sam to his pediatrician ASAP.
John glanced distractedly across the table at Dean. His son pushed a piece of half eaten fried chicken across his plate. If this kept up, he'd have two sick children on his hands. "Dean, you really need to eat something."
The boy sighed and pushed his plate away. "I'm sorry, Dad. I'm just not hungry. Do you mind if I hit the sack? It's been a long day."
Glancing at the kitchen clock, John was surprised to see it was only 8:00 p.m. It seemed much, much later. Although they had spent about five hours at the ER which had been a draining experience for all of them. "Sure, Dean. I think I'll straighten up the kitchen and turn in, too. Goodnight, son."
Dean had washed up, changed into sweat pants and t-shirt and snuggled into bed but despite his exhaustion, he couldn't relax. His mind was on Sammy. He didn't think his brother had the energy to go sleepwalking tonight but he didn't want to chance it.
Huffing a tired sigh, Dean slid out of bed and went to the small closet. Tucked in the corner on the floor was an army green colored sleeping bag and he snatched it up along with his pillow.
Slipping into Sam's bedroom he noticed Sam hadn't stirred; he was still lying on his back, his hands clutching the sheet. Right there was a sign that Sam wasn't okay – he was a side and stomach sleeper, not a back sleeper. Dean shook his head and quietly rolled out his sleeping bag.
Nothing was going to happen to Sam tonight. Big brother would make sure of it.
Dean heard the bedroom door swish open as their dad poked his head in. Dean waved at him to let him know he had it covered. The door was firmly closed again. Sam would have to make it past Dean and the closed door if he were going to go on safari tonight. Safe in that knowledge, Dean let his body give in to the pull of sleep.
A cool breeze fingered Dean's face and he shifted with discomfort. He'd dropped off to sleep but now he was cold and miserable. He'd slept on the floor more times than he cared to recount but this experience was shaping up to be one of the more uncomfortable ones.
Dean's eyes flew open. He was inside, not out. He shouldn't be this cold.
Bolting upright he allowed his eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness. He turned his head and confirmed that the bedroom door was still closed. Swiveling his head back the other way he checked to make sure Sam was still sleeping.
The covers had been thrown back and the bed was empty.
Scrambling to his feet, Dean took a moment to call out to his dad. He had a sick feeling he was going to need the reinforcements.
Dean advanced toward the bed and discovered why the room was so cold. The window was wide open. Thrusting his head outside, Dean saw something that shook him to his core.
Sam was balanced precariously on the steep pitch of the roof, inching his way to the edge.
Dean clambered out the window and nearly fell on his ass. The roof was coated with frost and it was hard to get any traction. Especially in his socks.
Trying not to startle his brother, Dean called out to him softly. "Sammy, what are you doing?"
Sam continued his slow progress and didn't acknowledge Dean's presence. The slick roof was almost his little brother's undoing as one of his feet shot out from under him, dumping him back onto the roof. Sam slid a yard before his unprotected hands stopped his descent.
Bile flooded Dean's throat. "Sammy!"
Dean heard his dad at the window. "You've got to bring him inside, Dean."
What a great idea, Dad. Why didn't I think of that? The words were on the tip of Dean's tongue but sarcasm wasn't going to get his brother off the roof.
Dean dropped backward so his hands were on the roof and crawled toward his brother like a crab. Sam was sitting near the lip of the roof, his head cocked to the side, doing his listening-to-a-dog-whistle impersonation.
It freaked Dean out to see his brother like that but it also bought him the time he needed. Clawing his way hurriedly down the roof he stopped when he was right behind Sam. Reaching out he pulled Sam back and wrapped his arms around his brother's chest. He could feel his brother bucking and heaving but nothing was going to make him loosen his grip. After a brief flurry of activity, Sam finally slumped into Dean's arms.
Dean let out a shaky sigh. They were perched on the edge of the roof and just another foot or so and Sam would have been flying through the air. His heart continued to hammer in his ears. Too fucking close.
A soft hand fell on his shoulder and Dean jumped. "Easy, son. Let's get you both back inside."
John Winchester had eased himself onto the roof and was somewhere behind Dean. His dad curled an arm around his chest and slowly tugged Dean backward. He in turn dragged his limp brother. It was a slow, torturous journey but Dean was finally able to hand Sam off to his dad and climb off the roof.
Dean was numb. If he hadn't woken up when he did then Sam may have taken a header off of the roof.
Watching through a layer of shock, Dean stood rooted to the spot as their dad tucked Sam securely in bed and swept a practiced hand behind Sam's head and down his body, looking for physical injury. Dean watched his dad stiffen as he turned his brother's hands over; Sam must have scraped them on the roof.
