K Hanna Korossy
"Dude, have you seen yourself in the mirror? I'm good, but I'm not a doctor. I try to sew that up, and you're gonna look like Frankenstein the rest of your life."
"I don't care. I'm not going to a hospital."
Dean sat on the bed across from him, and Sam sullenly shuffled his knees aside to make room. "This is stupid—you're going and that's final."
Sam raised an incredulous eyebrow. "Who do you think you are—Dad?" Both automatically cringed, but Sam plowed on. "Not like I was so great at listening to him, either. I'm not going, Dean."
"Sam, you think it's hard to leave this life? Try doing it when you look like your brother sewed your freakin' face back together in a motelbathroom!"
"I trust you," he said stubbornly.
Dean's face shifted minutely. "'Course you do," and his attempt at lightness wasn't fooling either of them. They couldn't talk casually about issues like that anymore. "So trust me when I say, you need a professional for this one, man."
"Please, Sam." Dean didn't say that often, and whatever else was wrong between them, Sam still listened. "I don't want to do this."
How could he really say no to that?
Dean saw the answer in his face, and grinned as he swatted Sam's leg lightly. "Get your jacket. And keep pressure on that. It's still bleeding."
Sam sighed, hand and washcloth plastered to the side of his head. Right. Can't get blood inside the Impala. Not the newly refurbished Impala, anyway. Dean's and Dad's blood had soaked the other seats so badly, Dean had just replaced them instead of trying to clean them up. Sam was still trying to get the front seat springs to mold to him just right again. But he preferred that to the old seats.
He pulled his hoodie on with slow reluctance, catching it on his cast.
Dean frowned, already in his leather jacket, keys in hand, and reached over to help him Sam shrug into his own, avoiding his half-hearted slap of the hand away. "Man, Sammy, you've been putting on your own stuff since you were four. What's the matter with you today? You feeling lightheaded? Dizzy?"
"No, just stupid. I don't know why you can't do this, Dean—you stitch better than some doctors I've seen."
"Not plastic surgeons, and not the face, dude, you know that. Even Dad didn't mess around with that."
Another automatic cringe. Sam's actions slowed even more.
Dean gave him a long look, then bustled him out to the car. "Come on, there's a good hospital not too far. I checked it out already."
Of course he had. Sam expected no less. That wasn't the problem.
Dean had switched the music off as soon as he turned the engine over and Pink Floyd started blaring. Sam appreciated it, he really did, but distraction was good right now. He reached over to turn it back on, then stared out the side window, one leg bouncing under his hand, the other still clamped over the damp washcloth.
"What's the matter with you?"
Dean's question drew him back, to an honestly bewildered look on his brother's face. Dean, for all his attested loathing of research, wanted to fully understand everything he faced, be it a wraith, a Native American "deity," or his little brother's quirks. Especially his little brother. There was no side of Sam that didn't honestly appear to interest Dean, and Sam found that by turns exasperating and humbling. He wasn't quite sure which it was this time. "Nothing," he answered tiredly.
"Right. 'Cause I'm the one usually asking to go see a professional and you're all, 'We can do it ourselves, Dean—we don't need no stinkin' doctors.'"
Sam couldn't help it, cracking up at that. And not because of the fake accent Dean used for Sam's voice. The laugh rippled through his head and made him flinch with pain, but he was still smiling as he carefully shook his head. "Jerk," he said fondly.
"Hey, watch what you call the guy driving you to the hospital."
Sam sobered again, turned back to the window.
"Sammy?" Gently now, only a hint of the exasperation that had to lie beneath.
"Just…not now, Dean, okay?"
His brother let it go at that, even though Sam could feel his reluctance to do so. But Dean dropped a hand briefly on his leg first, and he was grateful for that.
The hospital was dark red brick and looked like a prison. Sam felt like that was where he was going, too, as he dragged his feet following Dean inside.
His brother slowed a few times to frown at him. "You're not about to pass out on me, are you?" he finally asked. "'Cause I'm totally getting you a wheelchair if you are."
"No, I'm fine." Sam sped up a little, catching up to Dean once again.
