Disclaimer: Still the same
A/N - Sendintheclowns: Thank you so much to the talented Floralia for agreeing to write with me; not only is she extremely creative but I enjoyed her sense of humor even while she was writing some of the best crazy Sam scenes I've ever read. And thanks again to BlueEyedDemonLiz for the mad beta skills she employed to get the story out on time...that gal is one in a million. I will admit it was really weird plotting a story without Gidgetgal9's input but hopefully the birthday girl (you're the best girlfriend!) enjoyed the fic.
A/N – Floralia: Thanks so much to the very awesome Sendintheclowns for providing such emotional depth and a cohesive storyline around my 'Sam goes really crazy – I have no idea why'. And thanks to BlueEyedDemonLiz for the speedy beta – I'm still amazed we managed to finish this on time (admit it Gidgetgal9, you were thinking it too). We really hope you enjoy how it all turns out.
After Dean left, Bobby had eased himself around the other bed and sunk down on the spongy surface, facing Sam.
He couldn't believe he was looking at Sam Winchester. The young man was damp from his shower, head bent, looking beat upon and downtrodden.
Clearing his voice, Bobby tried to reach the young hunter. "Hey, Sam. Looks like you've hit a bit of a rough patch."
Sam didn't pick his head up. Didn't flinch. Didn't react in any way, shape or form to Bobby's words.
Dean hadn't been over reacting. Sam was in really bad shape.
Content to just sit with the boy, Bobby cast his eyes about the room. He could see evidence of the melee in the crooked picture on the wall, the debris sticking out of the waste basket, and the curtains pulled partially down from over the window.
Bobby spied a notebook on the desk against the wall and with nothing else to occupy his attention, he decided to flip through it. Slowly he eased off the bed and retrieved the notebook. As he perched on the edge of the bed, trying to be silent so as not to spook Sam, his eyes perused the haphazard words dancing across the page.
Out of the corner of his eye, Bobby noticed a slight movement. Raising his head he watched in fascination as Sam's hand clenched into a tight fist and struck angrily at his thigh.
"Sam, what's going on?"
So this was the zoned out, erratic behavior Dean had alluded to. Bobby had to say, it was creepy. The kid wasn't completely silent, his head cocked to the side.
With another burst of energy, Sam struck out with both fists, walloping thighs, chest, face…anything his fists could reach.
"Jesus, Sam. No."
Sam's face was lax. Blank.
Dean had asked him to protect Sam, and keeping the young hunter from beating the crap out of himself certainly qualified.
Bobby surged to his feet and leaned over Sam, easily capturing the thin wrists as they battered away at an already bruised body. He pressed the wrists, jittering beneath his hands, against the bed.
Without warning, Sam's head turned and teeth clashed together as the boy tried to take a chunk of Bobby's flesh.
Not wanting to, but out of other ideas, Bobby loosened the grip his right hand had on Sam's wrist and smacked his face with a resounding slap. Brown locks of hair flew as Sam's head rocked hard to the right.
He hadn't meant to strike Sam so hard but at the rate they were going, someone was going to get seriously hurt. "Damn it, Sam. It's me, Bobby. Can you hear me?"
Sam's head rolled back on his neck until his eyes stared straight ahead.
Bobby touched the red cheek with the hand that just delivered the wallop. He kept the other wrist trapped, senses on guard for another attack. "Sam, you with me now?"
Large, hazel eyes lazily blinked, pupils shrinking and enlarging under Bobby's watchful stare.
Bloodless lips parted and mumbled.
Bobby released his grip on Sam's other wrist and leaned closer in an effort to catch what the dazed kid was saying.
"Grow up, Sam. It's past time you acted like a man."
"You self-centered, ungrateful brat. All's you care about is yourself."
"Fine, you want to go to school, go. If you're going, stay gone."
Bobby cringed at the words rolling off of Sam's tongue. Vintage John Winchester, if Bobby's guess was right. And words that had cut the youngest Winchester deeply.
When Sam had hit his teen years, he'd learned the knack for pissing off almost everyone around him. At the time, Bobby had felt the same way as everyone else…shut the hell up and do as you're told. He'd never really thought about the toll his, and more importantly John's and Dean's, attitudes would take on the young man.
Everyone was so impatient for Sam to outgrow his soccer games, and debates and schooling that kept him and his family from participating in certain hunts. Bobby could easily recall the exasperation and frustration in John's voice as he turned down hunt after hunt due to Sam's commitments. That is until Sam turned 16. Then the boy had been expected to toe the line.
Bobby had to admit to being amused when Sam showed up John on occasion. There was no denying it, Sam was smart as a whip. But John had wanted sons who obeyed without question and Sam just couldn't bring himself to do that.