Dean realized his own hands were throbbing and he was shivering. A blanket was quickly wrapped around his shoulders and he was deposited next to Sam on the bed. "I'll be right back."
A glass was pressed into his hand and he hissed as the scrapes on his palm objected to the rough handling. Sipping at the brown liquid in the glass he gasped as the brandy slid down his throat and burned a trail to his stomach.
The shivering slowed and Dean felt the fog lift as he watched his dad pick stones and debris from Sam's hands all while the youngest Winchester slept on. His brother twitched a little when antiseptic was applied but that was the only sign of awareness he gave.
A moment later Dean's hands were receiving the same gentle treatment. Looking into his dad's face he was startled when he saw the same panic reflected there that was spiraling through his own body. "Dad, what are we going to do about Sammy?"
His dad, who was afraid of nothing and always knew how to handle a situation, was pale, his eyes wide and dazed. The ex-Marine was flummoxed. "I don't know, son. I'm going to call Bobby in the morning. We need some help."
Dean didn't object when his dad settled him back in the cramped bed next to his brother. A wave of protectiveness flooded through Dean and he rolled over, wrapping an arm tightly around his brother's waist. Sam wasn't going anywhere without his knowing it.
Adding another layer of protection to the room, John Winchester solemnly pulled a chair up on the other side of the bed, placing himself between Sam and the window.
Bobby moved toward the front door with something approaching trepidation. He'd never heard his long time friend and fellow hunter, John Winchester, sound so rattled before.
His friend had asked, no more like demanded to know, if Bobby still dabbled in hypnosis. He remembered how unhappy John had been when Bobby had tried to hypnotize the boys for fun several years ago when John had left them while he pursued a lead on the demon that had killed his wife. Dean had easily succumbed to the power of suggestion but no matter what Bobby did, he couldn't get Sam to crack. Although if he remembered correctly, Sam had been quite smitten with the charm Bobby used to put his subjects under; a large chunk of chalcedony on an ornate silver setting that could be easily swung back and forth for those people who wanted their dose of hypnotism on the theatrical side.
Sam was carefully holding the amulet in his hand, softly fingering the lavender stone. "What is it Uncle Bobby? It's beautiful."
Bobby wasn't much for kids but there was something appealing about both Winchester boys and he found himself talking to them more than he did most adults. "It's pronounced kalSEDne but it's spelled c-h-a-l-c-e-d-o-n-y. It's actually a mineral, a microcrystalline quartz."
Sam held the stone up to the light, his face serious, looking like a miniature gemologist studying a diamond for flaws. He suddenly looked at Bobby, his dimples flashing. "Can you really make Dean cluck like a chicken?"
Bobby reached forward and tousled Sam's fine, golden strands. He gave the youngster a conspiratorial wink. "I was thinking something a little more original. Maybe scratch like an old hound with fleas?"
Sam dissolved in giggles which had Bobby guffawing along with him.
The memory was interrupted as another impatient knock sounded at the door. During the terse telephone call he'd received two days ago, John had asked if they could stay with Bobby for a day or so because he needed Bobby to hypnotize Sam. Not wanted but needed.
Bobby had tried to reason with John, reminding him that Sam had refused to go under when he'd tried so many years ago, but John had been adamant. Bobby relented. This time he didn't expect to get a tongue lashing since he'd be working at John's behest.
Although Bobby wasn't ashamed to admit that watching Dean crawl around on the wooden floor, trying to scratch behind his ear with a foot, was still one of the funniest things Bobby had ever seen.
Bobby swung the large oak door open and was faced with a motley crew. John's dark hair was long and disheveled and that included his facial hair which was sorely in need of a trim; he looked nothing like the rigidly maintained ex-Marine he'd come to expect. Dean stood next to his father, a long scratch down one cheek, looking wan and gaunt, his arm slung around Sam's shoulder. At first he thought Dean was keeping Sam from bolting but closer scrutiny revealed that Dean was practically holding up the youngest Winchester.
Sam was a mess. He had dark smudges under his eyes and those usually alert eyes were cloudy and vague. He swayed in place and Dean's free arm crept around Sam's other shoulder, pulling him back against his chest for support.
No one said anything as Bobby surveyed them. He realized he was being a poor host. "Come on in guys. You know the set up. Make yourselves comfortable while your Dad and I catch up in the kitchen."
Bobby thought about taking one of Sam's arms to ease Dean's burden but the young man subtly shook him off with a frown. Bobby backed off. He was going to pretend everything was status quo until he could get the whole story out of John. And it appeared that story was going to be a whopper.