"Sure you are," his brother muttered under his breath, but didn't say any more. He matched his stride with Sam's, shoulder brushing Sam's…well, upper arm, but there was still comfort in that. He swallowed and tried to breathe normally.
Inside, Dean pointed him to a chair and went to talk to the nurse at the desk. Sam sank into the molded plastic and looked around, unwillingly comparing pastel walls to white, tiny windows to large floor-to-ceiling ones, signs painted on walls instead of hanging austerely over room doors. Totally different. Not even remotely the same place.
He shivered, feeling sick.
"You cold?" Dean was back, plopping into the seat beside him and studying him with a critical eye. A hand brushed his brow. "You're not going into shock on me, are you?"
Sam pushed his hand away. "I'm fine."
"I don't think that word means what you think it means."
The corner of Sam's mouth turned down. "Thank you, Inigo."
"Dude, I'm just saying—"
"Well, don't, all right? I'm…there's nothing wrong with me except that I should have ducked, but I'm here even though I think this is stupid, so just…back off, Dean."
His brother's hands went up in surrender. "Okay. Geez. PMS again, Sammy?"
He pressed his lips together.
"'Pouting, Mean Sammy.' Or, hey, how about…"
Dean kept talking but Sam had stopped hearing him. His eyes were on a stretcher two paramedics were just wheeling into the OR. Big white blocks anchored the patient's head in place, keeping his neck still, and his jeans were bloody. A wedding band shone on his hanging hand.
"Are they even alive?" Sam had shouted desperately above the whir of the helicopter blades and the shouting voices. Help was there, the three of them being taken to receive medical care, but right now it just felt like separation, frightening. John had already been carried past, his ring glinting in the early morning sunlight, but Sam hadn't even seen Dean yet.
The truck driver had called for help, Sam assumed. He remembered hearing the newly unpossessed man's anguished, "Did I do this?" before Sam screamed for Dean. Hearing no response, he'd tried to turn in his seat to see his brother, to check to see if Dean was even still breathing, but the movement had pushed Sam beyond his limits. He'd fallen back into his seat gasping, clinging to consciousness just long enough to slide the Colt under his seat. Then he couldn't fight it anymore, slipping into a hazy twilight of heavy thoughts and an even heavier body, not knowing if he still had a brother. The next thing Sam was aware of, dawn was breaking and there were a lot of hands on him. Metal groaned, voices overlapped around him, and he thought maybe he heard his dad moan.
The trip was also kind of blurry, the bouncing of the ambulance and the shrieking siren feeling distant. He knew his family was being taken in by helicopter, which Dean would hate if he was aware. But if he wasn't aware…
Sam was jerked back to himself at the feel of metal on skin, scissors sliding under his shirt in preparation to cut it off him. He reached up and grabbed the paramedic's hand. "No."
"Sir, you've been in an accident and we need to see how badly you've been injured."
"No. I'm all right." He had to be; he was the only one left.
"I know my rights—I'm conscious, coherent, and I'm refusing medical care. I'll sign the release form."
He stared at the middle-aged man with the green eyes that in no way reminded him of Dean, especially when they creased stubbornly like that. Finally, the paramedic sighed. "Fine. But we've got a twenty-minute ride in—might as well not waste it and at least clean you up a little and check you out, right?"
His grip loosened. "All right, just…I need my clothes, okay?"
"Sure." The paramedic's face had softened in compassion.
Sam swallowed. "And could you do me a favor? Is there any way to find out how my brother and dad were doing when they got them out of the car?"
The paramedic went up front to talk to the driver, and Sam's head dropped back to the gurney, eyes swimming. It hit him with all the delicacy of the semi: he could already be the last survivor of his family. John had been on the side of the car the semi had hit, and Dean…Dean had been hurt so badly even before the crash. He'd been hanging by a thread when Sam had eased him into the back seat. What if…?
He rubbed the rolling wetness away just as the paramedic reappeared. "They were still alive when the chopper took them in," he told Sam kindly. "All right? So can I make sure you stay the same way?"
After a moment, Sam nodded.