Sam had a wide streak of idealism that didn't mesh with the world he'd been thrust into. Bobby certainly hadn't understood it.
Deep down, Bobby had felt more connected to Dean. Knew what drove him, his likes and dislikes, his personality.
But Sam had been a bit of a mystery. Now Bobby wished he'd tried a little harder. There were clearly things he hadn't realized, hadn't taken the time to think about.
Sam continued his broken litany of short comings. It sounded downright abusive when it was strung together at one time.
The one that got to Bobby the most was the one about staying gone…Bobby could only assume that had to do with the whopper of a fight that had occurred when Sam left the family high and dry for Stanford.
At least that's what Bobby had been given to believe. However, if there was any truth to the crazed mutterings, it would appear that the young man had finally obeyed John when he'd left for the west coast.
Sam finally ran out of steam, his last broken words being the most memorable. "Too little, too late."
The youngest Winchester lapsed into silence, blinking confusion at the world. Bobby waited on tenterhooks for Sam's next move.
The forehead wrinkled, his blank look receding at last. Maybe Sam was finally going to snap out of it. Whatever "it" was. "Sam, I need a little sign here. If I let you up, do you promise not to bite me?"
Blue veins stood out in start relief against the whiteness of Sam's skin; it was worrying, as was the way Sam continuously blinked. The kid looked like he was going to pass out. Bobby reached down and lifted Sam's legs, shifting his body until he was stretched out on the bed.
Sam's eyes finally settled on Bobby's face, showing a spark of recognition. "Bobby."
"Yeah, it's me kid. You doing okay?"
Pursing his lips in concentration, Sam mulled over the question. "Where's Dean?"
Crap. Those infamous puppy-dog eyes were welling with moisture. And the kid looked like, well frankly, a kid.
A kid whose family had given him a hard time. Hell, Bobby had given him a hard time, if only in his own mind. It was a wonder Sam had turned out as well as he did.
Except for this going crazy thing.
Tired of waiting for Bobby to reply, Sam's eyelids sunk down. Bobby hadn't meant to ignore him.
Looking around, Bobby spied a glass of water on the nightstand. Sam could probably do with some liquid. And maybe a pain reliever. The younger man had shown no quarter as be beat his fists against his body.
"I'm going to get you some Tylenol, okay?"
Before Bobby could move, Sam threw out a hand spastically, brushing harmlessly against Bobby's leg. "No, don't. Please. Need to feel…"
Christ on a crutch. Sam was breaking his heart. Retrieving the water, Bobby slid a hand under Sam's head and lifted. "Small sips."
It didn't take much coaxing for Sam to drink all of the water and when at last Bobby pulled the glass away, Sam's face was more relaxed. "Thanks, Bobby."
Definitely more coherent.
Bobby sat heavily on the other bed. No wonder Dean had been so panicked. Coping with Sam's outbursts was exhausting.
Wishing he had a cup of coffee, or more like a pot of it, Bobby resigned himself to keeping watch over Sam. The young man's eyes finally drifted closed, and for the first time since Bobby had entered the motel room Sam's face was peaceful.
The calm before the storm? Bobby sure as hell hoped not. He was getting too old for this shit.
Settling back more comfortably on the bed, Bobby picked up the discarded notebook and started trying to decipher the uneven handwriting.
Bobby read through the entries about Father Gregory, Sam's mission, and his shapeshifter dream. Poor kid was good and screwed up. But who wasn't these days?
He breezed through the bits about pulling over for gas and food and headaches and migraines. Sometimes headaches were a sign of possession. Bobby withdrew his own flask, filled with holy water instead of alcohol, and splattered some splashes over the sleeping Sam. No sizzle. No burn.
When Sam shivered, Bobby set the notebook aside and pulled the comforter off the bed he'd been sitting on. He draped it carefully over the young man. As sick as Sam seemed to be in the head, his body also seemed to be fighting something.
Bobby resettled himself on the bed he'd just vacated and took up reading where he'd left off. He wasn't sure why Dean was set on Mrs. Rourke being the cause of Sam's distress, but he hadn't been there to see it firsthand. He hoped to God that Dean was right. He wasn't sure how much more Sam, or Dean for that matter, could take.
His lips quirked into a smile as he read the part about Sam being startled and knocking books off the shelving, and then Dean calling him a spazz before wrapping his hand in a bandana. The next sentence about Sam hoping he hadn't spilled any blood on the books made Bobby's own blood run cold.
Blood. Books of magic. That was a deadly combination.