John allowed himself to be manhandled into Bobby's tiny kitchen. His eyes glanced around, comforted by the old coffee maker, sitting on the yellow counter, the carafe half full of mud colored liquid as well as the chipped, dirty dishes in the sink and books and papers strewn over the small table. It was as close to home as the Winchesters had seen for over ten years.
Unsure of where their host had disappeared to, John poked his head out of the kitchen and saw that Bobby had settled each boy in a high backed chair next the stone fire place where the older hunter was placing logs. Fine tremors rippled through Sam's body and Dean's appearance was equally shocking as his usually vibrant son was subdued and pale. He wondered what Bobby was thinking as he cared for his boys, making sure they were warm and comfortable. Usually John didn't like other people fussing over his children but in this instance he was grateful.
Bobby hustled into the kitchen and poured a mug of coffee, thrusting it into John's hands without asking. Grabbing his own mug and filling it, the older man took his cap off and scratched the top of his head before dropping into a chair. "Tell me."
John collapsed in a rickety chair and found himself trying to explain the events of the last couple of weeks. He told Bobby about Sam's nightmare, his sleepwalking, his collapse at school, the anemia. He spoke of sleepless nights for all of them. Then he back-tracked and told Bobby about making Sam walk home from school and how he'd fallen ill since that seemed to be the starting point for the sudden decline in his youngest son's health.
Bobby's lips pursed as John talked about wanting to teach Sam a lesson but he didn't interrupt. He knew the older hunter had a soft spot for both of his kids and didn't always agree with the way John handled them. It was a sore subject that reared its head from time to time but he never doubted that Bobby Singer cared about Dean's and Sam's welfare.
John's introspection was cut short when Bobby clanked his mug on the table. "So let me get this straight. You want me to hypnotize Sam and see if we can figure out what's going on?"
It did sound insane when his plan was broken down to that level. "Yeah, that about covers it."
Bobby rubbed the whiskers on his chin before his lips stretched into a partial smile. "I always did like a challenge."
The left side of Sam's head throbbed dully in time to his heartbeat as he slouched in the big chair in front of the crackling fire. If it wasn't for his headache he was pretty sure he could doze off. Absently rubbing around the scab past his hairline brought him momentary relief which was broken when his brother made his presence known. "Leave it alone, Sammy. You're going to rub it raw."
Sam's first impulse was to shoot Dean the one fingered salute but he couldn't find the energy. Instead he slumped further down in the chair and concentrated on the flames dancing in the big stone hearth. The heat made him drowsy so he lowered his lids.
Voices rumbled in the room but Sam let them wash over him, refusing to open his eyes. He just wanted to sink into oblivion even for a short while.
A warm hand cupped his cheek and he heard his name called. Frowning at the thought of leaving his warm cocoon behind Sam nevertheless obeyed the command implicit in the voice and blinked his eyes open.
Bobby had pulled up an ottoman and now sat right in front of Sam, his hand clutching a charm of some kind. He'd seen it before but he couldn't think past the thick fog enveloping him. "Hey, Sam. Remember this pretty trinket? You were quite taken with it before. Look at the lavender stone, see how it turns to gray in this light and purple over here? That's right, keep your eyes on the chalcedony."
Sam's eyes were drawn to the lavender stone set in silver as Bobby dangled it before him. It was beautiful and it did turn colors as it spun on its chain, just like Bobby said. He could hear Bobby talking and he tried to focus on what he said. "Very good. Just relax. I want you to close your eyes, Sam. We're going to take a little walk. Do you remember when you were at the high school making up some labs and then began to walk home? We're on the side of the road, you and me. What do you see?"
Something was pulling at the back of his mind, itching to get out, but Sam couldn't drag it forth. "Sam, listen to my voice. You and me, we're walking on the side of the road. Tell me what's happening."
Anxiety filled Sam. He didn't want to remember. But Bobby's voice was insistent. He liked Bobby and didn't want to let him down. "Walking. There's a cold breeze and I'm uncomfortable. I pick up the pace. There, did you hear that?"
A comforting hand squeezed his knee. "It's okay, Sam. Nothing can touch you. It's just you and old Bobby walking down the road. Now what did you hear?"
Sam pulled a shuddering breath into his lungs. "It sounds like a low moan. Wait, someone is calling my name."
Breaking into a run he tries to put distance between himself and whatever is on the side of the road. He chances a brief glimpse over his shoulder to make sure nothing is following and that's when something darts out of the growth on the side of the road and trips him. His breath leaves him as he hurtles to the dirt packed ground and his vision grays out when his head knocks against something hard.
Hands are holding his upper arms, holding him up, and he tried to struggle loose. "Sam, it's me Bobby. I've got you and you're fine. Tell me what just happened."
Sam swallowed noisily, trying unsuccessfully to moisten his dry mouth. "Something's in the woods. It tried to lure me in but when I took off, it tripped me. I smacked my head and blacked out."