He was shakily back on his feet by the time the ambulance reached the hospital, only to find to his frustration that it wasn't the one his family had been taken to. "Shock & Trauma Unit" was all he heard, and then he was gone without bothering to check himself in, hailing a cab at the front curb. Dean always made sure Sam had enough cash in his wallet for emergencies.
The trip was long, the wait seemingly even longer as the nurse at another front desk told him where he could find Dean and that the doctor would be in soon to talk to him.
Sam ran. Hurriedly found the room and went inside. And then stopped, his stomach plummeting.
And then the real nightmare had begun.
"Earth to Sam. Come in, Sammy."
He started, turning to stare into amused, bemused dark green eyes. There was a confusing twist of déjà vu, then he blinked and it was Dean, healthy and whole and looking at him as though he were wondering if Sam was the same. Sam cleared his throat. "Huh?"
Dean's face crinkled comically. "Three years of college and that's the best you can come up with? 'Huh'?"
"I wasn't…uh, I was thinking about something else."
Dean's smile didn't fade, but the amusement in his eyes died. "I'll bet. Doctor's ready for you."
Sam nodded. "All right." He stood, hesitated. "You coming in with me?"
"You want me to?" Dean asked neutrally.
Which Sam was grateful for, because it was a little embarrassing saying, "Yeah." But he needed his brother, pride be damned.
Dean didn't say a word, didn't even give him a hint of a mocking glance, just stood and followed.
The doctor examined Sam and clucked his sympathy and listened to whatever story Dean was telling him about how Sam had gotten cut. Sam tuned it out, gaze bouncing around the cubicle, the doctor's white coat, the doorway beyond. He lay down when the doctor's cold hands urged him to, eyes flicking over to make sure Dean was still sitting there watching everything intently, before going back to the cubicle door. An old memory stirred, a much younger Dean peering over the doctor's shoulder as he stitched up a child Sam, asking questions as the man worked. The guy had probably thought he had a budding doctor on his hands, patiently answering each query, never guessing the information would be used far sooner than that.
Voices rose in the ER bay outside the cubicle, a flurry of movement around a gurney. Sam heard "No pulse," and "All clear," and suddenly newer memories overlaid old.
He'd stood in the hallway, face pressed against the doorjamb in terrified, broken-hearted silence, while the medical staff played tug-of-war with Death over Dean.
"Okay, let's go again."
Dean's body jolted with the violence of attempted life.
"No change. Start CPR."
And then…Sam had felt…something.
"We have a pulse."
He'd backed away from the doorway, trying to put it into perspective. Dean had almost died—had died for a few eternal seconds—but Sam could feel him almost as clearly as when his brother sat next to him in the car, as if he could reach out and…
The medical staff slowly put their gear away, the doctor stopping to tell Sam in a few short sentences what he already knew: still critical, holding on, fighter, lot of damage. And then it was just him and Dean and the machines.
He'd almost been afraid to touch, as if it might break the illusion, shatter some sort of glamour. But Dean was always stronger when he knew his family was there, and Sam finally wrapped his hand around his brother's cold one, fingers sliding to mesh with fingers, wrist pressed against wrist. They were strongest together. He'd almost forgotten that at school, but he didn't think Dean ever had.
"Come on, big brother," Sam whispered in tear-stained tones that would have invoked Dean's protective concern in a heartbeat if he'd been awake to hear it. "Fight this. I need you."
But no matter how he clung to that callused hand, it didn't cling back.
Sam's hand clenched into an empty fist, and he moaned at the loss.
He turned his head blindly, feeling the unpleasant pull at the skin above his eye. "Dean?" he called in near desperation, momentarily unsure where his brother was and if he was all right.
A hand—Dean's hand—squeezed his wrist. "I'm right here, Sam. Open your eyes."
He beat down the panic with difficulty. Dean was there. He was. Sam could feel him. His wrist was squeezed again, more insistent, and Sam finally fluttered his eyes open.
"Dude." A gently teasing smile. "You fainted."