Wasting no time, Bobby fished out his cell phone and scrolled through the contacts. He wasn't a fan of all of the new technology available these days but he had to admit, this little gadget was handy. Locating the number for Esoterica, he pushed the button to put the call through.
"Good afternoon, Esoterica. What do you want."
Ignoring the flat inflection of the odd greeting and the slight lisp of the clerk on the other end of the connection, Bobby forged forward. "My name is Bobby Singer. I had two of my friends pick up a book for me yesterday."
Before Bobby could ask any questions, there was a long, drawn out sigh. "All sales are final."
Supercilious twit. "That's not why I'm calling. I've got a few questions about the guys who picked up the book for me."
Now the clerk's voice turned coy. "Oh, I remember them well. That was two days ago they picked up the book. The tall one was a klutz, just about took out a fortune in rare books. But he was so cute, I had to forgive him. If the other one hadn't towed him out of the store by the hand, I would have slipped him my number."
Way more information than Bobby wanted to know. At least in regard to the clerk's sexual orientation. The clerk had imparted a bit of information that piqued his interest. "You said they picked up my book two days ago. Have you noticed anything…out of the ordinary happening in the store since then?"
A high pitched naying laughter assaulted Bobby's ears. "Dude, I work in a shop with books full of magic and sorcery and death spells…stuff tends to happen all of the time. But there has been an increase in activity. In fact it started right up after your friends left here. Lights flickering. Phone line going out. Cold spots in the room. You know, the usual. Only pretty much non-stop. The owner was going to stop by today and look around. I checked the books in that section where the hottie tipped them off of the shelf but all of them seemed in good condition."
The general sense of unease that had prompted Bobby to call the Esoterica was now shifting into full alert. Sam had been bleeding, had handled books, and now there was an increase in paranormal activity in the book store.
Although maybe, it explained Sam's current condition. Blood rituals were sometimes needed to activate certain spells. All's it would take was someone to read the spell out loud and then blood to be introduced to the proceedings. Like blood touching the page the spell was on. Usually there was more to it than that but some of the books at this particular book store were very old and very powerful.
Bobby heard the rumble of the Impala and glanced at the clock, shocked to see that five hours had passed since Dean had left Sam in his care.
Checking on the exhausted hunter in the bed, Bobby noticed no change. He went to the door and let in a bedraggled Dean.
Dean's eyes were haunted and he kept rubbing a hand over his stomach. "How is he? How's Sam?"
"He had a little fit but he's sleeping now. Dean, I don't think there's been a change. What happened?"
Rushing to Sam's side, Dean laid a hand on Sam's forehead. "Sammy, can you wake up for me? I'm back."
Bobby wanted to give the brothers some privacy but he needed to talk to Dean about what he'd found out about Esoterica. He turned his head and stared at the crooked picture on the wall but he couldn't block the whispered words from reaching his ear.
"Yeah, Sammy. It's me. How you doing?"
Long pause. "Head's…fuzzy. Wrong. When…better?"
Dean had told Sam when he returned, that Sam would feel better. So far that wasn't happening.
Shaking fingers tucked the orange comforter around Sam. "Why don't you close your eyes, Sammy. Try to get some sleep. I'll be right here."
Sam's eyes drifted shut, complying with Dean's request. The older brother stood up, shoulders hunched, and walked back to Bobby. "I screwed up, Bobby. It wasn't Mrs. Rourke."
"I know. I think Sam got blood on a book at Esoterica and activated a spell."
There was a blank look on Dean's face that slowly turned to disbelief. "Blood? But…"
As exhausted as Dean was, and as scared as he definitely was for Sam, Bobby couldn't hold on to his patience anymore when faced with Dean's obliviousness. "I thought you had already read through Sam's notes?
A fire banked in Dean's eyes and he drew himself up to his full height. "I did. And that's why I thought Mrs. Rourke…"
Bobby cut him off. Heaven help him from idiots. "Did you even read the next section of Sam's notes? As soon as I saw the part about Sam bleeding and touching the books, I knew something could have happened. And when I called the book store, they said there'd been a surge in paranormal activity…starting up right after you left."
The blood drained from Dean's face but Bobby was on a roll and couldn't stop himself. "Jesus! A pair of knuckleheads is what you are. The sons of John Winchester, seasoned hunters in your own right, and you act like a couple of novices."
Heading for the door, Bobby paused to look at the stricken older brother. "I'm going to the Esoterica to see if I can fix the problem. I'll call you after I think I've got it handled. Oh, and Dean? Do the phrases "if you're going, stay gone" and "too little, too late" mean anything to you? 'Cause they sure seem to be on Sam's mind."
Ignoring the way Dean blanched, Bobby sailed out the door and headed for his truck.