The arms holding him up gentled as Sam took up some of his own weight and sat up straighter. "You're doing great, Sam. So you're lying on the ground. What happens next?"
Sam couldn't catch his breath and his lungs burned for oxygen. Bobby's voice continued to buzz insistently in his ear. "I've got you, Sam. Don't be afraid. I want you to open your eyes now and tell me what you see."
Not wanting to but compelled by the authoritative command, Sam's eyes snapped open. Screaming filled his ears and then everything faded away as other voices joined the cacophony inside his head.
Dean would have smirked if the situation wasn't so dire. Sam needed help and although he didn't think hypnotism was the answer, he was still willing to give it a try.
Bobby had instructed both he and his dad to move to the other side of the room. Something about not wanting them to get hooked in by the session, too. Dean had actually snorted at that comment but allowed his dad to pull him across the room where Bobby admonished them to watch and listen, but not interfere.
Perched on the back of a loveseat, Dean had done his best to remain silent. But then a funny thing happened. Sammy's eyes had lowered and he'd obeyed Bobby's requests.
Leaning forward, Dean strained to hear his brother's soft spoken voice as it described his walk on Devil's Lane. He'd shivered when Sam said someone had called his name. Dean had to be restrained by his dad when Sam's breathing kicked up a notch and it became apparent he was in distress.
Sam couldn't catch his breath and Bobby kept pushing at him. He heard the stress under Bobby's calm voice. "I've got you Sam. Don't be afraid. I want you to open your eyes now and tell me what you see."
And then all hell broke loose as Sam's unfocussed eyes opened and the most horrible, keening wail erupted from his little brother. Dean didn't recognize his own voice or remember tearing out of his dad's grip but in a moment he'd shouldered Bobby aside and held Sam in his arms.
When Dean grabbed Sam out of Bobby's hold, the awful yelling stopped but it left a silent Sam, vacantly staring ahead, in its wake. Dean gathered his brother up as close as he dared without smothering him and guided Sam's head to his shoulder. He could feel his little brother's arms dangling limply down his back as his own hand drew gentle circles on the back of Sam's neck.
Bobby and his dad were arguing off to the side but he couldn't concentrate on what they were saying. He was attuned to each breath, shift and sigh Sam made in his arms.
A hand fell softly on top of his head and Dean looked up into the eyes of his dad. "Dean, you need to ease up a little, buddy. You're going to suffocate him at this rate."
Dean reluctantly shifted Sam forward and supported him with a hand at his back while he cupped his chin and angled it up. His brother's eyes were closed, face pale, but he wasn't freaking out any more. Dean was, but Sam's crisis seemed to have passed.
Dean sensed movement and then his dad was prying Sam from his grasp. "It's okay, Dean. I think he's just sleeping. Let's get him stretched out on the couch and make him comfortable."
His dad swept Sam into his arms and held him high against his chest as he moved across the living room floor. Gently he lowered Sam to the couch, arranging his leaden limbs more comfortably on the cushions.
Lying there like that, Dean could almost convince himself that Sam was just sleeping.
John didn't know who to direct his ire at so he just fumed in general. And then Bobby jumped in his face, a lit match to his short fuse. "Dammit, what part of "no interfering" don't you get? When someone is under, they're very vulnerable. You can't go off half cocked like that. Someone might get hurt."
A rage consumed John until he wanted to pound on Bobby's face. He was so upset he couldn't find a handle for his words.
As quickly as the fire in his belly was stoked it lost its fuel. He and Dean had been told to stay out of the way but it was hard to maintain your distance when your baby was screaming his head off. And he could see the source of Bobby's anger wasn't that they'd interrupted his session, it was fear for Sam.
John dropped down into the wing backed chair Sam had occupied a short while ago, making sure he had a clear view of his sleeping son. "So what did we learn?"
Bobby dropped into the other chair, heaving a sigh. "Well, I knew right away that something had mucked with Sam because he dropped off faster than any other subject I've ever tried hypnotizing. Either that or Sam is some sort of psychic. But the last time I tried to hypnotize Sam, I couldn't get any response out of him. This time it was like a hot knife sliding through butter."
Rubbing the back of his hand over tired eyes, John tried to puzzle out how this piece of information helped. "Listen John, something happened to Sam out on that road and I think we're going to have to try again if we're going to figure out what."
An exhausted voice sounded in his ear. Dean had joined the conversation. "No way. There's no way in hell we're asking Sam to go back and face…whatever it is that made him scream like that. No fucking way."
John stood up and moved next to his son, placing an arm around his stiff shoulders. He gave Dean a quick hug and then relaxed but didn't let him go. "I don't like it any better than you do but we can't afford to do nothing. What if the next time Sam sleepwalks he makes it out of the house?"