"Sam? Can you hear me?" Another hand, colder and softer than Dean's, turned his chin, and Sam's eyes slid that way to confirm the intrusion. Oh, right. Doctor. Stitches. Hospital. He nodded and closed his eyes, swallowing heavily as the doctor ran through another few questions. Apparently deciding Sam would live, the older man told him to hold still, and the unpleasant tug-pinch sensation started up again.
Sam's fingers scraped over the paper-covered table, seeking something to hold on to. "I didn't faint," he murmured. "I was just…thinking."
"Yeah, well, don't go anywhere while you're thinking. Plastic surgeon's not gonna be much help if you keep moving around too much for him to stitch you up." Dean's hand slid higher, to the inside of Sam's elbow, where a thumb slid over the vein there. His elbow brushed against Sam's pinkie, and Sam turned his hand so it rested against his brother's arm. Oh, no, he wasn't desperate for contact, not him.
"Are we almost done?" Sam asked in a voice that was smaller than he'd have liked.
"Few more stitches," the doctor answered instead of Dean. "The smaller they are, the less chance you have of scarring. But I think this one'll be pretty good."
"Chicks dig scars," Sam mumbled, and heard Dean's soft chuckle.
Even the doctor gave an amused snort. "I can make the stitches bigger," he offered.
Dean answered for Sam. "No, thanks, Doc. We don't need the reminder."
No, they had enough of those already. Scars, too.
Sam curled his hand around Dean's elbow and, after a moment, Dean took firm hold of his arm. They didn't move nor say another word until the doctor was done and Sam was wrapped up and ready to go.
Night had fallen while they were inside, and a steady, drizzling rain was coming down. Dean left him under the front awning of the hospital to get the car, and watched Sam carefully from inside it as he slid into his seat. Then Dean turned them back toward the motel, the windshield wipers swishing a soothing rhythm, the street sluicing by past Sam's window.
"It was the hospital, wasn't it."
Sam turned, frowning, to look at Dean. Was that even a question? "What are you talking about?"
"That's what was freaking you out," Dean said. "Being back at a hospital. I mean, we were in one the other week when they fixed up your hand, but you were kinda out of it that time. And the time before that…"
Sam stared straight ahead. He remembered too well the time before that. He was the only one left now who did. "Yeah," he answered quietly. "I guess."
"You guess?" Dean's one eyebrow rose as he divided his attention between the car and Sam. "I'd hate to see you when you're sure."
Sam picked at the edge of his cast, suddenly feeling tired.
"You could've told me, Sammy."
He felt himself flush a little. "I know. But you were right about going." As much as Dean had seen him at his worst, as often as they'd been around each other with their skin off of late, it was still embarrassing. And Sam often had to be the strong one these days.
"I could've found a clinic or something. Private practice, maybe. These dudes've gotta have an office."
But he didn't always have to be strong. Dean would forever be his big brother. Sam smiled a little. "It's all right. I can't avoid hospitals the rest of my life, Dean."
A long breath. "Yeah, probably not, doing what we do."
They drove on for another minute before Dean turned the car into a strip mall. Sam looked up and around, confused. "What're we—?"
"Gotta pick up some dinner. You want deli or…" Dean craned around, too. "Greek?"
"Gyro. Extra sauce."
"You got it. Stay put and try not to think too much." Dean dashed out of the car, into the rain.
Sam stared after him, gaze going distant.
One minute Dean was gone, a machine keeping his shell alive, even the sense of him Sam had felt so strongly before absent now. And the next minute, he was back, arching off the bed and gasping, gagging around the tube down his throat.
Sam's eyes widened in disbelief, followed by joy. "Dean!" And then panic, as Dean kept choking. Sam turned away. "Help! I need help!"
Then he was at Dean's side, fingertips digging into his brother's shoulders as he fought to get through to him and calm him down. "Hey, hey, Dean, it's me, I'm here." Frantic eyes swung over to him, and Sam provided a wobbly smile. "You're okay, you're all right, just try to relax. Don't fight the tube, just listen to me, pay attention to me."
Always the little brother, always "look at me." And it always worked.