There'd be time enough to make things right with Dean later. At least he hoped so. For now, Sam needed to be his priority.
Bobby found himself mumbling to himself. Sam needed to be someone's priority. Not because he was someone's son, or little brother or because he was at the center of the demon mess. But because he was worth it.
Dean reeled as though someone had gut punched him.
Blood mixing with spell books. He should have seen it. Hell, Sam should have seen it.
What the hell was wrong with them?
They'd both been distracted – their dad's death and big reveal about Sam, landing on the FBI's most wanted list, Sam believing in angels – but they couldn't afford distractions. Distractions got you killed. Or maimed. Or put under wacky spells.
Sam made a noise and rolled his legs off the bed until his lower body was sitting but his upper body was still stretched out. "D'n?"
"Yeah, kiddo, what's the matter?"
Dean moved quickly to his brother's side, sizing up the situation. Eyes bleary and at half mast. Limbs struggling for coordination. No improvement.
His little brother's voice was filled with sadness. "Sorry for what? You didn't do anything wrong."
Scrunching his face up, Sam's confused mind worked hard to make the words come out. "You…were…right. I…bad son. I…worse brother."
This didn't sound good. Sam's words and halting delivery made Dean think of his tequila binge. Dean couldn't cope with anymore scenes. But apparently Sam hadn't gotten that memo.
"'Member when…and I…and then…dad said…sorry, D'n."
Sam was making absolutely no sense and the sad part was that he knew it, agitation making his voice quiver and his limbs twinge.
Dean sat on the bed next to his brother and pulled his upper body up, hauling him against his chest. Rocking him to and fro, Dean tried to get Sam to relax. All of this anxiety couldn't be good for him. "Shhh, it's okay Sammy. You didn't do anything wrong."
"When went to Sta…to sch…missed you. Tried call…but wouldn't…pick up."
He remembered the argument vividly. His dad and Sam screaming at one another until John Winchester got eerily calm, told Sam to stay gone if he left. And Sam had. Left that is.
For some reason Dean had always believed Sam had just taken off without a thought about what he was leaving behind, who he was leaving behind. Dean had smashed his cell phone in a fit of temper. Maybe things would have turned out differently if he hadn't done that, if he'd talked to Sam.
"Miss D'n…miss da…miss my Je…girl. All gone."
Running a hand up and down Sam's arm in an effort to calm him, Dean tried to reach him with words. "Sammy, I'm right here. It's Dean. I'm not going anywhere."
Dean looked down to the bent head leaning on his shoulder. Tilting the heavy head back, Dean was taken aback by the scared face in front of him. When Sam's arms lifted and dropped back into his lap, Dean had a memory of Sam at age one, standing in his crib, arms stretched out, face beseeching; Sammy was babbling, needed something, but damned if five-year-old Dean could figure it out and his little brother didn't have the words to tell him.
That phrase flipped a switch in Dean's head. Sam wasn't going crazy, he was losing his memory. Forgetting how to drive, how to eat, even who Dean was…and Sam seemed to be fighting hard to retain some of himself.
Reaching into his pocket, Dean pulled out his cell phone and punched in Bobby's number. Arm wrapped tightly around Sam, keeping him close, Dean impatiently waited for his friend to answer.
"Dean? I just got into the book store and we're in the section where Rob remembers watching Sam."
"Listen, Bobby. I think the spell or curse or whatever it is, is affecting Sam's memory. Anything like that on the shelf at eye level?"
Dean could hear the older hunter barking out questions, hear the faint voice of another man in reply.
"Hang on, Dean. I think we might have something. I'll call you back in ten minutes."
Sam's lips were moving but no sound was emerging, his head thrashing lightly against Dean's shoulder.
Bobby's earlier words replayed in Dean's head… Sam needed to be someone's priority. Not because he was someone's son, or little brother or because he was at the center of the demon mess. But because he was worth it. Dean didn't even know if Bobby had been cognizant that he was talking aloud as he stormed out to his truck, but he'd heard the words.
And they had stung.
Dean had always put Sammy first. If he was hungry, Dean fed him. If he was dirty, Dean made sure he got cleaned up. He begged, borrowed and stole to keep Sam in clothing. And when they hunted, Dean always made sure Sam was protected.
But the things Dean was naming off were basic needs.
Dean also remembered the acerbic words of YED's daughter, masquerading as Meg Masters: "Nice…the way you treat your brother like luggage."
Acknowledging that he hadn't always done right by Sam was difficult. For so long, it had been 'Dean, look after your brother.' And Dean thought that's what he had done. But the words tumbling out of Sam's mouth in stilted fashion indicated he might not have always gotten it right.