Dean's hands tightened into impotent fists. "I just...fine, you're right. We need to figure out what's going on."
John released the breath he hadn't been aware he was holding. "Why don't you sit with Sam while Bobby and I make some lunch."
Dean might have grumbled something under his breath but his son was obedient and made his way to the couch where Sam lay sleeping. Now if only getting Sam to mind were so easy.
Bobby stepped out of the kitchen to ask Dean if he could bring him a sandwich and was surprised to find him sitting on the couch next to an awake Sam. Not wanting to interrupt but curious as to what they were talking about, Bobby moved farther into the room.
Dean's voice was lighter than he'd heard it all day but Bobby could hear the tension beneath it. He was putting up a good front for his brother. "It was pretty cool. Bobby put you right out and you described your walk home from the high school that day you stayed to make up your labs."
Sam's voice was soft but skeptical. "Really? It worked? I didn't know Bobby was going to hypnotize me."
Dean gave him a light noogie with knuckles to head but Bobby didn't miss the way the older Winchester boy tugged the younger into the crook of his arm. "So do you remember anything? I mean, you kind of flipped out at the end and I was wondering what happened."
There was a pause before Sam answered. "No, man. I don't remember anything except sitting by the fire and then waking up here."
Bobby cleared his throat as he paced out in front of the brothers, making his presence known. "Okay, boys. Soup and sandwiches in the kitchen."
Hanging back he watched as Dean carefully pulled his little brother to his feet, waited a moment for Sam to get his sea legs under him, and folded an arm protectively around Sam's shoulders as he led him to the kitchen.
That was a strong brotherly bond and although Bobby never doubted the Winchester boys loved each other, he'd been witness to more wrestling matches and name calling between the two to last him a lifetime. Times had changed. Bobby was just sorry that it had taken something so traumatic to affect the change.
Bobby kept tabs on all three Winchesters as they pushed their food around to varying degrees. John was so busy watching both boys, he only gobbled his turkey sandwich since that didn't require his taking his eyes off of them. Dean ate some of his sandwich and sampled the soup and the heat seemed to bring a touch of color back to his pallid cheeks; this whole situation was almost as hard on Dean as Sam.
Sam was dwarfed by the big wood kitchen chair as he sunk down in his too large hooded sweatshirt thing. The sandwich went untouched and more of the soup spilled back into the bowl than made its way to his mouth due to the jittery hand guiding the spoon.
Bobby made short work of cleaning up the kitchen before asking Sam to check on the fire in the living room. Two sets of uneasy eyes swung in his direction as John and Dean subsided back in their seats for a moment. "I know this is going to be hard but I need you to promise that you'll let me do my job here and not get in the way."
The father and son looked at each other and seemed to come to some silent accord before they turned back to Bobby and nodded.
Bobby would have felt better hearing the promise in words but he'd take what he could get. He shooed them out into the living room before rubbing his face. He hoped they were strong enough for what was to follow.
John made sure he and Dean were out of Sam's line of vision. He didn't want anything to distract the proceedings; this time had to work because he didn't think any of them, Bobby included, could endure another go around.
Purposefully staring away from Bobby's charm, he stared instead at his other son. Dean was bearing up tolerably well but despite his youth, Sam's shaky condition was starting to take its toll on him. Freckles stood out starkly across the bridge of his pale nose and the skin under his eyes was sagging with shadows.
His attention was pulled back to his other son when he heard Bobby ask him to close his eyes. Sam's eyes drifted down, his face slack, as he listened to the soothing voice of the older man. "Sam, you and me are still at the side of the road but this time we're watching a scene. We're fine, nothing can touch us. But we're going to watch what happened to you last week after you blacked out on the side of the road. We're just observing. Nothing can hurt you. Do you understand?"
Sam continued to sit in the wing backed chair, the light from the fire casting shadows over his face, highlighting the contours of the hollows beneath his cheekbones. "Yes, sir."
Bobby sat forward, staring intently at Sam's face. "Okay, you're on the ground and you're coming around. Tell me what you feel."
A small grimace pulled at Sam's lips. "God, everything hurts. My head, shoulder, hip, even my ribs. Dean's really going to give me hell for this one."
Dean shifted in his place and John put a hand on his knee to still him. And then Bobby spoke again and his attention drifted back to Sam. "On the count of three, I'm going to ask you open your eyes. But remember, we're just watching the scene. Nothing is happening to you now. I've got you, you're safe and sound. On three…one, two, three."