Dean still looked confused, even scared, but he was calming. His hand slipped off Sam's arms, weakly seeking something solid to hold on to, and Sam cautiously let go of one shoulder to grip Dean's right hand. His knuckles were nicked and scabbed, evidence of how hard he'd fought those last few days, but his grasp was warm. Alive. Sam was swallowing tears along with that lump in his throat. "It's gonna be okay. Everything's gonna be fine now."
And despite all that followed, despite even…even Dad, he hadn't lied about that.
The doctor hurried in, a small cortege following him. Sam stepped to the side, nearer the head of Dean's bed, trying to get out of the way, but his brother's hold tightened and Sam hadn't been about to let go, anyway. He took Dean's hand with him, resting it against his brother's shoulder.
They finally took the tube out. Dean's hold clenched only once, and even as he coughed out his first question, Sam bent low. "I'll tell you everything, just let them take care of you, all right? Dad and I are fine, we just need to make sure you are." That bought him a trusting silence.
He went down with Dean for the tests, letting go and stepping aside only for the CAT scan, and even then he could talk to his brother through the mike outside. Then he was back, and while Dean no longer needed the contact so blatantly, when Sam rested a hand on his shoulder by his neck, he could feel Dean's muscles untense. He didn't let go again until they were back in the room and it was just the two of them, and he could sit down on the edge of the bed to look Dean in the eye and talk.
That was when he'd discovered Dean's last memory was in the car right before the crash.
The squeak of the Impala's door jerked him back to the car with a shudder. Dean was watching him again under rain-plastered hair, and Sam had a feeling he knew where Sam had been.
His brother shook his head as he dropped a pair of paper bags onto the seat. "Told you not to think so much."
Sam sighed, rubbing at the skin around the bandage. "Tell me how to shut my brain off and I'll do it."
Dean reached over, plunking another package down on the seat next to the bags. A six-pack of Budweiser.
Sam's eyebrows climbed. "You're gonna get me drunk?"
Dean snorted. "Dude, wipe that look off your face, I'm not trying to get into your pants. And I don't think getting drunk's the best plan when you just got sixteen stitches in your face."
Dean was already pulling out of the parking lot, his eyes firmly on the road. "It's just to…grease the wheels a little when we talk."
Sam stared at him. "What're we talking about?"
Dean's jaw shifted. "What happened at the hospital."
He blinked, knowing it wasn't that afternoon Dean meant. "I told you already what happened at the hospital. Remember, at Bobby's?"
Dean shook his head, sending a few drops of water flying. "You told me the facts, Sam. Now I wanna hear the rest."
Sharp green eyes turned his way. "Next time we're in a hospital, it might be for something worse than stitches, Sam. You need to deal with this so it doesn't keep getting to you, and you being a girl and all, that means talking, right?"
Sam grimaced. "Yeah, thanks, that's real incentive to drag my skeletons out of the closet."
"Hey, I've been showing you some of mine lately, too." It was said so casually, Sam almost didn't realize what his brother had admitted. He turned to catch Dean just looking away, glancing out the driver's side window and adding just as offhandedly, "You want to carry that one by yourself?"
And…no. He didn't. They had been two of the worst days of his life, and not sharing the memory with anyone had only made it harder. "All right," Sam said, nodding. "But then you have to do something for me, too."
Dean's face seized for a moment before it smoothed out. "You mean, besides listening to you angst?"
"Promise me you won't take any of this on yourself." Sam stared at him earnestly. "None of this was your fault, Dean."
Dean went silent, expression shuttered.
"Please, man. I won't make this better for me by making it worse for you."
Dean shifted in his seat and gave him an uneasy glance. "Geez, Sam, what did I do?"
"No! That's not what I mean. I just…I don't want you to feel worse. No matter what happened, no matter what Dad or the demon did, you came back, Dean, and that's all I asked for."
Dean was silent a long time, his face unreadable in profile and the dark of the country road. Sam's stomach turned uneasy cartwheels while he waited for what would happen.
They were almost at the motel before Dean finally spoke.
"Beer first, then promises, okay?" He glanced sideways at Sam.
Who nodded, relaxing. Wondering why he'd even doubted. "All right."
And as they ran inside through the rain together, Sam actually believed it might be all right.