Sam clumsily raised a hand to his head and groaned. Dean looked down and found Sam squinting up at him. "Dean? What's going on?"
He was afraid to get his hopes up. Sam had ping-ponged between moments of clarity and completely wrecked.
His cell phone rang and he sighed when he saw it was Bobby. "What happened?"
"We burned some of the books…any change?"
Sam was still gazing up at him in confusion, pliable in his arms. "I don't know. He said my name, seems coherent. But…"
"Yeah, he's done that before. I think I'll hang around here for a day or so, just in case. Do me a favor and call me in two hours with an update. And Dean, I'm sorry about…"
"It's okay, Bobby. And you were right. Thanks."
Sam was trying hard to hang on to some of his most treasured memories. They were mainly with Dean, some with Dean and their dad, and lots with Jess.
Every once in a while his mind blanked when he thought of the blond beauty and it scared him like nothing else could. He couldn't forget her. The love of his life.
Why couldn't he get his mouth to work? He felt like he had the worst hang-over ever, even worse than last month when he'd gotten into the tequila. His head ached and when he opened his eyes, the lighting sent waves of pain crashing through his skull.
Dean would fix this. Dean always watched out for him.
A wave of guilt flowed through Sam as he thought of the times he'd cussed out Dean under his breath. For being older. For always being right. For being bossy. For being Dad's favorite.
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get his tongue to wrap around the words and they spilled out of his mouth in a tangle.
An arm curled around him and levered him into a sitting position. He couldn't hold his balance, but the warm arm pulled him closer.
Faith. Sam had faith in Dean. It bothered him that sometimes his older brother didn't seem to feel the same way. But Sam was the youngest. Slower. Uncoordinated. Selfish.
A bright light sparked next to Dean's head, fuzzy. Dean was holding him, talking to him.
But the light. An angel? No, Dean said they didn't exist.
Something popped then clicked into place in his brain.
There was a burning sensation. And he was tired. He hadn't felt this bad since Jess had died, since his dad had died.
Dean's worried face slid into focus. "Dean? What's going on?"
Relief bubbled through Sam's chest. His mind and mouth were working in conjunction again.
"I don't know. He said my name, seems coherent. But…"
Sam couldn't hold his eyes open any longer. He drifted, safe in his brother's arms.
It had been two weeks since Sam had been felled by the memory erasure spell. After a long, healing sleep, Sam had woken up refreshed, memory intact.
At first Dean had hovered, so used to the cycle of deterioration and awareness that he couldn't bring himself to believe Sam had been cured. Didn't think he could face the disappointment of being proved wrong.
Bobby hadn't been much better. He'd doted on the youngest Winchester, bringing him books and froufrou coffee. Sam had been perplexed by the older hunter's behavior but hadn't questioned it.
In fact Sam had been quiet in general, not really talking unless asked a question. He had been a while getting over the fatigue the spell had left in its wake, and the embarrassment, but at least he was coherent.
They'd left South Dakota and meandered their way down to Texas. Dean thought the warmer weather might do Sam some good and there was a case they could look into. A change of scenes and something else to focus on would be healing for both of them. But that didn't mean Dean would be letting Sam behind the wheel of his car again anytime soon. Or letting him drift off, gazing out of the passenger window. Or, you know, out of his sight in any capacity at all.
Initially Sam had taken these measures for granted, either accepting them as Dean's way of coming to terms with what had happened or just being too tired to do much about it. But as Sam grew stronger and they made the effort of falling back into their usual routines, the cracks in Sam's understanding veneer were starting to show.
"Dean, please. I'm going stir crazy. Can't I just go to the corner and get us some burgers?"
"Why don't you just wait for me to shower, then we'll head out together."
Sam's lips pressed into mutinous lines. "Dean, I'm not a kid. I'm not going to just disappear on you. Or forget who I am. I just want to walk to the corner and back. By myself."
Dean really did want that shower. And a burger. And getting the latter without leaving the TV or having to put pants on was an appealing notion. Maybe he'd forgotten in his anxiety the benefits of having a little brother shaped slave instead of a hostage. And to be fair Sam really had barely been given room to breathe under his and Bobby's attentions for the past couple of weeks. If they were going to be back on the job things would have to return to 'normal' soon anyway.
But he remembered again the fear of those few days, watching his brother slip away from him; the pain of looking into those eyes and not recognising the Sam that looked out of them. Things were still so up in the air and he was not willing to lose the one thing he had left. He couldn't do it.
"Pleeeeaase," Sam wheedled, "I need the air man. I'll only be a couple of minutes."
Against his better judgment, Dean caved. Because even Sam would have a hard time running into trouble on a five minute burger run. Right?