Sam blinked his eyes open and from across the room John could see the pupils dilated in panic. But Bobby's right there, and he saw it, too. "It's okay, Sam. You're okay. Breathe with me…in and out. Again, in and out. Good. Nothing can hurt you. Now tell me what you see."
His youngest visibly swallowed and it took everything John had not to go to him. "My back is against a tree and in front of me is…I'm not sure I can describe it. It's crouched down in front of me, and its…not really a hand but something touches my hair. And it talks to me but it doesn't have a mouth."
Bobby reached forward and rubbed Sam's arm. "Describe it for me, Sam."
His friend's voice is harsh but it seemed to do the trick; a crinkle appeared on Sam's brow as he concentrated. "It's like a blob. A big, translucent blob. And there are blue flecks moving around. I think veins. And when it moves sinew flexes and waves beneath the surface."
John marveled at Bobby's patience in pulling the details out of his son. "Does it have a face?"
Sam stared straight ahead and blinked. "Not really. But it leans forward and something bobs in front of my face. I can feel its breath. And I can hear it, but I don't see how it's speaking."
Bobby patted Sam on the knee. "Good, Sam. You're doing good. Now you said it talks to you. Tell me what it says."
A fine sheen of sweat stood out on Sam's face and a slight tremor rocked his body. He flinched and gasped before answering. "Oh, you are a pretty one. And tasty, too. I think we'll have to invite you back."
The words jolted John down to his soul but when he saw the flinch, he wanted to get Bobby's attention. Something happened when Sam flinched. But Bobby's clever and he saw it, too. "Sam, what just happened? You flinched like something hurt. Tell me what happened to you."
Dean tensed up next to him and John laid a restraining arm around his taut shoulders. They both leaned over to hear Sam's voice better. "It…something pinched me here. Like a sharp needle."
Sam gestured to the left side of his head. Bobby was doing a good job of keeping his son calm as he stared straight ahead. And then Sam made everyone jump when he started speaking loudly. "Tainted. You've been tainted. Wicked, bad human. The memories are delicious but we can't keep you. You've been marked. You belong to something else."
Sam's eyes closed as pain flitted across his features. Bobby was there to guide him. "What hurts Sam?"
Hazel eyes sprang open and John saw despair. He tightened his grip on Dean who was too caught up in the drama in front of them to protest. "Something…it feels like something's inside. And there are more of them, and they're pressing around me. It's hard to breathe."
Bobby nodded his head in encouragement even though Sam was blind to it. "You're doing fine, Sam. Nothing can touch you. What happens next?"
Sam cocked his head to the side, as if listening to something. "Nos es tamen a nocens memoria."
And then Sam's eyes rolled back into his head and he pitched forward into Bobby's waiting arms.
Dean bolted out of the restrictive arms as soon as he saw Sammy pass out. It was incredibly hard to sit back and listen to his brother describe his freaky tale but he'd felt like they were getting somewhere.
Until Sam blacked out again.
Bobby relinquished the cool, still body of his brother into his arms. He juggled Sam a little until he was spread in front of the heat of the fire, draped in Dean's hold.
His dad kneeled down next to him and turned his brother's head into Dean's shoulder before rubbing the scabbed area on the side of Sam's head. His brother groaned and twitched in his arms before his lids lifted enough for Dean to see the panic in Sam's hazel eyes. "Shhh, it's okay, bro. Just relax for a moment. Catch your breath."
Dean needed to hold his brother for a moment. He didn't know what Sammy had come face to face with in the woods but it was apparent he was lucky to be alive. Although what that "tainted" shit had been about, he didn't know. He was just grateful the ugly little globs had thrown his brother back.
Bobby was leaning over John's shoulder, trying to get a good look at the sore on Sam's head. "We are but a bad memory…that's what it said. Sounds like a Memory Demon. I've never seen one. I'm not sure anyone has."
John patted the hair back into place before smoothing hair on Sam's forehead to the side. "How are you doing, son?"
A watery smile graced Sam's face before his eyelids slid shut. Dean couldn't help but notice how chilled Sam felt in his arms despite the heat from the fireplace. "Dad, I think he's going into shock or something. He's freezing."
He saw his dad frown as he first touched Sam's cheek and then a hand. "You're right. Bobby, do you have some blankets?"
Sam was once again pulled from his arms while John and Bobby swathed him in blankets. His dad settled Dean more firmly in the chair, lifting his feet on the ottoman, before setting a shivering Sam back in his arms. "Dean, you going to be okay there for a little while? Bobby and I need to work out a strategy."
Dean nodded his head. The events of the day were catching up to him and he settled his brother more comfortably in the chair with him before concentrating on the fire dancing before his eyes. Sam was safe, at least for the moment, and Dean tried to relax.
Bobby took his cap off and scratched his head again. He and John were in the kitchen and had just finished mapping out their strategy. Bobby had fetched the Libri of Monasteriense and they had found some obscure information about Memory Demons. They liked to bind their victims to them with a stony spine-like substance, kind of like a thorn, that they inserted into their brain; the spine acted as a conduit giving them access to the victim's memories as well as some sort of beacon so that they could find them if needed. It was ingenius.
John was sipping from another mug of freshly brewed coffee. His eyes were bloodshot and exhaustion weighed down his shoulders. "But the doctor did a scan of Sammy and didn't find anything."
Bobby read through the passage on Memory Demons again before answering. "The doctor was scanning for something of this world, not an ancient demon. I'm pretty sure once we cut Sam open, we're going to find a sliver of substance that was causing his problems."
His old friend glared at him for a moment before answering. "Cut Sam open…do you know how medieval that sounds?"
Switching a mouthful of coffee in his mouth, Bobby swallowed noisily before answering. "Well we can't leave it in him, that's for sure."
John's mind flash backed to two nights ago, Sam perched on the edge of the room, looking like he was about to take flight. And Dean scrambling down the pitch to grab on to him. One of his most terrifying moments to date, right after losing Mary. Bobby was right. They couldn't go on this way. "You're right. How do you want to do this?"
Bobby narrowed his eyes as his gaze swept the kitchen. It looked like they had everything they needed. He climbed to his feet and grabbed the First Aid Kit before he started assembling the rest of the supplies.
Sharp knife to make the incision. Tweezers to remove the spine. Gauze for the blood. Thread and needle for the stitches. That left pain killer. "Do you want to use a local? Otherwise I've got some codeine."
John's face twisted in distress. "He's weak, wrung out. But I don't want him to feel any pain…codeine."
Bobby understood his friend's concern. Sam looked thin and malnourished and codeine was nothing to mess around with. They'd just have to watch the youngest Winchester closely. And if a trip to the hospital was needed then they would deal with it. Now that a decision had been made, Bobby was ready to act on it. "Where do you want to do this?"
The dark haired hunter pursed his lips. "It should be a flat, hard surface. What do you suggest?"
Bobby stood up and splayed his large, gnarled hands on the wood kitchen table. "We may never feel the same way about eating on it again but I'd say this table will do the trick. I'll just add the table leaf to the middle and make it longer. Maybe it's time to get a new one anyway."
Rustling around in a tiny closet, Bobby pulled out the insert for the middle of the table and ably slid it in. Next he set the knife, tweezers and needle in some alcohol to soak.
Reaching into the First Aid Kit, Bobby withdrew a bottle of codeine and handed it to John. He grabbed a glass out of the cupboard and filled it with water before that, too, was handed to John.
His friend closed his eyes and when he opened them, they were filled with resolve. "Let's do it."
Following the taller man into the living room, Bobby stood back to give the family a moment together. It wasn't easy to rouse Sam but eventually they had him sitting up and he accepted the pills and water without complaint. John tousled Dean's hair before speaking to him in a low voice while Sam peered groggily around the room. Dean nodded his consent and soon Sam, bundled in blankets, was held aloft in John's arms.
Bobby watched Dean square his shoulders before he staggered to his feet, stomping his feet to get the circulation going. They walked together into the kitchen and stood by the table as John held Sam securely in his arms, speaking quietly to him. When Sam's head dangled back over John's arm, relaxed in sleep or drugged oblivion, Bobby realized it was show time.
Dean helped John settle the sleeping boy on the hard surface of the table. John turned him on his side so that the left side of his head was under the kitchen light and Dean stood behind Sam, bracing him in place.
Bobby sailed out of the kitchen when he realized there was one detail he'd left unattended. Sam's hair would have to be shaved away so that they had an unimpeded view of the wound. The boy had so much hair, he wasn't likely to miss a dollop of it. Grabbing his little used electric razor, Bobby returned to the kitchen and handed it silently to John.
The black Norelco looked tiny in John's large hand as he pulled the soft strands of caramel aside to get to the wound. Flipping the switch, he applied the razor to the area right over the scabbed skin. Sam hissed and tried to pull away but Dean held him fast.
John and Bobby pulled latex gloves on, snapping them in place. Next Bobby spread an alcohol wipe over the newly shaven area before taking a Q-tip and spreading lidocaine liberally over the side of Sam's head. The codeine was to take the edge off the pain but a local anesthetic was still needed.
As though the operation had been scripted, Bobby handed the knife to John who drew it carefully over the wound. Sam cringed and Dean had his hands full trying to restrain his little brother.
The tweezers were slapped into John's hand and he slid them into the incision as Bobby dabbed at the blood welling up from the wound. Sam groaned and thrashed but the codeine had done its job and the boy lacked the energy to pull away from the macabre surgery.
Relief flashed across John's face as he pulled out 3 centimeters of something that resembled a needle.
Without Bobby having to say anything, John pushed a finger into the wound and poked around. They needed to make sure they got all of the pieces because it was doubtful any of them could withstand this procedure a second time around.
More alcohol was swabbed over the area as Sam writhed in pain. Once he quieted, Dean murmuring soothing words in his ear, then neat, tiny sutures were applied to the wound.
White gauze was quickly affixed to the reddened area. John peeled his gloves off and threw them in the trash before he put a hand on Sam's head. The operation had better have been a success.
Dean was upstairs with Sam, taking a nap. As soon as the spine was removed from Sam's flesh, his color improved and his skin became less clammy.
John and Bobby were outside on the front porch, drinking beer. It was a might too cool to be outside drinking but every noise in the living room traveled upstairs to the bedroom and by tacit agreement, neither man wanted to sit in the kitchen. "So, old man, what's on your mind?"
A smile stretched John's lips. "Who you calling old man, old man?"
Bobby smiled back, his eyes crinkling. "Just seeing if you're paying attention. So what's on your mind? I can hear the wheels spinning and churning from over here."
John should have realized that nothing got by the old coot. The old coot that had saved their bacon once again.
A lot of things swirled around inside of John's head – how had Sam dreamed about Mary's death if he'd never heard the details, why had the Memory Demon or Demons gone after his boy to begin with, and what had the demon meant about Sam being marked? The last was the one praying most heavily on his mind at the moment so he gave voice to it. "What do you think the Memory Demon meant when it said Sam was tainted?"
The older man frowned but didn't fire off the glib answer John was expecting. "I don't know what to tell you, John. Tainted…marked…I don't know what it means. But the Memory Demon was afraid of whatever had touched Sam before. It can't be good."
Taking a long pull from the bottle, John grimaced not so much at the flat taste of the beer, but at his current predicament. "He shouldn't have been out there, walking by himself. This never would have happened if I hadn't decided to teach him who's boss."
Bobby snorted in mid gulp which almost resulted in a wash of beer spraying from him nose. "Johnny, you and Sam are so much alike in some ways, it's scary. You've both got a stubborn streak that's more than a mile wide. Now that he's growing up, you're bound to knock heads once in a while."
Shaking his head, John studied the bottle cradled in his hands. "He just tightens his lips whenever I give him an order. It's exasperating. Makes me see red sometimes. I just don't understand why he can't be more like Dean, that's all."
The disapproval radiated off the older man in waves but he took a moment before speaking. "That's the thing. They're very different and you know it. You can't keep trying to bend Sam to your will without future problems. And what the hell am I talking about, I don't have any kids so don't pay me any attention. I'm just an old fool."
It was John's turn to snort. "Old fool. Well I'm grateful for all of the help you, the old fool, has given me. Seriously, Bobby. I didn't know where to turn."
Bobby stood up from the swinging chair and stretched. "Oh, don't get your panties all in a twist. You'd do the same for me."
If he wasn't mistaken, there was a gleam of moisture in Bobby's eyes. Maybe it was something in the air as he blinked his own eyes to clear them.
The front door swung open and Dean and Sam spilled out onto the porch. Both boys had color in their cheeks and if the way they were bouncing around was any indication, they were both reenergized. John rolled his eyes, secretly with joy, as his sons engaged in the "you ask him, no you ask him" game. "How are you feeling, Sammy?"
Sam stepped away from his brother but John didn't miss the way Dean put a hand on his shoulder protectively. His baby shyly smiled at him. "Hungry. Could we order a pizza? Please?"
So Sam finally had an appetite. His oldest son chimed in, too. "And some pie. I love pie."
John didn't know what the future held for the Winchesters, especially in light of the Memory Demon's revelation that Sam was marked. The next order of business would be to hunt the demons down because nothing messed with his family. But he was grateful that both his boys were acting more like themselves again. And that he had good friends like Bobby he could count on.
It was cause for celebration.
A/N: I want to thank two very special people for their help with this fic – Gidgetgal9 and Faye Dartmouth. Gidgetgal9 helped with the plot (she never even flinched when I mentioned sleepwalking and hypnotism in the same story), title, summary and provided a masterful beta. Seriously, this wouldn't be posted without her. And what can I say about Faye Dartmouth? She's always in my corner and makes me feel like I can do this. Not to mention her icons…they rock!
Gidgetgal9, who is currently posting a really cool fic (Heart's Desire) has agreed to collaborate on a new story with me. It will be called Every Breath You Take and we hope you'll sample it when it's done.
Thanks for reading Enter Sandman!